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.

Ask an Atheist

How do you explain how the universe is so perfect for life?

This is another question I see a lot.  There is this notion that the universe is set perfectly in motion and in no other way could life have formed.  Some limit this just to life on earth but the same thoughts apply.  Firstly the universe is definitely not perfectly tailored for life.  In fact the opposite seems true.  Most of the universe is space.  And it’s huge.  “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  And there is a lot of nothing in there.  Seriously there is of area where nothing can survive.  If the universe were made to suit life there would be way more places for us to live.  Even in our solar system with it’s 8 planets (sorry Pluto) only one of them has the ability to support human life.

Even looking a just earth there are problems with it being tailored for human life.  Three quarters of the planet is covered in water.  And then there are places like the poles which have such cold temperatures very little can survive there.  Also vasts deserts of nothingness.  There a very few places where humans can flourish without bringing in outside resources to sustain them.  In fact we wage wars and kill each other for those resources, as they are limited and will eventually run out.

I do grant that there are certainly other places that may harbor life outside our solar system, they are relatively small in number.  Yes we are finding more and more possible planets in what seems like everyday however, when you think about the scale of the universe this number is minuscule.    In short, no I don’t see a universe being perfect for life.  I see a universe where gravity and electromagnetic force control how and where things end up.

 

Side note:  Sorry the late post.  Time has gotten away from me this week after the holiday.  I hope to get back to regular posts shortly!

Deeper Story Pt. 8

Twitter Post - Deeper Story

Continued from Part 7

So at the ripe and enlightened age of 17 I was expected to pick the course of the rest of my life.  Settling on computer science, I began applying to school and really wanted to get into the Rochester Institute of Technology.  I applied to a few other schools but this was my dream school.   Anxiously I awaited and eventually received my acceptance letter.  I was thrilled!  My father reviewed the documents and was concerned about the cost.  We took a trip to the school and spoke with the financial aide department.  Essentially there wasn’t anything they would be able to do about the cost and would need to take out loans for it.  When we got back, home my dad essentially told me there was no way I was going to this school and needed to spend two years at community college.  I was heartbroken.

I came to call this thirteenth grade.  There were a lot of people I went to high school with that went here.  I became resentful and didn’t put much effort into school.  Instead I spent that time working on trying to become a leader in the church.  I started a bible study at the college.  I made sure to reserve the room that had the big windows so people could see us in there and might stop and ask about it.  Didn’t get a whole lot of response to that.  It ended up just being a bible study for the people that went to my church and school.  This was also about the same time that I started taking classes at church.  They weren’t formal learning  but more of a getting to know yourself type thing.  I’m realizing now how ineffective it is.  Part of it was taking a Myers-Briggs test.  When I first took it I was an ENFJ.  I took it again a few years ago it had changed drastically to INTJ.  After leaving the church I found how unreliable these tests actually are.

Part of my college curriculum required us to take the philosophy of logic.  It basically teaches logic gates and how to calculate true/false statements.  I found a lot of these portions very interesting and lead me to take a few other philosophy classes, ethics and metaphysics.  Ethics was a pretty great class.  It got me thinking about how we arrive at what we deem right and wrong.  However, I essentially just used it to fill in the gaps of things not directly stated in the bible.  Metaphysics was a bit more eye opening.  Metaphysics deals with the nature of reality.  Things like how do we know we’re not just a brain in a vat being fed memories and sensory inputs.  I liked to entertain these types of thought experiments but didn’t put much actual stock into it.

Part 9

Ask an Atheist

Isn’t atheism just another religion?

I’ve seen this one a few times out there.  People like Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis like to tout this one.  He takes it a step further in saying that atheism and those who believe in the theory of evolution are religious and want to kill Christianity by saying they aren’t a religion so they can be taught in schools…yeah so no.  But to get back to people who genuinely think that atheism is a religion, no it’s not.

Atheism is an answer to a single question, “Do you believe in a god (or gods)?”  There are no tenents of atheism.  There are no rules, no dogma, no other unifying factor in it other than a lack of a belief in any god.  We don’t meet weekly and study “The God Delusion” or watch old videos of Christopher Hitchens.  I’ve heard it explained this way which may be helpful:  Atheism is as much of a religion as not stamp collecting is a hobby.  My lack of beliefs do not guide my actions, only my beliefs.

We atheists don’t have a club.  Most of us disagree on a lot of things.  We disagree on whether morality is subjective or objective.  We disagree on whether there is free will.  There are a lot of things that we don’t have in common.  Literally the only idea we share is a lack of a belief in a god.  I know I’m repeating this a lot here but this seems to be a huge point of confusion.  There are other idea that atheists may gravitate towards such as Secular Humanism but again that’s also not a religion any more than a book club is.  The confusion here might just be a paradigm issue.  Theists just may not understand that one can live a life without religion.

Deeper Story Pt. 7

Continued from Part 6

I coasted through high school doing the least amount of work I could get away with.  I began to resent school and wanted only to do “church stuff.” I was easier to me.  There were few wrong answer do things and nearly no studying needed.  When ever I came across a problem I didn’t know I could just answer “I feel like God is saying…” And that would be the end of it.  I absolutely loved playing on the worship team.  I replaced a lot of time studying school work with practicing playing guitar.

I think the first time I had any thought of doubt would have been freshman year.  That’s the year, in my school, you took earth science.  The age of the earth stuff never really bothered me, I hadn’t done the biblical math yet.  He did say one thing that stuck with me though.  He said “Sorry to break it to you but the water going off your back does so in the exact same pattern as a fish.” I never looked into this but it planted a small seed.  In Sophomore year I had read up some on creationism and decided to debate my biology teacher on whether evolution was a real thing.  I was indeed brought down from my high horse.

Being one that always enjoyed science,I began to shift my views on some of the teachings of the bible to what science had taught me. Instead of being a staunch “God did” christian, I decided that what ever science finds that “how” god did it.  It was easier to maintain my cognitive dissonance that way. Not that I knew what that was before I left religion but I do now 🙂

 

Fallacy Friday!

Appeal to emotion

An appeal to emotion fallacy is something that most people might already be aware of, with out being aware of it.  Those Sarah Mclachlan commercials with the dogs.  The ones that make you either cry or want to change the channel are a prime example of an appeal to emotion. What this does is to use imagery or stories that stir up an emotional response in people in order to “prove the point”.  Sure these may be examples of what is being argued but just because something elicits and emotional response does not lend it to be a sound argument.

What I’m saying here isn’t that we shouldn’t change things because a fallacy is presented.  There may be other arguments in there that are valid.  In this example I believe we can agree that the mistreatment of animals is wrong.  However it’s not wrong because of the images and stories told.  It’s wrong because we shouldn’t cause undue suffering on them.  There is a whole separate debate on whether or not it’s right to eat animals but that’s not the argument we’re having here.

 

If you’re looking for a good resource on logical fallacies I recommend YourLogicalFallacyIs.com It’s been great helping me understand what the difference fallacies are and how they are applied.

Ask an Atheist

What would it take for you to believe in God?

Firstly I would have to ask which god?  Yaweh? Allah? Zues? Vishnu? But getting past that and assuming they meant whichever god they believe in I suppose there are a lot of things.  Perhaps something written in our DNA that has their signature in it? Like “Yaweh was here”. But readable in every known language. This would have to be in the DNA of every living thing. 

I often thought that maybe magical sky writing they everyone could read in their own language but that could be alien in nature.  

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clark

The long and short of it though (borrowed from Matt Dillahunty) is that if there was a god, it would know exactly what evidence I would need. 

Deeper Story Pt. 6

Twitter Post - Deeper Story

Continued from Part 5

Dating in high school was an interesting situation.  Being that I was so into Christianity that left a lot of  “normal” things off the table. However I had my father sending kind of mixed signals.  He wanted me to have a similar high school experience to him however was also teaching me the morality of Christianity.  He didn’t push abstinence only on me and told me that if I was going to have sex to use a condom.  But at the same time telling me to do what the bible said (don’t have sex until marriage).  This felt very conflicted.  Along the same lines dating wasn’t supposed to be all fun and games, it was supposed to be looking for a future wife.  How messed up is that?  I was 15 years old and was supposed to be looking at every girl I dated as the girl I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life with?  I didn’t even know what that was supposed to look like!

I dated girls off and on, some serious, some not so serious.  But I always put my whole heart into it, so it hurt anytime I was broken up with.  I recently found my old livejournal account (everyone had one at the time…dating myself I know), and realized I was kind of an ass.  I dated girls and looked for a way out to date some other girl I may have liked.  Not realizing at the time that I was doing anything wrong.  It kinda makes me sick looking back at it now.

Stock photo…not me I assure you!

One thing that did come from that thought was I did meet the person I would spend the rest of my life with.  She was in one of my classes.  I won’t go too deep into it now as that’s for another post entirely but she was certainly the greatest thing that came from high school.  Being the “good” Christian that I was, I of course had to make sure she started going to my church.  I dragged her along with me to as many youth events as she’d agree to go to.  Long story short we got married at that church.

 

Fallacy Friday!

Ad Hominem

An ad hominem fallacy is when you use a personal attack on someone during a debate instead of attacking the argument.  Something to the effect of when you put forth a solid argument, well thought out and presented perfectly.  Your opponent retorts with something to the effect of “how can you trust someone who smoked pot in college?” It does nothing to address the actual argument but will make a person listening to the debate think lesser of the one being attacked.

ad_hominem

I see this often in debates between theists and atheists from both sides.  Usually from the theists because they’ve been backed into a corner and can’t find a logical way out.  From the atheist side, usually a neck-beard trying to start a fight (yes I realize the irony of that statement).  But in all honesty I think that putting down these sorts of attacks is not a productive way to go about debating.  I think its ok to make an attempt to see the point of view from the other side of a debate. I think this makes for a better dialog.  Also you can understand it with out accepting it.