Friday, December 15, 2017

The "but I can't help what I believe!" argument

In this article we will consider the question of whether or not atheists have a choice regarding what they will believe. I will appeal to the following dictum.

Dictum. Living your life as if X is true and believing that X is true are one and the same.

So let's consider the atheist's question, but rephrased. Can a current atheist will to choose in the future to live in such a way as if atheism is false? If they can, then by our dictum, they can choose to believe in God. By the way, this isn't just true for theism, but for anything. If you live your life as if X is true, then that is the same as believing that X is true.

Here's a quiz you should pose to anybody who doubts that they can choose what they believe?

Question #1: Can you choose to give away all your money to a town drunk?
Question #2: Is it an easy choice for a person who worked hard all of their lives to earn their wealth to say 'yes'?
Question #3: If you've answered "no" to Question #2, then does that logically imply that the answer to Question #1 also be "no"?
Question #4: For any X, can you choose to plan your life and behave as if X is true?
Question #5: Is there any difference between choosing to plan your life and behave as if X is true and believing that X is true?

Friday, October 27, 2017

The "science is self-correcting" fallacy

Oftentimes when dealing with evolutionists the following exchange is bound to happen.
EVOLUTIONIST: *posts some evidence proving evolution*
EVOLUTIONIST: Hah! That proves that we were right and you were wrong! Stupid Christian. I just won another Internet debate.
YOU: *posts some evidence disproving evolution.*
EVOLUTIONIST: Hah! That proves that science is self-correcting. Much better than relying on some old book for knowledge! Stupid Christian. I just won another Internet debate.
It is an extremely intellectually dishonest, yet extremely effective, rhetorical trick. First of all, because it is rhetorical in nature, that means that there is a dialectical argument hidden within the rhetoric, and the argument is this:
EVOLUTIONIST: The only valid kind of knowledge is scientific knowledge, and theological knowledge is simply abstract nonsense devoid of meaning, like the sentence "colorless green ideas sleep alertly."
That this is indeed the implied dialectical argument is obvious when you notice that, the evolutionist, by claiming that science should be adhered to because it is "self-correcting" is naturally implying that all the other subjects (law, philosophy, theology, art, literature, music, etc...) should be ignored because they're not "self-correcting." He is implying that there is nothing of cognitive value in any of these other fields, and that the only value they could have is emotional, aesthetic, or sentimental, but not cognitive.

However, whether scientific knowledge is indeed the only kind of knowledge is a highly controversial claim in philosophy. The idea even has a name (positivism), and it has been considered dated and largely rejected by most philosophers.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Talk.Origins on Richard Dawkins' "Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist" Quote

The pro-evolution website has an interesting section on Richard Dawkins's famous quote that evolution "has made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." And I quote:
Claim: By providing a naturalistic explanation of biological origins, evolution promotes atheism. Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Charles Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. [Dawkins, 1986, p. 6] 
Source: Berlinski, David. 1996. The Deniable Darwin. Commentary 101(6) (Jun).
I decided to double-check the source given on whether or not David Berlinski claims that "evolution promotes atheism." He never did: I used "ctrl-f" to search for the verb phrases "promotes atheism," "promote atheism," "promoting atheism," and "promoted atheism," even replacing the verb with "support" or any number of synonyms, and failed to find any textual evidence of him claiming that "evolution promotes atheism." Now what the source provided actually says is that atheists are as emotionally invested in evolution as fundamentalists are in Genesis (using the Dawkins quote as evidence), and I quote from Berlinski:
"Darwin," Richard Dawkins has remarked with evident gratitude, "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." This is an exaggeration, of course, but one containing a portion of the truth. That Darwin's theory of evolution and biblical accounts of creation play similar roles in the human economy of belief is an irony appreciated by altogether too few biologists.
There is no way to possibly confuse this with an assertion that evolution promotes atheism unless the person reading it is inherently confused. As long as Talk.Origins keeps this misleading citation up, Talk.Origins is spreading false data. Berlinski does not even claim that all atheists need evolution to support their atheism, as he then goes on to clearly state that Dawkins's quote is "an exaggeration, of course."

Friday, March 10, 2017

David Hume was not wise.

I am a Christian, but I honestly think it's time for atheist philosophers to stop treating Hume like the Paul of atheism. He had absolutely abhorrent social views, even for his time (keep in mind that Locke and Kant were his contemporaries). I know that some of the more progressive Christians are going to be reading this and wanting to rejoin with "...then it sounds like Hume is exactly like the Paul of atheism!" Hardy har-har. But I laugh at your ridiculous moonbat social views ("male and female are a social construct!") just as much as I laugh at Hume.

Anyway, atheists have created a reverse version of Christianity with a reverse Bible, where:

(1) Darwin is Genesis
(2) Marx is Isaiah
(3) John Stuart Mill is the law portion of the Pentateuch.
(4) Hume is the Pauline corpus
(5) Richard Dawkins is the Gospel of John

(6) Eliezer Yudkowsky is Revelation. And I quote from the link:

In their discussion of Omohundro and Yudkowsky's work, Russell and Norvig cite I. J. Good's 1965 prediction that when computer systems begin to outperform humans in software engineering tasks, this may result in a feedback loop of increasingly capable AI systems. This raises the possibility that AI's impact could increase very quickly after it reaches a certain level of capability.

Woe to you, O Earth and sea, for the singuarity has come forth with great wrath because the time is short! Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the AI, for it is in machine code. Its number, is 1010011010.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Argumentum Ad Cabbalam

This is a method of last resort for the irate atheist who has failed to conclusively prove anything regarding why his belief that there is no God is justified true belief (I intend to write a separate blog post on those debaters who redefine atheism as "lack of belief in gods"), and it looks something like this:
THEIST: The universe has a beginning.

ATHEIST: I don't know, even evangelical scientists like Don Page say that science is open on that question.

THEIST: So what about Lawrence Krauss who said that all the evidence points to the universe having a beginning?

But X has a model here where there is no beginning! Here, have a look at this twenty page publication with esoteric quantum loop string theory showing that...
He then demands that you address all of the subtle mathematical points of this new theory before you can go on to make your case that the universe has a beginning. If you've ever experienced this, then there is a good chance that you've had an argumentum ad cabbala thrown at you. What makes the argumentum ad cabbala fundamentally fallacious is that it tries to overwhelm the opponent with esoteric knowledge all the while the person employing it has no obligation to show how this esoteric knowledge is even relevant to the topic at hand or even if it corresponds to reality!

The choice of Kabbalah employed by the atheist is usually frontier mathematical physics, but it could in principle be anything, such as obscure heterodox Marxist writings by Gramsci if your opponent's forte lies in the humanities rather than the quantitative sciences.

A good example of an atheist trying to use argumentum ad cabbala is Sean Carroll in his debate with William Lane Craig. Carroll is a third-degree Rabbinical master in cosmology from the yeshiva known as the California Institute of Technology, so it was naturally trivial for him to pull no fewer than seventeen different models of supposed eternal universes. Right away, the number of models employed is a red flag: why did he need seventeen counterexamples when one is enough? However, the big reveal that shows that this was all a tremendous waste of time was near the end when Carroll confessed that his preferred model violated the second law of thermodynamics. In other words, his model was unphysical.

What allows the atheist to get away with the argumentum ad cabbala is that he's counting on your kindness to carry most of the footwork while he has to do nothing. Even if you did manage to compute twenty or so pages of Feynman path integrals showing that this theory has problems on points X, Y, and Z, all the atheist will learn is that he needed to look for a forty page paper. And then he'll do just that and give it to you and demand you to work on that one while he has a night in the town.

This analysis points toward a solution for how to resolve an argumentum ad cabbala: force the atheist to do the equal amount of work in explaining how the model fits the evidence and even if it corresponds with reality. Remind him that he needs to show that your model conclusively disproves one of your premises and that it's not good enough to put forward a speculative theory that may have nothing to do at all with reality. If he shuts up at that point, then you can be sure that he had no actual points.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dialogue with a Far-Right Extremist

PERSON: Alt-right and Catholic here.

ME: I must warn you: the alt-right comes straight from Satan himself. As obnoxious as social justice advocates may be, their belief that homosexuality is commendable and that transgenderism is virtuous does not make them Satanic to the core... because it's largely due to scientific research showing that people are "born this way" and that it's "natural" (of course science is always tentative, and what's good science today may be bad science tomorrow). It's a valid inference from bad data. That is not so for the alt-right. The alt-right deliberately and consciously rejects human equality in any metaphysical sense. This is not the same kind of error SJWs have. 
Later on, another interjector joined the discussion and started to ask questions advocating an extreme right wing position. The rest of this post consists of his response interspersed with my replies.

INTERJECTOR:  One of those researchers was Bogaert--Bogaert the guy who collaborated with Rushton on the paper showing Africans have earlier sexual development and other r-selcted traits. In other words, not a shitlib or Cultural Marxist like Gould, Lewontin, Kamin, etc. Lots of people would have much easier lives if they were attracted to the opposite sex, and have tried very hard to make it that way. Why hasn't it worked?

ME: All this shows is that being gay or straight is a lifelong stable individual characteristic. So is narcissistic personality disorder, political ideology, religious belief (usually), and income bracket (usually). Yet none of those things are "biologically hard-wired" in any sense.

INTERJECTOR: [Regarding science being "always tentative,"] this is a common misconception. It's not that "it's always false," it's that our model gets more and more accurate. For example, the change from Aristotelian physics to Newtonian physics to Einsteinian physics to quantum physics. And we know there are flaws with our current model--for example, the universe is actually expanding at an accelerating rate. Does that mean you should throw out your physics book because there might be a change to the model in the future? Only the social science findings that have the replicability problem (which is widespread in social science).

ME: No, because some models are useful. But if one become so married to a model that he starts to turn it into a metaphysical truth, there is a grave risk of turning a scientific theory into a religion. This is, ironically, what happened with Marxism: Popper pointed out that Marx was making a scientific prediction, but when the prediction didn't come true, he became so married to the model that he started to add in so many ad-hoc predictions that it ended up turning into a far-left religion.

INTERJECTOR: Research showing things like "whites have a higher IQ than blacks,"

ME: True, but what does it mean? Asian and Jews have a higher I.Q. than whites. An ancient Roman would probably have a lower I.Q. than a modern member of society today, but I would argue that due to less genetic degeneration that ancient Romans were probably more intelligent than modern humans.

INTERJECTOR: "men and women are neurologically different,"

ME: Mostly due to the effect of sex hormones on brain lateralization, but even then it's not insurmountable: Emmy Noether and Sophie-Germain did great mathematical research.

INTERJECTOR: "gays and straights are neurologically different" has been replicable.

ME: Piano players and non-piano players are neurologically different too. So what? Noticing a difference between people who identify as gay versus those who don't means nothing unless there's a well-founded etiology behind it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Biblical Criticism

Atheist: I used to love Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Now they also have The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler. This is what I call the hermeneutical song and exegetical dance. I picture Richard Gere in the movie Chicago doing the tap dance. That's a good analogy to what these books are. The alternative model, that the Bible is errant and is not divinely inspired, written by several authors, each with their agenda, inspired by their culture, beliefs and superstitions, is a far more plausible explanation.

Me: (1) Do words have meaning? (2) Did the authors of the Bible simply assemble a collection of words with no apparent purpose or do the passages in question have an objectively discoverable purpose?

Your English teachers from high school taught you wrong. Not all interpretations are equally good, and truth isn't relative to each person. Some interpretations are right and some interpretations are wrong. All you're saying is that it's possible for someone to interpret the Bible as an incoherent mess. So what? Seriously, why should I care that someone found out how to interpret the Bible in a stupid manner? I'm sorry, but the fact that this is possible isn't shocking or new to anybody in the Evangelical community. We all know about Julius Wellhausen and the documentary hypothesis (which is only one of three alternative hypotheses to the traditional authorship to the Pentateuch, the other two being the supplementary hypothesis and fragmentary hypothesis), and just because it's possible to interpret the Pentateuch in this way doesn't mean it's the correct interpretation (as the existence of competing hypotheses in higher criticism shows).

If you decided to study a real humanities discipline in university, like the classics (i.e. Greek and Latin literature), you would know that the "reader response" theory of interpretation very quickly will make you a laughingstock among your colleagues and professors.

Another thing you would learn if you studied a real humanities disciple is that you always interpret any work in the most charitable manner possible. Your dismissal of any attempt to discover original purpose to the biblical canon as nonsense is extremely uncharitable and would not be accepted in academia.

On a tangential note: at the turn of the 19th century, inspired by positivism and Wittgenstein's sentiment that all truth is merely a culturally-defined language game, a group of artists decided to take this to its logical conclusion and produce anti-art. You see, in the artists' mind, their ability to produce garbage and say its art somehow proved that art was just culturally defined and that there is no such thing as objective beauty and excellence, so it went in their twisted thinking. But their reasoning is unsound. Their ability to betray the standard of art doesn't prove that art is meaningless, it just proved that they betrayed the standard. And your ability to disbelieve the truth doesn't disprove truth, it only proves that you disbelieve it. 

"If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is." (II Timothy 2:13)