Monday, March 25, 2013

A burning question about the Big Bang


Commentor bachfiend:
Egnor uses the 'Big Bang' as evidence of God. He would have been excommunicated and burned at the stake if he'd posited the Big Bang in 1600s Italy.
:-/

I must have missed the reason why invocation of the Big Bang Theory in the 1600's would have led to excommunication and immolation. The Catholic Church was the primary scientific institution in the world during the centuries of the scientific revolution. It did not burn scientists at the stake. Virtually all scientists of the era were Catholics. Thirty five craters on the moon are named for Jesuit scientists.

And bachfiend implies bizarrely that the Catholic Church opposed the Big Bang Theory. Actually, the Big Bang Theory is closely tied to the Church, and denial of the Big Bang Theory was championed by an atheist.

The Big Bang theory was first proposed in 1931 by Fr. Georges Lemaitre, a Catholic priest, at the Catholic University of Louvain. Lemaitre was honored extensively for his development of the Big Bang Theory, both in the scientific world and by the Catholic Church. He was elected to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and became the president of the Pontifical Academy in 1960. His fellow members of the Pontifical Academy have included Ernest Rutherford, Max Planck, Otto Hahn, and Niels Bohr. Lemaitre was elevated to Prelate Monsignor in 1960 by Pope John XXIII, and he was invited to Vatican II by the Pope.

Lemaitre died of a heart attack in 1964, having successfully escaped immolation.

Lemaitre's scientific nemesis was Fred Hoyle, an atheist, who for decades propounded the Steady State model of the universe. Hoyle denied the Big Bang explicitly because of his atheist belief that the universe was not created-- until Lemaitre's Big Bang Model was definitively confirmed by Penzias and Wilson in 1966.

"Junk DNA" was not the first theory born of atheist metaphysics that has massively impeded science.

Lemaitre joins Copernicus, Newton, Kepler, Faraday, Maxwell, Mendel and countless other Catholic and Protestant clergy and laity who created the scientific revolution.

What about atheism's contributions to science?

As noted, atheist presumptions (Steady State cosmology and Junk DNA) have held cosmology and molecular genetics back for decades. And despite rule of a third of humanity by State Atheism in the 20th century, atheism's positive contributions to natural science have been virtually nil.

Atheist innovations have primarily been in architectural science.

48 comments:

  1. Michael,

    I'd also noted that since the 1600s that the Catholic Church has evolved.

    Giordino Bruno was burnt at the stake in 1600 at the order of the Roman Inquisition, and one of the charges against him was that he posited the existence of a plurality of worlds, which was a contradiction of the geocentric cosmology that the Catholic Church accepted at the time as being consistent with Scripture.

    Soon after that, Galileo was placed under house arrest till he died for championing the heliocentric cosmology. Something even more radical, Big Bang cosmology, would have got anyone killed.

    But the Catholic Church has advanced. They didn't proscribe Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species'. They have an astronomical observatory and astronomer. They aren't as science unfriendly as you are.

    Agreed. The Jesuit Society is admirable (an opinion I've had ever since I saw 'the Mission', which is based on the more sensitive attitude of Jesuit missionaries to the native populations in the past).

    Lemaitre had advised the then pope not to use the Big Bang as evidence of Creation as described in Genesis. And he was right. We don't know what existed before the Big Bang. Neither do you.

    Before the 1920s the Universe was thought to exist entirely of the Milky Way Galaxy, and it was thought to be static. Based entirely on observations, not on considerations whether the Universe had a beginning or not.

    Actually, a spatially infinite Universe with a definite beginning 13.82 billion years ago is the only Universe consistent with absence of creator god(s). It's also consistent with the existence of God, because an almighty God can create any Universe He wants, including one consisting of just the solar system and the few thousand stars visible to the naked eye - which would be incompatible with an atheist Universe.

    By the way. Yo continue to prove your ignorance of science. Penzias and Wilson didn't prove the Big Bang. They had to be told what their detection of the microwave background meant. They'd thought that it possibly was due to bird shit.

    And 'junk' DNA is still a very robust hypothesis, despite ENCODE, and its very loose definition of 'functional', to include DNA being transcribed at least once in a cell.

    'Junk' DNA didn't delay science. The human genome was read as soon as the technology was available, and even then it cost a billion dollars to do. We do know that there is a lot of junk DNA in the human genome, including the 800,000 or so single nucleotide polymorphisms, which are free to mutate without effect, and many of which serve as markers for adjacent disease associated genes such as BRCA-1, which increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

    Obviously your difficulties in reading comprehension has caused you to ignore the final chapter in 'War Against the Weak' (your selection as the book which has done most to change your worldview), in which the author warns of a new eugenics if genetic testing reveals that a person has an increased predisposition for diabetes or heart disease makes it impossible for that person to buy health insurance. A problem we still have to find a solution.

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  2. They aren't as science unfriendly as you are.

    Why is he science unfriendly? I missed that part. It seems that he likes science very much, he just comes to different conclusions than you. Is that what science-friendly means? Everyone coming to the same conclusion? Great minds don't think alike, they think for themselves.

    Can you give me an explanation for why this neurosurgeon hates science so much? I'd like to know, what is his mental stumbling block? The lazy answer is always to blame religion, but as you've mentioned, he belongs to a church that isn't anti-science. It seems that blaming his religion isn't a satisfactory explanation here. Where on earth does this burning desire to spite science come from? Does he see the same truth that you do and just pretend that he doesn't? I'm confused. It really sounds like calling him "anti-science" is just a lazy man's explanation for why disagreement exists in the world.

    Obviously your difficulties in reading comprehension has caused you to ignore the final chapter in 'War Against the Weak' (your selection as the book which has done most to change your worldview), in which the author warns of a new eugenics if genetic testing reveals that a person has an increased predisposition for diabetes or heart disease makes it impossible for that person to buy health insurance.

    And that's Egnor's fault? I believe we have found a solution to that. Wouldn't that be prohibited under the Obamacare plan?

    What kind of scientist are you by the way?

    --Francisca S.

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    1. I'll bet you a million dollars Bachfiend doesn't give you a straight answer to your questions.

      Joey

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    2. Francisca,

      Egnor insists that western science only developed in countries under the influence of western Christianity as proof that science relies on the Christian idea of the application of regular laws, causing regular and predictable cause and effect.

      Not so. Science relies on metaphysical naturalism, the idea that physical results can only have physical causes, and that supernatural causes cannot be included in theories regardless of whether God exists or not.

      Science can't assume that occasionally miracles due to intervention of a god occurs. The basic assumption is that natural causes have to be sought for every unexplained phenomenon. Asserting that miracles are a cause is a science-stopper, and that's what Egnor does often.

      Scientists are necessarily objective though. Newton for example couldn't work out how the planets remained in their orbits, giving God a role in occasionally giving them a nudge to keep them so. Laplace explained it in 1802. Newton also thought that the Universe was infinite spatially. He was right, for the wrong reason. He thought a finite Universe had to collapse gravitationally on its centre, and since an infinite Universe doesn't have a centre, it can't collapse.

      I'm not a scientist. I'm a retired anatomical pathologist (I like to joke that I've been struck off the Australian medical registry - twice) with an interest in science and history.

      The comment about 'War Against the Weak' was a continuation of my comment that Egnor's assertion that the junk DNA hypothesis has delayed medical science is just bogus.

      Even if you have your genome read, and discover that your chances of developing diabetes or heart disease is doubled - so what? All it would do is encourage you to watch your diet and body weight and to keep physically fit; which you should be doing anyway. Genetic testing will affect your ability to get health insurance though.

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    3. I repeat myself: Where on earth does this burning desire to spite science come from? Does he see the same truth that you do and just pretend that he doesn't?

      --Francisca S.

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    4. Francisca,

      Oh, Egnor's desire to spite science comes from his desire to defend his worldview and his very primitive conception of God. There are religious scientists. Ken Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, for one. Francis Collins. I've previously recommended Robert Asher's book 'Evolution and Belief. Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist'. All don't have any problems with doing real science, accepting Darwinian evolution (broadly defined) and being Christians.

      Egnor has a stunted conception of God, including thinking that He'd be more angry about hatred of homosexuals than homosexuals themselves and that he'd be able to talk with God and engage in a question and answer session with Him after he dies (such as, 'is the story of the Garden of Eden literally true?' Really?)

      Dawkins was criticized for attacking the concept of God as an old man with a long beard, because Sophisticated Theologians (TM) don't believe in such a God. Egnor apparently still does. His idea of God wouldn't be recognized by his authority, Thomas of Aquinas.

      Delete
  3. Here's one thing I don't understand. How could the Big Bang theory be proposed by a Catholic priest and one of its detractors be an atheist? If there's one thing I've learned from reading the comments on this blog it's that religion is a bias that precludes rational thinking, whereas atheists, and only atheists, see things clearly. It's possible that an atheist might be wrong about something, but not while some Catholic priest is correct. That's simply not possible.

    My conclusion? Father Georges hates science.

    The Galileo Affair reminds me of how dissenting scientists are treated today, though not by the Church.

    Joey

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  4. Presenting the history of the Big Bang cosmology as a struggle between theists and atheists is a gross distortion. Lemaitre was hardly alone among proponents of the Big Bang.

    Lemaitre was preceded by Alexander Friedmann in Soviet Russia. Friedmann's student George Gamow was a strong advocate of the Big Bang theory. He also developed the Big Bang model of nucleosynthesis. And as anyone who studied general relativity knows, the metric of an expanding universe bears is named after 4 people: Friedman, Lemaitre, Robertson, and Walker.

    So it wasn't theists against atheists. It was one physical model against another. The two model gave distinct predictions that astronomers could verify. One of them was the existence of the background radiation, an afterglow of the Big Bang. In the 1940s Gamow was the first to estimate its temperature at 50 kelvins; Alpher and Herman had lower the estimate to 5 K. The radiation was discovered experimentally in 1960. After that, the Big Bang model was quickly accepted.

    There is a lesson here for ID proponents. Whining about prosecution won't get them far. They must make specific predictions and wait until they are verified. They don't seem interested in that for some reason. Perhaps science isn't exactly the first thing on their minds.

    Hoo

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    1. @Hoo:

      "[ID proponents] must make specific predictions and wait until they are verified."

      Done. Junk DNA. Our prediction was verified. Darwinists' prediction was not.

      Delete
    2. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyMarch 25, 2013 at 8:13 AM

      "Lemaitre was preceded by Alexander Friedmann in Soviet Russia. Friedmann's student George Gamow was a strong advocate of the Big Bang theory."

      That's pretty slick, but no banana. The whole truth is:

      Friedmann was interested in the expanding universe and curvature. His work could be used to support either the steady-state or "primeval atom" (Lemaitre's term) theory.

      Gamow's work followed Lemaitre. He may have been an advocate, but he is best known in this area for predicting the cosmic background radiation.

      One of the discoverers of that radiation, Arno Penzias (Nobel/Physics, 1978), said:

      The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.

      By the way, thanks for the material. I'm scheduled to give a talk on this very subject in the near future, and I'll be using your quote. It was a clever attempt at obfuscation. I'll be happy to give you full credit if you're willing to attach a name to it.

      Delete
    3. Michael,

      'Done. Junk DNA. Our prediction was verified. Darwinist prediction was not'.

      No, no, no, no....

      Besides the fact that the human genome contains a lot of DNA that has no function and can be safely deleted, including the tens of thousands pseudogenes (broken genes) including the final gene in the synthetic chain leading to vitamin C (the others being intact, making humans one of the few mammals to be prone to scurvy) and the 800,000 or so SNPs mentioned earlier, which are free to mutate without effect, both of which justify the term junk DNA, previously you've stated that the idea that 'junk DNA doesn't exist in the human genome was a postdiction, not a prediction, of ID.

      So what was it? A postdiction or a prediction? Make up your mind. A postdiction doesn't count.

      Delete
    4. Admiral,

      You may cite me as Dr. H. Hoo. (My first and last name are spelled the same in English.)

      My advice, however, would be not to give a talk on a subject you are thoroughly unfamiliar with.

      Hoo

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    5. Bachfiend is right: Doc Egnor is jumping the gun on junk DNA. The ENCODE team grossly exaggerated their findings for the sake of PR. Yes, they found that much of the DNA is expressed. No, they did not prove that it is functional. I have already mentioned one critical assessment of their claims. Here is another, coming from the darling of cdesign proponentsists Ford Doolittle:

      Is junk DNA bunk? A critique of ENCODE

      Abstract. Do data from the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project render the notion of junk DNA obsolete? Here, I review older arguments for junk grounded in the C-value paradox and propose a thought experiment to challenge ENCODE’s ontology. Specifically, what would we expect for the number of functional elements (as ENCODE defines them) in genomes much larger than our own genome? If the number were to stay more or less constant, it would seem sensible to consider the rest of the DNA of larger genomes to be junk or, at least, assign it a different sort of role (structural rather than informational). If, however, the number of functional elements were to rise significantly with C-value then, (i) organisms with genomes larger than our genome are more complex phenotypically than we are, (ii) ENCODE’s definition of functional element identifies many sites that would not be considered functional or phenotype-determining by standard uses in biology, or (iii) the same phenotypic functions are often determined in a more diffuse fashion in larger-genomed organisms. Good cases can be made for propositions ii and iii. A larger theoretical framework, embracing informational and structural roles for DNA, neutral as well as adaptive causes of complexity, and selection as a multilevel phenomenon, is needed.

      Hoo

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    6. Done. Junk DNA. Our prediction was verified. Darwinists' prediction was not.

      You're wrong about that. Actually, you're not even wrong about that. You're pulling a prediction out of your ass. Show the premises and logical steps to arrive at the prediction.

      Delete
    7. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyMarch 25, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      "You may cite me as Dr. H. Hoo."

      I think that captures it perfectly.

      Delete
    8. How much DNA is functional, doc? All of it? 90 percent? 50 percent?

      Hoo

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  5. I didn't say it was theists vs. atheists. Maybe you need some help with reading comprehension.

    If you must resort to straw man arguments maybe you've already lost the debate.

    Joey

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    1. Well, maybe you didn't Joey, but I wasn't responding to you. How's your reading comprehension? LOL

      Hoo

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    2. He didn't say it either. He didn't say that the Big Bang debate was all theists and only theists one one side, and all atheists and only atheists on the other. The point he was trying to make is that a priest first theorized it, which is part of the Church's long scholarly tradition that is usually ignored in the theists-hate-science narrative. And its was an atheist, not all atheists, who got it wrong. I wonder if he was one of those science haters?

      Joey

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    3. Joey,

      Fred Hoyle wasn't a science hater. He just developed the wrong cosmological model to fit the data available, and it worked. Until new data came along (the cosmic microwave background) which blew it out of the water.

      Fred Hoyle probably should have won a Nobel Prize for his work on stellar nucleosynthesis (his work was just as important as that of the ones who did). Of course, being bright in one area doesn't necessarily carry over to others. Hoyle believed that the 'flu virus came from outer space and that the human nostrils evolved to face downwards to avoid the virions dropping downwards into the nose!

      Delete
  6. "Atheist innovations have primarily been in architectural science."

    Let's not forget the atheistic contribution to the abattoir.

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    1. @Ilion:

      ... and mortuary science.

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    2. Please stop using surrender monkey language.

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    3. That would be cheese-eating surrender monkey language, Dr. Troy!

      Hoo

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  7. Excellent post, Dr Egnor.
    Kudos.

    @All,
    If you are a physician I may call you 'Doctor' on occasion.
    If you are a researcher, I will call you by name. Nor do I require you folks to refer to my as Captain, group captain, sir or any other such title I may hold.

    I work with civilian (contracted) researchers all the time who carry all sorts of degrees. We use first names unless we are filing some sort of official reports or documents.
    I hope that informality does not offend.



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    1. I don't think anyone cares here about titles. Right, admiral?

      Hoo

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    2. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyMarch 25, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      That's OK here. But for more formal circumstances, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Service (FSL/CNS) is proper protocol.

      Delete
  8. @troy:

    [You're pulling a [Junk DNA] prediction out of your ass. Show the premises and logical steps to arrive at the prediction.]

    Actually, Jonathan Wells predicted it in 2011 in an entire book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Junk-Jonathan-Wells-Ph-D/dp/1936599007

    Also, I recently wrote an entire post detailing your predictions and our predictions. [http://egnorance.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-intelligent-design-darwinism-debate.html]

    Face reality. You lost this Junk DNA debate, big.

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    1. On the contrary, junk DNA is alive and well. The claims by ENCODE spokespeople have been thrashed in the big journals over and over again. Such as here.

      Actually, Jonathan Wells predicted it in 2011 in an entire book

      A non-peer reviewed popular science book written by a creationist. Is that the best you can do? Try to summarize the 'arguments' in your own words, please. I have asked this several times before, but for some reason you are reluctant to explain the logic of your 'prediction'.

      Delete
  9. How much DNA is functional, doc? Give us a number. 100 percent? 90 percent? 50 percent?

    Hoo

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    1. My hunch is that it's nearly all functional-- goin' on 100%. We're learning more things about that function daily.

      Given that your Darwinist prediction that most of DNA is junk has been refuted, what's your new prediction, based on the data that refuted your old prediction?

      Do you have any regrets for having been such a science stopper for so long?

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    2. And how much of DNA has been proven to be functional?

      Hoo

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    3. 80% by ENCODE, based on their definition of function.

      Delete
    4. And what is their definition of function, Dr. Egnor?

      Hoo

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    5. Michael,

      No. ENCODE reckons the figure of functional DNA (functional extremely liberally defined) in the human genome might range anywhere between 20% and 80%. 80% was chosen as the headline figure to get publicity from the naive.

      If I had to estimate, I'd go for around 10%, on the basis that 1.5% represents functioning genes, 3.5% is strongly conserved and hence probably has a function, and adding another 5% to cover DNA for which we don't currently know the function.

      You still haven't addressed the point that the tens of thousands broken pseudogenes and the 800,000 or so SNPs, which are free to mutate without effect, isn't consistent with your assertion that almost all the human genome is functional.

      Wells didn't predict that there isn't junk DNA in the human genome. ENCODE published their preliminary results in 2010. He published his book in 2011. ENCODE published their final results in 2012.

      Wells made a postdiction, not a prediction. And if ENCODE had adopted a sensible definition of 'functional' to include being necessary for survival, so that mutations or deletions result in earlier death, and concluded that very little is functional, someone like Stephen Meyers would probably trumpet that it's consistent with one of his predictions in Appendix A of 'Signature in the Cell' (2009) - that design is perfect, and if it isn't, then it's due to the Fall. Meaningless.

      Delete
    6. (*The sound of crickets chirping.*)

      Hoo

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    7. *The sound of being on call and operating all night.*

      Delete
    8. 16 hours straight.

      Delete
    9. Michael,

      In that case, don't start any new threads on 'junk DNA' until you address the comments made refuting you in this thread already.

      Delete
    10. bach,

      I'll keep your injunction in mind.

      Delete
  10. "Do you have any regrets for having been such a science stopper for so long?"

    Of course they don't -- they don't give a damn about actual science, and their (false) accusation that "religion" is a "science stopper" is only made for its perceived usefulness as a stick with which to beat “religion”.

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    1. Ilion,

      No. Religion isn't a science stopper. There have been many religious scientists. I mentioned three living ones. Religion is a science stopper though when it gets carried over to science. Science works on metaphysical naturalism. Natural phenomena have natural causes reflecting regularity and predictability of natural 'laws'.

      Science just can't deal with miracles. God(s) intervening capriciously and randomly at unpredictable times causing a result inconsistent with the prevailing physical 'laws'.

      Pseudoscience such as ID which assert that currently unexplained phenomena, such as the origin of life, are due to divine miracles, and hence don't require further study, are science stoppers.

      Real scientists love unsolved problems. It gives them security of employment.

      Delete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. @bachfiend

    "No, no, no, no...."

    Yes, yes, yes, yes... your brain has a function, it prevents your skull from caving in!

    :-)

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  13. Anyway, I went back to the thread in which I made the comment that Egnor has used in this thread. It was the final sentence in a comment addressed to Trish in the thread on Sam Harris' debate. The comment concerned evidence and proof of events occurring that we accept happened (such as the death of Osama bin Laden); whether basically we accept a lot of events as happened because we have 'faith' and 'not evidence'.

    I started by noting that there's a difference between being skeptical because one refuses to look at the evidence objectively and being skeptical because one has looked at the evidence, such as is available and understandable, and finds it inadequate.

    The penultimate paragraph read: 'Science advances and progresses, with occasional detours down wrong blind alleys. Religion never changes, except in response to changes in society and scientific knowledge'.

    The Catholic Church has sensibly decided that it won't make any judgements on the truth claims of science (it's hard enough for scientists to do so). But it will reserve its right to make pronouncements on the practical uses to which scientific discoveries are applied.

    Pope Pius XII didn't criticize Newton's theory of gravity or the theory of atomic fission. He did criticize the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    The religious have just as much right to comment on how society is developing as anyone else. But they don't have extra weight in their opinions, just because they're religious.

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  14. Egnor said.

    "and denial of the Big Bang Theory was championed by an atheist."

    Are you saying that atheist, generally, deny the big bang theory?

    Because that would be one of the more ridiculous things I've heard said this year. An atheist did this, and atheist did that. Who cares. There is no trend of denial of the big bang theory that I have seen. If you're getting this from that book by Robert Jastrow, then put it away. It's the worst book I've ever read.

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    1. ""and denial of the Big Bang Theory was championed by an atheist."

      Are you saying that atheist, generally, deny the big bang theory?
      "

      My general approach to trying to understand you fools, and explain your behavior, is to go with the option that you are not stupid, but rather are merely dishonest.

      Yet, sometimes, I have to wonder whether I've bet on the right horse.

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