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Épater le bourgeois: There is no god. Really.

203/365 The Atheist Bus The atheist bus, by stuartpilbrow, CC-by-sa

A while ago I wrote an ar­ti­cle about gay mar­riage. (I am all for it, BTW). In it I said some­thing like "s­ince god does­n't ex­ist ... " and boy did that both­er peo­ple.

So, since I have twen­ty free min­utes, let's see if I can ex­plain why I say god does­n't ex­ist.

Firt of al­l, a caveat. If you are re­li­gious, you have no right what­so­ev­er to whine about me say­ing this. Why? Be­cause I have no right to whine about peo­ple say­ing god does ex­ist. It's called free­dom of re­li­gion, peo­ple. You are sup­posed to like it.

This was trig­gered be­cause I no­ticed there's a grand to­tal of 2 (t­wo) athe­ist char­ac­ters on TV shows I watch:

  • Gre­­go­ry House (MD): ap­­par­en­t­­ly a nar­­cis­­sis­tic bas­­tard, but ac­­tu­al­­ly a nice guy (who is al­­so a ge­nius) with is­­sues.

  • Dr. Bren­­nan: a so­­cial­­ly awk­ward ge­nius.

Well, I am not a ge­nius, so, let's con­sid­er some very rea­son­able ar­gu­ments for god's lack of ex­is­tence.

He's Ill-Defined

The Need For Answers The Need For Answers by Zach Stern, CC-by-nc-nd

The first thing you need in or­der to ac­cept the ex­is­tence of an en­ti­ty is a def­i­ni­tion for it. If you lack that, how can you say it ex­ists at al­l? He could ring my door­bell and ask for a cup of sug­ar, and I still would­n't be sure, be­cause he could be re-de­fined at any time.

For ex­am­ple, is god om­ni­scien­t? Is he allmighty? Is he the guy with the ele­phant head? Is he im­ma­te­ri­al? Does he an­swer to prayer? Is he a he? Did he have a kid? Did he have his kid by turn­ing in­to a swan be­fore go­ing on a date?

Since de­pend­ing on what godist you ask he will an­swer at least one of those dif­fer­ent­ly, I have to de­clare his ex­is­tence im­pos­si­ble.

Of course we could try to ac­cept the def­i­ni­tion of one godist club and try to see if that spe­cif­ic en­ti­ty ex­ist­s, but that doesn re­al­ly work ei­ther, be­cause god fans have a ten­den­cy to move the goal­post­s. What's "the word of god" be­comes lat­er an al­le­go­ry, de­priv­ing us of any ev­i­dence on which to base our en­quiry.

Most­ly, godists say that the know god ex­ists be­cause they feel it in their hearts or some­thing sim­i­lar­ly hare­brained. Come on, if I told you I feel the east­er bun­ny in my kid­ney, it would make about as much sense.

The Excluded Middle and Popularity

God made me an atheist. God made me an atheist. by Andrea Lodi, CC-by-nd

Ei­ther some­thing is true or its op­po­site is. Ei­ther you ate some of that cake, or you did­n't. Ei­ther god ex­ists or he does­n't. Easy, right?

But why could­n't god ex­ist? Well, let me ask you, why don't the oth­er gods ex­ist? You are a zoroas­tri­an: why does­n't Zeus ex­ist? You are a mor­mon, why does­n't Quet­zal­coatl ex­ist?

Ev­ery godist is per­fect­ly hap­py with the oth­er gods not ex­ist­ing, so it's not ex­act­ly a ground-shak­ing no­tion. It's clear that when­ev­er you hear any­one talk about a re­li­gious ma­jor­i­ty, he is full of crap.

Re­peat af­ter me: you are not part of a re­li­gious ma­jor­i­ty, be­cause most peo­ple be­lieve your god does­n't ex­ist. We athe­ists are just smarter and more con­sis­ten­t.

And no, you can't re­treat in­to "o­h, mus­lims jews and all chris­tians be­lieve in the same god" be­cause that's nut­s. Jews be­lieve in a god that does­n't let them eat ham. Mor­mons be­lieve they are or­dered to use mag­i­cal un­der­wear. Catholics be­lieve they eat meat wafers each sun­day, it's just that it look­s, feels and tastes like a crack­er, but it's "re­al­ly" (su­per)hu­man beef. For each group, the oth­er's be­liefs are bar­bar­ic and (if they are hon­est) a lit­tle nut­s.

No, I am not say­ing you in­di­vid­u­al­ly are nut­s, you nut­cas­es, I am say­ing you are con­di­tioned to be­lieve your par­tic­u­lar idio­syn­cra­sies are less nuts than av­er­age, but they aren't, just like my dad's habit of putting may­on­naise in the soup was nuts and my be­lief that Unión de San­ta Fe will some­day win a tour­na­ment is nut­s.

IOW: most­ly harm­less, but nut­ty any­way. OTO­H, some peo­ple's be­liefs make them be­lieve that killing al­bi­no kids is a prop­er be­hav­iour so some of you godists are re­al­ly, re­al­ly nut­s, ok?. Not all of you, but those who aren't should take a good hard look at what be­liev­ing in in­vis­i­ble friends does to some peo­ple.

It's Unethical to Believe in Heaven and Hell

Oh Noes! Atheists! Oh Noes! Atheists! by Sean Bonner, CC-by-nc-sa

Con­sid­er my three year old kid. There is a rule that he has to eat a rea­son­able amount at din­ner, and if he does he can watch one TV show be­fore bed as a re­ward.

In uni­verse A: One night he's very tired, so he does­n't re­al­ly want to watch TV, he wants to go to bed, but he still eats his din­ner be­cause it's good for him.

In uni­verse B: One night he's very tired, so he does­n't re­al­ly want to watch TV, so he does­n't eat his din­ner be­cause there's no re­ward.

Be­liev­ers will tell you that hu­man na­ture is B. That if there was no prom­ise of car­rot (heav­en) and stick (hel­l) hu­mans would have no morals and would act like in­sane he­do­nist­s, hurt­ing each oth­er in a fren­zy, and that we on­ly avoid such a ter­ri­ble fate be­cause of the civ­i­liz­ing in­fuence of the church­es and the moral­i­ty in­duced on us by re­li­gion.

I say bull­crap. I say I pre­fer if my kid does what's good for him not be­cause he's ex­pect­ing a re­ward or (worse!) be­cause he's scared of pun­ish­men­t, but be­cause he un­der­stands that if he eats his din­ner he's go­ing to be strong and healthy, and that it makes me hap­py and that he wants me to be hap­py be­cause he likes me.

Of course, be­ing a three year old, he some­times does­n't want to eat his din­ner. So I try to con­vince him. But if he does­n't, he does­n't, and there's no TV, and there's no tantrum, and he gets a kiss good night.

The con­cept that there is a lot of peo­ple who hon­est­ly be­lieve that they are moral be­ings on­ly be­cause there's an in­vis­i­ble guy who will hurt them if they aren't scares me. I find it deeply re­pul­sive. I find re­li­gion's prom­ise of eter­nal (or even tem­po­rary) pun­ish­ment in the af­ter­life re­pul­sive and creep­y.

If you be­lieve in an af­ter­life, and you be­lieve in heav­en and hel­l, and you act nice be­cause of it, you are a creep. You are, like re­li­gious peo­ple like to say, a creep in your own heart. You are not good. You are evil but just think you can't get away with act­ing out your evil. You are a chick­en. If the de­ity you be­lieve in ac­tu­al­ly ex­ist­s, he knows it, so you are screwed any­way.

I pre­fer to be good for my fel­low men be­cause there's noth­ing else be­yond. If there was a heav­en, then we live in a crap­py wait­ing room. No! We live in the re­al world. What's be­yond is fic­tion or guess­work, you can't count on it, you can't throw away re­al life for it.


God vs graffiti vs property rights vs drippy markers, Soho, London, UK.jpg God vs graffiti vs property rights vs drippy markers, Soho, London, UK by Cory Doctorow, CC-by-sa

You are a bit nuts and your in­vis­ble friend does­n't ex­ist. You don't need to get a life be­cause you al­ready have one, you just need to stop ask­ing for sec­onds and eat your din­ner. Have fun.

Cooking for nerds

You are a nerd. I know that be­cause you are read­ing my blog. You prob­a­bly don't cook. That is stupid. Let me ex­plain why.

Cooking is easy

You may be in­tim­i­dat­ed by those who cook and make it look com­pli­cat­ed. Don't be­lieve a word they say. You can cook a per­fect­ly fine meal for 1 to 4 peo­ple in half an hour.

For ex­am­ple, if you have dry pas­ta, any kind of pro­tein (chick­en, seafood, ground beef, sausages, chori­zo, fish, what­ev­er), a bouil­lon cube (veg­eta­bles, beef, what­ev­er), gar­lic, onion and/or any­thing like it, and a glass of wine (op­tion­al) you can cook it like risot­to

And here's the best part: read that recipe, and here's all you need to know to cook it:

  • Toast the dry pas­­ta in kin­­da hot oil (o­live oil if you have it, or what­ev­er).

  • Add chopped onion­s, gar­lic, pep­pers (or what­ev­er) for 3 min­utes.

  • Add 1/2 cup of wine (it says white, but red wine will work, it will just make it taste "heav­ier" and change the colour). If you don't have wine, use broth. Wait two min­utes or so un­til it's al­­most dry.

  • Add broth slow­­ly while stir­ring.

  • When the pas­­ta is still kin­­da hard, stop adding broth, add pro­tein (chopped small so it cooks com­­plete­­ly) and a bit more broth and lemon juice (or not).

Or you can do this:

  • Sauteé onion­s, gar­lic what­ev­er and pro­tein, then put it aside and save it.

  • In the same oil, toast the pas­­ta. This makes the pas­­ta tasti­er.

  • Re-add the pro­tein and veg­­e­ta­bles, then add wine and broth slow­­ly

  • When the pas­­ta is the way you like it, eat it.

See what I did there? I did it al­most ex­act­ly the oth­er way around. And you know what? It's still go­ing to taste good. Why? Be­cause cook­ing is very fault tol­er­an­t.

Yes, you will hear all the time about the per­fect point for this, and the per­fect sea­son­ing for that, and ... it's 90% bull­shit.

Sure, if you over­cook the pas­ta it's go­ing to be sog­gy crap, but you can avoid that by be­ing min­i­mal­ly vig­i­lant about it and buy­ing a freak­ing $4 kitchen timer

Cooking is fun

Once you get over the no­tion that it's hard, cook­ing is easy to en­joy.

If you have a kid, he can help. If you have a spouse, he/she will like that you are tak­ing care of the meal.

It's great for un­wind­ing af­ter be­ing stressed. Strange­ly, chop­ping gar­lic re­lax­es me.

Have a mi­crowave and a 3 year old? Then you can do this:

In one bowl mix:

  • Two beat­­en eggs

  • Add vanil­la (or don't)

  • Add a bit of but­ter (or veg­­etable oil)

In an­oth­er bowl:

  • 1 cup of reg­u­lar al­l-pur­­pose flour (or whole wheat flour)

  • a bit of bak­ing pow­der

  • a bit of salt

  • half a cup of sug­­ar

In one of those bowls add some­thing else. If it's moist, add it with the eggs and such, if it's dry, add it with the flour and such.

That "some­thing else" can be choco­late chip­s, wal­nut­s, shred­ded car­rot, ba­nanas, sliced ap­ples, jam, what­ev­er.

Once each bowl is mixed, mix them to­geth­er a bit un­til they "mesh". Don't work it too hard or the re­sult will suck.

Then get two (or three, or one, or four) mugs (or cup­s, or muf­fin trays, or any­thing that's mi­crowave-safe) and fill it half-way with the re­sult­ing bat­ter.

Mi­crowave it un­til it looks good, then eat it. If you are not sure if it's cooked, stick a wood­en tooth­pick in it and see if it's dry when you pull it.

Your 3 year old can take care of the dry bowl (he does sim­i­lar things in kinder­garten, you know?) as long as you help with the mea­sures. And most im­por­tant­ly: he can take care of start­ing the mi­crowave, so tec­ni­cal­ly he can say he cooked it (3 year olds are very in­to tech­ni­cal­i­ties).

Again, see what I did with that recipe? You can re­place al­most any in­gre­di­ent with some­thing else (I don't rec­om­mend not us­ing eggs, though) And it will prob­a­bly work.

And you will end with a flour-­cov­ered kid, which is a bonus, be­cause then he won't make a fuss about his bath.

Cooking is good for you

I have high blood pres­sure and I'm fat. But you know what? I have not gained any weight since I start­ed cook­ing for my­self, 10 years ago. I gained a lot be­fore that, though.

Now I can cook semi-healthy food for me, and do it with the low sodi­um I need. Sodi­um is a habit, so af­ter you are eat­ing low sodi­um for a few weeks you don't re­al­ly miss it.

If you are a nerd, you prob­a­bly are a bit too seden­tary, so eat­ing "right" will help you.

And most im­por­tant­ly, you know what you eat. Sure, you al­so need to take care of what in­gre­di­ents you buy, but did you know that piz­za has a like 400% markup? And that you can do a rea­son­ably healthy piz­za in, like, 40 min­utes of work?

The on­ly trick is start­ing 3 or 4 hours ear­ly.

But if you use home­-­made dough, chopped toma­toes for sauce, gar­lic, pep­per­s, and not too much cheese... it's not a ter­ri­bly un­healthy meal.

And of course, you can al­ways do a sal­ad. Come on, how hard could that be? It's chop­ping things up and pil­ing them, dude!

And it can be tasty and fill­ing. You just need to do a lot of it ;-)

Cooking is cheap

A mi­lane­sa (sort of a bread­ed steak?) in a cheap restau­rant wil cost you about $25. For that mon­ey you can make 7 or 8 at home.

A good piece of prime meat in a restau­ran­t? $50. That buys 2 pounds of prime meat in the mar­ket for you to cook.

A rea­son­able lunch menu for of­fice work­ers costs about $30. For that mon­ey my fam­i­ly of 3 eats twice. And bet­ter. And more.

You can make your­self the most awe­some sand­wich in the world for un­der $10, with any­thing you imag­ine in it and take it to the of­fice.

And, most im­por­tant­ly...

Cooking is Applied Nerdiness

Cook­ing gives you a way to eas­i­ly ex­per­i­ment with re­al-life chem­istry, gives you some­thing con­crete to show for your ef­fort af­ter a whole day cod­ing things you can't re­al­ly show your fam­i­ly.

Why does ham taste well with apri­cots and not with ap­ples? Or does it? How about chili? Does it go well with sour cream? How about pep­per on a straw­ber­ry?

But for­get about adding: What can you re­move from a recipe and still make it work? What can you re­place? If you can make ba­nana bread, can you make ba­nana crois­sants? (no you can't, they taste awe­some but they look ghast­ly)

How can you go through life with­out won­der­ing if you can re­al­ly cook fish with just lemon juice? Ex­act­ly how long do you cook rice in your mi­crowave so it looks creamy and taste great with­out re­mov­ing ex­cess liq­uid? Did you know you can steam 2 pounds of pota­toes in 10 min­utes with a plas­tic bowl and some plas­tic film, and they will make the most awe­some mashed pota­toes you ev­er tast­ed?

Your kitchen is an awe­some place. In­stant noo­dles suck.

Mind blown!

There's a re­al­ly awe­some thread at Red­dit called "What's the most mind-blow­ing fact you heard/read in your life?" where com­menters are post­ing well... that.

It's a great read! But there are a few here and there that are a bit un­de­serv­ing of the ti­tle, be­cause they are just wrong :-)

Here are a cou­ple from the be­gin­ning of the thread (it's got over 4000 posts now).

"There has been no ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing the uni­verse is not fi­nite. If we as­sume the uni­ver­site is in­finite, then it is cer­tain that ev­ery sin­gle pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tion of events has hap­pened some­where in the gal­axy. In an al­ter­nate area, all of hu­man his­to­ry is the same, ex­cept you don't de­cide to post this thread. With cer­tain­ty."


Be­yond con­fus­ing the gal­axy with the uni­verse, let's think this a bit.

It's fun­ny, but I re­mem­ber read­ing some­thing like "if the uni­verse is in­fi­nite then ev­ery­thing that is pos­si­ble has cer­tain­ly hap­pened some­where" in a cheap sci­fy book­let maybe 30 years ago.

In that sto­ry, that rea­son­ing was used to jus­ti­fy a naked cy­clops that walked in space, IIR­C. It was found by a star­ship called SKY-11111. If any­one has read that sto­ry, he has my sim­pa­thy (I should write about how hard it was to read sci­fi when I was a kid, beg­gars can't be chooser­s!)

But the prob­lem here is just a ba­sic mis­un­der­stand­ing of prob­a­bil­i­ty.

Let me ex­plain with an ex­am­ple: Con­sid­er the odds of some­one spend­ing a year flip­ping a fair coin and get­ting "head­s" ev­ery time. That's some­thing very un­like­ly. Let's call that prob­a­bil­i­ty P1.

Now, let's con­sid­er the prob­a­bil­i­ty of "there has nev­er ev­er been a per­son that flipped a fair coin for a year get­ting on­ly 'head­s', and there nev­er will be", and call that P2.

Now, if the uni­verse is large, P1 will grow. As there are more peo­ple, there is a larg­er chance of some­one de­cid­ing to waste a year and then there is a tiny chance of him be­ing in­cred­i­bly ... (well, not luck­y, see how he spent his year!) but let's say, con­sis­ten­t? And get­ting heads all year.

What the heck, let's say P1 is now 50%, so it's not even un­likey.

But that means P2 is al­so 50%, since it's true ex­act­ly as of­ten as P1 is false.

Now, which one of these two things will hap­pen "With cer­tain­ty"? See? Like­ly is not the same as sure, un­like­ly is not the same as im­pos­si­ble, and adding an in­fin­i­ty does­n't do the trick here.

So, re­al­ly, even if the uni­verse is in­finite, and even if it were crowd­ed with peo­ple, there are lots and lots of things that are nev­er go­ing to hap­pen.

I find that more mind­blow­ing than the orig­i­nal, but that's just me.

Here's a sim­pler one:

If you took all of the sil­ver the Span­ish mined from Cer­ro Ri­co, you could build a bridge from Po­to­si, Bo­livi­a, to Spain. If you took the bones of all the In­di­ans (about eight mil­lion) who died in the mi­nes, you could build an­oth­er bridge back to Po­to­si from Spain. Cer­ro Ri­co has been so thor­ough­ly mined that there is an en­tire moun­tain next to it of the rub­ble ex­tract­ed from it. The In­di­ans call this sec­ond one "the moun­tain that weep­s."


Here I am guess­ing he is great­ly over­es­ti­mat­ing the amount of sil­ver ex­tract­ed from Cer­ro Ri­co.

Spain is rough­ly 8800km away from Cer­ro Ri­co. A 2-me­ter wide path, 20cm thick would mean 3520000 cu­bic me­ters of ma­te­ri­al­s. That's much much less than a bridge would use.

Cer­ro Ri­co is about 4800 me­ters tal­l.

So, this means the ma­te­ri­al for that path would be enough to build a col­umn with square base 27 me­ters wide, and as tall as Cer­ro Ri­co, of pure sil­ver.

That would be, con­sid­er­ing sil­ver has a spe­cif­ic weight of 10490... 36924800000000 kilo­grams of sil­ver. That is... well, that's a lot of sil­ver.

How much sil­ver? Well, in dol­lars, that would be $27508976000000000

In any case, the thread is great fun, and ev­ery­one who has, say, a young kid should read bits of it ... with a skep­tic eye open ;-)

No, 10/10/10 is not that special, either

To­day is 10/10/10 (or rather 10/10/2010 which does­n't look so cute, right?) and again there's a flood of "this on­ly hap­pens ev­ery 100 years! OMG!".

At least this time it's cor­rec­t. How­ev­er:

How of­ten is 10/11/10 go­ing to hap­pen? How of­ten did yes­ter­day's 10/9/10? Ev­ery 100 years, too. In fac­t, ev­ery date writ­ten in that for­mat will hap­pen once ev­ery 100 years, be­cause that's the way dates work!

Oh, you may say, the spe­cial part is that the three num­bers are the same, sil­ly!

But then again, last year we had 9/9/9 and next year we'll have 11/11/11 (much cool­er than 10/10/10!) so ... no, not that spe­cial.

OTO­H, to­day (at 10P­M) my kid and I will see the first ev­er episode of Ben10 Ul­ti­mate Alien (hey, 5 10s!) for the first time and that... well, that has nev­er hap­pened be­fore, and will nev­er hap­pen again. That, friend­s, is spe­cial.

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