I was bored today, a common symptom of being desensitized to a constant connection with easy information about the universe at my fingertips. Ergo, I decided to upload an ancient post I made as a project for a very interesting science and religion class. Getting over the fact that at one point I was somehow still involved with standard academia, this was the most mindfuck course I’ve ever taken. The teacher, Prof. David Lane, is an absolutely brilliant thinker (and a really cool surfer guy) whose philosophical musings are a healthy alternative to the mainstream-“ask no questions”-spoon-fed horseshit that passes as “education” these days. Do yourself a favor and check out his site: Neural Surfer This isn’t just another shameless plug, open up some new highways in your brain.

As far as the project is concerned: it was fairly simple: We were to answer several questions relevant to the class and publish it online for our classmates and teacher to view. Enjoy reading clowns, I guess. Just remember that I wrote this in the beginning of 2008, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect all of my viewpoints at this point of time. Like some of you, I like to think my models of reality are constantly evolving and adapting. Back at the time of this post I was in full-on-atheist-materialist mode. So don’t be in dickhead-critic mode por favor. Actually screw that; if you like it, tear me a new one in writing. This page could use some more comments…

Science, Religion, and Cats: The Midterm



It has recently come to my attention that I must complete a “midterm” and post it on this here website. This is for my Religion/Science class, and will be in question/answer format. If you’re reading this, then you’re a) my teacher, David
Lane, who is obviously giving me an “A”, b) a fellow classmate who is attempting to plagiarize (I feel sorry for you if you think I’ll actually provide any sort of useful information), or c) some random sap who typed “cats” into google and stumbled
upon this abomination- er, I mean masterpiece of an essay.

In any case, you’re not, I repeat, not required to read this at all, so I’m giving you the choice (don’t ask how I have the psychic ability to give you a Hobson’s choice across the Internet, I am just that damn good) to stop reading and unplug your computer immediately. You have a choice! You don’t have to subject yourself to this pseudointellectual pile, you’re not put into a caste! Be yourself! Be happy, and free, and go watch some clown dancing to rap music on youtube. You are in control of your own destiny!

Wait, you’re seriously still reading this?!?!….

…Man, people must really not dig existentialism.

1. What is your name?

Seriously? Is this like the SAT where if I somehow forgot this part, I would get half of my score deducted? Just kidding.

Actually, I go by many names. Just_the_tip_plz? is my level 89 wizard name (so pimped out!), but you can call me Sean Flanagan. You know, that white Irish kid in the back of the class who looks kinda quiet and you’re like“oh my fucking god this kid is a serial killer” but then he chats you up, he gets your number, and then you realize he’s actually a pretty cool guy. Drinks at the bar ensue, yadda yadda yadda, and then after a few days he stops calling you. Weird…

2. What is your username?

3. What is the website address of your blog?


4. Attendance: How many classes have you missed? how many have you been late to?

I actually missed the class meeting the week before Spring Break.

I didn’t want to though. This is actually one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken. No joke inserted; I know I’m being a weirdo on this midterm but Lane is definitely a smart guy and I genuinely enjoy being in this class. I have never been late to a meeting for what it’s worth.

5. LIST all of your posts on the yahoo group forum (you can copy and paste them here, if you wish, or provide a link to all of them)

Honestly, I haven’t posted on the forum yet. Not that I don’t consider myself able to add constructively to the discussion at hand, but I feel that because of- ……. ok, you got me, I can’t contribute at all.

In all seriousness though, I receive an email every time there is a new post on the forum, and I enjoy reading basically all of them. Those of you familiar with forum lingo would know me as a “lurker”. I’m horrific at explaining my thoughts in written form, but I love absorbing all the useful information that you guys have to offer me. Thank you!

6. Have you watched all of the required films/lectures, etc., so far?
Most of them. Some of them do get a little boring, and require some fast forwarding action.

7. Did you do the required reading? Did you partially read them? If
so, how much?

I read all of The Language of God and The God Delusion, mostly while on the toilet. Rational Mysticism got pretty boring after awhile and I’m fairly certain that my roommate used a couple pages out of it to roll blunts. Not that I condone that kind of behavior, but hey, this midterm isn’t about my personal beliefs now is it?

…Oh wait, it is?

8. How would an atheist (in your chosen book) critique a theist’s
argument (in your chosen book) the existence of God? Be specific and
be sure to reference your chosen reading.

Oh crap, I have to actually start answering real questions now? I hope I’m getting paid for this…

Richard Dawkins is, well, let’s face it, he’s an atheist. The funny thing is: in this day and age it’s probably more socially acceptable to be a small-time bookie doing lines of coke off a urinal than it is to be an *gasp* atheist. Heaven forbid!

On the other hand, Francis S. Collins is a leading geneticist and was very influential in mapping the human genome. He is also a theist.

Yea, I know, right? Pretty trippy. In anycase, Dawkins would propose the argument that the supposed “perfection” or apparent “design” of the universe does not mean that there is a creator behind the grandiose action. This argument is heavily detailed in his work The Blind Watchmaker. He also refers to possible origins of religions and why they are so prominent in human history. He uses terms such as “meme” on this issue (which I will go over in a later question). Dawkins is a prominent supporter of Darwinian natural selection.

Collins would argue that evolution still raises some interesting mysteries: Why do human beings share common ancestry with the other great apes, yet have a super cognizant neurology with which to view the world (although I’ve met certain people and wondered if a chimpanzee would be more intelligent than these certain individuals; my guess is yes) and why are the highly improbabilistic beginnings of life on Earth so impossible to figure out? Collins defers to God or some sort of Intelligent Being as being the missing piece to the puzzle, and that such a being does not require explanation because “he” is beyond our understanding.

Dawkins, in the famous debate between these two, has called this “”the mother and father of all cop-outs” and “an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain.”


That’s the pseudointellectual, fancy way of describing it. Obviously I would encourage you readers out there to look more into the issue as it is highly fascinating.

Here is the shortened form of the story however:

1) Collins discovers human genome, sees how pretty it is, and exclaims “there must be an intelligent designer behind all this! I’ll coin ‘Theistic Evolution’ and use it as my main argument for design!”

2) Dawkins is like

3) Dawkins talks MAD SMACK on Collins and publishes The God Delusion.

4) Collins and his homies are obviously upset with Dawkins, so you know the two have “beef” now. An official lyric battle- uh, I mean debate has to take place.

(Which scientific mind is Tupac and which is Biggie? Why the hell are you asking questions like that? Sheez…)

5) The debate happens, many consider Dawkins to have the better reasoning, but as usual, no one really ends up happy.

9. How would a theist argue against the atheistic notion that a belief in God is delusional?

Very carefully.


Oh damn, that wasn’t enough? Ok fine.

Well, one of Collins’ arguments against this notion is the fact that many people (himself included) choose their own religion rather than just join along with the pack. Another argument is that by using theistic evolution (TE for short, kinda sounds like a STD but hey what do I know?) it would seem delusional to not believe in some sort of higher being. In essence, the idea of using “delusional” is very slippery and could be applied to many different points of view.

10. How does Littlewood’s theory of large number help explain
miracles or supposed divine coincidences?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the theory, I direct you here:


Basically, seeing something “extraordinary” or “amazing” doesn’t mean you should have a freakin’ party. Hold your horses, here comes another mathematician to tell you that your “miracle” is nothing more than something expected and completely within the laws of probability.

It wasn’t “fate” when you met the love of your life in that French101A class. Hell, maybe it was due to it being the third semester in a row you repeated the damn thing and you managed to get lucky when one out of 20,000 students took this course at the same time as you. Nevermind the fact that she’s going to divorce you in 5 years and run off with the kids and the Newport Beach estate. Think about who you could have met if you had taken a Business class instead? The “fateful” girl in that one would have been much smarter and hey if you guys would ever have a kid he/she would have found a cure for cancer. Too bad for you.

Essentially the theory downplays the “destiny” in people’s lives. The exciting thing about the theory is that you can look forward to a “miracle” about once a month. I mean, you’re already desensitized to the whole subject, so who cares right?

11. Discuss in this essay the pseudosciences: what are a couple of
reasons people turn to them and what are some key problems with
them? Take two or more pseudosciences and apply Ockham’s razor
(define the term first) to them.

Well I already know why many people turn to pseudosciences, just as I know why most people watch 8 hours of television a day. You ready?


There, I said it, but apparently I have to be objective, so here ya go. Another more nice-sounding reason why people often turn to pseudosciences is that the rhetoric used in them is often very convincing. People need to see just one little piece of “evidence” and boom! They’re hooked instantly. There are several problems with pseudosciences however:

1) They use very vague or broad claims: astrology is often guilty of this.

2) They rely heavily upon asserting the “truth” of their claims when it magically appears to coincide with something real, but are never open to claims of falsification. Tying in with the first problem, a pseudoscience makes a very vague claim which you cannot “disprove” but if it ever happens to show a hint of “truthfulness” it is accepted as gospel within the sacred halls of that particular pseudoscience.

For instance, astrology horoscopes, especially dealing with the Zodiac, are immensely popular in modern society. I mean, I’ll admit it, I think the Zodiac is pretty cool and Pisces is obviously the best sign, but I don’t take it very seriously. All just fun and games. Some people however take it very seriously and you’d better watch out then!

Horoscopes use very broad terms that are just oh-so vague and misleading that if a horoscope should prove to be untrue in a particular case, the subject is not prone to believe that they are just junk. If the “stars align” and the horoscope appears to be true and “fulfill the prophecy” then the subject will almost certainly put more stock in them. The writers of horoscopes are experts at cold-reading and social psychology and know just what to write down so that anyone can fall under their spell.

Ockham’s razor comes into play here. It’s moreorless this: when there are multiple possible explanations for something unknown, it’s almost always going to be the simpler answer. At least, that’s the one you should choose when in a intellectual quandary.

As it applies to the subject at hand: Look here Josh, you didn’t hook up with that hot sorority girl because “she’s a Pisces and I’m a Virgo so it was obviously a perfect match!” The truth is, you actually decided to take a shower and wear some deodorant for a change, allowing some girl to not be completely repulsed by you and because the other, hotter guys at the party were already hooking up, she decided to scrap the bottom of the pan. I could go on about all the excessive alcohol involved in the situation, but I think you get the idea.

12. Why does Darwinian evolution make atheism both respectable and
tenable? Why was Charles Darwin agnostic about God and Christianity?

The main reason why Darwinian evolution makes atheism both respectable and tenable is that it provides another key to the mysteries of our beginnings and even explains many abstract ideas about morality and purpose. Before Darwin’s time, those ideas were monopolies of Theistic thinking. His discoveries made everyone say:

For example, the very notion of “pain”, when explained by Christianity, is due to Original Sin. Because Adam and Eve ate the fruit of knowledge, we are all supposedly born with this taint of sin.

Using Darwin’s theory, one could simply state that the reason we experience pain is because nature and the prime directive intend it so. Pain is actually a very useful thing for surviving. If you slam your palm down onto a hot stove, pain tells you to retract your limb immediately, lest it turn into fried chicken. Without pain receptors, it would be extremely likely that we would be extinct a long time ago, and that just wouldn’t be very much fun.

Charles Darwin came from a religious background but after doing more and more research his faith dwindled and dwindled. After the death of his daughter his faith ended, but he never completely denied the existence of a god.

13. Why does Richard Dawkins believe that religion is a virus of the
mind? Be specific in explaining meme theory and also explain why
Dawkins’ theory contradicts certain revelatory religions, like
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?

Isn’t it obvious? Because he’s an evil atheist! But seriously, remember when I mentioned meme theory? Oh, you don’t? It’s ok, I would try to purge this midterm from my memory too.

A meme is a fancy word coined by Dawkins. It is a cultural idea that is passed on through generations and word of mouth throughout human societies and through this spreading it is no different than an acquired dominant-trait “gene”. How’s that for a run-on sentence?

The major drama here that our favorite villain Dawkins is presenting is that the major religions are not successful because of their “revelations” or what they are actually supposed to be preaching. Rather, they all have an innate virus-like quality which appeals to peoples’ need to belong to a group and not ask deeper existentialist questions.

14. How would a religious believer respond to Richard Dawkins’
notion that religion is more akin to a mind parasite than an
accurate description or approach to reality? Clue: think of Owen
Gingerich or Freeman Dyson, etc.

Just kidding… seriously.

The most blatant and obvious response to this notion of Dawkin’s from a theistic point of view is to state simply that: a virus always has some sort of negative effect on the host. While Dawkins argues that the meme of religious belief can be incredibly destructive (i.e. 911, Crusades, etc), Dyson argues that the main goal of most religions, especially Christianity, is to “save” people and give a positive, rather than negative impact. To be honest, I don’t see much coming from Gingerich though. Saying things like ‘the world seems to be orderly and that’s evidence for God but hey oh wait it’s not proof though’ seems to not really prove anything nor have much to do with countering Dawkin’s supposition. Maybe I’m missing something here (entirely possible) but Gingerich’s arguments don’t sound the greatest. I did not read his book however.

15. Here is the topic: How did the world come into being? In other
words, how was the universe created? Present two different set of
answers to that question based on a creationist who believes in
intelligent design (even if partially evolutionary) and one based on
probability theory (think Wolfram, for instance) and evolution. Be
sure to be accurate to each perspective and be sure to document your
summaries. Finally, who do you think would present the most

Oh boy, the big question. Great.

Intelligent design basically states that God was bored one day and said, “hey what the hell? I’ll create the universe.”

By the way this is the easier of the two arguments to explain in my opinion. Even if evolution is true, in a creationist’s point of view, it was all planned by a supernatural being. God designed the universe and that is why everything looks so perfect and beautiful to us.

However, it’s entirely possible that everything came out of pure chance. This is difficult to fathom for many people, but it’s not so much out of line if you take a step back and consider how old and vast the universe is and how much we really do not understand. We could just be the result of a ridiculously improbable anomaly.

Think of it this way: In a typical hand of poker, you won’t expect to get dealt a pair, on average. You’ll rarely get three of a kind, and above that, it will take longer still on average before you see one of those beauties.

How about a royal flush, the best hand in poker? The odds of being dealt a royal flush are about 1 in 649,740. Impossible right? Well, not impossible, it’s not zero so there is always a slight chance. If you play enough hands, eventually you should see one. And it won’t be “fate” or “destiny” when it’s dealt to you. You’re just in the right place at the right time when the statistically unlikely happens.

Now, think about this in relations to our universe. Given enough time, even the most statistically improbable event, if it’s not a zero percent chance, will happen.

This isn’t even taking into consideration the idea of multiple universes, which makes the probability argument even stronger; what if our universe is the “lucky” one that won the “lottery” of intelligent life and evolution?

Besides, looking at how “beautiful” and “ordered” everything is and using that as “proof” for intelligent design, seems to be mistaking neurology for ontology, a later topic at hand in this midterm. It is entirely possible for something complicated to come from something way simpler.

16. According to Stephen Jay Gould, religion and science can indeed
get along. Dawkins suggest the opposite. Elaborate on the
Gould/Dawkins debate and who do you think wins the discussion?

Dude is Dawkins like the most popular guy ever? It must be the accent…

In anycase our hero (villain?) is at it again this time throwing down with Gould. Gould believes that religion and science can be reconciled. It’s very groovy and involves using any sort of scientific explanation as a tool of God’s handiwork.

Dawkins asserts that they can never get along, and as with Collins above, he believes that just attaching God’s name to scientific progress is just bad business. It does nothing to prove of God’s existence or to account for the apparently numerous terrible events in history that have been caused by religion. After ripping him a new one in the debate, Dawkins then slashes Gould’s tires.

17. Why does your teacher repeatedly argue that it is naive (and
most often wrong) to “confuse neurology for ontology.” Explain and
give a specific example to back up your essay.

Ooh, an easy one.

Neurology is the brain state of an individual, how his/her brain is interpreting sensory signals and thus how he/she is perceiving the world. Ontology is the actual objective state of the universe. It is naive to mix these two up because just because we believe something or even “experience” something within the chemical reactions of our own brain, does not make it so in the real world. To quote a popular psychology cliche: “We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are.” A good example is dreaming. When you get caught in a great dream, you believe that the state you are in is “real” and ontological. When in reality (“reality” being agreed upon in a social context, don’t get all “Descartes” on me) you are just lying there in your bed. You’re not really battling dragons, you’re snoring. Please, just fucking stop it. Buy some damned nose-strips.

It really is starting to annoy me you know. I need my sleep too.

In anycase that question was super easy! Here comes the obligatory cat picture!

18. Quantum theorists have discovered that the only accurate way to
describe the subatomic world is by probabilities, particularly as
outlined by Werner Heisenberg and his principle of uncertainty
relations. How can a physical understanding of the world based on
chance/randomness/chaos be RECONCILED with a theological view that
the universe was designed and displays purpose? Or, is such a
reconciliation impossible? Substantiate your argument.
_______________________ (Don’t give up now….)

Ummmm… this one looks too hard…

Although I could see decent arguments for both viewpoints, I think it is highly likely for this to be irreconcilable. The very strip-tease essence of a photon, the most basic element of our universe, suggests more and more to me that probability theories are correct. You can never measure the exact place or momentum of a photon, just try to shine a light on one! You’ll be driven mad like Einstein was!

19. In what specific ways does Faqir Chand help to explain WHY
certain people have religious experiences and others do not. How
does Faqir Chand’s view of religion underline or buttress a purely
sociological view of religion as meaning function?

Ok, first off, Faqir Chand was a PIMP. Don’t deny it!

Faqir Chand, aside from having the coolest name ever, was so PIMP-like that he figured it all out. Basically, he realized that the reason that some people have religious experiences and some do not has to do with where people are looking. In other words, the people who are “sages” and “gurus” are in actuality just very smart people who go above and beyond to achieve a higher perception of reality. Most people, especially the very religious type, are just on auto-pilot. They go out of their way to adore the guru and claim how “mystical” he is, while he is just on a higher level or “sphere” of thinking. This discovery by my main man Faqir shows that no matter your view on religion, it has a very prominent place in the heart of social influence and power.

20. What is Nietzsche’s notion of the myth of the eternal return and
how could such an idea potentially transform one’s day to day life?
In what ways is it completely contrary to religious notions of an

I personally love this idea. And no, no smartass picture. I mean it.

The idea of eternal return is this: Imagine if you will, that a demon comes to you one day. He reveals to you that you will be forced to live this exact life over and over again for eternity, and that no matter what, you will live your life out the same way every time, and won’t be able to change this fact.

This is a profoundly powerful idea and could transform a person’s life in many positive ways. Although the initial reaction to the idea could be depressing, a person who believed whole-heartedly in this idea would make sure that every meal he/she had was the best meal ever. Every moment of life would be appreciated and the person would really try to “carpe diem”. I mean, hell, if you’re going to be forced to live this life over and over and over again and then some, you’d better make it the best damn life you’ll ever have.

It’s contrary to many religious beliefs because most of those focus on the next life, or another plane of existence. Nietzsche postulates, very simply: “This is the only life you’ve ever known…”

Creepy stuff… but I love it.

…Ok, I couldn’t help myself.

21. Why is Edward O. Wilson arguing for a consilience between the
humanities and the sciences?

Because he has way too much free time on his hands.

He claims that many aspects of human culture, namely appreciation of art, religious studies, and other cultural phenomena can be studied in a scientific light. I really wish I had more to say about this topic, but I fell asleep during readings involving this.

22. How would Freeman Dyson and Owen Gingerich respond to skeptics
in the Beyond Belief Conference?

This seems to try in with the earlier question involving Dawkins. Gingerich in my limited experience of his work would talk about how there is reasonable evidence for God’s existence but it’s not provable. Dyson would appeal more to the moral value of religions such as Christianity because of the moral good they offer to people.

23. If biological life can be understood reductively, as Watson and
Crick have suggested, what necessity is there to posit a belief is a
Supreme Creator? Be sure to back up your argument with pertinent
references and/or quotes.

Well probably no. Crick was notably against religion, haven’t been quoted as saying: “Christianity may be OK between consenting adults in private but should not be taught to young children.”


He believe that the notion of a soul was ridiculous and raised way too many questions: when does it come into the body? When does it leave? The notion of a soul is just a bunch of electricity going through the brain, giving us consciousness according to Crick. What makes a person a person may not something divine within us, but just the computer-like artistry of our brains.

24. So far, what is your favorite reading and why?

The God Delusion. I feel that Dawkins explains his points very well and it’s a quick, enjoyable read.

25. Is there anything that science cannot explain? Give one example
and substantiate your views.

Well, that’s easy.

Science cannot explain why Will Ferrel is not fucking funny! I mean, have you actually seen Elf? Holy hell…

I think the scariest part of that movie was realizing that I spent $10 and lost two hours of my life forever… oh wait, I’m still supposed to be writing about science and religion, whoops!

Science definitely cannot explain more technical philosophical problems such as the “brain in the vat” dilemma. If you’ve seen The Matrix movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Basically, what if nothing about the world you are living in, is real? What is everyone and everything you know is just a lie? Depressing I know, and sometimes it’s pointless to ponder such things, but it is definitely outside the realm of hard science in my opinion.

26. What is the favorite thing you learned so far?

Definitely the joke Lane told us that one day (which was also out of left field). If you want more info on that one, let me know and I’ll tell you. Just realize that it involves cats!

In all seriousness though, my favorite part of this class was the first lecture, when Lane discussed very interesting ways to look at things that most people just take for granted or never pay attention to. What really is that piece of paper? Where are we right now? Why hasn’t Kevin Costner made a good movie in the last couple years?

I know I have a very deadpan, sarcastic sense of humor and maybe went overboard on this midterm. Despite that, this class is a very important one to me and I feel that I’ve learned a lot in the past couple months.

I would like to thank:
1) David Lane, for teaching me some awesome things.
2) Wikipedia… you know why.
3) Faqir Chand, for being awesome.
4) To all my fans… I just noticed that there are not that many lol_cat pictures on this blog! Unacceptable! I will sign off by leaving you with a barrage of them. Anyone who remembers pokemon, here ya go. If you don’t know, don’t ask.