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Aron Ra begins his series with a nice set up about how the extreme religious tend to frame evolution as being exclusively atheistic. I suppose anything that can be used to flog/frighten people to the cause is fair game for the radically religious.
Where do you draw the line between taking on bad arguments and lending credence to corrosively stupid notions? This was one of the meta-debates that went on before, during and after the Nye v. Ham debate. It is a fine line to walk as savaging creationist stupidity publicly lends said stupidity, a veneer of credibility that it most certainly does not deserve. Bill did a fairly good job of making Ham’s arguments look like the silly pap that they are, but also brought more attention to the creationist set of bass-ackward notions as a whole.
Creation “science” needs to pack up its silly bags and go away. But I’m unsure if this is the right way to go about it. Anyhow, enjoy the post debate analysis. :)
Picking on creationists and their loopy ideas is low-hanging fruit, however, every once and awhile, you find someone who does an exceptional job of skewering cringe worthy creationist ninny-poo while being laugh-out-loud funny. Paul Chartly, in my opinion, achieves this in his video. It is long at twenty seven minutes, so a morning cup of coffee is required for viewing.
I had it all wrong, Creationism actually should be in the classroom and everywhere else. But do not believe me, listen as Mr.Deity lays it all out for you.
Or anyone who claims to be rational. I’m not sure how the religious do the whole indoctrination thing with a straight face. Can you imagine?
Child: How were we made?
Parent: Well you see this magic ooga-booga decided to scrape some mud together and breath life into it about 6,000 years ago….
Child: But I learned in school today that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago…
Parent: Stop talking sense, or you’ll go to hell!
Child: (cowering)(is quiet)
Err…yes, anyhow lets not do that kids, they deserve better. Much better than what the vapid crusty old religious have to offer.
Some of what I dislike about creationists stems from their basic epistemological premises. For instance the idea that belief in an idea ipso facto makes it correct. The harder you believe in something, the more correct you are. Of course this idea is just one of the pathologically shitty ideas creationists come up with; it gets worse.
Because in their epistemology if you believe something, and their magic book of choice happens to mention it in passing, well then Goddidit and no further explanation is needed. It must nice to be dishonest and lazy when it comes to backing up and relating your ideas to the world. Dear reader, I hear you saying, “But Arbourist, this is a rational humanist blog where is your evidence?” Praise the Four-Cheezes patience, gentle reader the mighty wordpress has come to the rescue.
There is a handy feature in wordpress where you can search tags people make for the content of their posts. The posts I tag with “creationism” are much different much much that appears in that category. Take for instance, this noxious little gem of stupidity which we are going to examine with some detail.
What can we prove?
The truth is that no one can prove evolution or creation. We have the same evidence, but no one alive today was an eye witness to the origins of man, and neither of the claims of the creationist and the evolutionist can be observed today. We can only study the result.
*splat* That was my cerebral cortex recoiling in horror at the level of stupid in this one small quotation (there is more friends, but my little cortex is weeping and is begging for the inanity to stop). The fastest way to make arguing easy for yourself is to dishonestly represent your opponent. This one little paragraph is dishonest and shows an astonishingly brain-dead-shambling-zombie-like grasp of argumentation and rhetoric.
“The truth is that no one can prove evolution or creation.” – Bullshit – About 3,630,000 results say you are being a dishonest fuck-wit.
“We have the same evidence,” – Bullshit – Your “evidence” is based on the mystical ramblings of barely sapient bronze age goat-herds. Some 3.6 million papers that mostly conform to the scientific method, are peer reviewed and falsifiable say your version of the facts are the equivalent of the chunder my dog threw up yesterday.
“but no one alive today was an eye witness to the origins of man, and neither of the claims of the creationist and the evolutionist can be observed today.” – What the frack does being an eyewitness have to to with anything? I cannot see the moon orbit around the earth, should we infer that it floats into the sky on unicorn farts and then sinks every night once they dissipate? Usually you cannot see electricity, only its effects – are we to believe it doesn’t exist either or is its more fucking fantastical farting unicorns?
“We can only study the result.” – The only thing being studied by creationists is the depths of their rectal cavities because it is where they get all their fecal-dominated facts from when not busily bloviating about how godidit.
There is no controversy, only the religiously deluded making shit up and trying to pass it off as reasonable. Their arguments are piss-poor and they offer little to no evidence of a theory with more explicative power. Their arguments can sound good, but like polishing a turd for centuries,(the bible being one of the biggest floaters in the bowl), once the varnish is gone, all you are left with is shit.
There is a conversation that happens all the time between theists and non-believers. I have engaged in it many times myself as well as observed others engaging in it more times than I can count. While there are a number of seemingly valid ways atheists could deal with this conversation, I have come to believe that many of these methods merely lead to baited traps.
This conversation starts with the theist coming up with Claim X, asserting that no one could explain Claim X without invoking god, and smugly concluding that god must exist.
There are four categories Claim X might fall into:
1) Claim X is simply false
2) Claim X is easily explained without invoking god
3) Claim X is explained without invoking god, but it’s complex
4) Claim X actually has no current non-god explanations
While there have been millions of examples of ‘Claim X’ used in these conversations, scant few still fall into the fourth category. Because it’s so rare, most atheist responses to such a conversation ignore this category. This, I think, is the major reason such conversations can (and have) gone on for seeming eternities. To illustrate, let’s look at each of the categories.
Claim X is simply false
The bait here is nigh on irresistible. One of the theist’s premises are wrong, thus the argument is invalid and the conclusion does not follow! It’s irrefutable!
What do you mean it isn’t? Oh silly secularist, you fell into a trap of perpetual distortions.
Showing Claim X to be false simply invites the theist to propose ‘Claim X-prime’ that is slightly different or a bit more vague than Claim X. And when you do the same for Claim X-prime, the theists alters it again, and so on ad infinitum. Should you ever get to the point where all versions of Claim X are shown to be false, the theist then just says something to the effect of ‘Look at all that contorting and effort you had to do, just to grasp at straws. Your desperation indicates your flaw. Your story keeps changing, while my answer, “God”, stayed constant.’
Is that rational?
But discourse is not based on rationality. It’s based on persuasion. As such, the theist is right, you have failed to be persuasive. To the theist, that is. Those exercising reason may indeed enjoy your absolute thrashing of whatever B.S. the theist churns up. But then, if we were only trying to persuade people with reason, we wouldn’t be talking to theists, would we?
Claim X is easily explained without invoking god
A wonderful example of this is Bill Head-Up-My-Arse O’Reilly’s infamous ‘Tide goes in, tide goes out’ line. Again, the pull here to shove reality based ideas in the theist’s face is often overwhelming. But, like in our previous case, just because the secularist is right, doesn’t mean they win. Once more, the theist backs up a bit and makes Claim X slightly harder to explain, and then slightly harder still and so on until it eventually turns into…
Claim X is explained without invoking god, but it’s complex
Now things can get tricky. We saw this as O’Reilly responded to the initial wave of attacks with his ‘How’d the moon get there?’ bit. Answering the theist’s challenge might now actually require formal education to supply the answer. In some cases, it might require a fair deal of study just to understand the answer. I personally enjoy listening to responses from people who have done the requisite schoolwork, as it can be a fun way to learn about things (I highly recommend TheLivingDinosaur ‘s “Holy Hallucinations” series) but alas, these are also doomed to fail. As the answers are now further away from the layman, the theist is safe to ignore all presented evidence. It’s not as if anyone in their camp is going to actually research this stuff. Thus, the theist vision of what fits into the next and final category is quite bloated.
Claim X actually has no current non-god explanations
This is where the theist wants to go and, as I’ve described above, there is little to be done to stop them from getting here, other than infinite loops of explanations that are ever more easily discarded. And you can’t get anywhere inside of an infinite loop.
A key point to realize is that in these conversations, the theist doesn’t really care to which category their particular ‘Claim X’ belongs. Rather, what matters is that somewhere out there, some ‘Claim X’ does reside in the fourth category.
And, ultimately, the theist is right. There are things that currently cannot be explained. There are things that may never be explained. Further, there may be things that inherently defy human understanding and are impossible to explain. So the theist wins. God exists. Accept it and go home.
Wait a minute…That can’t be right. Let’s back things up and look at the original argument structure.
1) Claim X is true
2) Claim X cannot currently be explained by humans without invoking god
3) Therefore god exists
There are two huge problems with this structure, regardless on the truth of the first two premises. The first problem is a false dichotomy implied by 2): as Claim X cannot be explained without god, it is explained *with* god. “God did it” does not explain anything. If I ask you ‘how does a clock work?’ and you reply ‘a clock-maker makes it work’, have I gained any understanding at all? Not one lick. All the god “answer” does is avoid explaining anything at all.
But a theist could potentially offer an actual explanation that is based on the god hypothesis. This tactic is used less and less, as these explanations are invariably discovered to be wrong (see Thunderf00t’s wonderful ‘Why people laugh at creationists‘ series). But lets say a brilliant theist comes up with an explanation that cannot be disproven by even the most intense scrutiny carried out by our most brilliant minds. If this were to ever happen (don’t hold your breath) we then run into the second problem: 3 does NOT follow from 1 and 2. Just because a hypothesis CAN explain a phenomenon, does not mean it DOES explain it.
Going back to our clock, consider if, instead of “a clock-maker makes it work / god did it”, you replied “inside there is a team of invisible gremlins with perfect timing. They were captured and placed in this clock and forced to move the hands of the clock in order to relay time to outside viewers,” and there was an elaborate tale explaining all the ins and outs, and further, we had no way of observing the gremlins inside this clock to verify this (or any other) story. According to the theist’s argument model, we’ve just proven the existence of clock gremlins. The god hypothesis is a worthless ad-hoc conjecture as it is dependent on nothing, predicts nothing, and is non-falsifiable. As such, any of an infinite of imagined things could take god’s place in the theist’s argument and it would be equally valid.
The theist wants their argument to come off like this:
1) Claim X
2) Claim X would be impossible unless god exists.
3) Therefore god exists.
But the theist will never say anything close to this, because then the onus is obviously on them to demonstrate 2) and they just can’t do it. It is an impossible premise to validate. So they twist and distort until their argument takes the fallacious form we see so often, to try and shirk the onus of proof onto non-believers.
So how should one react to Claim X?
I would recommend immediately acknowledging that there are things that current science cannot explain, regardless of under which category Claim X falls. Resist the bait. Then, address how a gap in knowledge cannot prove any supernatural entity, as otherwise it could prove any of an infinite possible deities.
Remember, it doesn’t matter to the theist’s argument if Claim X is wrong or currently understood – even though it should – so it shouldn’t matter to yours.