The cosmological argument for the existence of gods finally emerges

A few days I wrote about my conversation with Mike, who had started down the road of committing the argument from ignorance fallacy by suggesting something can be true, just because it has never been proven not to be true.

That’s a tricky tactic and it’s tough to argue against precisely because it’s built on fallacious reasoning. It has taken some time, but we have finally arrived at an affirmative claim, which is a more intellectually honest starting point. That’s not to say that Mike was being purposefully deceptive here. He likely thought he had a sound starting position. I’ve been doing this for quite a while, so I suspected there was a god belief underpinning his approach somewhere, and sure enough it has finally emerged.

Mike said:

“The only arguments for naturalism are arguments against theism.”

And went on to suggest that:

“…the Cosmological Argument is an argument for the existence of God and Premise 2 of the argument is supported by multiple lines of evidence.”

He then went on to explain how in his opinion, the evidence for Big Bang cosmology, is actually evidence for the Cosmological argument for the existence of a god.

Good old William Lane Craig and the Kalam Cosmological argument. I’ve also written about that argument here when I talked about Bill the Creationist Engineer. But in this case, I’m using Street Epistemology, so rather than try point out the deficiencies in the argument itself, and there are many, I told Mike the following:

“…And just an observation here, but it’s also really interesting that you bring up Big Bang cosmology as evidence for the existence of a supernatural being. I know of a Hindu guy who has latched on to some of William Lane Craig’s arguments, especially his revival of the Kalam Cosmological argument, but rather than use it as an argument for the existence of the Hebrew god, he says it proves the existence of Purusha. Which makes me wonder, how reliable is an argument if it can be used to “prove” the existence of two mutually exclusive things?”

I’ll be sure to let you know if that last statement placed a pebble in his shoe.

 

The Bible college creationist

(Photo: Screenshot/YouTube)

Of all the young earth creationists with which I interacted during my short stint as a guest in the Facebook creationist group, it was the guy I’ll call “Bob the Bible college creationist” who perhaps elicited the most sympathy from me.

Here is a grown man who has spent his entire childhood and adult educational life, learning incorrect things. The mistakes in his science education being repeated over and over again, up to and including a  “college” degree. It’s a travesty if I’m being completely honest.

If you’ve ever seen pictures of toddlers with their eyes closed and hands clasped in prayer, or on a prayer mat facing Mecca, then my sympathy for people like Bob might be easier to understand. I think about those kids and wonder what chance they stand in their pursuit of the truth? Many of them will grow up so sheltered from the outside world and so inculcated in their religious tradition, that they will eventually just assume that the traditions and myths they have been taught, are a reliable representation of how the world actually is.

They are like the characters in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, the Village. They are inside a reality of someone else’s making. Their chances of escaping that fiction dwindling with each cultural barrier that is erected around them.

There is a silver lining though, and it is called the Internet.

For all the lunacy delivered to our screens via the Internet, there is also unprecedented access to real knowledge. When groups like the Facebook creationists invite champions of scientific literacy like me in to their bubble, the Bobs of the world finally get some exposure to actual science.

Maybe, just maybe, I said something or posted a link to something that caused Bob to think back on his Bible college “science” classes and ponder the accuracy of what he had been taught. The time and money he wasted on learning incorrect things can’t be recovered, but learning what is true doesn’t have an expiry date. I’m pulling for Bob to figure that out.

A question creationists apparently hate

Photo Credit: Matt Stopera, BuzzFeed

Creationists love to explain why evolution just can’t be true. They will use every philosophical apologetics trick in the book to try and undermine the science. They will opine about the unknown nature of the universe prior to the Big Bang. They will bark about the improbabilities of abiogenesis.  They will still say, “if man came from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?” I’m not kidding, they will still say that.  In short, they will back firmly in to every God of the Gaps argument they can find and plant roots. The challenge is how to pull them back out.

Taking my own advice to deploy a different tactic, I asked my former creationist Facebook group what I thought was a simple question.

“If evolution isn’t true, then what is your alternative explanation for the history and diversity of life on earth?”

You would have thought I hit a hornet’s nest with a stick!

The comments on this question exploded. And yet almost no one initially answered the question.  If no one answered, then what were they saying? The question was met with an avalanche of the same old philosophical attacks on evolution, only this time most of the responses started with some variation of “Evolution can’t be true because….”

But I am patient.

With each response, I would simply counter “OK I hear you, so what is your alternative explanation?”

Notice with this simple question, I had taken their attention off trying to debunk evolution which is essentially the entire Intelligent Design modus operandi, and instead directed them toward making an affirmative claim. In other words, we were not talking about what they didn’t believe to be true, we were now talking about what they did believe to be true. And since we were talking about what people believe and why, I could now use a little street epistemology.

An interesting division among this group of creationists started to emerge as I pressed for an explanation: the fundamentalists formed in one camp and the Intelligent Design proponents formed in another.  And to their credit, the fundamentalists were first to provide an answer. Genesis chapter 1.

The Intelligent Design folks on the other hand, struggled mightily. This is not to say they didn’t also believe that Genesis chapter 1 is the alternative explanation for the history and diversity of life on the planet; in fact, I’m quite certain that most of them did, but I think at some level of their cognitive functioning, they knew it was not passing the smell test. You see, their entire argument against evolution is built on trying to undermine scientific evidence. These are the folks who actually read scientific articles on evolution, looking for holes. While their approach to science is reversed, they have become used to looking at real, scientific evidence! So with one simple question, I exposed something which made them very uncomfortable.

There is no real, scientific evidence to support an alternative explanation.

 

 

 

Arguing with Logical Fallacy Guy

Some of the conversations I had with creationists in my former Creationist Facebook group were long and genuinely interesting for various reasons. It became apparent that within this group of 200 or so creationists, there were quite a few folks, like Bill the creationist engineer, who were both educated and intelligent. In fact, I think this is an important point to highlight.

While all creationists are deluded, not all creationists are stupid.

And not unlike climate change deniers, it is often the educated and intelligent among them who are the most tenacious in their rejection of reality. They use their educations and their intelligence to construct the elaborate and ultimately untrue artifices around the beliefs which sustain their delusions. They are convinced they are right and they use their above average cognitive skills to reinforce their mistakes.

However, this piece is not about them. This piece is about some of the others.

Since 200 is a fairly decent sample size, it was not surprising to discover that while a few people occupied the far right side of the tail on the normal distribution curve representing education and intelligence, there were more than a few who occupied the other side of that normal distribution curve. In fact, and this is a completely unscientific estimate, I would wager that 5 of the 6 sigma under this curve were home to a rapidly diminishing representation of education and intelligence. Case in point, this post from Mark:

I don’t have much else to say about Mark.

If you’re a statistics person however, at this point you might be questioning whether or not a sample of creationists actually tracks to the normal distribution curve, but my gut says it does. Because in addition to the healthy portion of creationists like Mark who just have no idea what is going on, there were others who were at least trying. Take Robert for example. Robert is probably just a regular guy, going to his regular job during the week, going to church on Sunday morning, and watching football on Sunday afternoon. But Robert believes he has an ace in the hole when it comes to evolution. He is the guy you will inevitably encounter in almost any debate, no matter the topic. Robert is “logical fallacy guy.”

Rather than address anything specific in your claim, logical fallacy guy will smugly and incorrectly dismiss your entire position as some sort of logical fallacy. Logical fallacy guy has spent a lot of time memorizing different fallacies but has spent very little time thinking about what those fallacies actually mean. For example:

You cite an expert, Robert will accuse you of committing the appeal to authority fallacy. Wrong.

You explain how homologous structures are evidence of common ancestry, Robert will accuse you of circular reasoning. Wrong.

You tell Robert his understanding of the fallacies he is accusing you of is incorrect, Robert will accuse you of ad hominem. Wrong.

And so on…and so forth.

The irony of logical fallacy guy defending creationism is that creationism is really just a massive Argument from Ignorance fallacy. Since creationism is a supernatural explanation that can’t be proven right, its very survival relies on any other explanations being proven wrong. This is why there is a such a massive effort by creationists to discredit evolution by natural selection. Creationists don’t spend time proving creationism is true because they can’t prove creationism is true. They can only attempt to undermine evolution. And they can’t even do that.

The best they can hope for is to say, “you can’t prove me wrong, therefore I’m right.”

Dear Robert, that my friend, is a logical fallacy.

Bill the Creationist Engineer

Patrick Marsh, lead designer at Answers in Genesis

As I think back on some of the more colorful characters from my former Creationist Facebook group, Bill the engineer comes to mind. Bill is your Baby Boomer uncle who at Thanksgiving dinner, just gets mad at anything you say that contradicts him or his beliefs.  He is the classic curmudgeon, quick to move from verbose, asinine “sophisticated-sounding” refutations of evolution, to personal attacks, and back again.

It’s not just that Bill was convinced he was right, it’s that he took any attempt to point out he might be wrong, as a personal insult. He was hilarious!

Bill’s favorite argument against evolution was…wait for it…the Kalam Cosmological argument. Bill used his engineer’s “logic,” to walk from the first flawed premise of the argument, an argument resurrected by the Christian apologist William Lane Craig, all the way down to life on the planet earth.

I wish I would have copied Bill’s whole detailed rationale but I was kicked out of the group so abruptly I didn’t have time to collect some of the more “impressive” artifacts. So here it is at a high level. The Kalam Cosmological argument goes something like this:

  • Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  • The Universe began to exist.
  • Therefore, the Universe has a cause.

Christian apologists like William Lane Craig and my old friend Bill, make the leap from “the Universe has a cause,’ to “a bronze age Hebrew war god created everything about 6000 years ago,” without batting an eye. It’s bewildering.

My usual response is, “OK, great! Then where is your evidence?”

Bill would say, “Look around you, everything is evidence!”

To which I would respond with something like, “Wow, the fact that everything exists is evidence that Unkulunkulu is real! The Zulu were right this whole time!”

This is when Bill would put on his angry old uncle hat and start with the personal attacks.

One final point on Bill. I happened to mouse over his name during one our exchanges and noticed that he earned his engineering degree from the University of Nevada, Reno. This gave me an idea.

I asked him if he trusted the professors at his alma mater. He was puzzled by the question, so I clarified a bit. I asked him if he felt as though the professors at the University of Nevada, Reno were doing their best to give students the best education they could? He couldn’t see why they wouldn’t. I then gave Bill a link to the entire biology faculty at his school and recommended he email any of them, or all of them, to ask them whether or not evolution was true. After all, if the school could hire good engineering professors, why wouldn’t they be able to hire good biology professors as well?

This tactic was of course meant to force Bill to reconcile the disconnects in his trust rubric. He clearly trusted all of the professors from his own department where he got his engineering degree, but he clearly believes all of the professors in the Science building are lying. Bill stopped engaging with me after this. I’m sure he built up an excuse in his mind that maintained his stalwart belief in creationism, but a part of me wants to believe that I put at least a dab of WD-40 on his old engineering mind.