Date: Sunday, 05 May 2013 20:25
"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler Still the most nail-head-hitting definition of feminism I know. The surname, if any, to be entered in respect of a legitimate child shall ordinarily be the surname, if any, of the father.
I see this cultural assent of women's inferiority all the time, particularly now that we are expecting. The first thing anyone always ask after finding out that my wife is pregnant is, "Is it a boy or a girl?" We get very hearty congratulations when we tell them that it's a male child. When I share the fact that my wife and I were playfully expecting a girl before we found out, they always ask me why - and not in a curious way either but more in a surprised fashion, as if it is unthinkable why anyone would prefer girls over the clearly superior boys. Last week, one of the medical officers I worked with brought his 3-day-old kid to the nursery for phototherapy because of neonatal jaundice, and I struck up a conversation with him about being new fathers. As expected, he congratulated me for producing a male heir, and when I talked about wanting to have a girl initially and that my wife actually sewed a dress, he asked "Wouldn't you want to get a boy first, and then try for a girl later?"
When I told him that we only want one kid, he asked, incredulous, "You wanted your only child to be a girl?" Mind you that this came from a modern medical doctor, not some peasant from the Tang dynasty.
So women of Malaysia, how do you feel about being considered as being inferior to men before you are even born?
Recently, I attended to the Caesarean birth of a baby by an Indonesian woman who married a Malaysian. She had to undergo a Caesarean section because we deemed that her previous Caesarean scar, done less than one year ago, had not healed sufficiently to attempt safe natural birth (or "trial of scar" as we termed it). I did the maths and realised that she conceived just 2 months after her last child was born. Then, we found out that she did not use any contraceptives because her husband forbade her to use any while he refused to use condoms himself. That makes no sense. When we pressed her for the reason, she said it is because her husband wanted a boy as soon as possible, as their first child was a girl.
We generally counsel women to space their pregnancies two years apart, particularly if there is a previous scar that can rupture and kill them with blood loss during subsequent labour. We counselled this woman and her husband previously, so he knew full well he was wagering his wife's life. The last I heard of her (as I was not her primary physician), she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit for severe postpartum haemorrhage.
But congratu-fucking-lations, he got what he wanted; a teeny tiny baby wang between his second child's legs. The wife's health and safety was clearly secondary to this goal because after all, that's what women are good for, aren't they? Means to an end.
So no, the fight for gender equality is far from over. There are still battles to be fought in the hearts of all Malaysians. There are still unbroken shackles in our minds, legacies of our barbaric ancestry. This is completely arbitrary and personal, but the day I lay down arms is when half of all children born in our country can expect to be named after their mothers, and they will bear their names without any shame.
Date: Tuesday, 09 Apr 2013 03:13
"We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth." Lilith to Adam from The Alphabet of Jesus ben Sirach While God created Adam, who was alone, He said, 'It is not good for man to be alone'. He also created a woman, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, 'I will not lie below,' and he said, 'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.' Lilith responded, 'We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.' But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: 'Sovereign of the universe!' he said, 'the woman you gave me has run away.'
Lilith was literally demonised in the subsequent parts of the story in Ben Sirach where she was described as a mother of demons who brings sickness to infants and God himself cursed one hundred of her children to die each day - all because she refused Adam's claim to superiority and ditched him because his fragile manhood is threatened when he's not on top when they mash genitals. For centuries this tale served as a cautionary tale for uppity women and warns them of the consequences of disobeying the perpetually insecure patriarchy. Lilith is the archetypal evil feminist and ex-wife.
Date: Saturday, 06 Apr 2013 18:29
"Everything grows rounder and wider and weirder, and I sit here in the middle of it all and wonder who in the world you will turn out to be." Carrie Fisher
"We made a human being. We made a person," I said to my wife. I am in a state of wonder at the sheer unlikelihood of it all. Our kid made it. I may not know very much about him yet, but I do know that he came from a 3.6 billion years long unbroken chain of life stretching all the way back to the very first ancient cell on primeval Earth. The mitochondria that sustain him, strewn uncountably like stars through the cosmos of his body, are heirlooms from his mother's side - from his greatest and grandest of mothers living more than 1.6 billion years ago. The Y-chromosome he carries in the centre of each and every one of his cells were bequeathed to him, handed down from father to son, by a continuous line of fathers representing more than 160 million years of legacy. He is the distillation of life itself, and - dare I suggest - its meaning. He was born from my love for Cheryl and her love for me, and it is a love that echoes from the past and whispers into the future. I believe that a child is the closest thing two person in love could ever get to become one. That is a scientific fact. Hereafter, every child that is born after us into perpetuity is proof and testament that for a single brilliant moment that belongs to us in the timeline of eternity, there was love and it lives on still.
And this is what makes our baby a real miracle.
Date: Saturday, 06 Apr 2013 18:21
"Seems to me the basic conflict between men and women, sexually, is that men are like firemen. To men, sex is an emergency, and no matter what we're doing we can be ready in two minutes. Women, on the other hand, are like fire. They're very exciting, but the conditions have to be exactly right for it to occur." Jerry Seinfeld
"Yes, in the hospital. Evacuating patients. LOL." I didn't add that. She really did say LOL.
And just in case you are interested, the utility shaft runs from here,
Date: Thursday, 04 Apr 2013 20:07
"Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat." Latin legal expression And it says, "The burden of proof lies with who declares, not who denies." "I'm just curious about what made you embrace atheism as your worldview. Was it because you found no evidence for Theism? Or was it because you found atheism more plausible? Hope you don't mind me asking." "You seem to be stressing that your atheistic-agnostic worldview doesn't need to have positive arguments because by definition it is a default position. I don't think I will concede that, Dr. Kok. To me, atheism (and agnosticism) is a worldview that claims to be exclusively true while holding every other worldview to be false (kindly correct me if I'm wrong). However, as you put it, it doesn't need to make a positive argument. That is a poor philosophical assumption. Let me ask you a simple question, how do you know atheism (or agnosticism) is true? Is it because all other worldviews are false? I mentioned in my last debate that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is possible to disprove the existence of fairies from a Christian Theistic perspective. Two steps needed:
1. I need to give evidence (positive arguments) for Christian Theism.
2. I need to demonstrate why fairies are incompatible with Christian Theism.
Ergo: It would logically follow that fairies do not exist. If fairy-advocates wish to justify their position, they need to demonstrate that CT is false and then erect positive arguments for the existence of fairies. I cannot just sit back and tell people that just because fairy-proponents are unable to provide sufficient evidence that they are therefore false. It would be absolutely arrogant to do so."
There is a relationship between being Christian and the susceptibility of catching HIV. There is NO relationship between being Christian and the susceptibility of catching HIV. God exists. God does not exist. "You are right about one thing - that namely we are innocent until positive proof of guilt can be found. Atheism claims that all worldviews are guilty of falsehood and yet promptly denies the responsibility of providing positive arguments in its favor. I guess that's supposed to be a logical proposition to you. Anyhow I want to suspend this conversation with you because I think when intelligent arguments fails and name-calling emerges there can be no decent outcome. Thank you though for engaging in dialogue."
Remember, I never said "There is no God." I am always asking, "Where is the proof of God."
Incidentally, this is also what we call building a strawman, and if you can picture a man made out of straw, you'd see it as something that superficially resembles a man (but isn't one) which is flimsy and could easily be knocked down. Likewise, the Apologist's description of atheism is one that only superficially resembles atheism (but isn't), so he gives the appearance of having refuted my argument, while slyly avoiding the substance of my argument. However, I am too experienced in spotting logical fallacies to let this one slip by me.
|You have to wake up way earlier than that to sneak one past me.|"And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?"
Date: Monday, 18 Mar 2013 01:18
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Frederick Douglass
Now, at the time of writing this, the child is waiting for a representative of the child protective services to review his case and presumably, ensure that the kid gets taken care of one way or another. Anyway, I wanted to tell this story because of two reasons. The first is because it's an amazing coincidence, and that is always worth telling. The second is because I need to remember what having a child means. It means being responsible for the life, happiness and ultimate destiny of a helpless little individual that needs you to always do the right thing. And I want to.
Date: Friday, 08 Mar 2013 13:03
"It's a question of discipline," the little prince told me later on. "When you've finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet."The Little Prince (1943) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I am not dead yet.
To bring everyone up to the breakneck speed by which I am moving, I am now married, expecting my firstborn's arrival and looking to relocate to Penang (where my wife had bought our first home) before the end of 2013. If you tell me in the beginning of 2012 that this is what my life would be like after just one year, I would sooner believe in the existence of God than believe you. I thought I would never be married. I was sure I wouldn't have a kid. Now, I did both those things earlier than any of my you-will-eat-your-words friends have.
I apologise for being away for so very long but I doubt there is any of you left to apologise to.
Marriage, as I have always suspected, is a very complicated and difficult thing. I have been humbled and no longer thinks that it is merely just a romantic relationship plus certification - it is not "just a piece of paper" as I have often called it dismissively. It is, to some degree, the extinction of the self. Never before in all my previous relationships do I feel the urgent need to think in terms of "us" instead of "me me me" as per my normal, pre-matrimonial self. Every decision I make now affects two - no, three lives (or twenty one, if you count our two cats). I can no longer just live in the moment but instead, somewhere south of at least twenty years into the future. Being the egocentric selfish jerk that I am accustomed to being all my life, this is not at all an easy transformation.
Being married also made me realise that I am in no way an adult just because I graduated, started practicing as a doctor and became financially independent. I am still learning to wrestle with adult responsibilities like car insurance, taxes, investments and housing loans; stuff which my wife is way more capable at dealing than I am. It is sobering to realise that no matter how intelligent or smart I am, I would probably not do very well without her help in handling all these earthier but ultimately more essential concerns. Being married to an adolescent so out of touch with reality must be terrifying for her. She likes to call it my "bubble" of idealism and ignorance - I have an idea of how the world should work and that idea somehow repels reality. I like to think of it as a forcefield of denial. For her sake (and our kid's and cats' sakes), I must deny it no further.
She is the first woman I have met who makes me want to be a better man.
This is why I was gone for so long. I had a lot of growing up to do. After all, I got to be adult enough in time to be a father.
k0k s3n w4i
k0k s3n w4i
Date: Tuesday, 25 Dec 2012 20:46
"Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them."Dion Boucicault
I just thought of something pretty neat.
Now, our brains are poorly wired to understand the concept of time, and we often associate the "flow" of time with Euclidean vectors and shapes. We then break time into discrete absolute units like years and then break those years into days, hours, minutes and seconds - but if Einstein's anyone to go by (and you can bet he is), time is a relative creature.
Most people in the world visualise the hours of a day (or rather, a half day) with a clockwise cyclical circle. This is most certainly a conditioned mental image because most of us grew up telling time using an analogue clock. So if I am to make an educated guess, I'd say that a person who grew up without ever seeing that iconic 12-hour face would see a wholly different shape of his day in his head. If I ever produce a kid, I'd try teaching him to tell the time using sundials and see how his mind's eye perceive the daily hours - among other messed-up, nurture-type psych experiments I've thought up over the years. This is also why I shouldn't be allowed to procreate.
Then, there are time units which are much less ubiquitously and graphically represented and thus, would figure very differently in different individuals. Take the 7-day week, for example. This is how I see the week in my mind,
I consider Monday the first day of the week. The weekdays are arranged in a horizontal row from left to right, bowing slightly upwards. My Saturday and Sunday are "situated" below them, swinging from right to left in the curve of a smile. It's a bit like a semicircle, looping back again and again on itself.
The girlfriend sees her entire week in a straight horizontal line running from Monday to Sunday which rewinds back to the start of every new week.
Let's scale it up to a month, shall we? Phoebs' month has its days arranged in rows of seven. The days in each row runs from left to right and subsequent rows are placed below the preceding ones. The leftover days of every month (except non-leap year Februaries) would form the fifth and final row. It's essentially how a calendar page is configured.
Me? This is how my month looks like,
I visualise the progression from one month to the next as a "step" up from left to right, with the previous month vaporising away as soon as the transition is complete. I also break every month into two parts: the first 19 days being one bit and all the remaining days being the second. There's also a "step" to climb between day 19 and day 20. Do not ask me why I think this way because I haven't a fucking clue. It just feels right.
Anyway, when I zoom out to the scale of a year, the stepladder effect disappears and I get a smooth, flat line heading eastward,
My vision of time itself is also a left-to-right horizontal line. I fancy that this is probably the influence of how historical and scientific timelines are traditionally depicted. Unlike mine, Phoebs' year is oriented vertically from up to down. And she envisions the concept of time as going forward, with the past positioned behind her. Her predilection might have been persuaded by the English language (the tongue she thinks in) which does in fact assign such arbitrary prepositions to the the past and future.
And I've even heard of a guy who sees the months of a year as points on an analemma. What a nerd.
I don't know about you but I find this to be fascinating stuff. All my life, it never occurred to me until now that all of us perceive time in different fashions. Knowing how someone would process time feels a bit like taking a tiny glimpse into how his or her mind operates. It might not be terribly informative, I know, but it's still pretty damn cool.
So how do you see time? Describe your week, month or year here. Enquiring minds want to know!
P.S. One of the tags for this post is "Phoebe Days". This is the first time it's meant so literally.
A step from December,
k0k s3n w4i
Date: Tuesday, 25 Dec 2012 20:45
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis
As I was swotting on Sunday night at the 24-hours McDonald's for Monday's Psychiatry paper, I got a bit of a jolt from the notes. In the section about personality disorders, there was a description of one that read like 20 seconds summary of my personal psyche. Damn, I have actually heard friends of mine describe me this way to other people about me using the exactly same words!
"Hey, this one really sounds like me," I said to some of my friends, who was there with me that night. I remember when I started out doing that - studying in McD's - I was pretty much alone. Now it had become the in-thing to do, apparently.
Lai Yin, who was also there at the time said, "Yeah, I thought of you too when I first read that! I memorise the personality disorders using our some of our batchmates as examples for each. That was yours."
Okay, if the smartest girl in class uses me as a mnemonic device for it, I thought, that pretty much clinches it, right?
I think I have Schizoid Personality Disorder.
According to the ICD-10 (id est, the 10th edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems manual), I have to fulfill 3 of the following criteria in order to qualify for a diagnosis,
- Emotional coldness, detachment or reduced affection (I pretty much embody this when it comes to family members).
- Limited capacity to express either positive or negative emotions towards others.
- Consistent preference for solitary activities (I love reading and spending ALL my waking hours on the internet - with very little use of any social or networking tools - and prefer to eat and watch movies at the theatre alone).
- Very few, if any, close friends or relationships, and a lack of desire for such (I have a girlfriend, one genuinely close friend aaand... shit, that's it).
- Indifference to either praise or criticism.
- Taking pleasure in few, if any, activities.
- Indifference to social norms and conventions (So much so that I go out of my way to defy them repeatedly - I've been called a contrarian because of that).
- Preoccupation with fantasy and introspection (Too easy... Next!).
- Lack of desire for sexual experiences with another person (Alright, before anyone says anything, I like sex, alright... I just don't like it as much as, um, some other things).
Now, according to the DSM-IV (the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which I feel to be the more authoritative text on such matters, I need to fulfill 4 out of 7 similar-sounding criteria which are worded slightly differently from those in the ICD-10. I score a five, and I think I fit them better than I did with the ICD-10 ones. To avoid the personality quiz fallacy, I took pains to research the specific meanings behind those criteria. So yeah; I wasn't cheating or anything.
Other scoring systems I've managed to dug up on the disorder also include stuff like avoidance of competitive relationships, over-sensitivity, eccentricity, tendency to daydream, introversion, in possession of a sense of superiority (in spades, according to Phoebe), and self-sufficiency (a Christian actually accused me once of being so deluded by my self-sufficiency that I am unable to surrender to God). I got all of 'em.
It's official: I'm schizoid. And I'm okay with it.
Coincidentally, I also read that a diagnosed schizoid will not give a fuck if other people see him or her as having a mental disorder. Funny.
Anyway, according to Disorders of the Self by James F. Masterton and Ralph Klein, I'm more correctly classified as a "secret schizoid" - which does not mean I'm hiding it from anyone, no. It just says that I may appear social or engaged superficially, but in actuality, remain aloof and emotionally distant. Influential and famous dead psychoanalyst Ronald Fairbairn (1889-1964) said that the schizoid individual is able to express quite a lot of feeling and to make what appear to be impressive social contacts but in reality giving nothing and losing nothing, because since he is only playing a part. This cuts eerily close to something one of my ex-girlfriends said about me once.
Also, for a long time now, I kept saying "I think I work best in a long distance relationship," over and over again without knowing why, and have thought at length about how odd that is. Philip Manfield, in his book Split Self/Split Object, affirms that in my case. He said that people who have schizoid personality disorder are happiest when they are in a relationship in which the partner places few emotional or intimate demands on them, as it is not people as such that they want to avoid, but both negative and positive emotions, emotional intimacy, and self disclosure.
Most importantly, this helps to explain why my previous relationship was such a catastrophic train-wreck. You'd be hard-pressed to find an uglier breakup than that.
Then regarding the schizoid profile on sexuality... let's just say that it hits very close to home. Some of my... "proclivities" have been troubling me a bloody lot. And no, I don't I want to reveal what they are on a publicly accessible online journal, thank you very much. Don't bother trying to read about it because there are more than one sexual spectrum ascribed to the schizoid personality, and I only fit one of them (though I fit it very, very much). Unless I've confided into you about this before, there's no way you can possibly guess which one it is.
Anyway, I've got to wrap this up now even though I would very much like to continue oh-my-goshing over several more of my revelations regarding my personality. Maybe some other time, eh. I have to go get Phoebe from KL tomorrow (YES, SHE'S BACK!) and bring her down to Malacca for a 3-day-stay. The entire year through, everywhere I go, I have been mentally scouting out potential dating loci I want to bring Phoebe to in my town - it's like, I could be sitting in a cafe or walking down a nice street and suddenly think, "I wish Phoebs can be here." Three days aren't a lot, I know, but it's all we have to spend together this entire 6 months. I'm going to make each second count.
Good night, people-with-regular-personalities.
k0k s3n w4i
Date: Friday, 26 Oct 2012 12:32
"And I'm gonna ride this feeling as far as it goes I'm gonna ride this feeling I don't know, I don't know Whether I'm flying or falling But I'm gonna ride this feeling" Ride This Feeling (2012) by Kate Miller-Heidke
Date: Monday, 01 Oct 2012 23:42
"I'm sorry I have to say it but you look like you're sad Your smile is gone; I've noticed it bad The cure is if you let in just a little more love I promise you this, a little's enough" A Little's Enough (2006) by Angels & Airwaves
Date: Friday, 28 Sep 2012 19:44
"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Steven Weinberg
So, I went home, trawled the internet for everything I can find on aDNA and discovered that Dr K's claim that dinosaur DNA had been recovered from fossils is a lie. The closest science papers I can find relating to the subject is Schweitzer et al's discovery of soft tissue preservation in a fossilised bit of a T. rex, supposedly gender-specific tissue that supports the relatedness of dinosaurs to birds, and sequenced proteins from mammoth and T. rex fossils - but no DNA. Previous claims of dinosaur DNA retrieval could not be replicated and were most likely contaminations. When researching Dr K's ancient bacteria resurrection claim, I got an even better insight into his mental processes. The original paper by Kaçar and Gaucher described how they spliced a 500 million year old gene (Elongation Factor Tu, or EF Tu) into a modern E. coli's genome, and the ancient gene was actually was actually reconstructed via phylogenetic analysis, rather than something they found in a glacier somewhere. Dr K likely got his information from second hand sources with a creationist bias, probab'y misinterpreted by overzealous non-scientists and mangled by hearsay. This is why one should always read science, and not read about science.
"No, there was a layer of water in the sky," he answered.
"Jesus: I am the way. Jesus, ah! I admit my sins. Thank you for your holy blood which cleanses my sins. Please bless me. Amen."
"I asked him if he would give himself freely into the arms Jesus," he told me. "The boy nodded yes, and I prayed with him."
I saw it and recognised that it's the same mad certitude in the smile of a Muslim terrorist when he flew a passenger plane full of innocent men, women and children into a skyscraper filled with even more innocent men, women and children, believing in his dying breath that he did what his deity wanted him to do. The true face of evil does not look into a mirror and see evil reflected within, but see instead the face of a saint, a martyr, the proverbial man of God. Dr K had succeeded in convincing me that I would never ever want anything to do with faith or his Jesus Motherfucking Christ.
k0k s3n w4i
Date: Monday, 17 Sep 2012 23:40
"I treated the Bible not as the word of God. I treated the Bible as a historical book, not just claiming that everything it says is accurate - although I do believe it." Samuel Nesan, Supervising Manager and Debate/Dialogue Representative of the Young Apologist group
Me? I just had to round up fifty atheists and get them to go to a... church. Yeah.
Opening statements from Sam and then Willie. Here they lay out their arguments. Rebuttals from Sam, followed by Willie's. Here they poop on each other's arguments. Cross examination, where they asks each other questions to clarify or to obfuscate each others' positions. Response segment, where they "respond" to the cross-examination they received, after they have already answered the questions during the cross examination itself. Yeah, I don't get this either. Summaries from Sam. Willie got the last word. The Q&A round, where written questions from the audience were collected and vetted by representatives from either side of the debate. I was the guy from our side, and I chose questions which were coherent and those which brought up issues not addressed within the debate proper. Argument from (Messianic) Prophecies: God as described by the Bible is real because it made predictions about the coming of Jesus; prophecies which are later corroborated within the same book.
This is circular reasoning because you are using the Bible to prove the Bible to be true. There is also a major unstated premise built within it assuming the Bible to be a reliable record of such prophecies and their subsequent alleged fruition without providing any proof or evidence in support of that premise, therefore begging the question. This is the same book that talks about talking snakes and a guy who can turn water into wine, mind you. If it's published today, you'd ask if J. K. Rowling wrote it.
Argument from the Limits of Science: God is spirit and exists outside of space and time, so science can't be used to investigate the claims of God's existence.
This is not so much an argument for the existence of God as it is saying you can't prove he doesn't. This is true. But then again, science can't prove the existence or non-existence of anything if you claim it lies outside of the material world. I can tell you that Batman exists but he lies outside of space-time too - does it automatically make his existence more plausible? Nope. This is also an example of Samuel trying to have his cake and eat it too as Christians also claims that their God physically flooded the whole damn world at some point. You'd think that that would leave a lot of indisputable evidence but modern geology have completely ruled out all possibilities of a global flood. And if you have trouble understanding geology, ask yourself this: how did the koalas and kangaroos knew they were suppose to live only in Australia - and no where else - after they disembarked from the ark? Why did all the polar bears go north while all the penguins go south? And if we can't find evidence for one of the most awesome of God's physical miracles in our material world (but instead find evidence against the events described within the Bible), then we must be honest and admit that the Bible is not a completely factual document and this should throw all of claims of Jesus' alleged miracles into the same sceptical light (to go back to Sam's first argument and kick it between the legs).
Argument from Experientialism: I feel God is real.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Okay. Willie's response to this is eloquent and elegant - or at least it would be eloquent and elegant if he actually finished his point before his time ran out during his turn to rebut so I'll reproduce it here. He told a story about how he, after watching a horror flick like Paranormal Activity, would be afraid of the dark and would feel a presence behind him when he's in bed. Does it mean that there was really a ghost or spirit behind him just because he felt it there? And why did the spook only started haunting him after he just saw a scary movie? Likewise, when a Christian says he or she feels God presence or love, does it mean that this God they describe necessarily exist? And why do they only have this feelings after reading the Bible? What about people who don't feel Jesus but feels the spirit of another deity from another religion instead? What about people like me who feels that God doesn't exist?
Argument from You-Can-Feel-God-Too: If you are truly sincere in accepting him into your heart!
When I was in med school, I went to church for a bit. I read the Bible and tried inviting Jesus into my life sincerely as advised by my Christian friends. I felt nothing. Okay, that's not strictly true because I felt stupid doing that. So, if Samuel can use his experience as evidence, I can too.
According to Genesis 3:1-24, man had fallen and therefore cannot see God even if he's in front of our eyes.
Yeap, this is a prime specimen of argument from scripture. This is only a valid argument if you can prove that the scripture you are referencing to be a reliable source of information which, as the Flood story showed, it is not. Can Samuel show us evidence that the events described in Genesis 3 really happened? Show us one talking snake, will you?
I can't believe we have to argue that there's no such things as talking snakes to grownups.
Hell is just a place of eternal separation from God, not really a hellish torture chamber as depicted in medieval arts.
Revelations 21:8 describes hell as a "lake which burneth with fire and brimstone". Matthew 13:49-50 says hell is "the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth". Revelations 14:11 claims people who have rejected Christ would be "tormented with fire and brimstone" and that "the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night". I don't know about you but hell sure doesn't sound like a day at the spa to me.
The universe is unimaginably vast and old even though he only needed one planet and a few thousand years for his purpose because God is fucking powerful and he can do whatever weird thing he wants that makes no sense.
This is basically the "God works in mysterious ways" gambit.
God does not break the laws of physics but intervenes through the laws of physics.
Matthew 14:25 had Jesus walking on water. In Exodus 14:21-22, God had more fun messing about with fluid physics by parting a damn sea. Jesus totally violated the conservation of mass when he multiplied the bread and fishes in Mark 6:41-44. Between this and the hell thing, I am starting to really wonder if Samuel have even read the Bible.
Evolution is not provable.
E. coli is a bacteria and one of its defining characteristic, differentiating it from the pathogenic Salmonella, is its inability to utilise citrate as a source of energy under oxic condition. However, after growing more than 30,000 generations of these bacteria on a medium that is citrate-rich, they evolved the ability to do what they couldn't. Evolution is proven. In a lab. On a petri dish. And in my line of work, I fight the evolutionary progress of bacteria daily as they evolve resistance to the antibiotics I prescribe for my patients. Just to put it into perspective, this is what we all learnt in med school: In the 1930's, Neisseria gonorrhoeae was treated using sulfa drugs, which it quickly developed resistance to. In the '40s, penicillin became the drug of choice but doses had to be continually increased in order to remain effective. In the '70s, penicillin and tetracycline-resistant gonorrhea emerged and fluoroquinolones were then used - but soon, resistance to this antibiotic emerged as well. Since 2007, we've been using third-generation cephalosporins, (i.e. ceftriaxone) and reports of a cephalosporin-resistant strain had emerged as well. Evolution is not only provable, it is an everyday problem for me.
I believe in microevolution, not macroevolution.
Microevolution is basically the changes in gene frequencies within a species or population while macroevolution occurs at the level of species or above it, resulting new species. What evolution-denialists like Samuel Nesan do not understand is that microevolution occurring over vast amounts of time results in macroevolution. Francis Collins, American physician-geneticist, head of the Human Genome Project and the current Director of the National Institutes of Health, said: "Yes, evolution by descent from a common ancestor is clearly true. If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things." He is also an Evangelical Christian.
One of the most dramatic examples of evolution in the fossil records is the Archaeopteryx, which was caught in the dramatic act of evolving from theropod dinosaurs into birds. My favourite example of evolution is how dog-like terrestrial hoofed carnivores called Pakicetids evolved into the modern whale. If you're interested, I have written about the evolution of the human appendix to bookmark the first successful appendicectomy I performed: The Most Dangerous of Worms.
Question 1: Samuel brings up his beef with "macroevolution" by asking how life comes from non-life.
This illustrates perfectly how little Samuel understood about the theory of evolution. The theory explains the complexity and diversity of life, but makes no statement on how life began so his question, while being an important one, is irrelevant to his objection to evolution - something I felt Willie should have highlighted to avoid perpetuating that misconception in his audiences' minds. The study of the origins of life is called abiogenesis and as Willie pointed out, the correct answer is "I don't know" and not "Goddidit". Willie referenced - though he did not name - the Miller-Urey experiment where replicating the conditions of early Earth, they were able to create amino acids (organic compounds) from inorganic compounds. In fact, they were able to synthesise more types of amino acids that the original twenty that all life on Earth requires. Joan Oró found that through a similar experiment, he could synthesise adenine from inorganic material - and this is a big deal because adenine is one of the 4 nucleotide bases that makes up RNA and DNA (the molecular genetic code of all life), and forms adenosine triphosphate (the energy currency of all life). As for how all these organised themselves into the first organisms, I would give a better answer than Willie's: We are working on it.
Question 2: How do you explain hauntings, demonic possessions, exorcism, shamanism, voodoo and other claptraps that I also believe in besides Jesus?
Even if all these things are true, it still doesn't mean that God exists. It's baffling that Samuel would even bring all these up. Fact is, all these are claims. All we have to show for it are eyewitness accounts, crappy video and audio recordings, and a whole fat lot of non-reproducibility. As Willie said, many have tried their luck with James Randi's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge and could not even past preliminary testings once the confounding factors were removed. What we sceptics are saying is this: please prove to us that there is even a consistent, reproducible, unexplained phenomenon happening before asking science to describe and explain it.
Question 3: Are you saying that I - a believer of a cosmic superbeing out of space and time who impregnated a virgin Jewish girl in order to be born to get himself killed in order to forgive me of my sins which was caused by ancestors of mine ate a fruit after being duped by a talking snake - am delusional?
Unfortunately, I can't medically say that Samuel is delusional. The psychiatric definition of a delusion is an unshakeable and irrational belief in something untrue which defy normal reasoning even when overwhelming proof is presented to dispute it, with the caveat that that belief is not something cultural or religious which may be seen as untrue by outsiders. One thing that struck me in Psychiatry 101 back in my med school days is that a religious belief is virtually indistinguishable from a delusion, and it's only excluded because a person's surrounding community believes in the same thing too.
Question 4: Is atheism scientific?
Willie said yes. I say it can be. Atheism is statement of disbelief in a god or gods. If you are an agnostic atheist like me who recognise that the existence of an omnipotent creator outside of space and time is an unfalsifiable claim (and is therefore a claim that cannot be proved or disproved by science), the only logical and honest position you can assume towards it is one of agnosticism. But I am also an atheist because I don't believe that there is such a being due to the lack of good evidence or reason to do so. In this case, I am also being a sceptic and scepticism is scientific.
Why are the awesome miracles only found during Old Testamental time, while modern alleged miracles are low-key and easily disputable? Samuel said miracles now are still awesome, by his standards, and that money-grabbing televangelists are a proof (haha) of that.
Samuel essentially evaded Willie's question completely by applying his own definition of awesome to Willie's question, after Willie specifically defined awesome as the amount of physical effect a miracle has on the material world. If you like, here's a diagram I drew to illustrate how descriptions of miracles tended to be more epic in the past than they do now, and this is because you can make claims of anything happening in the past and if it happened far enough back in time, you can avoid pesky sceptics like me investigating that claim effectively.
And just to bury Samuel's point further, I present to you the case of Peter Popoff, a once famous Christian faith healer who was making 4 million dollars a year healing people on TV - he was utterly dethroned by James Randi when his seeming-ability to guess people's personal info and even their illnesses came from a radio feed from his wife, the transmission of which was intercepted by Randi and recorded. You see, Popoff's wife and her aides gather information about audience members from conversations and prayer request cards filled out before service, and then beam them into Popoff's ear by radio. Other tricks he pulled including seating audience members who can actually walk (albeit with minimal aid) in wheelchairs, giving the illusion that he can make wheelchair bound individuals walk again. These are simple cons, but Christians' credulity, as demonstrated by Samuel in referencing the powers of televangelists, predisposes them to simply believe in such claims of miracles unsceptically and indiscriminately. Samuel asked at some point during the debate: How much evidence would be enough? And my answer is: definitely waaay more than what Samuel considers to be enough.
Jesus appeared to Paul in a blinding flash of light and he allowed Doubting Thomas to feel his wounds in order to prove to them he is God, so why can't don't we modern sceptics get the same evidence from Jesus? Samuel said that even if Jesus appears to us, we would not be able to see him because of The Fall™.
It was a spectacular act of Samuel shooting himself in the foot and demonstrates how muddled his internal logic is regarding Biblical non-explanations. Both Paul and Thomas were "fallen" too. They too are mortals on Earth who lived long after mankind's alleged fall from grace. So were Moses, Abraham, Lot and all the Old Testament prophets who had dealings with God or his agents.
If you pray and it changes God's mind, then he is not omniscient. If you can't change God's mind, then why bother with intercessory prayers? Samuel said you shouldn't ask for stuff when you pray but instead say "God, let your will be done."
Here is a further example of Samuel's incoherent and inconsistent faith. One moment, he said you shouldn't ask God to do things for you in your prayer but when Willie asked if he would pray to God to save his loved ones, he suddenly said he would. Also, to dispute Samuel's initial point using the Bible, Matthew 22:21 had Jesus saying, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." Jesus said you can totally ask for any stuff ("all things") and you shall get it ("ye shall receive") so long as you have faith ("believing"). However, that itself is its own little problem and you can read more about it here in this short piece titled: The Problem with Matthew 22:21.
Why choose Christianity and not other faith? How vigorously have you sought out other faiths? Samuel said Christianity is truer than the other religions, and that came from him pursuing a Masters in Comparative Theology.
From Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, an interdenominational Protestant seminary. Yeah, those guys are totally going to be impartial. Also, Christianity is truthier than other faiths? Citations please.
Atheists have double standards for expecting Christians to shoulder the burden of proof from the Christian God's existence.
Duh. You claim God exists, you prove it. If I claim an invisible STD fairy is the entity that causes the herpes, and then you'd expect me to prove its existence, wouldn't you? And if you can't prove that the STD fairy doesn't exist, does it mean that claims of its existence automatically has validity?
The film, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is fact. A girl died from demonic possesion.
No, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a movie loosely based on Anneliese Michel, who died from malnutrition and dehydration from almost a year of semi-starvation while the rites of exorcism were performed - one or two sessions each week, lasting up to four hours, over about ten months in 1975 and 1976. Her story is actually a cautionary tale against trusting in the supernatural. Here is a list of accounts of more than a thousand human beings harmed (with more being unreported, I'm sure), and in most cases, fatally. And it all happened because people like Samuel gullibly believe in exorcism.
Something something something genetic fallacy!
Listen to what Samuel described as a genetic fallacy that Willie allegedly made. He said (quite unintelligibly) something like this: "You are making a genetic fallacy, just because we are born in a certain place and a certain time, therefore we have no reason to believe in religion. Something is wrong because of the origin; the answer is wrong just because of the way it came forth." I wish he could have been more coherent so I can at least see what he meant by Willie committing the genetic fallacy. If I have to guess, it had something to do with Willie explaining why Samuel is not delusional by society's standards in believing the things he do, citing Samuel's surroundings, his upbringing and his community as the reasons. Willie is not saying that Samuel's beliefs are wrong because his situation is wrong or evil.
Christians have to shoulder the burden of proof for God but atheists/agnostics are not shouldering the burden of proof from evolution. Willie is committing the fallacy of special pleading!
Um, no. Look at the choice of antibiotics that is prescribed to treat you when you get an infection, and the importance of completing the course of medication - that's evolutionary theory applied to the real world. Look at Tiktaalik, a Devonian lobed finned fish evolving into a land-dwelling four-legged creature with adaptations for terrestrial living - you can touch the damn fossil. It's real. There's a wealth of transitional species in the fossil records bridging major groups of living creatures if only you would take your face out of your Bible and look. Can I see Jesus? Nope. Can I touch his crucifixion wounds like Thomas allegedly did? Nope.
90% of the world believes in God. Therefore we are not delusional and there's something to it.
Since he likes bringing up logical fallacies, I'll do one: Samuel is committing the argumentum ad populum, or the argument from popularity. Just because lots of people believe in something doesn't say anything about whether it is true or not. There was a time that most, if not all, people in the world believed that the sun goes around the Earth. So yes, most people in the world can be wrong about something.
Part 10: Questions and Answers with the Audience
If humans are created in the image of God, why are there congenital deformities?
This one was obviously written by a certain six-fingered atheist musician I know in the audience (he has pre-axial polydactyly, to be exact) and he told me that to date, no believer could answer it satisfactorily. Samuel fell back on his personal go-to non-answer for everything that's wrong in the world today: The Fall™. I have personally scoured the Bible to look for the Christian answer to this question and I have not found any. What I did find however, was Leviticus 21:16-21 which says, "The Lord said to Moses, "Say to Aaron: 'For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord." What this tells me is that the Christian God that Samuel worships is a discriminatory asshole (Jesus notwithstanding) who tells handicapped, deformed, and little people to not touch his food. So, I am always amused when people pray to the Christian God to help people with these conditions.
What scientific literature have you (Samuel) read on evolution and can you explain it satisfactorily what the theory says to demonstrate your understanding?
Samuel's answer here truly demonstrates how he really have no idea what he's objecting to. You can see here that he admitted how he had not even finish reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, which is 150 years behind time on the current understanding of evolution. He also did not take up the challenge of explaining or defining the theory to display his understanding. So, the reason why he kept parroting the fact that there's no satisfactory evidence to support biological evolution is simple: he simply did not bother to read about the evidence.
Why do you (Samuel) have no problem believing in microevolution over short periods of time but balks at the thought of macroevolution in geological (read: massively long) timescale?
Sam went into how we can't explain life came from non-life again, further cementing the obvious: he has no idea what evolution is. Evolutionary biology, as conceived by Darwin and understood by scientists today, is the explanation for the diversity of life, not its origin. The principles driving microevolution and macroevolution is identical - both operates via natural selection where environmental pressures dictates what genes would best help an organism survive and pass it on to its progeny. To say you believe in one and not the other is like saying "I believe that a bus would arrive at its next stop in 10 minutes but I don't believe it can reach the next city is 10 hours." And to answer Samuel's quibble that there is no clear definition of biological evolution, Biology by Helena Curtis and N. Sue Barnes defined it as "any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next." It is elegant but non-scientists may find it cryptic. In fact, Darwin himself would not immediately understand it as he never knew about DNA or what "allelles" are.
Douglas J. Futuyama had a longer definition and he describes evolution as "change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. The ontogeny of an individual is not considered evolution; individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions."
I know about microevolution but DNA can only decrease in information, but wouldn't a monkey evolving into a human needs an increase in the complexity of its DNA?
This one clearly came from a Christian - describing human evolution as monkey-to-human instead of saying we came from a-common-ancestor-which-gave-rise-to-both-humans-and-monkeys was a dead giveaway. Modern monkeys are our genetic cousins, and you wouldn't say you descended from a cousin, would you? It also made two unsupported assumptions (a) DNA can only lose information, not gain and (b) a human is more complex compared to a monkey.
I'll tackle the second one first. The idea of "higher" or "more-evolved" lifeforms is tricky to quantify. The marbled lungfish has 133 billion base pairs in its genome. Paris japonica (a flowering plant) has a genetic code that is 150 billion base pairs long. A single-celled freshwater amoeboid, Polychaos dubium, has a documented 670 billion base pairs in its DNA. Humans? We have a paltry 3 billion base pairs. The point I am trying to make is that "complexity" is irrelevant to the survival or evolutionary fitness of an organism. It's how well-adapted that organism is to its environment.
The first assumption is plain wrong. I'll illustrate with one simple, relatable example: the dog, or as I like to call it, the Canis lupus familiaris. It's Latin name informs you that it is a subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and indeed, dogs can still interbreed with wild wolves. There is an estimated 150 to 600 breeds of dogs worldwide with vast diversity in morphology from Great Danes to Chihuahuas to French Bulldogs, all of which were bred from the plain vanilla gray wolf stock. This is a clear demonstration that information (in this case, body shapes, colours, fur-length, etc) within DNA codes can be increased. If that's not what you meant by information, then please define it.
Why is evolution reasonable when it causes racism i.e. white men killing aborigines?
The person who posed this question is the same person who posed the above, and it demonstrated the same sloppy thinking style. I bring this up because I was dissatisfied with Willie's answer and wishes to smack him in the face with a panda for missing the obvious. On the Origin of Species, Darwin's book, was published in 1859. Is the questioner saying that racism did not exist until the mid-nineteenth century?
Aside from plain crazy talk, the questioner is also committing an appeal to consequences, a blatant logical fallacy, in that he or she supposes that the consequence triggered by any fact or claim has any bearing on its truth value. When someone falls from a skyscraper to his or her destiny as a red stain on the streets below, does it mean that the laws of gravity is "unreasonable"? Passages from the Bible were historically used to justify slavery and racism, does it mean that... oh wait, the Bible actually go into specifics on how to buy slaves, how to bequeath slaves to your heirs, and how you shouldn't be punished if your slave didn't die immediately from your beatings. Unlike the theory of evolution, which makes no statement of what races are more primitive or less deserving of rights, the Bible openly tells you the etiquette of being a slave and a slave-owner, with not a single passage condemning the practice of slavery.
Do you believe in free will? Doesn't the omniscience of God negates free will?
I have nothing to add to this. I just want to bring this up because Samuel plain didn't understand the intent of the question and Yoshua the moderator (he himself a Christian), outright told Samuel that. You'd notice that there's no moderator from the atheist side and while we requested that an atheist representative (yours truly), be inserted into the question selection process for the Q&A round, we had opted not to stick a someone sympathetic to our worldview in the moderator's seat. It's win-win. Either the Christian moderator is completely impartial (good), or is biased towards the Christian side (good, because it would make us look like we were being unfairly treated).
Can morality exists without God?
Willie answered this ably. I would add that other than the obvious fact that no one (to my knowledge) in the atheist community is going around robbing, raping and killing just because they don't believe in God. Morality is also found in animals and one of the most dramatic examples I've found is an experiment by Masserman et al with rhesus monkeys where he rigged up a food dispensing mechanism for them that, when operated, also delivers an electric shock to fellow monkey. They found that most rhesus monkeys would rather starve than reap benefits from the suffering of another member of its species. No god required, unless you think the monkeys were feverishly reading the Bible when the researchers' backs were turned.
Samuel's response to the above question.
This is what I consider the absolute highlight of the night and thought it deserved its own bullet point. Samuel brought up Adolf Motherfucking Hitler and that automatically aroused laughter from the unbelievers in the audience before he even elaborated on his point. Several atheists (including me), immediately brought their palms to their faces. We do that because we have heard this a million times and we know exactly what's coming. While Samuel did not want to characterise Hitler as an atheist, he also said, "I don't believe he's a believer."
I do not want to comment on what Hitler really believed or did not believe in, but this is what he said in Mein Kampf: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." He also said in a 1922 speech, "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter."
Samuel also tried to link the theory of evolution to Hitler's motivation by saying "Hitler believed in the survival of the fittest" when the Nazis actually banned works on Darwinism. In fact, Hitler said this about atheism in October 1934 in a speech in Berlin: "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."
Then finally, Samuel trotted out his most egregious point of the night. He said, "Without God, morality is subjective." That is patently untrue. According to the Bible, God is most definitely not an objective source of morality. Take the Ten Commandments, for example. One of them was "Thou shalt not kill." If this is an objective law of morality, it means that under no circumstances are anyone allowed to take another person's life but within the same Biblical book, just some chapters ahead, God commanded the Levites (Exodus 32:27) to "slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour." 3000 people were murdered. In fact, God is so bloodthirsty that he gave Jephthah victory in battle in exchange for him burning his own daughter as an offering to Him (Judges 11:30-31, 11:34-40). And if "Thou shalt not kill" is truly an objective moral law - emphasis on objective - then God is immoral if he breaks it, regardless of context. And boy, just between the Flood which wiped out most of humanity, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Plagues of Egypt, he certainly act as if killing is a-okay if you're a cosmic super-being. Objective morality, my comfy ass. The God of the Bible is the greatest moral relativist I know.
And I'm done. The reason why I chose to sit down and write this commentary to accompany the videos is because I want to demonstrate how ineffectual debates are in conveying knowledge and accurate information, and to illustrate the fact that debates are really just popularity contests where two talking heads play he-says-she-says.
Even so, I think Willie did an amazing job explaining the atheistic position and refrained from saying anything untruthful. We knew that this is going to be recorded and it simply wouldn't do for us to perpetuate any falsehoods.
At the end of the night, some Christian youths approached Willie with what he thinks are genuine and sincere questions about science (I said "he thinks" because I wasn't there), and you wouldn't believe how delighted he was. It's the teacher in him, methinks. I also heard unconfirmed reports about a fence-sitter in the audience who fell off the fence into our lawn, but I am naturally sceptical of hearsay. But you already know that.
RELATED POST: My introductory speech before the debate.
READ ALSO: Mr Pepper Lim's write-up, Debating God’s Existence 25.8.12. He was responsible for organising the video recording of the debate.
Part of minor secular history,
Date: Monday, 17 Sep 2012 23:40
"A speech is like a woman's skirt: it needs to be long enough to cover the subject matter but short enough to hold the audience's attention." Author unknown
Anyway, I just received the video recording of my speech in my mail, and for the first time, you, dear readers of my blog, will hear how I really sound like in real life. Prepare for disillusionment,
On my right was Le Fiancée™. Pastor Samuel, who gave us permission to use his church, was seated left to me.
Aaanyhow, there is now video evidence of my existence on the internet! Kok Sen Wai 1, Jesus 0. To all you faithful believers who kept your faith in me in spite of the lack of proof, unanswered
RELATED POSTS: The First Ever Atheist Versus Christian Debate in Malaysia, where you can watch the debate proper.
No Winston Churchill,
k0k s3n w4i
Date: Monday, 10 Sep 2012 02:59
"People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God."Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
|Courtesy of Cheryl's Instagram fauxtography.|