Tag Archives: science

Dear Einstein, Do Scientists Pray?

In 1936, a young girl named Phyllis wrote a letter to Albert Einstein, on behalf of her Sunday school class, with the simple question, “Do scientists pray?”

The Riverside Church

January 19, 1936

My dear Dr. Einstein, 

We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men, to try and have our own question answered. 

We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis’s class.

Respectfully yours, 

Phyllis

———————-

January 24, 1936

Dear Phyllis, 

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science. 

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive. 

With cordial greetings, 

your A. Einstein

[Source: Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children]

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Notable Atheist: Lance Armstrong

On Religion

The night before brain surgery, I thought about death. I searched out my larger values, and I asked myself, if I was going to die, did I want to do it fighting and clawing or in peaceful surrender? What sort of character did I hope to show? Was I content with myself and what I had done with my life so far? I decided that I was essentially a good person, although I could have been better–but at the same time I understood that the cancer didn’t care.

I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn’t pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsiblity to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whther I believed in a certain book, or whether I’d been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn’t say, “But you were never a Christian, so you’re going the other way from heaven.” If so, I was going to reply, “You know what? You’re right. Fine.”

I believed, too, in the doctors and the medicine and the surgeries–I believed in that. I believed in them. A person like Dr. Einhorn [his oncologist], that’s someone to believe in, I thought, a person with the mind to develop an experimental treatment 20 years ago that now could save my life. I believed in the hard currency of his intelligence and his research.

Beyond that, I had no idea where to draw the line between spiritual belief and science. But I knew this much: I believed in belief, for its own shining sake. To believe in the face of utter hopelessness, every article of evidence to the contrary, to ignore apparent catastrophe–what other choice was there? We do it every day, I realized. We are so much stronger than we imagine, and belief is one of the most valiant and long-lived human characteristics. To believe, when all along we humans know that nothing can cure the briefness of this life, that there is no remedy for our basic mortality, that is a form of bravery.

To continue believing in yourself, believing in the doctors, believing in the treatment, believing in whatever I chose to believe in, that was the most important thing, I decided. It had to be.

Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day. And it will beat you. I didn’t fully see, until the cancer, how we fight every day gainst the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these were the real perils of life, not some sudden illness or cataclysmic millennium doomsday. I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit.

So, I believed.

From Lance Armstrong’s book It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, published by G.P Putnam’s Sons 2000. pp. 116-118

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India’s god laws fail the test of reason by PRAVEEN SWAMI

From: www.thehindu.com

Police investigation of Sanal Edamaraku for debunking a “miracle” at a church is a crime against the Constitution.

Early in March, little drops of water began to drip from the feet of the statue of Jesus nailed to the cross on the church of Our Lady of Velankanni, down on to Mumbai’s unlovely Irla Road. Hundreds began to flock to the church to collect the holy water in little plastic bottles, hoping the tears of the son of god would sanctify their homes and heal their beloved.

Sanal Edamaruku, the eminent rationalist thinker, arrived at the church a fortnight after the miracle began drawing crowds. It took him less than half an hour to discover the source of the divine tears: a filthy puddle formed by a blocked drain, from where water was being pushed up through a phenomenon all high-school physics students are familiar with, called capillary action.

For his discovery, Mr. Edamaruku now faces the prospect of three years in prison — and the absolute certainty that he will spend several more years hopping between lawyers’ offices and courtrooms. In the wake of Mr. Edamaruku’s miracle-busting Mumbai visit, three police stations in the capital received complaints against him for inciting religious hatred. First information reports were filed, and investigations initiated with exemplary — if unusual — alacrity.

Real courage

Mr. Edamaruku isn’t the kind to be frightened. It takes real courage, in a piety-obsessed society, to expose the chicanery of Satya Sai Baba and packs of lesser miracle-peddlers who prey on the insecurities of the desperate and gullible. These actions have brought threats in their wake — but never from the state.

India’s Constitution obliges all citizens to develop “scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. India’s laws, though, are being used to persecute a man who has devoted his life to doing precisely that.

Like dozens of other intellectuals and artists, Mr. Edamaraku is a victim of India’s god laws — colonial-era legislation obliging the state to punish those who offend the faith of others. Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises the actions of “whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons”. Its sibling, Section 295A, outlaws “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class”. Section 153B goes further, proscribing “any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”. Alarmingly, given the sweeping generalities in which these laws are written, truth is not an admissible defence.

In the decades since independence, these laws have been regularly used to hound intellectuals and artists who questioned religious beliefs. In 1993, the New Delhi-based progressive cultural organisation, Sahmat, organised an exhibition demonstrating that there were multiple versions of the Ramayana in Indian culture. Panels in the exhibition recorded that in one Buddhist tradition, Sita was Ram’s sister; in a Jain version, she was the daughter of Ravan. Even though the exhibits drew on historian Romila Thapar’s authoritative work, criminal cases were filed against Sahmat for offending the sentiments of traditionalist Hindus.

Punjab has seen a rash of god-related cases, mainly involving Dalit-led heterodoxies challenging the high traditions of the Akal Takht. In 2007, police filed cases against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of the syncretic Saccha Sauda sect, for his purportedly blasphemous use of Sikh iconography. Earlier, in 2001, similar charges were brought against Piara Singh Bhaniarawala, after he released the Bhavsagar Granth, a religious text suffused with miracle stories.

Islamic chauvinists have shown the same enthusiasm for the secular state’s god laws as their Sikh and Hindu counterparts. Earlier this year, FIRs were filed against four writers who read out passages from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses — a book that is wholly legal in India. Fear of Islamic neo-fundamentalists is pervasive, shaping cultural discourse even when its outcomes are not as dramatic as Mr. Rushdie’s case. In 1995, writer Khalid Alvi reissued Angaarey — a path-breaking collection of Urdu short works banned in 1933 for its attacks on god. The collection’s most-incendiary passages were censored out. India’s feisty media didn’t even murmur in protest after the magazine India Today was proscribed by Jammu and Kashmir in 2006 for carrying a cartoon with an image of the Kaaba as one among a metaphorical pack of political cards.

Even religious belief, ironically enough, can invite prosecution by the pious. Last year, the Kannada movie actress, Jayamala, was summoned before a Kerala court, along with astrologer P. Unnikrishna and his assistant Reghupathy, to face police charges that she had violated a taboo against women in the menstruating age from entering the Sabrimala temple.

For the most part, judges have shied away from condoning criticism of the pious, perhaps fearful of being held responsible for public disorder. In 1958, the Supreme Court heard litigation that grew out of the radical politician, E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker’s decision to break a clay idol of Ganesha. Lower courts had held, in essence, that the idol was not a sanctified object. The Supreme Court differed, urging the lower judiciary “to pay due regard to the feelings and religious emotions of different classes of persons with different beliefs, irrespective … of whether they are rational or otherwise”.

‘Insult to religion’

Earlier, in 1957, the Supreme Court placed some limits on 295A saying it “does not penalise any and every act of insult to or attempt to insult the religion”. Instead, it “only punishes the aggravated form of insult to religion perpetratedwith deliberate and malicious intention” (emphasis added). The court shied away, though, from the key question, of what an insult to religion actually was.

Hearing an appeal against the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to confiscate Naicker’s contentious Ramayana, the Supreme Court again ducked this issue. In 1976, it simply said “the law fixes the mind of the Administration to the obligation to reflect on the need to restrict and to state the grounds which ignite its action”. “That is about all”, the judges concluded.

That hasn’t, however, been all. In 1998, the Supreme Court upheld Karnataka’s decision to ban P.V. Narayanna’s Dharmakaarana, an award-winning re-reading of the Hindu saint, Basaveshwara. In 2007, the Bombay High Court similarly allowed Maharashtra to ban R.L. Bhasin’s Islam, an aggressive attack on the faith. There have been several other similar cases. In some, the works involved were scurrilous, even inflammatory — but the principles established by courts have allowed State governments to stamp out critical works of scholarship and art.

Dangers ahead

Indians have grappled with these issues since at least 1924, when Arya Samaj activist Mahashe Rajpal published the pamphlet that led the state to enact several of the god laws. Rangila Rasul — in Urdu, ‘the colourful prophet’ —was a frank, anti-Islam polemic. Lower courts condemned Rajpal to prison. In the Lahore High Court, though, Justice Dalip Singh argued that public outrage could not be the basis for legal proscription: “if the fact that Musalmans resent attacks on the Prophet was to be the measure [of legal sanction]”, he reasoned, “then an historical work in which the life of the prophet was considered and judgment passed on his character by a serious historian might [also] come within the definition”.

In 1927, when pre-independence India’s central legislative assembly debated theRangila Rasul affair, some endorsed Justice Singh’s message. M.R. Jayakar likened religious fanaticism to a form of mental illness, and suggested that those who suffer from it be segregated “from the rest of the community”. This eminently sane suggestion wasn’t, however, the consensus: the god laws were expanded to expressly punish works like Rangila Rasul.

Perhaps Indians can congratulate themselves that the god laws have not been used to persecute and kill religious dissenters, as the ever-expanding blasphemy laws which sprang up in Pakistan. Mr. Edamaruku’s case ought to make clear, though, just where things are inexorably headed. If Indians wish to avoid the fate of the dystopia to the country’s west, its citizens desperately need to accept the right of critics to attack, even insult, what they hold dear.

In 864 CE, the great physician, Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakaria al-Razi, wrote: “The miracles of the prophets are imposters or belong to the domain of pious legend. The teachings of religions are contrary to the one truth: the proof of this is that they contradict one another. It is tradition and lazy custom that have led men to trust their religious leaders. Religions are the sole cause of the wars which ravage humanity; they are hostile to philosophical speculation and to scientific research. The alleged holy scriptures are books without values”.

Following a rich scholarly life, and a tenure as director of the hospital in Baghdad patronised by the caliph Abu al-Qasim Abd ‘Allah, al-Razi died quietly at his home in Rey, surrounded by his students. In modern India, his thoughts would have led him to a somewhat less pleasant end.

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Atheism, is it a religion?

A federal court of appeals ruled yesterday Wisconsin prison officials violated an inmate’s rights because they did not treat atheism as a religion.

“Atheism is [the inmate’s] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being,” the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said.

The court decided the inmate’s First Amendment rights were violated because the prison refused to allow him to create a study group for atheists.

Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, called the court’s ruling “a sort of Alice in Wonderland jurisprudence.”

“Up is down, and atheism, the antithesis of religion, is religion,” said Fahling.

The Supreme Court has said a religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being. In the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the court described “secular humanism” as a religion.

Fahling said today’s ruling was “further evidence of the incoherence of Establishment Clause jurisprudence.”

“It is difficult not to be somewhat jaundiced about our courts when they take clauses especially designed to protect religion from the state and turn them on their head by giving protective cover to a belief system, that, by every known definition other than the courts’ is not a religion, while simultaneously declaring public expressions of true religious faith to be prohibited,” Fahling said.

Taken from WND.com.

Is atheism a religion?

According to Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

I am sure there are long, drawn out arguments regarding the issue, often with the semantics being manipulated to suit the case.

I am a staunch believer in Occam’s razor, which states from among competing hypotheses, selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions usually provides the correct one, and that the simplest explanation will be the most plausible until evidence is presented to prove it false. My stance on religion is rather simple and straightforward: Religion refers to the belief in a supernatural being, which in and of itself has some form of afterlife may it be the Abrahamic heaven and hell concept, or Hinduism-Buddhism reincarnation cycle. These are all elements I reject, without having the need to dwell on the semantics and the complexities of the definitions.

Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.

Belief: An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.

Atheism: The belief that God does not exist.

As an anti-theist, I follow no specific philosophical creed or code, and almost every aspect of my life principle stems from my humanistic journey in life thus far. Granted, there are plenty more out there for me to experience – it’s a work-in-progress.

Therefore, I reject any notion that atheism is a religion, or remotely close to anything resembling it.

As the famous line goes,”Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair colour.”

What do you think? Atheism, is it a religion?

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Christians, Coconuts, and Cuckoos

The following tweet was from a Christian nut-job, sent to @GODisNOTrealBRO – who by the way is a solid bloke; follow him on twitter if you fancy seeing a smart person trample all over stupid people.

Christian nut-job tweeted, “Stop wasting your time refuting god when the evidence for his existence sits right there inside a coconut.

The statement above invoked both humour and frustration in me. Humour, because this Christian came to the absurd conclusion that his god must be real since there’s a little bit of tasty liquid inside a coconut. However, once the laughter and comicality settled, frustration seeped in. This is exactly the kind of buffoonery religious people spew to justify this almighty being they want to worship.

Look at all the beauty in the world around you, how can there be no god?

All the wonderful species in the animal kingdom is absolute proof that god exists.

Religious heads such as pastors, priests, imams, swamis, and monks, constantly use nonsensical rhetorical statements to peddle their laughable beliefs. They get away with pseudo-philosophical bullshit simply because they tap into this supernatural realm that people dare not question, no one wants to be blasphemous. It’s the catch-22 of religion’s control mechanism – we can say whatever we want, whenever we want, but question its validity, and god will be angered.

Before we proceed, allow me the words to clarify why in fact the sweet nectar within a coconut has nothing to do with God, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy; with a little help from wiki.answers.com: –

“Why do you think coconut trees live near a beach, a sea, or a ocean? When the dirt is wet the roots absorb the water. Then the water goes through the roots and the tree cleans the water from the salt, which causes the water to enter the coconut. 

But still you are thinking how does the water get in? The stem has a hole. Before you take the coconut off the tree, the coconut has a hole too, so the water goes through the hole and reaches the coconut. 

Finally, one more interesting point to note: younger coconuts have a lot of water and only a little of the white pulp and older coconuts have only a little water and a lot of white pulp. 

The whole process may be termed as osmosis or we can also say this is capillarity.”

What makes this whole Christian-coconut debacle worst is that instead of spending 2.5 seconds on Google searching for the scientific answer of coconut water/juice, this Christian decided to attack an atheist on Twitter with a statement that only proves himself an idiot. He could have utilized the technology Science has blessed him with to seek out the answers in life, but the nut-job decided that that’s a little too difficult, instead focused his time and energy on shouting at those who do not believe the same fairy-tale that he does.

I do not need the bible or Jesus to answer the questions of the world around me, I have Google.

It is frustrating and infuriating; simply because religious people stem from all walks of life. And on the surface, not all of them are utter fools. But then, through this faith system they have established over their lifetime, they have become blinded and narrow-minded. Yes, it is undoubtedly a form of stupidity, but the assumption is that after years of being brainwashed with religious mantra, instead of applying their intelligence to seek out scientific evidence, they fall back on the safety net of “god” and his “wonders”. My personal experiences with religious people whom I call friends have been such, where in most aspects they are quite apt and smart. However, once in a while, they will have a Jesus-slip or an Allah-slip – stolen blatantly from Freudian-slip – which reminds me that they aren’t that smart after all.

Carbon dating is based on a man-made Science, then maybe the Bible is right about the age of the Earth, and the Science is wrong.” I cringed when a close friend muttered those words. Friendship prevented me from slapping him with my leather gloves across his face.

As a child attending Sunday school, I remember my teachers telling me how God created the world and the universe, and he has a purpose for every single thing he created. They make you sing propaganda songs: “he’s got the whole world/in his hands/he’s got the whole world/in his hands”. That can’t be true right? Because if God does have the whole world in his hands, he’s either an irresponsible drunk who cares little for his creations, or an evil comedian with a fetish for hate and destruction.

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The Sad Tale of the Pious Zombies

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”Epicurus

I was about 10 or 11 years old, I remember hearing about some plane crash over the Middle-East on the radio. A few hundred people lost their lives, it was a real tragedy. I wondered to myself, “Why didn’t god do anything about the crash? He communicates with pastors and clerics on a daily basis. Why didn’t he simply pass the message on?” I genuinely believe that was the exact moment the seed of doubt was planted in my head. As a Christian child, I was told that questioning the power of god is blasphemous; even the Bible preaches strongly against it. 15 years on, I can now sternly say that the whole notion of not questioning god is a philosophical get-out-of-jail-free card that Christians wave around to snake their way out of dealing with reality. It’s probably similarly true with other spineless religions such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

Essentially, that’s the control mechanism of religion. People cease to think, leaving everything up to god, and eventually, the masses become pious zombies who do not possess the simple, humanistic ability to question the world around them to seek out the answers that perhaps may not be all that spiritual after all. Imagine, there are Christians, Muslims, and Jews who think that the world is 6,000 years old, because their precious children books told them so. They exist! I have met them. And yes, they look exactly like what we always envisioned stupid people would look like. That disturbing cross between Danny DeVito and Rosie O’Donnell. No offense to DeVito, love him!

I was having a discussion with a friend over Science vs. Religion, on the topic of carbon dating, global warming, and the actual age of the Earth. This guy is a rather intelligent person in many aspects, and I would regard him as a rational chap. However, he’s a Christian. And it left me a little shocked when he said, “The science of carbon dating was invented by man, not god. That’s why it could be wrong.” I will say, I lost a little respect for this person, and perhaps I misjudged his intelligence. Friendship aside, that’s the common catchphrase for religious people. Science has evidence the earth is 4.54 billion years old, based on evidence from radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples; debunking any religious number, which coincidentally has zero evidence. My ultimate message to the cockroaches is rather simple: If Science has proved religion a hoax, and clearly in conflict with your beliefs, then stop using it. The next time you get cancer, don’t turn to science, turn to god. Belief systems are not principles of convenience, it’s not situational – pick a side and stick to it; at the very least then, I will respect you as you perish with some dignity. 

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Religion vs. Homosexuality

2 minutes of (mostly) religious idiots spewing nonsensical rubbish about homosexuality.

Homosexuality is not a “disease” or a “lifestyle choice” as these religious camels would like you to believe. Scientific and medical understanding is that sexual orientation is not a choice, but rather a complex interplay of biological and environmental factors. Research shows that homosexuality is an example of normal variation in human sexuality and not a source of negative psychological effects.

But hey, what has Science ever done for humanity right? Nothing! Science and evidence and research, it’s all a scam created by evil godless people. Praise the Lord; the imaginary, retarded one of course.

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