A solution to Crackergate

PZ Myers' tongue-in-cheek threat to desecrate consecrated communion wafers has caused a storm of controversy throughout the World Wide Web. Personally, I think it's being way overblown by a few oversensitive Catholics. It's going way too far when there are ridiculous attempts to get him fired, a delusional paranoia of a mild-mannered professor who at most threatened to mess up a cracker forces additional security at the Republican National Convention, or death threats are sent.

I would like to make a modest proposal that would hopefully be satisfactory to everyone. Instead of pelting PZ Myers with death threats and (heaven forbid) actually implementing them, I propose that a representative from the Catholic side desecrate a consecrated calamari dish for each consecrated wafer that PZ Myers desecrates. The calamari will be consecrated with an agreed-upon ritual, through which the dish will be transubstantiated into the flesh of PZ Myers. For those who literally believe that a consecrated wafer is transubstantiated into the flesh of Jesus Christ, I'm sure they can come up with evidence and arguments, which would be of similar quality to those that support their belief in transubstantiation, to justify that the calamari dish would indeed have been transubstantiated into the flesh of PZ Myers.

I believe that this would satisfy all of those involved. For those who believe a cracker is just a cracker, desecrating calamari will look just like a silly response to a silly desecration of a cracker. And for those who believe that a cracker can literally be the flesh of Jesus Christ, desecrating calamari would be equivalent to doing bodily harm to PZ Myers himself, so it should satisfy their bloodlust without invoking a violent response in those that do not believe in transubstantiation.

God of the gaps

Here are ten arguments for the existence of God:

  1. I don't understand how humans by themselves could have put people with an insane agenda in power and even help them commit unspeakable acts of evil, e.g. Nazi Germany, therefore the only explanation is that God made them do it.

  2. I don't understand how food distribution could be messed up in a way that millions of people end up starving despite there being enough food to feed everyone, therefore God must be messing up the food distribution.

  3. I don't understand why the Sahara desert is expanding and causing drought in northern Africa, therefore God must be drying things up.

  4. I don't understand how people could be born psychopaths that grow to be serial killers, therefore God must be the one creating serial killers.

  5. I don't understand how the Catholic Church could have knowingly harbored child molesting priests, therefore God must have made them do it.

  6. I don't understand how Osama bin Laden is still free, despite being one of the most wanted men on the planet, therefore God must be helping him evade capture.

  7. I don't understand how the populace of the United States of America could have elected George W. Bush a second time, despite all of his failings such as the failure to capture Osama bin Laden and the fiasco in Iraq, therefore God must have miraculously changed the vote counts.

  8. I don't understand why certain extremely religious people rely exclusively on prayer and not use modern medical treatments for easily treatable but otherwise lethal diseases for their children, therefore God must be making them kill their children.

  9. I don't understand how people could actually believe that healing is occurring in faith healing events where the faith healer in question has already been shown as a fraud and no actual healing is happening, therefore God must be deluding these people.

  10. I don't understand how most of the personal computer industry got enthralled into a monopoly of a single operating system in the 1990s, especially when the operating system was bug-ridden and feature-poor, therefore the only explanation is that God must have gotten us entrapped in a monopoly.

These are powerful arguments that God exists and that he is the direct cause of many of the ills in this world.

...

Actually, they're not. But these are the types of arguments that we see all too often, except that these ones put God in a rather unflattering light, "God" being any arbitrary deity from any religion of your choice. One of the more common examples are the arguments from creationists, a.k.a. intelligent design proponents, where the arguments go as "I don't know how a certain aspect of life could have arisen without God". They might do it more elegantly and verbosely than this, but this is what their arguments boil down to.

And just as the ten arguments I've listed above are rather lackluster in that one simply cannot posit any arbitrary thing (in this case "God did it") just because one cannot understand it, with no explanation or hypothesis on how God committed all the described evils, arguments for intelligent design based on arguments from ignorance show a false dichotomy, where they falsely claim that just because we don't know something then God did it, and they fail to show just how God did it.

Just saying God "poofed" something into existence is hardly an explanation. Did he assemble molecules one by one, and if so, how did he do the assembly? Did something come into existence just because he thought it into existence? Then just what is the mechanism that makes his thoughts into reality? They fail to explain or hypothesize any of this, although I find it doubtful that actual experimental evidence would support their hypotheses in any case.

Intelligent design proponents also regularly ignore knowledge that has already been known for years or even over a hundred years for most cases they claim can only be explained with the existence of an intelligent designer. Incidentally, they fail to provide an actual explanation, being satisfied with saying only that such an explanation is the only alternative. Funny how they claim that there can be only one explanation for something, when they neglect to describe what the explanation actually is.

The ten arguments I've listed above also show how weak arguments from awe are. You may have heard something like "Look at how beautiful this tree is? How can anything but God be responsible for such beauty?" Well, if you think that's a good argument, then you'd have to think that this one is good, too: "Look at how much pain and suffering this Ebola patient is in? How can anything but God be responsible for such vileness as the Ebola virus?" If you accept the former but not the latter, simply because you don't like to think of God as being evil, then you're not being intellectually honest; you're indulging in mere wishful thinking.

By the way, the premises in the ten arguments above are serious; it is the conclusions that are facetious. I truly do not know or understand all of them, some from simple ignorance that could be fixed by a trip to a library, while others are because I simply cannot understand how certain people could be so lacking in empathy or joyful in the suffering in others. And of course, not all people will agree that all of the premises are bad things (e.g. some may think that it's a good thing that President Bush was elected again or that Osama bin Laden is still free), although I hope there isn't anyone who thinks that none of them are bad things.

Gay marriage for the religious

Events sometimes tempt me to think that religious people, especially those in the priestly profession, blindly follow authority like sheep. But every once in a while, I hear a nice story which reminds me that deeply religious people can be as moral and ethical as any other person. After the start of same-sex marriages in California, certain clergy members are conflicted about not being allowed to preside over such ceremonies by their church. They look at the happiness from same-sex marriage ceremonies and would like to contribute to such happiness for other gay couples, but they can't because the rules laid down by their religion forbids it.

It's a good reminder that the deeply religious are not just motivated by what other people say about their religion, but also by an inner empathy and a morality influenced by society. I should always keep in mind that religious bigots do not speak for all of the religious.