Monday, September 29, 2008

Am I Worried About Creationists?

From a scientists point of view I am only interested in the truth, not what I want that truth to be. Let's imagine there is a scientific discovery which turns the world of science on its head and suddenly a young earth isn't merely a nutjob idea but is actually supported by mountains of evidence. (Such a scenario would almost be impossible) I don't know many people who wouldn't jump on it! For one thing it would validate the three great monotheisms and for the first time there would be a good reason to believe in their god. I could imagine there being a huge sigh of relief that yes it was all true all along and now we can all join in and go to heaven...well apart from those like Carlin, Sagan, Russell, etc.

For many centuries it was the case that all and sundry, scientists included, believed this - of course it wasn't based on evidence but merely a lack of evidence to the contrary. As the scientific onion has peeled back more and more understanding of the universe and our origins, its becoming more apparent that our origins are from a naturalistic basis (this is not to discount a supernatural intervener) billions of years ago rather than a special creation event some 6,000 years ago.

Faced with this dilemma, Christians have chosen to re-read Genesis as an allegorical story rather than a literal historical account. For those with a literal and unsophisticated view of the bible they chose the other route, that is, to tell God how He created things! Such arrogance isn't surprising from those who worship the bible as a God unto itself and who believe they already have the answers. They would be right if God Himself wrote the bible - but we know this is not the case.

Creation scientists do not bother me in the slightest. To gain credibility they go into orthogonal or adjacent fields instead of the field itself. One person I know of who is in the same Physics department as myself is John Hartnett. He is a well respected scientist in the field of Frequency Standards and Metrology but shows his ineptitude when venturing into a field he is ill equipped to evaluate, that is, astrophysics. His ineptness comes from his presupposition that the universe is 6,000 years old and the big bang is wrong. He also enjoys spamming the Physics mailing lists with anti-global warming op-eds. (I've always failed to understand the correlation between GW deniers and Christians)

Another who is currently trolling the Facebook Group "Two Chix Apologetics" is Jonathan Sarfati. If I needed to know something about chess or Raman Scattering in Chemistry then he would be the guy to ask, but when it comes to his pet subject evolution he enteres with his bias that evolution cannot be true and thus reveals his ignorance. Until he, and other creations are willing to enter the fields they deride and publish in reputable scientific journals, they remain merely a side-show.

So long as the game is played according to the rules of science, I suspect creationists will always lose. Some have made it obvious they want to change the rules. Behe was laughed out of court in Kitzmiller vs Dover when his "redefinition" included pseudoscience such as astrology. Science has enjoyed many fruits from its materialistic presupposition - this isn't something that those of faith should be worried about, it should be orthogonal to their central claims.


The battlefield isn't really the field of science, its actually the public and the classroom. Evolution is a complicated field and I could imagine for the lay person it could be too bamboozling to understand. Phrases such as "if evolution is true then why are there still monkeys" and "evolution is only a theory" (my Dad's favourite) are attractive sound-bites which require answers which take five times longer to explain. Of course this is simply an education issue.

The problem becomes one of authority versus authority. On one hand we have something complicated, Evolution, taught by materialistic scientists and on the other hand we have something complicated, theology, taught by God fearing preachers who are promising heaven! It's hard to compete with that. They are both, to the lay person, positions of power. The difference of course is that theology is not open whereas science is. Over time theology fractures, science converges.

So the religious make it appear as an "us versus them" and create a "holy war" where anything goes for the glory of God, including lying...

Another problem is that the middle ground people (such as the Catholic Ken Miller) are drowned out by the atheist scientists who tout evolution as the lynchpin that holds non belief in God viable. As true as it might be - its a PR nightmare! So long as the average person sees Dawkins as the poster-boy for evolution instead of Miller or Pope John Paul II, then they will continue to see it as "us versus them".

Getting the young is their best strategy. Young minds are the most malleable and they will believe almost anything their parents or teachers tell them. I've never heard any religious person advocating that people should be given a well rounded education and then at the end they use their reasoning skills to choose a religion they believe to be true. It would of course be a more "true" faith - but as we know they are about "protecting" the young from "straying", even if this means lying or supressing information.

Kitzmiller vs Dover was important because it exposed how the motives were purely religious and not secular. It also showed how it "wasn't science" and worst of all, those in the "Intelligent Design" camp were lying on the edge of purgery. The rest of the world sighed in relief!

The Failure of the Wedge Strategy
The Wedge Strategy was a five and twenty year plan (started in 1999) to change science and the publics opinion to get America back to a biblical way of life because "the social consequences of materialism have been devastating." and "in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism."

Well its nearly ten years on and they haven't even gotten to their five-year goals.

Governing Goals

  • To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies.
  • To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God.

Five Year Goals (2004)

  • To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
  • To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
  • To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Twenty Year Goals (2019)

  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
  • To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its innuence in the fine arts.
  • To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.
To anyone outside of their delusion its easy to see why they have failed. They have started on false assumptions about how the world works. This is why science will never be replaced by "intelligent design theory" because it doesn't appear to be true! Science won't bend to fit into a narrow field of view and if you don't like it take it up with God who designed the entire thing to look like he wasn't involved and inspired a book to incorrectly state He created things in 4004BCE.

Dare I say it, while they have been focusing on the United States the rest of the world has been retreating from their goals. I am unable to tell if their "cultural and moral" life has been affected - clearly the politics is. (Sarah Palin anyone?)

If They Win...
If they win then its the end of science as we know it. If they win because they are correct then so be it. If they win because they overhaul science or win by getting political power or convincing enough drones to follow them then we will all be worse off because of it. You can kiss goodbye to discovery and welcome back to the Dark Ages Version 2.0, this time with Nuclear Weapons. (In the hands of those who believe things need to get worse for God to come back...)

This is a fight for humanity. One that if we lose, we all lose. For those on "the other side", they don't care about this world - except to see the back of it as quick as possible so they can see us burning in hell. Joy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Secular Education

Jane Caro is wrong when she claims that
If religious instruction is to be offered, it must be voluntary, parents must be told what it will preach and who will preach it (and who is paying for it), and it must not prevent students who opt out from doing something constructive. No one in authority, no matter what their own beliefs, should ever sanction - or even just turn a blind eye to - conversion by stealth. - WAtoday
Daniel Dennett et al. propose that we should teach Comparative Religion. That is to say we should teach all students, from both private religious schools to public schools different world religions including the three main monotheisms which make up a large proportion of the world population.

I believe such a model is appropriate if we are going to cope with the influx of Muslims into this country. The best way to nip racism, discrimination and bigotry in the bud is education of the young. It is better that people who come out of school get an education to what Islam (and others) is really about, otherwise their opinions might come from the media or church leaders.

Comparitive Religion also gives the students a broad horizon as to the different faiths systems that exist in the world, including how they started, their moral systems, world view, etc. This can also be a platform for those advocating Creationism so that this can be taught alongside Hindu creation stories, Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and others.

Such instruction should be free of bias and inclusive of all faiths without making truth claims one way or another. It should not be a platform for teachers or preachers to corrupt young minds with false claims. It is also important that all student be given this opportunity to learn. Why should we allow parents to selectivly choose who and which religion indoctrinates their children?

As someone who was raised for some time as a Jehovah's Witness, I consider myself lucky that I was able to get a proper education on such matters as science, evolution, sex education, etc. Should my upbringing have continuted on the path that my parents chose for me based on religious grounds, I would not have been exposed to a proper education and would have been disadvantaged for the rest of my life - my mind clouded with the falsehoods that evolution must be wrong and I could never have blood transfusions, etc.

It saddens me that some children will never get the opportunities I got in life because they have been indoctrinated by parents and preachers who believe they have the right to determine what the children are exposed to and cloud their minds. Looking back I now get what they meant when they spoke about some things as being dangerous to faith.

Surely a more genuine belief is one made with all the facts and all the options on the table instead of one which exists only because they were denied facts or threatened from even thinking about other options?

Imagine if Bob Hawke, our only openly atheist prime minister, had allocated $165 million for religious schools to have an atheist, agnostic or humanist counsellor, philosopher or ethicist to help them teach values and improve their pastoral care.

I didn't know Bob Hawke was an open atheist but it doesn't surprise me that we have had at least one. I feel more content knowing that our country allows atheist leaders, such a scenario would be impossible in the United States.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Evolutionary Economics

Imagine the following situation:

A society develops where the rich have more children which survive than the poor either because they can economically provide for them or because they can afford health care, etc. Imagine then that when the rich die, they give most of their money to their offspring (as opposed to their spouses, etc) thus giving their offspring a good headstart in life.

Such a society would, over the course of a number of generations, be populated by the genes of economically successful people. (That is, one could trace their linage back to someone who was wealthy) Now its not possible to isolate a "rich" gene as such, but purely from a survival of the fittest and evolutionary perspective we can imagine the characteristics which lend themselves to economic success would become refined in such a society where the rich have more "effective" children than the poor.

Such a scenario is not purely a though experiment but may be a causal contribution to the end of the period of human existence before the 1800 where on average the income and total infrastructural investment of the world was very low. (That is to say, there were no paved roads, railroads, airports, piped water, electricity, sewerage, etc)

The society in question was Great Britain in the Middle Ages (1400-1800) where they have studied the wills of the poor and rich and found that the rich were more willing to give to their siblings as opposed to the poor, but the poor were more likely to give to charities. The poor also had less surviving siblings than the rich too.

This is a field of research known as Evolutionary Economics which tries to explan from an economics point of view the rapid capitalisation and scientific development which has occured during the past couple of hundred years. (Gregory Clark at Beyond Belief 2)

If true, it has a few alarming consequences, but could also solve some pressing social issues...
Australians are familiar with the divide between the native Aboriginal Australian's and those of European heritage. Some Aboriginal communities are on par with Third World countries even though Australia is a First World country. Evolutionary Economics would explain why the Australian Aboriginals are unable to assimilate into a modern world. It may not just be a cultural problem, but could be due to genetic distribution problems which make Aboriginals more suited to their hunter, gatherer past as opposed to those genes which make people economically sucessful.

If true, we may be wasting our time in trying to force them to assimilate because they may not be able to. We are arrogant to assume that assimilation would be better because its not possible to show that our modern society is somehow more progressive, humane or better than a hunter, gatherer and sustainable society. Some have argued that we have done a disservice to humanity in moving to cities and forming civilizations because we have been tuned to be hunter gathers for the better part of 100 to 200 thoundand years.

Now I put the following situation on the table.
Imagine if smart people have less children than dumb people. What would happen to the population after a few generations?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Debate Summary: We are better off without religion.

We Would Be better Off Without Religion?

"Lyn Allison" - Pro

Lyn's argument was a machine gun approach to explaining why religious is harmful. Without a moment to breathe she jumps from point to point picking apart the bible, the religious, the religious leaders, the expectations of rapture, on and on. Each point is worthy of more time being spent but I do not think this is what she had in mind. She would have been better suited to focusing on a few points rather than a lot. She finished by stating that we need to be concerned because the ideas of the end of the world is not compatible with the need to save the world from ourselves.

"Ian Plimer" - Con

Ian starts by arguing the anthropic principle and "fine tuning of the solar system" which has nothing to do with the question at hand (unlike Vic, he didn't state why this was important). He then explains why environmentalism is a new religion, hurting his case. He makes an argument which is essentially that we would be better off without an environmentalist religion - but I do not think this was his intention. As a former humanist of the year one might ask if he was playing devils advocate or perhaps attacking Lyn and the environmental movement, however this really wasn't the stage to do that.

"Richard Ackland" - Pro

Richard calls out Ian's tactic with comedic effect. His whole talk was fantastic, using clever humour and wit with good effect. He argues the scientific case regarding contraceptives and shows how religion perverted its development. "We have religion to thank for monthly PMT". He notes how religion perverts third world charity by requiring unreasonable caveats.

Its interesting to note that the SMH version of the talk censored his blurb about "The Jewel of Medina", a book highly critical of Islam and the prophet Muhammad, yet fortunately the ABC version didn't censor it, and I don't understand, having now heard the censored part, how it was controversial!

He finishes with showing how the religious look after their own even when they commit crimes and how he isn't convinced about the argument that there exists a god. His arguments were not water tight, but he presented them in a good fashion.

"Suzanne Rutland" - Con

Suzanne seemed nervous but gave an overall good case without presuming her particular faith was the correct one. She did focus on her Jewish beliefs but its hard to know if she was coming from a secular Jewish perspective or a religious Jewish perspective. She notes the bad parts of the bible and asks if we would be better off without the good stuff too? She uses the bible to claim our Judeo-Christian values were derived from them. She claims women *aren't* hard done by in the scriptures by using a proverb Jews sing on friday nights.

She notes the existence of reciprocal altruism that individuals need groups and that traditionally religion filled this role. She notes that without anything to take its place bad things will happen a so-called "Spiritual poverty". (Drug, alcohol, depression, etc). She claims people need religion just like they need air. She finished by asking a fallacious question, do we want to live in a irreligious society like Nazism or a religious altruistic society.

She actually answered the question and presented a sound outline as to the real reasons we should keep religion irrespective of its individual truth values. Unfortunately for her without if all religions are false then the argument is easily defeated.

"Vic Stenger" - Pro

Victor started with an appropriate quote from "The God Delusion" asking would we be better off without religion, without violence, etc. He claimed the only thing atheism and secular humanism cannot offer is heaven however a rational understanding is more appropriate for society than believing in fairy tales. Victor states that the real issue is about the existence of god.

He talked about the problem of evil and attacked the Kalam Cosmological argument and how it was based on a statement by Hawking and Penrose but was later retracted in the 80's. (No singularity occurs due to quantum mechanics.) The assumption that the big bang was the beginning has no basis in science. He talks about how everything that begins to exist does not need a cause, he states atomic and nuclear theory as an example. He then goes on to attack Ian Plimer's "fine tuning" argument to show that the universe isn't tuned to life and how constants can be varied by orders of magnitude to still produce long lasting suns, which can then support life.

Unfortunately he ends by rambling about "something vs nothing" and going over time, adding little to the argument.

"John Lennox" - Con

John's Irish accent makes him likeable but his entire talk reminded me of the "angry drunk Irish Christian" the type to go and bomb a cafe because his neighbour doesn't follow the pope. Perhaps rightly he started by attacking Victor's over-the-time-limit ramblings about nothingness and somethingness. He states that he is ashamed about the religious violence that has befallen Ireland and Northern Ireland because its not what Christ was about and then accuses the other side of confusing Christianity with the actions of Christendom.

That's about the end of the positive message from him perhaps wanting to distance himself and his beliefs from his upcoming vitriolic splurge. He likens accepting the proposition that we would be better off without religion because of bad religions to saying we would be better off without science because it can make bombs and poisons. He accuses atheism of the gulag, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao. He says that atheism = communism and immediately loses all credibility.

He attacks science for not answering "childish questions" such as "why are we here" and claims only religion can answer that. He claims Judeo-Christians gave the atheists science - showing his historical revisionist ineptitude. His answer to Victor's fine tuning argument was no argument at all - he just shows one scientist who believes it points to intelligence.

He believes science needs rational intelligibility to be able to do science at all. He says atheism gives no basis to this. He then goes on to talk about ethics and quote mines Dawkins to claim he supports no ethical system. He claims atheists have no moral base and worst of all has the gall to say that there is no ultimate justice without god! Apparently the "ultimate moral outrage" is that a terrorist will just die - and that's it. Christianity says justice will be done, by god. He finishes by saying we have dignity because we are made in the imagine of god.

The good ol' Christian's argumentative style can be compared to that of Suzanne. Suzanne was not presumptuous about the truth of her beliefs and stated things in a matter-of-fact way. John set up straw men and burnt them with crucadic glee.

"Audience Question Time" (Highlights)

"Margaret Rice" (Con)
- Those talking for religion did not offer an explanation for how so much war has been waged in the name of religion and how we can overcome it.
- Those for the affirmative who did not argue convincingly (or did not try to) that we can have moral systems without religion.

"Josh" (Pro)
- Religion is too willing to throw its tenants out the window when it starts to go against the moral zeitgeist of society.
- Just because we want terrorists to be punished doesn't make it so. Some would say they are rewarded.
- If we look at the bible and pick and choose (there are genocide in the bible) then we must reject everything because its not true.

"Max" (Pro)
- How can an accident of birth be used to divide people and causes violent actions against people?

"Crazy old bearded guy" (Con)
- We must answer the question is there a god because we will die.
- (Raised voice) "Someone has paid for his my sins."
- He wants justice of the blood of the lamb. He thanks god for blood and eternal life.

"Chris Johnson" (Pro)
- It was said we are unique. There are billions of stars, each atom is unique.
- What are we here for? Reproduce, because if we didn't there would be no one to hear us.

"Atheists Don't Car-Bomb T-Shirt Guy" (Pro)
- People approach him and say "neither do Christians", he rebukes them by saying "they invented the sport".
- The elephant in the room is militant Islam.
- "Its all well and good to define what is Christian or what is a Christian act, but we just cant keep defining those people who do not fit our specific religious morality out of the debate because they are and continue to be a rising force in history and will be a big part of what shapes the next 50 years."
- How do the religious tip toe around those who have a belief which leads to bad thing?

"Irreligious lady" (Pro)
- Being religious would be lonley, family and friends being heretics
- Personally I am better off without religion

"Francis Amaroo"
- Spirituality - the third option between the anti-moral religion and atheism.

Quick Response
Lyn Allison

- Atheists give no hope of justice? Laws of the land, justice here and now instead of waiting for a possibly non existent God.
- Atheists make trouble for the poor? The poor are the losers with religion - Vietnam as example, sucks wealth and exploits.
- Values: Ten commandments - can we name them? Most of them about god. Values from humanism, democracy, liberty, scientific method, human rights, etc not ten commandments.
- Values from common sense, its not rocket science, didn't need to come from God.

Ian Plimer

- Been to Mt Ararat, geological evidence that there was a global flood 7400 years ago the evidence is written in stone.
- Global warming tirade.
- Its not about god its about religion.
- We don't know much so far.
- The atheists are more dogmatic than religious people.
- Religion has brought us music.

Richard Ackland

- We are not voting to get rid of religion but that we would be better off without.
- Religion is bad for mental and spiritual help (sends and keeps people nuts).
- Makes snide remark that religion is good for obese and alcoholic.
- Religion is opiate, life at the hand of a higher being.
- Religion keep you from your true spirit.

Suzanne Rutland

- Lyn supports Suzannes argument because Judaism is the golden rule with commentary.
- There is an innate human need for belief whatever the religion.
- Richard said opiate - Karl Marx.
- More people died under communism. Therefore atheist.
- People still needed it, and still believed in religion even under communism.
- Richard shouldn't have made fun of those with mental disorders.
- Without religion its communism...(boos from audience)

Vic Stenger

- Stalin, Pol Pot being atheist was not the cause.
- No book of atheism which says go out and kill people.
- Old testament says stone those who disobey, kill everyone and keep virgins, etc.
- People don't follow scriptures for moral guidance.
- No new moral teaching in New Testament (all written centuries before).
- Religion adopted morality, not the other way around.
- Atheists and theists do the same thing, pick and choose.
- Can be agnostic and atheist.
- Atheist of theist god not deist god.
- God of Muslims, Christians doesn't exist.

John Lennox

- Rebukes audience member who liked him to Pol Pot.
- All are made in image of god whether he exists or not.
- Not all atheists are like Stalin.
- Can the atheists discriminate between religions?
- Claims New Atheists want to get rid of religions.
- Gets the impression contemporary atheism is soft atheism, want to get liberal freedom without asking where they came from.
- They want the values Christianity gave them.
- The "hard atheists" say its not possible - saying nihilism is the end result.
- Where is militant atheist taking us - how will they resist that humans are no more than slime?

The Poll

Pre debate
Pro 55
Neutral 11
Con 34

Post debate
Pro 54
Neutral 10
Con 36

Motion carried

Forget the polls!

When it comes to the latest polls on who will win the US Presidential Election later this year, I look no further than Intrade. Why? Because its not simply a case of people picking one or another - but its where people are putting their money where their mouth is.

Intrade works like the stock market where people can "Buy" or "Sell" a stake in the prediction that the candidate (or whatever their proposition is) will come true. If it comes true, then it pays off at $10 per "share". Another way of looking at it is a marketplace for bookies and gamblers. The bookies make the "Sell" market and the gamblers make the "Buy" market.

For quite some time Obama was leading McCain until Sarah Palin came along when McCain overtook Obama. The Palin effect seems to be wearing off at the same time the economy is going down the drain - putting a strain on the McCain efforts. Now the buy price for Obama is 50.4 and the price for McCain is 49.3. One can even see day to day charts of the price, which is an indication of the probability of who will win according to those who are willing to gamble over it.

As a side note - you will always make money if the totals were greater than 100 (commision to Intrade withstanding) thus ensuring the market remains efficient and liquid. The volume can top 30k in a day which is equivalent to $0.3 million on the table.

This is an interesting test to see if the money market is somehow hooked in to the publics feel and perception as to who is likely to win the election. Polls have samples of a few thousand. Intrade has a sample of tens to hundreds of thousands who are willing to put their money where their mouth is!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The God Delusion - One year on

Its been over a year now since I read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins a book which some would argue has become the book on "new" atheism. (New in the sense that this movement has been as a result of 9/11) My first reading over a year ago was from a vastly different perspective. I was an agnostic with theistic tendencies (A 2.8 on the Dawkin's Scale). I didn't even entertain the notion that atheism was an option. Of course at the time I had a good education in science which some might argue helped skew my perception away from a supernaturalistic view.

Most learned people will not accept that "The God Delusion" is the book on atheism because in reality it doesn't deserve this title. If anything its the book which brings atheism to the people instead of keeping it in the domain of those in ivory towers. Far from being aesthetically pleasing, or comprehensive in debunking common arguments for the existence of God, the book is more about attacking the status quo that religion occupies and offers an alternative which argues that not only can you be good without God, but that you can live a fulfilling life finding as much beauty in both humanity and the universe.

So if this book isn't that good, one may ask why then has it become so influential? The answer is simple. Its rather provocative! It has the same regard for religon as Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason" - that is to say, not insulting, but it does not keep the gentlemens agreement that religion is out of bounds for critisism. Its provocative nature is good publicity and the religious responses to the book have also been provocative as a result the book's popularity has reached critical mass and turned mainstream.

This book will not change peoples minds. The stanuch religious person will be unimpressed and perhaps insulted, but this book is not targeted at them. I believe this book enables the multitude of open minded people an insight into alternatives to religion and may let them investigate "both sides of the issue". An apporach I took after reading this book and which has left my three year journey nearly at a close with the declaration that I am confident God does not exist nor that any human made god throughout history has any validation. This despite having much motivation to believe during my journey.

Here is an extract from "The God Delusion", this passage stood out to me on my first reading.


Tamarin presented to more than a thousand Israeli schoolchildren, aged between eight and fourteen, the account of the battle of Jericho in the book of Joshua:

Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout; for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction . . . But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.’ . . . Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword . . . And they burned the city with fire, and all within it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.

Tamarin then asked the children a simple moral question: ‘Do you think Joshua and the Israelites acted rightly or not?’ They had to choose between A (total approval), B (partial approval) and C (total disapproval). The results were polarized: 66 per cent gave total approval and 26 per cent total disapproval, with rather fewer (8 per cent) in the middle with partial approval. Here are three typical answers from the total approval (A) group:

In my opinion Joshua and the Sons of Israel acted well, and here are the reasons: God promised them this land, and gave them permission to conquer. If they would not have acted in this manner or killed anyone, then there would be the danger that the Sons of Israel would have assimilated among the Goyim.

In my opinion Joshua was right when he did it, one reason being that God commanded him to exterminate the people so that the tribes of Israel will not be able to assimilate amongst them and learn their bad ways.

Joshua did good because the people who inhabited the land were of a different religion, and when Joshua killed them he wiped their religion from the earth.

The justification for the genocidal massacre by Joshua is religious in every case. Even those in category C, who gave total disapproval, did so, in some cases, for backhanded religious reasons. One girl, for example, disapproved of Joshua's conquering Jericho because, in order to do so, he had to enter it:

I think it is bad, since the Arabs are impure and if one enters an impure land one will also become impure and share their curse.

Two others who totally disapproved did so because Joshua destroyed everything, including animals and property, instead of keeping some as spoil for the Israelites:

I think Joshua did not act well, as they could have spared the animals for themselves.

I think Joshua did not act well, as he could have left the property of Jericho; if he had not destroyed the property it would have belonged to the Israelites.


Tamarin ran a fascinating control group in his experiment. A different group of 168 Israeli children were given the same text from the book of Joshua, but with Joshua's own name replaced by ‘General Lin’ and ‘Israel’ replaced by ‘a Chinese kingdom 3,000 years ago’. Now the experiment gave opposite results. Only 7 per cent approved of General Lin's behaviour, and 75 per cent disapproved. In other words, when their loyalty to Judaism was removed from the calculation, the majority of the children agreed with the moral judgements that most modern humans would share. Joshua's action was a deed of barbaric genocide. But it all looks different from a religious point of view. And the difference starts early in life. It was religion that made the difference between children condemning genocide and condoning it.