Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why God is an Atheist

According to religious reasoning, God is the un-created creator, and hence through being omnipotent not only does not believe that itself was created, but utterly knows that to be true. By any rational definition, that God is an atheist. If atheism is good enough for your God, it's surely good enough for me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Simon Singh

Simon Singh is an author of some really good books, The Code Book and Fermat's Enigma being superb reads. But Simon wrote about chiropractors, and they decided it was libel to say their treatments for such things as child's asthma were "bogus":

"You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments."

English libel law is a joke. It's perverse in it's operation, and scope. I'd encourage you to read Jack Of Kent's blog and please show your support to Simon!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Evolution

Daylight Atheism has a great article on Evolutionary Algorithms. I've used such algorithms myself to solve complex mathematical problems in a quicker and more efficient manner than brute force methods.

Evolutionary Algorithms are great because what you have to define is not how to solve the problem, but some measure of how close a particular guess at a solution is to the correct answer. This is often easier! This measure of fitness is basically the "environment", and as we know, evolution fits the population to the environment. Then all you do is start your population off with random guesses, breed and mutate the fittest (the ones that are closest to the solution) and you'll rapidly get a very accurate answer.

Perhaps the best thing about coding up these algorithms is that it teaches us how evolution works, that evolution works well to solve problems, and that randomness and mutation are key to it working, and they're used to solve problems, not make a mess.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ottawa Bus

So, we won on the Ottawa Atheist Bus, with a council vote of 13 to 7, and the council legal advisor stated that if they voted no, then they'd probably loose in a law case. Great....

Councillors voting as follows:

YES:
Clive Doucet, Christine Leadman, Peter Hume, Diane Holmes, Jan Harder, Michel Bellemare, Peggy Feltmate, Steve Desroches, Jacques Legendre, Georges B├ędard, Gord Hunter, Shad Qadri and Alex Cullen.

NO:
Marianne Wilkinson, Bob Monette, Rainer Bloess, Eli El-Chantiry, Doug Thompson, Rob Jellett and Mayor Larry O'Brien.

The problem is, we shouldn't have had to win. We shouldn't have had to write to the councillors and ask many of them to reconsider their viewpoint. We shouldn't have had to point out how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of expression, belief, and of media communication.

We shouldn't have had to convince elected councillors that free speech is a good and necessary part of any true democracy. That 7 still voted no, including Mayor Larry O'Brien himself, is sad indeed. Doug Thompson told me it was on legal advice he voted no in the transport committee review that went 3:3 opening up the full council debate on the subject. If he voted on legal advice the first time, why did he not vote for the ads on legal advice?

Shad Qadri started thinking "no" to the ads, but I had a good email conversation with him, pointing out the issues. He voted yes for the actual motion.

Gord Hunter was going to vote "no" on the grounds that the claims on the Atheist ad could not be proven. But he voted for free speech.

Steve Desroches thought the ads were intentionally offensive. He voted for free speech.

Rob Jellet didn't think the ads were in good taste. He voted against them.

Marrianne Wilkinson says she strong proponent of free speech. She says the ads are against policy, but conveniently forgets all the religious ads that are also against said policy that they have put on busses. So, in the end, she's not for free speech.

There's a hypocrisy in being democratically elected, and then not voting free speech. Free speech is as part of democracy as voting itself.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ottawa Discriminates Against Atheists

The Atheist bus was coming to Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. But the staff at OCTranspo, banned the ads.
Alex Cullen, the chair of the city transit committee tried to over-rule that decision. However three of the other members voted against him:

The ads being proposed by the Humanist Society of Canada are a test of our commitment to the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, which guarantees both the freedom of expression and the freedom of belief. To believe must include the ability not to believe. If we are to be tolerant of all religions, then we must be tolerant of those who do not profess to a religion. That is why the City of Ottawa should not ban the proposed ads from the Humanist Society, as to do so would violate the very freedoms that we espouse as part of our Charter.

It is true that the freedoms contained in our Charter are not absolute or limitless - there can be reasonable limits imposed on these by society. The courts have done so and the Advertising Standards Canada, which OC Transpo uses as a guideline, do so within that context. The limits imposed on these freedoms deal with those matters which demean, denigrate or disparage a person or group of persons, which the code of Advertising Standards Canada provides (section 14(c)). While one can disagree with the point of the ads proposed by the Humanist Society of Canada they do not meet this test of the Advertising Standards Canada code, and so should be permitted. To do otherwise is simply censorship.

Unfortunately Transit Committee today, on a 3-3 vote(!), rejected my motion to permit these ads. I will be bringing this matter to City Council on March 11. Please let my Council colleagues know your views.
This is not just a matter of free speech, but discrimination against atheists. Anyone who lives in Ottawa has seen religious ads on busses:

"Grow stronger through this simple exercise - pray"
"You say his name often on the highway. Why not try saying it in church?"
The "Alpha Course" has advertised on OCTranspo busses.
The Bible Bus Studies group have received permission to run their ads.

Alex Cullen has put forward a motion for March 11th that says it all, really. It's a matter of free speech, it's about not discriminating against atheists. It's about making sure any policy is fair and applied fairly.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Loosing My Religion

William Lobdell's Loosing My Religion is an exciting read. His journalistic background comes through clearly as he tells a story. He doesn't just tell a story, but his story, and it's a real page turner.

The story takes us from the boredom of his family church, through megachurches and a born-again experience to his job as a religion reporter on the LA Times.

Reading the story, it gives me a real insight into his life and religious experience. There's an honesty to his words that keeps you reading for more. This almost parallels his mountaintop retreat born-again experience where men who he'd never met before, would pour out their life stories.

Although the ending is still 170 pages away, and we know the ending - atheism, it's not the end point that matters, it's the journey, and the story that we know is heading us towards a turning point.

The abuses of religion set the stage for the turning point - the financial excesses of televangelists, and the Catholic church's cover up of sexual abuse. But even through this, William is still heading towards becoming a Catholic. We know he will change his beliefs, but precisely how will that happen. Will there be a key issue that turns them, or is it all the issues together, over time, creating a pressure that just bursts? That's why I have to read more. It's exciting the way religion often is not.

-----

Well, now that I've finished the book, I've got to say that it was very hard to put down. It's obvious that the Catholic church's conspiracy to protect their sex abuse priests really turned his stomach, as was the reaction of the flock who supported some of these priests even after their involvement was known.

The real turning point is shown in a series of emails where he asks questions which basically boil down to the classic problem of evil. When he cannot get satisfactory answers for those questions, he has turned.

Loosing My Religion and Current Reading

I just got William Lobdell's Loosing My Religion book. Taking a quick glance through, it looks pretty good, and I'll put more words on this book together as I read it. It should be interesting. I emailed William when he first announced his loss of faith, and it will be great to read the full details of the story.

I'm a few chapters into Raising Freethinkers: A Guide to Parenting Beyond Belief. It's reading well so far, if a bit US-centric. There's some great ideas in there for helping children think for themselves, and I liked the suggestion of watching "Twelve Angry Men" as a movie to encourage free thought, as that's a favourite movie of mine!

Finally, I'm mostly through Is God A Mathematician? by Mario Livio. The mathematical history is always good to read, although I've read so much history of math recently, so it would certainly have been nice to read more about mathematicians I don't know about! Personally, I'm on the side of mathematics being found, not made, so it will be interesting to see how the argument in the book develops.