Second Friday Science Café: Obama Administration’s Science Initiatives

May 8, 2009
7:00 pm

From the Phoenix Atheist Meetup group:

“Join us Friday, May 8, 2009, 7pm to discuss the Obama administration’s new science and technology initiatives and policies with Clark A. Miller, Associate Professor in the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes and the Department of Political Science, Director of the Project on Global and Comparative Knowledges, Associate Director for Outreach and Education for the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU and founding co-organizer and member of the Steering Committee of the Science and Democracy Network…

…Second Friday Science Café’s casual meeting place in the East West Coffee & Tea Lounge, plain language, and inclusive conversation create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for people with no science background to interact with and ask questions of scientists in our community.”

The event is being held at:
East West Exchange Coffee & Tea Lounge
2051 W Warner Rd
Chandler, AZ 85224
(480) 855-6010

Friday, May 8th @ 7PM

This event is part of the network. Science cafes are a nationwide movement to link scientists and the general public.

Preacher Posse Observations: First Friday Art Walk

These notes mostly apply to the preacher posse; the ones who are out there specifically to convert people to Christianity. They call this “street fishing”, witnessing, evangelizing, spreading the good word/Gospel; these are all different words for proselytizing.

As for the general public, there were some casual glances to our signs (many more simply enjoyed the music) and a few stopped to discuss what the signs meant and what the Resistance was about. Surprisingly, the majority of those we talked to were open to our ideas – several were actually favorable. More people were encouraging than hostile.

Usually, the believers have unique reasons why they believe, or they openly admit they aren’t looking to change their worldview any time soon. We always try to wish them well and thank them for speaking to us.

Unfortunately, a lot of the preacher types (those that are compelled to “share their faith” instead of exchanging ideas) appear to be exactly the same, spouting the same stolid lines and “arguments” that have little affect on people. Apparently, the Way of the Master camp tries to break out of this dowdy tack by their the use of fake million dollar bills and “The Good Person Test”. Clever.

This group also repeated their “Are you a good person?” quiz so often over the few hours I was there, I think I’ve memorized it:

“Do you think you are a good person? Have you ever said a lie? You’re a liar. Have you ever stolen something? It doesn’t matter how small, God will send you to hell for this sin. Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word? That’s called blasphemy. Have you ever looked at someone with lust? Jesus says that’s the same as adultery. Do you know the 10 commandments? Most people don’t even know…”

Hm, how much does a preaching job pay?

Despite the constant litany next to us, mostly ignored and occasionally challenged by the passersby, there were some people who did actually engage us (mostly Kazz) to show us the error of our ways and how we should believe in Jesus Christ Lord.

So here are 5 things that struck me as I listened to them.

#1 Labeling “my people”

One of the preacher-types actually referred to all atheists as Kazz’s “people”. It’s kind of a low blow to use the “you people” label. We all fall victim to this sort of generalization. I’m doing it now with this post, but this is because many preachers ascribe themselves to groups like Way of the Master or The Door or other groups of “True Christians”.

Etymologically speaking, you’d think that a Christian is anyone who believes in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. There are certain sublayers that must go along with this, such as the historical existence of Jesus, his death, and his resurrection. Otherwise, what’s the point? Apparently the jury is still out on this one. Most fundamentalists believe that you still have to believe in the Old Testament and pretty much everything that happened after Jesus that is documented in the New Testament of the Bible. Except for the parts that you don’t. That’s where it all gets tricky.

My point here is that there’s more to Christianity than Jesus – that’s what makes it a religion. Atheism is simply, only, solely, wholly, nothing but a lack of belief in a god or gods. We therefor don’t adhere to any principles of behavior or other specific beliefs. We have no leader who dictates what’s right and what’s wrong. Atheists are also not always complete skeptics. Not all of us believe in Science as the one true path. Sure, you’ll find all this and more, but that’s because we’re allowed to be different people with diverse beliefs. The only thing in common is that we do not believe in any form of gods.

This leads to my next observation…

#2 A Creator doesn’t automatically mean your god is real

Generally the first question that people have after you explain atheism to them is “Where did we come from?” Because every logical 5 year old knows that something comes from something. Without getting into the explanation of where the universe came from, know that this argument is used a lot by preachers who are unwittingly opening up the door to countless gods who can claim the honor of creating our world. Most cultures didn’t have a concept of “universe” so we usually are talking about where the world came from. The moon, sun and other stars play a really minor role in comparison to the Earth. Think of them as the aquarium background of your fish tank.

Say one of the preachers has brow-beaten you to accept that yes, there is a Creator. But which one? Luckily for us, Wikipedia has a list of 99 creator gods. So pick your favorite. Mine’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but Pangu is also cool: Tell them that they worship a false god, because that big hairy giant awoke from the cosmic egg to create the world with the aid of animal friends.

They will fall back on the Bible. Show them the Wikipedia article.

Modern Christians will talk about the universe somewhat but they are usually unprepared for knowledgeable exchanges on the age of the universe. They will more than likely talk about some bullshit “scientist” who discovered how the accepted laws of the universe worked differently back in Biblical times. Usually, however, the answer to any inconsistency between science and the Bible is Satan.

This argument often leads to …

#3 Ignorance of science, misunderstanding of statistics

Most of the preacher’s information about science doesn’t come from actual scientists. It’s collected (or made up) and disseminated through websites like the Way of the Master, Living Waters, Ray Comfort’s blog and others. Honestly, I don’t think that the preacher possse knows much about science and they have no resources to refute what they read. The preacher sites may know better but I think that they are more concerned about converting the masses than actual scientific exchange.

Much of this “knowledge” is based on what “sounds” true and really ignores a lot of the mysteries that make science alive and vibrant. They work with half-truths and they make scientists (and policy makers that support them) sound like the evil dictators of the scholarly realm. The movie “Expelled” comes to mind. Ultimately, they care about what supports their faith in the Bible. So they will read what is appealing to them and they will misinterpret most attempts that anyone makes, or has made, to educate them.

That’s why you get grossly inaccurate statements like the ones we heard on Roosevelt at the Art Walk:

Scientists say 2 rocks collided and made the world.
Scientists say a rock killed the dinosaurs and made cavemen
Life can’t create itself
How does life come from rocks?

Why Christian creationists have an obsession with rocks is beyond me. Their own mythos says that people were made from dust and a rib bone. LITERALLY.

We also encountered a strange misuse of statistics. This is found usually in the percentages and in the meaning behind what the numbers. One preacher alternatively praised high numbers while similarly dismissing them. “Most people will tell you there’s a God. It’s innate.” That line (paraphrased) was used to tell us that we have no hope of convincing people there are no gods. So his point was that the majority is right in this. However, later on the same man said “98% of Americans call themselves Christians.” This is probably wrong in the %, and it usually comes from conflating high numbers and percentages: There are a lot of so-called Christians, and 98% is a high number so let’s roll with it. In this case, a majority of people is a bad thing – they aren’t REALLY Christians. So he gets to appeal to the will of the masses and decry them at the same time!

Additionally, he believes that the evil gays also manipulate their statistics – he doesn’t believe that it’s 10% and that they over inflate their numbers so that people will be more inclined to accept them. Since there’s no reliable “test” for Christianity or homosexuality, I guess all of us unbelievers will have to rely on taking people at their word.

#4 Refusal to exchange

As Amerist reported in the Roosevelt Resistance Report for Friday, two of the preachers who appeared deeply offended by our ideas (or possibly just the Jesus Pwned shirt) refused to take or even LOOK AT one of our tracts. It explained what atheism is, and I handed it to them after they expressed confusion – “I don’t understand” – over the concept of atheism. One of them snapped, “You wouldn’t take one of our tracts since you don’t believe in God.” I said that I would, because I liked the exchange of information and open communication between people. They still refused the atheism tract but they seemed to think the one on the Nephilim (angel-human hybrids) was perfectly fine. It’s in the Bible, after all. However, one of their group who was a little more engaging was skeptical that it was in the Bible.

I’m glad they finally started looking at some of our stuff, but initially they refused to look at anything that might challenge their faith. I think this tendency, unfortunately, is what reinforces the other observations listed here.

#5 A story

Most preachers have a personal story of why they believe. Something that convinced them and continues to keep them tied to their beliefs. One man had his “scarred” eyes “cured” by God, and another woman had claimed that she should have “died several times” without the intervention of deity.

I suppose that this is the main reason they find their belief so powerful: it appears the only explanation for “miracles” such as being healed or rescued from harm. Many people truly feel this way. It’s not up to me to say such things didn’t happen, because everyone has a different way of interpreting things that happen in their life. However, I think that unbridled and unchecked belief in miracles further removes them from rationality and encourages a distrust of science and self-imposed ignorance regarding coincidences, albeit strange ones.

If you believe doctors are wrong and God will heal you if you pray hard enough, I hope you never get cancer. If you believe that only the power of God can save you if you are in a desperate situation, I hope you don’t give up if he doesn’t appear.

There are more dimensions to the preacher posse than this brief list. Their worldview seems unnecessarily narrowed by their beliefs. To me, it seems that despite their scorn of scientists, they are the ones that need an explanation for everything – right now. And so their explanation for life, the universe and everything is the God/Satan duality. And I think that’s unfortunate.

“Don’t Divorce”: The Courage Campaign

The passage of “plain language” anti-gay marriage bills such as California’s Prop 8 have some discouraging consequences. According to Courage Campaign, thousands of families are at risk.

Ken Starr, who led the campaign to impeach President Bill Clinton, filed a legal brief last month — on behalf of the “Yes on 8″ campaign — that would forcibly divorce 18,000 same-sex couples that were married in California last year before the passage of Prop 8.

Courage Campaign has put together a beautifully sappy video about the happy couples who would be divorced if their marriages are overturned, with their children featured prominently in it. Unlike in other causes where children are pretty much whored out for “causes”, these children can end up deeply affected by the divorce of their parents.

So the best thing for families is …divorce?

One thing that strikes me about the anti-gay rights groups is how their entire line of argument is based in religious dogma or ignorance, usually both. Gay marriage is “wrong” because of the bible or other religious proclamations based on pastoral patriarchal traditions. Of course, they won’t extend this prohibition to hetero couples that can’t bear children; that would just be spiteful.

Even science has turned against the antigays. One term that they used to rely on without sounding too preachy is that homosexuality is “unnatural” – akin to using intelligent design instead of creationism. However, homosexuality has been identified in various animal groups for years, and more and more evidence show support with the “born that way” argument. The scientific studies and theories are too complex for any simple summation, but I think most in the scientific community at large are satisfied that homosexual proclivities and behaviors are neither wrong nor unnatural.

But what about the “yuck” factor?

I hate beets. I think they’re vile and disgusting. Do I think that we should wipe out this tuberous scourge by enacting legal action against the farming, distribution and sale of this heathen vegetable? Absolutely not. Some strange misguided people might use that precedence to do the same to my beloved broccoli. Simply put, if you don’t like gay sex – don’t have any.

But you can tell Ken Starr where to stick his case.

You don’t need to be an atheist to know that divorcing these couples is unsettling and painful for those involved. Why don’t the anti-gays form their own word instead of being so miserly with “marriage”? Heterogamy actually refers to something completely different, but what about hetrimony?

BTF on TV… sort of

During the protest of the protest, the local TV station Fox 10 arrived to cover the invasion of intolerance at Desert Mountain High School. Apparently, this school has the largest gay-straight alliance group in Arizona schools – making them a target of gay-hating Westboro.

Some of our group was present in the background, along with our speaker. At one point a Westboro spokesperson was interviewed but apparently our loud Rick-Rolling made it unsuitable for broadcast. Or, perhaps what she was saying made it unsuitable. Either way, the show of support for rationality and tolerance was very encouraging. Although there were church groups present, BTF felt that their participation was a good sign. Decency is still in the majority, regardless of religious affiliation.

Keep it up!!!

Atheist Comics


We all love them, right? Here at BTF we’ve compiled a list of funny comics, many of which have atheist or irreverent themes. Not every strip is about atheism, but they should at least appeal to the atheist in everyone!

Comic strips with atheist themes
Russell’s Teapot
By the Book Comics
Jesus and Mo
Atheist Eve
Freethunk Comic Strips
Satan’s Salvation
Ape Not Monkey
The Sheeples – Normal Bob Smith’s comic drawings of some of the hate mails he receives from angry viewers.
Once Upon a Saturday
Bible Belt Comics
Meet the Gods

Skeptic Comics
cectic – Comics Espousing Critical Thought In the Credulous
Occam’s Razor
Tree Lobsters

Atheist Comic Compilers
Atheist Cartoons
Atheist Cartoon Network at LiveJournal

Freethought or Irreverent
In His Likeness
The Perry Bible Fellowship
Matt Bors
Killer Spoons

And worth mentioning, if not really atheist, is of course, xkcd!

Know of any other comics worth reading? Let us know!

“Expelled” Movie Review

I want to start off by saying that I really like Ben Stein and his work in the entertainment industry. I’ve always seen him as smart and fair-minded, even when our political views diverge. I respect a lot of his actions and opinions on a lot of things. However, I feel that his loyalties and allegiances cloud his rational judgment, especially when issues like genocide and abortion arise. This is obviously a painful subject for him, but I feel that this movie, like some other of his opinions, are ruled by emotion and not evidence. I still like him, even if I disagree with his stance on evolution. He’s as human and imperfect as anyone. We should understand his bias and try to glean some kind of understanding from his opinions.

Before watching “Expelled” I did encounter some hype for this movie, and due to my respect for Ben Stein I wanted to give it a fair review. I was keenly interested in the existence of intolerance and persecution from the know-it alls in charge – mainstream getting it wrong. This movie has been portrayed as being something to that effect, putting Stein et al. in the same vein as Alfred Wegener and his then-ridiculed hypothesis of continental drift, later to form the core of plate tectonics. Unfortunately, “Expelled” is nothing of the sort. It is a highly biased piece of propaganda that does nothing more than (try) to plant a seed of doubt with very little science to substantiate it. Apparently the seed is all that is needed and these ideas have taken root in the minds of many who are now thoroughly convinced that evil science has it all wrong.

You\'re like part of the family, Doctor!

In short, the movie “Expelled” fits the meaning of propaganda perfectly.

propaganda – [prop-uh-gan-duh]

  • information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
  • the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
  • the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

Propaganda can either be true or false; the intent is to spread information. In this case, the documentary wants to tell you how true believers of intelligent design have been unfairly maligned and vilified for expressing alternative views within the hallows of schools and scientific institutions. It does this. It does not, however, tell you why intelligent design is a viable theory. It proposes 1) that people are being unfairly treated (with no evidence) and 2) not believing in god makes you just like Hitler (again with no evidence).

Right away we are exposed to Godwin’s law as secularist scientists are compared to Nazi Germany and concludes with “Darwinian atheism” being the inspiration for Hitler’s cruel acts. One minute in, and Stein loses.

The entire film plays out as a David and Goliath story. Science is the giant, arrogant and cruel, who tries to exterminate the Davids within. By their telling, Big Science suppresses ID in a ruthless, systematic way and advises everyone to keep quiet about their beliefs. Branded intellectual terrorists, these “free thinkers” can martyr themselves or stay silent. These revolutionists must throw out the tainted Darwinist tea in justified, righteous protest of scientific imperialism.

By this time, I understand their point: thinking people, scientists themselves, are being pushed around because they harbor an unpopular theory. I should point out, though, that this isn’t actually the case either – much of what they claim is blatantly false. Now as I watch more of the same, halfway into the documentary, I’m expecting them to blow me away with the enormous mountain of evidence back up the theory of intelligent design. Apparently, this would have to wait as we hear how evolutionary theory is simply “a mess” because nobody has pinpointed the moment nor mechanism of the creation of life, much less the universe. Oh, foolish science. You can do nothing that religion can’t best.

But this isn’t about religion, they are quick to point out. Intelligent Design is NOT about religion. It is about rational, evidence-based science and free thought. But first, more Nazi imagery, and the movie continues to degrade into a slurry of mixed ideologies and propaganda.

What we find, shockingly, is that science is covering up for a greater conspiracy: hippies. With their free love and protests!

Panspermia? Ridiculous. Big Bang? Preposterous. But now THIS theory of a Creator that preexisted and created life on earth is science. Of course, whether or not you want to call that Creator “God” is a religious debate that clearly has no place in science. But since we are on the subject of religion, let’s look what can happen if you don’t believe in god, demonstrated with a simple equation:

Evolution = no meaning in life + no hope + no ethics = Hitler

Evolution leads to atheism, and atheism leads to depression so in the words of Barney Fife, we gotta nip it in the bud. We’ll neglect to mention anything about how religion has inspired evil acts. And let’s throw in the evils of abortion because Ben Stein hates abortion even more than atheism.

Nip it in the bud!

Again and again they maintain that the theory of evolution is falling apart. At no time do they present any evidence to the failings of evolutionary theory, except to say that it seems unlikely. Their only concern is to tell the world how unfairly these people have been treated because of their deeply-held (religious) convictions. Much like the poor UFO believers who are scorned and ridiculed.

Most of the interviews were cherry picked for the best presentation for ID (that’s why nothing is really said about ID and concentrates on the politicking) and the worst from skeptics and atheists. The interview with Richard Dawkins was really bad. I don’t know if he just cracked under presssure, or if they used “tricksy editing” or both. Either way, Dawkins needs to up his game. He’s more of a presenter than a debater, while Stein’s been at the showbiz thing for a long time and is used to being in front of a camera. Stein comes off as “Why you gotta be such a downer and ruin it for the rest of us?” – as if this is the goal of Dawkin’s work.

“Expelled” doesn’t give you any real information and it unfairly presents these non-issues as if they were real threats to education. It attacks science for being science – the quest to find answers. It’s not a failure or a weakness in science to say that you don’t know all the answers. What is wrong is to start out with a premise and to seek to find “facts” that support this foregone conclusion. Scientists don’t start the day saying “How can I dispute a divine creator today? What evidence can I distort to prove my atheist agenda?” It’s fine if they see god or a supreme being in their work – they are entitled to their beliefs. But these beliefs shouldn’t guide their hands.

The facts are, “Expelled” doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to support ID. So why should it be treated as a plausible alternative to evolutionary theory? Because Ben Stein saw an area to exploit in a documentary that pushes his personal agenda. Maybe next time he’ll push for astrology, numerology and alchemy to get their fair share in the classroom.

An Atheist Who Loves Christmas?

Taking Christ out of Christmas doesn’t bother me. *   

I love this season. I love the festivities, the decorations, the celebration of friends, family and food. Most of us live frenzied lives and only pay attention to each other one month a year, in a figurative orgy of goodwill and merriment. We have set this time aside to be the season of giving.

I even fully support the materialism of it (and here I may diverge from general consensus). Whatever your feelings on the commercialization of Christmas, exchanging gifts is a substantial part of the season. Of course, some people will take it to the extreme. Mottos like “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” make me want to gag – I much prefer electronics and books. Gifts are an expression of our love and friendship, and the best gifts truly are those that cost little and show how much you care. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

Winter festivals, for those of us in the Northern hemisphere anyway, have been a tradition since humans began marking the passing of seasons, a way to celebrate the previous seasons of abundance and preparing for the cold and often scant offerings awaiting. The end of the old and the anticipation of the fruits of the new year.

There is a lot to love about Christmas, or Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia or what have you. The sense of companionship as we gather together to feast and make merry. The community spirit we share. The cultural and religious rituals we cherish. Take what you like best about the season and run with it. 

So I encourage atheists, agnostics, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, and others too numerous to mention, to celebrate the season together.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Sprightly Yule.

* I also fully support anyone’s right of observing Jesus’ birth, and any other religious holiday. By all means, go to town.**

**A little town of Bethlehem, even. 


Religulous: Bill Maher’s Religulous Movie Opens 10/3

Religulous, a documentary film featuring political commentator Bill Maher, will open on Friday October 3. This new film from Lionsgate, directed by Larry Charles (Borat), explores the nature of religious absurdity the world over – hence the play on words in the title.

In the nature of Borat, this movie features real people in real situations. Bill Maher, host of Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO, leads the journey to find representatives from various religious groups and interview them about their beliefs. Based on Maher’s views on religion, the film is not likely to be kind towards the subject matter. Expect to be outraged or amused, depending on your stance.

Official Site:
Religulous @

YouTube Trailer:
Religulous Trailer – High Quality

Pray for Bill

Spore: Proof of Evolution or Intelligent Design?

Since the release of Spore, there have been articles and discussions on whether or not it presents a pro-evolution or pro-creationism (often termed “Intelligent Design” to sound more rational and scientific) viewpoint. Many science elements exist behind the scenes (and much left out to improve gameplay), but for the most part, you, the player, are the god of your creation and you form your species as you see fit.

It’s interesting, then, to observe that proponents on both sides of the evolution issue see Spore as an example that “proves” the correctness of their points of view. Many scientists are pleased that it can get people thinking about the ideas behind the evolutionary process: the appearance of new features, increased complexity over time, the role of reproduction, etc. The linear process displayed in the game – the emergence of intelligence and social skills – is not a necessary step in evolution, but perhaps a necessary crutch in a goal-oriented game to simulate the growth of a mighty galactic power based on the progress of a simple cell organism over millions of game-years. In no way do any of the scientists mentioned in the articles endorse the Spore method of evolution as reality, but they do feel the experience of seeing your creature change from generation to generation is useful on a basic level.

Those on the other side, creationists (aka Intelligent Design proponents), see it differently. In this article, the writer(s) believe that Spore effectively dismisses any issues with I.D. theory. Simply put, because you can design creatures in Spore, a game that has no mechanism for natural selection-based evolution, they can extrapolate that our own world is a product of design. This is circular logic on the article’s points 1 and 2, since there is no requirement to comply with “common ancestor” functionality and as long as you have a mouth with which to eat, you are not going to encounter any negative consequences and your species never goes extinct. Point 3 is more of a philosophical objection to Intelligent Design and although the premise is tempting, not one that can be easily explored. The article also fails to demonstrate how points 4 & 5 even apply to Spore and are just thrown in to dismiss the ideas offhandedly.

Interestingly enough, if Spore were a measure of our own reality, then we live not in a unified creationist universe, but in a chaotic cosmic pantheon of “good” and “evil” gods battling for galactic dominance. Oddly, the article makes no mention of this obvious, inevitable conclusion. It is humbling to know our true place in the universe.

The fact is, Spore doesn’t prove or disprove the concept of natural evolution. It does have evolution – change over time – but as an artificial “hand of god” needed to engage players. That Spore performs this process via Intelligent Design doesn’t refute natural selection, it just builds a better game. In the same way that the gameworld of The Sims doesn’t reflect our real society and the complexity of our relationships with others, Spore does not represent the only possibility of how lifeforms evolve.

In essence, the game Spore is about having fun. It’s about perceiving science as fun, not stodgy, cold and boring. It weaves the elements together well enough that there are no clear answers here about the nature of evolution vs. creationism. The fact that Will Wright managed to “fool” both sides of the camp is precisely why Spore is a great game, not a science project or treatise on life. In his own words, “A game like this can actually generate interesting, meaningful conversations between people. I think that’s the best thing it can do.”

Spore Criticised by ‘Militant Atheists’?

As the world of video games collides once again with religion, an article over at Eurogamer has the blogosphere abuzz with scorn for atheists who appear intolerant of a video game. Well, it’s not really the original article that’s getting people fired up, it’s the snippets taken out of context from the interview.

What is Spore? Spore is a video game for multiple platforms that combines elements from real time strategy, life simulation and “god” games. You follow the evolution of your creature from a single-cell organism to a vast civilization of advanced beings. Scheduled for a US release on September 7, 2008, the game has been highly anticipated for years.

In the original article, Will Wright describes himself as an atheist and said that, generally, the majority of atheists had no problem with the way religion was portrayed in the game. He said that even religious people didn’t have a problem with it, either. Oddly it was those he termed ‘militant atheists’ who had the most negative reaction. Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t go into specifics as to why the ‘militant atheists’ had issues with the game. There have been suggestions that it was either the “supernatural” powers that were given to religious civilizations or the fact that religion wasn’t specifically named in the original game design. What were first represented as ‘cultural’ influences later were termed ‘religion’.

Creator Will Wright chimed in on the issue within the same thread:

As you might know I’ve been very interested in using Spore to motivate an interest in science. At the same time we want to make a fun, humorous, playful game. The superpowers in the game were added both to make early decisions you make in the game (cell, creature, tribe) continue to have consequence in the later levels and also to add more humor and playfulness to the overall experience.

If you look at the Civ superpowers they are more realistic for the economic and Military strategies than they are for the religious. We could have labeled the religious powers differently (maybe enhanced memetic transmission or fundamentalist jihad) and given them the same rough effect but they would have felt a bit more gritty and out-of-character with the rest of the game.

Possibly adding weight to the ‘militant atheist’ criticisms, earlier in the year notable atheist PZ Meyers challenged use of the term “evolution” being applied to this game, referring to it instead as Intelligent Design. You, the player, are forcing the eventual destiny of your creature instead of leaving it up to natural selection. One could argue that it’s still evolution by artificial selection, but I digress.

Although this squabble is really a non-issue, I felt the need to point out that some people have been running with the idea that Spore was being trashed by atheists simply by having religion in the game. Although it grieves me that some people would have anything negative to say about this game (one that I’ve been waiting a VERY LONG TIME to play), there are obvious limitations within the game that someone interested in pure science would find annoying. But, after all, it’s a game and it’s meant to be fun.

Waiting millions of years for your creature to evolve into space exploration might not be exciting enough for everyone.