Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Krauss vs Cooper

For this week's Forge entry, frequent Tekton contributor D. Neiman offers a self-described rant. Understandably so.


I am a fan of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Not just because the characters often randomly irrupt comic book geekery (I cannot wait for The Dark Knight Rises), but also because of Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Arguably the most popular of Big Bang’s characters, Sheldon (portrayed by Jim Parsons) is a theoretical physicist who prides himself on his 187 IQ, eidetic memory, and incredibly malnourished people-skills. 

In fact, the reason I love Sheldon so much is because, well, I also hate him. Why? Sheldon is often used as the main comic foil. He frequently comments that he is “burdened with a superior mind in a world of normals” despite the fact that his best friends are also people with genius-level intellects. He refuses to work (in most cases even interact!) with other researchers in his own field because he believes he simply cannot “dumb himself down” enough. Further along these lines, it is standard for Sheldon to often exaggerate the importance of his discipline in comparison to others. For example, in the season 3 episode The Pants Alternative Sheldon becomes intoxicated at an awards ceremony and, during his acceptance speech, mentions that he “has no respect” for the study of geology. He is an infuriatingly, small-minded egocentrist who cannot, indeed will not, take time to understand something he doesn’t understand because, well, if he doesn’t understand it right away then it isn’t worth understanding!

That’s what makes his character so enjoyable: the ridiculousness. Like Archie Bunker, such a person surely couldn’t exist in the real world, right? Unfortunately, as many of us know, people like Archie Bunker do exist. I just discovered that people like Sheldon Cooper exist as well; one of them goes by the name Lawrence Krauss.

I am also a fan of The Colbert Report. Watch it every night before bed. Last night Krauss was his guest. When I saw the name on my DVR, the word “crackpot” lit up in the back of my mind. How odd. Usually that only happens with Christ mythers and ancient aliens enthusiasts. So I searched for his last name in my standard, weekly reads (Tekton, Reasonable Faith) and boom! There it was. Last year famed Christian philosopher and all-around atheist beating machine William Lane Craig debated this guy, and beat him up pretty bad. Krauss didn’t take it too well. Linked below you’ll find that this guy, a professor at a major state university, rants and raves about how Craig doesn’t understand the arguments, and then give lips service to the Christ-myth!

“Not only are there serious theologians who doubt the resurrection, there are historians who doubt the historical existence of Jesus himself.”

He goes on to indicate that it is his belief that a significant portion of NT scholarship believes that the Resurrection narratives are based on older “resurrection myths” that parallel the Gospels “down to the number of days” that it took the savior to be resurrected!

Having rediscovered this nonsense, I looked forward to the interview portion at the end of The Colbert Report. I was not disappointed. Attempting to peddle his new book, Krauss initially said that he has found the answer to the famous question posed by the German philosopher-mathematician G.W. Leibniz: why is there something instead of nothing? Well, he hasn’t answered the question, he clarified as he coyly backpedaled; rather, he has found that it isn’t the right question to ask. Instead, so he says, contemporary physics has shown that older philosophical questions/concerns (such as theories of causation and what “nothing” really means) are irrelevant. Far from actually answering the question “why is there something rather than nothing” (part of the book’s title) he says physicists need to redefine what “nothing” means, so that new, better questions are needed. Questions that don’t waste time on the nose-picking speculations that comprise philosophy and theology, but are instead set to answer serious, big-people issues. Toward the end of the interview, Colbert asks him why he insists on using his work (the foreword is by Dawkins, it was originally supposed to be by Hitchens… so yeah… that tells you something) as a vehicle to attack God. Krauss responds that he doesn’t want to attack God, he simply wants to show people that the real universe is far more beautiful and complex than anything reported in the “fairy tales that were talked about by Bronze-age, illiterate peasants.” Yeah, that’s what the chronologically-snobberish ethnocentrist said!

So I decided to go through some other materials that Craig has on his site that discuss Krauss’ book (also linked below). Just from listening to his interview on Colbert I could tell what the most devastating and effective critique of it would be, and Craig zeroed right in on it. I’m no philosopher, certainly I am no physicist (I find that stuff cold and boring); most of my exposure to philosophy comes from when it overlaps with pre-Christian near Eastern, Greco-Roman and Church history. Yet even I can tell that when Krauss uses the word “nothing” he doesn’t really mean “nothing.” Based on this one, simple, easy to spot observation I have decided that there is no reason why I should ever read this man’s book, for he simply does not know what he is talking about.

In the podcasts on the reasonable faith page linked below Craig goes through another recent audio interview Krauss did on his book. Throughout all three segments Krauss makes reference to how philosophy has failed to answer these questions, how theology should be banned from academia, how he just can’t figure out why people don’t bow down with him and sacrifice at the altar of theoretical physics and it’s beloved son, the multiverse. Over and over we hear how theologians and philosophers love to talk without getting any actual work done!  The arrogance!

*As a fun side-note, my father (a mountain of a man who spends all of his free time in the Colorado woods hunting as a traditional archer [one of my favorite things to do as well] and who has worked his hands to the bone fixing machines at the Coors brewery every week for the last thirty years) refuses to watch The Big Bang Theory. He does so because, “those ivory tower, thin-wrists need to stop screwin’ around talkin’ about space and numbers and get real jobs.”

What finally inspired me to type out this exposure of ignorance was a quip Krauss makes on the last podcast. He relates how he has asked “many” theologians what significant contributions theology has made to human knowledge in the last 500 years. He says that biologists, psychologists, and even historians can give him some kind of legitimate answer to this question, and the theologians cannot. All this from someone who, apparently, believes there are levels of reality where 2+2 does not equal 4 (see Craig’s linked pages and more material by searching for “Krauss”)! The hubris! This guy makes Icarus and Snookie’s illegitimate love-child look like Mother Teresa!

Like my beloved Dr. Cooper, Krauss figures himself a conqueror of worlds, heroically smashing the irrelevant demons of philosophy and theology (not to mention history, I mean, the Christ myth? C’mon!) with his trusty, indestructible hammer called “Mj√∂lnir” *cough* I mean “physics.” And like my beloved Dr. Cooper, Krauss is unaware that the remaining 99%, in this case the philosophers, theologians, and historians, of the world watch and giggle as he flails about, screaming and knocking stuffed animals off of coffee tables with a nerf bat that has “special” written on it’s side.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cocoa vs the Laundry

After finishing USDA work, after 4 straight months almost non-stop, my writing muse is tired and I could use a break. So for this entry I'll just offer this cute vid of my poodle letting the clean towels know who's boss.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tekton Tenure: 2007

In 2007 I spent a lot of time on the Classics collection, The Impossible Faith, the Christian Apologetics Instructor program, speaking engagements, and catching John Loftus in a big fat lie (which ended up with me having what is now my daily "anti-blog" of activities). That didn't leave much time for cracking heads open.
We saw that "tomb of Jesus" thing spark to life in 2007. The same folks are still cranks; just in the last few weeks they've made a similar mess of an artifact having to do with Jonah and the whale.
Gary Lenaire -- this ex-Christian headbanger made a fool of himself with a self-pub job in which he made error after error, including repeating the silly idea that Nicaea decided the canon multiple times. This proved such an embarrassment that in 2008 he submitted an item to the Secular Web in which he went overboard on details about Nicaea, with this line as a real howler:
 The main point is not the names of the religionists who edited the first Bibles; nor is it the dates that those events occurred on. My Christian critics attempt to distract you with such trivia in order to evade the real issue here. What does matter is how the church fathers produced what is called "God's Word."
No, Gary. The main point is that you are an incompetent moron who made decisions based on the likes of Paine as your only sources. Not that he gets much better in the response: He adds a single note from Schaff and Columbia U. each. Like this makes up for his ignorance earlier? (The article itself, by the way, isn't much of an improvement in terms of being decent history.)

Other than that -- he has Facebook and Myspace pages, but seems to have kept his mouth shut since.
Theodore Drange -- I gave Drange a hit for opening his yap on the Resurrection. He's still around, but not very active.
Herman Detering -- still around, and still nutty; of late he's gone radical to the extent of attacking Bart Ehrman on the topic of Jesus' existence.
Paul, Jacobsen, Chris Hallquist -- these amateur Skeptics are still around but haven't grown their presence that much. The former updates his site maybe once every few months.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tekton Tenure: Last Half of 2006

I worked a lot on educational materials during this period, so there aren't many names to consider, but there's a lot of fun in the few we have. The 2nd half of 2006 began with a reply to the Rational Responders (or as I called them, Fundy Atheists on the Run) and their challenge:

PRIZE 2: Inevitably when we ask for contemporary evidence of Jesus Christ, some unintellectual spouts off... "You'd have to be a fool to ignore the thousands of writings, evidences, blah blah blah." Yet, none of the evidences provided arise from the lifetime of Jesus. People actually want us to believe a man walked on water, rose from the dead, yada yada yada, and NOBODY wrote it down! Give us a break! However... we are not above being wrong. So, with that in mind. We are offering a $100 reward and an appearance on our radio show where we will admit we we're wrong to the person who can set a precedent that other important historical figures exist without contemporary evidence. Provide us with the names of five important historical figures that were not written about until at least 25 years after they died (like Jesus). Keep in mind, if you do this you haven't proved Jesus existed, merely a good precedent.

That challenge was hastily and embarrassingly withdrawn, as it died the death of a thousand qualifications when they were hit with a spate of valid entries. There were two big names I associate with that challenge; one, Brian Sapient, is still with the group. The other, Rook Hawkins, is no longer with them; his blog on the RRS site has been inactive since 2008, and a Wordpress blog he had is offline. A Freethoughtpedia link to his personal website bounces to the main RRS page.

Edit: Tekton Research Assistant Punkish points out that Hawkins now operates under his real name, Tom Verenna, and he does have a blog running. I was not aware of the connection.

Jesus Police. This wacky website, which recommended stuff like The Hiram Key, is now deceased.

Daniel June. Yep. A guy from infidels. org I featured here recently; I'd forgotten I addressed him way back then, too. News of the day: He hasn't gotten any smarter -- and my evaluation of him then ("If the Secular Web ever stops hosting items by insufficiently educated people like this, perhaps I can take them seriously again someday") reads the same as today.

Sam Harris. Obviously, still riding his dead horses even today.

Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. Still producing dead horses even today.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Tekton Tenure: First Half of 2006

Well, let's see what's up with these guys.

Billy Wheaton -- who came on board TWeb as "Dr. Billy" -- and showed that if he was a doctor, it was a doctor of funk. He started (and ended) a one-entry blog in 2010, self-pubbed a book with iUniverse in 2009, and his website is dead.

Dennis Diehl -- this loony ex-WWCOG apostate -- a massage therapist by trade -- wrote a guest piece for someone's blog in 2010, and has written for other places freelance before that, but doesn't seem to be active now.

Brian Flemming -- Mr. War on Easter hasn't updated his blog since February 2009. And that was just an update from a post in August 2008 saying he'd be laying low for a while. Maybe he buried himself.

Keith Parsons - I tackled this dumbo for his poor performance regarding the hallucination hypothesis. In September 2010 he called it quits for debating issues related to theism. I can't imagine why.

Dan Brown -- well of course, he's still writing books. But nothing that we've needed to deal with.

Sound Doctrine Church -- these loons are still around, and have a running website.

Bible Wheel -- Still nutty and still around.