Jimmy Moore the Muckraker: Paleo and Christianity

When Jimmy Moore emailed me a week or so ago to announce that he was drafting a post about the potential conflict between a Paleo lifestyle and Christianity (literally practiced — pay attention, cause that’s the theme), and wanting my input, I, for whatever reason, didn’t understand that my input to him would be published verbatim. That’s quite alright I should hastily add. I generally conduct my online affairs assuming anything I write can and will be used against me in the court of public opinion.

But anyway, Jimmy, a devout Christian, had the balls to do a post on it. Jimmy embodies my eternal conflict with the thing; and, as with certain devout family, there’s a special place in my heart for those whose hearts are in the right place, as it certainly is with jimmy moore. I loath the left end of the political spectrum, especially the collectivist end (but I repeat myself). It chaps my hide that I have to go to people whom I consider to be living in a fantasy world to get some semblance of reality in terms of public policy. But that’s where it’s at. Yea, I suppose I could be a friend of even someone like Sarah Palin, even though I think she’s either a moron or, so ignorant on so many levels as to make the distinction meaningless. But you know what: I trust her to leave me alone to a far greater extent than your average Prius driving, NPR sticker sporting, miserable commie — who would have me in the social cannibal pot in the blink of an eye.

On some days I wonder if the essential antagonism between left and right politics is one of lazy fear vs. irrational certainty. Lazy fear meaning, they can’t bear to take their own chances with what life tosses their way. Irrational certainty meaning, it doesn’t matter anyway because this life is merely a dress rehearsal.  But I digress…

Shifting gears, do note that many of your humble farmers producing your most nutritious food in the world are devoutly religious. And many or most believe it literally I’d speculate. Oh, well. There’s that.

In this particular case Jimmy’s post is the result of a reader question / conflict, the gist of which is:

I am a Christian, as are my parents. I know that you are, too, so perhaps you can put this into perspective for me. My mom keeps saying, “Why did God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, eating from the fruits and vegetables that grew there, if human digestive systems were not designed to eat those things? Why did God even create edible grains if we weren’t meant to eat them?”

The people in the Bible routinely ate “bread” and even Jesus used the metaphor, “I am the Bread of Life.” Christians “break bread” together as part of the commemorative act of Communion. You see where I’m going with this. At what time in human history were we hunter/gatherers?

The results of low-carbing speak for themselves, but this perplexes me.

I wanted to write something on this primarily to acknowledge jimmy moore for having the fortitude to raise the issue on his blog. As you can tell by the comments, he has quite a following of Christians who take things very literally. It’s been a while since I was steeped in such ways of what I now clearly see is: cognitive dissonance; but at the same time, I can’t help but have a soft spot in my heart for these people. Indeed, I once was one. Young, yes, but I was also single, with no kids. I literally had nothing to compel me to remain in fear of spirits, demons, and sooper powerz.

So here was my contribution to the fray, in company with Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Nora Gedgaudas and Diana Hsieh on the non-religious side.

OK, what’s going on here, and I’ve seen this before in my own family of many “born-again Christians” is she’s pointing out an apparent contradiction. In other words, she’s right: either paleo dietary principles are right or Christian doctrine. They can’t both be. Contradictions don’t exist in reality. That said, here’s a post I wrote sometime back to confront that exact thing.

It’s not important how it is that after being raised with a Lutheran dad, a Mormon mom — who then both converted to Evangelical, born-again Christianity when I was about 10 — I became a non-believer: the A-word. From ages 10-18 I attended school at the Baptist church my parents were involved with and then a second one they helped start. I actually got a great education, though deficient in science. Here’s the self-guided curriculum that was used.

I attended Divinity or Bible School for a year out of high school: Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tennessee which pretty much ended up being the beginning of my downfall from faith. But it took a long time, another 10 years roughly until I came to grips with the fact that I just did not believe any of it. And that was 20 years ago now. I want to be as inclusive in all of this as possible so I don’t think it’s important to force confrontation of the contradiction. As one friend of mine, also a non-believer, raised a Catholic says: religion is an intensely personal issue. Leave it alone. Focus on actions.

Virtually everyone lives with some form of cognitive dissonance. It’s probably an evolutionary survival adaptation. So, why single out religion when there are people who, for example, hold a marriage together where both people would be happier otherwise (and sometimes, the kids too). Or, staying in a job you hate and makes you miserable. You could go on all day.

Here’s how I might deal with the specific complaint from a believer’s perspective, though not perfect. “God created all manner of toxins, from outright poison that will kill 1,000 people with a single drop — and snakes and other poisonous animals — to mild irritants, like poison ivy and gluten. And then there’s the whole host of things some people are deathly allergic too — like peanuts — while others can eat their fill. Perhaps these are merely bumps in the road with the occasional steep cliff to avoid. So in addition to other pitfalls that test faith and allegiance in the spiritual realm, so there may be physical and nutritional pitfalls to avoid as well.”

Now I sure haven’t always followed that advice, in that I’m regularly rather hostile. I certainly do understand that it’s a source of inspiration and meaning for a great many.

As well, I should point out that while I didn’t have the benefit of choosing parents and a particular upbringing — as no one does — I’m pretty sure I and my brothers faired in the top 5th percentile when one considers the crap so many innocents must endure. Really, I lived a rather idyllic childhood, not only with parents around 24/7 (HUGE!), but four grandparents living between 100 yards and 2 miles away (two of which were avid hunters and fishers). Let me put it this way: I would not change a thing for fear of unintended consequences fucking up the great deal my brothers and I got. My parents did their best and it was better than good in spite of the fact that today, I’d do it differently in terms of religion having any part in things.

If I were ever to have children — which I’m not going to do — the very first thing I’d want them to understand is that Santa is fun fun for a time, but that he’s not "God Lite." It ends, and you’re on you’re own, and unless real science figures it out first, you’re going to die as people have done for millions of years and the very best thing you can do is to "mold the neuron-flux," by which I mean: people will remember you. My children would certainly be brash assholes. One life to live, man. Grab it. Shake the mutherfuck out of it.

The memory you make for yourself is, as of yet, your only shot at immortality. Shame you won’t be around to enjoy it. But for goddamnsakes, be an adult about that. …What I don’t get is the need for the literalism. Burning bushes? Parting Seas? Arks & world floods? Resurrections from the dead? Falls from grace? And on and on….

Prescient and apropos to the paleo and low-carb folks, what about selective evidence and confirmation bias? You know, it’s not at all hard to find the devout quoting bible scripture. It’s everywhere. They do it al the time. And I can too:

So Jephthah led his army against the Ammonites, and the LORD gave him victory. He thoroughly defeated the Ammonites from Aroer to an area near Minnith – twenty towns – and as far away as Abel-keramim. Thus Israel subdued the Ammonites. When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter – his only child – ran out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy. When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish. "My daughter!" he cried out. "My heart is breaking! What a tragedy that you came out to greet me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and cannot take it back." And she said, "Father, you have made a promise to the LORD. You must do to me what you have promised, for the LORD has given you a great victory over your enemies, the Ammonites. But first let me go up and roam in the hills and weep with my friends for two months, because I will die a virgin." "You may go," Jephthah said. And he let her go away for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never have children. When she returned home, her father kept his vow, and she died a virgin. So it has become a custom in Israel for young Israelite women to go away for four days each year to lament the fate of Jephthah’s daughter." (Judges 11:29-40 NLT) …

So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. "This is what you are to do," they said. "Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin." Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan. …

The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the little remnant of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon. Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the four hundred women of Jabesh-gilead who were spared were given to them as wives. But there were not enough women for all of them. The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the LORD had left this gap in the tribes of Israel. So the Israelite leaders asked, "How can we find wives for the few who remain, since all the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead? There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel will not be lost forever. But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God’s curse."

Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, "Go and hide in the vineyards. When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife! And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be understanding. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not give your daughters in marriage to them.’" So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance. Then they rebuilt their towns and lived in them. So the assembly of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes. (Judges 21:10-24 NLT)

Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives." (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death. (Leviticus 21:9 NAB)

I could go on and on, and on…but before I do, may I just humbly note the obsession with intact female hymens? Quite Islamic-esque, I’d say.

…A final note for this section of the post is to recall how, as I was going through the religious gauntlet a’la a young’n and eventually went off to study Bible, how it was that the KJV (King James Version) was so essentially emphasized. My speculation today is this: nobody could really understand it or, the language was so arcane that rape, murder, slavery — as celebrated above — didn’t really register morally; or, if it did, only in some twisted anthropological sense. So here’s a good primer: EvilBilble.com. It strikes me as interesting, the diametrically opposed notion of an "evil" bible. But consider that morality is contextual. We evolved. At a point in time, a brute proto-human male taking a female as he wanted was survival, and natural. And now we’re here. And not only does it not cost us anything to refrain from such behavior; it’s evil now because our nature as human animals has evolved. But the Bible hasn’t and the point is that for the literalists it offers literal and timeless truths. "Truths" we now see as evil, as well we should.

You might regard this post as somewhat emboldened. Where could I have gotten that? As it happens, partly from hereAtheist Ministers Struggle With Leading the Faithful. What took them so long?

"I live out my life as if there is no God," says "Adam," who is part of the pastoral staff of a small evangelical church in the Bible Belt. […]

The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had," Jack said. "The more things didn’t make sense to me — what it said — and the more things didn’t add up." […]

"Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God." […]

"I realized that everything I’d been taught to believe was sort of sheltered," Adam said, "and never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies. … I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. Am I believing the wrong things? Have I spent my entire life and my career promoting something that is not true?’"

Alright, it is surely time to close this up. So in closing, I want to relay the story of a dear friend who recently passed away after a decade long battle with cancer. While I have only entered various houses of worship over many years for weddings and funerals, always with some measure of discomfort or boredom over the religious aspects of such things, I recently enjoyed a "religious" service at my friend Nancy’s Unitarian Church for the memorial service of my friend. Nancy and Kevin, both Harvard Divinity, both ministers, have been friends of mine for a few years and it’s always refreshing to discuss religion with them because they approach it so honestly, non-threateningly and most importantly: no implication of guilt for being a human being. It’s quite refreshing to stand in the sanctuary of that church having a conversation with Nancy the minister and the harpist and have them both tell me on the subject of literalism: "we just don’t know." Now that’s the healthier way to practice religion, in my view.

As simply as I can put it, they are seekers of important lessons for humanity to be found in symbolism, ritual, tradition and ancestor worship and honor. They are in search of important, meaningful metaphor and not literal "truths" based on wishful thinking and worse. Do I personally need it? No, not really because secular philosophy serves my needs just fine in that regard, but I can certainly grasp an appreciation for it.

I understand that it’s probably the case that for most literalist religious believers it’s mostly a case of not being able to grasp the notion of morality and human good will apart from such belief structures. So things like this are a step in the right direction, since I really can’t stand most forms of atheist activism — such as attempts at preventing nativity scenes on public property and other such embarrassing nonsense.

Humanist Groups Aim to Push Back at ‘Bible-Derived Morality’

Right in time to spur awkward theological discussions with extended family members, the American Humanist Association and other related groups are preparing to launch a holiday advertising blitz aimed at drawing stark distinctions between believers and their less devout brethren. The AHA campaign, in particular, highlights some of the more violent and sexist passages of the Bible and Quran and contrasts them with quotes from Albert Einstein, Katherine Hepburn and others. The ads strike a much different tone than last year’s "Be Good For Goodness Sake" campaign that papered buses and trains across major U.S. metro cities. […]

From the American Humanist Association’s statement regarding their advertising concept: "There are millions of Americans of strong moral character who don’t happen to believe in a god. Humanists have always understood that you don’t need a god to be a good person, but many other Americans have not, and that’s one reason we’ve been running ad campaigns in the past. This year, we’re going further in our attempt to challenge the intolerant view that atheist and agnostic humanists can’t be good without Bible derived morality. We’re taking a hard look at what is included in religious texts."

Looks like Anne Rice has the right idea, here, too. For whatever reasons personal to her, she’s a "believer" with her heart in the right place. …Which is probably why she quit organized Christianity and just goes it alone.

I wonder what primarily distinguishes the literal believer from the non-literal one. Is it education, experience…or pure guile? Perhaps the non-literal believer (i.e., believer in spiritual meaning, for lack of a better description) just simply has no fear of the guilt and damnation the literalists are peddling…

Perhaps in a later post, sometime, I’ll relay my own story in terms of the process I underwent from being a fear-struck believer with a deep sense of guilt to the guiltless, boundlessly happy, totally fearless non-believer I am today.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Laurie D. on November 21, 2010 at 13:11

    Excellent post. The only thing I would disagree with is that if you had children, at least one of them would end up a devout fundamentalist Christian. It’s just the way things go with kids. Luckily, I only have one and she’s with me so far. I was very lucky growing up in a family that discussed religion but had no stake in any particular one. I looked at religions with more curiosity than out of any belief. I’ve never understood the absolute certainty expressed by the religious of any faith – I guess that’s faith or belief and I don’t seem to have it and I don’t regard that as any sort of loss, thank god (pun intended). I think this was also good training for me to take a hard look at paleo/primal/whatever you want to call it eating and decide it was right for me as I do with many things in life. I like these kinds of posts, Richard – keep it up!

  2. Dan Linehan on November 21, 2010 at 18:41

    Oh man, one of these posts.

    A few points off the top of my head.

    1. Good for Jimmy for the absolute willingness to discuss his beliefs as openly as he does. But what a tragic waste of time trying to decipher all that hocus pocus.

    2. The Bible is fucking ridiculous. Anyone willing to take a critical eye to it frankly should know this.

    3. is a nice place to stay updated on religious news and discussion from a rationalist, atheist perspective, if one is so inclined.

    4. Very, very few modern physicists believe in a god or gods. In fact, the vast majority of scientists in the world, people who spend their lives studying things like astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology etc. strongly disagree with all of the central tenets of christianity.

    Is should be extremely discomforting knowing that the majority of experts in a huge number of fields completely contradict the closely held beliefs of every major religion, as they do.

    5. Humans use their imaginations to fill in gaps in knowledge. This results in a God of the Gaps.

    6. @ RN, NPR, Prius driving liberals will leave you alone just fine. Liberals are not the ones who started the war on drugs (Nixon and Reagan,) nor the Patriot act (Bush,) nor the department of Homeland Security (Bush).

    Social conservatism is a fucking disease. It directly leads to larger government and fewer civil liberties.

    7. Government regulation is sometimes needed and necessary. CFC’s eating the ozone layer is the classic example. Without intervention, one company (Dupont) could have potentially destroyed the entire ozone layer of our planet over only a few decades. This would have given hundreds of millions of people skin cancer over the next hundred years. This is a key example of a large-scale negative externality that pure capitalism is ill-equipped to handle.

    • Sean on November 22, 2010 at 06:50

      “Prius driving liberals will leave you alone just fine. Liberals are not the ones who started the war on drugs (Nixon and Reagan,) nor the Patriot act (Bush,) nor the department of Homeland Security (Bush).”

      Except when they are regulating happy meals, salt content in foods, mandating ‘meat free Mondays’ http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2010/11/18/be-healthier-or-else/, etc etc. Michelle Obama drive a Prius? Cause she’s talking about mandating broccoli instead of french fries so that we can be reprogrammed http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/09/michelle-obama-obesity-restaurant-menus.html. Reprogrammed!?!

      When it comes time to report to the local center for Personality Adjustment For The Good of Society, you can bet it will be staffed by Prius driving liberals.

      • Dan Linehan on November 22, 2010 at 09:49

        Those articles were frustrating, agreed.

        However, conflating recent proposals aimed at getting Americans to eat more vegetables with the decades-long, disastrous consequences of the War on Drugs is just ignorant.

        A side of broccoli is a side of broccoli. Meanwhile, the war on drugs results in shit like this: http://www.cato.org/raidmap/

      • Sean on November 22, 2010 at 10:25

        I’m not conflating these petty socialist proposals with the idiotic war on drugs.

        I’m pointing out that Prius driving liberals will not “leave you alone just fine”, just the opposite.

    • Sean on November 22, 2010 at 08:09

      Dan, I’m also curious if you have any grounding in economics. Do you use the term ‘negative externality’ when it suits your needs to criticize ‘pure capitalism’ regurgitating it like a bird to its young or are you savvy on what these sorts of concepts (and their counter-ideas) actually mean?

      • Dan Linehan on November 22, 2010 at 09:40

        If you have something to say on the subject how about spitting it out instead of wasting everyone’s time?

      • Sean on November 22, 2010 at 10:28

        Which subject?

      • Sean on November 22, 2010 at 10:50

        I simply asked whether you had any knowledge of the subject or was just regurgitating shit like ‘negative externality’.

      • Dan Linehan on November 22, 2010 at 11:27

        Bullshit. You’re still saying nothing. Yes, CFCs are a negative externality, as I understand it.

        If you think that assessment is incorrect post something to that effect. Otherwise, STFU and stop wasting time.

      • Sean on November 24, 2010 at 12:46

        What I’m saying is that ‘negative externality’ is an economics concept. Very few lefties over the age of 35 have much knowledge of economics so when they use such terms it is simply repeating something they read somewhere. I’m guessing you are one of those lefties

        This was the subject I was talking about.

      • Dan Linehan on November 24, 2010 at 15:14

        The phrase “negative externalities” is an economic term. In fact, it’s from first semester Microeconomics, if I recall correctly. Which is why it’s so strange that you are trying to make a big deal out of someone using the phrase.

        I simply don’t understand why you brought up my use of the term if you don’t have anything to add to the discussion. Basically any first year business student would understand the concept. What does it have to do with being over 35?

      • Sean on November 26, 2010 at 00:37

        It’s a basic economic concept used by lefties who are ignorant (willfully or otherwise) of basic economics. It fits the left-wing narrative that business is essentially evil and must be controlled by a benign government. I’ve rarely met someone with an understanding of basic economics who is over 35 and still buys into this left wing narrative.

        It was a simple question, Dan. Curious which category you fell into.

        If you don’t think I have anything to add to the discussion, why not ignore me instead of whingeing and blustering?

      • Dan Linehan on November 26, 2010 at 00:51

        So please explain how CFC’s are not a negative externality.

      • Andrew on November 26, 2010 at 00:54

        Sean, it’s probably good to be self-aware that chauvinist disregard for externalization of true cost is a de facto validation the “left-wing narrative” you deride.

      • Sean on November 26, 2010 at 11:02

        Dan, I never said CFCs weren’t a negative externality. Pollution is the textbook example of negative externality. Overfishing is another good example. I asked a simple question, does your knowledge of economics extend beyond simple concepts cherry-picked by the left such as negative externalities?

        Andrew, I ‘ve no idea what that sentence even means, but it sure has a lot of big important words in it. When did I ever express a “chauvinist disregard for externalization”. What is a “de facto validation”? That you throw around these silly terms in an effort to seem intelligent or knowledgeable is a de facto validation that you are a fucking pretentious idiot.

      • Andrew on November 26, 2010 at 12:27

        Sean, your whithering vapidity is popular among those not clever enough to have ideas of their own. The problem for the ignorant is that they can’t tell the difference between those who seem intelligent and are intelligent; that must be a truly terrifying existence.

        And I do love the irony of your request for vocabulary Marxism. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need“. While perfectly able, I’m not going to dumb it down for the monosyllabic needs of the intellectually lazy.

        I urge everyone to fight this red(neck) scourge of dictionary communism.

        And I totally agree… ad hominem was really your only available argument there.

      • Sean on November 27, 2010 at 10:32

        Ok, Andrew, I admit it. Your deft use of language made me jealous.

  3. NomadicNeill on November 21, 2010 at 19:43

    Bizarre that this kind of thing is even being discussed in 2010 CE (Common Era).

    Why should people who use reason and logic to justify their actions need to do the work to make science and religion reconcile? Leave that to religious people so that we can spend our time and effort spreading humanist memes.

  4. Todd on November 21, 2010 at 21:19

    This blog post reminds me of an article on the RDFRS I read recently.

    Rational observers have long recognized that children in western societies, and particularly in the United States, are subjected to religious indoctrination at an age when most vulnerable intellectually. Contained in the package of seductive lies spoon fed to our kids are Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the myth that moral behavior is desirable only as a means of securing a berth in heaven. Morality, according to these teachings, is not an obligation or a characteristic inherent to humankind, but something to be cynically manipulated for other gains or bartered in exchange for bad behavior. This concept of morality for sale is now so deeply embedded into the fabric of our society that the underlying premise is rarely challenged. Small gatherings of rationalists determined to hold back the tsunami of ignorance have yet to create much of an impact. So for the vast majority of humanity a jealous, hateful, wrathful, bloody, murderous, spiteful, mean-spirited and vengeful god is the only role model for moral behavior. That our species “has issues” is no surprise…

  5. Patrik on November 21, 2010 at 11:52


    The only thing I would add to this discussion, if someone else hasn’t already mentioned it, is that evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky who wrote the essay: “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” was a devout Russian Orthodox Christian.

    • Melissa on November 21, 2010 at 12:32

      Wow, very interesting.

    • Shawn on November 21, 2010 at 12:36

      I agree. I am an Othodox Christian (Russian tradition) and evolution is perfectly compatible. Remember that Christians should interpret the Hebrew scriptures as St. Paul does: symbols, type, and allegories. This is very evident in St. Pauls writings.
      Look at the Genesis story of the first human family. A farmer (Cain) and a herdsman (Able). The farmer kills the herdsman, which speaks volumes about how human culture has developed. Again, this is types and allegories.
      Literalism is a modern phenomena, a reaction to modernism. It is not the historical Christian position. Look at St. Basil’s commentary on the creation story in Genesis for example.
      The traditional fasting rules support a paleo diet also. Fasting means abstaining from animal food during the fast, but those excluded from fasting are the young, the old, the sick, those travelling, and those doing hard labor. In other words, those who need the most nutritious food. So traditional fasting rules also support the notion that animal food is the most nutritious.
      Religion is a natural part of humanity. We should strive for wholeness of both mind and body, and this includes a wholesome undertanding of religion and a wholesome diet and lifestyle. Religion properly practiced should never contridict proper science, which is the study of the physical world as it is. The only conflict is between science and an unreflective superstition.

      • Michael on November 21, 2010 at 16:35

        Very nicely stated. I agree that there need not be any conflict between science and faith – they belong in separate realms. Science is testable or potentially testable. Faith is not. There is only conflict when these two realms cross.

    • anand srivastava on November 22, 2010 at 10:58

      For me the important point is. Who would you rather believe, God and his creations, or a book which was written by a man. Even if under directions from God. The Man may not understand HIM perfectly. After all he was a man.

      The other thing is there was a story by Asimov. Abridged below
      When Moses came down the from the mountain he summoned his brother saying that he wanted to write the story of creation. He started with 13.5 billion years ago.
      His brother reminded him of the price of paper.
      So they finally got down to an abridged version of 7 days ;-).

  6. Patrik on November 21, 2010 at 11:54

    Money quotes from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_in_Biology_Makes_Sense_Except_in_the_Light_of_Evolution

    I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God’s, or Nature’s method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.

    – Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (1973)

    Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. …the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness.

    – Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” (1973)

    • Jason on November 21, 2010 at 13:11

      To start with, why is it the morons and the neglegtful parents that have many children? The ones who shouldn’t have them do, while the ones who should don’t. If anyone should have a kid it’s you and people like you. Now, as a ‘Non -literal believer’ myself I would have to agree with Patrik. The bible is not a science or a history book. The point of it is to learn human nature and good character. To be a literal believer in the bible does require cognitive dissonance, since among many other things, the planet is just a tad older than 6000 years old. However, I don’t see it as cognitive dissonance to look at the universe and see a creator there. Or to believe in ‘God’ – or an eternal ‘soul’ whatever that means. Nor is there a cog diss in looking to human texts of mythos and recorded wisdom for inspiration, strength…This may include the bible, bhudist writings, or Shakespeare. In fact simply looking at this from an evolutionary perspective would lead one to conclude that there is some survival succes rate connected to belief in God or the spiritual, otherwise we wouldn’t have evolved to do so. After all, there must be a reason that such a trait was selected for. I’ve just forgotten what point I was trying to make after all this rambling. But I guess I agree with that friend of yours who said that the actions are the important things. There are many religious people who are good and many are a-holes. The same is true for Atheists or any group. So I guess my point is, who cares what people believe so long a they are good people or try to be good. If there is a God, then just doing that should be good enough. Well, as usual for me; I thought I had a coherant point but just ended up rambling; to quote the bible ‘there’s nothing ne under the sun’.

  7. rob on November 21, 2010 at 11:54

    Fortunately for me I worship Thor God of Thunder …

    Thor devours entire herds of cattle in a single sitting and picks His teeth with the bones of vegans.

    • Steven on November 23, 2010 at 08:10

      Crom laughs at your god of thunder…

  8. John Shelley on November 21, 2010 at 12:07


    Well done sir. I must say that there are few who could weave together an article so filled with information and insight from such seemingly different topics, when they are all joined at the hip by an individuals world-view. I identified with this post precisely because I had a similar upbringing, with similar results.

    I would only like to add one thought to the fray:

    The Bible is pro-Paleo.

    This is proved many times over beginning with the words “Let us make man in our image.” Genesis 1:26. One may ask how that has anything to do with Paleo in the Bible but lets take a short jaunt through Genesis to the story of Cain and Abel. God is pleased with Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb and displeased with Cain’s sacrifice from the fields he tills. As we are made in God’s image, having his features and likeness, that can be borne out to mean that we should take more pleasure (sustenance) in the harvest of meat than from the harvest of the field. Thinking further down this line we see that the sacrifices made to God are always in this type, rams, lambs, fatted calves. If Christianity tells us to be more like God, then by God we should live Paleo. Only guilt-ridden Christians and self loathers would choose to identify with the potential food-stuffs that are listed in the Bible and shown by God himself to be inadequate.

  9. Melissa on November 21, 2010 at 12:41

    Re: the verses in Leviticus, I never understood how Bible Beaters could seriously quote things from Mosaic law and then go home and have some bacon….well, if they actually read the Bible they would have realized that Jesus fulfilled that law anyway.

    Incidentally in college I tried to get in touch with my Jewish heritage, but once I realized they were serious about the pork thing I gave up.

  10. J. Stanton on November 21, 2010 at 13:15

    Melissa: One cannot reason someone out of a position they were not reasoned into.

    The central problem is that humans basically believe absolutely anything they are taught, no matter how nonsensical, before the age of six or so. Start at about 41 minutes of the NOVA documentary “Ape Genius” to see a excellent illustration of this principle, as both chimps and children learn how to use the jellybean machine:

    Note that the chimps, when presented with the transparent version of the machine where the workings can clearly be seen, skip all the irrelevant motions and go directly for the lever that actually produces the candy…whereas the children continue to slavishly imitate the adult!

    There is much more of interest in the video, and it’s worth watching…but 41:00 is most relevant to this discussion.

  11. Jeff on November 21, 2010 at 14:45

    Interesting post. I was raised Southern Baptist in a small town in Oklahoma. Ended up a drunk. Got to AA and damned if they weren’t talking this “God” stuff too, only theirs was “God as you understand him”. I don’t. Still go to AA and have been sober 29 years but don’t have a clue about God. I’m more along your friends line of thinking and I still get pretty pissed at the Bible thumpers around here.

    I have had some experiences that I would call “spiritual” in my years of recovery though.


  12. Frank Hagan on November 21, 2010 at 15:09

    You don’t have to go to Russian Orthodox biologists to find conservative Christians who accept evolution, and therefore have no quarrel with a genetic basis for how we should eat. Dr. Francis Collins, responsible for the government’s effort in mapping the human genome, and current director of the NIH, is a former atheist but now an evangelical Christian. His book, “The Language of God” makes a powerful case for Christians accepting the truth of evolution, as does his BioLogos organization. He has resigned from BioLogos while he is employed at NIH, but it is still online with many of his writings at http://biologos.org/questions

    Other evangelicals, like Darrell Falk in his book “Coming to Peace with Science”, find no conflict between the Christian faith and modern science, including evolution.

    There are theological questions that come up as an evangelical who accepts all truth, including the truth of modern science. But they aren’t dietary questions. The main one concerns the fall of man, a fairly essential doctrine that seems to be muddled a bit if man didn’t appear suddenly with a single progenitor.

    But as the famous Oxford don, author and scholar CS Lewis remarked, it is the questions that keep us focused on God.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 15:21

      “The main one concerns the fall of man, a fairly essential doctrine that seems to be muddled a bit if man didn’t appear suddenly with a single progenitor.”

      Well, yea, “the fall of man” is the essential founding doctrine of Christianity. Here’s my touchstone on the issue:

      “Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accept his own depravity without proof. It demands that he start, not with a standard of value, but with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then to define the good: the good is that which he is not.

      “It does not matter who then becomes the profiteer on his renounced glory and tormented soul, a mystic God with some incomprehensible design or any passer-by whose rotting sores are held as some inexplicable claim upon him—it does not matter, the good is not for him to understand, his duty is to crawl through years of penance, atoning for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible debts, his only concept of a value is a zero: the good is that which is non-man.

      “The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.

      “A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man’s sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man’s nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.

      “Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a “tendency” to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

      “What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge—he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil—he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor—he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire—he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy—all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was—that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love—he was not man.

      “Man’s fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he’s man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives.

      “They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man.”


      • Scott on November 21, 2010 at 16:20

        Not to trivialize this discussion, but I saw a funny commentary on this passed around the internet. Wording over a picture of Jesus with raised arms: “I’m going to create man and woman with original sin. Then I’m going to impregnate a woman with myself as her child, so that I can be born. Once alive I will kill myself as a sacrifice to myself to save you from the sin I originally condemned you to. Ta dah!!!”

        Scott W

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 16:26

        Yea, that kinda puts the notion of “God’s Plan,” with emphasis on the planing, in the proper, absurd light.

        In my initial stage as a non-believer 20 years ago I was fond of saying that my sense of the basic evilness, capriciousness, and downright stupidity of God as portrayed is something I’d lift my middle finger too even — especially even — if he did exist.

      • Shawn on November 21, 2010 at 16:52

        This is a reasonable critique of Calvinism, and perhaps somewhat of other streams of Protestantism. It fails though at recongnizing that there are large, historical streams of Christian thought that don’t share these ideas of fall, redemption, original sin, total depravity, etc. I suppose if all you know is American pop evangelicalism or the Johnathon Edwards revival-type preaching then it makes sense. But as it stands this is a straw-man arguement, and very hard to take seriously.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 17:00

        Well shown, even French Catholics I knew — priests included — were impressed with that critique.

        It’s always funny to me how Christians wiggle whenever seriously confronted thusly. That’s not to say I know whether you are or aren’t, but you’re clearly defending.

      • Shawn on November 21, 2010 at 18:04

        Rand’s critique can’t be taken seriously. First, she baldly asserts that Christianity beilieves man is born evil. This is not the case universally, although some sects do say this. She then says that the doctrine requires someone to follow a “good” that is impossible. Yet later on she argues from a position of freedom of the will. If the will is totally free then she can’t make the arguement that humans cannot fulfill any particular moral code; to do so would imply a limit to free will.
        Second, she asserts that a tendency toward evil is equivalent to destruction of free-will. This is not self-evident, yet she offers no proof. For example, if I said that a car pulls left, this does not mean that the driver has no control over where the car goes. The amount of pull determines whether it is a problem. Likewise, a simple tendency towards evil does not imply destruction of free-will. Again, she is making bald statements of fact without backing them up with logic.
        Third, she seems to be unaware of the alternate (and ancient) theology that says that Adam was meant to eat of the tree of knowledge (a metafor if ever there was one) when he was mature; in other words, what is good at one stage of life is deadly at another.
        There are other problems here, but hopefully it shows why I cannot take this seriously. There are much better arguements she should make; if this is the best she’s got then I think I can safely ignore her.
        Please note that I’m not arguing whether a doctrine like original sin is true or false; I’m really just appalled at the basic lack of logic and historical knowledge this critique offers. If you’re going to argue for something do it right. Don’t just use a bunch of empty rhetoric.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 18:33


        “Rand’s critique can’t be taken seriously.”

        I disagree. What rand does, here, is actually far reaching. She’s distilling precents to concepts to principles. And the people go W00T!

        Well, that’s what you get when it was bullshit from the get.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 18:35

        “Yet later on she argues from a position of freedom of the will. If the will is totally free then she can’t make the arguement that humans cannot fulfill any particular moral code”

        That’s actually the contradiction she’s pointing out. Read closer.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 18:41

        “For example, if I said that a car pulls left”

        Awesome analogy. Conflation of human nature with a call that “pulls” left. This has nothing to do with free will and the analogy is non-sequitur.

        If there is free will, there can be no such thing as a _natural_ tendency, i.e., an inborn trait irresistible for every human. That means it’s part of their nature, and thus contradictory to free will.

        Incidentally, I’m not certain we have free will, qua animal. But I am certain we are complex enough and that believing you have free will is tantamount to having free will.

      • Shawn on November 21, 2010 at 19:27

        Ah, I see. When you say a natural tendency you mean an irresistable trait. I would never have guessed that’s what you had in mind. Obviously such a thing does not exist (at least in normal human beings). Perhaps I put too much faith in people’s reasoning abilities… I could never have thought someone would seriously argue we have irresistable traits.
        Does the car analogy make more sense now? Free will involves the ability to control yourself. By analogy with a car, the ability to control the car. A natural tendency is a pull, although not absolute, toward a particular action. All of us experience pulls in many directions as a natural part of our human condition; I believe the term is “instict.” Yet, except in pathological cases, none of these tedencies rise to a sufficient level to overpower us. They pull us, but we get to decide. Just as if a car pulls to one side you can still override it if you’re paying attention.
        If anyone says that there are absolute tendencies that override our free will I don’t know what to say… I suppose life must be rather gloomy for them.

      • Chris Masterjohn on November 21, 2010 at 19:41

        “Free will” is a very problematic concept. If it means that we govern our behavior with our decisions and deliberations and these decisions and deliberations alone, it obviously does not exist. But clearly there is an element of choice that operates within contextual boundaries. It is not “free” of those contextual boundaries, but neither is it irresistably governed by them. It is “free” in the sense that it is not irresistably governed by them, but it is “captive” in the sense that it operates within their influence rather than in a vacuum.

        I think perhaps what Shawn was trying to say, and I will try to say more specifically, is that in the first thousand years of Christianity you find the western concept of original sin primarily traceable to Augustine, which he developed in his attempts to combat various other doctrines, and you find that virtually everyone in the church disagreed with him. And in the following millenium, you find that this idea of perpetual guilt and total depravity of man pervades western Christendom and never enters eastern Christendom except to be explicitly and entirely rejected by it.

        Thus, any criticism of “Christianity” if it is to critcize Christianity per se should not be critcizing ideas of perpetual guilt and total depravity of man when in fact these ideas are not native to Christianity, and in fact should focus on ideas that actually are native to Christianity. You could certainly criticize certain writers within Christendom who advanced these concepts, but as individual strains of thought confined to specific geographical and temporal boundaries, not as “Christianity” per se. Otherwise, this is much like an argument “well gee, I’ve never seen a monkey turn into a human, have you?”


      • Shawn on November 21, 2010 at 19:48

        Thank you, Chris. You have said what I wish more masterfully that I ever could.

      • Andrew on November 21, 2010 at 20:35

        I agree with Shawn and Chris. It makes much more sense to critique the entire program of Christianity – on its myriad wrong factual, historical, moral, and scientific claims – than get mired in irrelevant doctrinal disputes. Sure, the unintelligible doctrine speaks to the absence of any overarching Biblical planner, but that’s to be expected under an agrarian contrivance by scientifically ignorant humans.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 20:42

        OK, Chis.

        But I’ve always found it interesting that a Russian immigrant who, near as I can tell,was always a non-believer, so captured the essence of my own personal experience, vis-a-vis the fall/original sin.

        On the other hand, I still recall a scene from when I was a kid, after my parents had abandoned their childhood religious traditions in favor of evangelicalism. We were at my grandparent’s river house and somehow the subject came up and one or the other of my parents was quoting some verse about how all mans’ good works were “as filthy rags” before god, and my grandfather hit the ceiling.

        It was a moment I never forgot because, at that young age, for me, he was simply saying that if that is who God is, then fuck him.

        It took years to recapture that, and I’ve moved far beyond it because I simply think it’s all fairy tale, but I’ll always cherish the moment when a man says fuck it an flips off what he believes is God.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 20:49

        “I could never have thought someone would seriously argue we have irresistable traits.”

        Then you haven’t read of studied the Bible, nor religious doctrine.

        You’re just waffling and wiggling. Besides that, it’s a _doctrine_, which is the whole point of the fucking matter. Do you understand? EVERYONE must attain some level of salvation/redemption, because they start off in the hole (that’s OS, man). It’s the point the whole point of Western, Christian religion.

        So don’t go blowing smoke up my ass as though they were never really serious about it, didn’t burn people at the stake, enslave women, and all manner of evil.

        Jesus Fuck, but do I ever loath apologists for fucking evil.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 20:52

        “They pull us, but we get to decide.”

        You’re simply not paying attention.

        We’re talking about a religious doctrine. Not how man _is_.

        And that’s the mutherfucking point. Are you dense, or are you just obfuscating.

        There _is_ a doctrine of Original Sin. They actually even call it that. Check it the fuck out. That’s what I’m talking about, obviously.

      • Chris Masterjohn on November 21, 2010 at 21:13

        Hey Richard,

        Yes I agree that if I interpreted that verse the way your parents had I’d probably have a similar reaction.

        I also agree that the western concept of original sin almost undoubtedly made it into Russia at some point, as there were numerous periods of time where either poverty, the ambitions of various tyrannical rulers, or both led to various types of westernization, and the Russians do have what they refer to as the “200 year Latin captivity” of their religious thought. Moreover, 20th century views of religion in Russia were either transmitted through devout believing families by way of grandmothers or were, more commonly, transmitted by atheists running the schools with the specific purpose of mocking Christianity. You might support mocking Christianity but probably not public schools, let alone communist ones. Certainly it’s one thing for someone to mock Christianity for the purpose of promoting individual freedom and another to mock it because the church and the family were the last bulwarks against the advance of the totalitarian state.

        However, Original Sin, though certainly an official doctrine and certainly almost universally adhered to among protestants and Roman Catholics, is still a later interpolation infused into Christianity rather than being based in Christianity itself.

        And just to clarify, I have no problem with anyone criticizing the lunacy of certain bizarre doctrines if those doctrines are attributed correctly, and no problem with you criticizing passages of the Bible that are actually in the Bible, and no problem with anyone criticizing agrarians for contriving things, except to point out that fishermen are technically hunters. But I think it’s very important to distinguish that the doctrine of Original Sin is peculiar to later developments within western Christianity.


      • Jim Arkus on November 22, 2010 at 07:12

        “Rand’s critique can’t be taken seriously.”

        Well jeez, your first mistake is even trying to take the lady seriously. She was batshit insane!


      • Andrew on November 21, 2010 at 17:01

        …which falls through at recognizing that the root of the problem isn’t doctrinal interpretation, but agrarian monotheism attempting to justify hierarchical violence (physical or psychological) in service of property rights (women, slaves, land, etc). To this end, religion resorts to abstracting authority from an unsustainable earthly order to an unquestionable milieu of invisible superheroes from space. So yes, Calvinism, pop evangelicalism, Protestantism, et cetera are also wrong, not exclusively wrong.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 17:04

        Yes, lest we forget, the original “property” was women. Next up: slaves.

      • Victoria on November 21, 2010 at 17:55

        And I thought I offended you when I called you Ayn Rand last time!

      • Frank Hagan on November 21, 2010 at 19:38

        Richard, I didn’t mean to start an atheist/deist debate; I was speaking mainly to the people concerned with the question itself, who, it seems to me, would be the conservative Christians, Muslims and Jews who take a literal view of the first chapter of Genesis. The “fall of man” and “original sin” idea are not universal in Christianity, but are pretty important to the audience to whom the question was raised. Catholicism, the Orthodox churches, Coptic, and most of the protestant denominations considered “higher church” (Lutheran, Anglican, etc.) do not have a problem with evolution. (I’m not sure what doctrines would be affected in conservative Jewish or Muslim circles with a non-literal interpretation of Genesis, and I doubt I could discuss it with either Jew or Muslim with any skill).

        Because I share their basic values, I can engage conservative Christians and discuss this small point without a lot of heat. One of us could change our minds on the idea that Genesis should be taken literally or figuratively, as thousands of Christians have. But you and I, atheist and Christian, will never come to agreement over the existence of God, the nature of man, or other metaphysical questions with postings on a blog. (BTW – If I misread your post, and you don’t self-identify as an atheist, forgive me for my presumption; I don’t mean any slight in any way).

        There’s a frame of reference people with similar beliefs share, and so I can mention original sin to them, and they have no objection to it. They believe it. Your quote of Rand’s will have no lasting effect on them, other than perhaps angering them, because it comes from someone without the same worldview. But my dialog with them is on a level of shared understanding, and I will be given a hearing. Likewise, because I share their basic values, I will give their concerns and beliefs a fair hearing.

        BTW – my current thinking is that the idea of the fall of man as an “fairly essential” doctrine has to fall itself, because it is incompatible with the truth of evolution. Because it is not a core, essential doctrine, it doesn’t affect my overall belief.

        This is your place, though, and I may have been rude to intrude with my religious musings. Feel free to remove the posts if you think they will create too much “heat”. I did appreciate your fair response, as well as the responses of other “non-believers”.

      • Ann on November 23, 2010 at 08:33

        “(BTW – If I misread your post, and you don’t self-identify as an atheist, forgive me for my presumption; I don’t mean any slight in any way).”

        There is nothing wrong with being an atheist. Absolutely NOTHING. It should not be viewed as a slight/insult. These people just don’t accept that there is a god. The evidence isn’t there for them. Why should intellectual rigor be an insult?? Being skeptical isn’t a bad thing. Taking things as true just because somebody told you so is often called ‘gullible’ and not viewed as a positive personality trait.

      • gallier2 on November 23, 2010 at 08:59

        Atheist are people who have only one more god to not believe in.

      • PK on November 23, 2010 at 19:15

        I suspect that now that some people’s needs to believe that humans are innately bad is manifesting itself in the concept of a carbon footprint. It’s another piece of evidence that climate change is more of a religion than science, when you make humans’ very being and breathing CO2 into in the ecosystem as only a bad thing– that we must somehow make up for our existence. Instead of original sin we have our “carbon footprints.”

    • Hugh Anderson on November 22, 2010 at 06:56

      Francis Collins sounds like a neat guy for the most part, but I about flipped my lid when I read about his conversion experience in a recent New Yorker profile. And I quote: “He told the congregation that during his trip he turned a corner and saw a frozen waterfall, perfectly formed into three separate parts. He took it as a revelation of Trinitarian truth.”

      This, from a brilliant scientist? Ugh. I felt icky after reading that and quit the article soon thereafter.

  13. Andrew on November 21, 2010 at 15:10

    My blood boils every time the self-righteous Chrisianati (replace with any monotheism du jour) claims that religion is the source of all morality and order in the world. That insane claim simply needs to be confronted at every turn.

    The discourse is also poisoned by the left vs. right spectrum jargon. It’s a false dichotomy that too easily usurps evolved in-group/out-group bias to preclude discussion. As Timothy Ferris (not paleo friendly Tim Ferriss) points out, there are two (main) perpendicular axes of political spectrum… one being the Liberal-Totalitarian (freedom-control) spectrum, the other being the Progressive-Conservative spectrum. I’m hard left on the Liberal (in its classical definition: freedom) spectrum, and agnostic (depending on context) on the other axis. Conflating the axes into Left vs. Right ignores a huge detail… the detail that Christopher Hitchens (as well as the books ‘Republican Gomorrah’ and ‘American Fascists’) is so fond of pointing out: Monotheism is a fundamentally totalitarian expression.

    Professor Bob Altemeyer’s work on authoritarianism highlights the psychological motivations underlying the rise and persistence of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) in the United States and elsewhere. His insight into the matter backs up Hitchens from a more empirical standpoint… Though Hitch’s example of North Korea and God is a nearly perfect analogy.

    Sarah Palin’s world-view is not one of freedom from government, but freedom from non-Christian government. Claims to the contrary are another great example of putting lipstick on a pig. Thus, her religious motivations rankle me on the moral arrogance front and the totalitarian front. She and I will never be friends under those terms.

    The Christians’ post-hoc rationalizations to reconcile paleo with Biblical lore is a distant cousin to their moral superiority complex (read: latent intellectual arrogance). Some go so far as to revise the last 2,000 years to imply that the Bible had it right about grains in the first place; I had someone tell me that taken in the proper context, the bread the Bible refers to was actually kefir. Kefir!? Come on. At some point, this fixed belief system nonsense diverges from simple cognitive dissonance into outright intellectual dishonesty.

  14. Megan on November 21, 2010 at 15:12

    Absolutely STELLAR job, Richard. Thank you.

  15. Jonathan Barnes on November 21, 2010 at 16:02

    Richard…a good read. What you said needed to be said and you said it. I don’t know if it required, in you, any courage to put that stuff out there, but there are some, if they saw that kind of truth, would not have had the courage to say it. Again, thanks. J B

  16. Scott on November 21, 2010 at 16:05

    Your first bible quote would have even more impact if you included the passage immediately preceding it: “If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

    He apparently burned his own daughter as a human sacrifice on an alter. Nice. Who did he think was going to come out and greet him, anyway? Some kind of human, of course, but I guess he was hoping for a lowly servant or slave…no hard feelings in burning one of those humans if you are a god-fearin’ man.

    Scott W

  17. Greg on November 21, 2010 at 16:06

    What I find ironically amusing is the lack of knowledge literalists have about their very own literature.

    There is no “the bible”. It’s not an entity, rather a collection of guesses and detective work (textual criticism).

    Our best manuscript is 200 years after the fact, written in another language.

    There are more differences between our manuscripts than there are words in the new testament. Think about that, none of our bibles agree with each other. Heck, the authors don’t even agree with each other in the climax of the book.

    Religion was devised as a mechanism for harmony- if there was someone else out there, to punish and make sure you act in the interest of the group, it was easier that way.

    As for paleo and christianity- you might as well try to explain Paris to an ant. You can also substitute “anything” for Paris and Sarah Palin for the ant. She’s a bad Disney movie- hockey mom goes to Washington. OMFG. Sarah talking nukes in North Korea (be still, my myocardial infarction)

    Sarah Palin is so stupid ({chorus} how stupid is she?) She’s so stupid that she actually had to write her three talking points on her hand for an interview (seriously, it’s on video)

    I think Sarah et al are the essence of the issue- her daughter gets knocked up, Darth Vader’s (Cheney) daughter is gay, Haggard is smokin poles and pipes in a hotel room, Senators are foot tappin’ in airports, page fondling and the list goes on and on- they see themselves as different and want the rules they pretend to believe in to apply to everyone else. The very essence of christianity is the suspension of belief and slicing this in different directions is a futile exercise. Leave ‘em alone, you’ll both be happier.

  18. Dana on November 21, 2010 at 16:09

    I think it’s bullshit to dismiss someone who’s a leftist solely because they’re a leftist. There are actually two political axes (I think that’s the plural of axis, correct me if I’m wrong); not just left-right but also individualist-statist. Or you could say libertarian-statist, pretty much the same thing. It’s possible to be leftist to some extent but also libertarian, just as it’s possible to be right-wing and statist, and in my experience most people fall somewhere in between on each axis, rather than falling hard on one end or the other.

    I say that if we must continue this fantasy of nation-states, then there are certain issues we should be working together to deal with rather than throwing each separate person to the wolves over, and over, and over again. I think it’s hypocritical, for instance, to be OK with a publicly-funded police force or a publicly-funded fire department but not OK with publicly-funded health care. You’re just as likely to need help from the cops or firefighters for doing something stupid as you are to need a doctor for that reason. Yet no one objects to cops or firefighters being on the taxpayer dime. And innocent bystanders can be in just as much danger from untreated disease as they would be from a gang of criminals or a fire burning out of control.

    It’s also worth noting that we would not be here today, evolved into the form we are now, if we had not cooperated more often than we competed with one another. That’s the whole point of being a social animal. Yell at me if you want, that’s still true.

    Societal pressure to conform has always been with us. Outliers have always been with us too, and they do serve a purpose, but everyone can’t be an outlier. Everyone cannot be his own speshul lil island, doing whatever he wants with no thought to how it affects others. A healthy society preserves its traditions as long as those traditions serve, then looks to the outliers for new ideas when the environment is changing and the traditions need to change too.

    And I don’t know who Jimmy is talking about with this “did WE used to be hunter-gatherers” thing. The Bible only tells the story of one people. Has he not noticed all the foragers still in existence around the world? There is only a WE in the sense of us as a species. In no other sense is there ever a WE, because we do not all live alike, and never have. There has never been this neat, orderly evolution from one type of society to another. Different cultures around the world have different lifestyles, and always have; I wouldn’t even call it evolution to go from forager status to what we’re doing now, considering we’re way into population overshoot propped up only by the existence of petroleum as a fuel source. The day that goes away, we’ll see how “evolved” we really are.

    I love me some Jimmy, but we all have our blind spots, I guess.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 16:21

      “Yet no one objects to cops or firefighters being on the taxpayer dime.”

      I do. I objet to _all_ taxes on principle, no exceptions. But, yes, I acknowledge that you point out a dissonance in libertarians in general.

      “A healthy society…”

      Whose “society?” See, _my_ society might include 150 other individuals at max, with perhaps other alliances (blog readers?) comprising even more opportunity.

      I’m pretty sure I’d get along just fine and I’m also pretty sure that 100% of things wouldn’t go my way, either, but then that cost/benefit tradeoff would be entirely up to me.

      • Dan Linehan on November 21, 2010 at 18:48

        You’d be dead in less than a year from some infection, virus or pandemic without our modern social structures, agricultural system and vaccinations.

        Primitivism sounds great — until you get an ingrown toenail and lose your leg because there are no antibiotics.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 18:55

        But Dan, I’m no primitivist, Luddite or anything like that,

        I’m a Bacon fan (Francis, that it).

        I just don’t think it’s necessary to be thief, or suborn it, to have technology.

      • Dan Linehan on November 21, 2010 at 19:19

        Ah, my apologies then, I mistook the premise of your “society of 150” line then. That’s also the same number as Dunbar’s Monkeysphere: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

        I basically see technological progress as the only way to counter many of the absurdities of our society.

        Unfortunately, I think the human condition itself is rather absurd, so our progress might compel us to leave behind much of our humanity.

        “The disabled will be the first cyborgs” sort of thing. Maybe I just grew up reading too much sci-fi.

      • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 19:43

        Dan: just get one thing. When someone says “society,” recoil.


      • Andrew on November 23, 2010 at 12:22

        Richard, I reference your invocation of Dunbar’s number in the thread ‘The Evolutionary Analysis of Economic Policy”. It’s in a thread you’re not subscribed to… I hope I didn’t misrepresent your position.

  19. Ned Kock on November 21, 2010 at 17:02

    This is a very important issue in many people’s minds Richard, which is why Jimmy felt the need to have it addressed.

    I can only add to the discussion, a bit tangentially, by pointing at a post that you’ve seen already and even commented on. It argues that atheism is a recent Neolithic invention, as ancestral humans were spiritual people:


    Having said that, all organized religions are without a doubt also Neolithic inventions. Their inspiration may not be, but the structures created to organize and sustain them are.

    On a lighter note, the Original Sin was not, to the best of my knowledge, eating the fatty flesh of beasts. It was eating a very sweet apple …

    • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 17:16

      I’d have to agree, Ned, that atheism is Neolithic for, it is directly contra the hierarchical neoisms you identify.

      Then again, in that context, the Paleo Diet is also neolithic. Though it harkens back, its raison d’etre is only in response to neolithic diets.

      If we were still in the paleo, we’d have very small societies eating what was available and we’d have thousands of varieties of spiritual wonder, most if not al, non-threatening, hierarchical, guilt inducing.

      Thanks as always for pointing to your referential or even tangential contributions.

      • Ann on November 23, 2010 at 08:43

        Mmmmm…I would say that monotheism is neolithic. There is at least one paleolithic culture that survived into modern times that did not have a word for things they could not see/touch/taste/smell/hear. So it did vary. Not all of them were animists/believed in gods; many just went with a kind of ‘spirit’ realm but not necessarily a ‘god’/higher power. More like a spirit of the tree type of thing. But very egalitarian and guilt-less. Generally.

        But I do agree w/ original sin being crucial in the teaching of Christianity. If there is no inherent sinfulness then why have the sacrifice (Jesus) to atone for it?

        You my be interested in the Iron Chariots Wiki for counter apologetics:

      • Melissa on November 23, 2010 at 10:21

        “least one paleolithic culture that survived into modern times that did not have a word for things they could not see/touch/taste/smell/hear.”

        Yes, but that culture, the Piranha, sees supernatural things. Daniel Everett, who studied them, writes of times they would gather excitedly to watch a spirit and he would see absolutely nothing while they were pointing and gawking.

      • Chris Masterjohn on November 23, 2010 at 16:02

        Did they offer him an explanation of why they believed he couldn’t see it? What did he think was the reason?


  20. Jeff on November 21, 2010 at 17:33

    I’ve learned that there is a difference between “God” and “religion”…..and they have nothing to do with each other.

    Think about this.

  21. Ian on November 21, 2010 at 17:56

    Shamanism is the original oldest Religion, direct experience of nature rather then getting it boiled down by a priest or institution.

  22. D on November 21, 2010 at 17:57

    I see the word Bible and my eyes glaze over and I become very disinterested.. but someone on another site posted some Bible quotes stating that GOD HATES FAT PEOPLE!!

    Proverbs 23:20-21 warns us, ” Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.”

    Proverbs 23:2 proclaims, ” Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.”

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21 teaches, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

    1 Corinthians 3:16-17 teaches, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

    But I am not a Bible quoter … I’d rather quote Bill Hicks

    “You believe the world’s 12 thousand years old? “That’s right.” Okay I got one word to ask you, a one word question, ready? “Uh huh.” Dinosaurs. You know the world’s 12 thousand years old and dinosaurs existed, they existed in that time, you’d think it would have been mentioned in the fucking Bible at some point. “And lo Jesus and the disciples walked to Nazareth. But the trail was blocked by a giant brontosaurus…with a splinter in his paw. And O the disciples did run a shriekin’: ‘What a big fucking lizard, Lord!’ But Jesus was unafraid and he took the splinter from the brontosaurus’s paw and the big lizard became his friend.”

    • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 18:28

      ““And lo Jesus and the disciples walked to Nazareth. But the trail was blocked by a giant brontosaurus…”

      Belly laf, right there.

      Good work, D.

    • skib on November 22, 2010 at 05:55

      I know you’re probably kidding around with these quotes but I just wanted to point out that some gluttons are thin, and some people get fat without gluttony.

      As for the body being a temple, sounds like a great biblical reason to eat paleo to me.

  23. Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 18:45

    “Liberals are not the ones who started the war on drugs (Nixon and Reagan,) nor the Patriot act (Bush,) nor the department of Homeland Security (Bush).”

    Point Dan Linehan.

    You’re right. Simple as that. But I might just point out that even though the left have been in control for a while, now, nothing has been done.

    I’d have applauded if they did.

  24. zach on November 21, 2010 at 19:32

    As a “literal believer” I sometimes wonder what primarily distinguishes the agnostic from the atheist. The former seems reasonable but the latter position is utterly irrational and unscientific. To say the Bible is a bunch of crap, or that God is a sadist is understandable, given the problem of evil (who btw, decides what is evil? You? Me?). But why do some get to the point where science is just tossed overboard? Nothing comes from nothing. 0x=0. Can’t have nothing, then a planet with life on it. Such has never been observed in a laboratory. In fact we have a law that says matter cannot be created or destroyed. Why the exception at the starting line? Watson and crick were really smart, but they believed, without ANY evidence at all, that space aliens seeded the earth. Ok. Who made the aliens? They are par for the atheist course.

    • Dan Linehan on November 21, 2010 at 19:35

      Actually, it is looking more and more like the universe did come from nothing.


      • zach on November 22, 2010 at 05:30

        You have great faith, Dan Linehan!

      • Joseph on November 22, 2010 at 07:43

        No, he just doesn’t pretend to speak with authority about something of which he is entirely ignorant. The rational skeptic (atheist, agnostic) does not pretend to understand what makes everything happen. He does not posit an Aristotelian Prime Mover (tertium quid), having no hard evidence that any one thing is responsible for everything else. (Why should it be? What is “nothing” anyway, aside from another word we use we don’t know what the heck we are talking about? How is recognizing our ignorance arrogant? This line from believers only makes sense to them.)

        The argument that Dan needs great faith not to believe in God only makes sense from a fundamentalist perspective that conflates ignorance with knowledge. I don’t have to know much to recognize that I am ignorant. All I know is that God (1) makes no sense to me as an individual person (he is always changing his mind about everything, giving contradictory commands, making a mess and then blaming other people), (2) that he never interacts with me personally (no angelic visits, and that is not because I never believed in them), and (3) that the first two difficulties are very much alleviated when I regard him as a figment of the human imagination (who exists nowhere in real time and changes as individual people change their minds). If the Big Man ever wants to set me straight about his reality, all he has to do is come and talk with me. If he is nice, I may even let him be my friend. (If he is the crazy schizophrenic monster in the Bible or the Koran, we’re quits: I don’t care how tough he is, I will spit in his face.)

    • Richard Nikoley on November 21, 2010 at 20:59

      Please, zach.

      You’re spouting infinite regression nonsense that was abandoned even hundreds of years ago by intelligent believers. The same something from nothing applies to your creator, too. Of course, for shit sakes. Or did you never think about that?

      You’re gonna need to get out more.

      • zach on November 22, 2010 at 05:41

        Only if, if there is a God, he has to obey the same rules as the created order. I’d say that God is very different from anything we are accustomed to. Regardless, I think you’re ridiculous, and you think I’m ridiculous on this issue, but as a believer you know that I’m not saying yours is an intellectual problem. I don’t think that any atheist has an intelligence problem. I do like the topics on health and fitness more though. Keep up the good work!

      • Richard Nikoley on November 22, 2010 at 17:59

        “if there is a God, he has to obey the same rules as the created order. ”

        That’s not a god.

    • Aaron Curl on November 22, 2010 at 04:38

      “literal believer”? O.K. You want your cake and you want to eat it too. Can’t be done no matter how hard you try. Good luck with that.

  25. Becky on November 22, 2010 at 00:33

    “I wonder what primarily distinguishes the literal believer from the non-literal one. Is it education, experience…or pure guile? Perhaps the non-literal believer (i.e., believer in spiritual meaning, for lack of a better description) just simply has no fear of the guilt and damnation the literalists are peddling…”

    As a “non literal” believer, I can say with a certain amount of certainty that it comes from engaging the brain in ways that are painful.

    “Literalists”, in general, are control freaks and/or power whores. While I am perfectly willing to say that God might send all these non-believin’ sinners to Heaven, Literalists prefer the in-club approach. If you are not a Christian, you cannot go to Heaven, because the Bible says so.

    Last time I checked, God was the supreme deity of the universe. He can go against the book. Yet Literalists act as if it would be some affront to their existence. “He wouldn’t do that. See, it says here, all the gays and liars and ugly people are going to Hell. God promised.”

    • LCforevah on November 23, 2010 at 10:02

      Becky, I would like to know the place and time you last checked. Reeealllllly! There is no physical proof of the supernatural anywhere to be had. How could you have checked?

      “As a “non literal” believer, I can say with a certain amount of certainty that it comes from engaging the brain in ways that are painful. ”

      Yes, cognitive dissonance can be quiet painful.

      • Becky on November 24, 2010 at 08:45

        These are the kind of bullshit comments that make even atheists hate the Dawkins hoards that troll the earth. You’ve managed to reduce the absence of religion to a religion. Kudos.

        All that you should care about, my friend, is that I’m not taking my NIV and bashing you over the head with it. I don’t know if you’re going to hell because you don’t believe some Jew climbing on a cross will save your eternal soul. Not my call, cause I don’t run the universe.

        I’d suggest you take all that righteous indignation over the “wrongness” of someone’s beliefs and put it toward something that actually affects people’s lives – like Monsanto, or the FDA, or the USDA, or the UN, or [insert one of the thousands of other social ills here].

      • LCforevah on November 24, 2010 at 09:34

        The suggestion of violence, of course! You have nothing else to go on. Project much? It’s your righteous indignation showing its ugly head. I caught you implying that you checked in with god, and now you say it’s not your call cause you don’t run the universe. Well my dear little girl, when you declare that you can check in with your version of god, it sounds like you at least know where the universe is going.

        You’re angry cause I called you on your BS. And yes, I’m an activist in my local goings on and I can still take the time to call out the BS.

      • Becky on November 24, 2010 at 16:22

        You, sir, are a champion at misconstruing people’s statements. I bid you good day.

  26. Eric on November 22, 2010 at 06:12

    Good stuff Richard! To me, the thing that stands out in this statement: «My mom keeps saying, “Why did God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, eating from the fruits and vegetables that grew there, if human digestive systems were not designed to eat those things? Why did God even create edible grains if we weren’t meant to eat them?”», is the idea that everything on this planet was, presumably, put here by “someone” or “something” for the exclusive use of humans. Anthropocentrism anyone??? Biomass is for everyone, all species, not just human mass!?!?!? The very idea that there are many people who start out with the assumption that all that is supplied by nature is to be turned into human mass is, quite frankly, very scary…

  27. Walter on November 22, 2010 at 06:58

    The secular and scientific “religions” of nutrition science and climate science concern me much more than my wife attending Mass.

    What does Richard Dawkins think of these non-supernatural belief systems supported by a central government? What are his views of the continuing 40 year nutrition study being performed in the United States? What are his views of humans attempting to control the temperature of a planet? With respect to the planet’s temperature, it is easier for me to consider God having some influence than to think of humans having that much power.

    In my opinion, justifying and enforcing other beliefs simply by removing the supernatural from the equation can be just as dangerous, and maybe more so.

    • gallier2 on November 23, 2010 at 06:32

      Bravo, at least one who agrees with me. I had a long dispute recently with a friend who was bitching about horoscopes and dowsing, of how terrible irrational and important it was. He was reading the french magazine affiliated with Shermer’s sceptics magazine and I had to tell him that his magazine was irrelevant as it choses only rearguard fights of which everybody knows it’s bullshit. That lives of millions of people and billions of money are lost, due to the bad state of medical science (the unquestionning reliance on autority figures, symptom treatment, pharmaceutical involvment) was dismissed by a slight of hand. It was frustrating to see how such a highly intelligent guy (he is an ace in maths you cannot imagine) was unable to grasp such a simple difference.

  28. heather on November 22, 2010 at 07:25

    Great post! I think being a literal believer requires very little independent thought. No effort. It’s basically the lazy way out for most people. Do what The Book (or someone who’s read The Book) tells you to do/not do/believe/not believe. Now you can just move through life on auto-pilot, so to speak. I’ve also found most literal believers tend to have virtually no secular knowledge of the history of their religion or religious texts. They give no thought or have no understanding as to the social and political pressures that have shaped religious dogma and doctrine.

    ….a Prius driving, conservative Buddhist who carries a gun (and former non-literal believer of the non-denominational Protestant persuasion)

  29. Mike on November 22, 2010 at 07:51

    As soon as I saw this was a discussing of trying to bridge the divide between paleo and Christianity my eyes glazed over and very briefly scanned the article. Paleo is science based on biological and anthropological evidence, while Christianity is based on fairy tales…trying to explain things we didn’t understand at the time.

    Its all based on miracle stories that happened 2,000 years ago that somehow become more credible when you place them in a pre-scientific context of the first century roman empire and attested to by copies of copies of manuscripts decades after it happened.

    What’s next rationalizing Greek mythology in regards to paleo?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 22, 2010 at 18:07

      “As soon as I saw this was a discussing of trying to bridge the divide between paleo and Christianity”

      Not my intention at all. My intention is to subtly point out an irreconcilable contradiction on one hand but to also point out it’s not a big deal for Christians who want to do paleo.

      • Cheryl on November 23, 2010 at 06:18

        It shouldn’t be a big deal. But people can’t be Christians and not spend their lives pulling their hair and gnashing their teeth because every time some idea comes along that doesn’t fit with their prescribed beliefs they don’t know how to handle the information. They have to go running to their own “expert” (ie: priest, preacher, snake-handler) to reconcile the contradiction for them. Christians spend their entire existence in a state of rationalization because they couldn’t function unless they did.

        All of their hand-wringing is monotonous and ri-goddamn-diculous and I get sick of it. I’d like to blame it on a lack of education, but I actually haven’t seen evidence of that. My brother is one of the smartest guys I know, but he’s a friggin Christian Apologetic. (How the hell I ended up a pagan out of that broiling pot of bible-pounding, hell-fire and damnation sewage I was born into is beyond me.) Christians aren’t rational. And it’s not because they can’t be. It’s because they’re too damn lazy to think for themselves. When I was 19 and living in another state (at far remove from my father, the brain-washer) I finally learned that…hey, I have my own thoughts. My brain isn’t connected to his. And he wasn’t there to contradict and confuse my burgeoning mind. I only escaped when I didn’t have “the expert” to rely on.

        Every time a Christian asks a question like this and some “expert” takes the time to reconcile the contradictions he’s facing they are enabling the laziness. But I suppose that’s the point. After all, if people started thinking for themselves and became less dependant on “the experts” it would make it a little difficult to enforce the spiritual slavery.

  30. Elenor on November 22, 2010 at 08:14

    Richard (hi Richard!) wrote:
    “I really can’t stand most forms of atheist activism — such as attempts at preventing nativity scenes on public property and other such embarrassing nonsense.”

    It’s not *atheist* activism. If you look into and under the attempts at preventing nativity scenes, and removing xmas from schools, and so on, it is almost without exception, a Jewish lawyer (either directly or using some goyim as a cat’s paw). This is NOT “for the common good” atheism (or, indeed, atheism at all); this is one religious group working (quite reasonably by their lights) for the ascendance of THEIR religion over another group’s religion. Just as Muslims try to enforce Sharia in lands not ““their own,” just as the fundie Christians try to get a grip on ““our” govt to enforce THEIR religious views/laws. It’s only the atheists and a few universalist-type groups (and maybe some more moderate folks in any of the religious camps, except, when pushed, they, too, always support THEIR OWN). This is about an actual religious war: each group (naturally and rightly) wanting their OWN to be in ascendance, in control of resources, in charge, in power.

    (And yes, I’m waiting for the outraged recoil from your readers: “That’s anti-semitic!” “That’s anti-Muslim!” (No one much complains anymore “That’s anti-Christian” — or they don’t get in the media if they do! Well, except our next prez, Sarah Failin’! {eye roll}) Which only re-enforces the truth of it being a religious power conflict. How better to ‘gain ground’ in your battle (for ascendance, for power, for control), than if you can convince your ‘enemy’ (the other religions) to ‘discipline’ (pre-emptively disarm) their own ‘soldiers’ (in-group members) on your behalf!) But we’re not supposed to point that out!)

    Dana wrote:
    “It’s also worth noting that we would not be here today, evolved into the form we are now, if we had not cooperated more often than we competed with one another. That’s the whole point of being a social animal. …
    Societal pressure to conform has always been with us. Outliers have always been with us too, and they do serve a purpose, but everyone can’t be an outlier.”

    I’d ask you to define your “we” who were cooperating and competing. “We” need to have been a small group who cooperated ONLY with “our own” and competed against outsiders — else the outsiders would take “our” resources for their use (and maybe, us for slaves! Or at least, our virgin women!). That is actually still true — it is fundamental to Nature, red in tooth and claw! (This is the problem with the kumbaya-we-are-the-world idiots: even IF we play nice and fair and only take the minimal resources needed for our ingroup — who (and it won’t be god!) will stop the outgroup from taking all that is yours? (Scary, but true on the ground!)

    Walter wrote:
    “With respect to the planet’s temperature, it is easier for me to consider God having some influence than to think of humans having that much power.”

    But isn’t that saying: “because I don’t trust the human govt(s) to do it, therefore there must be a supernatural power who can or will” (but hasn’t?!) You’re waiting for ‘big daddy’ or ‘the old guy in the toga’ to come swooping in and save you/us? (My husband’s ex-wife truly believed that if she were ever threatened with rape (in the big city they lived in), Jesus and a host of his angels would sweep in to protect her. How does that (really silly) belief differ from you believing that God and his environmental scientist-angels (if he has them) will sweep in and save the humans?

    • Walter on November 22, 2010 at 09:08


      That statement was for comparison. It is easier for me to enter into the supernatural realm (as my wife does for one hour per week) than to enter into the science based religions of nutrition and climate. These are entered into for 168 hours per week, not for one hour. I could easily attend Mass on a weekly basis. I could not work in nutrition or climate science at all.

      My wife thinks the oceans and that star at the center of our solar system have more influence than man or God. And she also loves the saturated fat I serve for dinner, ignoring those scientific/religious leaders sitting in government and university labs.

      I am simply looking for some consistency from people like Richard Dawkins.

  31. Paul C on November 22, 2010 at 08:27

    All this deep critical thinking is making me hungry.

    The most remarkable part of this discussion is the venue — a site shattering religiously held nutritional beliefs. Seems to me Richard you are asking everyone to closely inspect which beliefs are our beliefs, and which have been attached to us by guilt, fear, laziness, or authority. Many here appear to have already made that journey and I greatly respect that.

    • Richard Nikoley on November 22, 2010 at 18:09

      “a site shattering religiously held nutritional beliefs. Seems to me Richard you are asking everyone to closely inspect which beliefs are our beliefs, and which have been attached to us by guilt, fear, laziness, or authority.”

      Yep, it’s bigger than just a diet and exercise plan.

  32. Walter on November 22, 2010 at 09:44


    I forgot some important information. I sang in my wife’s church for two years, so I did attend weekly Mass, and several masses each around Easter and Christmas. I was the token unbelieving baritone.

    I think government sponsored religion through pseudoscience also deserves some emotional response from the Atheist community. However, I think I will have to wait a long time.

  33. Dave, RN on November 22, 2010 at 12:02

    A good read…

    “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell.

    The problem with Christianity is that it’s been messed up with “religion”. Take the that out and you have something good. Too many people believe in a “religion” and not God.

    Buildings, traditions, robes and stained glass are meaningless. God is more than all that stuff.

  34. Elenor on November 22, 2010 at 12:36

    @Walter: ” I could not work in nutrition or climate science at all. ”

    Why not?

  35. Walter on November 22, 2010 at 13:07


    I should have qualified this, stating nutrition or climate science as it has been performed in government and universities for the last two to four decades. It has to do with frightening the public about saturated fat and carbon dioxide.

    Many scientists who criticize the supernatural brands of religion are interestingly silent when it comes to secular religions.

  36. Charlotte on November 22, 2010 at 13:18

    Wow — great! It’s funny — I find parallels between how you feel about religious people (no longer “believe”, but sympathetic nonetheless) and how I feel about liberals (no longer consider myself “liberal”, but again, feel sympathy). Obsolete thought processes?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 22, 2010 at 18:30

      “Obsolete thought processes?”

      Well, the theme here is “Free the Animal” and that’s basically my stab at a metaphor for the lens of evolutionary logic. And the reason I tough on religious and political subjects from time to time is that such lens applies there as well.

      Rather than obsolete, I might say it’s merely getting back to a more natural mode of thinking, in all facets of the human experience.

  37. MarkD on November 22, 2010 at 13:31

    As an Englishman I am astounded at the passion in this discussion. Most of the Christians I know don’t seem to believe in Adam and Eve and lots of other Old Testament stories but don’t seem to see this as a conflict to their belief.

    Equally, the atheists that I know care no more about a discussion about religion and god than they do about a discussion about fairies living at the end of the garden.

    I guess that despite a common language, we are very different nations……


    • Joseph on November 22, 2010 at 14:36

      We Americans are still teetering on the chasm between nascent individualism and old religion that gave Europe Napoleon (and everything that came after him, good, bad, and ugly). In terms of ethical philosophy, we are still stuck in the Enlightenment, with one foot firmly planted in the Dark Age that preceded it (in which many of us still see bright spots, whether rightly or wrongly). We have not learned the lesson in futility that Europe did over two world wars: when things get ugly here, we still think we can fix them by putting ourselves in charge of the collective mess that is society and kicking someone’s butt (the poor, the rich, the fat, the gays, the Muslims, the atheists). Most of us labor under the illusion that government would still be perfect if only the right people (the good ones, the moral ones, the God-fearing ones) were in charge, failing to see that these people are as fallible as everyone else. Like all politicians, ours play Don Corleone, the humble family man who does what he has to do to protect family and friends while paying proper respect to God: the difference (in my opinion) is that more of us here believe in the charade, believe that our mafia boss is moral and upright, even if all other bosses are as corrupt as the whole mafia system. Here’s my attempt at a summation:

      When you make jokes about Gordon Brown or Silvio Berlusconi, Europeans (by and large) laugh (and the politicians join in). European politics are a lame joke whose punch line hurts everyone without offending anyone. (Obviously, I am generalizing: there are crazy Euros too, but having lived in both places I think we have more here.)

      When you make jokes about George Bush or Barack Obama, Americans (by and large) take umbrage– screaming accusations of racism or anti-Christianity, crying about the coming apocalypse, and generally throwing hissy fits. American politics are the province of God — serious nonsense that we really believe in (and you had better to, or we’re coming for you: don’t mess with Texas).

    • Helen on November 22, 2010 at 14:37

      That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you since the battle of Point Pleasant.

      • Helen on November 22, 2010 at 14:39

        p.s. My post was in reply to MarkD, btw.

  38. Jimmy Moore on November 22, 2010 at 16:06

    WOW, look at this Pandora’s box I helped open Richard! LOL! Happy to further the discussion at FTA. :)

  39. Richard Nikoley on November 22, 2010 at 17:53

    Hey all. Well, the snow up in the mountains took out the power lines last evening and so I’ve been incommunicado since. Just getting back in the loop. Probably will not have time to engage thoroughly as I otherwise might have, but I’ll be sure to at least read all of the 50 or so unread comments so far.


    • Jason on November 22, 2010 at 23:40

      Perhaps it was God who knocked the powerlines out oooooohhh lol. But seriously speaking though, here’s where I disagree with almost every commenter here. All of your arguments are quite rational. My question is, ‘am I ultimately a rational being’. Well, I am certainly not, nor are any of us, a totally rational being. What I mean by this is that it’s all well and good to point to outlandish biblical verses and laugh it all off as nonsense; but at the end of the day my life is more fun if I really believe I am immortal after death, my feelings when I take in a scene from nature or when I here a stirring song, are deeper and more profound when I see or think of these things as spiritual events i.e. ‘This song stirs my soul’ or ‘The Grand Canyon lightens my spirit’ as opposed to ‘cool song’ or ’tis view is causing a dopamine surge in my brain’. Perhaps this is simply a trick that I play on myself and my mind, that is something no one really knows or can prove; but this view/belief/ enriches the quality of my feelings and experiences by adding another layer to them; that is, by adding a ‘spiritual’ or a ‘beyond comprehension’ component which creates an increasing of the wonderment factor. The ‘Wow’ factor. The reality is that either there is or there isn’t a creator and either we are or aren’t souls connected to that eternal creator. No one can prove either side of that. But, lets assume that there is only the physical existence. In that case I would say that the belief in God/soul is the conscious expression of our subconscious motivating us to survive. After all, if there is nothing beyond the physical and we’re all just spinning here for 100 years or even 1,000 years and then one day the universe will cease to exist…, then what’s the point? In other words, with the spiritual there’s a point, a real ultimate point to things. Is that a rational proof of the spiritual? No. Is that a reason for an, at least partially, irrational Human to believe in ‘the undiscovered country of whose born no traveller returns’? In my opinion, yes. Oh, and thank you for all the wealth of health info on your blog, as well as on those blogs that you link to. I’m relatively pretty healthy anyways, but adding these paleo nutrition concepts seems to be correcting even the minor things, so thank you.

      • Dan Linehan on November 23, 2010 at 10:41

        A sense of awe at the majesty of life and nature doesn’t require religion or a belief in the supernatural, in my opinion.

        Have you ever researched the Quaker religion? Your belief system reminded me a lot of their philosophies.

      • Jason on November 23, 2010 at 14:37

        While I agree with your statement that natures awe inspiring ability doesn’t require a supernatural view, I would say that, at least fro me, it enhances the experience or adds an extra sense of mystery to it. Sort of like looking up at a clear night sky and seeing the beauty, versus looking up at that same sky and pondering whether there is intelligent life out there and the corresponding feeling with that. I don’t really have any Doxy. I don’t really know that I have a specific belief system, other than a general belief in something (and that we are part of something) beyond the physical. As to any specifics, I just accept that as physical beings there is no way for us to understand anything outside of our frame of experience. I don’t really know much about quakers other than they were leaders in abolitionist movement as well as women sufferage movement, but I’ll look into it. I pretty much enjoy reading any philosophy that is not suppressive of people and taking the good and wise stuff while throwing out the bad stuff.

      • Dan Linehan on November 23, 2010 at 18:45

        I’m not sure I would disagree with anything you’ve said here.

        One thing worth noting is that there is a distinction between atheistic and materialistic worldviews. While there certainly is some overlap, a disbelief in god or gods doesn’t necessarily lead to a disbelief in the idea that “there is more going on in life than we can observe.”

        For instance, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q_GQqUg6Ts

  40. JLL on November 23, 2010 at 00:52

    “– unless real science figures it out first, you’re going to die as people have done for millions of years and the very best thing you can do is to “mold the neuron-flux,” by which I mean: people will remember you. ”

    Not much of a consolence.

    I’m betting on the real science. Let’s hope that rejuvenation therapies will happen during our lifetimes, because happen they will, whether it’s 30 years from now or 300 years from now.

    But some people *are* going to be biologically immortal. To be so close but not quite make it there… now that’s a terrifying thought.

    • Jason on November 23, 2010 at 02:20

      ‘but some people are going to be biologically immortal’. You are mistaken in using the word ‘immortal’; rather, some people will live indefinitely. This is not a distinction without a difference; it is an infinite difference (pun intended). No one will ever be immortal, because even if they live to the end of the universe, the universe itself will eventually die and they will not outlive the universe. Now, you might say that this is ridiculous since living hundreds or thousands or millions of years is in essence immortality and the fact that it can’t go on for truly forever is irrelevant. Well, lets conduct a little thought experiment. On the day that Socrates was born, another baby was born. While Socrates was healthy, the other baby died after only a single second of life; in essence dying at childbirth. Socrates, If I’m not mistaken, died at 70 years old. Question: The day after Socrates died, what was the difference between Socrates and that baby born on the same day which died at childbirth; Answer: nothing. True Socrates words are preserved, but these are ink on a paper. He is just as gone as the baby. How does this tie in with my point? Lets continue – If this baby died at 1 second and Socrates at 70 years then Socrates lived (1s x 60 x 60 x 24 x 365 x 70) 2.165 Million times as long as the baby. So lets say that you and I end everyone reading this blog, God willing, lives 2.165 million times the average human lifespan and live to be about 200 million years old. Question: the day after the 200 million year old dies, what is the difference between him and the guy who dies at 70? Answer: nothing. Just like Socrates lived 2.2 million times longer then the baby, so too this person lives 2.2 million times the average person today. Yet just like Socrates is no different then that baby, so too will the 200 million year old be no different then the average person today. Like everyone else, I would love to live long. I’m just pointing out that since the universe will end, that there is no real forever, even in theory (that is even assuming you outlive the Solar System, The Galactic SuperNova, ….the universe itself ends in an entropic Big Chill); I’m making the point that at some point it ends, and at that point, no matter how long you’ve lived, you are no different then socrates or the baby or the average person who died recently and all those years become meaningless. So my point in the previous comment remains, without God/soul – a true eternity, is not all meaningless?; or better put, will not all be meaningless eventually? Whether rejuvenation therapies happen in 15, 30, or 300 years is immaterial, because from the true perspective of where it all ends up, it doesn’t really matter – Unless there is something after death and something of the being remains somehow. That is where the human need for God/spiritual comes from, and this is not changed no matter how long the life. All that said, it would still be pretty damn cool to live super duper crazy long.

    • Paul C on November 23, 2010 at 09:20

      We’ve seen what science has done to nutrition. Can’t wait to see how it defines what a proper immortal looks like.

  41. Sue on November 23, 2010 at 01:47

    Oh God! Hate the talk of religion! Others seem interested – lots of comments.

  42. PK on November 23, 2010 at 02:03

    Ironically, it was paleo that firmly cemented me in the athiest camp. For myself, I decided that I didn’t need to reconcile the two beliefs, that if neolithic eating was clearly so harmful, the cause of so much material poverty that Christianity supposedly strives to eliminate, and the waning of height and health, I either didn’t want to follow a god where that was ok, or better yet, just believe that one doesn’t exist at all.

    • Cheryl on November 23, 2010 at 06:44

      I had a similar experience except that I realized after I went Paleo that eating this way actually reinforces my pagan tendencies of having a reverence for the earth and her creatures. Unlike our Paleolithic ancestors I don’t attribute a consciousness behind the powers of nature, but I do understand the awe.

  43. Sonya on November 23, 2010 at 07:17

    [Ye] blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Mat 23:24

    These Christians all in a tizzy over whether or not paleo is the right way to eat are merely straining at gnats. Do they not have anything better to do? Nothing more important in their lives than trying desperately to please an invisible entity who claims that we are all imperfect and never can achieve perfection?

    Jesus reduced the whole Bible down to:

    Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

    “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. ” Matt 22:40

    That’s it – period – end of story. Any arguing over minutia and legalistic practices is really moot, no?

    Disclosure: I was raised Southern Baptist and then moved on to strain gnats for 10 years in a high demand religious group (aka cult) and now shun anything having to do with organized religion of any kind.

    I highly, highly recommend Elaine Pagel’s “The Origin of Satan” for those who still believe that the devil and the control paradigm in Christianity is of God and not man. And, especially for those who think that the Bible is holy and perfect.

  44. Adam on November 23, 2010 at 10:40

    I think it’s silly to base one’s life on a literal interpretation of a horribly translated version of a story, created by people, that was intended to be allegorical. If one properly understands that this is what the Bible really is, then there is no conflict. At most, the Bible should be used as a starting point for discussions of morality.

  45. Liisa on November 23, 2010 at 11:24

    Jimmy Moore is such a putz. Yeah, he offers a lot of information to the low carb community, but his demeanor, manner and immaturity put me off.

    In one of his podcasts, maybe from a year or two ago he was addressing the subject of factory farming and the abuse that animals go through and the fact that vegetarians and vegans use this as an argument for not eating meat.

    He posed the question to himself as if asked by maybe a vegetarian, spoke in a whiny fake voice, much as a 9 year old would do… as to how he could reconcile the torture some of these animals have to suffer through.

    His answer to this? In a laughing mocking tone he stated matter of factly, like we were all idiots for not knowing this already..

    Why animals are not saved by our lord and savior Jesus Christ!! They have no souls!! How stupid of these people!!

    I was done with Jimmy Moore from that point on, and no I am not Veg but I do think animals should be treated humanely. Turned off by this and also the fact that he is a fat, flabby dork who by looking at him would never make me want to eat low carb again if he is the poster child.

    One last thought. He used to go on and on about his cats he loves so much. I wonder if they were ever sick or dying he would like them to be put down in a humane way, or should the vet just grab em by there feet and knock their heads against a wall because they are not in with Jesus.

  46. Steve L on November 23, 2010 at 21:04

    I, like you Richard, was raised in a strict religious home (HRC). I was a teenager when I saw the light — or maybe stopped seeing it is more accurate. I suspect, as other commenters have suggested, that we are spiritual by nature. But certainly, there have always been one or two in most every group who didn’t see the visions or feel the bliss. They probably kept their mouths shut about it because they didn’t want to get thrown into a volcano or fed to komodo dragons or face whatever horrid fate awaited nonbelievers before Torquemada and other paragons of religious virtue gifted the world with thumb screws, water torture, the auto da fe, etc., etc. Ain’t it swell to live here and now — Western Civ-21st century — where one can publicly agree with Hitchens, that it’s all superstitious nonsense, and not be drawn and quartered or stoned (with actual stones, though I know it’s still done in places). And to celebrate that swellness with the Great American Feast. Happy Thanksgiving.

  47. michaelf on November 24, 2010 at 05:32


    I expected after the leadup to this post a real heavy handed bitch slap. You’re lead up actually gave me a little anxiety, silly I know. I’m one of your readers who also is a happy content churchgoer. You have put together a post that embodies some of the same complaints I have about the angry, bitter literalist. The Old Testament scripture you decided to post are actually some of my favorite stories from the bible. The comment about them being very Islamic-esque is a very accurate one. The church grew up, or out of something and although intact hymens would be nice, reality sure does tamp down on desire.

    I don’t know about you but I’ll be glad when we can get back to food porn and quit talking about this stuff. We’re quite surely not going to convince the other that the he is crazy, and I don’t mean that on a personal level, just across the spectrum of the movement. We worship ours and you worship yours and it just works.

    This prize fight is probably just going to wind up in the 12th round with a couple of bloody boobs swinging at crotches and knees, just useless to watch.

  48. Helen on November 25, 2010 at 10:12

    Interesting article, in the light of this discussion


  49. fanny on November 25, 2010 at 19:05

    There is another man in my life. His name is Jesus. And right now he is boning me silly.

  50. fanny on November 26, 2010 at 14:57

    better not to, but they don’t call him the savior for nothing, i was saved up one side and down the other ;)

  51. SLowe on November 28, 2010 at 06:38


    I’m sure you are done to death with this post. However, I wanted to say how much I enjoyed it and the lively debate that followed. I hope you will post your unconversion story one day.

    I seem to be on the road to unconversion from belief in any particular religion myself. I should probably stop here since I don’t have the time or the debate chops to risk posting here but I’m feeling brave. I don’t understand why a God with an agenda, which is what the bible seems to imply, would make the only source of material on the subject so vague. He’s God. Write the book in plain language so we can all understand it. Why didn’t he write several copies taking into account the way human languages would change over the centuries?

    Why doesn’t God talk to us anymore? I know some would say he does in all kinds of mystical ways. Well, that’s nonsense. If he exists, it would be the easiest thing in the world to tell us and get the point accross of exactly what he wants us to do. To do otherwise, and then condemn non-believers, is just cruel. He’s allowing us to fight and kill each other the world because we all have differant beliefs?

    These are just a few of my issues. I’m glad I can tell someone even if it’s just a stranger on the internet. My family and friends are not prepared for such a revelation.

    I teach Sunday school and am trying to think how to get out of it without revealing my reasons. I’m a coward I guess but I think time and people like you will give me strength.

    • Helen on November 28, 2010 at 09:17

      “I don’t understand why a God with an agenda, which is what the bible seems to imply, would make the only source of material on the subject so vague. He’s God. Write the book in plain language so we can all understand it.”
      Well, thats the whole point, you see…you aren’t SUPPOSED to understand it! Its kept vague so that those who spout that crap can’t be pinned down about anything. And not only that, the kind of religious language you are refering to is designed to disable your critical facualties…that’s why you don’t have debate chops, as you put it. It’s not your fault…they have been disabled by a lifetime(?) of religious indoctrination. I know because I was were you are now until about 20 years ago.
      If you want to begin to develop your critical skills, you might want to start reading Ayn Rand. I suggest that you start with “The Virtue of Selfishness” and follow your instincts from there. And do some internet research about cults, mind control, gurus and hypnosis. Another book that I simply cannot recommend highly enough is called “The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power” by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. Free your mind and your spirit.

      • SLowe on November 28, 2010 at 12:34


        Thank you for your input and reading suggestions. It has been a lifelong indoctrination (I’m 45 now). I remember sobbing every Sunday in church as a little girl because I was so worried about my grandmother’s soul. She was Catholic but in the church I was attending at the time, she might as well have been a devil worshipper. She was one of the best people that has ever lived and I was convinced she was going to burn in hell.

        A therapist once told me flat out that I was brainwashed. Then she suggested another religion!

        I happen to be re-reading Atlas Shrugged now. I read it for the first time when I was too young to fully absorb it. When I finish that I was thinking about reading some of Richard Dawkins works. I’m taking biology now, so you can see the connection. I’m going to add your recommendations to my queue as well as The Origin of Satan, which someone mentioned in a previous submission.

        Your response is one of the things I like about Richard’s site. You get all kinds of views but eveyone seems to be thinking about what they post rather than vomiting up someone else’s opinion.

  52. Richard Nikoley on November 28, 2010 at 13:28

    “Your response is one of the things I like about Richard’s site.  You get all kinds of views but eveyone seems to be thinking about what they post rather than vomiting up someone else’s opinion.”

    That is a very well placed, well deserved compliment, and I thank you and join in your praise of the awesome commenters, here.

    2/3 of my blogging job now is to figure out what will bring out wisdom from commenters. And apparently, I’ve been doing that job pretty well.

    Those who read only the posts are missing out on the best part.

  53. Christoph Dollis on December 11, 2010 at 02:30

    I really enjoyed this post, Richard. I agree with every word you said.

    Not very original, I know.

    Jimmy Moore is a very nice fellow so far as I can tell. If he’s got a bit of cognitive dissonance, that’s all right with me.

    A wise man once said something about a log and and a speck and an eye. I could complain about what I see as Jimmy’s blindness, or I could acknowledge the fact he’s living his life pretty awesomely, healthfully, helping tons of people, and I could use those parts of him as guidelines that I should friggin’ follow.

  54. Ishmael on December 11, 2010 at 21:41

    So wait. These people believe that it is unchristian to not eat bread? Is that what I just read?

    Anyway, I don’t “believe” in evolution. I’m not necessarily opposed to the concept, just feel that there is less than enough evidence to tout this theory around as “fact”. That is irrelevant to all of this though. The point is, human beings are built, by god or nature or the intelligent universe or whatever, to live in a certain specific environment, which had a certain specific diet. That is all that we need to understand.

    I have read more “esoteric” interpretations of the Bible, which frame this stuff as metaphor (which is how people traditionally always framed myth – literalism is a relatively new concept) which talk about the “fall” and exit from Eden as an analogy for man leaving nature to become a part of “civilization”. Makes a whole lot of sense that way, I reckon. Remember the first farmer was a literal goddamned murder.

  55. Joe Mama on December 12, 2010 at 08:52

    To Ishmael,

    Just how much “evidence” for evolution would convince you that you do not have to “believe” it to be true? The “fact” that species evolve is NOT in dispute by the researchers who spend their lives gathering the evidence that you feel is so lacking.

    So what makes you so skeptical? Please explain the lack of evidence.

    Have you spent your post-graduate years researching the concept that all species have inherited traits that will become more, or less, common as a response to changes in environment?

    Probably not, since you clearly “believe” that humans were “built” by “god or nature (yet not “natural” selection???) or the intelligent universe or whatever.”


    And that this “change” happens over a very long time, to which most of us have difficulty comprehending as it requires the concept of mutations, adaptations, climate, genetics, and a bunch of other stuff that many people think they know about, since the concept seems relatively simple, but in reality is much more complex than “survival of the fittest.” So much so, that even though they haven’t truly studied evolution, they feel qualified to declare a “lack of evidence,” yet “not necessarily opposed to the concept.”

    Bullshit…you ARE opposed to something you DON’T understand and are willing to accept a “metaphor” instead of the truth.

    Just grow the balls to state, “I don’t believe it because the Bible tells me so.”

    Simple, concise, and to the point.

    • Ishmael on December 12, 2010 at 11:28

      Ah yes. The old “anyone who doesn’t believe in exactly everything High Priest Dawkins says must be a Christian” argument. How original.

      No, my simple-minded friend, I am not a part of your dialectic.

      I am not, nor have a ever been, a member of the Christian religion.

      Or any other religion, for that matter.

      I should have said “macro evolution” (even though you already knew that’s what I was talking about), which is a very difficult thing to claim is a “fact”. We just don’t have significant evidence to make that kind of statement, and when people do, they make themselves look just as bad as the Christians running around claiming that the earth is 10,000 years old. Well, maybe not quite. But it is ultimately the same thing. You cannot state that something that is fundamentally untestable is a scientific fact. It is not that complicated.

      Anyway, I’m not going to violate web etiquette and post a link to my own site here, as I am not that much of a regular to expect Richard to tolerate such a thing, but if you click on my name, I’ve got a post about this a few posts down.

    • Chris Masterjohn on December 12, 2010 at 11:38

      Ultimately, science is about open-mindedly considering all possibilities, carefully testing hypotheses, and assigning probabilities to their likelihood of being true and their applicability to the world outside of the experimental conditions. It is also about questioning the results of others and attempting to replicate them, and about periodically reevaluating past results in the light of emerging knowledge.

      Science is not about guilting other people into believing something, or about insisting they must be foolish or incompetent if they don’t. Whether one is a creationist or evolutionist, doing this makes one neither scientific nor Christian but simply a bully.


      • Ishmael on December 12, 2010 at 12:45

        Well said, sir.

        It is difficult to ever say anything regarding some questions about evolution without being attacked, even if it doesn’t even really directly relate to the subject at hand. They always tend to say the same things. They become baffled when I tell them I’m not a Christian, and will generally just keep accusing me of it repeatedly, as they cannot grasp the concept of someone not being a part of this dialectic.

        Anyway, I am speaking specifically about the Hitchens/Dawkins fanboys who prowl the internet with this deranged evangelical fervor, attacking anyone and everyone who refuses to believe exactly what they do. The parallels between their behavior and the traditional methods of the Church they so rabidly oppose are uncanny. I realize that many atheists/evolution supports are not so closed-minded and dogmatic in their approach.

  56. Joe Mama on December 12, 2010 at 12:47

    Ishmael: “Ah yes. The old “anyone who doesn’t believe in exactly everything High Priest Dawkins says must be a Christian” argument.”

    Me: No, just unable to make the distinction between science and religion, especially when it comes to explaining the unknown. The “fact” that you’re making the distinction between “macro” and “micro” evolution suggests you’re taking the creationist stance and are possibly willing to misinterpret science or deny the facts.

    Ishmael: No, my simple-minded friend, I am not a part of your dialectic. I am not, nor have a ever been, a member of the Christian religion. Or any other religion, for that matter.

    Me: True, my complex-minded friend, you are not a part of my dialectic. From reading your posts, it seems as though both religion and science have philosophically failed you. From your site:

    “In conclusion, I can offer no conclusions. I honestly have no idea how the universe came into existence, what human beings are and what our relationship to the great mystery of the universe is. What I know is that all of the prevailing philosophies regarding these matters have completely failed to convince me of the concepts they are pushing. For now, I am perfectly comfortable not knowing where the universe came from, or how it was populated. I think honestly these are things which we will never be able to claim that we fully understand, no matter the extent to which science evolves.”

    Me: Perhaps a quote from the one who is prone to “feminine and childish emotional outbursts” (your site), Professor Dawkins, will give you a little inspiration to continue the search:

    “After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked — as I am surprisingly often — why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?”
    — Richard Dawkins

    Doncha feel better?

    I do.

    Ahhhhhh, science…

    • Chris Masterjohn on December 12, 2010 at 18:20

      Joe Mama wrote: “The ‘fact’ that you’re making the distinction between “macro” and
      “micro” evolution suggests you’re taking the creationist stance and
      are possibly willing to misinterpret science or deny the facts.”

      I’m fascinated to find out that my biology textbooks were written by
      creationists, and that my biology teachers were creationists.

      The only place I have ever seen the claim that there is no distinction
      between macroevolution and microevolution is in debates between
      evolutionists and creationists. The distinction is made within the
      scientific literature because the proposed mechanisms are very
      different. For example, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) could
      plausibly account for variations in beak length, but duplication of a
      gene controlling embryonic development of the spinal cord might be
      proposed to account for the development of the spine, because SNPs certain could not account for it.

      In its simplest definition, “evolution” might be “a change in the proportion of
      alleles within a population over time” but it is quite clear that this
      cannot account for the ultimate evolution of the human species from a
      postulated common ancestor we share with modern bacteria because (among many other reasons)
      humans and bacteria have a different number of genes. Thus, loss of
      genes and gain of new genes, not simply the change over time of allele
      frequencies for existing genes, would have to have occurred. Usually
      when people debate “evolution,” they are debating the hypothesis of
      “universal common descent,” not whether the proportion of alleles in a
      population changes over time.

      The first casualty of every war is truth.

      • Chris Masterjohn on December 12, 2010 at 20:29


        In evolutionary biology today, macroevolution is used to refer to any evolutionary change at or above the level of species. It means at least the splitting of a species into two (speciation, or cladogenesis, from the Greek meaning “the origin of a branch”, see Fig. 1) or the change of a species over time into another (anagenetic speciation, not nowadays generally accepted [note 1]). Any changes that occur at higher levels, such as the evolution of new families, phyla or genera, are also therefore macroevolution, but the term is not restricted to those higher levels. It often also means long-term trends or biases in evolution of higher taxonomic levels.

        Microevolution refers to any evolutionary change below the level of species, and refers to changes in the frequency within a population or a species of its alleles (alternative genes) and their effects on the form, or phenotype, of organisms that make up that population or species. It can also apply to changes within species that are not genetic.

      • Joe Mama on December 12, 2010 at 21:45

        Me: And the distinction between macro and micro evolution does not invalidate the theory. Therefore, it makes no sense to distinguish between the two when refuting evolution…unless you are a creationist. Biologists may argue the difference, but they are not stating they don’t “believe” in evolution because there is no evidence.

        I would also argue that when people “debate” evolution, they are ultimately disputing something evolution is not — abiogenesis – which then leads to criticism of “the big bang” and anything else that doesn’t need a “creator.”

        As more evidence of evolutionary change is gathered, creationists have demanded more and more evidence, and when failing, resort to statements such as, “How can you be sure ____ happened if you weren’t there?” – weak, very weak.

        Chris: “In its simplest definition, “evolution” might be “a change in the proportion of
        alleles within a population over time” but it is quite clear that this
        cannot account for the ultimate evolution of the human species from a
        postulated common ancestor we share with modern bacteria because (among many other reasons)
        humans and bacteria have a different number of genes.”

        Me: I believe Douglas Theobald has shown the probability of Universal Common Ancestry (UCA) as the most likely when compared to a multiple ancestry hypothesis to be 1 in 10 to the 2,680th power, and the likelihood that humans were created separately to be 1 in 10 to the 6,000th power. Of course, the possiblity that some other explantion exists, but the probability is just too small to consider.

        Chris: “The first casualty of every war is truth.”

        Me: And the first casualty of the evolution vs. creationism debate is the definition of evolution.

      • Chris Masterjohn on December 12, 2010 at 22:48


        I think if you look at my comments, you will see that I never argued that the distinction invalidated the theory. Nor did I argue that most biologists do not believe in evolution. Rather, I argued that evolutionists make the distinction. Thus, making the distinction does not make one a creationist.

        I don’t know who these “people” are or what on earth this discussion has to do with abiogenesis or the big bang. I don’t think Ishmael said anything about either of those topics. I certainly did not bring them up. And I did not comment on the likelihood of universal/non-universal common descent.


      • Ishmael on December 12, 2010 at 23:50

        The article I wrote, which he quotes, is about atheism. I do mention the concepts of abiogenesis and the Big Bang (I feel there is also far too much hubris involved in modern cosmology) therein, in the context of the belief system of many self-identifying atheists, who follow the doctrine of Hitchens/Dawkins, as they do tend to mix all of this stuff together. I frame this in the context of the elite establishment having continually altered the belief systems of humans in order to further specific agendas. Atheism, in its dogmatic, hardline form, is system of belief being marketed to the world by the institutions of power, in the same way that religion has been throughout time.

        However, it is not what we are discussing here. My sole point is that I don’t know if all species share a common ancestor or not, but I do not feel there is significant evidence to classify such a belief as “fact”. In actuality, I don’t think such a thing could ever by classified as fact, in the scientific sense, as it is untestable. I feel that the integrity of scientific pursuits is disregarded when people make such claims.

        I also find that trying to make statistical claims about the probability of something such as universal common ancestry is complete folly. The problem, as I see it, is the lack of an ability to accept that there are aspects of reality that will always remain ambiguous.

      • Ishmael on December 13, 2010 at 00:21

        As a side, I think it is worth comparing this rabid evangelistic fervor of Darwinist extremists to the present “global warming” situation. Though the global warming thing as a little bit more extreme, as the ice core samples have proven the theory of man-made global warming to be utterly and unarguably false, this theme of “it is a fact because science” is common to both issues.

      • Chris Masterjohn on December 13, 2010 at 02:44

        Hi Ishmael,

        Thanks for clarifying. I don’t think Joe was referring to your article when he said “I would also argue that when people ‘debate’ evolution, they are ultimately disputing something evolution is not — abiogenesis – which then leads to criticism of ‘the big bang’ and anything else that doesn’t need a ‘creator.'” If you do criticize abiogenesis in your article, that supports my initial presumption that you know the difference between macroevolution and abiogenesis, which I had little evidence for but is part of my unfalsifiable “give someone the benefit of the doubt” theory. Thanks for your comments; I think it’s generally helpful to have a diversity of views on something, so long as each side is represented fairly and the evidence is evaluated honestly. I have not looked at your site, but if that’s what you do, thanks.


      • Joe Mama on December 13, 2010 at 04:19

        Chris: “but it is quite clear that this cannot account for the ultimate evolution of the human species from a postulated common ancestor we share with modern bacteria”

        Chris: “And I did not comment on the likelihood of universal/non-universal common descent.”

        Me: What? You stated that evolution could not account for a common ancestor with modern bacteria, which is why I offered Douglas Theobald’s findings. Here is the link to the abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20463738

        Chris: “Rather, I argued that evolutionists make the distinction. Thus, making the distinction does not make one a creationist.”

        Me: And as I stated, biologists argue the mechanisms of evolution, not the lack of evidence for the theory. Creationists, however, tend to use the distinction between micro and macro evolution as evidence of a flawed theory.

        From the talkorigins faq you linked to:

        Antievolutionists argue against macroevolution so loudly that some people think they invented the term in order to dismiss evolution. But this is not true; scientists not only use the terms, they have an elaborate set of models and ideas about it, which of course antievolutionists gloss over or treat as being somehow problems for evolutionary biology.

        A later version will add a section on how creationists “move the goalposts” when confronted with undeniable evidence of macroevolution, but for now see the sister FAQ of Douglas Theobald.

      • Chris Masterjohn on December 13, 2010 at 04:39


        I think you substantially misread me. I did not say that “evolution could not account for a common ancestor with modern bacteria.” I said that variations in the proportions of alleles over time could not account for this difference, because much of the difference is due to having different genes and different numbers of genes. Thus, additional mechanisms beyond single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and variation in the proportion of SNPs at given genetic loci must be postulated in order to account for the difference. Such additional mechanisms appropriately fall into the scope of “macroevolution.” By designating them as macroevolution, I am not attempt to discredit them.

        Your quotes from talkorigins.org support my original point, that evolutionists use the terms microevolution and macroevolution, so I think we are in agreement. The reason I brought this point up is because you had initially written the following to Ishmael:

        The “fact” that you’re making the distinction between “macro” and “micro” evolution suggests you’re taking the creationist stance and are possibly willing to misinterpret science or deny the facts.

        You and I have since agreed that there is nothing creationist about the distinction between micro and macroevolution. I presume, then, that we are in agreement that making this distinction also does not indicate a possible willingness “to misinterpret science or deny the facts.”

        If so, then I am satisfied with this discussion. If not, I remain confused.


  57. Chris Masterjohn on December 12, 2010 at 20:37

    Just another quick note, while I’m letting one of my reagents thaw (sigh, in lab late tonight).

    Talkorigins.org defines macroevolution as including speciation. When I took Biology 2 (about 4 years ago), we defined macroevolution as evolution at the level of kingdom, phylum and class. This is a much narrower use of the term than that defined by talkorigins.org.

    We considered the following to be mechanisms most relevant to microevolution: natural and sexual selection, genetic drift (sampling error, founder effect, bottlenecks), gene flow, inbreeding. Mutation was considered a source but too rare to be a major contributor.

    We considered the following to be mechanisms most relevant to macroevolution: preadaptation, paedomorphosis, duplication or other changes in homeotic genes, mass extinctions, novel adaptations leading to adaptive radiations, symbiosis.

    We discussed speciation and its mechanisms independently.


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