Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Pursuit of Bullshit


I've been thinking about this for some time now.  I think it's time to take a break.  There's too much to do, and too little time to do it.  I spend quite a lot of my time with this blog, and now other projects are pushing their way to the front.  Whereas another writer might whip out a blog post in an hour, it takes me more time than that.   Thinking about what topic to choose, gathering information about it, formulating the outline of a discussion or argument, and writing it up - these things typically take the better part of a day for me.  And that is a serious disruption to my other pursuits, which end up being delayed or set aside.

Friday, April 27, 2018

On Bunny Rabbits and Reason


As part of his response to cosmological arguments for the existence of God, Philosopher JL Mackie posed a question for theists in his book The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God:
There is a priori no good reason why a sheer organisation of things, not determined by anything, should be unacceptable, whereas the existence of a God with the power to create something out of nothing is acceptable': How is the explanation that there is no explanation as to why an organisation of things exists any less logical than the existence of a deity? - Mackie
To which Victor Reppert makes this devastating comeback:
I usually reply to this with my bunny rabbit argument. Suppose you and I are eating lunch. You look away, and then, you notice a bunny rabbit is munching on your salad. You ask me how it got there, and I reply, that, funny thing, it just popped into existence without a cause. Would you take that seriously? - Reppert

Monday, April 23, 2018

Battling the Consensus


In my ongoing discussions with Tim O'Neill, I have observed that he adheres to historical consensus as if it were religious dogma, not to be questioned - ever.  Historical consensus is the bastion of Christians who insist that Jesus was a real person, and who want to tamp down any discussion that might suggest the possibility that they could be wrong.  Take, for example, this article by apologist Steven Bancarz: Did Jesus Exist? All Scholars Agree He “Certainly” Existed, which makes claims that are patently false.  In particular, the title of the article says that "all scholars agree", which is a lie.  (The article then goes on to denigrate and dismiss those scholars who don't agree.)  O'Neill isn't so brazen as to make this same claim, but he uses the same tactic in arguments supporting the consensus.  If you don't have a solid argument, you can always rely on ad  hominem as a tactic to win the battle, and this appears to be one of O'Neill's favorite tactics.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Mythicism


Nothing raises the hackles of Christians more than the suggestion the Jesus might not have actually existed.  It is likely to provoke an emotional response containing elements of dismissiveness, categorical rejection, derisiveness, or mocking and ridicule.  (What's that, you say?  Christians use mockery and ridicule?  Perish the thought.)  That's what we see in an article called Does Richard Carrier Exist? by apologist Glenn Peoples, for example.  OK, I know that it is intended to be humorous (and I agree his use of Bayesian inference is funny), but still it openly mocks the scholarly work of Richard Carrier, and includes ad hominem attacks that don't seem humorous at all, rather than presenting any reasoned argument against what Carrier says.  And this is coming from a guy who has this to say about his own approach to argumentation:
Although I am a Christian (something that will become obvious to regular readers and listeners), when it comes to the sorts of debates that Christians and non-Christians get into, while I am a participant and a commentator, I do not want to be a cheerleader. Fairness is one of the most important measures of integrity, and I certainly do not wish to give religion a “free pass.” I criticise the arguments of Christians as directly as I do the arguments of non-believers when I think that they go wrong, as I think that by doing so I am actually doing the Christian community a service. Christians – like atheists – are not helped by having their intellectual standards lowered by poor argumentation that is accepted because of a partisan spirit. The pursuit of excellence involves the willingness to reject bad arguments even when they are given in defence of “your side.” Peoples

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The One-Dimensional Religionist


Joe Hinman has written a baffling piece of apologetic nonsense called One Dimensional-Church.  I say "baffling" because after reading it, I really don't know what he means by the phrase that is the title of that article.  One might expect to hear some explanation of it, but apart from the title itself, the word 'church' never even appears in the article.  The reader is left guessing what he means by it.  The article begins with a single sentence that criticizes the political right for co-opting the evangelical movement as a tool for the Republican Party.  So is this the "One Dimensional-Church" he's talking about?  It doesn't seem likely, because he is otherwise not critical of religion or the church, nor does he refer to them as one-dimensional, and this is never mentioned again.  But the article does criticize technological society (which produces the "one-dimensional man") and scientific thinking, so one might speculate that he is likening science to a kind of religion, although he never actually says that in the article.  Whatever Joe has in mind as the "one dimensional-church", it is not effectively communicated.  One can only guess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Not Skeptical of Alexander the Great


Some time ago, I pointed out the Christian Blind Spot, which is an inability of many Christians to see glaring flaws in their own logical arguments for God, despite the fact that they would have no trouble at all identifying the very same flaws in another argument that applies to something other than God.  This is not an issue of Christians lacking intelligence or acumen in logical argumentation.  It's simply a lack of objectivity when it comes to matters that concern their religious beliefs.  They tend to have a huge blind spot when it comes to seeing the problems with their own arguments.  And this blind spot exists for more than just logical argumentation.  It is equally debilitating in their examination of evidence (or lack thereof) for their religious beliefs.  I have yet to encounter any Christian who is willing to admit that evidence to support his beliefs about the life of Jesus is anything less than rock solid.  Yet they can be oh so skeptical of other things in the historical record that enjoy far more substantial evidential support.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Atheist Apologist


Some time ago, I got into an unpleasant exchange with a guy named Tim O'Neill who calls himself an atheist, but whose attitude appears to be unreasonably hostile toward atheists.  I looked at his blog, which is called History For Atheists, and found many articles that are quite critical of atheists (especially the ones he calls "New Atheists") and the historical claims they make, and none that are even slightly critical of dubious claims made by religionists.  He often mocks the idea that atheists are skeptical.  This struck me as rather odd, because there's no balance.  He defends religious claims and beliefs, while criticizing the claims of atheists.  For example, he strongly defends the idea that there was no such thing as the "dark ages", which seems to be a matter of opinion, and that the church was always supportive of the advancement of science, which I think is patently false.  I'm all in favor of criticizing false claims, including those made by atheists, but this guy seems to go overboard - to the point of revealing what appears to be a clear bias in favor of religionism and against atheism.  And that's why I said that I "could find no reason to think that he is anything other than a Christian who claims to be an atheist."  He could well be an atheist, but he sure doesn't sound like one.  His brand of skepticism seems to be highly selective.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Misrepresenting Science


There are certain theists who are so beyond the reach of rational discussion or consideration that I simply dismiss them and all their rantings as being unworthy of my attention.  If their arguments are illogical and they refuse to hear anything that does not echo their own position, then there is no point in arguing with them.  In many cases, there is no point in listening to them - unless they might have some impact on the debate in the broader community of believers.  One such theist is Mikey, who blogs at Shadow To Light.  This guy is a rabid atheist-hater, makes terribly illogical arguments, and aside from searching their words for sound bites to use against them, never listens to anything they say and never makes the slightest effort to understand their position.  There's only one reason I read his articles.  He seems to have the ear of some other theists, who then spread his extremely poor thinking to a broader audience.  So from time to time, I feel that it would be appropriate to answer his ridiculous claims.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Feser Evades the Issue


Asking a theist to give a cogent explanation for anything is typically an exercise in frustration.  Most of the time, the best answer you can get is something that boils down to "God did it".  Of course, they don't put it in those words specifically.  There is always a certain amount of hand-waving and dissembling when you try to press them for details.  This rule of thumb applies regardless of what you may be seeking an explanation for.  If God is presumed to have any role in it, the theist will be hard-pressed to provide any technical details on exactly what kind of manipulations occur at the interface between the physical world and the divine.  And there's a reason for that.  Explanations of a detailed technical nature that involve God simply don't exist.  The best they can do is to use vague language or divert to another topic to cover up the lack of any specific details in their answers.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Fine Tuning Fallacy


Fine tuning arguments are ubiquitous among proponents of theistic belief.  They are the ultimate "God Did It" argument.  That is to say, they appeal to ignorance.  It boils down to this:  How did the state of affairs in which we find ourselves come to be?  I don't know.  Therefore God Did It.  Now, of course, theists will object to that statement of the problem.  It's based on probability, they will tell you.  It's based on the fact that the probability (of physical laws and constants being what they are) is so small that we almost certainly wouldn't have found ourselves in this state of affairs without divine intervention.  So divine intervention is the most likely case.  But I'm here to tell you that this theistic argument based on probability is bogus.  And I'll explain why.