Friday, March 23, 2012

ATHEIST FAITH, 2

Logical Fallacies?

I’m replying to the first two sets of comments left by my friend Canadian Atheist on my previous post.

I apologize for not replying sooner, but I was busy and before I knew it there were six more comments as you and Gary sparred with each other.  (I’ll not get into those.)  So I decided to give it a fresh start with a new post.  I’ll try to go through and comment paragraph by paragraph as you have done.

I wrote:  “He believes, or has faith that that Creator exists.  In fact, to many, perhaps most people on this earth, God’s (or a god’s) existence is not questioned.”
You responded:   Are you appealing to a logical fallacy here, my friend?  Just because many people believe something, doesn't make it true.  The religious had us believing the Earth was flat and the center of the Universe for a long time.  Turns out it wasn't true.”
            My reply:  “No, I’m not appealing to a logical fallacy here, my friend.  I was merely making an assertion.  You may disagree with my premise, if you wish, but please don’t label it as a logical fallacy.  In fact, it appears to me that you are the one appealing to a logical fallacy – a red herring:  all that about religious beliefs about a flat earth have nothing to do with my assertion.  (Dictionary of Philosophy defines ‘the fallacy of red herring’ as ‘ignoring a criticism of an argument by changing attention to another subject’)”

I wrote:  “The Atheist sees the same evidence, but for some reasons dismisses the possibility of a Creator.”

You responded:  “Not entirely true but a common mistake.  There are different sorts of atheists.  I'd probably be labeled (jeez I hate labels LOL) as an atheist agnostic.  I don't dismiss the possibility of a creator, I just see no evidence of one and even if I did, that wouldn't make your God more plausible than the thousands of other Gods out there.  In fact, I find the Christian God highly, highly implausible.
My reply:  “I am glad that you don’t dismiss the possibility of a creator.  This is quite a concession on your part.  However, when you label yourself an atheist agnostic you seem to be combining contradictory terms.  My Webster’s defines Atheist as ‘one who believes there is no deity’ and Agnostic as ‘a person who holds the view that ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly:  one who is not committed to believing in either the existence  or nonexistence  of God or a god.’  You can’t have it both ways.  Of course, ‘atheist agnostic’ may be part of some esoteric jargon with which I am unfamiliar.  And again you introduce a red herring when you argue about ‘the Christian God.’  I said nothing in this paragraph about Him.  By the way, who is this Jeez to whom you refer?”

I wrote:  “And yet the Atheist gets quite indignant when this matter is called to his attention. He insists that this is not so.”
You responded:  “Not really.  But the reason it may seem so sometimes when you encounter an atheist is because religious people are always trying to label us as religious when that just isn't true.  It's kind of like when they try to brand us as immoral - after a while it gets annoying to refute.”
My reply:  “Another red herring.  I did not accuse you of being either ‘religious’ or ‘immoral.’  I asserted that you have ‘faith’ or ‘belief.’  Even Webster’s defines Atheism as ‘belief’ (see above).

I wrote:  “I suspect that my friend assumes an even further definition describes Christian faith.  It’s the one allegedly given by the little boy in Sunday school that ‘faith is when you believe something even when you know it’s not true.’”
            You responded:  “No. I think many religious people believe wholeheartedly in their doctrine.”

I wrote:  “However, as a Christian I would hold to Webster’s definition #2b(2) ‘complete trust’ and #3 ‘something that is believed esp. with strong conviction; esp.:  a system of religious beliefs.’  From my communications with my friend, I’d say that this describes not only my, but his faith as well.”
           You responded:  “Not really.  I have no religious beliefs.”
My reply:  “I beg to differ.  You do have a faith, a set of beliefs which you hold, as does everyone.  Your writings show this clearly.  You make assertions, many of them, quite dogmatically.  You even reference sources for your belief – ‘actual science,’ ‘DNA,’ ‘fossils,’ etc.  You put your confidence (or trust) in these sources.
And while I don’t want to offend you by labeling you as religious, you do have religious beliefs – beliefs about God and His existence."

I wrote:  “He and I both base our understanding on assertions which are supposedly factual.  We interpret the data and rely on these for our world view.  Faith or belief is required throughout the entire process.  We trust or believe in some assertions which we believe are backed by evidence.  ‘We refer to these as “facts.’  He does this as well as I.  Sadly we all are often tempted to ignore some facts, those which do not fit easily into our world view.”
            You responded:  Sort of but not really.  Your source of truth is the Bible.  While I don't deny there are some truths within the Bible’s pages, I don't see them as uniquely Christian and a great deal of it has been debunked by actual science.  For example, DNA and fossils show us we didn't just pop into existence in the Garden of Eden.  We know you need more than two people to have enough DNA diversity to keep a species alive.  There are many, many more, but that's just one.”
            My reply:  “You simply dismiss my epistemological observations with a ‘sort of but not really’?  Do you agree or disagree?  Your arguments about the Bible and ‘actual science’ seem to be just another red herring.”

I wrote:  “To hold this view he chooses to ignore the early manuscript evidence for the New Testament, as well as three centuries of Christian history and writings.  I’ll insist that this is a matter of faith on his part, and it appears to be more like Webster’s definition #2b(1) or even like that of the little boy mentioned above.”
            You responded:  “Even if I conceded that you were correct about Constantine, there is no denying that the Bible is cobbled together from books by different authors at different times and that there is a very high chance none were direct witnesses to what they describe. The book seems to me obviously a work of man.”
            My reply:  No one has, to my knowledge, denied that the Bible was written ‘by different authors at different times’ (though I wouldn’t use the word ‘cobbled’).  I do not know the source of your claim about the probability of the authors not being witnesses to what they describe, but obviously it is someone whom you believe.  These appear to be dogmatic assertions with little evidence.”

I wrote:  “Also contrary to my friend’s thinking, Christian faith is based on facts:  the eyewitness’ reports, the works and claims of Jesus, the empty tomb.  My friend may deny the factuality of these evidences, but they are strongly attested.  To deny their factuality requires faith on his part.”
            You responded:  “No, not really.  There's no proof that there were witnesses and you can't use the Bible to prove the Bible.  That's a logical fallacy.  I think it's probable that Jesus lived but I don't believe he was the son of God, sent here to scapegoat himself for humanity.  I don't believe in the miracles or many of the bad moral teachings described in the Bible.  I think we're outgrowing it and finally admitting that it's a flawed book that gives us some insight into ancient man.  However, it's the work of man, not God.”
            My reply:  “There you go with your claims about a ‘logical fallacy.’  What logical fallacy are you referring to?  Are you claiming that this is circular reasoning?  But if the Bible is made of books by different authors (as you and I both agree), they why wouldn’t the fact of multiple authorship be acceptable as evidence?  It would seem that a multiplicity of eyewitnesses would verify the truthfulness of the claims.”

I wrote:  “The ‘facts versus faith’ argument may appear to be a good way for the Atheist to protect his belief system but it works both ways.”
            You responded:  “Atheism isn't a belief system.”
            My reply:  “This is a dogmatic assertion made against the evidence.  You have beliefs on which you base your worldview.  That’s a belief system!  Why are you afraid to admit it?  I suspect that one reason for your insistence is that one can find comfort in the belief that he doesn’t need to believe, while those with whom he disagrees have a need for belief.
            And this is your great logical fallacy, which I was addressing on my previous post:  the False Dilemma between Faith and Facts.”

I wrote:  “I do not want to sound insulting to my friend. I genuinely desire for him to open his mind up to consider the inconsistencies of his own position as well as the assertions of Christianity.
            You responded:  I'm certainly not offended.  I enjoyed reading your post a great deal.  In fact, I enjoy reading all of your posts.”
      My reply:  “Thanks.  I hope we can continue to dialog.  And thank you for supplying me with enough red herrings to start a fish farm!  :^)

6 comments:

Canadian Atheist said...

Part 1

Good post. Here's my reply.

My reply: “No, I’m not appealing to a logical fallacy here, my friend. I was merely making an assertion. You may disagree with my premise, if you wish, but please don’t label it as a logical fallacy. In fact, it appears to me that you are the one appealing to a logical fallacy – a red herring: all that about religious beliefs about a flat earth have nothing to do with my assertion. (Dictionary of Philosophy defines ‘the fallacy of red herring’ as ‘ignoring a criticism of an argument by changing attention to another subject’)”---> I was asking whether you were referring to the fallacy of argumentum ad populum - that because a majority of people believe something, makes it more likely to be true. Then I gave you an example of why such an argument fails.

“I am glad that you don’t dismiss the possibility of a creator. This is quite a concession on your part. However, when you label yourself an atheist agnostic you seem to be combining contradictory terms. My Webster’s defines Atheist as ‘one who believes there is no deity’ and Agnostic as ‘a person who holds the view that ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly: one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or nonexistence of God or a god.’ You can’t have it both ways. Of course, ‘atheist agnostic’ may be part of some esoteric jargon with which I am unfamiliar. And again you introduce a red herring when you argue about ‘the Christian God.’ I said nothing in this paragraph about Him. By the way, who is this Jeez to whom you refer?”---->I am not a 'hard atheist'. I'm open to possibilities. There is indeed such a thing as an atheist-agnostic. In fact, Dawkins is an atheist agnostic. I suppose we can have it both ways.

Here's the definition from Wiki: Agnostic atheism, also called atheistic agnosticism, is a philosophical position that encompasses both atheism and agnosticism. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity and agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact. The agnostic atheist may be contrasted with the agnostic theist, who does believe that one or more deities exist but claims that the existence or nonexistence of such is unknown or cannot be known.

As for the Jeez...I sometimes say 'Oh God' too. LOL

“Another red herring. I did not accuse you of being either ‘religious’ or ‘immoral.’ I asserted that you have ‘faith’ or ‘belief.’ Even Webster’s defines Atheism as ‘belief’---> These aren't red herrings. Usually when I write I try to provide examples of what I'm talking about - not to distract but to make something more clear. I still stick with my original answer of not needing faith to not believe in something I see no evidence for.

You do have a faith, a set of beliefs which you hold, as does everyone. Your writings show this clearly. You make assertions, many of them, quite dogmatically. You even reference sources for your belief – ‘actual science,’ ‘DNA,’ ‘fossils,’ etc. You put your confidence (or trust) in these sources.

And while I don’t want to offend you by labeling you as religious, you do have religious beliefs – beliefs about God and His existence."----->Science is the best way humans have of observing our surroundings. If you really wanted to, you could test the claims of science by majoring in that field. You can also see fossils (I have) and prove they exist. Science is also peer reviewed and tested. You're not trusting one source, but many. And theories are constantly being tested when new knowledge becomes available. We can see the results of science. In fact, we're communicating right now because of science through our computers. We can have a refrigerator full of food because of science. We can shoot probes into space with pinpoint accuracy because of science etc.

Canadian Atheist said...

Part 2

“You simply dismiss my epistemological observations with a ‘sort of but not really’? Do you agree or disagree? Your arguments about the Bible and ‘actual science’ seem to be just another red herring.”----> If there were evidence of God or even better, your God, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

“No one has, to my knowledge, denied that the Bible was written ‘by different authors at different times’ (though I wouldn’t use the word ‘cobbled’). I do not know the source of your claim about the probability of the authors not being witnesses to what they describe, but obviously it is someone whom you believe. These appear to be dogmatic assertions with little evidence.”----> let's say your assertions are true. A manuscript written by different people at different times, most of whom couldn't have witnessed the events, then copied several times over, translated and edited several more times is not a very reliable book. If it were to be brought as evidence in a court of law, it would be laughed out of court.

“There you go with your claims about a ‘logical fallacy.’ What logical fallacy are you referring to? Are you claiming that this is circular reasoning? But if the Bible is made of books by different authors (as you and I both agree), they why wouldn’t the fact of multiple authorship be acceptable as evidence? It would seem that a multiplicity of eyewitnesses would verify the truthfulness of the claims.”---->Yes, circular reasoning. Using the Bible to prove the Bible is like using the Harry Potter books to prove there are wizards.

And no. Different authors, writing sligfhtly conflicting accounts of events in different time periods isn't very convincing.

“This is a dogmatic assertion made against the evidence. You have beliefs on which you base your worldview. That’s a belief system! Why are you afraid to admit it? I suspect that one reason for your insistence is that one can find comfort in the belief that he doesn’t need to believe, while those with whom he disagrees have a need for belief.
And this is your great logical fallacy, which I was addressing on my previous post: the False Dilemma between Faith and Facts.”----> Atheism by itself isn't a belief system. You can be an atheist and be religious. I could take up secular humanism or go to a Unitarian Church for example. But by itself, it isn't a belief system. It is not a religion. Just like your non-belief in Zeus constitutes a religion.

“Thanks. I hope we can continue to dialog. And thank you for supplying me with enough red herrings to start a fish farm! :^)----> Me too. I enjoy our conversations and your blog.

And Gary too. *waves at Gary* :)

Bill Ball said...

CA: I won't continue this discussion ad nauseum, but I do want to say just one thing. I would have thought you would know by this time that I would not use the fallacy of argumentum ad populum. Many of my views are out of step, even with those of my fellow Christians. If you'd glance back through my posts you'd see that.

Steve Spinella said...

Once there were two boys who passed each other on the street. One said to the other, "Hey, we could play a game together if we could agree on the rules." The other said, "Yes, but you won't agree with my rules." And with that, they began to play a game...

Question: What will the outcome of this game prove?

Bill Ball said...

nada?

Johny Appalachia said...

Geez is probably for Gezus. We believe God is a woman; however, she died when white men killed her. They stripped her veins and left carrion on our land. We were taught with missionaries and whips. Our mothers preserved us.