rational rejection of supernatural mythologies

Essential Whining

 Not content to con reputable scientists into their ridiculous movie about science’s rejection of the IDiocy of so-called ‘intelligent design’ creationism, the producers are now trying to lure logic-challenged students to whine about poor reception of pseudoscience in science classes.

 Those who are not sufficiently well versed in science or logic might continue to be fooled by the ID propaganda, which relies on a very old, and refuted argument to make the illogical proposition that ‘scientific accounts of evolution fail’ and that religiously motivated con artists have something to offer by way of explanation. They don’t. The design argument is based on the irrelevant analogy that human-designed creations are the product of intelligence, so, by their ridiculous reasoning, ‘life could not have arisen by chance and biological complexity could not have evolved by natural processes’. It could and it did, but these fools care nothing for the truth. This argument is unfounded and the claims of ID creationists that they have anything useful to add to scientific knowledge is an unabashed falsehood that rakes in contributions from the terminally deluded.

 Religious fundamentalists are so desperate about the refutation of religious dogma by scientists and philosophers that they must resort to ridiculous ploys such as IDiocy in an attempt to maintain credulity in the ignorant and the credulous. There is no grounds for debate about evolution versus creation because evolution has been overwhelmingly documented as a fact and creationism has been soundly disproven. The scientific theories that explain the mechanisms by which the fact of biological evolution has operated are incomplete but not inaccurate. This is the beauty of science–it is a work in progress, continuously being checked, refined, and verified.

 I do think that there is a place for discussion of IDiocy in university classrooms–disproving ID claims could enliven discussion of the likely mechanisms of abiogenesis, of probability calculations, and of the actual mechanisms of biological evolution; and, the rampant illogic of IDiocy would provide plentiful examples of fallacious logic for discussion of critical thinking. Beyond these applications, IDiocy has absolutely no truth value and no merit for education.

Blogs ~ The Discovery Institute doesn’t like smart college students ~ Expelled: No Intelligence Evident ~

Earlier Blog reactions ~ Pharyngula: I have obtained a stolen, pre-release clip of Expelled!, Denyse O’Leary: paranoid projectionist, More dribblings from the producer of Expelled, Expelled producer seems to be embarrassed about his sneaky tactics, Ruloff’s claims are not credible, Any conservative can make an ass of themselves on Fox: Ben Stein gets crazy, Betrayed!, Watch out, faculty: biblical literalism will be enforced, Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention, Spiegel gets into the act, too: Bad: Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent DesignExpelled movie producer exposes the holy hand of Intelligent Design :

October 28, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, logic, philosophy, religion, science | Leave a comment

God, the Failed Myth

 I wrote this in response to a typical theist post reviewing God: The Failed Hypothesis, by Victor Stenger by dangoldfinch at Life Under the Blue Sky: The View From Below

 His disapproval would make me inclined to buy his book, but I already knew what dangoldfinchs say Stenger has written. 

 Dangoldfinch needs to check his logic and his atheist sourcesmost acknowledge that you cannot logically disprove a negative. So it is illogical to demand disproof of God, particularly when it actually behooves theistic claimants to provide ‘proof’ for their claims.

 However, it is possible to disprove falsifiable claims about the physical world. I think Stenger’s point is that the Bible does make unsubstantiable claims about natural events. Since the huge body of scientific knowledge provides an empirical (falsifiable, testable, verifiable) body of knowledge that better explains those naturalistic claims, then the God of the Bible is effectively reduced to an infinitesimally small probability and is, in essence, disproved by the fact that science provides much better explanations. The religious typically know virtually no science or logic, so it is hardly surprising that their arguments are risible.

““The [scientific] model need not be proven to be correct, just not proven to be incorrect.”

In other words, Stenger doesn’t actually put forth an argument at all.”

 What part of falsifiable does dangoldfinch not understand? If a falsifiable hypothesis is not disprovennote the double negativethen that hypothesis stands until, if ever, it is disproven. If it is not disproven by successive discoveries, then it graduates to full theory, and ultimately to acceptance as scientific knowledge. In logic, it is recognized that inductions cannot be disproven. Dangoldfinch simply failed to understand what Stenger had written, so he misinterpreted Stenger in favor of his own misguided prejudices for unbelievable mythologies.

 The burden of proof, or disproof, does not logically fall on the atheist. The burden of proof falls on the claimantthose theists who have failed in over 2,000 years to prove Yahweh, in almost 2,000 years to prove God, and in 1,400 years to prove Allah (same mythical entity, different dogmas). So, atheists do not believe in God because of the lack of evidence, the immeasurably better explanatory power of science, and all the religious mythology that strains credulity.  The effective disproof of the God of the Bible is to be found in 200 years of amassed scientific knowledge.  

“I think it is just one more piece of evidence that suggests atheists are terribly afraid of the Abrahamic God. After all, doesn’t it make sense to suggest that you can only really attack something that is real? I mean, logically speaking, if the Abrahamic God didn’t exist, would Stenger, Dawkins, Harris, et al have anyone or anything to attack? Their books would be quite meaningless (they are anyhow).”

 Dangoldfinch claims that atheists must be arguing against something that must existsure, we disbelieve evidence-less improbable mythologies, but we argue against illogic, ignorance, misinformation, pseudoscience, bigotry, and religious violence. Those all exist and, though not all theists exhibit all of these, the correlation is too high to dismiss as a problem confined to fundamentalism. 

 They never actually provide conclusive evidence that God doesn’t exist.”

 Duh! Again, one cannot disprove a negative. Atheists do not believe that gods exist because religious claims for the existence of supernatural beings are not based on any empirical evidence for which science cannot provide a much better explanationthat is, supernatural mythologies are not believable, which is why faith is demanded of believers.

“Maybe someday atheists will come clean, be honest, and just admit that even though they know in their hearts that there is a God, specifically the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, they simply do not want to believe in Him because then they would be forced to submit to Him.”

 Dream on! As to atheists fearing God, dangoldfinch is utterly mistaken and is projecting his own fears onto people who genuinely have none of the fears that theists love to imagine. There is nothing to submit to except stupid human-invented dogma and I have never been impressed by foolishness. The repeatedly observable fact that theist provide falsehoods and resort repeatedly to fallacies of logic do not themselves prove God’s nonexistence, but they do demonstrate that to believe in the unbelievable typically requires ignorance that spreads beyond holding deluded beliefs.

 Theists love to make the empty threat that all atheists will go to hell for their disbelief. Theists merely want to believe all the myths about atheists because theists cannot imagine being free of their own indoctrinated fear, which is why they cling so tenaciously to ignorance.

September 26, 2007 Posted by | atheism, critical thinking, fundamentalism, logic, philosophy, religion, science | 1 Comment

Ineffable Excuses

That is, when all religious arguments fail because of internal inconsistency, retreat into the inexplicable (ineffable).

“But they only fail because of the frailty of the human condition.”

The argument has obviously convinced you, but I submit that this is only because you wish to believe for the reasons that you have already explained – rewards are offered for  faith. (I also do think that the emotional process of faith offers emotional comfort in the only life the believer will have, though fear of eternal torment tortures some people uneccessarily.)

Let me explain it this way: if God Sent his Son, via Immaculate Conception, to Die For Our Sins, and if Christianity is a Revealed Religion, why did God not bother to leave better Evidence of His Existence or provide us with better arguments when He was dictating the Word of God? If God wished man, his Special Creation, to Worship Him, why would He maintain Himself as Unknowable where it matters? 

Oh, yes, I remember – faith.

The answer, of course, is that the ineffable is a clever theological retreat. When all arguments fail, claim that the basis for the arguments remains true but blame human intellectual frailty for inability to generate a convincing argument.

(Don’t trouble yourself to elaborate all the “excuses” that apologists make, we’re probably all familiar with them.) I do understand the objection that you raised. I understand the concept of ineffability – I think that it is a clever artifice.

However, the problem with the objection is that theological arguments were invented by humans and are only intended to convince humans. This means that it should be within human capacity to convince fellow humans if the argument had solid grounds.

So, even if there were a God and that God had elements incomprehensible to a mere mortal, if it were beyond our capacities to understand or explain them, we should not even have discovered those elements that are inexplicable. Think of a fly buzzing around a room – it has absolutely no understanding of the nature of a room, and it has no notion that it does not understand. (I feel safe that most would concur that flies have limited cognitive capacity.)

“There are some religious arguments that fail because they are wrong (since all religions and the arguments that support them are not correct). There are other religious arguments that make seem internally inconsistent, but only because as aspects of them are not known.”

I’d agree on the first statements only.

I was attracted to science for many reasons. Amongst those reasons were the fact that science offers our best opportunity for consistently understanding the natural world and that science is a self-modifying discipline in that it refines and improves itself. Facts are facts, but scientific theories tie observations together into a coherent, logical whole that provides for an Aha! reaction. In a sense, the logic of science is tautological just as any explanation with logical foundation is tautological. If a scientific theory fails to fit the known facts, then it is scrapped and a better explanation is sought. Good explanations can be difficult to induce from empirical facts, but this is part of the intellectual appeal of science. I suppose that this is a little akin to saying that science seeks to conquer the inexplicable. As to the infinite, cosmology indicates that space curves back on itself and that time is event-limited, so infinity and eternity are mere concepts rather than possibilities.

Religions do not provide tautologies. Oh sure, some who believe for emotional reasons will accept the argument for ineffability, but they are in fact merely accepting the arguments because they like the conclusions and the implications of those conclusions, usually because they have been familiar with the concepts since childhood. I’m not knocking the emotional motivations, I’m merely saying that it is not possible to build a completely logical explanation for something that does not actually exists as The determining force for what we observe.

“To use a concept to prove a concept, particularly in a fallacious argumentum ad ignorantium, is simply a form of circular fallacy.”

“You are correct. I took too many shortcuts. Let me further explain what I was saying. If one accepts the existence of a transcendent being, one thereby accepts that empirical evidence is of limited value. It is possible to use the various empirical evidence that can be interpreted as supporting the evidence of such a transcendent being, but the existence of such a being is ultimately based upon faith.”

That’s a good explanation of your position. I think that the existence in question is confined to the act of faith. To some degree, the difficulties lie around how we are to understand “existence”. Faith ‘incorporates’ that same nature of existence in which emotions and ideas exist. 

The burden of proof rests with the claimant.”

“Unless the claimant feels no burning need to prove anything, especially if the claimant is convinced that belief is only possible with faith, not merely the intellectual assent to a set of postulations.”

No, the burden of proof still rests with the claimant. It is obviously the claimant’s prerogative whether or not to bother to take up the burden.

Faith is emotional assent to that set of postulations in the absence of empirical evidence. (I’d also say absence of logical validity, where I’d define that as logic without resort to artificial premises.)

If it left absolutely no trace within human experience, then nobody would ever be discussing that whatever.

“So you are saying that since people are the discussing the whatever, it must have left a trace within the human experience, thus validating its existence?”

No, I’m saying that the truly ineffable would no more have occurred to us than a room does to a fly. 

I maintain that there is another, better explanation than the existence of supernatural entities for the human invention of religion:

Start with a brain that has evolved to recognize patterns in the world along with a psychological need to understand our own existence and a desire to control the phenomena that govern survival. Next, toss in the fact that the earliest humans had few interventions and fewer reasonable explanations that were obvious within the phenomena (essentially what Hume said – we infer the cause-effect relationship from the relationship but we don’t directly perceive the cause). Add a little human need to have others behave as we wish, or as leaders order. Add a little human creativity and love of ritual.

What do we now have? The plethora of creation myths and religious beliefs that are observed across almost all societies.

Refine and promote these package through the operation of human intellectual creativity and organizational skill and we have survival of the fittest religious organization.

What do we now have? If there were truly an obviously correct single creed, then only one religious doctrine would have prevailed. If only one creed had predominated, we’d have a lot less strife.

Either supernatural entities are believed to exist, with the associated pantheon of divisive religious dogmas, or supernatural entities are believed not to exist with the concomitant possibility that people could cease to divide one another on the basis of arbitrary enemy beliefs. I am not saying that I think that universal acceptance of atheism would unite the world, but the possibility of questioning arbitrary rules and divisions could reduce conflict. At least the conflict would be ideologically confined to politicoeconomic issues and it is easier to find compromises to reduce those causes of conflict.

Follow-through from Transcendant rhetorical devices and Comments.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | atheism, critical thinking, logic, philosophy, religion, science | Leave a comment

Immoral Prescriptions

“I suppose if the moral lessons of the Bible aren’t explanations, Jesus could have saved a lot of breath. It seems like he went to great lengths to explain appropriate behaviour.”

I think that it is much simpler to explain what one considers appropriate behavior (should-s) than to convincingly argue for those behaviors. However, I’ll concede that moral allegories often suffice to convince and that Jesus’ moral lessons could be regarded as moral explanations. I reacted to the wrong word because my objection is to being should upon 

I have no intention of studying the Bible because I do not accept the underlying precept (a supernatural says that you should behave this way), but I know enough to know that it is inconsistent.

As I said, when I was a kid I liked Jesus’ more tolerant moral tales. Take the story of the adulteress, for example: I think that a punishment should fit a crime (though better to fix the causes of the crime) so the notion of a crowd’s presuming to stone someone to death for mere adultery is preposterous and the crowd’s act is immoral according to other moral rules. The hypocrisy of juxtaposing thou-shalt-not-kill with stoning for adultery is utterly objectionable.

  Before you think that Jesus was stopping that act and that such immoral prescriptions no longer occur, I remind you that a few years ago a Muslim woman was sentenced to be stoned to death (as soon as she’d delivered the baby conceived out of wedlock). Stoning and killings – mostly of the female participant – are still perpetrated in Islam. In this sense, Christendom is ahead of Islam, and mostly thanks to secularism in Christendom.  

You said that you think that I believe in Christianity. No, I only accept the compassionate segments, and I accept those because we are all united by our common humanity. I don’t care who provides an explanation or under what pretext of authority it is written, the point is whether or not the moral rule makes humanistic sense. The problem that I see with the Bible is that many of the prescriptions are immoral (in a humanistic sense) or contradict one another.    

The behavioral problem lies more with people than with religions, but people-problems spread into religion because people administer religions. Still, religions ideally could prescribe only humanistic behavior, and some people would still disobey.

The problem that excites some atheists to anti-religious sentiment lies in the fact that some religions are employed to justify and promote behaviors that are immoral. Intolerance and hatred are anti-humanistic, so Christianity continues to be guilty of less egregious crimes than stoning.

Islam is currently being subverted to the political aims of hateful imams. Those in Muslim countries who lack the education to see where their theocracy is headed are dupes on a collision course.

“If God kills, lies, cheats, discriminates, and otherwise behaves in a manner that puts the Mafia to shame, that’s okay, he’s God. He can do whatever he wants. Anyone who adheres to this philosophy has had his sense of morality, decency, justice and humaneness warped beyond recognition by the very book that is supposedly preaching the opposite.” ~ Dennis McKinsey in newsletter Biblical Errancy

Follow-up on Of must and men and Comments.

September 3, 2007 Posted by | atheism, critical thinking, education, fundamentalism, morality, religion | Leave a comment

Absolutist Fears to Emotion

Because the WordPress system does not allow for modification of posting time, the following lengthy sequence is posted out of order:

Full sequence: Absolutist FearsComments Bouncing back to Dave , Comment; No Things in Moderation; Creation MythsComments; Conversions, Comments; My God is bigger than your god, Comments; Of must and men, Comments; Transcendant rhetorical devices, Comments; The so-called creation versus evolution debate, Comments; Apologetic creations, Comments; From the Cradle, Comments; West of Eden, Comments; The Clash of Titans, Comments; The place of Emotion, Comments .

September 2, 2007 Posted by | abiogenesis, atheism, creationism, critical thinking, education, evolution, Jerry Falwell, logic, morality, Pascal's Wager, philosophy, psychology, religion, science | Leave a comment