See the Dragon in Google Earth

I found the locations mentioned in See the Dragon and added them to Google Earth. To find some of the spots I had to overlay Vietnam maps from the internet into Google Earth. The .kmz file with all of the locations and maps is available at

See the Dragon kmz screenshot

Sam Harris: Believing the Unbelievable

This 1-hour presentation by Sam Harris gives a very good overview of why an atheist chooses not to accept the claims of religion.


(via Atheist Media Blog)

Monk debunked

I know that Matt is a big fan of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, so I decided to see what the monk has to say about why he believes in God in the first place. He has done a whole series of podcasts on the subject: Coffee Cup Apologetics. I decided to start with the first one. It's about half an hour long, but if you don't want to listen, just read on. I've pasted in Spencer's summary of his ten reasons for being a Christion:

1. It is reasonable that God might exist.
2. Further, it is reasonable (based on the evidence) that this God who might exist might be personal and therefore have communicated with human beings.
3. The world’s religions are a reasonable place to look for evidence of such communication.
4. Among those representing the world religions, Jesus of Nazareth seems to hold the consensus as the person most likely to provide convincing evidence of the God who might exist. (Since Jesus is- in some way- incorporated into all major world religions. If all the world’s religious leaders were locked in a basement until they could elect only one person to represent the best of their beliefs, I believe Jesus would be the person selected.)
5. The resurrection of Jesus is a reasonable explanation for the existence of Christianity as a distinct belief system from Judaism.
6. An examination of the various alternatives and existing evidence convinces me that the Resurrection is, in fact, true.
7. If the Resurrection is true, then Jesus’ statements about himself, God, Truth, Sin, etc. (The Christian worldview) are true by deduction.
8. Based on this conclusion, I relate to the God who I now believe exists through Jesus.
9. My experience matches what Jesus describes, providing personal verification of the truth of Christianity.
10. Based on Pascal’s wager, I await eventual verification of this conclusion after death, but haven’t lost anything if I am wrong.

1. I'm not sure why this would be the case. Spencer doesn't do much to convince us of this point. He touches on the Cosmological Argument, but in a fair way. He says that something has always been here. Either it's the universe (in one form or another) or it's God. This approach at least admits that God is subject to the same questions about origins that the Cosmological Argument puts to the universe. He goes on to say that it's reasonable to believe that God does not exist and reasonable to believe that God does exist. So far, not terribly convincing.

2. The "evidence" for God being personal is that people are personal. There's obviously a connection here, but which way does it really run? Are we personal because we're made in the image of God, or is God personal because he's made in the image of humans? I find the latter explanation to be simpler and more believable. And if we're assuming that human attributes mirror God's attributes, why stop there? Is God a mammal? Does God die? Is he angry, jealous, petty, vengeful? Do his fingernails grow at a rate of 3.5 cm per year?

3. I don't see a big problem with this one. If there was a God, he would probably have some kind of interaction with people. I would expect there to be a bit more consistency between the world's religions, though. If I were God I would make sure that there wasn't a lot of confusion. But then, I would probably create a world that didn't have every appearance of arising by totally natural causes, too.

4. This may be the weakest point Spencer puts forward. It's a quick shortcut for him to glaze over all of the religions of the world and arrive at -- surprise! -- his own religion as the one most likely to be true. I don't know if Spencer considers Judaism to be a major world religion, but I'm pretty sure that Jesus is not incorporated into it.

5, 6 and 7. All three of these depend on the belief that the Bible is telling the truth about the life and words of Jesus. It's not a belief that I share with Spencer. He says that the miracle of the resurrection is the best explanation for the arrival of the Christian movement. Are the miracles of Muhammad the best explanation for the rise of Islam? Most religions and other myths make claims about miracles. There's no more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than that Muhammad split the moon.

8 and 9. These two points are really the same thing. It's fine for people to have personal feelings about Jesus, but that does next to nothing to convince me that there is reality behind the feelings.

10. I always hated Pascal's Wager, even when I thought God was real. I liked to cite Corinthians 15:17-19, which says that if the central tenet of Christian faith (the resurrection) is not true, then Christianity is futile and pitiful. And if God is real, I doubt that he would be very impressed with someone who decided to believe in him "just in case".

I'd like to take a closer look at why I don't trust the Bible in a future post.

The language of humans

This is a response to Kyle's response to my review of the Language of God. Read those if you want to know what the first sentence of the next paragraph is about.

It's a good story. That kind of connection between people is beautiful and important and maybe even a clue to why we're here. It transcends race, nation, class and religion. Some people look at that moment and see God at work, and I can respect that. It certainly doesn't violate the rules of science and common sense like so many other attempts to prove God is real.

But I see it a different way. I see the connection between humans, the empathy, the struggle against meaningless and despair and ultimately the decision to find or create meaning through your life. Those things are very human and require no supernatural help.

The subtitle of the book is "A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," but the principal reasons Collins believes are neither scientific nor evidence. That came as a surprise and disappointment for me. I was expecting a certain type of answer and got something very different. I know that Kyle finds the personal sources of faith to be the most convincing, but that just doesn't do the trick for me. Feelings can be explained in so many other ways. Evoking the supernatural seems like a much more unlikely explanation than many others.

If science answers some of the questions left after religion is gone, then humanism takes over most of the rest. For instance, in the story Kyle quoted, I think the value, kindness, empathy and searching comes from the people involved. I don't see them as proxies for those same attributes in a deity.

If we have flaws, they are human flaws, not the slings and arrows of the devil. If there's any hope for our salvation, then it comes from the goodness inside humans, not some rescue from outside. This view of the world means we take more responsibility for ourselves and we're less fatalistic. How many times have you heard someone end a discussion about the problems of the world by saying, "Once Jesus comes back, it will all be fixed"? If our problems are going to be solved, we'll have to do it ourselves.

In practice, this is not such a different view from many Christians. As much as I respect and agree with any Christian Humanist, I can't help but notice that they're making a great departure from the essentially apocalyptic teachings of Jesus and Paul. Just as Kyle asked why anyone would believe in God once science has answered certain questions, I wonder why someone would believe in God once they had accepted the humanist explanations for others. That's the point I finally arrived at before giving up religion. For me, all the explaining power of Christianity was gone and the only thing keeping me in it was inertia.

Creationist museum teaches superevolution

The Creation Museum, which opened this spring in Kentucky, teaches its visitors that the earth is under 10,000 years old and that the Biblical story of Noah is literally true. The museum claims that evolution could not have produced the diversity of life that we see today. But if you look closely at what they say, they actually believe in superevolution.

The story of Noah has several problems, but the one I want to point out is that the boat could not have fit two of every species on the planet today. It's safe to assume that there are over 1 million species of land animals today. The Creation Museum, using the most generous of estimates, claims that 10,000 species were present on the ark. Even they won't try to claim that more could fit. So, where did we get all the species we have today, then? Take a close look at this picture from the museum:

This panel from the museum assumes that the ark had one pair of apes and all the ape species that we see today are descended from this one species. One species splitting into multiple species, hmmm. That sounds an awful lot like evolution. But, it's more than that, it's superevolution. Remember, this is all supposed to have happened less than 8,000 years ago. Going from 10,000 species to 1,000,000 in 8,000 years is some pretty rapid evolution. It's much, much faster than scientists think evolution normally happens.

This video
goes into more detail.

Lewis Black on creationism

As only Lewis Black can say it.

iMovie 08

I just finished my first project in iMovie '08. I'm really trying to like it, but it's hard. Here's a quick run-down of the pros and cons as well as my idea for how to fix it.

Scrubbing - Move your mouse over clips and you scrub through the clip.
Selecting - Scrub to where you want to start the selection, click and drag, scrubbing to where you want to stop. Then drag the selection to your project. This is an improvement over iMovie 06.
Events - I like this feature in iPhoto and I like it in iMovie, too.
YouTube export - This is great. I've spent hours trying to export to YouTube and the quality was never as good as this. Easy and good quality.
Other exports - The export interface for just making a quicktime movie for iTunes or iPod or iAnythingElse is very simple and nice.
Importing from camera - There's a new automatic mode that rewinds the tape and imports all of it. Cool.

No timeline - I like seeing a visual representation of how much time each clip takes up. The iMovie 08 project area isn't impossible to get used to, but it's not ideal.
Audio controls - The audio rubber band is gone. It allowed you to edit the volume in a clip.
Can't mute all the original clip audio easily - If you drag a bunch of clips to your project and add some music, you may want to mute the original clips and just have the song. You have to edit each clip and move the volume to 0%. In the old iMovie you could uncheck the audio track and mute it all at once.
Can't delete multiple clips from project - Add a bunch of clips or photos to your project, then change your mind? You have to delete them all one by one. WTF?
Less control over transitions - Add a transition and want to make it a little longer? Sorry, you can't.
No slow-mo or time-lapse - You used to be able to speed up or slow down a clip. No longer.
Less control in general - Maybe that's nice for novices, but I got used to some of the things you could do in iMovie.

My solution:
Most of the problems are in the timeline area. One solution would be to scrap the new timeline and go back to the old way. Here's what that would look like:

Digg it

Geography of faith

Here's an interesting animated map showing the territory of several religions over time:

Histroy of Religion: The Geography of Faith and Its Wars Across History

There are several other interesting maps of war, including the The US Wars and The Imperial Occupations of the Middle East.

See the Dragon (Hardback)

I just got my proof copy of Don Arndt's See the Dragon: One Wolfhound's Vietnam Story in hardback and it looks great, so I made it available for purchase. Now we have three versions available: PDF download ($9.99), paperback ($14.99) and hardback ($26.99). If you're interested in learning about the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Missouri farmboy that was drafted, then you might enjoy this book. If you like the book (or if you just take my word for it) then you can help us promote the book. A quick link to on your site would be a big help. And we'd love to have someone read the book and write a review on

How old is the Earth?

I don't know how many of my readers think the Earth has only been around for 6,000 years. I would assume it's a small percentage, but I might be surprised. I've got a poll running now about that, so feel free to cast your vote. I'd also like to hear from you in the comments. If you think the Earth is young, please explain why. I've looked at young Earth creationist ideas like those on the Answers in Genesis website and the Creation Museum. They seem to go to great lengths to avoid generally accepted science.

I know there are some very intelligent believers that read this page. Maybe some of you can explain the relationship between your faith and your views of science.

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