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 John Camilli on May 17, 2011 at 6:11pm

Uuum, did you read anything about animism before you said that? I am familliar with the concept, but I went and checked several sources before this post, to be sure I had my ideas straight. Animism is the idea that everything has a soul, not necessarily that everything is to be worshipped. Deists worship all of existence as God. Theists worship an idol or deity as God. Animists simply think everything that exists is their equal because everything has a spirit. The definition I gave you for deism in the earlier post is correct. But let's not get side-tracked on those ideas. I only brought up deism because you asked if I were purporting that idea. I don't worship anything, so I'm not a theist or deist. I suppose you could say I'm something like an animist, although it would be a stretch. I don't believe in souls, but I do attribute the same rights (lack of rights, really) to everything that exists. I do not believe humans are more special than rocks, for example, because I believe we are made of the same types of things, just in different arrangements. It's all strings to me.

 

Now, although you keep saying that you don't care about the inconsistencies of science, you do roundly dismiss religion as more contradictory and less effective than religion. To quote you, "Prayer doesn’t work, science does." If you are claiming not to know anything about science, or not to care, then this statement is just unfounded, dogamtic and willfully ignorant. You want to condemn theists for having these very same problems, even while you endorse them in yourself. The fact is, you have sided with science, without knowing much about it at all. You are only posting this blog because you want to have your beliefs without wanting to explain them. Sounds like religion to me.

 

 

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on May 17, 2011 at 6:00pm
I like that Heather.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 17, 2011 at 5:27pm
I would honestly like to see a debate between two theists, each demanding that the other provide evidence of their claim, and each asserting dogmatically that their own claim was self-evident.  Such a debate being considered, I feel that, rather than providing even a shred of scientific OR non-scientific evidence for my position, I should be equally well justified in simply stating that I belong to a cult that requires that I believe there are no gods, based on absolutely no evidence for that claim whatsoever, because it's self evident.
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on May 17, 2011 at 5:07pm
The real problem with theists questioning science is the intellectual bankruptcy in adopting a self-serving world view bereft of evidence and demanding of the opposition proof for their views.
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on May 17, 2011 at 4:03pm
I agree with you.  I am not a scientist either.  I think it's an unreasonable expectation of many theists when they start demanding answers to every scientific question they might have of me.  Hey, I'm not a scientist.  I don't know everything there is to know about every type of science there is.  There's no sign on atheism that says every atheist has to be a scientist any more than there's a sign on religion that every theist has to be a plumber.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 17, 2011 at 2:16pm

@Marc Draco

 

Did I not already explain my understanding of the scientific use of theory as being 'explanation'?  Not sure if you are just playing games with me here so I'll just state plainly I don't like having my time wasted.

 

As for a fact, one would have a tough time defining it without some inclusion of completeness I think, and evolution is a work in progress, both literally and figuratively.  It is 'correct', but we haven't finished observing it yet.  In any event, my entire point is that whatever a person wants to know about these things can be found at the library - I mostly clean & cook fish for a living.

Comment by Marc Draco on May 17, 2011 at 2:05pm

Scientific theories are, to the best of our (current) knowledge facts.

 

The video isn't a very good argument but I forget the fallacy being used here. Let's say I have a  billion pieces of information that prove my theory - that makes it a fact. However, if I find one piece of evidence that disproves my theory, then - regardless of all the other evidence - the theory is invalid. This is not something that happens very often.

 

Are you sure you're not confusing "theory" (idea) with Theory (scientific) with hypothesis (educated guess). ;-)

 

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on May 17, 2011 at 1:11pm

Heather,

I am glad to read that your dealings with male atheists are not too awful bad.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 17, 2011 at 11:38am

I'm not following the = 0 thing at all.  Is a book a word?  Or is a book a collection of words?  As far as 'disproving evolution', consider the following:

 

Comment by Marc Draco on May 17, 2011 at 11:29am

So a collection of supporting facts is not, in an of itself, a fact? I don't see your logic Heather.

Theories are dismantled by a single (demonstrable) fact that does not agree with the established thinking. If you think of it as the mathematical product of all the facts; where something fact that disagrees is = 0, no matter how many supporting proofs (numbers) you have, a single 0 makes the whole sum = 0.

 

Finding the 0 is the creationist's holy grail (if you'll pardon the pun) - as Behe thought he'd done with irreducible complexity (he hadn't).

 

Any established scientific Theory (note I use a capital T) is also a fact because it is the product of a very large number of non-zeroed facts. For instance, would you suggest the idea that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago is not a fact? Yet this assertion is only the product of many millions of collated bits of evidence. Many of the things in science that we take for granted are actually just very well tested theories.

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