6/28/08

Hello and Thank You!

My hearty thanks for being given the chance to contribute. For those who don’t know me (and most don’t), you can get a feel for who I am and what I’ve been up to lately here (link). I’m looking forward to shining some additional light on one of the more dangerous worldviews espoused by mankind. That’s not silly sentiment on my part; history cries out against the conclusions that atheism inevitably leads to. There’s a long list of reasons to treat atheism with skepticism. Hopefully, I’ll be able to add my two cents’ worth in respect to all of them before long.+/-


In a nutshell, I have two major problems with atheism. Three, actually, but only two that atheists themselves are liable to even pretend to take seriously.

First, atheism is what I refer to as a “hopeless hypothesis”. That is, where the rubber meets the road, it’s wholly incompatible with actual life. Ideas like meaninglessness, purposelessness, determinism, and so forth are all well and good on paper. They are unlivable in practice. Human experience makes no sense without free will - true free will, not quantum uncertainty. “Making your own meaning” is as senseless as “making up the rules as you go” – either there are rules (or meaning), or not. The same atheists loudly deriding god-worshippers for being “delusional” are willfully, and often openly, self-delusional on these same topics. Even if atheism is true, we can’t actually live out that belief in any worthwhile way.

Secondly, atheism knocks down a lot of fences and walls, and opens a lot of doors. That sounds good at first, but some fences, walls, and locks are there for a reason. An atheist with whom I was conversing once said that atheism said as much about the morality of mass murder as it did about ordering pizza for delivery vs carry-out. He was trying to deny that atheism had any impact on historical atrocities, but he inadvertently made the same point that I’m making here. Once you accept that idea that there is no law higher than “our” law, that “good” and “evil” are just constructs, and that man is nothing but matter, walls fall down. You’re not prohibited from doing good – but the major boundaries around “evil” are gone, too.

Third, it’s simply not true.

My thanks, once again, for the chance to chip in. I have a few ideas already in the works for AiD, and I’m looking forward to the discussions that may follow.

-MedicineMan


Continue reading Hello and Thank You!...

Positive Atheism - Cliff Walker: The Flat Earth Falls Flat

God is “He who sits above the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22)
Cliff Walker has presented us with various logical fallacies and faulty inferences drawn from lack of knowledge of, and misunderstandings of, the Bible. I have evidenced these and responded to them in two essays thus far:
Part 1: Weak Bible Week Poster
Part 2: Relative Ethics and Absolute Condemnations

This essay, which is part 3, will focus on a very small but significant statement made by Mr. Walker. Note that I am not writing very much of this essay but will mostly allow the research of the late Stephen Jay Gould to respond to Mr. Walker’s statements.

To read/Or not to read

Mr. Walker wrote:

“People have been working for years to undermine any human progress which contradicts cherished myths…Since the myth they want to enforce cannot stand on its own merit, the only method left for them is to try to discredit any human progress which contradicts the myth.
We must remember that in 600 B.C.E., philosophers (what scientists were called back then) knew that the earth is a globe (and is not flat, as it appears to a mind that is unaided by abstract thinking skills). In 400 B.C.E., philosophers had made a close calculation as to the size of the earth. By 200 B.C.E., they had realized that the earth is not a perfect sphere, and had made some concerted efforts to measure how far off from a perfect sphere this spheroid called Earth is…
Long after these accomplishments came the Dark Ages. Ancient science had become so completely forgotten, through the domination of the Christian religion and its flat-earth dogma, that we now speak of the Copernican Revolution -- as if Copernicus was the first to discover and publicize heliocentricity. Galileo was persecuted in 1633 -- fully 141 years after Christopher Columbus, in 1492, ‘discovered’ a land that had already been inhabited for tens of thousands of years. Galileo was persecuted fully 111 years after Magellan's crew, in 1522, completed the first known voyage around the globe…”[1]

This portion of Mr. Walker’s statements interested me because they are so brief and yet, contain a tightly packaged concoction of historical myths. This succinct package was the reason I referred to his statements as “small,” their significance will be drawn out as we proceed. I rely heavily on Mr. Gould’s essay not because it is the only source of refutation of the above ideas (in fact Mr. Gould cites various authors) but because he well encapsulated a response to the historical myth. I will now quote from The Late Birth of a Flat Earth.[2]

Mr. Gould set the stage thusly:
“I also once learned that most other ecclesiastical scholars of the benighted Dark Ages had refuted Aristotle’s notion of a spherical earth, and had depicted our home as a flat, or at most a gently curved, plate. Didn’t we all hear the legend of Columbus at Salamanca, trying to convince the learned clerics that he would reach the Indies and not fall off the ultimate edge?”

This is basically what was described in Philip J. Sampson’s book 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization as “ideas everyone believes that really aren’t true.” Mr. Gould proceeds to explain how such historical myths came to be.

Mr. Gould continues:
“the supposed Dark and Medieval consensus for a flat earth—is entirely mythological…the invention of this fable [is traced to] the nineteenth century…the nineteenth-century invention of the flat earth…occurred to support another dubious and harmful separation wedded to another legend of historical progress—the supposed warfare between science and religion.

Classical scholars, of course, had no doubt about the earth’s sphericity. Our planet’s roundness was central to Aristotle’s cosmology and was assumed in Eratosthenes’ measurement of the earth’s circumference in the third century B.C. The flat-earth myth argues that this knowledge was then lost when ecclesiastical darkness settled over Europe. For a thousand years of middle time, almost all scholars held that the earth must be flat.”

Mr. Gould had already noted that The Venerable Bede (673-735) “clearly presented his classical conception of the earth as a sphere at the hub of the cosmos…Bede then explicitly stated that he meant a three-dimensional sphere, not a flat plate.”

“The inspirational, schoolchild version of the myth centers upon Columbus, who supposedly overcame the calumny of assembled clerics at Salamanca to win a chance from Ferdinand and Isabella. Consider this version of the legend, cited by Russell from a book for primary-school children written in 1887, soon after the myth’s invention (but little different from accounts that I read as a child in the 1950s):

‘But if the world is round,’ said Columbus, ‘it is not hell that lies beyond that stormy sea. Over there must lie the eastern strand of Asia, the Cathay of Marco Polo’ … In the hall of the convent there was assembled the imposing company-shaved monks in gowns … cardinals in scarlet robes. … ‘You think the earth is round … Are you not aware that the holy fathers of the church have condemned this belief …This theory of yours looks heretical.’ Columbus might well quake in his boots at the mention of heresy; for there was that new Inquisition just in fine running order, with its elaborate bone-breaking, flesh-pinching, thumb-screwing, hanging, burning, mangling system for heretics. [ellipsis points are here Mr. Gould’s]

Dramatic to be sure, but entirely fictitious. There never was a period of “flat earth darkness” among scholars (regardless of how many uneducated people may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology…This commission, composed of both clerical and lay advisers, did meet, at Salamanca among other places. They did pose some sharp intellectual objections to Columbus, but all assumed the earth’s roundness. As a major critique, they argued that Columbus could not reach the Indies in his own allotted time, because the earth’s circumference was too great…

Virtually all major medieval scholars affirmed the earth’s roundness…The twelfth-century translations into Latin of many Greek and Arabic works greatly expanded general appreciation of natural sciences, particularly astronomy, among scholars—and convictions about the earth’s sphericity both spread and strengthened. Roger Bacon (1220-1292) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) affirmed roundness via Aristotle and his Arabic commentators, as did the greatest scientists of later medieval times, including John Buriden (130(1-1358) and Nicholas Oresme (1320-1382)…

English philosopher of science William Whewell first identified major culprits in his History o f the Inductive Sciences, published in 1837—two minimally significant characters named Lactantius (245-325) and Cosmas Indicopleustes, who wrote his ‘Christian Topography’ in 547-549. Russell comments: ‘Whewell pointed to the culprits … as evidence of a medieval belief in a flat earth, and virtually every subsequent historian imitated him—they could find few other examples’…both men played minor roles in medieval scholarship. Only three reasonably complete medieval manuscripts of Cosmas are known (with five or six additional fragments), and all in Greek. The first Latin translation dates from 1706—so Cosmas remained invisible to medieval readers in their own lingua franca…

Where then, and why, did the myth of medieval belief in a flat earth arise?... None of the great eighteenth-century anticlerical rationalists—not Condillac, Condorcet, Diderot, Gibbon, Hume, or our own Benjamin Franklin—accused the scholastics of believing in a flat earth, though these men were all unsparing in their contempt for medieval versions of Christianity...

Russell [Jeffrey Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians] did an interesting survey of nineteenth-century history texts for secondary schools, and found that very few mentioned the flat-earth myth before 1870, but that almost all texts after 1880 featured the legend. We can therefore pinpoint the invasion of general culture by the flat-earth myth to the period between 1860 and 1890. Those years also featured the spread of an intellectual movement based on the second error of taxonomic categories explored in this essay—the portrayal of Western history as a perpetual struggle, if not an outright ‘war,’ between science and religion, with progress linked to the victory of science and the consequent retreat of theology. Such move ments always need whipping boys and legends to advance their claims. Russell argues that the flat-earth myth achieved its canonical status as a primary homily for the triumph of science under this false dichotomization of Western history…

I was especially drawn to this topic because the myth of dichotomy and warfare between science and religion—an important nineteenthcentury theme with major and largely unfortunate repercussions extending to our times—received its greatest boost in two books that I own and treasure for their firm commitment to rationality (however wrong and ultimately harmful their dichotomizing model of history)… John W. Draper’s History o f the Conflict between Religion and Science, first published in 1874; and Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, published in 1896 (a great expansion of a small book first written in 1876 and called The Warfare of Science)…

Draper states his thesis in the preface to his volume:

The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compressing arising from
traditionary faith and human interests on the other … Faith is in its nature unchangeable, stationary; Science is in its nature progressive; and eventually a divergence between them, impossible to conceal, must take place.

Draper extolled the flat-earth myth as a primary example of religion’s constraint and science’s progressive power:

The circular visible horizon and its dip at sea, the gradual appearance and disappearance of ships in the offing, cannot fail to incline intelligent sailors to a belief in the globular figure of the earth. The writings of the
Mohammedan astronomers and philosophers had given currency to that doctrine throughout Western Europe,
but, as might be expected, it was received with disfavor by theologians … Traditions and policy forbade [the Papal Government] to admit any other than the flat figure of the earth, as revealed in the Scriptures.

Russell comments on the success of Draper’s work:

The History of the Conflict is of immense importance, because it was the first instance that an influential figure had explicitly declared that science and religion were at war, and it succeeded as few books ever do. It fixed in the educated mind the idea that “science” stood for freedom and progress against the superstition and repression of “religion.” Its viewpoint became conventional wisdom.

Andrew Dickson White…wrote: ‘Much as I admired Draper’s treatment of the questions involved, his point
of view and mode of looking at history were different from mine. He regarded the struggle as one between Science
and Religion. I believed then, and am convinced now, that it was a struggle between Science and Dogmatic
Theology’…

Despite these stated disagreements, White’s and Draper’s accounts of the actual interaction between science and religion in Western history do not differ greatly. Both tell a tale of bright progress continually sparked by science.
And both develop and utilize the same myths to support their narrative, the flat-earth legend prominently among them. Of Cosmas Indicopleustes’s flat-earth theory, for example, White wrote, ‘Some of the foremost men in the
Church devoted themselves to buttressing it with new texts and throwing about it new outworks of theological reasoning; the great body of the faithful considered it a direct gift from the Almighty’…

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Darwinian revolution directly triggered this influential nineteenth-century conceptualization of Western history as a war between two taxonomic categories labeled science and religion…

This essay has discussed a double myth in the annals of our bad habits in false categorization: (1) the flat-earth legend as support for a biased ordering of Western history as a story in redemption from classical to Dark to Medieval to Renaissance; and (2) the invention of the flat-earth myth to support a false dichotomization of Western history as another story of progress, a war of victorious science over religion. I would not be agitated by these errors if they led only to an inadequate view of the past without practical consequence for our modern world. But the myth of a war between science and religion remains all too current, and continues to impede a proper bonding and conciliation between these two utterly different and powerfully important institutions of human life. How can a war exist between two vital subjects with such different appropriate turfs—science as an enterprise dedicated to discovering and explaining the factual basis of the empirical world, and religion as an examination of ethics and values?”

As to these definitions of the roles of science and religion, keep in mind that Mr. Gould espoused the concept of NOMA (Nonoverlapping Magesteria).

Mr. Gould continues:
“a simplistic picture of history as continual warfare between science and theology. Exposure of the flat-earth myth should teach us the fallacy of such a view and help us to recognize the complexity of interaction between these institutions. Irrationality and dogmatism are always the enemies of science, but they are no true friends of religion either. Scientific knowledge has always been helpful to more generous views of religion—as preservation, by ecclesiastical scholars, of classical knowledge about the earth’s shape aided religion’s need for accurate calendars, for example.”

Certainly, Mr. Walker is not to be faulted for lacking omniscience but it is perhaps as noteworthy as it is sad and unfortunate that Mr. Jeffrey Russell published Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians in 1991 AD, Mr. Gould wrote the text above in 1996 AD and Mr. Walker in 1999 AD. A mere three years had passed since Mr. Gould’s essay and the activist popularizes of the myth were still hard at work confusing the public (having had eight years prior to become familiar with the historical facts, and this is not even considering other works on this subject). In light of Mr. Walker’s historical myth and Mr. Gould’s refutation of it, it is interesting to quote Mr. Walker again:
“People have been working for years to undermine any human progress which contradicts cherished myths…Since the myth they want to enforce cannot stand on its own merit, the only method left for them is to try to discredit any human progress which contradicts the myth.”

Would that Mr. Walker may cease to undermine human progress in the understanding of history which contradicts his cherished myths. Since the myth he wants to enforce cannot stand on its own merit, the only method left for him is to try to discredit any historically accurate rendering which contradicts the myth.

God is “He who sits above the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22)

[1] Self-Replicating Molecules and the Meaning of Life - Cliff Walker interviews Dr M Reza Ghadiri from “Positive Atheism” Magazine
[2] From Dinosaur in a Haystack (London: Jonathan Cape, 1996), p. 3-40 [Reprinted from “The persistently flat Earth,” Natural History, 103, March 1994, 12-19]

Continue reading Positive Atheism - Cliff Walker: The Flat Earth Falls Flat...

6/26/08

Have Christian's Misdiagnosed Society?

A little shameless plug. I was listening to William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith podcast today, and he mentioned something that shook me. Now, this particular podcast is generally fairly simple; Craig discusses his recent article in Christianity Today about the renaissance of academic Christianity. The host brings up a few questions aimed at the current attitude of the world's laymen, and lobs a few remarks about postmodernism. Craig's answer surprised me. Contrary to popular opinion (especially in Christian circles) the world is not postmodern. To him, we are so incredibly modernistic as to recycle a very old demon (more on that below).

+/-

Now, if you are an atheist this may not be of much interest to you. However, it is a current fad (dare I say, an orthodox fad) for Christians to talk about combating the evils of postmodernism that is so pervasive in our society. Whatever postmodernism means (there could be a whole blog dedicated to that), in the context of conservative Christianity postmodernism implies a dislike of truth or objectivity. See these relatively late, popular works that have such a focus:

*Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism

*Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype and Spin

*Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times

*The Gagging of God

*The Challenge of Postmodernism: An Evangelical Engagement

*Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World

In fact, the more I think of it, the majority of so-called postmodernists either reside in France or in the pulpit, not in society. Let's take atheists for example. How many atheists do you know that would claim that evolution is "true for them but not for you"? I can't think of any. When do we hear this statement? As Craig points out, it is always in the context of ethics or religion. Now, if you haven't listened to his podcast yet, what position allows matters of fact in science but not in areas of values or religion?

...

Give up?

...

For those not in the know, that handsome man is Alfred Ayer, popularizer of the verificationist philosophy. Now, while logical postivism has long passed into the nether regions of rejected ideas in intellectual circles, it has been passed down into society. And this isn't really surprising, considering that there really is a trickle down effect in intellegenista down towards the bulk of a social group. It goes from visionaries to teachers to students and out of the ivory towers into the herd. But back to the point.

According to Craig, postmodernism remains a (waning?) force in religion, art and literature departments but has made no real inroads to philosophy, history or science. I'm curious as to what the AiD community thinks about Craig's claims about the failures of postmodernism to impact even though so many people claim that it does. In any case, after listening to Craig repeat those words for the dozenth time, I think I'm ready to agree with him- we are generally verificationists, not postmodernists. A quick jog over to the Rational Response Squad or Richard Dawkins's website strengthens this thesis with the further stipulation that atheists tend towards a kind of hardline logical positivism. (As an aside, the Secular Web does not appear to succumb to those problems.)

What do y'all say? Is the postmodern onslaught a fanciful fiction of "youth pastors"? Do we tend towards verificationism?


Continue reading Have Christian's Misdiagnosed Society?...

The Great Debate: AiD vs. De-conversion.com

Here

Now all of you can see why I've been so busy lately. Hope you enjoy it as it unfolds this week.
Continue reading The Great Debate: AiD vs. De-conversion.com...

6/24/08

How to Debate Theism/Atheism

Alright, the Iowan floodwaters have receded and it's time for me to add something of substance here. As some of you may have seen in my introduction, I like to talk about philosophy and how it relates religious belief (or the lack thereof). Most of my posts will be explorations of the arguments for or against God's existence, and I do expect there to be formidable criticisms of my posts. As any veteran of this kind of fare will tell you, many times the content of criticisms tends to simply repeat itself. For example, if I argue for the existence of God based on the objective nature of morality, it would be common for someone to answer that the only thing we can take from the existence of objective morality is that morality is objective. That isn't necessarily a bad thing- there are real objections that people on both sides need to confront. But in order to keep things flowing, I thought I'd offer a small rubric on methodology.

+/-

H
Not many in the world of philosophy of religion declare that there is a single argument that proves their entire worldview. In fact, most Christian apologists rely on some kind of cumulative case for their position. William Lane Craig, for example, usually offers nearly a half-dozen arguments for the reasonableness of Christianity. Further, pending your opinion of his work, Plantinga has shown that there are a bevy of beliefs for which we do not require evidence, of which God-belief may be one. Despite rumors, Plantinga has offered arguments of his own against what he calls naturalism, but he uses these arguments differently than your classical apologists.

What I'm trying to get at is a coherent way to think of these arguments. I'm already working on my first entry into the debate for this blog, and I'm consciously "neutering" the argument of overblown claims of victory. For example, I tend to think that the Argument from Reason (and its sister, the EAAN) is a generally successful argument. What does it mean for an argument to be successful? Whatever it means in another context or with another poster, I take a successful argument to be one that offers plausible premises and a conclusion that follows. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? With this tame criteria for an argument, even Richard Dawkins can offer a successful argument:

1) A universe made by God would differ than one made by natural occurences.
2) Our universe fits better with a naturalistic universe than with a theistic universe.
.: Therefore, our universe is more likely to be naturalistic than theistic.

(Adapted from Gregory E. Ganssle, “Dawkins's Best Argument”, Philosophia Christi 10 (2008): 44.

(1) appears to be non-controversial, so I won't comment on it.

The support for (2) comes from the idea that out of all the ways God could have brought His desired universe about, the big bang and evolution seem unlikely whereas they fit perfectly with a naturalistic universe. I think we all will grant this.

His conclusion, therefore, ought to be considered support for naturalism, and is a successful argument insofar as that goes. However, this argument does not appear to be very powerful, or at least persuasive. Since the existence of God is only challenged probabilistically and not logically, we can udercut this defeater by offering other arguments that we believe are successful (the moral, design or experiential arguments, for example) and avoid the conclusion of Dawkins's argument.

In like manner, I hope that my future contributions to this blog will be understood thus: that we are able to separate the successfulness of an argument from the probability of a certain worldview being true.


Continue reading How to Debate Theism/Atheism...

6/21/08

GREETINGS!

Sup good people! I'm Netlosh, but my mother calls me Shelton.

I'm honored, excited, and a bit nervous about having been asked to contribute. Nervous only because I'm not all that sure how I'll approach this yet, but I'm confident we'll think of something.

As some of you may be aware, previously I could've been found dropping in and mixing it up with a few atheist around here and AS (and some 'Christians' too come to think of it), so I'm not a total stranger around these parts. I did, however, want to formally introduce myself, and make explicit a few things that may (or may not, who knows?) have been missed or overlooked in the 'heat of battle'.

+/-


I am the 3rd child, 2nd son of a Pastor (I have 4 brother's and 3 sister's all by the same parents). I am African-American (or just Black). I am a Christian and I absolutely love God and people. In my regular day to day I have pretty consistently exhibited the apparently unusual ability to get along with a wide variety of people of various persuasions and backgrounds, all without yielding any ground in my own convictions. Politically, I consider myself an independent with conservative values (which basically means I'll vote for whomever I agree with the most, despite their party affiliations).

I do like to read a bit. I'm a pretty big fan of Kant, Burke, and Weber. Niall Ferguson, Paul Johnson, David Landes, and Thomas Sowell are among the few authors that I'd spend my last 20 bucks on. I pray for the day's when I'll have the time to pour through the articles of J.P. Holding and Glen Miller (my personal two favorite internet apologist). Among the many theologians I do enjoy from time to time, I've personally been the most challenged, enlightened, and generally enriched by the writings Charles Finney(even though some have called him a heretic). None of these people I agree with 100%, but life has taught me to either chew the meat and spit out the bones, or be prepared to starve...

I don't hold to convictions I don't believe I can defend, and will NOT defend stuff I don't believe in. I like to keep things as simple and unpretentious as possible, but I insist on being thoroughly sound both logically and factually. I endeavor to remain pretty easy going throughout it all.

When soundly corrected I'm pretty quick to adjust accordingly. I can NOT stand being wrong, and therefore whenever driven to realize that I am, you'll find that I won't waste time in any vain attempts to save face. Charles Finney said, "True Christian consistency consists, not in stereotyping our opinions and views and in refusing to make any improvement in knowledge lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter, and in changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast as we can obtain further information. I call this Christian consistency because this course alone accords with a Christian profession. A Christian profession implies the profession of candor and of a disposition to know and to obey all truth."

Thank you M for the invite. I look forward to seeing where we all go from here.

Agape'


Continue reading GREETINGS!...

Omni-Science

“One of the most pernicious falsehoods
ever to be almost universally
accepted is that the scientific method
is the only reliable way to truth”[1]
—Professor Richard H. Bube, Stanford University

Yes my friends, I am pulling the following quotation out of the holster – again. Scott C. Todd, Department of Biology, Kansas State University wrote:

“Even if all the data pointed to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”[2]

Show+/-Hide


I have found, via certain comments from our readership, that Scott C. Todd’s statement tends to be shrugged of as being somewhat to the extreme. However, the more I thought of it the more I wondered if he was not, after all, accurately describing the point of view of a certain school of science and or atheistic activism. But let us engage in a bit of a circumlocution, then review the context of Todd’s statements and finally consider the greater subject at hand.

I am constantly astonished with how often and loudly atheist appeal to science (whatever that may mean to the individual at any given time) when seeking to support atheism and discredit theism. I am astonished because ultimately, science is of no advantage to atheists as implying their worldview. It seems as if in seeking science to be the all encompassing epistemic mode atheists are hoping that omni-science will become omniscience.

Perhaps atheists rely, or claim to rely, so heavily on science because Creationists and Intelligent Design (hereinafter C&ID) proponents have such a hard time applying the scientific method. For example, in a debate creationist Dr. Carl Wieland shrugged off the results of lab work that did not agree with his viewpoint by referred to “Simply going to laboratory setting, in a contrived laboratory setting…” to which Dr. Paul Willis, “Skeptic of the Year” recipient, retorted, “It’s valid in science, this is the best you can come to as far as experimental evidence is concerned. Surely, people should be commended for trying to emulate in a laboratory these sorts of things.”[3]
Oops, actually, I got that backwards: it was the atheist and alleged skeptic who besmirched the scientific method when the results did not fit his preconceived worldview and it was the Bible-thumping-fundamentalist-creationist who praised the method—who would'a'thunk'it?




C&ID related issues have already made their way into the secular classroom yet, in the case of this example, not at the hands of C&ID proponents. The utterly secular and pro all things Darwinian college level textbook Biology by Neil Campbell and Jane Reece makes the following statement premised upon homology:

“Surely, the best way to construct the infrastructure of a bat’s wing is not also the best way to build a whale’s flipper. Such anatomical peculiarities make no sense if the structures are uniquely engineered and unrelated. A more likely explanation is that…all mammals [descend] from a common ancestor…The historical constraints of this retrofitting are evident in anatomical imperfections. For example, the human knee joint and spine were derived from ancestral structures that supported four-legged mammals. Almost none of us will reach old age without experiencing knee or back problems. If these structures had first taken form specifically to support our bipedal posture, we would expect them to be less subject to injury.”[4]


This argument, and its tone, is not worthy of important debates such as those related to C&ID issue. Moreover, it is certainly not worthy a textbook that sells for hundreds of dollars nor of the class in which it is taught that costs thousands of dollars spent by someone who wants to learn biology and not necessarily join the C&ID fray.
There are a few points to make here. Notice the pushy tone implied in the terms “surely,” and the affirmative terms “make no sense” and “more likely.” Keep in mind this is not an anonymous posting on the internet, this is you and your (or you parent’s) hard earned money sitting before a brilliant professor. Instantly you understand that to disagree would be foolhardy and nonsensical, it would be to negate the “more likely” explanation.
References to the concepts of creation or design are implied in the terms “construct,” “build” and “engineered.” The reason that this is so clearly a very poor arguments is that according to it I should file a lawsuit against the company that claims to have designed/engineered my car since they obviously did not design/engineer my car. Why do I think that they did not do so? Because the fact is that even the best designed/engineered car will suffer from accidents as well as wear and tear. Since my car not only requires regular maintenance but is becoming un-drivable it must not have been designed/engineered but evolved from a three, two or one wheeled vehicle which in turn evolved from smooth rounded river rocks.

I wonder if in science atheism is not seeking its own secular faith. After all, under the generic term “science” we find somewhat of a grab-bag-like concoction of actual observation and reproducible experiments but also theorizing to the point of mythologizing, fallaciously far-reaching inferences, subjective interpretations, etc. Is atheism perhaps seeking an arcane and enlightened priesthood of scientists? Is atheism therefore willing to accept scientific claims that are against common sense, as if by secular-faith? Are they accepting arguments from authority? And do the activist coenobitical scientists exploit their authority as experts? I certainly can merely speculate. Yet, there are a few personages who have stated their opinions on these matters; the ones that I will quote here are Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin and proof of accepting an argument from authority even while besmirching others who do the same, by Christopher Hitchens.

Stephen Jay Gould

The late Stephen Jay Gould; who was a teacher of biology, geology and history of science at Harvard University:

“Science…is supposed to be an objective enterprise, with common criteria of procedure and standards of evidence that should lead all people of good will to accept a documented conclusion…But I would reject any claim that personal preference, the root of aesthetic judgment, does not play a key role in science…our ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective ‘scientific method,’ with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology. Historians and philosophers of science often make a distinction between the logic and psychologic of a scientific conclusion—or ‘context of justification’ and ‘context of discovery’ in the jargon…The myth of a separate mode based on rigorous objectivity and arcane, largely mathematical knowledge, vouchsafed only to the initiated, may provide some immediate benefits in bamboozling a public to regard us as a new priesthood, but must ultimately prove harmful in erecting barriers to truly friendly understanding and in falsely persuading so many students that science lies beyond their capabilities…the myth of an arcane and enlightened priesthood of scientists….T.S. Kuhn referred to the shared worldview of scientists as a paradigm (see his classic 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). Such paradigms, in Kuhn’s view, are so constraining, and so unbreakable in their own terms, that fundamentally new theories must be imported from elsewhere (insights of other disciplines, conscious radicalism of young rebels within a field) and must then triumph by rapid replacement (scientific revolution), rather than by incremental advance.”[5]


Richard Lewontin

Professor of zoology and biology at Harvard University, Richard Lewontin, wrote:

“….scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe about quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution…In the end we must trust the experts and they, in turn, exploit their authority as experts and their rhetorical skills to secure our attention and our belief in things that we do not really understand.”[6]


Christopher Hitchens

In my essay The Quadripartite Equine Riders I critiqued a discussion between Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. One issue that they discussed was that of authoritarianism in science (see my section entitled “On Scientific Authoritarian Faith”). For our purposes here, I wished to quote Mr. Hitchens:

“I'll take things you [Daniel Dennett] and Richard [Dawkins] say on the human and natural sciences, not without wanting to check, but I’m often unable to but knowing that you are the sort of gentlemen who would have checked. If you say, ‘the bishop told me it so I believe it’ you make a fool of yourself it seems to me, and one is entitled to say so.”

May we likewise state, “If you say, ‘the scientists tell me it so I believe it’ you make a fool of yourself it seems to me, and one is entitled to say so”?

Next, let us consider Scott C. Todd’s statements in greater detail.
Firstly, let us note that Todd’s statements are actually very well balanced for the most part. He does, as many do, confuse Creationism with Intelligent Design but does make some very valid points such as:
“Creationists, according to [Philip] Johnson, do not doubt that DNA encodes the features of an organism or that changes in DNA (mutations) give rise to variation in those features which are subject to selective pressures in nature. Mainstream creationists also accept that genetic and phenotypic changes could result in speciation. They consider evolution as a plausible model to account for the natural history of living things, but they see a great distinction between the empirically proven elements of evolution (micro-evolution) and the explanation of speciation and origins of life (macro-evolution).”

He then advises:
“…science educators everywhere must do a better job of teaching evolution. It must be made clear that the evidence supporting the mechanism of evolution is empirical and proven, but that speciation and natural history are derived from the admittedly weaker evidence of observation. The fact that one cannot reproduce the experiment does not diminish the validity of macro-evolution…one must question the interpretations of the observed phenomena and discuss the weaknesses of the model.”

Lastly, he states:
“Most important, it should be made clear in the classroom that science, including evolution, has not disproved God's existence because it cannot be allowed to consider it (presumably). Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic. Of course the scientist, as an individual, is free to embrace a reality that transcends naturalism.”


I thought to draw out Todd’s comments since from what I understand, having studied Darwinian evolution for over a dozen years, he actually makes very valid points. Incidentally, I would imagine that the overwhelming majority of C&ID proponents have studied it for a minimum of a dozen years.

C&ID are neither anti-science nor anti-evolution but only anti-having-overreaching-speculation-being-passed-off-as-empirical-science. This may seem very basic but it is very, very important to note: C&ID proponents are perfectly willing to accept evidence but cautious, to the point of rejection, of speculation (speculation being what it is, a mixture of observation and opinion, interpretation or schools of thought).
Imagine that, C&ID proponents interested in actual scientific evidence, who would'a'thunk'it? I jest slightly since I am aware that many believe that it is not so cut and dry since they consider that C&ID are actually ignoring or manipulating certain evidences (to which C&ID would surely retort, “Ditto”).

Richard Dawkins

Moreover, certain scientists, such as Prof. Dawkins, do not agree that “evolution, has not disproved God's existence” nor that “it cannot be allowed to consider it (presumably)” and while Prof. Dawkins may, when pressed, agree that “the scientist, as an individual, is free to embrace a reality that transcends naturalism” he certainly belittles them for doing so, not only as individuals but as thinkers and as scientists. Prof. Dawkins actually goes as far as to refer to certain scientists as belonging to, “the Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists.” Chamberlain is most well known for his attempt to avoid war with Hitler by means of appeasement. Prof. Dawkins makes particular reference to scientists (the philosopher of science Michael Ruse in this case) who stated that evolutionists “must realize that the enemy of our enemies is our friend. Too often evolutionists spend time insulting would-be allies…Atheists spend more time running down sympathetic Christians than they do countering creationists.”[7] These sorts of statements Prof. Dawkins likens to appeasing Hitler. But what do these evolutionists betray? Actual science or his atheistic worldview?

William Provine

This question brings us to the “schools of thought” to which I referred as well as the question of “science or activism.” Certain scientists such as Prof. Dawkins, William Provine, et al, infer much more from their studies and observations than surely anyone could logically infer, certainly much more than what they are observing implies. They, being both scientists and activists for their particular worldviews, employ certain aspects of Darwinian evolution as a backdoor way to push atheism into the classrooms (see Neo-Atheist Preacher for instance).

What Todd seemed to be getting at in his statement, “it cannot be allowed to consider it (presumably)” is an interesting fallacy that certain atheists commit: first they will claim that science does not deal with the supernatural and then claim that science disproves the supernatural. But how would it, or could it, disprove something with which it does not deal? It does not. However, these certain atheists would tell you that science disproves the supernatural by discovering evidence of how things, the universe, the earth, life and everything, can come about by purely materialistic processes. Of course, science has done no such thing with regards to anything much less everything. Science has discovered how certain preexisting things function, period. We may be able to tell how an organism proceeded forth from a previously existing organism but not how all organisms originated in the first place. We may have discovered that the universe had a beginning but not how it came to be, what banged? What, if anything, was there before the bang? Etc.

As an aside to the interested reader I wish to point out two essays:
Cosmology, Part I: Atheists and Scientists Avoid the Pre Big Bang Scenario at All Cost
Cosmology, Part II: Book, Chapter and Multi-Verse



To the issue of life’s origins: yes, there are various failed speculations (some which are enumerated here). I am personally a bit torn on this issue since on the one hand, materialistic-scientific attempts to reproduce life from non-life are failing like so many ducks being shot in a row. In this case materialistic-scientific may finally punch itself out even while shadow boxing, ultimately proving itself incapable of producing anything within the realm of observation or reproducible experimentation. On the other hand, if life ever is produced from non-life in a laboratory I am afraid that it will not be evidence for how life originated but will only be able to point to the realm of could have/might have. Moreover, any such successful experiment will, in reality, only prove intelligent design.

Why is this? Because the experiment would require a team of trained scientists who will utilize their highly intelligent brains to design an experiment that will employ their specialized education. They will utilize laboratory equipment that was designed by very intelligent and specifically educated engineers. They will combine preexisting organic matter that will be consciously manipulated within a designed and purposefully controlled environment and with a specific result in mind. Thus, all that they will ever prove is that a group of scientists can make something do something.

In my essay, The Wizard of Biomorph Land I pointed out that Prof. Dawkins believes that he demonstrated materialistic-evolution utilizing a computer program. However, Prof. Dawkins wrote the program and so he is the creator god of his “biomorphs,” “my” as he calls them. He created a world, its laws/rules, and its life. His chosen ones were selected for further evolution, a process that the creator manipulated towards his ends since he knows the beginning and the end. He even admits that the biomorphs were predestined, “There is a definite set of biomorphs, each permanently sitting in its own unique place in a mathematical space.”[8] He inferences materialism even while he denies, or fails to see, evidence of intelligent design when he, himself, played the part of intelligent designer.


Prof. Dawkins’ creations: the Biomorphs

Now a comment on the statements such as “Even if all the data pointed to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” Again, scientists such as Prof. Dawkins reject the concept that science does not, or cannot, deal with the supernatural. Yet, at the moment this seems mere semantics. If ever “all the data” (whatever “all” may mean, “all” is a very tall order) “pointed to an intelligent designer” surely science itself would evolve in order to accommodate the study of such a designer. I fully know that many of the readership will respond with words to the effect of, “Certainly, and we will change our worldview to fit the evidence that comes to light at such a time.” Fair enough.

However, this does bring up the issue of certain people putting far too much trust and faith in “science” whatever that may mean to them at any given time. In fact, Prof. Dawkins urged little unsuspecting children thusly, “Put your trust in the scientific method, put your faith in scientific method.”[9] Some people, such as Stephen Jay Gould and Prof. Dawkins, have taken a method which was meant to observe and experiment and turned it into a catechism for the materialistic worldview and lifestyle.

Yet, the evidence gained from the scientific method is one sort of evidence and does not amount to the alpha and omega of episteme. Unless you are quite pleased to revise your whole worldview, or significant portions of it, on a semi-regular basis then you should never base your beliefs, your worldview, or lifestyle on science. Firstly, because science is mere tiny portion of the stuff of life. Secondly, because science does not deal with truth but seeks to ascertain the best guesses we have thus far and it is therefore necessarily tentative. Attempt, just for a moment to seriously consider studying biology and inferring that no god(s) exists anywhere inside, outside or in betwixt the universe and you will readily detect the fallacy.

It appears to me that so many atheists rely on science both for attempts at validation of their worldview and refutation of those worldviews with which they disagree due to their own brand of faith. This faith is not like the biblical faith which basically means drawing a logical inference but a faith which is a crossed fingered hope that somehow the absolutely materialistic worldview will be validated. I have previously posted an essay entitled Look Both Ways Two Atheistic Logical Fallacies the point of which was to categorize two basic fallacies which I termed: the fallacy of validation by projection and the fallacy of validation by regression. To quote from that essay, the point was, in part, as follows:

“In order to validate their beliefs atheists look both ways, up and down, the corridors of time—to the inaccessible past and future. When, for example, atheists appeal to quaint Victorian era concepts of abiogenesis in order to explain life’s conception they must deal with the fact that abiogenesis (abiotic synthesis) is not observed anywhere and is not producible in any experiments. What is their answer? They can imagine a time, long, long ago in the Earth’s past, when everything happened just so and abiogenesis was possible. What about filling the various gaps in our knowledge? They can imagine a time in the distant future when their beliefs will be proven true. Thus, atheism is validated by projection and regression. Herein lies the fallacies: they merely regress to an unknown past in which they can imagine thing occurring that do not occur today and they can project into an equally unknown future at which time we will discover that absolute materialism is true. As long as they can imagine it, it must be true.”

According to this worldview the supernatural is simply impossible. If ever evidence was uncovered of the supernatural the response would simply be that once our understanding of natural causes increases surely such an alleged supernatural event will be explainable through materialistic means. Therefore, we can know that there is no supernatural realm because there is no evidence for a supernatural realm and there is no evidence for a supernatural realm because we know that there is no supernatural realm.

Thus, this worldview is gap filler that allows the atheist to fill the gaps in our knowledge with time, chance, matter, luck, imagination and their brand of faith (I have detailed this in my essay The Gap Filler). This, it seems to me after some musing, is what Prof. Dawkins refers to as being an intellectually satisfied atheist: it means that he is quite satisfied concocting tales about how things could have occurred materialistically. And as long as he can concoct such a tale then that is good enough. Thus, Prof. Dawkins can declare that life originated by “luck” and be quite pleased to have merely employed the secular equivalent of “miracle.”

Lastly, I wish to point out that Prof. Lewontin, has stated in no uncertain terms that in the sciences the case is not only that evidence derived at by pure unbiased observation is then interpreted materialistically, or manipulated to fit a materialistic mold, but that the system is premised upon deriving materialistic results:
“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”[10] [italics in original, bold mine]

[1] Quoted in Luis Palau, God is Relevant (New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 57
[2] Scott C. Todd, “A View from Kansas on that Evolution Debate,” Nature Vol. 401, Sep. 30, 1999, p. 423
[3] Dr. Paul Willis and Dr. Carl Wieland, The Genesis Debate (Answers in Genesis 2003) Willis’ statement comes at 1:16:00 into the debate and Wieland’s 1:25:17.
[4] Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece, Biology 6th ed. (San Francisco, CA: Perarson Education, Inc., 2002), pp. 438-439
[5] Stephen Jay Gould, “In the Mind of the Beholder,” Natural History 103(2): 14, Feb. 1994, pp. 14-16
[6] How Billions of Demons Haunted Baloney While Avoiding Detection
[7] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006), p. beginning at 66
[8] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker—Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1986), p. 65
[9] “Episode 1: Waking up in the Universe” (transcript)
He actually misleads the children or perhaps pulls a bait and switch. He offers an example of a hard science but then expects them to be loyal adherents to very soft and highly interpretive sciences as well.
What he does in order to demonstrate what he means by stating that “There’s nothing wrong with having a faith in a proper scientific prediction” is that he stands against a wall holding a small cannonball to his face, the ball is suspended by a rope from the middle of the ceiling. He lets it go and it swing across the room and back to within an inch of his face. There you have it, knowing something about gravity, momentum, etc. he knew that the ball would not come swinging back to hit his face.
Merely stating that science is to be trusted is far too broad and generalized. For example, engineering is a hard science yet anthropology is notoriously soft. In the one case, you make your calculations, draft your plans and build—the structure fails or succeeds. In the other case, you dig up bones and proceed to interpret them often according to schools of thought, professional rivalries, prestige, adherence to a certain theory, etc. (if you want proof of this please see my essay Scientific Cenobites in which I offer various quotations in this regard). There is “science” as theory, as experiment, as observation, as method, as a career, as lab work, etc. To simply state “trust in the scientific method, put your faith in scientific method” and seek to demonstrate is with a swinging ball is very narrow and manipulative of the children’s lack of knowledge and lack of discernment.
[10] How Billions of Demons Haunted Baloney While Avoiding Detection

Continue reading Omni-Science...

6/17/08

Atheistic Empiricism or Irrational Induction?

Really I'll try not to hog the blog, after just one more. The empiricism thing needs to be addressed, so here goes.

The Atheist’s claim that Atheism is an ”empirical decision” is incorrect. Here’s why. There are very few if any literate people in the western cultures who have not heard of the concept of a deity. Now suppose we find a pocket of truly reclusive folks who have not ever been introduced to the concept. These folks might be considered a-theistic, assuming they do not worship a deity on their own. Now, take these folks and tell them about the idea of a deity. At that point the decision is forced to be made: accept or reject. The decision to become an Atheist is one of rejection, pure and simple. If one knows about the deity, one can’t just "be without"; either one accepts it, or one rejects it.

And the decision basis absolutely cannot be empirical, unless one changes the meaning of the word, empirical. Empiricism might be taken in a classical sense to mean sensory input. In this sense, if I stick my finger in a flame I can ascertain first hand that flames are hot. If I do it several times I can extrapolate that all flames are hot, and this is induction at work. Inductive logic is part of empiricism, but not all, because it has limitations that can be fatal.
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Induction is subject to the “black swan issue”, which is this: “Every swan I see is white, therefore all swans are white”. But this is not true because I have not yet observed black swans, which do in fact exist. Similarly, I cannot say that “Fred does not exist, because I have never seen one”. Nor can one say that “this thing you describe does not exist, because I have not seen it”.

If “empiricism” is taken to be the modern form, then it means that experiments are devised that will both isolate and induce the hypothesized effect that is desired; the experiments will be conducted under controlled conditions, and the results analyzed objectively; the results will be screened using peer review; and other experimenters will attempt to replicate the entire thing. Plus it must be falsifiable, or it is just a tautology.

It is doubtful that any Atheist has used this procedure to eliminate the possibility of the existence of a deity. When an Atheist claims empiricism, what he generally seems to actually mean is that he, personally, sees no material evidence of a deity, and therefore the odds against are overwhelmingly against such an existence. But this of course is merely the induction talking, and the logical flaw is obvious… except to the Atheist, it appears.

One might think that if 88% of the population claims knowledge that Fred does exist, then the denier might reconsider. But it doesn't work that way with Atheism, because Atheism is based on denial and emotional issues, not on classical logic.

The college freshman daughter of an acquaintance recently told him that she had looked through the telescope all over outer space, and saw no god; therefore he does not exist. This is a crashingly poor piece of thinking. One does not see the carpenter when looking at a house, nor the engineer when looking at a cell phone, nor the biochemist when looking at an aspirin.

It appears that the study of science these days does not address the issue of the limitations of science. When an Atheist says that philosophical materialism is a subset of voluntary materialism, something is just very wrong. So I will point out again: empiricism voluntarily restricts itself to material subjects because that is what it can measure; it cannot measure non-material items (I’m going slow here on purpose…). This restriction is self-imposed due to inability to measure, not because there is nothing there. Empiricism says nothing, NOTHING about the existence or non-existence of entities outside its material purview.

On the other hand, Philosophical Materialism is the philosophy that nothing exists that is not material. This is not an subset of voluntary materialism, it is an unwarranted extension, a gratuitous extrapolation beyond the boundaries of empiricism. As I showed before, it collapses immediately into self-contradiction and paradox; it is false. Except of course to the Atheist, who doesn't use such restrictive, absolute, logical constructs.

Atheists use logic that is inverted. Because there is no grounding, no absolute basis for their thoughts, then their thoughts are free to be selected in favor of the perpetuation of their worldview dogma. In other words, it is the opposite of rational, it is rationalized.


Continue reading Atheistic Empiricism or Irrational Induction?...

6/16/08

Hello

My name is Stan and I am a recovered Atheist.

It is an honor to be invited to contribute to this blog. Some background on myself: For 40 years I was an Atheist. During those decades I never bothered to analyze the Atheist position from a logical point of view. It seemed so obvious, so simply derived and easily maintained. It was not until my retirement that I took the time to think these things through. I discovered that despite my degrees and my career in R&D, I did not have a complete education. So I set about studying, first the source and use of logic and rational thought. Then I applied that to my chosen belief, Atheism. What I found, I now post to my own website and blog, as an analysis of Atheism from a logic and rational thought perspective, without recourse to theism or deism. If Atheism is a robust, logical philosophy, it should welcome and readily withstand such self analysis, should it not? Of course it should, but does it?

First I'd like to share some of the things I have learned about Atheism.

What is Atheism, Really?
Atheism is not just “absence of belief” in a deity, nor is it just “belief in the absence” of deity. Some Atheists have redefined Atheism to fit their own needs, just as some BOB Christians have redefined Christianity to fit their own needs. Atheism has more aspects than just these basic definitions.

I’m not here to fence an endless semantic duel with foils of definitions. I will, however, tell about Atheism from the inside and the outside. Hereafter I will assume that the term Atheism refers to an absolute knowledge that there is no deity, and that agnosticism refers to any doubt concerning the probability of the matter of a deity. But agnosticism in not the subject; Atheism is.

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Reasons for Atheism
Atheism can be handed down just like Boogie-man theory and leprechaun tales. But it is usually acquired as a result of adolescent rebellion against authority. This normal youthful rebellion, when gone astray, leads to long term rejection of all sorts of authority including ecclesiastical and theological. Rebellion can become endemic and work its way into a life-long worldview. This can be accompanied by the pride of elitism and the denial of first principle based logic, resulting in logical inversion(1). So there exists a push-pull, where the push is away from authority, and the pull is elitism; the movement toward rejection is lubricated with inverted or non-rational thought processes. This is seductive to the young and impressionable because it seems to help implement their desires and overcome their insecurities. It worked well for me, on that superficial level of non-examination.

The logical inversion starts with declaring the once valued protectors to now be evil. The inversion continues through the use of rationalization in lieu of logic, where the conclusion is determined first and evidence is selected to support that conclusion. This is the point where the unspoken presupposition drives the logic, inverting it. It is irrational.

Atheism and the Developmental Environment
The protracted rebellion is especially true of the progeny of missing or weak fathers, as shown by the historical analysis done by psychiatrist Paul Vitz, in his work, “Faith of the Fatherless”. This review of famous Atheist philosophers revealed the rebellion / rejection principle at a rate of 100%: Famous Atheists(2) had weak, defective or missing fathers, and were raised under the auspices of females. The resulting feminization of the child results in anger at both the feminizing mother, and the absent father (male role model). The child angrily rejects these two authority figures and continues to reject authority throughout life. The attempt to justify this rejection of authority results in evangelical fervor in the resulting Atheism and in their lifelong anger: misery loves company. Some schools of thought relate Asperger’s Syndrome with Atheist behavior, and an informal, non-binding, non-scientific on-line poll found a higher degree of such behavior amongst self-proclaimed Atheists than non-Atheists. (3)

Atheism and Science
Atheism is camouflaged in an aura of logic from which it derives a faux respectability. Science is a favorite lever for Atheists because the voluntary materialism to which empiricism subjects itself is so similar to the philosophical materialism of Atheism. So Atheism co-opts science for its own sub-worldview and tries to act as if its own philosophy is scientifically verifiable. In actuality, science has nothing to say about those things which it cannot measure, including deities. So science does not reject non-material reality, it merely does not pretend to investigate it. It is Philosophical Materialism that rejects non-material reality.

Atheism itself is not verifiable using any empirical technique; Atheism is merely a disreputable parasite on the respectable pursuit of material knowledge, which is science.

Philosophical Materialism
Materialism as a philosophy claims that there exists no reality beyond material existence. The Philosophy of Materialism fails immediately, imploding in self-refutation. Philosophy itself is not material. How can an all-material reality require a non-material entity to describe it? So using a philosophical, non-material restriction to require an all-material reality is a self-contradiction, a paradox; it self-refutes. And never mind the “material mind” cover, claiming that ideas are material things. That one self-refutes also, choking on the issue of free will existing in a hardwired brain-mind. A hard-wired material brain-mind cannot freely produce non-material things such as philosophy, or even the abstraction of "free will".

Atheism and Hard Evidence
So we conclude that Atheism is not supported logically by either science or by materialism. What about hard, physical evidence? Well, even Atheists acknowledge that a negative existence cannot be proven. So in the total absence of supporting hard data favoring Atheism, the argument here falls back on Russell’s orbiting teapot, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, unicorns, elves, faeries and other obvious constructs serve to prove that there is no deity. Is it enough to create these strawmen and then by demolishing them, to claim that to be a verification of “no first cause for the universe”? Of course not, but there are other straw men, such as the “who created god?” issue.

Who Created God
This issue invariably resurfaces ever since Russell was convinced by Mill’s argument. While it is a transparent dodge to avoid the issue of a sentient first cause, it merely diverts the argument into a disputative cul-de-sac. The “who created God” strawman purports to be unanswerable and therefore proof of “no first cause for the universe”… an obvious Red Herring diversion but worth destroying. So here we go:

Since space-time and mass-energy were created at t=0 (roughly) of the Big Bang, then time, for example, did not exist at t=0(-). However, the first cause did exist then, and in a sense not comprehensible to those of us trapped in space-time. Now if time as we know it did not exist before t=0, then neither did “cause and effect” as we know it, because the principle of cause and effect contains a necessary time relationship where the cause occurs first in time, then the effect occurs later in time.

So without “cause and effect” as we know it, it is meaningless to discuss what caused what in the prior existence to t=0(-). There is no need or even way to successfully posit a prior creation, in the empirical sense with which we are familiar.

The first cause existed at t=0(-). And for all we know, in perpetuity, in the sense of timelessness. The famous “who created…” dilemma does not even exist. It is a Red Herring.

The Pathway of Logic and Rational Thought
When I discovered the logical path to thinking these problems through, I rejected Atheism on a logical and rational basis. Moreover I recognized my own history of rebellion and attempts to attain elitism through rejection of authority. And I recognized the anti-rational behaviors of Atheists in general, including the advocacy of abortion (irrational on all levels) while denying involvement in eugenics, along with attacks of all kinds on the social fabric.

The logical inversion that accompanies rebellion is obvious in the thought processes of Atheists, each of whom subscribes to his own brand of logic and morality. Since no two Atheists believe the same things, there is no case to be made as to which Atheist is right. The departure from traditional logic is apparent.

While the same case can be made for religions in general, that is beside the point: the point is that Atheism is not rational, because it has no absolute first principles to guide its thinking. In fact, that greatest of Atheists, Friedrich Nietzsche, overtly rejected all first principles in his work, “Beyond Good and Evil”. First Principles are not provable empirically; so they are rejected, and by doing so rational thought is also rejected. Thus Nietzsche derived anti-rationalism, and although it might be denied by some modern Atheists, it cannot be removed from their worldviews, despite the rational camoflage used to hide it.

This is the reason that atheists are exceedingly difficult to engage in discussions using traditional logic; they do not use traditional logic: they invert it and rationalize their presuppositions. And because the rationalized presuppositions do not connect straight on with traditional logic, the conversation rapidly devolves into ad Hominem from a position of presumed superiority and elitism on the part of the Atheist. I choose not to go there.

Atheism is not only not rational, it is also anti-rational.

Footnotes
(1) The first principles of rational thought are the bedrock truths upon which logic and rational thought are based. These include the principle of cause and effect, the identity principle, the non-contradiction principle, and the excluded principle as well as others. These principles cannot be proven to be true empirically; they are known to be true by inspection and discernment. So both the principles and the method of recognizing the truth value of the principles are non-material, transcendental, abstract meta-realities. These must be rejected in order for Philosophical Materialism to be valid; or Philosophical Materialism must be rejected if these principles are accepted without material proof.

(2) Except for John Stuart Mill, whose education was driven by his Atheist father. Mill was intensely force fed classical education and utilitarianism until he had a mental break down in his late teens. He never rejected his overbearing father’s teaching of Atheism. This father was defective in a different sort of manner.

(3) http://voxday.blogspot.com/Vox Popoli, 2007.


Continue reading Hello...

6/14/08

Hitler’s Rabbi

Please note that this essay will now be housed in True Freethinker’s section on Adolf Hitler / Nazism / Communism
Continue reading Hitler’s Rabbi...

6/11/08

Howdy

I wanna thank the fellows from this fine site for the invite to share my thoughts with you and potentially make this a less respectable blog. I'll take this time to introduce myself a bit and let you know what you can expect out of me.

Firstly, I'm a regular ol' Protestant with pretty orthodox beliefs across the board. I've come out of a skeptical past (due to an upbringing in a charismatic church- and not the good kind) to have my faith rekindled in college. Apologetics has played an important part in my (re?) conversion so, unsurprisingly, I've taken to devoting a large chunk of my life to the study of my faith in an attempt to help my fellow believers understand theirs. Of course, I waste no opportunity to challenge the beliefs of non-Christians (particularly atheists) but I've grown to enjoy the challenges they offer back to me (hence my association with the blog).

Besides my faith and my wife, philosophy has stolen the biggest portion of my heart (and she can be downright ruthless!). I love to talk about the mind, free will and the arguments for/against God's existence, but feel free to talk to me about anything from aesthetics to mereology to Zeno. I'm a committed libertarian politically, but this year's election has my spirits down (so let's try and avoid that topic for a few more months).

Peaches,

Josh
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6/10/08

Pray for Brian Sapient

Just wanted to make a quick post to the readers regarding some news I just heard a few hours ago. It appears that one of the co-founders of the Rational Response Squad, Brian Sapient, was hospitalized a few days ago due to a violent attack by one of his fellow colleagues, Greydon Square at the recent AHA Conference. Apparently a verbal confrontation arose on account of the mishandling of CD sales and Greydon felt justified in assaulting his old friend eventually till Brian had to be carried off in an ambulance.

The news has been confirmed by some eyewitnesses and even Kelly indirectly confirmed it in one of her comments as you can see here

Though I have never agreed with the RRS and what I consider to be rather bigoted views by them I think it is only appropriate that we hope and pray for the good health and swift recovery of Brian at this time and that justice be brought upon the rather unstable and violent character of Greydon Square. For the Atheist out there as well, I only advise that if you haven't already, please take the time to consider what has happened and to understand that a human being has been hurt (rather severely) on what appears to be unjustified grounds. In this case, please hope for his recovery and please distance yourselves from anyone positively affiliated with this individual (and the person himself) Greydon Square.


Blessings.

-M-
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The New Atheism: A Quest of Confusion-Part I

It has been a few years now since Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett began their ideological war against Theism. Those on the defense have already attempted their responses and some of them have been the height of excellent thinking, though many Atheists have claimed these rebuttals as mere annoyances and attempts at earning a quick buck off of their ideologues successes. The aspirations of these unholy prophets is to one day usher in a new utopia where religion is regarded as mere superstition, those who follow it as irrational fools, and science establishing itself as the foundation of truth and moral order with those who possess degrees in biology as its arbiters. In order for this goal to come about, however, it was first incumbent that revolutionary thinkers step into this world of ignorance and help guide the intellectually shallow sheep to the proper path of enlightenment. These men, who feel called to express what they consider new or forgotten ideas of brilliance are satirically called “New Atheists” and rightfully so; for they display not only old ideas, but further reason why they shouldn’t be listened to. Perhaps, a more formal label for these individuals would be “Anti-Theists” or “Anti-Supernaturalists”, but it might be too generous and rather insulting to my fellow philosophers out there if I were to make them similar.
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In this article I wish to express all the things I find wrong with the New Atheist’s ideas by exposing them as mere myths and unsubstantiated claims. Being a theist and a philosopher and not an atheist and a scientist will most likely be justification enough for many of my intellectual opponents to regard me as someone not authoritative in speaking about issues of reality or logical arguments; I am, in fact, just a player of words who believes in a big invisible man in the sky who resembles the likes of fairies and gnomes. In the least case, I am a mere “flea” deriving some sort of fame from the true thinkers and successors of academia or fearful of their great influence on the few hundred or so high school students they are able to convert each year; pardon me for my insolent defiance. The myths I wish to expose are listed below by section. It is my aspiration to destroy this dream of a godless utopia and clarify exactly why the arguments being proposed by the New Atheists are no real arguments at all, but mere assertions of wishful thinking promoted, at best, by subjective negative experiences.



Myth #1: Atheism Is Not a Position

Perhaps the biggest confusion among this new band of outspoken Atheists who think they are on a mission to save the world is how they define exactly what they are. Among many of these new converts to rationality are their inability to agree (much less understand) on a definition of what atheism is or the purpose for the word to begin with. Atheism was typically viewed as a “rejection of belief in God”, but since this definition entails a sort of knowledge of whether or not God exist and Atheists do not wish to be as ignorant or stupid as their theistic cousins, they interpret atheism now as more a lack of belief. Now, while many people would simply view this as Agnosticism there is more to this claim than meets the eye. Rather than merely being a lack of belief, it is an affirmation of accepting that there is no God because it is more rational to do so. In order to understand this claim more in depth we need to understand the background to how Atheism has been argued within formal circles of philosophy.

There are two positions of Atheism: Positive and Negative [1]. In more popular terms these are called “Strong” and “Weak” Atheism. Positive/Strong Atheism is a claim that rests on positive ontological and epistemological grounds (thus the name) in reference to a supreme being. The position is that there is evidence to suggests that no God exist. The other position known as Negative/Weak Atheism rest on negative ontological, but positive epistemological grounds, which means there is no knowledge of whether there is a God, but since there is a lack of substantial evidence to prove that one exist it is more rational to believe that it doesn’t. The Negative/Weak position differs from Agnosticism insomuch as it makes a secondary move by assuming that it is more rational to adopt that God does not exist on the basis that there lacks evidence. Contrary to misconceptions of these terms, “positive” and “negative” do not automatically mean that one position is a positive claim and the other a negative claim; all that is mentioned in either of these contexts is whether one has knowledge to the existence of said thing.

Most Atheists today fall within the camp of Negative/Weak, preferring to be on the defensive all the while claiming that their lack of knowledge in whether or not a God exist justifies their criticisms of those who believe otherwise. The position that is usually held against Theists is that there is no evidence for their beliefs, but this claim rests on the positive assumption of what constitutes as evidence, much less if it is there or not.

Understanding the background to both these positions, we can now understand a little better what the New Atheist is proposing and how they go about doing it. The claim that “Atheism is merely a lack of belief in God” is false, insomuch as both sorts of Atheists carry a positive affirmation of something in regards to their rejection of a belief. Many Atheists today, taking after their idols who like to make rather silly examples, state that Atheism should not even be a word, much less a definition for anything at all. They reason that the lack of belief in God is the same as the lack of belief in such things as fairies, gnomes, invisible pink unicorns, and the satirical flying spaghetti monster. “We do not have terms for these beliefs, so why do we need one for Atheism”, they say. The common reason they are labeled as such is because they are the minority position. Besides that, the comparison between these common child-like inventions and the concept of God are completely different, other than the similarity that Atheists claim regarding the lack of evidences for both. Other examples (which they claim to be factual) refer to such things as people who reject racism or sexism. We as a society do not go around calling ourselves “non-racist” or “non-sexist” as a norm, but the reason for this is because we have no practical reason to do so. The New Atheists believe that by simply referring to their position as a “lack of belief” and mentioning child hood fairy-tales along side them as similarities, they will have redefined the term "Atheist” as “normal” regardless of the fact that they are still the minority position in the world. This disregards what normal means to begin with, much less how it is earned. Further, they seem to want to qualify the term “Atheist” as referring strictly to people who think or are scientists, as though the belief should hold a special status granted over those of a lesser mindset. This is the same tactic (though not as explicit) used by those who label themselves “brights” or “freethinkers”; they try to define their way into normalcy and intelligence rather than earning the title.

Another way that New Atheists abuse this definition is when it comes to defending themselves in arguments. Because Atheism is merely a "lack of belief” as they claim, the burden of proof rests on those that have positive claims; and since the definition of Theism automatically includes a positive affirmation for Gods existence they inherit the burden of proof. In this sharp move, all that is left for an Atheist to do is sit back and relax asking questions and saying “nu-uh” till he or she has nothing more to do other than go to their local community and brag about how they defeated another stupid Theist in a debate. These “debates”, however are nothing more than games of intellectual laziness based on ignorance and the abuse of definitions to suit that ignorance. Imagine going to a debate between an Atheist and a Theist and watching the Theist give their opening remarks. After this has happened and everyone claps, the Atheist pulls up a lounge chair, reclines and says “prove it” into the mic, only commenting when he or she pleases. It would seem silly to even call this a debate at all, much less a discussion. What is an Atheist doing going to a debate formatted by academia where both sides must defend their positions if he or she doesn’t believe there is one to defend? Even moreso, what is the point for Atheists writing books against Theists or badgering them about how irrational they are if there are no positive claims to make? As noted before, Atheists are not without their own positive claims, regardless if they choose to be Negative/Weak or not. Contrary to the comfortable definition that the New Atheists have created for themselves so that they need not have to do anything and can be perceived as the norm, the claim that it is more rational to believe there is no God based on lack of evidence is a positive position. First, we have a claim to what is regarded as “evidence”. Most New Atheists seem to be Core Empiricists of some sort and therefore see evidence as only that which can be observed by sensory experience (or that which can be verified by such). Many theists hold to Empiricism as well, but often fall more within a Concept Empiricists camp (a more balanced view that only states that concepts are derived from the material world rather than strictly being of the material world). Most Theists, it seems, are of the Rationalists sect of Epistemology and therefore have even more differing views of what constitutes as evidence. While I will not go into complete detail over what real evidence is since that is not the point of this particular section, I will state that it seems that most New Atheists do not notice that this claim is a positive one and that it must equally be defended within rational discourse. Similarly, the claim that there is a “lack of evidence” for the existence of X is another positive claim, as well as the assertion that people are irrational for believing in X even if there is no evidence to back that belief. Many Pragmatists would have a bone to pick with the last assertion.

While it may be fun and games for many New Atheists to go about finding Theists so as to scorn them for their beliefs and challenging them to discussions while doing nothing at all to add to the dialogue, this is clearly ridiculous and contrary to what is to be understood of definitions and philosophical claims. Further, the claims that Atheism is the default position does nothing more than raise the question (note the difference between begging the question, which is fancy way of saying “circular”) as to why this is the case. The common basis for this assumption is that because babies don’t believe in God (can’t for that matter) therefore we are born with this lack of belief first and therefore this is the basis from which we must work off. This is clearly ridiculous as well if we consider what is being said. A child is conditionally atheistic on the basis that they lack knowledge of the concept to begin with, much less if there is reason to reject it or not. There is a difference between being conditionally ignorant and willfully so; we make the distinction everyday. Similarly, if an Atheist wishes to use this argument they may as well claim that the lack of knowledge in mathematics, reading, writing, speaking, etc. are all similarly “default positions” and therefore more rational because babies do not possess them.

The final way that this redefining of Atheism as a mere “lack of belief” is used is in context to particular individuals that are claimed to have not been motivated by their Atheism to commit particular atrocious acts in history. Take for instance, Stalin, who killed millions. This claim is also absurd if we go back and examine what “Atheism” actually entails. We must remember that the rejection of something does not leave us with simply a rejection, but a reason or position behind that rejection (a positive claim). As another example, being a Theist I do not simply define my position as a "lack of belief in metaphysical naturalism". While this is part of the definition it is not the whole story. It seems that when a New Atheist claims that “Stalin did not kill because of his atheism” he may very well be right, but not on the assumption that this is the case because Atheism is not a position. Stalin could have very well been a Positive/Strong Atheist going around thinking that Theists were inferior because they were too stupid to see the truth of this belief. He could have also been very much a Negative/Weak Atheist who believed that Theists were too irrational to live.

We even see today a group of atheist “activists” who use their negative atheism in such a way as to degrade and dehumanize their opposition. They’re called the Rational Response Squad and based on their epistemological beliefs regarding evidence and such evidence for God, they consider Theists to be mentally inadequate or mentally unstable.

To conclude, the first myth that New Atheists try to promote for their new found enthusiasm for anti-theism is simply an illogical and incoherent misunderstanding of clever rhetoric guised as intelligent discourse. The hypocrisy is that while many New Atheists like to blame Theists for being "conversation stoppers" when they pull out the faith card, they similarly are conversation stoppers when they try to redefine Atheism in this manner.

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[1] Martin, Michael. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge University Press. 2006.





PART II COMING SOON


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