Okay, so I frequent an online chat room moderated by youtube apologist/egomaniac Shockofgod.  I have to say about him and the experiences I've had with other atheists and christians there, but there's just one small point that strikes me as odd.


It seems to me that, at least in that forum, the longer a religious discussion goes on, the more likely it is that it will tend to become a Physics discussion... in other words, not a religious discussion.  I think this is odd because physics is a field of study that the average person knows little to nothing about.  I'm going to be taking Physics in college next semester, and I personally wouldn't have been eligible to sign up for it if I didn't have adequate grades in Calculus (and I suspect that the courses I took in Chemistry will come in handy too).  Consequently, I'm amazed that your average joe christian who lacks formal education (and might even be adverse to "evil" colleges) feels that, after reading a couple articles on *enter website here,* they are an expert on the subject qualified enough to ram their "knowledge" down other people's throats and ignore all opposition.  So, if you ever want to live through the surreal experience of being lectured on the intricate details of a field of study as complicated as fucking PHYSICS by a thirteen year old christian apologist who owes his confidence to a couple articles found on Answers In Genesis, then by all means, go visit Shockofgod's online chat room.


So why Physics?  I'll tell you why; it's a copout.  It's a cover for an otherwise general lack of evidence of the existence of any god.  For instance, you'll hear numerous modern christians opining that their god is "beyond mankind's capacity of understanding" or that he "exists somewhere outside the universe."  Well here's something to consider:  NOBODY knows what exists outside the universe.  Isn't awfully revealing that apologists cherry-pick some intellectual grey-area and plant their god there, all the while professing absolute confidence in their being correct?  Why not plant a god in a place that humans have significantly more knowledge of?  The answer is this:  It's been done before.  Once you understand that religious types once said that gods lived on mountains (before we explored them), and then they said that they lived in the sea (before we explored it), and then they said they lived somewhere in the sky, or space (before telescopes or before we understood exactly what clouds, the sun, and the moon are), and NOW some of them say that god exists somewhere "outside" the universe, then you've discovered what I call the "retreating god" dilemma.  Every time we learn something new, the discussion changes.  And now it's physics.  Well, whatever.


My first exposure to Physics was in my junior year of high school.  I never thought it'd be relevant to my career in the future, so I skimmed by with B's and C's.  I wasn't the only one; in general, the entire class seemed indifferent to Physics.  If only I or my instructor knew that the key to getting adolescents interested in Physics is religion, then maybe I would have invested more interest in the subject.


Anyway, in the interest of making this a discussion instead of a rant, have any of you had this experience before?  Better yet, have any of you ever felt that a christian could convert you with a Physics related subject like the Big Bang?  I ask because I've met christians who claim to have been atheist who became christians once they "learned" about physics.

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It tends to happen on both sides. This is, generally speaking, why I avoid discussing science with Christians at nearly all costs. First and foremost, I am not a scientist. While my elementary and high school careers saw me do well in both math and science (I was an electrical engineering major at a prominent vocational school and spent 3 years competing in US First Robotics. I took physics, chemistry and calculus.) I abandoned science after high school in favour of a more Humanities based education (though I was very close to doing a chemistry/mathematics double major).


The problem is that most people, religious or not, are also not scientists and are often fairly inadequate at explaining anything about it. They can regurgitate things they read off of a website or know all of Carl Sagan's speeches verbatim but all of their knowledge is by rote. They can't often explain WHY something is the way it is. Science is hard, it isn't something that you can pick up in a week of surfing Wikipedia. It isn't something that you can be an expert in no matter how many of Dawkins' or Hawking's books you have read. Because science is hard, people look for the simple rote knowledge that they can spew and seem to know what they are talking about. In communities which will then look to impress the other side with what seems to be in depth technical knowledge.

Yes, in fairness I should acknowledge that I have witnessed non-religious types make some astounding claims with unfounded certainty.  Intellectual dishonesty is a characteristic shared by people of all kinds.


But human nature is weird, sometimes it's as if the less you know about something, the more certain you are of your understanding of it

Bear in mind that I have seen people on both sides of the table play this game. I can't count how many skeptics I have discussed things with who act like they were in the lab when the Human Genome Project finally sequenced human DNA. In my experience it isn't religion, but egotism, which leads to being overly assumptive about their own skills with science. The more sure someone is about being correct in their general worldview the more likely they are to fudge the details. This leads to Young Earth Creationists misusing things like the second law of thermodynamics or skeptics who are unable to explain current models for cosmogenesis despite the fact that both sides try.

Right, whenever someone, religious or not, has a presumptive conclusion and they aren't particularly honest about their expertise, it seems that they're more likely to have false confidence in their knowledge of a subject
I agree to a point, but I wouldn't call reading a bunch of biased articles online scientific.  Unfortunately, for some people that's all the scientific experience they need to claim that they have a well-rounded understanding of any given subject.
I have noticed a large increase in the use of “Science” by various cults, especially the Jehovah Witnesses. They use it to suit themselves and bolster their “evidence” for god. However they will dismiss it and denigrate scientists in the same breath. The most annoying aspect of it is that it is badly misunderstood. I recently debunked a publication that misquoted or misused data by 28 out of 30 scientists referred to. The worst part was that the articles aim was to show that Evolution is “only a theory” and push the case of creationism. None of the scientist is a creationist!! (Awake Nov. 2010 I think but could be a month out). Listening or hearing religious crap is one thing but hearing “bad” science from them is painful.

My usual line here is Science deals with the natural world and religion with the supernatural. The bible is not a science textbook.

Another good one is when they mention the Second Law of Thermodynamics (and they will) ask them about the third law.

Here is a useful rule I copied once.

C.P. Snow, the British scientist and author has offered up an easy and funny way to remember the Three Laws. He says they can be translated as: (1) you cannot win (you can’t get something for nothing because matter and energy are conserved. (2) You cannot break even (you cannot return to the same energy state because entropy always increases (3) you cannot get out of the game (because absolute zero is not attainable).

Thanks for the advice about the third law!  People bring up the second law to me all the time.


That is a good way to remember the three laws. Thanks.
Having grown up in Norway, I'm not quite sure about that last parenthesis ;)
I grew up in New England and went to college in Ontario, I know what cold is. However, just thinking about a winter in Norway makes me shudder.

You know it's truly cold when the Kelvin scale becomes more relatable than Celsius. :)

Fyi: The ocean and gulfstream proximity makes it so that it doesn't get too cold where the majority of people live. Winters in Oslo are generally -5 to +5 until end of January and -5 to -25 until mid March at the latest (though they have been colder the last 5 years due to climate change). The social convention is that -10 is when you can start complaining.

That doesn't sound so bad, but still colder than my liking. Growing up in Massachusetts I remember a day when school was cancelled due to it being -40. My mother and step-father live in Calgary, where I have said I will not visit them November through March.


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