What I Love About Paleoanthropology

Four years ago to the day, I wrote a post called “Why I Am Not a Scientist”. I’ve since privated it, because I don’t like the way I spoke about myself and my own intelligence in that post. My main idea was that I was new to being an informed atheist, and I was not confident in my abilities to refute young-earth creationism. I called myself “scientifically challenged” and expressed that I felt that in order to really be confident in my atheist stance, I would have to become much more educated in various fields of science. I said that I was “really bad at science” even as I said that I loved and appreciated how it allows us to learn about the world around us.

I am still not a scientist, and I still know that my strengths lie more in art and writing (as I said then), but what I see now as I re-read that post is that I was buying into the idea that science is only for the elite gatekeepers with PhDs. I don’t mean that it is valid that young-earth creationists, flat earthers, or anti-vaxxers claim that they know better than the scientists adamantly refuting their heinous claims. I do mean that people like me, who love and respect science, should be allowed to talk about it, learn about it, and share how we feel even when we have no intentions to become (and no false claims that we are) PhD-level scientists.

I bring up this old post for two reasons. One, I use this as a disclaimer because I am, in fact, about to talk about science and don’t want anyone to think that I am an authority figure on this. Two, I think my old self was too quick to say that I simply could not do science. Everyone can do science or at least try. And two years ago, I fell in love with one field of science that even my younger self would have understood.

There is a lot that I love about paleoanthropology. Of all the branches of science, the study of human evolution is the one I have the firmest grasp on. In many ways, to the comfort of my past self, one could say that it is much easier than the science and math subjects that I mentioned being bad at in that post: biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, and algebra. I know that they all have their nuances, but in general they are much more objective and technical than what comes easy to me. Paleoanthropology, it sometimes seems, has nothing but nuance.

I thrive in the intersection of the objective and the subjective. Yes, I am an “art” person, but I like when that art comes with a high level of organization or even constraint. Meanwhile, I am a science enthusiast, but not the kind of person who does scientific equations or experiments like my PhD-pursuing friend. I like reading and writing, but often about science. I like science, but mostly just the parts that discuss the beauty of the cosmos or the incredible history of humanity. So paleoanthropology, being largely about scientists’ interpretation of fossils and artifacts, fits the bill perfectly. And of course, I first discovered it when searching for the truth outside of young-earth creationism. My 2017 self would have loved it.

In one sense, you could say that paleoanthropology is easier than chemistry and physics. At least in order to have a rudimentary understanding of it, you don’t need to be able to do calculations or have technical knowledge. You can learn about how people spend months on the African savanna, or Asian caves, or Indonesian islands, searching for fossils or tools or just stumbling upon them. You can learn about how people classify fossils into various species and how, at the same time, each new fossil reshapes our view of what each species is. And depending on how you look at it, the most fun part can be learning the history of the controversies in the field, as different fossil hunters have vied for the title of “Discoverer of the First Human”.

I’m sure it’s not quite so easy once you decide to pursue paleoanthropology professionally, however. Excavators of fossil sites have to use painstaking attention to detail in marking where they found everything. I read once that if someone finds a fossil but doesn’t mark where they found it, they might as well not have found it at all. Plus there are many other professions that all overlap with paleoanthropology. In order to function, paleoanthropology needs specialized experts in molecular biology, archeology, anatomy (both humans and other species), geology, radiometric dating, and dozens of other fields. While it might be easier for me to grasp the basics of the hominid family tree than it is for me to grasp quarks, quasars, and spacetime, actually being a paleoanthropologist is surely no easy feat.

Meanwhile, just as the objectivity of sciences like physics is hard for me, I’m sure that the subjectivity of paleoanthropology might not come easily for a physicist who prefers questions with definite answers. Even experts in paleoanthropology will probably never agree on where to draw the lines between species. Even as someone who has only learned the basics of hominid history, there has been a learning curve in coming to accept that there is a lot that we still don’t know and may never know. I think my own frustration with this stems from my old feelings of not being able to refute young-earth creationism unless I had all the answers. The truth is that none of us do.

You can see this tree as a 3D exhibit, complete with real skull casts, at the UK Natural History Museum.

I think that the subjective nature of paleoanthropology is also what makes it difficult. Yes, there is plenty of controversy in fields like physics and chemistry, but the difference is that those questions have (mostly) objective answers that can be found if the scientists continue researching. With paleoanthropology, the more specimens you have, the more complicated it can get. For example, we had a pretty good idea of what belonged in the genus Homo (humans and our closest ancestors and relatives) versus Australopithecus (our ancestors further back that have many similarities with both apes and humans). Then Australopithecus sediba came along with a pretty equal mix of Homo and Australopithecus traits. I’m imagining that early paleoanthropologists had been so intent on finding the transitional species between apes and humans that they hadn’t planned to start finding transitional species between those species and humans as well.

This is just one example of a lot of debates in the field. Is A. sediba Australopithecus or Homo? (They had to name it one or the other—there is just not a named intermediate genus—so it is, at least for now, narrowly classified as Australopithecus. See my post on this for more details.) Are Neanderthals part of our own species, Homo sapiens, or are they too different, and thus only part of our genus Homo? If they are Homo sapiens, then what does that make Denisovans, whom we know much less about, but are thought to be equally as similar and dissimilar to us as Neanderthals? And what is Homo habilis anyways? Its first specimens were discovered so early that there were not good descriptions of the various categories, and H. habilis has thus been described as a catch-all name for all the late Australopithecus and early Homo fossils that no one knew where to put.

The following is true both for paleoanthropologists and for the young-earth creationists whose articles I enjoy critiquing: what makes human evolution difficult is that it’s not an exact science. Answers in Genesis wishes they could stamp each fossil as Ape or Human, but they can’t. This is a case of tens of thousands of generations of mothers giving birth to babies, going back seven million years. It has only been possible to categorize fossils because we don’t have them all. Suppose that hypothetically, we did have access to knowledge of every single generation of hominid. Which mother and child pair would you walk up to and say, “Sorry, you guys are different species”? You couldn’t do it. The change is too gradual. The names are all arbitrary, and for scientists who want answers, this is immensely frustrating.

Thinking of paleoanthropology in this way might make someone want to simply give up. If it’s all just a word game, then what’s the point? Well, for one, you really could think of anything and everything this way and spiral into existentialism. Yes, we are all just practically using our own made-up languages to describe things that would exist with or without humans having to label them. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do it, though. Working through these problems to the best of our abilities, listening to each other’s arguments, and being humble enough to admit that we might never know some things for sure, is how we do learn more about our origins and make it make some sort of sense.

Even though I don’t have all the answers, the degrees, or the confidence, I believe that I am worthy of being fascinated by this. Sometimes it can even be fun to not know for sure, because you can speculate and throw ideas around with others, experts and enthusiasts alike, who share an interest in a field. Depending on how you look at it, paleoanthropology could be easier or more difficult than the hard sciences, but its uniqueness is what I love about it.

26 thoughts on “What I Love About Paleoanthropology

  • I’m a bit of a scientist. My B.Sc. was Information Science anyhow. But I’ll do things like when someone says a certain brand of water is alkaline. Out come the Ph test strips – strong hint that alleged alkaline water registers the same Ph as spring water and tap water.

    Or for instance how I’ve done the double slit experiment And seen the interference pattern that demonstrates light is a particle that behaves like a wave.

    Liked by 2 people

  • I yield the floor to the voices of reason and skeptical inquiry.

    I have found there are always two sides to unsubstantiated facts.

    Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong. ~ Dandemis

    If I could just try to live by those two quotes I would …

    “If you just bury your concerns, they blossom as issues”

    Liked by 1 person

  • I just heard a story on NPR which said that bows and arrows were invented only 100,000 years ago, and the spear 500,000 years ago. While that’s a long time to us, it’s a short time in the history of human evolution. Imagine trying to hunt without a tool as simple as a spear, and for hundreds of thousands of years.

    The story speculated that humans may have hunted, in part, by chasing prey until it overheated and collapsed, at which point they would dispatch it with a big rock or log etc. The theory here is that humans can shed heat easier than large prey animals like wildabeast who breath in a manner different than humans.

    A few years after the invention of the spear humans went on to invent social media, a new environment where humans overheated while eating each other, a development much welcomed by the wildabeast. 🙂

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  • Science concerns itself with facts about reality. Religion addresses our relationship with reality. These are really two very different projects, thus religion vs. science comparisons tend to be pretty misguided.

    That said, I do think it would be useful to apply the very same critical skepticism which has liberated you from religious authority to science authority as well. Be wary of turning scientists in to a new kind of clergy.

    Scientists can also make huge highly speculative claims based on little to nothing. And like in religion, great numbers of people will often follow them blindly.

    As example, medical science spends countless billions on trying to keep us alive as long as possible, despite the fact that there is exactly no proof that life is better than death. Sometimes this faith based operation involves horrific tortures applied to people at the end of their lives, and it tends to also fuel fear throughout our lives.

    You write “sometimes it can even be fun to not know for sure”. Indeed. Once we have dethroned all the self appointed authorities through a process of critical skepticism, our ignorance comes in to ever sharper focus, and that can be a powerful tool in to your “quest for wonder”.

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    • “Science concerns itself with facts about reality. Religion addresses our relationship with reality.”

      Would you explain just how religion, which has no basis in reality, addresses our relationship with reality?

      These are really two very different projects, thus religion vs. science comparisons tend to be pretty misguided.

      Yes. This is true. It is not possible to compare things that are with things that are not.

      That said, I do think it would be useful to apply the very same critical skepticism which has liberated you from religious authority to science authority as well.

      Are you willing to apply that skepticism to religious authority? May I ask you to explain the term science authority? We know religious authority is a thing but I have not met science authority.

      Be wary of turning scientists into a new kind of clergy.

      It would be helpful if you could document anyone submitting to scientific clergy, whatever that is.

      “Scientists can also make huge highly speculative claims based on little to nothing.”

      No real scientist can simply make claims without the scrutiny of the worldwide scientific community. Every postulation and thesis is open to critical examination. Highly speculative claims are quickly rejected.

      “And like in religion, great numbers of people will often follow them blindly.”

      You cannot bring science down to the level of religion. There is nothing in science that is ‘like in religion.’ Nobody who can fog a mirror will ‘follow them blindly.’ All criticism is published and becomes available to the public. ‘Follow them blindly’ applies strictly to religion and politics and it deals with the fact that some people are simply too damn lazy to inform themselves of the validity of what they may choose to believe.

      Please come back with some facts and documentation. If you have some valid points to make about paleoanthropology and the evolution of humankind, someone will gladly discuss that. Personal grievances maybe not so much.

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      • Cagjr asks, “Would you explain just how religion, which has no basis in reality, addresses our relationship with reality?”

        Would you please explain how you, me, or anyone else, could possibly know that religion has no basis in reality? Aren’t you just stating your personal opinion, without any proof, just as theists do? That is, isn’t atheism just another faith based ideology?

        Please note that a relationship with something is not dependent on facts. As example, most of us wish to avoid death as long as possible, but that common relationship with death is not built upon any provable facts. We arrive at that relationship out of fear of the unknown, attachment to the known, cultural conditioning, belief in the credibility of the group consensus, and so on, not through possession of any provable facts about death.

        We can observe how the belief that life is better than death, a belief built upon the absence of any provable facts, upon a fantasy knowing, is not a theist thing or an atheist thing, but rather a human thing.

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        • reality
          [rēˈalədē]
          NOUN
          the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.
          synonyms:
          the real world · real life · actuality · truth · physical existence · corporeality · substantiality · materiality
          a thing that is actually experienced or seen, especially when this is grim or problematic.
          synonyms:
          fact · actuality · truth · verity
          a thing that exists in fact, having previously only existed in one’s mind.
          “the paperless office may yet become a reality”
          the state or quality of having existence or substance.
          “youth, when death has no reality”

          “Would you please explain how you, me, or anyone else, could possibly know that religion has no basis in reality? Aren’t you just stating your personal opinion, without any proof, just as theists do? That is, isn’t atheism just another faith based ideology?”

          Yes, I will. There is the definition of reality. What part of that definition can be applied to religion?

          Religion is the “belief” in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. Blind faith. Accepting unsubstantiated dogma.

          Belief and faith do not translate to reality.

          Now you say you are not religious, that you only want to warn the world of the dangers of knowledge and the threat that scientists pose to the world. From your first comment, you have tried to apply the arguments of the creationist apologists.
          So, welcome to the world of the heretics, the theists, and whoever else shows up here.

          “…the beauty of the cosmos or the incredible history of humanity.”
          Rebekah

          Digging Up Bones
          Randy Travis
          Different kinds of bones, I’m sure.

          Here is a site with lots of good stuff going on, webmaster.
          So what do you think? Our paleoanthropologists have dated our ancestors back to about eight million years. (I think I came down through the Bonobos.) It took us a while to get here. I think about the two trillion + known galaxies in the (observable) universe and I wonder how many times and places human-like life has risen. How many times has our process been repeated? Has anyone done it better? Has it happened more than once on our precious orb?
          Will humankind ever leave this solar system for another?

          <<<https://www.livescience.com/homo-sapiens.html?utm_source=Selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=LVS_newsletter&utm_content=LVS_newsletter+&utm_term=2707055&m_i=kTPk8_qA4BrJgL3z2yRIr_W5Pi2_TfIB7XTQy3YCwUAypZYUgcKDi9X5gtZcagYhCvJzlSzqg858WULL2na9FaKYJ%2BRKM6IGGZNEBRkkkk&lrh=d2087fa966ab20e3903b7edb1aac5707bfa0b669cadf2ce26e1afcd067f74a1f>>>

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          • Science is built upon the belief that the more knowledge we have, and the faster we obtain it, the better. Such a belief assumes that human beings can successfully manage any amount of power, delivered at any rate. The science clergy proclaims this absurdity to be true as they fuel the knowledge explosion to an ever faster pace, and millions of people happily believe it, due to their blind faith relationship with scientific authority. The fact that we have thousands of massive hydrogen bombs aimed down our own throat does little to undermine this perspective, because that perspective is not based in reason, and thus can not be edited by reason.

            Atheist ideologues assume there is some vast difference between religious culture and science culture. They assume that religion is based on faith while science is purely rational, uncontaminated by faith, untouched by blindly followed authority structures.

            This proclaimed vast difference, which conveniently positions atheists as supposedly superior, is largely a function of the unsophisticated imagination of atheist ideologists. It’s equivalent to the religious people who think they are holy while others are not, thus making the religious person superior in their own imagination.

            Faith in authority and beliefs which lack any supporting evidence is not a religious thing. It’s a human thing. Again, almost all of us take it to be an obvious given that life is better than death, in spite of the lack of any proof that this is true.

            Liked by 1 person

            • You continue to entertain yourself with the notion that you know what you are talking about so I am left with a final option. I will apply the law of Hanlon’s Razor to your inability or your intention not to employ the reasoning you frequently mention.

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            • Ideologists typically resort to characterizing my posts when they’ve run out of ways to rebut them, and can’t admit that to themselves. No offense taken.

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            • I have heard that line many times by different people.

              “I’m not Christian, or religious, by the way. I’m not selling any religion here, I’m selling reason.”

              I offered you several opportunities to respond to my comments but you have chosen to dodge the issue and present another asinine assumption about science, atheists, and intelligence in general. For someone selling reason, you seem reluctant to put it to work.

              What we have done in the past few days is to hijack the blog and drive the reasonable folks away. So, instead of leaving a parting shot, for about the third parting, let’s see if we can salvage something and finally make a positive contribution.

              Rebekah gave us the subject: “What I love about Paleoanthropology.”

              What are your thoughts on the anthropologist’s contribution to our knowledge of human descendancy?

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            • So you have no interest in how we got to the top of the food chain. Hmmm.

              So you are more interested in the future.

              Did you read Rebekah’s post? I couldn’t read that chart and not have my interest kicked up several notches. The timeline has been pushed back to eight million years and I remember when it was measured in hundreds of thousands and thinking that was fantastic. Somewhat further back than the six thousand years I learned in Sunday school.

              I can’t find a place to cut off the past and look at the future as though there was nothing before. We are the future world for those who came before us.

              How long do you think humans will exist in the future? Would you give us eight million years to match the past of our most remote ancestors? It seems pretty unlikely when we look at our present condition, huh?

              Diseases are a serious menace. Immunodeficient and hereditary diseases especially. But I’ve read about things like gene editing and CRISPR which have the potential of eliminating a lot of those diseases. Maybe we can extend the functional life of human beings.

              Technology is moving along pretty keen. We have more computing power in a wristwatch than in my first x86 computer. It is impossible to imagine what is just over the time horizon.

              What do you think? Will we be able to harness all this technology and couple it with all the developments in medicine to enable us to set sail, not between earth continents, but between solar systems? Can we build a plasma rocket? Did you ever read Larry Niven or Arthur Clark or Edgar Rice Burroughs?

              I believe that if we can think it we can do it.

              I wonder if we will need to rejuvenate our gene pool.

              So, get back to me on this, and let’s see how things shake out.

              We are star-stuff.

              Liked by 1 person

          • I’m interested in the future because there’s not likely to be much of one for us if we continue on the current course. Like I keep saying….

            With the best of intentions, science is giving us ever more, ever larger powers, at an ever faster rate. Just plot the ever accelerating nature of the knowledge explosion against the incremental (at best) development of human maturity, and common sense is all that’s needed to see how this is likely to work out.

            What’s obstructing us from seeing this is that the blind authority worship we once aimed at the religious clergy has been redirected to the science clergy.

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            • You have made these points in prior posts, and frankly, they don’t make any more sense now than then.

              You are interested in the future because your limited vision cannot accept that you have one.

              How about this: you plot the ‘accelerating nature of the knowledge explosion’ and ‘the incremental development of human maturity’ and share that chart with the rest of us.

              “What’s obstructing us from seeing this is that the blind authority worship we once aimed at the religious clergy has been redirected to the science clergy.”

              You may want to edit that statement and pay attention to the pronouns you use.
              The inability to ‘see’ some problem that doesn’t exist may be a local problem. We are communicating on a device, whether its your PC, laptop, or cell phone, which represents some good examples of the ‘knowledge explosion, so it is an odd thing to rail against the very thing you are using.

              “the incremental (at best) development of human maturity”

              What ever that is, I can’t imagine. Maybe you can offer something a little more specific than these vague and mostly unknown terms. Try to identify those people you have observed blindly following the science clergy.

              You may also share what your common sense tells you how ‘this is likely to work out.’

              Clergy: the body of all people ordained for religious duties, especially in the Christian Church.

              When I search for ‘science clergy’ I come up with religious clergy involved with science. I cannot find any ‘science clergy’ so maybe you can inform the rest of us just what you mean by that.

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  • Re ” I said that I was “really bad at science” even as I said that I loved and appreciated how it allows us to learn about the world around us.” Comments like “I was really bad at science” are signs of having a fixed mindset. In science a “growth mindset” is preferred in that we need to be open to what we can do if we actually try. Had you a growth mindset (at that moment) you might have said “I find this incredibly difficult, but I can master it if I put my mind to it.”

    Fundamentalist religions encourage followers to have fixed mindsets. There is no need to question or study yourself, all answers can come from clergy. This bolsters the power of the clergy and turns parishioners into “the flock,” intellectual sheep who can be lead around wherever they are desired to be . . . by the clergy, of course.

    In reading your blog since before you “came out” you clearly have a curious mind and are capable of absorbing a great deal of science . . . if it interests you. I began as a youth, passionate about science, with a 140+ IQ, and I found more than a few difficulties understanding science concepts. This happens to all scientists, especially if they have a curious bent, who are really only experts in their own fields. And, even as experts, we make mistakes with great regularity in our own field. Yes, these are difficulty subjects and humility helps. But do not degrade your ability to learn (something we do culturally to women in general (yes, still) and through churches), the only way you will find out what your limits are is by pushing against a subject until it pushes back harder than you are pushing. (I found my limit in math when I took a math course whose textbook’s only numbers were the page numbers. I needed more numbers to make sense of the math.)

    Your journey is always about self discovery, and do work on your self-talk. Any time you describe yourself with phrases like “I am not good at . . .” stop a second and see if that is a belief backed up with evidence, or is an attitude you were taught.

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    • Steve writes, “Fundamentalist religions encourage followers to have fixed mindsets.”

      Yes, true of course. The science clergy does the same thing in their typically unexamined assumption that more knowledge is always better. In both cases, religion and science, people usually have good intentions. But it is fair to point out that in both cases, religion and science, the selling of these fixed mindsets does tend to serve the interests of those doing the selling.

      Many of the properties which cause people to reasonably reject religion are not so the much the religious condition as they are the human condition. Rejecting a blind faith in religious authority doesn’t accomplish much if one replaces it with a blind faith in science authority.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ” The science clergy does the same thing in their typically unexamined assumption that more knowledge is always better.”

        That is a false narrative. There is no such thing as ‘science clergy.’ There is no clergy demanding anyone believe or suffer the consequences. The most obvious difference between religion and science is that science has no unexamined assumptions.

        The only people who see more knowledge as a bad thing are the priests and preachers whose livelihood depends on keeping their ‘faithful’ dependent on their teachings. History is full of accounts of Christians and other tyrants burning books along with their authors.

        The fact that more knowledge is always better is not an ‘unexamined assumption.’ It is proven. Religious clergy can only argue what they find in their own documents or manufacture in their imaginings. While there is supposedly one God and one Christ, there are about 34,000 denominations. Preachers and priests are seldom called to account when they stray from the approved scripture. If they are, they simply declare a new domination.

        E=MC2 for instance is the same equation in every language in the world and it has the same meaning. e=mc2

        Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time.

        Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator.

        Stephen William Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was director of research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge at the time of his death.

        These men were at the pinnacle of their professions, yet while they lived and long into the future, their thesis has and will be examined and re-examined by the rest of the scientific community. The same scrutiny is applied to all branches of science and mathematics. Those theories which cannot pass that scrutiny are rejected and its author asked to revise or abandon that piece of work.

        Science is not a matter of faith. Science is a matter of fact. Scientists are not worshipped. All the empirical evidence from Democritus until today is the basis of scientific facts. We are still dealing with atoms and voids, in a sense, but with the accumulated knowledge of the ages.

        As much as I would like to, there is no way to put religious clergy to the same standards as that in the field of science. The same things are being taught in churches today as I learned eighty years ago: And God said, let there be light, and there was light. That fact means that while the whole world knows the Genesis story is a myth, the church cannot move forward because God is infallible.

        “Of God, the Devil, and Darwin, we have really good scientific evidence for the existence of only Darwin.”
        —Shanks, “God, the Devil, and Darwin” (2004)
        Niall Shanks – 1959 – 2011

        The desire for world domination and wealth has cost religion, especially Christianity and Islam, what little integrity they may have had. Science and mathematics make errors but they make every effort to correct their mistakes. Not so with religion. God works in mysterious ways. Indeed.

        Liked by 4 people

        • @cagjr – your comment is an excellent example of what I was referring to with the term “science clergy”. Note how your challenge is aimed entirely outwards, away from the tribe you swear allegiance to. Your tribe is superior, the other guy’s tribe is inferior. You aren’t doing science or reason, you’re chanting atheist dogmas. It’s not religion exactly, but it’s quite religion-like. This is what I’m warning against, replicating the worst qualities of religion in a new “one true way”.

          As to knowledge, should we be happy that we learned how to split the atom? That discovery, done with the best of intentions, has given us thousands of massive hydrogen bombs poised to destroy everything we care about in just a few minutes. Yes, yes, yes, I know, you want to blame this on politicians. Ok, no problem, but who handed these people such awesome power?

          This is where a blind faith in science and knowledge leads, to humanity having ever more, ever larger powers, delivered at an an ever faster pace. Simple common sense reveals that if that process continues, sooner or later we arrive at some power of enormous scale which we can’t successfully manage.

          The only way out of that calculation would be to assume that we are gods who can successfully manage ANY amount of power delivered at ANY rate. I assume we can all agree that human beings are not gods.

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          • Steve writes, “Fundamentalist religions encourage followers to have fixed mindsets.”

            Steve’s comment was addressing the science of paleoanthropology based on our known stance of creationist religion. Which, by the way, is the subject of the discussion. But rather than respond with your thoughts on the subject, you find fault with Steve’s recognizing that the Christian world cannot look into the history of our ancestors and have a reasonable discussion. With typical thin-skinned
            Christian grievance, you prove just what Steve asserted.

            And to me, you write: ” Note how your challenge is aimed entirely outwards, away from the tribe you swear allegiance to.”

            You proceed in the same way, do you not? Yet it is wrong for me? Ok. I will allow you to set the rules for this discussion. Let me see the parameters you think we should proceed with.

            This is very typical and expected. Do you think I am supposed to be challenging my own argument? Would you like me to make your argument for you?

            “You aren’t doing science or reason, you’re chanting atheist dogmas.”
            Neither science nor reason, but chanting. Chanting? Your assumptions show your shallow knowledge of atheists. “ἄθεος” without deities. I know you would like to be able to define us but you can’t. I have no one nor no ‘thing’ above me and I put none below me.

            Definition of dogma: a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

            There are no atheists to my knowledge who bow to some unknowable god. You need to check around and see where all that chanting is coming from.

            Dawkins “The God Delusion”
            “…one of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.”

            “I assume we can all agree that human beings are not gods.”

            Yes. Yes, we can. We are not gods, but all the gods you worship, we have created in our image. So, in that sense, we are as close as anyone will ever be to a god.

            No god was ever in advance of the nation that created him.
            Robert Green Ingersoll. The Gods / From ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’ (Kindle Locations 142-143).

            I once thought Charles Darwin was the most despicable man in creation, but that was before I realized there was no creation as we read in Genesis.

            Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense.
            Baron Paul-Henri Thiry d’Holbach 1723-1789 Paris

            Do you believe there are any gods besides the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god? I would like for you to share your thoughts on that subject.

            “The civilization of man has increased just to the same extent that religious power has decreased. The intellectual advancement of man depends upon how often he can exchange an old superstition for a new truth.”
            Robert Green Ingersoll. The Gods / From ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’ (Kindle Locations 567-568).

            The intellectual advancement of man requires that we search out and share new knowledge. If Christianity, or any other religion, has any substantial proof of its existence, then there should be no fear of the advancement of knowledge.

            “Yes, yes, yes, I know, you want to blame this on politicians. Ok, no problem, but who handed these people such awesome power?”

            Wasn’t it God? No. Of course not. God gave us nothing. I have not found anything to ‘blame’ on anyone. The constitution gave us our laws and our obligations. One of those obligations is the preservation of the safety and welfare of the republic.
            There have been many benefits to society on the ‘splitting of the atom’ besides the creation of atomic and nuclear bombs. Do you think that ending WW II was a bad thing? I’m sure you don’t. If there was an omniscient god to show us a better way, then maybe our fumbling and stumbling would not have occurred.

            You may choose to ignore the scientific fact and physical evidence, you can deny the discoveries of paleoanthropology, but that does not make it less true. Just as the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge in all other sciences prepare our path to the future, paleoanthropology uncovers our progress from the past.

            Australopithecus sediba. They date to about 1.98 million years ago in the Early Pleistocene, and coexisted with Paranthropus robustus and Homo ergaster/H. erectus. (I think Rebekah shared this with us a couple of years ago.) These are the progenitors of homo sapiens.

            The James Webb Telescope is set to be launched in October. Its primary mirror is twenty-one feet across. Three times the diameter of the Hubbel’s primary. But the major difference is that the Webb is equipped with infrared which will allow us to look back to some of the earliest galaxies to form. Who knows. Maybe we will see evidence of God.

            This project began in 1996. I’m sure there have been many practicing Christians and other religious faiths who worked on this through the years. But religion did not make this possible. This has to do with the math and science that went into splitting the atom. By your own argument, such knowledge is in excess of what humans need or can handle. The world of science begs to differ. I think they have done well.

            You are free to practice your religion and your politics as you see fit. Nobody here wants to deny you your rights. But, if you expect the scientific community to be held to a certain standard then be prepared for religion to face the same scrutiny. If you expect Atheists to give account for their heretical ideas, then expect to give account for your faith. I don’t pray. I don’t chant. I don’t bow. I don’t worry about spending eternity in hell. I don’t ask for approval from other atheists. Or Christians. I will not let you go without a challenge to your asinine comments,

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, I think all of us should be challenging our own arguments. That process is called reason. To challenge my own argument, I would say that while such exchanges are fun, they never accomplish anything, and yet I continue with them for years.

              I’m not Christian, or religious, by the way. I’m not selling any religion here, I’m selling reason.

              That said, let’s see if Rebekah is interested in any of this before we continue. If she writes on these topics in some future post I’d be happy to engage with you further.

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      • Even Gods must yield –
        Religions take their turn:
        ‘Twas Jove’s – ’tis Mahomet’s –
        and other Creeds
        Will rise with other years, till
        Man shall learn
        Vainly his incense soars, his
        victim bleeds;
        Poor child of Doubt and Death,
        whose hope is built on reeds.
        —Lord Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto Two” (1811)
        Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

        Liked by 1 person

    • “Reason, too, was sin; the greatest of all sins, for it questioned God’s very existence, tried to understand what was not meant to be understood. Why it was not meant to be understood was not explained; probably it was because if it had been understood the fraud would have been discovered.”
      Johan August Strindberg (/ˈstrɪn(d)bɜːrɡ/, Swedish: ; 22 January 1849 – 14 May 1912)
      —Strindberg, “Married” (“Giftas”), 1884
      Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor and Sabrina Gaylor

      Also, Thomas Aquinas taught that curiosity led to all manner of sin, for instance, forgetting the scripture and learning too much of anything.

      It is hard for clergymen to face someone with questions about the existence of God. We no longer have to fear the sword and the fire. Religion has done more harm than good as far as promoting knowledge of the world and the cosmos. They are more afraid that we will find God than we are.

      Liked by 1 person

  • You need a lot of knowledge to be an expert in a particular science. But you can have a good understanding of science without that.

    Just remember that science is driven by curiosity, and by the desire to get actual data to help satisfy that curiosity. And if you understand that, you will see where creationists are failing.

    As for atheism — you don’t need to be a scientist for that, either. Once you begin to realize how religion emerges from human story telling, you get the picture.

    Yes, paleoanthropology is fascinating. When I was a teenager, relatively little was known of the history of how the human species arose. And that has changed a lot in recent years.

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