My friend Mark has some pretty pointed things to say to Christians who make it their business to witness to atheists such as himself.

Other Christians may disagree, but I think the entire notion of building relationships simply to further the spread of a belief system (even Christianity!) is repugnant. We should build relationships for the sake of building relationships. We should be real friends, not phony friends 'doing God's work.' If, from time to time we find ourselves reconciled on some previous point of disagreement, that's gravy as far as I can see.

The logo on this page seeks to make this point. The big letter 'A' is used as a symbol of atheism by some folk. I've modified it with the words 'Friend Of" to distinguish myself sympathetically from a community that I appreciate and enjoy. But I should also point out that I don't think of these folk as 'my atheist friends', but rather 'my friends who happen to be atheists'. Real friendship is not tokenism, either.

Now, one point of Christianity which strikes me as internally incoherent has to do with loved ones who are not saved. We are promised that 'God will wipe away every tear' with respect to the losses of our earthly life. We are also assured that some go to eternal reward, and some to eternal condemnation. What is not clear is whether or not those we love will be rewarded, or condemned---and whether or not we will grieve the family or friends who are not 'saved'. If the latter is the case, that we will grieve such things, then the promise to 'wipe away every tear' seems to violate our freedom of consciousness. I would not want to worship a God who would condemn my friends for honest doubt, or who would rob me of the grief that honors their loss.

I therefore choose (perhaps heretically) to believe that the task of Christians is to love not just each other, but the whole world, to love it so much that even the tyrant God that rules the imagination of so many believers would be dethroned. Real love is more powerful than death, and as far as I am concerned, my friends are my friends forever, in life and in death.


Our debate has wound its course.

I would like to thank Vox for a spirited exchange, and an interesting one. The arguments that Vox raised are interesting because they are not the same old tired YEC or ID boilerplate arguments. I don't significantly disagree with Vox's characterization of the resolution of the 'debate'. Indeed, more than once, I felt that we coalesced upon the same points of agreement. One of the advantages of our exchange is that we felt free to acknowledge our occasional points of agreement without worrying about whether or not we were losing 'points' in the 'debate'.

As to a moderator....yes, if our goal is to have a quick back-and-forth, then that would be helpful, but then if that were the case we probably should have agreed upon a more tightly-focused point of discussion. On the other hand, by not having much in the way of ground rules, we ended up having this sprawling off-and-on exchange that probably frustrated readers at times...but, I have to say, from my point of view, was a helluva lot more fun. I suspect Vox would agree.

Vox, let's do this again sometime. I think, based upon where we ended up, we could probably have a pretty rewarding discussion on the nature of science and the role of theories in guiding scientific research, and when and whether theories are modified, or else scrapped.


John Wilkins has a fascinating discussion of this question, in two parts---and I hope there's more. It's hard to believe that I guy with this much scholarship is still twisting in the wind, looking for a permanent post in academia. He's arguably one of the world's experts on the question of species definitions. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.



(If you 'own' a cat, that is)



It's a Dylan song, of course, from the somewhat-notorious album 'Slow Train Coming' when Dylan seriously flirted with born-again Christianity. (He appears to have moved on somewhat)

But, it's also something that people have been doing for a long time, but not in any real systematic way until Carl von Line (Latin: Linnaeus) published his Systema Naturae (the frontispiece of the tenth edition of same, from 1758, is shown on the right).

And more and more of this early taxonomic work is now available on-line, thanks to the growing, free and searchable digital library which is AnimalBase.

Check out their search pages, which has links to more than 700 books and papers, some from as far back as the middle of the 16th century. While you're at it, consider that these attempts at classification didn't necessarily assume, but also typically never ruled out, common descent. As such, early taxonomies represent de facto hypotheses which can be compared with taxonomies informed by evolutionary theory.