Tag Archives: logic

So you want to have a discussion?

1 Jan

I came across this amazing flowchart on OneFuriousLlama’s blog and then found out about this awesome website Atheistresources. Even though it’s titled “debating a christian” it’s applicable to all discussions. I never cease to be surprised at how many people don’t understand these basic rules for having a rational debate, no matter what the topic is.

(click to enlarge)

It’s a miracle!

12 Jan

So a few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were walking to my apartment after parking my car. It was a cold and clear night and to our delight we found this upon looking up at the moon.

Yep, it was a really cool looking halo around the moon. It’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this, and I think one of my girlfriend’s friends made a comment about it being religious in nature.

Naturally, this peeved me to no end. Whenever there is a natural phenomenon that people can’t immediate explain there are some who will make the large, and completely unfounded, jump to a religious explanation. This is in itself a contradiction. “I can’t explain X, so therefore I can explain it we god!”

Before I tell you what actually causes these halos, lets look at the implications of calling this a miracle. Calling this a miracle from god asserts that

  1. There is a disembodied intelligence in the universe that magically exists from nothing and made everything out of nothing (for which there is no evidence)
  2. This disembodied intelligence who created all of existence decided to zoom in on our galaxy (us out of billions) , and then from our galaxy decided to zoom into our solar system (out of further billions), and then from our solar system decided to zoom in on earth, specifically Lynchburg Virginia. (can you sense how ridiculous this is becoming?)
  3. This disembodied intelligence who created all of existence then decided to create a little circle around the moon for unknown reasons as a way of communicating with us instead of doing so directly and making their presence irrefutable.

“Miracle” encompasses all of these absurd assumptions. It is vastly more complex than the simple and actual explanation of ice crystals in the atmosphere.

“A circular halo, often referred to as just a halo, is formed by the refraction of sunlight through cloud suspended ice crystals as opposed to raindrops or other liquid water suspended in the air.”

No crazy disembodied floating man needed, so think twice before leaping to conclusions. Remember, it is perfectly ok to say “I don’t know”!

Reality doesn’t matter

3 Dec

I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that reality doesn’t matter to my opponents, religious and political. I’ve realized that they have their minds made up, and they don’t give a shit about the facts. If need be they will make up their own facts out of thin air, like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, etc.

If that doesn’t even work they will just vehemently deny reality until you faceplam yourself to death. I think they get pleasure out of watching intelligent people explode after they spend all this time presenting them with evidence and reasons, etc. Kirk Cameron and other religious fundamentalists love this!

It doesn’t matter that evolution is back up by mountains and mountains of evidence. It just doesn’t fucking matter. They know the truth and everything else must be the work of Satan.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is useless to waste my energy talking to these people. It’s like talking to a brick wall, and I’m only hurting myself. They have no interest in a rational debate where the facts matter. It’s like trying to play a game within a set of rules, and they don’t give a fuck about the rules, and run all out of bounds and still declare themselves victorious. It would be easy to ignore these people if they didn’t have real world impacts, but unfortunately I’m starting to worry that much of the worlds population is just as retarded as them.

Will I ever convince you god exists?

29 Nov

I consider myself a very open minded person. If someone is able to present me with enough evidence in favor of their position I will believe them, even if it means I must admit the position I previously held was wrong. I get the feeling very few people are actually willing to do this.

So what about god(s)? Well, yes, if you present to me enough evidence to prove that you’re particular god is true, and not just a fairy tale like you claim everybody else’s god to be, then I will believe you and convert. The problem is, no religion is able to do this. You see, for every “proof” put forth, there is a much simpler natural explanation. Occam’s razor.

The idea of an all powerful being that magically existed before everything and created everything out of nothing is infinitely less probable than all other natural explanations.

For example, the “Devil’s Bible” or Codex Gigas has a famous page with a drawing of the devil. The drawing stands out in that the pages upon which it is drawn are much  darker than all the other pages, almost like they were burnt.

Believers were convinced for ages that the mysterious darkness on this page was a sign of demonic possession, proof of the existence of the devil, and by extension, god.  It was only discovered recently, though scientific means, that the reason for the darkness on these 2 pages was no demonic possession, but excess exposure to UV rays, sunlight.

You see, the pages are made of animal skin, parchment, and parchment darkens naturally over time. UV rays speed up this process. People have always been fascinated with the drawing of the devil, and so they kept turning to those two pages more than others. Over time the extra UV light that those exposed pages were subjected to darkened them more than others. Simple and natural. No demons, no gods, nothing out of the ordinary.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

~ Arthur C. Clarke

Here is another problem. Say you tried to prove the existence of your particular god by some demonstration. It could be anything, lets say you manage to get your god to show their face to the entire world, say projected on the moon. This would truly be amazing and hard to explain. However, what is more likely: A) your god does exist some how, magically and outside the bounds of logic and everything else in the universe to show their face on the moon, or B) there is some technology at play that the rest of us are not privy to, but none the less has a natural explanation?

Obviously B. One of my favorite TV shows plays with this idea a lot. Stargate SG-1 in the show an evil race of aliens, the Goa’uld, use their advance technology level to trick less advanced civilizations into believing that they are gods, and should worship them as such.

The example of the projection of your god’s face on the moon is no different than any other parlor trick played by the Goa’uld. It’s infinitely more likely that there are unseen, but ultimately understandable, natural forces at work.

So in the end, it is possible that your god exists and all the others are fakes as you claim, but it is infinitely more probable that natural explanations exist, even if we do not know them at the moment, there is no reason that we will never know them.

It’s all irrelevant

20 Sep

What is the proper way to worship god? Should people be baptized? Must you be born again? Is there a heaven or a hell? Must you fast on Ramadan? What foods can you eat and what foods should you avoid? Must women wear head coverings? What is sin?

There is no doubt that questions like these are extremely important to believers of one religion or another, but ultimately they are irrelevant. Why? Because every single question like this assumes that a god exists, despite the fact that all religions have equally failed to provide anything more than just sheer determined faith as evidence. You can’t ignore this crucial bottle neck. If god doesn’t exist, then all the other arguments about his/her/its nature is irrelevant. No matter how you try and get around it, it boils down to this:

logic

Also, notice how logically if you make a claim “I have a baseball” you have to be able to provide evidence to prove the statement if it is to be taken seriously. This is the same for “I have a [insert any noun, including god(s) here]” This is called burden of proof, and its how logic works, its how court systems work, its how reality works. Innocent until proven guilty. Something is assumed not true until there is evidence to support the contrary. So far no evidence has been provided. Meerly willing something to be, no matter how hard to clentch your fists and focus during prayers, does not make it true, nor does your effort count as evidence.

Imaginary conversations

5 Aug

A) Hi, I’d like to tell you about my god.

B) What evidence do you have for the existence of this god?

A) Well, I just believe.

B) Sorry, but personal convictions is not evidence.

A) Well, here, this is the bible. It’s god’s word. Here is my proof. It says god exists.

B) Well here is a Harry Potter book, it says people can fly on broomsticks, how is that any more proof? Until you provide actual, verifiable evidence, I will not believe this claim you are making.

A) Well what about nature? Look around you. Is this not enough proof that there is a god? Look how complex life is!

B) Possible, but unlikely. For centuries science has been showing how things in nature can happen naturally without the need for a supernatural power. Science has a long track record of reversing our notions on how the world works as explained by religion.

A) Well prove god doesn’t exist!

B) I don’t have to. You’re the one postulating the claim that one exists. The burden of proof is on you. Until you provide conclusive evidence to support your claim it cannot be taken seriously.

A) Oh yeah? And who made up those rules?

B)  Reality. That is after all what we’re talking about here. You are making a claim about an aspect of reality, namely that in this reality there exists a god. Reality is independent of our wishes, and as such we can test the validity of ideas by examining how the preform in reality.

B) For example, in reality, it is best to assume a claim is not true until you are given conclusive evidence to prove that it is. If you believed every claim before being given evidence you wouldn’t make it very far. If a stranger came up to you and offered you a mysterious liquid, saying it would cure all your ills, would you drink it? No, you’d want some sort of proof that 1) He’s not just some crazy wacko, and 2) that the potion is not poison. If you believed his claim without insisting that he provide evidence to prove it, you could potentially be in serious danger. Reality shows us that the method of disbelief until positive evidence is provided is a valid one.

Science asks how religion asks why

6 Jul

I think this was a quote from the Angles and Demons movie. The idea behind it is that science and religion are not these two opposing forces that offer different explanations for the same phenomenon, instead they’re addressing two different questions.

Well this would be great if it were true. It sure sounds like a nice quote, but that of course has no bearing on its validity. The key problem with this quote is that it confuses religion with philosophy. While religion contains some elements of philosophy, that is only a fraction of the picture. Religion is much more active where philosophy is passive, especially when it comes to telling people who to live their lives.

Religion and philosophy both divide people into groups, yet philosophy works more in the realm of the abstract and doesn’t have the same political implications that religion does. For instance, you would never see a group of empiricists burning down the house of a constructionalist like you would see members of religious group A destroying the house of a member of religious group B. The difference might best be summed up by “Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned”

(EDIT after point made by reader: Political philosophy completely slipped my mind and would negate the above paragraph. While these kind of philosophies would result in actual friction between two groups, here I am mainly focusing on academic philosophies like Logic, Epistemology, and Metaphysics)

Yes science focuses on how we got here instead of why, but religion originally started out as a way to explain the same phenomenon that science now does. Ancient tribes had spiritual leaders to explain what caused thunder, or where the sun went at night, all natural events that science now explains.
Shaman

Still to this day religion retains these ancient roots. The “intelligent design” battle in the United States is a perfect example. Here religion is fighting against science (in a debate the rest of the world realized religion lost 100 years ago) over “how”.

I think it’s interesting that in the same movie Ewan McGregor’s character protest “If science is allowed to claim the power of creation, what’s left for god?!?!” Here he is acknowledging that religion still does try to dabble in “how” instead of “why”. For the “science asks how religion asks why” quote to be true, religion would have to stop trying to explain the same things science does, but then it wouldn’t be religion, it’d be philosophy.

An Atheist’s take on Angels and Demons

15 May

*Spoiler Warning*

So I must admit up front that I didn’t read either of the books, just watched the movies. I went with some friends to see it this morning at midnight. It was kind of spur of the moment really, I was going to go see Star Trek with them, but we missed the movie time and decided to see this instead. I was really kind of nervous to see it with them considering how one of the friends I was with is EXTREMELY religious (albeit protestant).

I had a few fears entering the movie, namely that A) the movie would demonize Atheists and scientists (which looking back on it was a completely silly fear) and B) that Tom Hanks would “find god” by the end of the movie and stop being an Atheist, because we all know Atheists eventually come to their senses /sarcasm.

As the movie progressed, I started to think fear A was coming true. The “evil” illuminati Atheists were kidnapping and killing cardinals, and threatening to blow up Rome. I was really distraught, I kept thinking to myself “No! Humanists like the illuminati don’t do this shit! We don’t do the crap the religious do to eachother!” Needless to say, I was very happy at the end of the movie when it was revealed that the whole “scientists are trying to kill us and blow up the city” thing was really an inside job by Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor)

I was also happy that Tom Hanks didn’t “come to god” at the end of the movie. I can’t tell you how much shit like that irratates me. Atheists and skeptics are always villified in movies. In horror movies, the skeptic is usually killed off first, as punishment for not believing in the supernatural thing out to kill him, or eventually comes to believe in the ridiculous just like all the other characters. In none horror movies, they usually are “shown the light” and abandon their Atheists views by the end of the movie. (Like “I am Legend”)

So who wins? Religion or Atheism?

2 May

So in the great debate who wins? Religion or Atheism? Which makes a stronger case? Well obviously I side with Atheism, but why, when many more people side with religion.

Religion has no evidence to back up its claim that god(s) exist. The religious argue that surely we must have come from somewhere (see Unmoved Mover), but then make a completely unwarranted exception for god when someone asks where he/she/it came from, thus making the logic ad hoc. (The above link has a list of just about every argument for the existence of god(s) and rebuttals)

The religious also argue that things look designed, and therefore they are designed, presumably by their choice god who then takes a keen interest in his creation’s daily lives. Yet science has consistently debunked this idea:

(The “Made Easy” series has a LOT of really great educational videos that explain all types of scientific things on youtube.com, just search for them)

Religion also relies on its position of authority. Many of the religious were raised by religious parents, who in turn were raised by their religious parents. To them belief in god(s) is just natural, something they were raised with, and few ever think to question it. This position of authority is reinforced with elaborate costumes and large, imposing structures:

The whole point of these structures is to overwhelm the visitor with their grandeur, to make them think “Surely, the people who reside in this place cannot be wrong!” Yet they can be, for they are exactly that, people. The believers are also comforted in their belief by the existence of a great many like believers. (See ad populum fallacy)

So, what about Atheism? Well personally, I feel Atheism is strengthened through the weakness of the religious arguments, their total lack of evidence. The thing that really does it for me is the fact that science has a steady track record of discoveries and breakthroughs, religion has a steady track record of being proved wrong. Science has consistently provided natural explanations that are testable, repeatable, and thus proveable, whereas religion just makes claims based off of authority.

For some people, religion’s weak arguments and heavy reliance on arbitrary authority are enough, but for me and a growing number of people they aren’t.

The difference between science and religion

16 Mar

There is a fundamental difference in the ways science and religion operate. For religion, something just is. That’s it. Either you believe X and the religion or you do not. There is no testing or experimenting with the religion or it’s claims. Now sure there are doctrinal debates and the theologians who have them, but in the end it’s still just another flavor of X which the believe must accept to be part of the faith.

Science, on the otherhand, works in the opposite way. Every statement about how something is must be backed up with evidence, evidence that is testable over and over again.

Religion and science both try and provide answers about existence. I think there is an issue with the way science and religion give these answers. Religion gives answers with an attitude of smug, absolute certainty. The answers, whatever they are, are definite and unchanging.

Science gives answers that have an asterisk on the end with a note saying “subject to change if new and compelling evidence is found.” This makes science very fluid, open to revision. Scientists in no way claim they have all the answers. Unlike religion, science welcomes questions. If a scientist has their hypothesis proved wrong, it is just as exciting for them as if it had been proved correct. To them and advance in either direction is still an advance.

But I think this upsets people who are looking for absolute answers. They see science and they see uncertainty, where as when they look at religion they see absolute certainty. A lot of people don’t like uncertainty in their lives. They like to know what is going to happen. Yet it is a false certainty that they have. People have been certain about a great many things since the dawn of time, but that never made them correct in those certainties.

Look at the track records of science and religion. Religion’s entire history is a history of making “matter of fact” statements on just about everything, only to have science come along (relatively recently) and slowly, but steadily, prove many of religion’s “certainties” wrong. The first example of this was when Galileo proved that the earth was not the center of the solar system as the bible said. (He was later convicted of heresy and imprisoned under house arrest for the rest of his life and his works banned by the church)

Given these track records, which one would you rather put your “faith” in? Religion and it’s smug (and misplaced) sense of superiority and absolute certainty? Or science, and its humble skepticism, where ideas are open to debate and experimentation in an atmosphere of free inquiry?

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