The cosmologists tell us the universe is expanding. However, if the universe had been expanding for 12+ billion years then we would see certain easily noticeable evidence. The expanding universe theory predicts that as space expands the matter within the space becomes less densely distributed and galaxies become farther and farther apart.
When we observe galaxies nine billion light years away we are seeing them as they were nine billion years ago. This allows us to look back in time and very easily verify the expanding universe hypothesis. If the universe had been expanding all that time then the galaxies nine billion light years away would, on average, be closer together than galaxies, say, two billion light years distant. It is simple to measure this and measurements of galaxy distribution have been made.
All surveys show that there is no significant change in the relative density of galaxy distribution across the universe which means no difference over space or time. There is “clumping” in the universe where there are regional spots of greater matter density. However, the level of this “clumping” is the same at all distances–the density of galaxies in regions nine billion light years away is not different from the density of galaxies in regions two billion light years away. Take any two distances and the same is true. Thus, since distance in space equals distance in time, the observations confirm that the density of galaxies nine billion light years ago is not different from the the density of galaxies two billion light years ago. Therefore, we must conclude that the expansion theory is contradicted by the evidence.
So why do scientists continue to insist that the universe is expanding? It’s classic “groupthink”–a common malady in all areas of human society. We see it in culture, religion, politics, and even science. Once an idea becomes popular, it creates an inertia that makes it hard to sweep it away, even in the face of evidence. Beliefs, whether they are scientific or not, are created and maintained because they serve a useful purpose; but that purpose is not always because it best explains the available evidence. It is far too easy for people to ignore inconvenient truths if denying them serves a purpose.
The Internet, the World Wide Web, is a fascinating laboratory of human nature. Perhaps because of the relative anonymity of the Internet, people more readily act on their desires. The Internet may provide insight into the perennial question of whether people are basically selfish. Anecdotal evidence definitely suggests that people are ruder, snarkier, and just plain meaner online than they would ever dare to be face-to-face. Online forums and comment boards resemble the maturity level of grade-school recess. I am not prepared to say that how people act online is somehow more authentic to their inner self than “normal” life, because the artificial nature of the online environment probably invokes artificial behavior that is tailored to the medium. However, I think we can look at online behavior as having some definite themes that tells us something about humans.
Most importantly, the Internet has what I will call an entitlement culture. It is an attitude where people want something for nothing and get quite upset when anything blocks them from it. The entitlement attitude manifests in peer-to-peer file sharing and ripping music from Internet radio stations. Called “piracy” both by the copyright holders and the people who do the downloading, it is no different than walking into a store and stealing a CD or DVD. The only difference is the technological medium of the intellectual property. This piracy has become glorified and rationalized by the people doing it and whole Web sites are dedicated to it using the words “pirate” or “warez” complete with self-serving manifestos about how they are justified in doing what they are doing. They think it is somehow cool to steal. The reality is that they aren’t “pirates,” they are bratty kids who want something for nothing and are too selfish to pay for it. As someone who has been a radio DJ for 13 years and knows many musicians, it angers me that someone would say they have a “right to have the music but the artist does not deserve any compensation for their efforts.
Another manifestation of the Internet entitlement attitude is ad-blocking software which blanks out on-screen ads when visiting Web sites. It sounds cool to block ads and yes many of them are annoying, but the only way those Web sites make money is through the ad images and clicks. So when you block them you are using their site and not paying for it. That is your right I guess, but whenever I visit a Web site I like I will click on an ad. I think of it as a tip jar but even better because it costs me nothing. As a Web site owner myself who depends on ads to survive, I can appreciate the needs of the Web site owners.
This hearkens back to the age-old question proposed by Plato millennia ago: if someone could steal without getting caught, would they? Plato said, in the story of Gyges’s ring, that people would; the Internet seems to prove him right.
Is there any real difference between these two statements?
A. Black people are stupid.
B. Religious people are irrational.
Of course not. Oh, I know, I can hear the militant atheist now with their excuse: “But religious people are irrational!” This of course is the same justification used by racists. Both types of bigotry offers no evidence for their assertions, they only repeat them louder and more forcefully.
Atheism becomes bigotry when it makes prejudicial statements about religious people. Prejudice is prejudice and intolerance is intolerance, and both are irrational regardless of who commits it. Despite its scientific pretensions and its pronouncements of love for reason, many atheists offer arguments laden with logical fallacies of hasty generalization, strawman arguments, and most of all ad homenim attacks. They are, in fact, fundamentally no different in all of this from the religious fundamentalists.
I argue that there is a brand of atheism that is equivalent in character and substance to fundamentalist religion. Let’s call it “fundamentalist atheism.” Like their religious counterparts fundamentalist atheists are characterized by their ideological orientation, militancy, and dogmatic thinking. The fundamentalist atheist says that belief in God or any higher power is a sign of irrational thought and idiocy and that good and intelligent people will agree with their views. We see this in atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and their followers. The arguments of Dawkins and Hitchens, et al. are, in their structure, no different than the arguments of bigots like James Dobson and Gary Bauer. The atheist will say “but I don’t condemn people to hell.” Yes, but only because you don’t believe in hell. What is important is the condemnation itself, not what you think should happen to those you condemn.
Even if an atheist could prove that God does not exist (a logical impossibility) it would not justify the bigotry. And it is utter hypocrisy to condemn the bigotry of religious fundamentalists and act the same way.
Perhaps no philosophy is more prone to misunderstanding and misinterpretation than George Berkeley (pronounced /barklee/). There are two problematic areas of Berkeley’s philosophy. First is that his theory of “immaterialism”—that we have no proof that matter exists—offends common sense. Second is that his theory’s basic principle of “esse est percipi” (“to be is to be perceived”) requires a “first perceiver” or cosmic mind to be the cause of all existing objects that we can experience. This, coupled with Berkeley’s office of Bishop of Cloyne later in life, has led to the common conclusion that Berkeley’s philosophy is an attempt to demonstrate the existence of God.
It is wrong to dismiss Berkeley’s immaterialism as a product of religious prejudices or that he formulated his philosophy to defend religious beliefs. A simple chronology of Berkeley’s life, if anything, leads to the opposite conclusion. His philosophy inclined him to religion rather than the religious beliefs influencing his philosophy. He was educated at Kilkenny College and Trinity College, Dublin, completing a Master’s degree in 1707, remaining at Trinity College as a tutor and Greek lecturer. He published his theory in two books, Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge in 1710 and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous in 1713. It wasn’t until 1721 that he took Holy Orders in the Church of Ireland. Clearly his philosophy was fully formed long before he entered the clergy. If yet more evidence be needed that he was not a religious ideologue can be found in his books Essay towards a New Theory of Vision (1709) The Analyst (1734) were scientific works of high quality.
Thomas Hobbes is best known for his political theory of the Leviathan and to a lesser extent for his theories on empiricism. Both Hobbes’ political and empirical theories are founded on his belief that there exists nothing but matter. There is nothing but material bodies in motion, Hobbes believed.
This radical materialism had an interesting effect on Hobbes’ religious beliefs. He believed in God, did not question Christianity, though he, like many in his day, was critical of religious institutions. But that meant that he had to believe that God is made of matter, which he did. He reasoned that either something is matter or it is void. God could not be immaterial because immateriality is nothing. God exists, therefore God must be material. Of course, God is a different kind of matter than what rocks, plants, trees, and our bodies are made. Hobbes saw it as a rarefied matter, like a very fine mist, but still matter.
Not surprisingly, Hobbes’ theory met with great criticism in his time. Not just from religious authorities but from other philosophers and intellectuals. The idea that there is nothing but matter was not intellectual palatable and seemed to contradict common sense, especially the human mind. The preferred notion was from Hobbes’ contemporary, Descartes, who reasoned that there were two types of substance–mental and material. Mind and consciousness has no extension in space and thus could not be material. The same argument for a material God would have to made for a material mind and not surprisingly, Hobbes felt that mind was nothing but matter. But if mind is matter then what is consciousness? Would that lead to us denying the existence of consciousness?