It’s been a month since my last post. Basically, I just haven’t been motivated to write essays, and time has been scarce. Now, on to the topic.
It is in fact frighteningly easy to construct an extremely convincing argument. An argument that seems pristinely logical, and almost undebatable. However, such arguments invariably conceal their inadequacy in either an incorrect human perception of the world, or an error in the method of human thought processing, usually in language.
For example, the cosmological argument for the existence of God. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is as follows: 1) All things which exist were at one point formed, created, etc. 2) All things that are newly formed have a cause which resulted in their formation. 3) The universe exists. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence, and therefore supposedly there must exist some thing which caused the universe to exist. Theologians would tell you that that thing must be God. This is sound logic…. until two inches before the finish line. To say that therefore this first cause must be God is to get it backwards. Basically they’re saying that whatever that thing is, they’re going to call it God, and that because the word is the same it is therefore the same entity as featured in their sacred texts. This is stupid. I am perfectly willing to cede the point- the universe probably has a reason for existing, and I am even willing to allow you to call that first cause God. However as soon as you start to argue that therefore Jesus saves because it’s written in this book that God created, you’re simply being irrational. This is further evidenced by the fact that you could feasibly use that justification to support any religion- even the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can say that whatever first created the universe they will call the FSM, and that therefore His Noodly Appendage is present on earth. The rational extension of the cosmological argument is that all we can assume about an entity or natural process that resulted in the formation of the universe, for now anyway, is that it’s pretty significant, and is capable of forming a universe.
Here’s a great one: the ontological argument for God’s existence. I have referred to this before, but this is a good place to cover it in more detail. The argument runs thusly; 1) You can conceive of an entity, that which no greater can be conceived. To restate this in useful English, there exists some thing you can conceive of that is so awesomely awesome that you can’t think of anything more awesome than that thing. 2) A thing which exists is necessarily greater than something which does not exist. And 3) Therefore you can conceive of something greater than the entity that which no greater can be conceived, by the necessary addition of the property of existence.
I hate this argument with a fiery passion. I despise whoever cooked this sucker up to delude countless people. I actually despise this argument even more than Pascal’s Wager, which we’ll get to in a moment. I can’t think of a single aspect of the ontological argument that holds any validity to anyone not already prepared to just plain assume that God exists. In the first premise, basically you’re saying “OK, OK, think of the greatest thing ever.” “Alright.” “Now wouldn’t it be awesome if that thing actually existed?” “Indeed.” “OK, therefore it exists.” Such complete, utter, blind, stark-raving insanity! Secondly, not only is this bullshit, it’s also clearly illogical bullshit. What about a weapon ten thousand times more powerful than nukes that detonates whenever someone blows their nose? I can conceive of it, but such a thing is certainly not better for not existing! Naturally good things may be better if they exist, but bad things are better if they don’t exist. This should be obvious even to the most psychotically rabid and deluded fundamentalist in their quest to exterminate evil.
Alright, I can’t talk about that any more. Pascal’s Wager. Pascal’s Wager is essentially that, according to the Bible, if you are an atheist then you shall be punished in Hell for all eternity. However, according to the Bible, if you’re a good Christian then you shall go to Heaven and live in bliss for all eternity. Pascal’s Wager is essentially pragmatic religion: if the Bible is telling the truth, then you had better believe in it. However, if the Bible is false, then there is no penalty in believing in it. Therefore, you should be a Christian. I loathe this argument. First of all, if you claim that religion is harmless, then you’re simply nuts. If you claim that religion causes no suffering, and does not oppress those least able to resist it, does not create poverty and suppression, and does not persecute intellectuals, strangle freedom, take your rights and property, invade the minds of you and your children, and does not murder with righteous delusion, then you’re just not paying attention. Secondly, Pascal’s Wager as an argument fundamentally proves that those trying to persuade you really don’t care on a fundamental level about the beliefs. They don’t care why you believe, or even what you believe, as long as you do what they say. At their core, the upper echelons don’t do stupid things for their religion like take vows of poverty or place restrictions upon themselves. Religious leaders and officials are taking a free ride, and piety is the prerequisite of their profession. It adds nothing to society but a bunch of bureaucrats needing support, but nevertheless those selfsame officials acquire a large amount of wealth and power. They’re just milking the cow. If you gave them the choice of “convert or die” they would convert because they’re pragmatists. The subsection who would prefer to die helps their PR, but they don’t matter- in fact the officials have no problem telling the radicals how to be holy- “give us your money.”
Intelligent design I will not get started on along the conventional lines because they’ve everywhere. What I will posit is that we have witnessed evolution. And I’m not talking about species of birds’ beaks changing lengths. Go look up genetic algorithms. Download any one and tinker with it. Evolution is simply a fact. You cannot argue with it. To say that “it’s just a theory” is playing pedantic word games because gravity is “just a theory.” To say that we haven’t witnessed it is to be stupid- to say that you don’t “believe” in evolution is to claim that you don’t believe in genetic algorithms. It is not a conspiracy to erode your faith in God by distributing these computer programs that are rigged to optimize agents to their environment. If you really want to, you can write the numbers 1 through 100 on sheets of paper and discard all the numbers from 1 to 50. What’s left? The numbers 51 through 100 are “fitter” for their environment. True, that was only one iteration for those who actually know what’s going on with evolution, but we have to take it slowly. The use of antibiotics depends critically on an understanding of evolution. We can see microbes evolve in real time. Breeding implies evolution, for crying out loud, and the Bible is redolent with bloodlines and heredity. True, if the Bible were accurate then we would all be born of incest, a crime punishable by death again according to the Bible, but hey.
Pardon the anti-religiosity. I didn’t set out to just vent with this post. However I have recently been dealing with people who have deliberately impaired their own ability to think, and I suspect that it is integrally related to their religion even though they are distinct in mentally systemic terms. There is no sense in becoming angry at such people- it isn’t even their fault. The only real answer is to simply be curious, and to ask them very fair and reasonable questions when the opportunity arises. They probably won’t ever remedy their thinking, but I suppose they should be free to be delusional if they so desire. I guess I’ll just have to take that advantage and use it to earn more money.