Update to the blog

cropped-untitled-1.jpgHappy New Year!

As I step into the new year I feel as though I’ve perhaps kind of deviated from what this blog was supposed to be.  I’m currently writing about my journey, questions for atheists, the bible, logical fallacies.  This seems to be all over the place.  The title of the blog is “Godless Journey” and it feels like I’m just pulling from all over the place.  I think I may scale back a bit and concentrate on the journey portion of my story for the moment.  I feel this will give me more consistent updates and focus.  Once I’ve completed the past history I’ll begin to dive more into the other portions of the blog that I have been working on.

Also during this year I plan to start putting out video content.  My question for you is which portion would you like to see done as a video response?  I’ll have a poll up on my Twitter for you to vote on.  By limiting this to only one area this will do a couple of things.  Firstly it will help me get an idea of how to make videos (starting from scratch).  Also it will keep me writing the other portions.  I do love writing and would like to keep working on that as well.

Again, HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Thanks for coming on this journey with me!

Fallacy Friday

Argument from Authority

This is a fallacy that I was guilty of for many years.  An appeal to authority is when you take the word of an authority figure as truth because they are an authority.  For example; 9 out of 10 doctors prefer trident gum, so trident gum is the best.  Can you spot the issue?  The key issue here is doctor.  There isn’t anything in there that states what kinds of doctors are.  It doesn’t say anything about what they prefer it against (maybe it’s trident vs rusty nails).  What you see here is that these doctors prefer trident.  Because they are doctors it appears to add weight to the claim.

It’s also important to note as to what this fallacy is not.  So if you have someone who is an authority in the field in which they are argument, they’re claims do carry more weight.  Still, the most important part is that they show their work and how they arrived at whatever conclusion or claim they are qualifying as truth.  People are fallible, and can misinterpret things.  However, data doesn’t lie.  If the work is shown and we can see the data we as a collective can point out possible problems in it.  This is why there is a peer review system in the scientific community.  I remember hating to have to show my work.  It thought it was a pointless exercise that wasted time.  If I can do this in my head why do I need to show that I know it?  Now, I understand that showing my work displays my understanding in a way that can be verified.

As a christian I spent a lot of time allowing this fallacy to permeate my life.  I took those who were older than me and more read on the subject at face value.  I thought what they said was true because of their position.  I didn’t bother to think on the matter any further.  Essentially the Bible was true because they said so.  This passage in the Bible means this because they said so.  Looking back I really should have turned on the critical thinking.

My First Rebuttal (Three M’s that naturalism CAN provide)

I had a conversation the other day with a fellow on twitter coming off of one of Ken Ham’s tweets.  There was a lot of back and forth and I attempted to understand his position.  I did employ some Street Epistemology in the conversation but I think that was done in vain.   I just didn’t want to boil over into a flame war.  That doesn’t do anything to further any conversation.  We somewhat ended the discussion with him asking if I was a naturalist.  I hadn’t heard the term before so I looked it up.  It essentially is the belief that there is nothing beyond the natural world and  everything can be explained with natural process.  I’m not a huge fan of labels (that is different than check boxes, I friggen love check boxes) but agreed with that assertion.  He then sent me this article talking about some things that naturalism can’t account for.    I will spend this post refuting it’s points.

The Mind

The first point this article makes points out that is that if there is no other plane than the natural then our minds (I’m assuming he means consciousnesses) are nothing other than a result of natural processes.  The implication being that we have no true “free will.”  My question is, so what?  We as a species are excellent input/output machines.  We’re also excellent at pattern recognition (even when there isn’t one there).   There are even denominations of Christianity that believe we have no free will (Calvinism to name one).  The fact that we can look at our selves introspectively can be easily explained by evolution.  Once we evolved to the point where we were no longer living from meal to meal our brains suddenly had all this free time.  It was freed up to do things like existential thinking.  I am looking to do some more research into the entire notion of free will and what possible implications there are to not having it.

Morality 

Next up is the topic of morality.  I sometimes wonder at the nature of “morality” or ethics.  I did take a class in college on the subject of ethics and found it fascinating.  One thing that I was never really convinced of was moral absolutes.  There is the old antic-dote about that goes something like this: You are in 1940’s Germany and are hiding a Jewish family in your house.  One day the SS shows up and asks you if you are harboring any Jews in your home.  Do you tell a lie and save the family or do you tell the truth and not lie.  It’s a pretty easy decision, you lie.  Now if you adhere to a strict rule of moral absolutes where no “sin” is greater than another then you have a pickle here.  You’d have to tell the truth and in turn an entire family dies.  YOU made that choice and would have to live with that the rest of your days.  That doesn’t seem very “moral” to me.

Meaning

The final point the argument presented is that of meaning.  Essentially that with out god our lives are nothing more than what we have here while we’re alive.  There’s no higher purpose to our existence.  I fail to see how a deity give our lives any deeper value than that of a life devoid of such a being.  Our life meaning is different for everyone.  We aren’t designed to worship anything.  Our meaning is self-defined.  The author points to an example of a child thinking their meaning is to play video games all day.  OK, what’s the problem.  If this kid can grow up and support himself on playing video games more power to him (there is some serious money in that industry).  If not, they will have to do what we all do and find a job they can tolerate to support that which he finds fulfilling (video games).  Granted there are exceptions to this the biggest being if you find your meaning by infringing on someone else’s life (such as murder, rape, and the like).

Conclusion

As I stated before I was pointed to this article from a Twitter user and promised I would give my rebuttal.  I don’t believe that anything else other than the natural order of things is needed to explain us.  We aren’t special.  We are just another animal on this planet that happens to have a higher intellect.  Our ability to self-reflect, make moral decisions, and find fulfillment can all be explained by our evolutionary history.  I now had the difficult task of finding that twitter string and sharing this article with that user…whose name has completely escaped me.

Fallacy Friday!

Ad Populum

Definition: A fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges that “if many believe so, it is so”.

Have you ever had your parents say “If everyone else jumped off a bridge would you?”  I’m sure that drove you nuts as a kid.  I know I did for me.  There is some truth to this as well.  There is a bit of truth to this however.  Just because a lot of people believe something to be true doesn’t make it true.  First example I can think of is the shape of the earth.  Up until about the time of the ancient Greeks people believed the earth was flat (sorry it was well established that the world was spherical when Columbus sailed).  Everyone believed the earth to be a flat plane (because that’s how it appears to us from our perspective), that didn’t change the fact that the world was round.

This fallacy is easy to fall into because we want to belong.  We want to be like other people so we can fit in.  We’ll sometimes even believe things we know are wrong just so we don’t segregate ourselves from people.  I know for me I did this for a long while.  This is known as cognitive dissonance.  It’s hard to break away from this mindset but in order to believe true things (which has become a new goal of mine) we need to watch for these types of mentalities.  Logic and reason are some of the tools that I now use to decipher if what I’m believing is true or not.