Atheism Archives

Not Exactly A Documentary

From the website for Bill Maher’s new movie, "Religulous":

The documentary RELIGULOUS follows political humorist and author Bill Maher ("Real Time With Bill Maher," "Politically Incorrect") as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion.  Known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent with and commitment to never pulling a punch, Maher brings his characteristic honesty to an unusual spiritual journey.

Well, no, he did not bring his "characteristic honesty" with him.

For a guy that has practically made a career out of regularly accusing the Bush administration of lying to get America into a war, comedian Bill Maher clearly isn’t opposed to telling fibs if it serves his financial interests.

Such was exposed by CNN Monday when Maher and the director of his new film "Religulous" admitted — without the slightest hint of remorse — they had lied to get people — including political and religious figures — to appear in the movie.

In fact, one evangelical pastor said that he thought he was participating in a PBS documentary and never would have agreed to the project if he had been told Maher was involved

The NewsBusters site has a transcript of the interview.  Calling it a comedy is one thing, but lying about it and passing it off as an honest documentary suggests that Maher may need to get some religion himself.

Returning to That Free Will Thing

I don’t know if discussions of this sort occur on this blog, as I’m a new contributor. Should I offer more like this? Whaddya think?

Blog neighbor Jewish Atheist in a “interview/meme” offers this:

Q7. What’s your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

Without God, I can’t see how we have free will. It appears that we have free will, therefore God must exist. Curiously, nobody seems to make this argument except me, on Opposite Day.

My refutation is that we actually don’t have free will. This has disturbing implications, which I have not yet come to terms with.

Not to stab the theistic argument in the foot, but there are a few short remarks I’d like to make here, some of which I’ve touched on before, but perhaps restatement will bring out some interesting details and conversation:

  • A deterministic universe exhibits simple free will in the following way. Consider a baby (classical relativistic) universe/close system which consists of a experimental  Feigenbaum mapping (google it), tuned past simple period doubling and to the onset of the chaos. In this situation, the mapping acts as a bit shift, xn+1 = Fraction(2 * xn). Initial conditions become amplified by a factor of two every iteration. However, soon over time the Planck distance will intervene, that is the bit shift will probe distances unspecifiable in the initial system, for to specify the system to that accuracy would require probing length scales/energies which would form a black hole … and thus cannot be specified. The system will not “fail” but will exhibit free will, that is the system is “free” and unconstrained by initial (unsettable/undefinable) conditions to take whatever value it wishes. In fact, ever after that point, the system is “free”.
  • Suggesting that initial conditions of our universe sets the behavior today, besides the difficulty/impossibility of setting those conditions suffers from a dimensional problem. If the Universe is D+1 dimensional (D=3+1 or 10 … doesn’t matter for this argument), then the “boundary” at T=0 is D a D-dimensional phase space. To line up the bank shot so that Beethoven will, while deaf, compose the Ninth Symphony (or whatever other work of art you find transcendent or inspired genius) that requires setting the conditions and a space (the evolving Universe) of dimension D+1. Fine tuning/accuracy is required to “finesse” the evolution on a large, if not infinite, time axis.
  • Another issue facing the fine tuning hypothesis, is the current “best understanding” physics gives about the early Universe, to whit inflation. Small quantum (or thermal) fluctuations present at the onset of the inflationary regime (when space-time is “e-folding” or exponentially expanding) are largely flattened out, those fluctuations survive as galaxies and galaxy clusters today, and form the large scale structure of the visible universe. Setting up the Beethoven bank shot has to survive inflation.
  • One way additional way to isolate the free will problem, is genius. That is, I contend genius requires free will. Genius exists. Therefore free will does. To counter that, one must explain how genius can exist without free will. JA, repeatedly contends, without proof, that free will cannot exist in a deterministic system, I disagree. However, on my side I contend that genius, especially as demonstrated in “transcendent” art, cannot exist without free will. The “bank shot” for a deterministic system to create it is too far fetched.

For myself, I would contend free will does not require God. Semiotic content in the Universe however does. If our words have meaning, God exists. 🙂


Mark Earley on “The Heroes of 2007”, and what it says about atheism.

[tags]Mark Earley,Breakpoint,atheism,Christopher Hitchens,Richard Dawkins[/tags]

“The Golden Compass”, Lacking a Moral One

The movie, “The Golden Compass”, is essentially a moral compass that points south instead of north. As mentioned here before, author Philip Pullman, from who’s books “His Dark Materials” the movie comes from, is distinctly anti-religious. As such, the movie, while it is marketed to the same crowd as The Chronicles of Narnia, seeks to deconstruct religion in the eyes of the kids.

Not content with the subtleties of allegory, Pullman’s movie involved the church directly, and depicts it as willing to kidnap and experiment on children in trying to determine if a particular substance is actually Original Sin. He blurs the idea of a daemon as simply the human soul that manifests itself, in some of the universes in his story, as an animal that stays with the human. Ultimately, in the trilogy, the God figure is killed. Christians will immediately see the difference and the problem with one character’s goal of establishing a Republic of Heaven to rival God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

Even though it sounds like the anti-religious themes are being downplayed in the movie, the movie inevitably spurs book sales, which is where the real issues are. I would ask Christians not to put this movie on their holiday schedule. While the controversy will no doubt increase some ticket sales, I’m hoping that the dollars withheld by others will more than offset that.

(Information on this can be found at Wikipedia here and here. A review of the books from a Christian who really wanted to like it can be found at Journeyman. The original press release by the Catholic League can be found here.)

[tags]Philip Pullman,His Dark Materials,The Golden Compass,Christianity,The Catholic League[/tags]

Ed Morrissey Interviews Dinesh D’Souza

One of the podcasts I listen to is Heading Right Radio with Ed Morrissey of “Captain’s Quarters”. He gets some great interviews, and last week (I’m behind in my podcast listening) he got Dinesh D’Souza and they talked about D’Souza’s book “What’s So Great About Christianity”. Fresh from his debate at King’s College with Christopher Hitchens, D’Souza covers a number of interesting topics from his book, including the truth about the Gallileo’s persecution, the limits of reason, why the recent increase in atheist apologetics, the supposed “war” between science and religion, thank-you letters to Portugese inquisitors, and other light topics. >grin<

Click here to listen to any of Captain Ed’s shows, and stick it in your podcatcher.

[tags]Ed Morrissey,Dinesh D’Souza,Christianity,Christopher Hitchens,Richard Dawkins,atheism[/tags]

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