Le Café Witteveen Year in Review

A painting I did in high school.

 

Happy New Year, you lovely people! 2010 was a great year. We passed 100,000 hits. We posted almost 2,500 1900times. And we made it a full year without being struck down by lightning. Some of us anyway.

Remember that guy who’s soon-to-be fiancée was struck by lighting, and I wrote about it, and he called me … on the phone! How scary was that? That guy’s name is Richard Butler. I checked Richard Butler’s blog, and he hasn’t been doing very well. Go check in on him. He’s decided to bail on his mortgage and ride the rails around the country. Sounds like a great thing to do, really. He’ll definitely have some stories when it’s all said and done.

The year started with a bang. You’ll remember that I had a book challenge with Mark Tetzlaff. January and February ended up being Le Café’s best months ever in terms of hits. I drove to Champaign, IL to attend John Loftus’ debate with Dinesh D’Souza in February. It’s a good thing Loftus won that debate.

Honk.

Eventually during the year, Tetzlaff and his buddy Justin-pooh threw in the towel on a two-way conversational blog, and opted out for the more reasonable, Christlike one-way or the highway blog.

Zdenny threw in the towel, too, thanks to me. Just me. No one else.

But now we have a guy named David who has eased his way into the role of crazy commenter at Le Café and we welcome him with open arms.

The blog slowed down over the summer. I went on a missions trip in July to show how great atheists and believers can get along. Just because you disagree with someone’s views doesn’t mean you can’t sleep in the same room with them. The trip was with my dad, no less, and it really brought us closer.

When we got back, we shot regular-reader Xina’s wedding. Marriage is a great institution, and I’m longing for the day when all people who love one another can opt to marry one another.

Back in Chicago in August, Tina and I adopted Talulah. This was Jude’s favorite moment of 2010. Talulah the best dog I could imagine having, and she should be the poster child for pit/boxers. I don’t think I told you that while we were in North Carolina, my year-and-a-half-old niece scootched over to Talulah’s bowl while she was eating and stuck her hand in there, and Talulah only looked at her. If that doesn’t say how awesome and kid friendly she is, I don’t know what does.

The end of the year has wrapped up nicely just in time for Christmas. Or solstice. Or Saturnalia. Or Hanukkah. Or whatever damn holy holiday or not you want to honor.

Tina and I have decided to go full-fledge into business with one another. T-love has been dragging her feet over the past year. But she’s finally making the commitment and I couldn’t be happier.

Apart from that, Vuvuzela jokes got some of the heaviest hits this year. Hitchens got cancer. Dawkins died. I started a series of short stories called Pope Mohammed. And I’m decidedly going to keep on blogging, if for nothing else but to entertain the 30 to 50 of you who regularly read this blog.

I don’t make resolutions. I don’t believe 2011 is a new start except on paper and for taxes. It’s a continuation of what has been in the past and moves us into the future.

If there’s a message I have: it’s that it’s okay not to believe in Jesus, Mohammed, Yahweh, Zeus, Buddha, Zoroaster or any number of religious ideas. Life might be good with religious beliefs, but it’s damn brilliant without. The colors are richer, sharper and the grass is greener, tastes better, and tickles your neck when you lie in it … in a good way.

Oh yeah, and my new catchphrase to believers after they pull out the Pascal’s Wager card, “What if I’m wrong? What if you’re right!?! Holy crap, that would be awful.”

Believe me. It sounds really good when I say it out loud. When are you coming over for me to do my best “Jeremy” impression for you?

Whelp, that’s about it.

Did I miss a great moment? Please, leave a comment and let me know what it was. What do you want to see more of? Less of?

Cheers to you and yours! Here’s to 2011 … whatever that means.

The Pullmans WA … I honked their tonks … hard.

Some of you may remember the clash between myself and the Pullman WAs. They trolled over to the café and babied their way through some of the most inane religiosity I have seen on the Internets.

There was a book challenge in which they failed miserably. There were long discussions that Glock singlehandedly won, trouncing their childish attempts at logic.

I noticed a couple hits from their blog lately, and I noticed a new and improved Pullman site for babies and toddlers. It’s awesome!

I noticed a poll on their NEW and IMPROVED site that was just ridiculous. It featured the same old scare tactics riddled within religion. The question was:

“Are you good enough to go to heaven?”

My favorite answer was, “I don’t believe in heaven or hell.” So I answered it, and I noticed that I was the only respondent in that category. I sent my friends a note saying, “Hey, let’s ruin this poll.” We did.

We put the “Don’t believes” into the high 20s.

Then I sent a note to PZ Myers, aka the Pharyngulator.

It’s likely that they are going to remove the poll soon. Or maybe they’ll relish in the fact that they’ve gotten over 3,000 hits in one day, which has to be more than they’ve received in their blog’s lifetime. What a witness!

The new blog is littered with idiocy.

Here’s where the poll is at now (below). Notice there’s no more commenting on their new blog.

click to enlarge

Book review: Why I believe in God, by Cornelius Van Til.

As a part of the thrilling challenge that I’ve made with creationist Mark Tetzlaff to read Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth,” I agreed to read two Christian books of his choice. I put no pressure on him to decide which books. He chose ones that I assume speak to him, his intelligence, and his cause. I’m still working to complete the first book, “Evolution, the Grand Experiment” by Dr. Carl Werner. The second book, “Why I believe in God,” by Cornelius Van Til arrived Friday in the mail, and I decided I needed a little change of pace, so I went ahead and read it.

For the record, I read “Why I believe in God” out loud, word for word, in my kitchen, and read a couple pages four and five times. I read it out loud because I wanted to really digest its words, not because I’m a poor reader. I typically read fast, but I wanted to carefully examine Van Til’s message.

For a bio on Van Til, go check out his wiki. He’s Dutch by birth and moved here with his family at a young age. Everyone knows I hate Dutch people, so the book didn’t go over very well with me.

Honk.

Continue reading “Book review: Why I believe in God, by Cornelius Van Til.”

“Evolution, the Grand Experiment” Chapter Three: Darwin’s False Mechanism for Evolution: Acquired Characteristics; Antiquity–1889 A.D.

Introduction
Chapter 1 Review
Chapter 2 Review

Chapter three’s first header says, “Darwin Never Succeeded in Understanding Inheritance of Traits During his Lifetime.”

No disagreement here.

This is the first time Werner goes into some detail about Darwin’s theory. He gives this an entire page full of text. Only two small pictures on this page. One is the painting of young Darwin and the other is a small one illustrating spermatozoa.

Werner explains that Darwin published his book in 1859 and he says the following description:

Darwin proposed that all forms of life evolved from a primordial prototype. The modern theory of evolution suggest that over the course of millions and millions of years, this primordial single-cell organism evolved into a multicellular  invertebrate, which evolved into a vertebrate fish, which evolved into a semi-aquatic amphibian, which evolved into a land-based reptile. Then one type of land-based reptile changed into a bird, while another type of land-based reptile changed into a mammal. The mammal then slowly evolved into humans.

Werner explains that this chapter will show how Darwin’s idea of acquired characteristics was eventually proven wrong. Immediately following this statement, Werner explains that “acquired characteristics” is an idea that was commonly connected to “Lamarck”. A full name is not given here nor in the footnotes. Of course he’s referring to Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck.

The chapter connects Darwin via a quote to LaMarck, and then we read on to discover how Darwin’s (not LaMarck’s acquired characteristics have been disproven).

Example #1: (on this page is a photo of a man lifting weights and two photos of a baby and a child, ostensibly the man lifting weight’s children. The text reads, “even though this man lifts weights every day and develops large muscles, his baby will not be born with large muscles. Darwin did not understand this.”

Also written on this page: “Darwin incorrectly thought that enlarged muscles from exercise would be passed on to the next generation.” There is no direct footnote citing these claims.

Example #2: “Neck stretching. Scientists incorrectly thought that a horse could eventually become a long-necked animal by stretching its neck to eat food.”

There are photos of a horse grazing and a giraffe.

Then there’s some more text: “Stretching neck muscles has no effect on the DNA in the reproductive cells of the horse. A longer neck cannot be passed on to the next generation.”

No citation is given.

Example #3 and #4 given without citation is that suntanning will not cause your children to be “darker” and disuse and shedding of body parts. It says that an animal will not lose its back legs if it starts to be a swimmer (we know where this is going … whales). There’s also a picture of a person with her arm in a sling. Ostensibly, if this woman reproduced, her baby would be born without a limb or a broken arm.

The chapter ends saying that acquired characteristics was laid to rest by August Weisman’s tail cutting experiment. Basically Weisman cut off the tails of mice, and when they reproduced, their babies’ tales were always in tact. Finally, the laws of “use and disuse disproved”.

I’m not going to critique this chapter in much detail. We have only heard about controversies for evolution. Werner associates Darwin with LaMarck. Yes, Werner included a quote that uses the word “disuse”, but there’s no real connection to Darwin supporting the idea. Werner is lumping Darwin into these ideas of acquired characteristics, but without reference. I need substance! This is why I called Mark Tetzlaff out after I read his FIRST review for having an “insubstantial” critique of Dawkins. Perhaps this is what all creationists do? They make claims without sources and hope their readers are dumb enough to take them for their word.

We have not yet read of any controversies regarding creationism, despite the fact that it’s a much older “theory.” In a book that is supposedly fair and honest, where is the honest fairness?

“Evolution, the Grand Experiment” Chapter 2, Evolution’s False Start: Spontaneous Generation 322 B.C.-1859 A.D.

Introduction
Chapter 1 Review

Dr. Carl Werner opens chapter two of “Evolution, The Grand Experiment” with the words, “Even Scientists Can Be Wrong!”

In sum, the chapter discusses and old disproven theory called: “Spontaneous Generation (SG).” SG was a theory life came from non-life or non-parentage. For instance, that maggots come from rotten meat idea. Werner also hopes to show how science and scientists aren’t always accurate and are often wrong, and it takes a brave scientist to point this out.

For the record, scientists like atheists PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins admit often that science is and can be proven wrong. That’s what makes it science. An idea is generated, it is tested, and if it is tested wrong, it gets thrown out.

I also want to remind my readers that this book was chosen by creationist Mark Tetzlaff for the following rationale:

“I believe that Dr. Werner is a honest researcher. He examines the evidence in great detail and contrasts how evolutionists and creationists interpret the evidence. In his book, he never states his opinion or interpretation of the evidence, but simply explains the evidence, how others have interpreted it and leaves it to the reader to make their own choice. This book does not provide answers to our origin or development, but it does provide a tremendous amount of information that teaches us a great deal about the world in which we live.”

Let’s explore Dr. Werner’s honest research … Continue reading ““Evolution, the Grand Experiment” Chapter 2, Evolution’s False Start: Spontaneous Generation 322 B.C.-1859 A.D.”

Gotta get some shit done!

I’m enjoying all the comments on the blog lately. They are quite distracting, I’ll say, and I apologize if you’re waiting on a response that I haven’t gotten to yet.

My TODO list is growing, and I need to attack it today and tomorrow.

A couple updates, though. I’m still waiting on my books to arrive so I can start my end of Le Café Witteveen Challenge that I posed to Mark Tetzlaff. In the meantime, Tetzlaff has shot out of the gates and is already on chapter three of Richard Dawkins’ book, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” His reviews have been interesting and full of criticism. But I think it’s good. It’s positive to experience a Christian who is actually reading a book that he disagrees with. Too often we find that Christians DON’T read science books that we hold up, yet I find that I try and read every Christian book I can get my grubby paws onto.

I haven’t linked to his blog yet, and I may not here either. I’ve wanted to catch up with him and review his recommendations first. If you happen to get over to his blog, please be relatively kind. I’ve been saving his reviews to publish here. So they aren’t going anywhere. But I wanted to at least get pretty deep into the books before starting some sort of land war.

I don’t want to discourage him from reading the entire book. In fact, I hope that this experience encourages him to read more books he doesn’t agree with. AND I hope it encourages other Christians to do the same.

If you go over there, don’t attack him or Christianity. Please. With sugar on top. If you find something wrong with the scholarship, by all means, make a statement. We need to make a positive attempt to accommodate Tetzlaff and others to examine the information for themselves. If they never read it, they will never know. They will keep repeating what they heard from the pulpit, what they read on Discovery Institute dot com or Answers in Genesis. We know these are poor excuses of scholarship. They prove it over and over. The simple fact that there are no forums or comments attached to their blogs shows culpability beyond awful. The faithful accuse us often of not reading their support manuscripts, but when we quote the bible, we get shit on and accused of quote mining. Let’s play this card differently.

Let’s take the high road on this one. At least take the high road for me. When it’s said and done and he’s flipped the last page, by all means, have a heyday.

In other news, Tina verbally kicked zdenny in the balls. How dare anyone claim they cornered the market on the love game. I’m a lucky man to have found such a beautiful and loving support system. See for yourself, she doesn’t agree with atheism or Christianity. She has an amazing mind of her own, and she should be free to live the way she wants, and to love who she wants.

I would find it very disrespectful if I were to go onto his blog and claim that his version of love for his wife and kids is harmful to them. He’s mad because Richard Dawkins said that teaching kids about hell is child abuse, and makes every effort to alleviate the guilt he feels from wondering if it’s true. Well, it is true. Hell is the most demonstrably fictionalized place in the Christian tradition. It’s not an Old Testament Jewish concept. It’s a New Testament concept with varying ideas that didn’t shape into what many think now until MUCH later.

If you would be so kind as to “prove” hell to me, I would be so kind as to stop agreeing that it’s child abuse to tell children about it.

In the meantime, go give your partner a hug and a kiss and tell them how much you love them. I bet you they’ll tell you, Thank you.

Christian Book Duel Update

Mark Tetzlaff and I are having a bone fide book duel. Read more about it here and here.

In exchange for Tetzlaff’s full reading and review of Richard Dawkins’ book, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” I’ve agreed to read — not one — but two whole books of Tetzlaff’s choice and review them.

He has chosen another book and presented to me late last night.

I will be reading “Evolution, the Grand Experiment” by Dr. Carl Werner and “Why I am a Christian” by Cornelius Van Til.  As of this morning, I have ordered the books. They were not available using my the Chicago Interlibrary Loan system, so I’ve purchased them. Amazon offered the former book and I had to buy the latter book from this site.

I also bought John Loftus’ book, “Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.” Loftus recently responded on my blog, and I’ve been meaning to read the book for some time. He touts it as a book that religious studies teachers use within their classrooms as required reading. It better live up to its fanfare otherwise, I’m going to rip a new sphincter or two. I digress.

I mention Loftus’ book, because I needed to have my purchase over $25 to get free shipping as I wasn’t going to pay another $4.00 for a book like “Evolution, the Grand Experiment.”

For this little challenge, I’ve invested a total of $27.

Tetzlaff explained that he chose these books because the first one presents evolution more fairly than Dawkins’ book as it presents a more balanced view of evolution. On Amazon, you can read the first few pages (I recommend you check it out). Its pages are photo heavy. It’s seemingly more textbook-ish than the normal non-fiction read. It appears that it’s targeting schools, or maybe homeschoolers. I don’t know. I will wait to read the book personally before making any other statements about it. The second book is only 16 pages, and Tetzlaff considers it a book that will show exactly where he’s coming from.

My selfish goal is to ascertain that more and more Christians actually explore information that they deem inaccurate, untruthful or antagonistic toward their agendas. I’ve found that while I make an effort to read books from many different sources, including anti-atheist sentiment from anti-atheist authors, the least a Christian can do is read and attempt to understand opposing views, too.

A little information about Tetzlaff from a bio at his Web site:

Hello, my name is Mark. One of three brothers, I was born and grew up in Pullman, WA. I was most fortunate to have parents who were believers and communicated the gospel to me. As a result I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior when I was quite young. During the many years that have passed since that time I have become more and more thankful for what Jesus Christ did for me, and I have come to love Him more and more. Because of His great love, He gave me eternal life, unworthy as I am. However He loves you just as much and the same offer of eternal life is open to you. If you haven’t already accepted this gift, I hope you will.

Not only does Jesus Christ provide us eternal life, He invites us to have a relationship with Him. Because my relationship with Jesus Christ means so much to me, I want you to have that same opportunity. Anywhere, anytime, I can pray and know that He hears my prayers. Like a good father, He doesn’t always give me the answer I want, rather He does what is best for me. He knows me better than I know myself. Even when things aren’t going well, I know that it is for my benefit because He uses adversity and suffering to develop character in me and teach me. Did you know that you can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? He can be your friend who you talk to both in good times and in bad times. Belief in Jesus Christ can be the beginning of a fantastic relationship with Jesus Christ.

My pastor at Bethany Bible Church, is devoted to the study and teaching of the Bible. His Bible teaching has been invaluable to me. Because our knowledge is limited, there are many things we could not know without the Bible. It’s God’s revelation to man. It’s absolute truth. It’s our handbook to life. How else would you know who you are, why you are here and what you should do? Words do not suffice to express how much it means to me to have the Bible so that I know these things, so that I am not in the dark on these most important subjects. Don’t you also want to be enlightened by the Word of God?

Once you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and begin to live the way the Bible commands, you will find that the Bible rings true, that the world works exactly the way the Bible says it works. You will be able to see God’s hand in your life. With every passing year, my conviction in what I believe has become ever stronger. It is my earnest prayer for you that if you do not yet know Jesus Christ, you will put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. There is no firmer foundation upon which to put your trust.

So there you have it.

The Christian book duel? It’s on.

Yesterday I challenged Christian blogger Mark Tetzlaff to a book duel. I said that because it appeared that he had not read Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth,” he must read it in full and write an entire review on it. Then — and only then — would I validate his review and have a conversation with him about it.

I took it a step further and I said that in exchange, I’d read — not one — but TWO books of his choice. I would review his recommend on my blog and he would have to review Dawkins’ book on his blog.

Well, he took the challenge. So far, he’s only recommended one book. The book he chose?

Evolution, the Grand Experiment,” by Dr. Carl Werner. Tetzlaff chose this book because he claims it is fair and balanced in contrast to one-sided Richard Dawkins and his despotic views of evolution and evolution only.

I would like to refrain from making any judgements about the book until I have a chance to read it and digest it. After reading through some comments on Amazon, I’m anxious to see what it says myself. I want to remain as unbiased as possible and approach this challenge with an open mind. At least as open as I can muster.

For the record, I grew up in a fundamental Christian home. I went to school from 5K to through high school and then on to a college at Christian schools. My elementary to graduation was at a school called Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, NC. I have a bachelors degree in English Communication from Montreat College. Most of my education has been from a Christian background with an emphasis on creationism.

I don’t have a background in evolution. In fact, I’ve read as much as I can on both topics. Creationism pales in comparison to evolution on many levels, which is why I made the switch from creationism to evolution.

That’s just a little background for Tetzlaff and for those interested in following this conversation.

Once I get the book, the challenge begins.

Challenging Christians to a book duel

Over the weekend, a very lovely comment was made on a blog post I did back in September explaining that I was soon to read Richard Dawkins latest book, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

The comment was from a Christian blogger named Mark Tetzlaff. His blog? “The Pullman WA Gospel Messengers“. The blog’s purpose? It is “devoted to the broadcast of the good news about Jesus Christ that every human being needs to hear.” Tetzlaff’s comment? “Personally I find many problems with Dawkins argument. See my blog …” And he linked to his review. I clicked through as I was interested in any and all reviews on Dawkins’ book.

Tetzlaff’s review (which you are welcome to read here) includes portions of a paragraph from “The Greatest Show on Earth” which were written on page 8 and 9 in my copy of the book. It is a section found in the introductory chapter, and by no means was ever meant to stand on its own as proof of evolution, but a cursory statement leading readers into the crux of Dawkins’ work.

However, Tetzlaff’s review only refutes this one portion of this one paragraph found at the beginning of the book. I say “one portion” because he left out some of the paragraph, probably for sake of space or superfluous statement in Tetzlaff’s opinion.

Continue reading “Challenging Christians to a book duel”