Thursday, February 27, 2014

Faith vs. trust and morals vs. ethics

Hey people,

I was recently listening to a debate between the YouTube skeptic AronRa and Ray Comfort. At one point in the talk Ray Comfort asked AronRa if had had a wife (which he does) and Ray went off on this tangent about both AronRa having to have faith in his wife AS WELL as not being able to prove that she existed (I think they were separate arguments, but they kind of ran together in Ray's ramblings). If you'd like, you can here the whole thing here -

It stuck me as odd. In the intervening periods since I saw that I have become more acutely aware of theists making two points which bother me. First, that being an atheist requires faith, and second that atheists can't be moral without god. The part about both of these topics that bothers me is what seems like a (what "seems to me" like a) deliberate misinterpretation of the terms faith and morals. So I want to try and make it clear how I use the terms in contrast with their similar counterpoints (faith/trust and morals/ethics) and hopefully generate some conversation about them. If my reasoning is sound I think I'd also like the skeptical community (if they'd care to) to use the terms as I will outline them here. It can perhaps shut down some of the rhetorical flip flopping that theists do in trying to justify their reasoning. I think it's especially important to clarify these terms when they arise, just like we would want other claims (such as the definition of a god(s)) in order to form, support or deny arguments about them.

In a lot of discussions I see people take for granted how these words are used. Skeptics will often force theists (or people talking any position) to define terms as they are presented. "Define god" or "define better" and the like, but take other words for granted. Sometimes they even use more focused definitions of words (like belief or knowledge or faith) in ways that the dictionaries don't directly specify. But language is defined by useage, not by dictionaries, and I propose the following changes to how words are used:

Definitions from the Miriam Webster Dictionary, online.

Faith - Current definition:
noun \ˈfāth\
: strong belief or trust in someone or something
: belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs
: a system of religious beliefs

Suggested definition - much like many skeptics and atheists are using it now, I would specify in the first definition the change to :strong belief in something without clear reasoning or evidence.

I think this definition puts it more inline with the other definitions given and will help to make it more clear as to the difference between faith and trust.

- Current definition:
noun \ˈtrəst\
: belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.
: an arrangement in which someone's property or money is legally held or managed by someone else or by an organization (such as a bank) for usually a set period of time
: an organization that results from the creation of a trust

Suggested definition - changes to the first definition to clarify that belief is placed with someone or something with and/or do to having good reasons or evidence that the position is acceptable.

I think the specification is necessary because I think there can be belief in some supernatural things in personal experience in the current definition, but without being able to rationally verify or show this then it has to fall back to faith as to whether or not it's "real". This allows for specification between what is backed by evidence and what is not. And additional to stop theists form saying that atheists/skeptics have to have faith to not believe.

- current definition -
adjective \ˈmȯr-əl, ˈmär-\
: concerning or relating to what is right and wrong in human behavior
: based on what you think is right and good
: considered right and good by most people : agreeing with a standard of right behavior

Suggested definition - Again with the first definition (though the noun and not the adjective), specifying that morals are models for individual behavior. This could mean more of the treating yourself correctly and/or thinking a certain way about things. This definition wouyld put it more in line with what I see as it's typical usage about personal responsibility as taught by religions.

Ethic - current definition -
noun \ˈe-thik\
: rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad
ethics : an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong
: a belief that something is very important

Suggested definition - of the more common usage, I think ethics should differ from morals by specifying that ethics are behaviors for groups and not individuals. By this, I mean that it specifies individuals behaviors within a group and not the specific behaviors related solely to an individual.
To be more specific about ethics and morals and their common usages, I would say that a man cheating on his wife could be moral, immoral, unethical and ethical at the same time, depending on factors involved (assuming general stereotypes of this scenario). For himself, if he doesn't have a problem with the behavior, he may not have gone against his own morals. If he does, then, well, he did (even providing his morals are not relative). If his wife was OK with the behavior, then it wasn't necessarily unethical either, and as far as his job as an accountant or a Senator, the behavior was not unethical (per se, unless his wife is a voter in the one case).

So what do you think?  Do you see any flaws in my reasoning or have better suggestions?  I'm open to ideas.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Skeptic Presents: What is a Skeptic?

OK, so I'm working on another (longer) post now, but I kind of feel like I've been away from here for too long.  This is going to be a somewhat challenging week for me as well (work has a big project coming to completion in the next 7-10 days), so I want to make sure I get something up.  I came across this video which I think does an extremely good job of explaining skepticism in a clear and humorous way.  If you hop over to YouTube to watch, you can find more content by MrDeity, who puts a humorous spin on aspects of Christian theology.  And no, I don't think he's a theist.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Water cures cancer - you're doing it wrong.

Ah, Facebook...

So my wife has this thing where she will either like or share a post that she doesn't have time to read "now" but doesn't want to miss and not read later (or so she says).

I don't like this particular tactic because it makes her look like she likes some pretty far out stuff sometimes. Something that she did this to yesterday really got my blood boiling today and I thought I'd take a second to share. I'm not going to reference the original post, but I will say some things about it. The content of it can be found here -

The post on Facebook has over 4400 comments since September 2013. The company that posted it is a "naturopathic" company that touts juicing and eating your veggies. The post itself has over 57,000 likes and 223,000 shares. I am not going to name the company or link to the post for the sole reason that they do not have the article on their site, just the Facebook page. But the info-graphic says things like "scientifically proven" on it, and that's part of the reason that it really pissed me off.

To summarize, the "method" is "popular in Japan", and drinking four glasses of water first thing in the morning will cure a host of diseases, including "Headache, body ache, heart system, arthritis, fast heart beat, epilepsy, excess fatness, bronchitis asthma, TB, meningitis, kidney and urine diseases, vomiting, gastritis, diarrhea, piles, diabetes, constipation, all eye diseases, womb, cancer and menstrual disorders, ear nose and throat diseases." It will also, apparently, cure Tuberculosis in three months and cancer is six months...

WHAT!?!?! Of course, there is no evidence to back this up. There are no peer reviewed studies or experiments that show even ANY connection to drinking water as a CURE FOR CANCER!

The hardest part for me is when someone with cancer sees this and is afraid. Here is this "story" with hundreds of thousands of people sharing it, offering a "cure" for cancer that is so simple. Just drink water in the morning. It will fix everything!

Most of the stuff I can find on the site that shared this is good, normal (if slightly pseudo-scientific) stuff about why you should (and how to) consume healthy plant materials. Looking it over, it's somewhat backed by research) they recommend a lot of foods rich in a variety of anti-oxidants and what not. On their site I did run into some wackiness (using onion juice to regrow hair), but most it's mostly harmless stuff.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Quality over quantity

Hey all,

So I've decided that I need to shoot (for now) for two good posts a week as a base.  I'm not really using the blog to talk about my day to day stuff (that's what twitter and Facebook statuses seemed to be used for) so I think I need to look at a different strategy for this.  Right now I have no idea (I do see some page views of my posts) but I half think those are incidental or accidental (and the page views have been going down some each day (give or take).

Something got under my skin a couple of days ago and I'm trying to decide two things.  First, do I really care enough.  Second, what do I do about it if I do.  It's not a huge issue but it has some potential to make things irritating at work.

So in the last month or so, on at least two separate occasion, I've walked past a fax machine/copier in the office that appeared to be jammed. (big red light flashing on it indicating there was a problem).  Both times no one was around so I have no idea who was doing what to it, but I know that that machine has some problems sometimes but we still get a lot of inbound faxes on it (don't get me started on paper faxing in 2014...).  Being conscientious I decide to see if I can clear the jam to let the job finish a prevent stuff from backing up in the storage on the machine. 

I remove the pages that are stuck and close up the unit.  As it starts working again I see that there is a copy job (with stapling) that still has about 20 copies left.  What, do you imagine, is the copy job?  It's a list of biblical quotes on a (what seems like) a bunch of random topics (love, salvation, grief, faith, etc.). 

#1.  Do I care.  Here is my problem.  I don't think someone should be using company property to run off a bunch of personal copies (which are probably for some church group that they belong to).  Had it been one time I can see it if you can't run to the copy store, but twice in a month, with at least 20 copies of a 4-5 page packet) seems excessive.  I suspect I might know who it is (BTW).  I also don't like the fact that the machine was just left like that and no one called on IT (or anyone as far as I can tell) to fix it.  It seems like they "know better".

#2.  If I do care, what do I do about it?  Go to the person I suspect and make them aware that I believe it was them and they shouldn't (at least) leave the machine like that?  Go to my boss and let them deal with it?  Go to the person's boss?  Tell out IT department about it?

I don't want to create a situation where no one can run copies of their missing cat flier, or print off their bill payment confirmations, and what-not, but I also don't want to keep clearing out paper jams that other people leave behind.  I suspect that confronting the person I believe to be responsible would result in denials, but they then may just send them to a different machine or something. 

At then end of the day (at least this one) I'm thinking that I really don't care that much, but I've been a little irritated about it for a couple of days now...


Monday, February 17, 2014

Quicky post

In the event that someone decides to check out what I say (though this posting every night thing is a pain) I don't really have anything for tonight.  I'm working on a project that is getting closer to finally being done and I'm trying to check it off the list tonight.  It's taking longer than I wanted, but there you have it.

So more tomorrow, but I need to maybe work on some more thought out posts.  I kind of feel like I'm just making noise and not really saying a lot.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tracking and a little about me.


So I think I've had a total of two "real" views so far.  I just figured out the whole "don't track my page views" thing on blogger.  So maybe now we will see if I actually have anyone lurking in blogosphere that might be reading the drivel that I'm spouting here.

Anyway, so I thought I'd do a little intro of myself instead of ranting about anything today.

My description seems to be vague, and that's not just to be a jerk or anything.  I made a conscious decision to separate my blogging life from my real life.  I have some advantages over some people who are in the skeptical/atheist camp, in that I don't hide it, and to almost everyone I know now I am and have always been a skeptic.  Sure, I've got some people who have elected to ignore that fact about me in my life as well, or those that haven't every asked about it.  And I'm happy to leave that level of philosophical discourse out of my "real" life.

Be that as it may, I work for an organization that (in itself) would not care about my POV, but our company works with a lot of religious organizations (Christian, mostly) that may not be so understanding.  Now I don't feel that there might be any real issues with my position, but at the same time a little subterfuge is a small price to pay to keep things copacetic on that front.  So my name, occupation, family details, etc., are going to be vague at best for so long as I decide to be that way.

I grew up in a typical American christian household.  We went to church most Sundays, did the holidays and what-not.  My maternal grandmother was (for all intents and purposes) a near "ideal" christian.  She did not evangelize, though she led a good life, had lots of kids, went to church, helped to poor, sick and needy, and even challenged the local bishops when she thought they were not being good or reasonable people.  We went to see her often as a kid.  But my parents were more liberal minded.  My mother was a feminist (and the reason I stopped going to church in 6th grade) and my father was (at one time) a guy who went though the motions but never talked about god or pushed or preached any of it.

My sister is a (I believe literally) a hard atheist.  She has been "out" since she was probably 14 or 15.  She is very intelligent and multi-degreed.  She is passionate about her atheism and has had to face some discrimination because of those beliefs in her life.  Now, she can be more confrontational than I am as well, and I will, generally speaking, take things as they come.  I won't take someone apart unless they threaten me with hell or eternal damnation (in a malicious way).  I don't mind people praying (though I usually wish they would do more - I see praying as a kind of slactivism) for me, but I won't join them (though I will be respectful). 

I am into tech and I've been messing with computer and technology for over 30 years.  My dad was in sales and believed in early adoption, so we had our first computer at our house when I was about 8 years old.  I do what I need to to stay on top of trends and what's out an available (lately I've been doing more with phones and tablets - but that's the direction things are moving).  But generally speaking there are very few things that I'll be the first to get.  But if you want to know about what's the best of something (or should I wait for XXX product [almost always yes]) then I can usually give you an informed opinion of the device or service.

I am into health and nutrition (and skeptical of a lot of the junk that gets repeated in that field).  I am also into...  OK, I don't need to make some laundry list of stuff I'm into today.  This is already my longest post and I feel like I'm going to start rambling if I go on.

One last thing.  If you are reading this, feel free to comment, even if it's just to say "hi".  I'm even open to sharing my ideas on anything you can come up with.  I don't think I have any need to do a whole lot of monitoring of comments.  I'll limit that to "real" spam if I see it.  I (for now) am trying to make this blog polite.  I don't care if you curse or swear, but I'd ask if you'd only use it when it's necessary (and not just for emphasis when another word will do).  But do what you want.  I'm not your mom.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Debates about beliefs


So I have listened to a couple of debates (about religious beliefs), and in fact I'm listening to the radio "debate" between Matt Dillahunty and Ray Comfort right now (on YouTube - via darkviper8888.  It occurred sometime at the beginning of this month (February 2014). 

I have to say that I can understand why Matt now says that he won't debate Ray ever again.  Matt keeps asking direct questions and Ray keeps not answering them.  In fact, Ray keeps making statements like 'atheists know god exists and just choose to not trust him' and 'atheists are not trustworthy, but I love you and want you to know that you are going to hell'. 

And then there is the flat out lie by Ray.  I've been watching the Atheist Experience show archive on ( and recently heard the episode where Ray Comfort called in and debated Russel Glasser and Matt Dillahunty.  Towards the end of the debate, Matt asked Ray if he thought that slavery was acceptable and moral because Exodus 21-23 not only say that you can own other people as property but how you can make other Jews your slaves forever.  Ray then said that he didn't believe everything in the bible and that some of it was metaphorical (sic).  Since I"m on YouTube here is a link to the page on there -  In this debate, Ray states that the bible is entirely true and right and all things in it are of God.

So I guess here is another "atheist" post from me.  Maybe tomorrow I'll talk about something else. 


Friday, February 14, 2014

Good reads and views

Hola and Happy Valentines day to all!

So as I said last night I thought I'd share some of my recent atheist/counter-apologetics sites that I've been checking out lately. 

Web sites/Wiki's:

These are all good sources that seem to have thought out answers/responses to apologists arguments.  

Now, what I've really been enjoying a bit lately have been YouTube channels.  All of the ones I'll list below are ones that I've been watching in the past month.  They are not really in any particular order, but the first two are currently my favorites. - logicked - The Atheist Experience - Richard Dawkins Foundation - Martymer 81 - DarkMatter2525 - Matt Dillahunty - JaclynGlenn - Theoretical Bullshit

A good deal of these will have links to other good pages that I am still wading through as I go.  It's pretty amazing that there are so many people out there that are so open about their (non) beliefs. 

I say that as an "out" atheist myself.   On a regular basis I see people being discriminated against because of the fact that they don't take things on "faith".  I think at some point I'm going to end up going on a tirade about why I think faith is actually both dangerous and unnecessary. 

But not tonight.  I need to get really worked up over it and I haven't had a good reason to in a while.  I also think I may need to start stepping up my game a little on here to see if I can draw in a few more views or comments.  Frankly I've kind of put myself in a small bind by electing to separate this blog from my "normal" life, so I'm not out fishing for views or directing too many (OK, any, yet) to this blog.  I may have to bend that rule a bit in the near future, but for now I'll see how well I can do on content alone (ha).

Night all. 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

I'm torn about a topic for today...


So I am torn about what to talk about today. 

The crux of the dilemma is really more about what I want to talk about versus what it more timely.  I don't necessarily want this blog to dissolve into a counter apologetics page (per-se, in that I think the real motivation for starting this was wanting to more openly talk about skeptical reasoning and there is a lot of theist stuff that irritates me on that front), but my topic from last night had me thinking about this some more.

So I think instead of talking about my brief comparisons of the rumors of the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6 compared in how they are aimed at the spec mongers who are itching for every last bit of info, I think I'm going to put that aside for now (since, for no other reason the iPhone 6 is really a bit far off at this point).

So yesterday's footnote (about domestic camels in Israel) seems to not be "new", in that the theory has been around for a while (some people have, I have heard, been arguing that for around 100 years now) but that more recent findings seem to support that idea.  Radio-carbon dating of the oldest bones that have been discovered in Israel date to about 930 BCE.  

I don't really think this is some kind of deal breaker for Old Testament/Torah (OT) believers, but it certainly puts a wrench in the literalists ideologies. If you take the biblical text to be more metaphorical then there is little issue with a re-write that puts a domestic animal in a place they didn't live and when they didn't live there.

Awe screw it.  I think I'm just tired.  As it stands now I'm pecking this out when I should really be in bed.  I had a point in there somewhere that I'm just not in the mood to make tonight.  Though to get it out of my system sometime tomorrow, I think I'll post some counter apologetics sites that I've been checking out lately and share some of the YouTube channels I've been watching.  Then maybe at some point I'll start talking about more stuff. 

But then maybe I just can't get behind this camel story either...  It seems rather footnote-y


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"Devils advocate", sort of... Bill Nye and Ken Ham

Good evening readers,

So you know that when something is new we tend to play with things more than when we get used to them.  This blog is currently my shiny new toy, so I will hopefully make frequent updates.  The plan is for the blog to be like my new smart phone.  Something that I use rather freqently, and sometimes even using it for something important.

Recently I finished watching the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate at the creation museum in KY.  As a skeptic, as you might imagine, I think Bill Nye did a good job of combating the irrational "creation" mythos perpetrated by the Young Earth Creationists (aka the YEC).  The most surprising thing about the debate was not so much the claims made by Ham, but how completely he agrees with creation story told in Genesis. 

I think that Nye went pretty easy on Ham though.  I think he could have been more assertive in some of his points, and at no time did he ever actually challenge Ham on the logic of believing just a book (I mean, pick a book, any book).  He challenged Ham where appropriate (such as the trees older than the age of the earth for YEC's), but I think he was afraid of alienating what was mostly a hostile audience.

I do have some advice for Ken Ham.  My only real criticism of his "performance" was just how damn long winded he was, and how (like in his 30 minute presentation period) he really ran out of stuff to say after about 18 minutes (including his testimonials from other YEC's that actually work in a scientific field [can we say compartmentalization]) and then just went into re-emphasizing his points that he had already made.  After he re-summarized his original ideas for the second time, I really started to drift off.  I really had to fight all of my mental eye rolling listening to the same stuff I had just heard, now at lest twice before.

And as the evening wore on, I realized that, with the exception of a few details, that was really all he had.  Be that as it may, Ken can be a jovial and entertaining speaker.  He is charismatic in a way that didn't have me minding that nearly everything he said was based on a book written over the course of several thousand years.  And I would point out (to any bible literalists out there) that even if Moses wrote the old testament, he wasn't there for most of it.  And he wasn't there for the end of it either.

In a bit of ironic serendipity, I had just briefly flipped over to my regular home page and noticed a little tidbit that fits in right with the last paragraph in an odd way.  According to recent archeological evidence, domesticated camels did not arrive in the middle east until about 930(ish) BCE, anywhere from 500 to 1000 years after they are supposedly written about in the Old Testament, which is believed to have it's origins between 2000 and 1500 BCE.

Here are some links to the story.  Feel free to choose your source.

Fox News -Camel bones suggest error in Bible, archaeologists say

 New York Times - Camels Had No Business in Genesis

National Geographic - Domesticated Camels Came to Israel in 930 B.C., Centuries Later Than Bible Says

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In the begining...

Hey everyone (or anyone),

So this is my first blog as SkepticalRoot. Let me give you a rundown of what this is and why I'm here.

First, this is a blog to spare my wife some of my rantings about some pretty dumb crap that I see on a daily basis.  It's not all in person, mind you.  The people in my "normal" life are fairly "regular", so there isn't a lot of drama in my day to day.  However, that doesn't mean that the world of the interwebs doesn't provide enough sources of frustration.  That doesn't mean that "life" doesn't provide enough on it's own, but if nothing else I've learned some patience for my fellow 'man (at least in front of them).

I am a skeptical person who is working on being a "real skeptic" (i.e. disabusing myself of things I believe without good evidence).  And, as a footnote, that is in the soft solipsistic sense (not the nihilistic/hard solipsism sense).  I am also an atheist, as I feel is necessitated by being skeptical of any claim of the existence of god(s) (yes, that means yours too).  But this isn't going to ALL be about theistic claims.  I'm interested in technology, science, pop-culture and the media, political science, gardening, health and nutrition, friends, family, etc.  I like to learn and feel that at this point in my life I can discuss (relatively) a variety of topics.

I"m sure I'll take more time to expand and expound on these ideas in the future.  For now, its bedtime, so I'll talk at you later.

SR (SkepticalRoot)

P.S. I'm also a "two spacer".  And sorry for all the "quotes".  I use them less than I use parentheses at least...  I use them to define terms when I'm using words in a specific context that isn't always the expected one, though not always.  It might be something I get sick of after too long and quit doing and just assume that my readers understand context.