25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 6)

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 6) August 4, 2018

Let’s continue with our exploration of stupid arguments Christians shouldn’t use (Part 1 here).

Stupid Argument #20a: Science can’t explain everything; therefore, God.

The origin of life? Of consciousness? Of the universe? If you don’t have an answer, I do—God did it!

Science doesn’t have answers to some questions, and we’ll have to be patient. But some apologists seem desperate and insistent in their search for answers to life’s riddles. This is because they already have an answer. They started their investigation with an answer.

“Time’s up!” they say. “Pass your tests to the front.”

This apparent eagerness to understand reality is simply a smokescreen. They want to shoehorn in their answer for all puzzles, and science’s answers are irrelevant. If science did come up with a consensus view of a Christian’s puzzle du jour, our Christian would simply drop the resolved issue and find a new one.

This is like the Christian offering the following bet: “Let’s flip a coin over and over, and you give me a dollar every time I call it right.” This is the Christian putting forward some scientific puzzle, because as soon as science comes to a consensus on that question, he’ll just rummage around for another one.

Don’t tell me an issue is a big deal to you if it’s not. If your faith is built on science not having an answer to abiogenesis, say, then let’s talk about it. But if you have no skin in the game and you’re simply going to move the goalposts when you lose, it’s a waste of time.

Science is the only discipline that tells us new things about reality. As just one example of well-founded science, consider that we’re communicating with computers over the internet.

Stupid Argument #20b: Science has been wrong; therefore, God.

What about Piltdown Man? The steady-state universe? The origin of the moon? Science changes its mind all the time! What kind of a reliable foundation is this?

Remember what it was that uncovered the Piltdown Man hoax, discovered that the universe is expanding, and improved our understanding of the origin of the solar system—it was science every time, not the Bible and not theologians or philosophers. Science is imperfect but self-correcting. Science delivers.

And the idea of science changing its mind all the time isn’t the way it works. In well-established science, corrections tend to get smaller. Isaac Asimov said, “When people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

Stupid Argument #21a: Scientific illiteracy.

“Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that.” — Bill O’Reilly

“How come I have two faucets? Hot comes out of one; cold comes out of the other. Never a miscommunication.” Stephen Colbert

Actually, Bill, the big kids have understood for centuries how earth’s rotation and the gravitational effects of the sun and moon cause tides.

Another example of scientific cluelessness is Ray Comfort’s famous video where he holds up a banana and declares, “Behold the atheist’s nightmare!” No, Ray, the banana that God gave us was small, tasteless, and full of seeds. The sweet Cavendish banana that you held up is the result of thousands of years of human cultivation.

Ray’s “crocoduck” (his conclusion that since we don’t see a crocodile/duck hybrid, evolution is wrong) gets an honorable mention.

We all have to start somewhere. If you’re scientifically or mathematically undereducated, compensate with an open mind. Too often what I see instead is scientific illiteracy combined, not with open-mindedness, but with hubris. If your education came from the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, or the Creation Research Institute, you’ve been poorly educated. Your confidence is misplaced.

Stupid Argument #21b: Mathematical illiteracy.

The life of Jesus fulfilled 300 prophecies! The probability of just eight of these coming true randomly—that is, without him being the real deal—is 1 in 1017. Cover the state of Texas in silver dollars two feet deep and find a particular one, blindfolded, by dumb luck—that’s the equivalent probability.

Whatcha gonna say against probability, right? Actually, a fair amount: I dismantle that ridiculous argument here.

We humans have a surprisingly poor native grasp of probability. Another helpful puzzle is the Monty Hall problem. Give it a try and see how you do.

Stupid Argument #22: Relying on the ignorance of your audience.

Put a single cell in a normal saline solution, and poke it with a needle. You’ve got all the elements of life, and yet you’ll never get life. Don’t tell me that evolution works!

I heard this while speaking to Intelligent Design proponent Jonathan Wells at a Discovery Institute book release event. I forgot what I asked to get this response, but it stopped me. I’d never heard this twist before and didn’t have anything to say in response.

But I do now. No biologist says that this was the step prior to this cell on its evolutionary progression, so the puzzle is meaningless. He’s right that you’ll never get life from that mixture, but no one said that you would. That cell came from another living cell and so on back through much speciation to the beginning of life on earth.

But, having a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology, Wells knew this. Why then pose this challenge? Why take advantage of my ignorance?

Here’s another example. I attended a presentation by Andrew Snelling (PhD in geology) of the Institute for Creation Research on radioisotope dating of Grand Canyon rocks (summary his argument here). He collected a number of samples of amphibolite. They were from a single layer and so were all the same age. He sent them to two laboratories for four kinds of radioisotope dating. The date results were all over the map. Conclusion: radioisotope dating is unreliable.

Only after I did some research did I discover that amphibolite is metamorphic rock and that only igneous rock can be reliably radioisotope dated.

So a geologist (who knows that radioisotope dating isn’t reliable on metamorphic rocks) gets some metamorphic rocks, has them dated, and then is shocked—shocked!—when the dates aren’t reliable. A “devastating failure for long-age geology,” as the subtitle suggests? Not quite.

Snelling counted on the ignorance of his audience, and he fooled me—at least until he could get out of the auditorium. I was not amused, and this did nothing to build support for his position.

To be continued.

I conclude [that this fallacious reasoning]
must be a product of a brain unsatisfied with doubt;
as nature abhors a vacuum,
so, too, does the brain abhor no explanation.
It therefore fills in one, no matter how unlikely.
— Michael Shermer

.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 10/15/14.)

Image via Matthew Dillon, CC license

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  • Teto85

    I have read and studied too much about religion. I have found that the best author on the subject was George Carlin.

  • Ctharrot

    I’ll readily admit to my ignorance. How did life first emerge from non-life? What happened before the Big Bang? (Does a human word like “before” even apply outside the boundaries of spacetime as we understand it?)

    I don’t know.

    And neither did the priest-judges who transcribed creation stories developed by pre-scientific people of naturally limited horizons who believed that the sun postdated plant life, and that we’re all the offspring of the incestuous children of a dust man and his rib-clone wife.

    • RichardSRussell

      I’ll readily admit to my ignorance. How did life first emerge from non-life?

      I’ll admit to mine, too. How does this computer actually work? What’s up with that liquid that’s transparent from top or bottom but red when viewed from the side? Why are the same justices who can’t stand extending human rights to actual human beings so eager to accord them to corporations? What do people see in the Kardashians? Was Adam Sandler EVER funny? What do women want?

      I have no answers to these questions, and I probably never will. Some of them may NEVER be answered by ANYBODY.

      • Michael Neville

        Was Adam Sandler EVER funny?

        This is an easy one. No.

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

          Heresy! The correct answer is some diamonds in a sea of diarrhea!

  • Greg G.

    The point to the Piltdown Man hoax to discredit science but point to the Shroud of Turin hoax as proof of the resurrection.

    • Damien Priestly

      Does anybody else think that the image on the Shroud of Turin looks like Hulk Hogan?

      The 1980’s Hulk at his peak, of course, with still some hair and a bad comb-over

  • Michael Neville

    GODDIDIT answers every question and so answers none of them. Some questions can’t be answered right now, some of them will never be answered, but “we don’t know” is an honest answer, unlike GODDIDIT.

  • Damien Priestly

    Yes, how many times have we heard “scientism” thrown out to avoid serious discussions…when somebody does not like that science can’t be used to explain any religious thing.

    It is that other phenomena beyond science that explains my god thingy !!

    • Mr. James Parson

      Darwinism too.

      • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

        Really, just fuck people who use those disparaging terms. They would have everyone ignorant and goose-stepping if they had their druthers.

  • John MacDonald

    #20a is the “God of the Gaps” fallacy – you identify a “gap” in scientific knowledge, and insert God in there. The Greeks, for instance, didn’t understand why the sun went across the sky during the day, so they speculated the god Helios dragged the sun across the sky in his chariot.

    • Michael Neville

      The Egyptians had the sun pushed across the sky by a giant dung beetle, Khepri.

      BTW I hate dung beetles. I can’t stand their shit-eating grins.

  • Zeta

    Andrew Snelling (PhD in geology) of the Institute for Creation Research

    Readers might be interested in the following article about Snelling who has a genuine PhD and was a consultant geologist with genuine scientific publications talking about billion-year old rocks. But when he wears the ICR hat, he also argues that the Earth is only about 6,000-10,000 years old. Incredible!

    “Will the Real Dr Snelling Please Stand Up?” by Alex Ritchie
    http://chem.tufts.edu/science/Stear-NoAiG/no-AiG/realsnelling.htm

    • Interesting how the brain can do that. Thanks.

      • Zeta

        Here is another one.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_R._Ross

        Marcus R. Ross, of Liberty University, is a young earth creationist and vertebrate paleontologist. His doctoral dissertation is about animals extinct for about 65 million years. Ross reportedly said that, at academic conferences “he thought in a ‘framework’ of standard science; but for a creationist audience, he used a creationist framework.”

        • Greg G.

          He must have earned a PhD in compartmentalization.

        • I hear he had a postdoc fellowship in that area.

        • Tommy

          Or these guys don’t actually believe both – they may believe one and pretend to believe the other.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it gets expensive defending that many dissertations.

      • eric

        I don’t think it’s that interesting…how the mouth can do that.

  • Ficino

    “Science is the only discipline that tells us new things about reality.”

    This is a good formulation. Maybe one could stick in, “as far as we know”…

    Like Damien Priestly below, I think it’s important to counter apologists’ accusations of “scientism.” When you talk about science as a means of increasing our knowledge about the world, they’ll scream back “The claim that science is the only way to get knowledge is itself not proved by science! Your claim refutes itself! You are doing metaphysics without admitting it. We on the other hand are clear that science relies on metaphysics for its presuppositions, like, there are causes, there are external realities … You new atheists are dumber than a brick.”

    But who is claiming that the thesis, “science is the only discipline we know of that tells us new things about reality,” is a thesis that has been proved by *science*? To make a “meta” assertion about science does not require that Thomism or whatever be true.

    • Greg G.

      “Science is the only discipline that tells us new things about reality.”

      This is a good formulation. Maybe one could stick in, “as far as we know”…

      I am paraphrasing a quote that I think came from Matt Dillahunty:

      “As soon as we get a method for understanding reality that is better than the scientific method, I am switching to that.”

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      The claim that science is the only way to get knowledge is itself not proved by science! Your claim refutes itself!

      It’s a good thing that isn’t the actual claim then, isn’t it?

      • sandy

        Exactly. So the question to Christians should be “what’s better than science when truth seeking?”

  • Lurker111

    Re: the Monty Hall Problem. Here’s the real reason the obvious answer isn’t right:

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/monty-hall-problems

    Don’t forget to press the big red button under the comic, for a postscript. 🙂

  • Kevin K

    The life of Jesus fulfilled 300 prophecies!

    The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. Say I want to write a book about a guy who fulfilled prophecies. First, I read the book that contain the various prophecies … or some vague-ass statements that I can turn into prophecies. Then I write my book specifically to make sure I fulfill those prophecies.

    Voila! Someone just fulfilled 300 prophecies.

    • RichardSRussell

      Every cake is a “miraculous fulfillment” of a prophecy which we are pleased to call a recipe.

      • Greg G.

        I prophesy chocolate icing.

        • RichardSRussell

          My lord! I bow down before your perspicacity.

    • This might be fun: pore through the OT looking for future tense verbs. Write a narrative that builds on them as fulfilled prophecy (with lots of “As was prophesied” or “As was foretold in Scripture.”

      Another approach: find sentences that talk about terrible people that have vague parallels with Hitler or Stalin or some other historical baddie. Write a brief biography of the bad person, citing the OT parallels.

      Another approach: find interesting sentences about people. Weave them into a composite person (bonus points if the “prophecies” are contradictory).

      And who could object? These are biblical prophecies, just like that undeniably predicted traits of Jesus.

      • Kevin K

        It’s just following a long tradition. When Suetonius wrote about the Roman emperors, he devotes a section to portents and omens for each one. The doves did this or that, the oracle cried out, an earthquake toppled the statue of an eagle … that kind of stuff.

    • Doubting Thomas

      Prophecy without evidence is just foreshadowing. Literary devices aren’t evidence of the supernatural.

  • sandy

    The big argument that Christians go to is Jesus. This dude lived and is the son/ and God, is their argument.. That’s it. However, if you do your due diligence on whether or not an actual Jesus of the bible existed you would most likely conclude that the Jesus of the bible did not exist. Fiction. A story. We can all site factual evidence to support this conclusion. This is a stupid argument Christians should avoid but don’t. For Christians, this is when cognitive distance rears it’s most proud and stubborn head.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    Along a similar line with this post, ive spent some time formulating why I find atheist’s use of “supernatural” and “methodological naturalism” troubling, and how it surrenders unearned ground to theists. As a primer, consider this: if souls were demonstrated tomorrow, would that be a discovery of the supernatural? Or would it “merely” be a heretofore unknown natural? What is the difference?

    Diving deeper, we must ask what exactly does “supernatural” mean? If it means “different than we observe in this universe” wouldn’t a multiverse qualify? Not only do most (all?) theists say no, many will claim that the multiverse is specifically concocted to avoid having to allow for the supernatural. In a sense, they are correct; if a prior multiverse exists and we somehow tap into it, we will then abstract laws that describe its behavior. No matter how unusual they may be, these laws are no less “natural” to that domain than our laws are to us. And, more importantly, it means that the larger nature of reality must allow each set of laws, so both are equally philosophically natural.

    Again, by agreeing that a multiverse is not supernatural, theists are conceding all of this.

    So the next question is, if we discover a prior realm, how do we determine whether it is natural or supernatural? If a spectacularly odd multiverse is still natural, what are the characteristics that define supernatural?

    Theists will almost assuredly have no answer for this, but even if they do I’ve saved the most important question for last. If the domain with supernatural characteristics exists, what stops us from abstracting its own “natural” laws? Why wouldn’t we conclude that the larger nature of reality allows for this one additional set of laws? And wouldn’t this mean that the supernatural set allowed by reality is, therefore, just as philosophically natural as ours?

    I’ve been told that I’m redefining terms, but I don’t think so. All apologetic uses of “supernatural” seem to reduce to this issue. You could utilize supernatural/natural as a linguistic distinction, the same way natural/unnatural might be used to convey whether agency was involved. But once you start talking of philosophical naturalism, supernatural becomes problematic.

    • Susan

      All apologetic uses of “supernatural” seem to reduce to this issue.

      They do. Even worse, when asked to define supernatural, all a theist can provide is not natural, or its derivations, beyond natural or transcends natural. The latter just mean “not natural”.

      Ask them to define “natural” and they spin in circles until we all get dizzy.

      At what point does “nature” end and “supernature” begin?

      Nothing. Just accusations that our hearts are closed, that are minds are hostile and that our intellects are inferior.

      What is “God”? Either crickets or foggier language.

      What is “supernatural”? Either crickets or some variation of “not” natural.

      That’s why I am still an igtheist.

      They never clearly state what they are claiming and/or how they support it.

      Somehow, that’s always my fault.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Well said.

        Your post helped me solidify yet another issue with “methodological natualism.” All that phrase means is that we presume the absence of unknowable, uncontrollable variables. No more, no less.

        Well, guess what? If there is a supernatural realm and we are allowed entry, we’d have to accept the very same axiom. In other words, “methodological natualism” isn’t a limitation of science, it’s a limitation of the human condition!

        IMO, “methodological naturalism” as both a label for this limitation and a rebuttal to charges of categorically excluding the supernatural unwittingly validates the false dichotomy.

        • Greg G.

          Your post helped me solidify yet another issue with “methodological natualism.” .All that phrase means is that we presume the absence of unknowable, uncontrollable variables.

          I think presuming the absence of unknowable, uncontrollable variables would be philosophical naturalism.

          Methodological naturalism would be the recognition that we cannot evaluate unknowable, uncontrollable variables. Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica was an early work using methodological naturalism and turned the tide of science toward it. See how rapidly science has progressed the past few centuries compared to the millennia without it.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I agree that it roots itself in inability, but from there we do, in fact, make the tentative presumption that said variables aren’t present in whatever experiment is being run.

          Perhaps if I added a “provisional” or “tentative” to my earlier comment, it would be more clear. I should also point out the distinction between presuming that unknowable entities don’t exist and an absence of unknowable variables. The former is not needed to accomplish the latter.

        • epeeist

          All that phrase means is that we presume the absence of unknowable, uncontrollable variables.

          I would put it slightly differently; what the phrase means is that natural effects can be investigated using natural methods. In other words it is making an epistemic and not an ontological claim.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I’m intrigued by this response, but it encroaches on the natural/supernatural issue described earlier. Can you restate your idea without relying on either term?

        • Otto

          “There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”

          -D. Rumsfeld

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I’m familiar with the quote, but I’m not sure how it applies to this conversation. Is it just a fun quip?

        • Otto

          Pretty much just a fun quip, you asked that methodological naturalism be explained without using the term ‘supernatural’ and that quote immediately jumped to my mind.

          …more to the point that there are things that we cannot investigate, and there are things that we may never be able to investigate.

    • Greg G.

      A concept is called “supernatural” when it is contrived based on zero evidence, insufficient evidence, or evidence to the contrary and the believer wishes to inoculate it from scrutiny and evidence. It can only be completely imaginary, or mostly imaginary based on a hasty conclusion from the insufficient evidence.

      • Kit Hadley-Day

        Supernatural and Imaginary are entirely overlapping sets, the second one is not one it is not the other either

    • Kevin K

      I’ve tried to be very specific with regard to what I consider to be a “miracle” (a clear breaking/violation of the known laws of physics, chemistry, and/or biology). I suppose the same can’t be said for my definition of “supernatural”, however. Because as you point out, nobody can actually define what “supernatural” means. Though for sake of argument, I would probably limit discussions of “supernatural” to this universe (space-time), and let the others alone. Multiverses and such are just one solution to the “how did we get here” problem. So, trying to fit a supernatural/natural paradigm in that is putting several carts before the horse.

    • eric

      I think the super/natural distinction is a complete red herring. It’s a mere semantic argument. If, tomorrow:
      -people started regrowing lost limbs when specific Christian preachers prayed to Jesus over them
      -OOB experiences started passing controlled replicated tests showing they could yield information the person had no access to
      -Saying “God”, “Jesus,” “Yahweh” or their synonyms “in vain” consistently caused a lightning bolt to flash from the sky and incinerate the person saying it
      -and all these things kept happening, reproducibly, consistently, under any controlled conditions scientists cared to use to test them

      Then I would happily grant that there is probably something to Christian theology. Could it be aliens? Sure. Me in the matrix? Sure. Quantum mechanical utterly improbable but non-zero probability coincidences? Um, okay. But Christian theology being somewhat right is a more parsimonious explanation, so in that case, I’d be willing to reconsider.

      Now, let’s put ourselves in that world. Are these events happening all around us natural, or supernatural? They’re consistent. We can track what sure looks like cause and effect. The events are showing the regularity as heretofore ‘natural laws.’ But they defy all expectations from our current laws of physics. So which are they? My answer: who cares. Call them natatural, and Christian theology has evidence supporting it. Call them supernatural, and Christian theology has evidence supporting it.

      The question of whether theologies are correct or not has nothing (nada, zilch, zero, bubkis) to do with whether the remarkable phenomena they predict get put in the ‘supernatural’ or ‘natural’ linguistic box by us. It has to do with whether a theological theory/hypothesis successfully predicts phenomena that nothing else can explain better. If it does, it’s worth considering. If it doesn’t, we throw it out. The world I used as an example doesn’t really exist. These things don’t actually happen. For that reason, we throw such theologies out. We do not throw them out merely because we have a philosophical objection to anything positing phenomena that currently fit the dictionary definition of supernatural.

      It’s about the evidence, not the label.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Now, let’s put ourselves in that world. Are these events happening all around us natural, or supernatural? They’re consistent. We can track what sure looks like cause and effect. The events are showing the regularity as heretofore ‘natural laws.’ But they defy all expectations from our current laws of physics. So which are they? My answer: who cares. Call them natatural, and Christian theology has evidence supporting it. Call them supernatural, and Christian theology has evidence supporting it.

        Exactly! The supernatural/natural divide is a shell game designed to shelter poorly evidenced claims. But it is totally irrelevant, they are both part of external reality so what else can we do to find out if the hypothesis is true but examine external reality? If two poorly evidenced hypotheses are untestable and unfalsifiable, how does one being labeled “supernatural” elevate it over the other?

    • Grimlock

      I agree with the part about methodological naturalism. It seems like as long as there is some regularity to behavior, and observed behavior, one can deduce descriptive patterns. Or laws, if you will. As such, the scientific method seems to apply to supernatural phenomena as well. (For a thoroughly delightful read on the topic, I highly recommend the fan fiction “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality”.)

      I’m not convinced of the part about supernaturalism and naturalism. The reason is that I think the problem is tied to the definition of natural/supernatural. I prefer another definition these days, which is something along the lines of this:
      Natural: Everything that ultimately reduces down to/supervenes on/emerges from non-conscious phenomena.
      Supernatural: Everything that ultimately reduces down to/supervenes on/emerges from conscious phenomena.

      I don’t think these definitions suffer from the weaknesses that you point out.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        I don’t think these definitions suffer from the weaknesses that you point out.

        I agree, but this is something I addressed at the end of my comment.

        You could utilize supernatural/natural as a linguistic distinction, the same way natural/unnatural might be used to convey whether agency was involved. But once you start talking of philosophical naturalism, supernatural becomes unavoidably problematic.

        I’m all for making the labels more functional and transparent. But this doesn’t negate or avoid the problem I outlined, it merely shifts it down the line. For instance, if we adopt your usage, we will then need a new term that describes all phenomena allowed by external reality. Once there, theists will complain that we are philosophically limiting ourselves to this new term and we need to allow for stuff “beyond” or “outside” this new term.

        • Grimlock

          I reread your first comment, and I seem to have missed the part you quote of yourself. My bad.

          I’m struggling to understand precisely what the problem is. It seems to me that you already used a perfectly appropriate term for external reality, namely “external reality”. Which might have both natural and supernatural components. (Well, it definitely has natural components, and I’m a bit dubious about the supernatural parts.) If apologists doesn’t like this, and wants to place their god outside of external reality, I’m okay with that..? As near as I can tell, you have given good reason for dispensing with the term “methodological naturalism”, but I don’t quite catch the further problem. Can you help me see what I’m missing?

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Well, since we agree that “methodological naturalism” should be ditched, we’re most of the way there. The rest of the gap would likely be closed if “external reality” could be used because talk of being “outside” it comes off as being as absurd on the face of it as it is at further depth. My worry would be that whatever term we come up with would be as prone to equivocation as “natural” is, which would simply recreate the same problem. So long as that could be avoided, we see eye to eye. 🙂

        • Grimlock

          Pardon the late response. I saw your comment when I was rather preoccupied, and forgot to follow up later.

          I’m not sure if I agree the term “methodological naturalism” should be ditched. You give a strong reason against its usage, at least in conversations with theists. But I’m not convinced that it’s useless in every conversations. I don’t mean to be pedantic, just cautious.

          It’d be fascinating to see someone try to talk about external reality as some equivocation. It seems fairly noncommittal with respect to the nature (heh) of reality, at the very least.

      • se habla espol

        IOW:

        Natural = objective/empirical.
        Supernatural = subjective/ non-mathematically imaginary

      • TheNuszAbides

        I highly recommend the fan fiction “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality”

        seconded!

  • ThaneOfDrones

    I think you should do a posting on this:

    Nine not-so-good reasons to be an atheist

    • eric

      I’ll do it for him (in brief form). Though most of them devolve into “You can’t prove my particular God doesn’t exist!”

      #1. True the problem of evil only rules out some Gods, not all possible ones. So what? We take God-concepts as they are presented. And I don’t see a lot of nyarlathotep-like deists running around.

      #2. The birth-dependency of God-belief has never been an observation against the philosophical possibility of God. It’s an observation against belief being as based on objective generally accepted evidence as believers sometimes imply. “Belief in my god is the rational and inevitable conclusion of evidence and logic! Anyone who thinks deeply enough about the world will come to it” “So why do the vast majority of humans throughout time and space who thought deeply about it not come to it?”

      #3. Sure science doesn’t explain everything. This is neither a good reason to start believing nor even maintain current belief.

      #4. See #1; if much of the conversation revolves around god-concepts the author thinks are ‘childish,’ it’s because most of the believers who argue with atheists bring those concepts to the table. If the author wants to bring up a deistic suffering-tolerating ground of being, by all means he’s free to do so. He will no longer be defending any recognizable form of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other major religion. [Aside; I tend to call such arguments “Theist on Sunday, Deist on Monday” because the folks who make them are often the same people who will wholeheartedly recite the Nicene Creed while in church. Which is it, guys? Nicene creed God or philosophically de minimis God? Because they aren’t the same.]

      #5. Positing a God independent of time provides no evidence of a God independent of time.

      #6. Positing a ‘most basic’ God is an attempt to avoid substantive argument. It’s circular in that it assumes the thing it’s trying to prove (that God exists). It attempts to irrationally shift the burden of proof (tell me why He doesn’t exist!). It simultaneously proves an infinite number of contradictory things (a most basic unicorn. A most basic leprechaun). And while doing all these bad things, it still fails to support any specific theistic (vice deistic) notion of God.

      #7. Like #2, ‘Theists behave badly’ is not an argument against the philosophical possibility of God. It’s an argument against theist claims that their religion must have something to it because the people who convert suddenly start behaving better. Since statistically they don’t behave better, this argument can’t possibly be true (Note, however: if their false premise was true the argument would still be unsound. IMO you don’t hear many theists or atheists arguing this point any more. I think in most cases where atheists are pointing out bad behavior by believers, they’re trying to point out some individual leader’s hypocrisy and therefore untrustworthiness – not making a theological claim)

      #8. “No reason to put it aside” is a fallacious shifting of the burden of proof. The person positing the invisible entity has the burden of proof to show it exists. Nonbelievers don’t have to show it doesn’t.

      #9. The author has decided to end his list with an “argument” (scare quotes intentional) that atheists aren’t as cool as people think and that they can be found under most rocks? This is merely an ad hom.

      • Kevin K

        Yeah, I saw that list and when I got to the end I thought, “wow, that was rude”. The rest of it, burden shifting gobbledygook.

    • Thanks. I’ll take a look.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        The arguments are not particularly good, but there is some novelty in that it appears to be coming from a non-Christian source.

        He gets chewed up in the comments but doesn’t seem to be responding. I am wondering if the comments are blocked in Pakistan.

        • Greg G.

          That could be. When I am in Vietnam, I can view Patheos but not Disqus when I am on a home WIFI network. If I go to a public place, I can get Disqus but then I have to type on the phone which limits how much I want to reply.

        • It’s an interesting read. I think I’ll post a response Friday or Monday. Thanks again for the tip.

          Are the comments worth reading?

          I couldn’t find any confirmation of the author’s religious affiliation, but with Islam held by 95+% of the population and Islam being the official religion, it certainly does seem to be a Muslim author. I’ll try to ping the author afterwards to let him know of the post to see if he has any comments.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          There are only 15 comments (at present) and about half of them by me. Most are by atheists criticising the original piece, and there’s nothing you probably wouldn’t come up with on your own.

        • It seems to be a very Western site, down to the obnoxious ads and links. Maybe I’m betraying my biases by being a bit surprised, but I thought it would have a little more local flavor. Anyway, the article could’ve easily been written by an American apologist, and I saw no bias toward Muslim rather than Christian arguments–also surprising.

        • Greg G.

          The World Wide Web knows where you are and which ads to put in your face.

        • Did you mean “World Wide Web,” or did you mean … Big Brother??

        • I put my reply up today. It’s a 2-parter. I skimmed your comments, not wanting to be too influenced by them so that my writing was independent. But I think you might’ve had some ideas that I didn’t cover, so feel free to add them.

  • Damian Byrne

    “The origin of life? Of consciousness? Of the universe? If you don’t have an answer, I do—God did it!
    Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/08/25-stupid-arguments-christians-should-avoid-part-6/#hjELgy8YdWZrmPwT.99

    I debate on a forum, and I get those arguments ALL the time. Here is what one of my frequent opponents had to say
    “I think science may actually be able to explain the origins of life one day..however, it will never be able to explain the origins of SENTIENT life, which ties into the origin of consciousness.”
    This guy has a particular problem with asking how we get life from non-life. Several times he asks that, several times I and others respond by pointing out his elementary particles (such as carbon, hydrogen, phosphorous and so on) are themselves non-living, they simply follow the laws of chemistry…and he’ll always shift the goalposts to saying “I meant sentient life!” and then say things like the above, that science will NEVER discover.
    He MUST be a prophet, to be able to see the future in such detail.

    • Kevin K

      it will never be able to explain the origins of SENTIENT life, which ties into the origin of consciousness

      Tell him, and you can quote me, “it already has. It’s called … wait for it … evolution.”

      • Damian Byrne

        I think you can guess at his attitude towards evolution. He’s one of those “kinds” guys, and keeps harping on about it.

        • Kevin K

          Then he’s a creationist moron. I don’t “do” creationists. You’re better off playing chess with pigeons.

        • Damian Byrne

          He’s a real piece of work. Last year, he and I had a formal one on one debate about the Modal Ontological Argument on the forum we both frequent. We had a back and forth, and then he forfeited.
          Guess what he did just a couple days later?
          He has ANOTHER formal one on one debate on the EXACT SAME TOPIC with a fellow atheist.
          And get this…the guy is so idiotic that his opening statement in the second debate was the same as for mine. It literally must not have crossed his mind that his second opponent might have been reading the first debate.

        • Kevin K

          Hoo boy. Plantinga. Assume the gods exist because it is necessary for the gods to exist.

          I just threw up in my mouth a little.

        • Damian Byrne
        • Kevin K

          Looks to me like copy-pasta. Those aren’t his ideas, they’re liberally borrowed (aka, plagiarized) from Plantinga, et al.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Yeah, he’s a buffoon. My favorite is his nonsense about how evolution’s emphasis on survival cannot explain rational thinking. As if clear, logical thinking doesn’t provide a survival advantage. And as if human cognition isn’t rife with intuition and biases that belie the idea that it was designed by a perfect thinker for the purposes of rationality. And as if intuition doesn’t match up far better with the classical world that our predecessors would have had more direct experience with. And as if we haven’t had to hone procedures to ensure proper rationality as we attempted to explore beyond more common experiences. It’s almost as if every piece of evidence contradicts his hypothesis.

          Amusingly, even his example, the erroneous belief that running away from a tiger is the best way to pet one leading to unintended survival advantage, is only pertinent in isolation. Surely a few failed attempts will lead to changed tactics, no? And won’t those revised tactics illustrate the faults of the original belief, either for the injured-but-surviving party or those who saw him get eaten? Or am I supposed to believe that each new belief will be its own version of erroneous-yet-beneficial, where somehow none interact in such a way that they highlight the failings of one another? I mean, if you are really going to say that rationality requires god, you can’t just leave it at the single example, you have to take it all the way. But Plantinga doesn’t because it makes the absurdity too overt.

          The whole thing is sophistry at its finest.

    • “Science will never answer X” … so Christianity can?? We’ve gotten zero evidence-based explanations from religion.