A narrative essay by – Heather Spoonheim

As a ‘strong’ Atheist, I believe there are no gods. That is a belief that I am very comfortable, if not enthusiastic, to have challenged. The thing that irks me, however, is that those who try to challenge that belief almost never challenge it at all, but instead lay out a challenge to science. Now, I have an extremely eclectic resume but I am definitely not a scientist; as a matter of fact, at the time of this writing I make my living with a chef’s knife. What the hell could I possibly know about science that isn’t already published and open to criticism by anyone who actually cares to do so?

Why is it that my belief is so readily interpreted as a statement that I know how the universe came to be? I have absolutely no idea how the universe came to be and neither does science, as near as I can tell.

I realize that the distance between galaxies has been observed to be increasing at an accelerating rate, and that one can describe that behavior mathematically and then reverse the math to calculate that everything came from some singularity about 14 billion years ago – but that is where the current mathematical models break down, apparently. After that it’s really anybody’s guess.

Maybe the universe pulsates from singularity to some end point and back again, infinitely repeating. Maybe the singularity was actually a vortex from someplace else through which our universe got ‘sucked’ or ‘pushed’. Maybe the universe is just an attribute of a less finite context that itself is just an attribute of a less finite context and on and on infinitely. To be honest, I believe we will never know the complete picture.

The only people who have the audacity to claim knowledge of the complete picture seem to be those who claim that it’s a portrait of their invisible, imaginary friend. What a Kodak moment that must present – just keep shaking that Polaroid until the image clears up enough for me to take a look too, please. In the meantime, stop asking me where the universe came from.

Why is it that my belief is so readily interpreted as a statement that I know the details of abiogenesis and/or evolution? It really irks me when people ask me to explain these things, especially when they don’t even understand that they are different concepts. Abiogenesis really eludes me because it is based on such a large knowledge base of chemistry and still in such early phases of research.

Evolution can be even more difficult because so few people realize that it isn’t a fact at all, just an explanation that is supported by literally millions of facts that aren’t nearly as accessible to the layman as the cosmos. To make matters worse, although U.S. courts readily accept DNA evidence of two men being brothers as being rock solid enough to put a man to death, they won’t accept it as rock solid enough to establish the irrefutable relationship between humankind and the rest of the great apes. Fuckers.

Even if I were a scientist and had devoted my life to a field that fell within the bounds of one of the aforementioned scientific realms, that still wouldn’t give someone the right to demand free private lectures. These days I make my living in restaurants, and if you don’t believe that eggs and oil can be whisked into mayonnaise then you can go buy a fucking jar of Miracle Whip – it’s not my job to educate you and if you want my services then talk to your waiter. Furthermore, I have no idea how the absence of a conclusive scientific proof for anything serves as evidence to support the impossibly self-contradicting postulations made by Bronze Age holy books. For the most part those texts manage to completely disprove themselves without any need for science.

What I do know is that if you could pray to get shit done then people would pray and get shit done. If the god of Judaism existed then the Jews wouldn’t have spent their entire history getting their asses kicked all over the planet only to wind up back in the only part of the Middle East that doesn’t have any oil under it. If another god existed then I’m certain that the Jews, pragmatic people that they are, would have tossed their Torah and Talmud into the trash centuries ago and jumped on a bandwagon that actually had wheels. All I can say to deists is that I find their concept of god equivalent to fat-free, sugar-free, caramel syrup; if the word oxymoron didn’t just pop into your head then please look up the definitions of oxymoron, god, and syrup in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Prayer doesn’t work, science does, and you don’t need to be an egghead to figure that out. Go get a job at the Cadillac factory like Johny Cash and take a toodle around on your lunch break. The engineers aren’t dressed in ceremonial robes reading incantations in a dead language as they wave a big brass incense ball over plans scrawled on parchment – they are at computers, punching in numbers, and using instruments to take measurements. Science works.

Science is for the public and you don’t need anymore than bus fare to find that out. Hop on a bus, head to a local campus, and casually walk into a lecture hall with a bunch of students, inconspicuously taking a seat near the back. Quick note - it might be a good idea to leave the holy books at home for a day and instead carry a binder or laptop or something to give the impression that you are literate. Anyway, you can sit there and listen to them speak and you’ll quickly discover there is no fucking conspiracy going on. Everything that they are saying can be confirmed at the library – the public library. Science is public.

Science is international and you don’t need to travel the world or speak seven languages to confirm that. You can pick a subject, like the second law of thermodynamics (a favorite of so many holy rollers), look it up on Wikipedia, and you’ll find that it is available in at least 30 languages. For those that have had their nose in the holy books too long, feel free to scroll through the list of languages and select ‘simple English’. If you doubt that this information is available around the planet then all you need to do is sign up for a myspace account using a picture of a blonde woman on your profile. Within hours some guy with a name like Achmed from Egypt or Morocco will send you a message requesting a conversation by webcam. Now, tell him you will turn your webcam on after he reads the Wikipedia article to you, confirming the translation in his native language – a lot of them seem to speak French as well so you can have them check that too. Science is international.

So, I would like to ask, once and for all, that all holy rollers please stop asking me to give them free science lessons. Everything that I know about science is publicly available at a nearby college, local library, or on the internet. I’m an Atheist, not a scientist.

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Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 17, 2011 at 1:17am

Everybody, thank you for your responses.

 

@John Camilli - I am posting this message here because theist do read these things and there are many other atheists who feel the same as I do - that we shouldn't be required to defend some third party belief set to substantiate our own.  Science is out there for anyone who would like to take a look at it, no need to come looking to me for advice.  After that, what does any of your causation crap have to do with what I am saying?  If you are suggesting a deistic concept, well then that is addressed in the blog itself - sugar-free syrup.

 

@Cameron Brown - Exactly, there are hundreds of millions of atheists out there without science training or degrees, and that shouldn't have any relationship whatsoever to whether or not you are capable of realizing Santa Claus was just a made-up story.

 

@Glen Rosenberg - thanks for doing the science apologetics on my behalf; as I stated, that isn't something I'm terribly interesting in doing.

 

@Drake Jacovian - my reasons are pretty simple; prayer doesn't do a thing no matter who you are - there are no magic incantations or spells.  It's all a bunch of silly children's stories that obviously has gotten ingrained in society.  As far as keeping it to myself - I'm not the one knocking on doors trying to spread the good word every Sunday afternoon, or standing on street corners handling out pamphlets and asking people if they would like to pray with me.

Comment by Drake Jacovian on May 16, 2011 at 11:16pm

I feel as if they are asking the wrong questions, they shouldn't be asking you for scientific evidence which you do not specialize in or have any particular knowledge if they want any worth while answers.  We do not walk up to strangers on the street asking for medical advice.

 

With that said, however, since you are a 'strong' atheist you hold a belief.  By believing in something I would hope that you have something that proves non-existence, just as I would hope that any belief is based off of evidence.  However, I realize it would be like asking you to prove invisible pink unicorns do not exist, it just can not be done.

 

Just as theists who do not speak of their supernatural beliefs, if you keep it to yourself, they should mind their own business.  It is really just a matter of boundaries which is a social problem we have.

 

I can understand why a theist would question it, if and only if you brought it up, and since you are not in a neutral position, since you hold a belief, why they would ask you it.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on May 16, 2011 at 11:14pm

John, I hear MT's footsteps so allow me to play advocate to a make believe epistemological bully.

Science is superior to religion. It is less flawed and the best we will ever have.

Religion gives answers to ultimate questions. Science seeks answers to ultimate questions.

Religion is internally and externally contradictory. Science integrates noncontradictory ideas.

Religion makes accomodation in the interest of preserving power. Science accomodates in the interest of truth. Religion posits truth. Science seeks it.

Theists are staid. Scientists are on a mission. Nearly any atheist will say science is superior to religion and will say so with a verisimilitude.

Comment by Cameron Brown on May 16, 2011 at 9:11pm
I always find that curious as well.. Why can't someone be an atheist,but also not give a damn about getting into counter apologetics? Especially science counter apologetics?
Comment by John Camilli on May 16, 2011 at 9:06pm

Allow me to play advocate to a made up devil.

 

First of all, you're ending with a request to theists on an atheist website, so I doubt any of them will get your message, lol.

 

More importantly, let me point out to you a flaw in the thinking of those who rely on science, and I am one of them, so it is a flaw of my thinking as well. You mention the second law of thermodynamics, from which the law of entropy is deduced. This law is basically the idea that all energy (and that includes matter) tends toward equillibrium, meaning the least energetic state. So far so good, but here comes the paradox. If entropy truly prevails, and if the universe is eternal, then no complex energy would remain. If the universe is not eternal, it must have had a beginning. Either way we have problems, and here's why:

 

The universe having a beginning would require an explanation of an uncaused event, which contradicts the principal of causality and thus all of science. But clearly there is still complex energy, so the universe cannot be eternal if entropy prevails. See the conundrum? Either the law of entropy is incorrect, or we have to explain an uncaused event. You say science works, but here is a HUGE hole in scientific theory. There are other big holes as well:

 

Experiements with quantum entanglement have demonstrated, for decades now, that two or more objects, apparently separated by any amount of space, can behave as if they are one and the same object. It's a bit lengthy to explain, but scientists no longer dispute the evidence of these experiments; they are just stumped as to how it works because it seems to contradict the principle of locality, from which is deduced the law of identity, and thus all of epistemology - the study of human knowledge and its sources. Major, major paradoxes with these conclusions of science. No one has come up with solutions.

 

We point out inconsistencies in the ideas of theists quite easily, but we ignore that our own theories about the universe are also self-contradictory. Who is to say, then, that science is a superior point of view? Something cannot be "close" to being the right theory. It is either the right theory, or it isn't, and any incorrect theory is infinitely far from the truth.

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