Thursday, 7 January 2016

Refuting NDE Debunkers

There are numerous pet theories propounded by Skeptics of NDEs, possibly close to two dozen theories. One of the reasons for all these theories is that many Skeptics recognize the logical defects in each others suppositions, hence the need for the constant emendations. Below, I will very briefly attempt to analyze five of the most popular NDE pet theories espoused by the Skeptical Debunkers.
But first, let's establish the most common characteristics endemic to NDEs. Typical features in an NDE are: detachment from the body ( out-of-body experience); travelling through a tunnel (from dark to light); intense emotions (joy, love, peace); heightened and vivid perceptions; encounters with deceased loved ones and spiritual beings; life review, knowledge of ones purpose in life and a strong encouragement to return to earthly life.
There are occasional reports of negative NDEs but the overwhelming majority are positive.

1.Anesthesia Awareness Theory:
 Dr. G Woerlee is probably best known for advocating the theory that Anesthetic Awareness can explain NDEs. This theory fails immediately because A.A only involves an auditory perception as well as painful, frightening and traumatic experiences. Contrasted with NDEs which are mostly pleasant, joyful and liberating. NDEs mostly involve visual perception, although auditory perception is possible, patients usually report being able to communicate and perceive information telepathically. The three most important key points to remember whenever A.A is propagated as an alternative explanation for NDEs are:
(i) The so-called relevant anecdotes which Dr. Woerlee and company picked out did not match the data.
(ii) A.A's and NDEs are vastly dissimilar experiences. The former being strictly auditory while the latter may include auditory, visual and telepathic perception.
(iii) NDEs causes the individual to adopt a healthy and optimistic approach to life, while A.A sufferers usually can't let go of their traumatic experiences and many end up committing suicide.

2. Hypoxia/Anoxia Theory:
A condition whereby the brain is being depleted by oxygen which is  accompanied by an increase in carbon dioxide that are known to cause hallucinations especially among pilots. Dr. Kelly, a professor from Yale explains in his book  Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century some of the discrepancies between hypoxia symptoms and NDEs; "The primary features of acceleration-induced hypoxia, however, are myoclonic convulsions (rhythmic jerking of the limbs), impaired memory for events just prior to the onset of unconsciousness, tingling in the extremities and around the mouth, confusion and disorientation upon awakening, and paralysis, symptoms that do not occur in association with NDEs. Moreover, contrary to NDEs, the visual images Whinnery reported frequently included living people, but never deceased people; and no life review or accurate out-of-body perceptions have been reported in acceleration-induced loss of consciousness." [Page 379] [emphasis added by me]

3. The Ketamine/Medication Theory:
This theory can be easily refuted in four reasons:
(i) One cannot build a coherent theory of NDEs on a psychopharmacological basis because not all subjects were under medication, and in any case the effects of different drugs vary endlessly.
(ii) Another objection strengthened by the fact ketamine is no longer in general medical use, whilst subjects still continue to report NDEs.
(iii)The type of experiences induced by ketamine are mostly negative. Here's a list of some effects of ketamine: 
 - feeling happy and relaxed
- feeling detached from your body
- hallucinations
- confusion and clumsiness
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- slurred speech and blurred vision
- anxiety, panic and violence
- vomitting
- lowered sensitivity to pain

*Note that two or perhaps three of the above effects are shared by NDEs. That does not even meet the standard for a preponderance of evidence.

(iii) Ketamine and most other anesthetic drugs were invented in the 20th century, despite the fact of reports that people were experiencing NDEs since the time of Plato.

4. Temporal Lobe Seizure (TLS) Theory:
Temporal Lobe Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain, which may cause auditory and visual hallucinations. The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms:
  • A sudden sense of unprovoked fear
  • A deja vu experience — a feeling that what's happening has happened before
  • A sudden or strange odor or taste
  • A rising sensation in the abdomen
  •  Loss of awareness of surroundings
  • Staring
  • Lip smacking
  • Repeated swallowing or chewing
  • Unusual finger movements, such as picking motions
Much like the drug theory, TLS or even electrical stimulation of the temporal lobe does not seem to resemble NDEs, perhaps only 2 or 3 features may seem congruent with NDEs. First, TLS typically involve sensory delusions involving the site or location of objects in the environment, auditory illusions and feelings of remoteness and detachment: not at all what is reported by NDErs. Second, negative feelings usually predominate when seizure activity occurs in the temporal lobe, leading to expressions of fear, sadness and loneliness. Such negative emotions contrast sharply with the overwhelmingly positive feelings of bliss, peace and joy reported by NDErs. Third, the nature and intensity of visual and auditory hallucinations produced by temporal lobe epilepsy - including horrible and threatening presences, contrasting sharply with the majority of accounts by NDErs. Fourth, the random nature of many thoughts and emotions evoked by seizure activity in the temporal lobe including forced thinking and random ideas crowding the mind in an obtrusive and unwelcomed way. Again, NDEs lack such confusion and mental congestion, instead being characterized by clarity and mental lucidity. A final contention is that the temporal lobe could not be responsible for producing the "life review" feature because stimulation of the lobe involves 'a random single event of no particular significance': a far cry from the apparently purposive nature of the life review as reported by NDErs.

5. Residual Brain Activity Theory:
This theory came forward after a study done on rats which detected the presence of residual electric activity in dying rats. This study was also criticized by NDE researchers over here at IANDS, who concluded:
"There is ample evidence that consciousness is supported only by a certain minimal level of electrical activity. After the cardiac arrest, the rats do not have sufficient electrical brain activity to support consciousness. This conclusion is consistent with EEG studies in humans who experienced cardiac arrest and who immediately lost consciousness.So what do the highly coherent, global oscillations in the rats indicate? Most likely they are a natural oscillation that occurs in resonant neural circuits when the neural activity of the living rat has ceased. In other words, they are the remnant electrical activity of a dead brain"
Michael Prescott also points out on his blog some significant problems with the study:
"Another possible weakness of the hypothesis is perhaps more easily tested. In the study, the rats' brains were monitored (using intracranial electrodes) throughout the waking state, anesthesia, and cardiac arrest (or asphyxiation). No surge was recorded during anesthesia. This has led some to argue that the surge cannot be responsible for an NDE, since NDEs do sometimes occur under anesthesia.In thinking about this, I wondered if we might be mixing apples and oranges. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of NDEs (though there can be considerable overlap). The first kind are what might be called veridical or autoscopic NDEs, and are basically out-of-body experiences in which the person hovers over his physical body and observes what's happening around him. The second kind are transcendent NDEs, in which the person experiences a trip toward (or into) a bright light, reunion with deceased loved ones, a life review, and a decision (made by himself or others) to return to earthly life. Not all of these components are found in the typical transcendent NDE, but normally at least one of them is.
It seems clear that the veridical NDEs (or OBEs) cannot be associated with the electrical surge. Not only do such NDEs and OBEs occur under anesthesia, when there is no surge, but they also occur in other situations where the brain is not in any distress. It is even possible to learn to bring on such OBEs at will."

Feeling detached from your body (‘falling into a k-hole - See more at:
Feeling happy and relaxed
On a final note: only a theory that can account for every commonly reported feature of the NDE will suffice as an entirely satisfactory, total neuroscientific explanation of the phenomenon.
Feeling happy and relaxed Feeling detached from your body (‘falling into a k-hole') Hallucinations Confusion and clumsiness Increased heart rate and blood pressure Slurred speech and blurred vision Anxiety, panic and violence Vomiting Lowered sensitivity to pain - See more at:

Feeling happy and relaxed Feeling detached from your body (‘falling into a k-hole') Hallucinations Confusion and clumsiness Increased heart rate and blood pressure Slurred speech and blurred vision Anxiety, panic and violence Vomiting Lowered sensitivity to pain - See more at:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Refuting Barry Beyerstein's Consciousness Depends On The Brain

Barry Beyerstein lists five main types of empirical evidence which support the dependence of consciousness on the brain.His is work is often cited by Atheist bloggers as irrefutable evidence against the existence of a non-physical consciousness.
Empirical evidence is that data which has been acquired via observation,experimentation,replication and published in peer reviewed journals (hopefully not behind any paywalls).With that in mind,let's flesh out the empirical evidence from the conjecture;

1."First, phylogenetic evidence refers to the evolutionary relationship between the complexity of the brain and a species' cognitive traits (Beyerstein 45). Corliss Lamont sums up this evidence: "We find that the greater the size of the brain and its cerebral cortex in relation to the animal body and the greater their complexity, the higher and more versatile the form of life" (Lamont 63)."
The brain-to-body-mass-ratio myth has been around since the days of Aristotle.Fortunately,contemporary neuroscience has adequately refuted this myth in this article .Humans and mice for example have similar brain/body size ratio.According to Beyerstein and company,mice should be either on par with human intelligence or second smartest creatures on this planet.To make matters even worse,small birds have relatively larger brains than humans according to their E/S (brain/body weight) ratio.This would mean birds are the most intelligent creatures on the planet,and the term "bird brain" takes on a whole new meaning.Bird brain = Einstein.

2 Second, the developmental evidence for mind-brain dependence is that mental abilities emerge with the development of the brain; failure in brain development prevents mental development (Beyerstein 45)
 Dualists admit that the brain can influence the mind and vice versa.However,the Materialist begs the question when he assumes that functional dependence equals existential dependence.For example:I depend on my computer for certain tasks,entertainment,communication,etc. Should my computer be destroyed,it does not mean I am destroyed too in the process.My survival is existentially independent from my computer but I depend on it to function for certain activities.
This is what is meant by the mind being functionally dependent on the brain but existentially independent from the brain.

3.Third, clinical evidence consists of cases of brain damage that result from accidents, toxins, diseases, and malnutrition that often result in irreversible losses of mental functioning (45).If the mind could exist independently of the brain, why couldn't the mind compensate for lost faculties when brain cells die after brain damage? (46)"
Dualist philosopher,William James, developed his transmission theory of consciousness,which posits that the mind-body relationship is bi-directional,ie. the effects run both ways.Mind can influence body - and body can influence mind.James delivered his Ingersoll Lecture in 1898 which formulates the actual position adopted by contemporary dualist philosophers and not the caricature invented by Beyerstein et al,which forces dualists to defend a straw man.
As has said William James:"Every one knows that arrests of brain development occasion imbecility, that blows on the head abolish memory or consciousness, and that brain-stimulants and poisons change the quality of our ideas.’ He then makes the point that modern physiologists ‘have only shown this generally admitted fact of a dependence to be detailed and minute’ in that ‘the various special forms of thinking are functions of special portions of the brain."
Thus the clinical evidence showing disease,toxins and accidents influencing mental states are consistent with the transmission theory of dualism,and does not in the least undermine it.As for the argument that mind must compensate for lost faculties is a non sequitir that conflates the types of dependence I mentioned above (in no.2).The mind is functionally dependent on the body to operate in the material plane.Therefore any damage to the brain will cause a distortion in consciousness but the mind does not depend on the body for survival,just as I don't depend on my cell phone for my existence even if my phone no longer functions.
Note: This mind-body issue regarding its ontology and functionality is an extremely difficult concept to follow for any Materialist.They cannot allow themselves to understand it and require repeated explanations.

4.Fourth, the strongest empirical evidence for mind-brain dependence is derived from experiments in neuroscience. Mental states are correlated with brain states; electrical or chemical stimulation of the human brain invokes perceptions, memories, desires, and other mental states (45).
False.The evidence of neuroscience remains neutral concerning the mind-brain ontological issues.The Materialist assumes neuroscience supports metaphysical naturalism because they interpret the data in such a way to support their a priori beliefs.For example,when the Materialist concludes that brain causes consciousness/mind because certain mental states are correlated with certain brain states,he is committing a logical fallacy called Cum hoc ergo propter hoc.If X and Y occured simultaneously then X caused Y.This type of reasoning fails to account for other possible explanations,and that possibly the direction of causation could be the reverse.

5.Finally, the experiential evidence for mind-brain dependence consists of the effects of several different types of drugs which predictably affect mental states (45).
This argument is a variant of numbers 2-4 which I've already dealt with.The unstated assumption is that drugs (a physical/chemical substance) must not affect the mind if dualism is true.But dualism makes no such claims and happily concedes that chemicals alter consciousness.Dualism postulates a bidirectional influence regarding the mental and physical relationship.See William James quote in no.3

Friday, 26 December 2014

Refuting Sam Harris' Free Will And The Reality Of Love

A closer inspection on "Free Will and the Reality of Love":

Many readers continue to express confusion—even outrage and anguish—over my position on free will. Some are convinced that my view is self-contradictory. Others are persuaded of its truth but find the truth upsetting. They say that if cutting through the illusion of free will undermines hatred, it must undermine love as well. They worry about a world in which we view ourselves and other people as robots. I have heard from readers struggling with clinical depression who find that reading my book Free Will, or my blog articles on the topic, has only added to their troubles. Perhaps there is more to say…"
 "Confusion", "self-contradictory","upsetting","undermine love", "people as robots" and "added to their troubles".These are the consequences of Atheist dogma and pretty much sums up Harris' position.But he rejects the inevitable conclusions drawn from the premises he so dearly clings to and aims to correct these misunderstandings...or does he?

First, I’d like to address the common charge that it is simply self-contradictory to talk about the illusoriness of free will while using words such as “choice,” “intention,” “decision,” “deliberation,” and “effort.” If free will is an illusion, it would seem, these qualities of mind must be illusory as well. In one sense, this is true. It would perhaps be more precise to speak of “apparent choices.” But the distinction isn’t generally relevant at the level of our experience. In terms of experience, there is no contradiction between truth and appearance. Even in the absence of free will, I find that I can speak of choices, intentions, and efforts without hedging"
 Okay,so far I've gathered that the contention amongst his peers and admirers lies in the apparent contradiction between Harris rejecting free will and still co-opting terms which are either synonymous with free will or implicates it,such as "choice,intention,decision,deliberation",etc. Perhaps Harris has found a miraculous way to bypass the laws of logic,namely the law of non-contradicition.Let's see how he does it.

 Consider the present moment from the point of view of my conscious mind: I have decided to write this blog post, and I am now writing it. I almost didn’t write it, however. In fact, I went back and forth about it: I feel that I’ve said more or less everything I have to say on the topic of free will and now worry about repeating myself. I started the post, and then set it aside. But after several more emails came in, I realized that I might be able to clarify a few points. Did I choose to be affected in this way? No. Some readers were urging me to comment on depressing developments in “the Arab Spring.” Others wanted me to write about the practice of meditation. At first I ignored all these voices and went back to working on my next book. Eventually, however, I returned to this blog post. Was that a choice? Well, in a conventional sense, yes. But my experience of making the choice did not include an awareness of its actual causes. Subjectively speaking, it is an absolute mystery to me why I am writing this."
 Skipping over what I can only assume are early symptoms of ADHD  - Harris rejects possible free will as a cause in favor of "mysterious" causes,that way his material beliefs are still intact.

My workflow may sound a little unconventional, but my experience of writing this article fully illustrates my view of free will. Thoughts and intentions arise; other thoughts and intentions arise in opposition. I want to sit down to write, but then I want something else—to exercise, perhaps. Which impulse will win? For the moment, I’m still writing, and there is no way for me to know why—because at other times I’ll think, “This is useless. I’m going to the gym,” and that thought will prove decisive. What finally causes the balance to swing? I cannot know subjectively—but I can be sure that electrochemical events in my brain decide the matter. I know that given the requisite stimulus (whether internal or external), I will leap up from my desk and suddenly find myself doing something else...
 Finally,I found the central thesis to Harris' article.What appears to many as "choices" are merely impulses and the strongest impulse takes center stage.That eliminates free will nicely but there are some obvious problems:
-All our behaviors have now been redefined as impulsive without proper justification.Irrational to say the least.
-What about those who choose to voluntarily abstain/refrain from instinctive activities be it food,drink,sex,etc.?Surely it's irrational to define the ability to self regulate such behaviors as also being based on an impulse or urge.
-Our ability to reason,to be cautious,to be discreet and to inhibit certain actions or processes are a few counter examples that can veto impulses or urges.
-Self-control is the ability to resist an impulse.Just because Harris lacks this ability doesn't mean everyone else does too.
-Harris needs to either provide evidence or get universal opinion on his side.Both are highly unlikely.

"As a matter of experience, therefore, I can take no credit for the fact that I got to the end of this paragraph."
Harris then ends the paragraph with a very "modest" tone.He just cannot allow himself to take credit.Humble indeed.Then upon whom shall we bestow the honor of this fine piece of work Harris?"

"But the apparent reality of choice remains intact. It isn’t wrong to say that I decided to write this post—and it certainly isn’t wrong to say that my writing it requires some conscious effort. I can’t write it by accident, or in my sleep. The writing itself is clearly the product of my unconscious mind—I cannot know, for instance, why one word or bit of syntax comes forward and another doesn’t—but the entire project requires consciousness to come into being. Certain things cannot be thought or done unless they are warmed by the light of conscious awareness. I am, after all, writing about what it is like to be me at this moment—and it would be like nothing to be me without consciousness"
 And the credit goes to... his unconscious mind but not to Harris because they are apparently two distinct and separate entities.Clearly his humility becomes suspect as it contradicts his position.

"What many people seem to be missing is the positive side of these truths. Seeing through the illusion of free will does not undercut the reality of love, for example—because loving other people is not a matter of fixating on the underlying causes of their behavior. Rather, it is a matter of caring about them as people and enjoying their company. We want those we love to be happy, and we want to feel the way we feel in their presence. The difference between happiness and suffering does not depend on free will—indeed, it has no logical relationship to it (but then, nothing does, because the very idea of free will makes no sense). In loving others, and in seeking happiness ourselves, we are primarily concerned with the character of conscious experience."
First of all,the truth of the premises has not been established,ie. they have no evidence attached,so any positive sides that may be implied are question begging.Secondly,we have to consider the full implications of living a life without the "illusion" of free will.That would remove consent,since we cannot agree to something over which we have no control over.For example,I cannot grant the weather permission to rain because I cannot influence it.All impulses an individual feel can be executed without considering the impact it has on others.To evaluate and veto any urges whether positive or negative imply I have a choice in the outcome of the matter and should be held responsible.

"Hatred, however, is powerfully governed by the illusion that those we hate could (and should) behave differently. We don’t hate storms, avalanches, mosquitoes, or flu. We might use the term “hatred” to describe our aversion to the suffering these things cause us—but we are prone to hate other human beings in a very different sense. True hatred requires that we view our enemy as the ultimate author of his thoughts and actions. Love demands only that we care about our friends and find happiness in their company. It may be hard to see this truth at first, but I encourage everyone to keep looking. It is one of the more beautiful asymmetries to be found anywhere."
What Harris is doing here is nothing short of an appeal to emotion fallacy.Instead of  demonstrating the link between love,impulses and Materialism - he simply gives assertions and not arguments,which requires justification.Also,if "True hatred requires that we view our enemy as the ultimate author of his thoughts and actions",then we could equally assert that true love requires that we view our fellow man as the ultimate author of his actions and thoughts.But either position validates free will and Harris does not seem to care about the implications of his reasoning.If the reader is confused at this point,it's because contradictions,inconsistencies,irrational reasoning and lack of evidence are common themes in Atheist articles.
Besides,Harris knows very little about love because it is not demanding and not limited to friends.Love is unconditional,it does not require recognition nor does it need to be reciprocated.
As an Atheist he is spiritually bankrupt.His pathetic attempt to explain what he deems to be mere chemical reactions or urges ,has by his own admission caused others even more despondency.


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Refuting Sam Harris' 10 Myths and 10 Truths about Atheism

Sam Harris intends to debunk some "myths" the general public holds on Atheists and Atheism.But what I noticed was that throughout the article he engages in lots of rhetorical tactics,red herring and strawmen fallacies.He does very little to defend Atheism rationally.
Let's look in:

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.
"On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave."
Harris believes religious people embrace meaning because they fear meaninglessness.And what sort of evidence does provide? None.So it's nothing but baseless accusations.

 "Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived."
 As wonderful as this may sound on the surface,it also presents a few problems for Atheists:
Firstly,Atheist regimes have slaughtered 100's of millions of people,falsifying Harris' universal statement that Atheists are quite sure life is precious.And secondly,a life "fully lived" without objective moral principles leads to hedonism and excessive materialism.

"Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless."
 Harris is engaging in a strawman.Theists don't make the argument that only relationships which lasts forever are considered meaningful.Besides the partners we choose to marry,nearly all our relationships with others are not expected to last forever.
To charge religious people who embrace meaning into their lives as fearing meaninglessness is poisoning the well since Harris has presented no evidence to back up his accusation.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.
"People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok".
In essence what Harris is saying is that when Atheists behave badly  then they are being religious. Is this a fair and honest assessment of Atheists when they're committing atrocities?Harris is attempting to shield Atheists from ever having to take responsibility for their criminal actions because the blame gets automatically shifted to religion,who now has to answer for crimes that the proudly godless folk have perpetrated.

 "There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable."
The presupposition here is that only Atheists are reasonable and no true Atheist behaves unreasonable.I see no reason why not to charge Harris with a No True Scotsman fallacy.Furthermore,I have news for Harris,only him and his fellow Atheists believe Atheists are reasonable - a fallacy of self-validation.

3) Atheism is dogmatic.
Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the programmer Stephen F. Roberts* once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
The claim Harris is supposed to refute is "Atheism is dogmatic".Instead he engages in a red herring by redirecting the reader's attention to religious scripture.What ever problems exists in religious books does nothing to refute the accusation that Atheism is dogmatic.
For example: If a UFO believer points out the unscrupulous and unscientific practices that have plagued Psychiatry over the years - would that somehow validate UFOs and prove that aliens exist? Of course not,that's an absurd conclusion.Likewise,Atheism must be scrutinized in isolation,without the crutch of religious issues.
And yes,Atheists are dogmatic about pushing their agenda which goes way beyond mere criticism of religion.Atheists have very specific beliefs about the nature of reality which is not validated by science but simply accepted on the basis of appeal to authority.They even have Atheist churches and split into different denominations due to dogma differences.They proselytize,erect monuments and billboards,send their children to Atheist only summer camps and pimp each others unscientific godless books.

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.
"No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the “beginning” or “creation” of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself."
Leading cosmologists and physicists like Hawking and Penrose agree the universe and space-time itself had a beginning.Harris is very cautiously trying to avoid answering and pleads ignorance instead.As an Atheist, he is a failure because Atheists have no choice but to believe our universe arose either from nothing and by chance or to evoke the unproven multiverse hypothesis,where anything and everything is possible.

"The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, “The God Delusion,” this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don’t know precisely how the Earth’s early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase “natural selection” by analogy to the “artificial selection” performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species."
 The entire paragraph above is completely beside the point.Unless that point is to pimp Dawkins' book,then it's a job well done.The point and myth Harris is supposed to refute is that Atheists believe the universe,space-time,its mathematical laws and first-life erupted from nothing and by chance.Harris has done nothing to refute that,he merely gives a shout out to his buddy Dawkins.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.
"Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is."
 First of all, the National Academy of Science (NAS) consists of about 2000 scientists while the overall number of scientists employed in the United States is more than 2 million.Clearly this is a gross instance of hasty generalization on Harris' part.A much more recent survey from the PEW Research Centre reported that 33% of scientists believe in God while 18% believe in a Universal Spirit or Higher Power and 41% reject either notion (aka Atheists).That's a total of 51% of scientists that are Dualists as opposed to Materialists.Harris' dishonesty and dogmatism is exposed as he so desperately clings to any unreliable statistics that could make his position seem attractive and rational.

6) Atheists are arrogant.
"When scientists don’t know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn’t know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion."
Harris starts with a fallacy of false association.Scientists are not tautologically equivalent to Atheists and neither is Atheism equivalent to science,as I've already shown above in myth 5.And since arrogance is claiming credit one is not entitled to - therefore the charge that Atheists are arrogant remains accurate.

"One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn’t arrogance; it is intellectual honesty."
Theists make no such claims about science,in fact they insist God is non-physical and science is limited to testable predictions on physical phenomena. Harris is perpetuating the myth that science and religion are at war.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.
"There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don’t tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences."
Not even religious people make such bold claims,they freely admit the limitations of human nature that could prevent them from having spiritual experiences but Harris asserts Atheists are immune to natural human failings.You don't get more arrogant than this.

 "There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences."
This is an argument against nothing.It does nothing to prove that Atheists are open to spiritual experiences.It's a strawman argument at best.Christians do not make the claim that positive experiences are reserved for Christians.

8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.
Atheists are free to admit the limits of human understanding in a way that religious people are not. It is obvious that we do not fully understand the universe; but it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it". 
I wonder if Harris has even met a religious person because accepting the limits of human understanding is a common theme in most religions.

"We do not know whether there is complex life elsewhere in the cosmos, but there might be. If there is, such beings could have developed an understanding of nature’s laws that vastly exceeds our own. Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. They also can admit that if brilliant extraterrestrials exist, the contents of the Bible and the Koran will be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists.From the atheist point of view, the world’s religions utterly trivialize the real beauty and immensity of the universe. One doesn’t have to accept anything on insufficient evidence to make such an observation."
I thought Atheists only draw their opinions from scientific facts and now Harris accepts the possibility of advanced intelligent life on other planets without zero empirical proof.He then further speculates from his position of no-evidence what those aliens' thoughts might be.
Here's something for Harris to ponder over:What will those aliens think when they discover Atheist regimes have slaughtered up to 259 million people?Or the fact that Atheists murdered scientists and banned Mendelian Genetics and Quantum Physics during the Soviet era?Surely those aliens will be even less impressed with human Atheists.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.
"Those who emphasize the good effects of religion never seem to realize that such effects fail to demonstrate the truth of any religious doctrine. This is why we have terms such as “wishful thinking” and “self-deception.” There is a profound distinction between a consoling delusion and the truth.
In any case, the good effects of religion can surely be disputed. In most cases, it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons are actually available. Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?"
Consistent with his goal to eliminate God,Harris cannot allow himself to accept the facts that religion and Christianity in particular have been extremely beneficial to society.
Here are some of the benefits of religion that Atheists don't want you to know:
-There was no such era as the "Dark Ages".Contemporary historians have debunked the popular myths of Christianity sending Europe into 1000 years of superstition,ignorance,stagnation and continuous bloodshed.

-The Middle Ages was a prosperous and innovative era that gave birth to many inventions,scientific discoveries,charity organizations and hospitals.
-Science is in fact a product of religious people.

-The Church built Universities that were initially religious institutions.

-The Catholic Church were the main custodians of Aristotelian logic that were taught in their Universities,as well as philosophy,science and astronomy,which directly caused the birth of Newtonian (classical) physics.

-Galileo,Newton,Copernicus,William of Ockham,Roger Bacon who pioneered much of the scientific method in Europe were deeply religious scientists and often credited their faith for inspiring their work.

-Jesuit priests have a long history of scientific achievements that were sponsored by the Catholic church

-Even after the Middle Ages,Christians continued their significant contributions to mathematics,science and medicine such as Father Gregor Mendel (genetics),Physicist and priest Georges Lemaitre (Big Bang Theory),Alexander Fleming (inventor of penicillin),Michael Faraday,William Thompson Kelvin,James Clerk Maxwell,Robert Boyle and Max Planck are but a few examples.

-In conclusion: Science,technology and modern civilization are products of religion and are not essential for man's survival.Only water,food,shelter and clothing are essential for man's survival.Humans and animals are biologically adjusted towards self-preservation and adapting to environments that are best suited for reproduction and passing on their genes.Living organisms,whether unicellular or multicellular do not need logic, philosophy,astronomy,mathematics and science for their perpetuation,vitality and succession.These disciplines arose from the need to understand God and His creation.

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.
"If a person doesn’t already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won’t discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran — as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine."
 The fact that Christians who took recourse to the Bible were the ones who pioneered our modern day human rights is proof enough that their scriptures had a positive impact on society.
 Eleanor Roosevelt,Henri Dunant and William Wilberforce are few examples of Christians who instigated our modern Human Rights,abolition of slavery,Geneva Convention and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.
We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn’t make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe."
The above argument is really fatal to Atheism.If our moral intuitions are hard-wired (ie.genetically determined) then those who display immoral behavior like the criminally-inclined have no choice but to act compulsively.They also cannot be held accountable for their actions which are merely based on inclinations,self-interests and instinct.Furthermore,individuals who are in possession of genes that are hard-wired to commit evil acts, will most certainly pass them on to their progeny,resulting in an endless cycle of creating criminals..It's not such a slippery-slope to conclude that Eugenics is the only viable solution to the genetic pollution.Methods for their prevention would include forced sterilizations,forced abortions,infanticide,marriage restrictions and quarantine.This is already a reality in North Korea, an Atheist majority nation.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Refuting Atheism

Over at wikia they have laid charges against theists of being logically fallacious and historically inaccurate,concerning the accusation that communism is an atheistic system.I will paste the entire article with my rebuttal in red print.

Says atheism.wikia:
Religious people often argue that communism is an atheistic system, and communism has killed millions of people. Therefore, atheism is dangerous. However, this argument is logically fallacious and historically inaccurate. Here, we go through some of the claims and discuss them. 
Okay,let's see if the charges are false or accurate then.

1.Communism is an atheistic worldview.
Marx and Engels did consider religion to be "the opium of the masses," but that's not the whole story.Actually, there is such a thing as Christian communism. Christian communists believed that the first communist communities emerged as a result of Jesus's teachings. There are Bible verses which have "communism" written all over them. See the Christian communism Wikipedia article for more information about Christian communism.
And we are not off to a very good start.The writer is attempting to link Christianity with communism so that Atheism may be exonerated of the mega-genocides or at least share the blame with Christians.Here's why that charge cannot hold water:
(i) The wikipedia article cites a handful of Christian communists.And all tried to bridge the gap between communism and Christianity but to no avail.They were either killed,repudiated by their churches or joined other non-communist political parties.
(ii)If communism were compatible with Christianity,we would have witnessed a trend up until today but instead most Christians have embraced democracy.
(iii) But most importantly,there has never been any mega-genocides perpetrated by communist christians,proving that atheism was the real force behind the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

2.Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were all atheists.
There is no denying that. If you keep reading, you will realize that's beside the point. 
Perhaps the writer will do better next time.I'll give him/her the benefit of the doubt.

3.Communism is responsible for the worst crimes in the 20th century.
That's right, and anyone who denies it is a monster or very, very uneducated. The Black Book of Communism estimates a death toll between 85 and 100 million. 
Not too bad.There's nothing wrong with being honest occassionally.Just one small problem.The death toll per the Black Book of Communism are mid estimate figures.The actual body count are between 149 million to 259 million

4.So you have just admitted that atheism has killed 100 million people.
No. By far the most casualties were due to faulty bureaucracy, incompetent planning, and... an economic utopia detached from reality. State atheism did not kill these 100 million people. To get a realistic number of the direct casualties of aggressive state atheism, you need to consider church burning, killing religious figures only. 
That's really sad.When atheists are "faulty,incompetent and detached from reality",then more than 100 million people have to die.Suddenly the Inquisition seem more rational in comparison.

5.Communists persecuted believers.
Religious communities were indeed persecuted. That's yet another claim that no (honest and educated) atheist will deny. There's no reason to deny it, because this claim in itself has nothing to do with atheism in general. For one, persecution of religions was only a small part of communist governance. Communism is essentially a rearrangement of wealth to achieve a perfectly egalitarian society. 
This sub-paragraph contradicts the one above in number 4 that I underlined which stated that atheism is only responsible for religious related casualties.And now the writer admits religious communities were persecuted but claims atheism is not to be blamed.

The Soviet anti-religious campaign began in 1929. According to Wikipedia, 85.000 Orthodox priests were shot in 1937. The anti-religious enthusiasm dropped as a result of Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941). It is estimated that between 1917 and 1964, 50.000 monks have been executed. As you can see, we have numbers in the ten thousands here; a small number compared to the sum of all casualties (100 million) of the Soviet era. Seeking out political dissenters and suspected spies was simply more important than persecuting believers. 
Historically inaccurate! The writers own source, wikipedia states that the first Soviet anti-religious campaign began in 1917 and the reason why the anti-religious terror tactics faded was because they had reached their objective of eliminating all public religious influence from society.But the resumption of persecuting Christians resurfaced in the 1950's and continued until the 1980's.The writer has deceptively singled out the killings of priests and omitted the slaughter of the parishioners,which out number the priests by millions.Also,no one was killed for being an atheist.

 6.Communism gives us an idea what an atheistic society looks like.
You cannot use communism as a general anti-atheist argument. Communism is a genocidal, militant ideology that became an atheist system for historical reasons. The Christian communist ideology could have prevailed, and they also believed in the major tenets of communism, excluding fervent anti-religious campaigns of course.
False.Communism is only genocidal when led by Atheists as history has proven.And no,Christian communism could not have prevailed because it will inevitably lead to communalism (a social system based on common beliefs in an ethnic group),while Communism is a political system with Atheism as an imperative aspect.It's always helpful to understand an ideology from their own source.Call it a confession if you will.According to the Marxist Communist comrades at their official website,only Atheists are allowed to become Marxists.

There are hardly any atheist today who promotes violence against religion. Chances are, if you ask an atheist whether churches should be destroyed and believers should be executed, he will give a definite no. Just because some psychopaths, who happened to be atheists, in the 20th century believed in a system that killed 100 million, does not mean atheists want to burn down churches or make anti-religion legislation.
Another gross lie.Atheists are still very active in promoting violence and terror tactics. Check these articles:
Leading Hindu Professor Murdered by Atheists

Marxists violence and Killing of Hindus in Kerala

Christian Police Officer killed in Campus by Marxist and Hindu students

Indian Marxists murder 11 farmers

Eight Communist Party of India (Marxist) activists have been arrested in connection with the murder of Nazrul Mullah

The large majority of atheists are humanists. Most atheists believe in a secular state, that is, one where the state does not favor one religion over another. And of course, one can choose to not have a religion. So if a secular atheist becomes the head of state, he is not a threat to religion. He will simply not make legislation that favors one religion over another. Good news for you if your religion is the minority.
Most Atheists may not resemble their more militant Marxists brothers but that is irrelevant.According to Richard Dawkins;"... moderates enable extremists ". This charge fits perfectly with Atheists as shown by the following Christopher Hitchen's quote.Hitchens praised Lenin for his destruction of Christianity in the Soviet Union."One of Lenin’s great achievements, in my opinion, is to create a secular Russia. The power of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was an absolute warren of backwardness and evil and superstition, is probably never going to recover from what he did to it."

7. Why are you defending communism?
I'm not. Communism is a demented ideology. I'm just showing why using communism as an all-encompassing ace-in-the-sleeve argument against atheism does not stand its ground. Just because communist leaders were atheists does not mean atheists approve of their "contributions." Not back then, and certainly not today.
This argument is a two-fold failure:Firstly,communism was codified by two Atheists,Marx and Engel,making it an official subcategory of Atheism.Secondly,during the communist era of the 20th century most Atheists were communists.This meant they approved of the ideology.

The decisive majority of atheists are secularists, which is neutral in religious affairs, not aggressive, violent atheists such as Stalin or Mao. If there's an aggressive atheist candidate running for election in your district, he will never get elected, even if atheists are the majority in the district. Because atheists do have morals, they just don't get it from the Bible. There are instructions in the Bible that overlap with humanist morality, and there are passages that do not.
There's no such thing as humanist/atheist morality. If there is,then show me the document.Atheists appropriate their moral principles from Theists,then deride the source of those principles or they make them up as they go along.The latter implies subjective morality which is an incoherent concept,thus nullifying it..And since Atheists claim only science can produce truths,Atheists must demonstrate morality via empiricism.