Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barry Arrington Demonstrates IDiot Logic

A few years ago Barry Arrington came up with this killer argument against evolution [see Question: How Can We Know One Belief Selected for By Evolution is Superior to Another?].
Theist: You say there is no God.
Evolutionary Materialist [EM]: Yes.
Theist: Yet belief in God among many (if not most) humans persists.
EM: I cannot deny that.
Theist: How do you explain that?
EM: Religious belief is an evolutionary adaption.
Theist: But you say religious belief is false.
EM: That’s correct.
Theist: Let me get this straight. According to you, religious belief has at least two characterizes: (1) it is false; and (2) evolution selected for it.
EM [looking a little pale now, because he’s just figured out where this is going]: Correct.
Theist: You believe the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis [NDS] is true.
EM: Of course.
Theist: How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?
EM: ___________________

Our materialist friends are invited to fill in the blank.
Yesterday he searched the internet and found a post by someone named "Robin" who had responded by saying that evolution is supported by evidence [Given Materialism, What Reason Do We Have to Trust Ourselves?].

I think you will find it amusing to see how Arrington deals with this answer. Here's his conclusion.
Reductive materialist Darwinism is irrational, because it is self-referentially incoherent. It affirms at one and the same time two mutually exclusive propositions: (1) A belief in reductive materialist Darwinism is a true belief; and (2) There is no way to rule out whether in any given case reductive materialist Darwinism has selected for a false belief.

So, Robin, the next time you call someone a “wanker” after you think you have just defeated their argument, you might want to find a person smarter than you (that shouldn’t be hard) and check with them to make sure you understand the question, much less the answer to the question.
Here's the challenge for Sandwalk readers. Almost every one of you is smarter than the typical IDiot. How long does it take you to recognize the fatal flaw(s) in the logic of Barry Arrington's argument? (Give your answer in seconds. Fractions of a second don't count. For me it took about 5 seconds to find the first fatal flaw, but, since I'm old, my mind works slower than it used to.)



28 comments :

  1. I'll go for straw-manning his opponents' position by having the EM say religious belief is an evolutionary adaptation. No it's not, certainly not in any direct or simple way. Arrington doesn't even rise to the level of Plantinga's sophistry on this one. (There's probably more, but I'm stopping there).

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    1. Sorry, you asked how long. That would be as long as it took me to read that far, and I read pretty fast. Say 2 seconds, max?

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  2. Well I think I reckognized my disagreement as soon as I read the first sentence of his hypothetical dialogue. Here's how it would actually look if he "interviewed" me.

    Theist: You say there is
    no God.

    EM: No, I say there is probably no god.

    Theist: Yet various religious beliefs, not necessarily god-belief, among many (if not most) humans persists.

    EM: Yes.

    Theist: How do you explain that?

    EM: Religions initially spread primarily through upbringing and indoctrination of young children before they got old and educated enough to understand and assess the religious claims critically. Of the people who adopt religion, only a miniscule and tiny minority come to it through conversion from atheism to religion(most conversions are actually just from one kind of religion to another). Long story short: people are mostly born into religion.

    EM: That, and the combination of how religions have changed and adapted through the ages to better work with the natural resistance of human psychology and culure. Nowadays, religions largely take advantage of various psychological factors that have their own various reasons for existing. I don't believe religion itself, and certainly not god-belief, was ever selected for.

    Theist: But you say religious belief is false.

    EM: I say that it's most probably false, as far as we can tell.

    Theist: Let me get this straight. According to you, religious belief has at least two characterizes: (1) it is false; and (2) evolution selected for it.

    EM: No, too simplistic.

    Theist: You believe the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis [NDS] is true.

    EM: Approximately true, yes, with some modifications here and there.

    Theist: How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?

    EM: *wonders whether Barry paid attention to anything I said*

    EM: Knocking down unintelligent strawmen of our own making isn't hard Barry.

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    1. You're too shy. Here how I would have started:

      Theist: You say there is
      no God.

      Me: First, I am not an evolutionary materialist. Second, no, I don't say. I know there is no "God." I also know that if you say anything else it will be bullshit.

      I don't think that the conversation would have gone much further. AT least not the way the "theist" wanted it to go.

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  3. The two ideas are not exclusive. RMD can be true, and it could still be impossible to rule out whether it is a false belief.

    It's like saying if someone tells me that there is a cat in a box, but I cannot possibly open the box to check, then it is impossible for there to actually be a cat in the box. That it obviously fallacious.

    That's the first thing that came to my mind. I didn't time myself, sorry.

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    1. Yes that's another issue. Barry is essentially just repeating Plantingas evolutionary argument against naturalism, which ends up concluding that something is possible(it never actually demonstrates that the possibility is in fact the case).

      Regardless, the same argument could be raised against theism. It is possible for god to have constructed human beings in such a way that they're predisposed to falsely believe there's a god.

      What now, Barry?

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  4. 1. "Religious belief is an evolutionary adaption"

    Not necessarily true.

    2. "You believe the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis [NDS] is true."

    Not the "hardened" version of it, which is what presumably is meant here.

    3. "How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?"

    Not possible. NDS appeared half a century ago.

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  5. Religious belief is not an evolutionary adaptation. Religious belief is a cultural effect. The propensity of our brains to come up with non-evidentary beliefs (like those found in religion) is potentially an evolutionary adaptation of our 'big brains' problem solving function(s).

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  6. OK, let's look at wanker lawyer Arrington's masturbatory attempt at wanker philosophy.

    Wanker: Reductive materialist Darwinism

    Stop right there, you fascist wanker. Attacks on reductionism and materialism are late nineteenth, early twentieth century, German shit philosophy, including notions of vitalism, holism, Gestalt [typology], orthogenesis and anti-Darwinism, that were popularized by the anti-rationalist right-wing pseudoscientific/occult milieu that led to Nazism. See, for example, anti-Darwinists like Hitler's mentor Houston Stewart Chamberlain (particularly chapter 6 of vol. II of his book Immanuel Kant (1905)), and Chamberlain's creationist buddy Jacob von Uexkuell.

    These late nineteenth, early twentieth century, German shit philosophy, ideas of vitalism, anti-reductionism, holism, Gestalt [typology], orthogenesis and so on have all been resurrected by fascist ID wankers like ENV's Barry Arrington, except they call them by slightly different jargon, so the vital force is now "complex specified information", Gestalt is now some shit like "self-stable ontology", "phyla" or "Biblical kind" depending on who you ask, orthogenesis is now "front-loading of information" or "autogenoous change", holism is "bioessentialism", anti-reductionism and anti-materialism are the same, and the occult is still the occult (see ENV's multiple postings on ghosts, spooks, specters, near death experiences, psychic power, and the paper they touted yesterday on the mystic kabbalistic numerology of the number 037 encrypted in the genetic code. Oogity boogity.)

    But to continue:

    Lawyer wanker: is irrational, because it is self-referentially incoherent. It affirms at one and the same time two mutually exclusive propositions: (1) A belief in reductive materialist Darwinism is a true belief; and (2) There is no way to rule out whether in any given case reductive materialist Darwinism has selected for a false belief.

    How, dear me oh how, did wanker lawyer get to (2)?

    First, wanker lawyer Arrington has no evidence that "materialist Darwinism" has selected for ANY beliefs, including religion, even IF materialist Darwinism were true. Religion may be a side-effect of brains copying ideas and habits, like the way computers copy computer viruses. Computers have not been "selected" to copy viruses efficiently. That is a side effect of their ability to copy digital information and execute commands.

    The fact that a computer is infected with a virus is not evidence that the computer was "selected" to copy viruses. Likewise, the fact that a small minority of the human race believes a genocidal war deity fathered a zombie rabbi is not evidence the brain was selected to believe a genocidal war deity fathered a zombie rabbi.

    Moreover, some humans believe in spooks and some do not. They are often closely related genetically. Are we to believe that of two people closely related genetically, one's genes were "selected" to believe in zombie rabbi, spooks, genocidal war deities etc. and the other's near-identical genes were "selected" to not believe in zombie rabbi, spooks, genocidal war deities, etc.?

    Some humans believe in evolution and some do not. Are we to believe that of two people closely related genetically, one's genes were "selected" to believe in evolution and the other's near-identical genes were "selected" to not believe in evolution?

    Given any belief, and given that "materialist Darwinism" as fascist wanker lawyer Arrington calls it were true, one cannot conclude that that belief was "selected" by NS.


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    1. Continuing from above:

      Rather, it is an observational fact that employment of the scientific method yields theories which generally make testable predictions about observable phenomena-- that is by definition; a method which did not yield theories which generally make testable predictions about observable phenomena, would not be the scientific method.

      Evolutionary theory is the winning theory according to the standards of the scientific method; religious belief is not.

      It is an observational fact that humans have barely enough brain functions to employ the scientific method; it is also an observational fact that many humans object to both the methodology of science and also the theories that result from that methodology-- humans like wanker lawyer Barry Arrington.

      The minimal brain functions which make up the scientific method are present in some humans and may even be present in others, like wanker lawyer Arrington, who choose not to use them and object to their use by others. The presence of these minimal brain functions are presumably due to NS. The scientific method is a side effect of these brain functions.

      Why is it that many humans, like wanker lawyer Arrington, choose not to use those brain functions-- using instead other brain functions, like authoritarian belief, desire to dominate others, sexual envy and control, squash dissent, control of minorities etc.? That may be a side effect of tribal cohesion, sexual control, and hierarchical dominance, all of which ID wankers ADMIT they value more than the scientific method, because THEY SAID SO IN THE WEDGE DOCUMENT THEY TRIED TO KEEP SECRET.

      There are more fallacies than these in wanker lawyer Arrington's presuppository theology, but I will conclude by inverting his theistic logic.

      Let us recall that according to wanker laywer Arrington, the human brain was engineered by a genocidal Middle Eastern war deity who fathered a zombie rabbi.

      Wanker Lawyer should have said: Anti-reductionist immaterialist Christianity is irrational, because it is self-referentially incoherent. It affirms at one and the same time two mutually exclusive propositions: (1) That all human brains were designed by a genocidal Middle Eastern war deity who fathered a zombie rabbi; and (2) There is no way to rule out whether in any given case the Christian deities have designed human brains for a false belief.

      THE MAJORITY OF HUMAN BRAINS, ENGINEERED BY HIS GENOCIDAL WAR DEITY WHO FATHERED A ZOMBIE RABBI HAVE NEVER BELIEVED, AND STRONGLY OPPOSE THE IDEA THAT A GENOCIDAL WAR DEITY FATHERED A ZOMBIE RABBI.

      So that was a pretty lousy design-- right!? If his design can't be trusted to identify which deity is real, why should his design be trusted to reject theories like evolution when they are supported by a mountain of fossils and genetic evidence?

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    2. But, Diogenes, Larry was asking you how many seconds it took you to look at wanker lawyer fascist Barry Addington's oogity boogity genocidal war deity's zombie rabbi son - infused masturbatory wanker philosophy to destroy the rights of people to use science and hyperventilate on the internet.
      Give us the shorter version, please.

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    3. Oh, I tried posting the shorter version at UD. Nothing happens.

      Apparently, I was banned from UD without an explanation, like everyone else who doesn't suck up to Arrington there.

      Why would Arrington want his ideas to be challenged, rather than reading BA77's list of links to YouTube videos describing quantum ooga booga and the Shroud of Turin?

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    4. Here is my comment which did not post at UD, but disappeared down the rabbit hole. If you don't have time to read it all, skip to points 1-6 at the end.

      Why do we hear the loudest yelps for reason from those who always taught and proudly advertise that "Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has"?

      Why do we hear the loudest yelps for “rationalism and natural law” coming from those who demand magic and miracles, spooks and deities, countless violations of every natural law of physics, chemistry, biology and geology as the only possible explanation for time, space, energy, matter, planets, minerals, life, biochemistry, animals, plants, geological strata, all fossils, diseases, pain, biocomplexity and everything everywhere?

      Let's take a look at the lawyer's self-contradictions.

      Arrington: Theist: How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?

      So lawyer says evolution selects for belief.

      To back up his claim, he cites Alvin Plantinga, who tells us:

      Plantinga: evolution is directly interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior... not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe... It selects for certain kinds of behavior: those that enhance fitness... It doesn’t select for belief

      Again, compare:

      Arrington: your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?

      Plantinga, cited for support by Arrington: evolution ... doesn’t select for belief

      Should I refute Arrington or the genius he's citing as an authority?

      Let us take another look:

      Arrington: Now immediately the materialist might object... [that] our behavior necessarily follows from our beliefs. Therefore, natural selection indirectly selects for true belief. Not so.

      Natural selection does NOT select for belief, NOT EVEN INDIRECTLY! The wanker is very clear.

      So compare Arrington with Arrington:

      Arrington #1: your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?

      Arrington #2: natural selection indirectly selects for true belief. Not so.

      Should I refute Arrington #1 or Arrington #2? Because they say the opposite.

      Now, we could turn this logic around and destroy creationism.

      (1) Observational fact: Most human brains do NOT believe genocidal Middle Eastern war deity fathered zombie rabbi; most opposed to said belief

      (2) Creationist premise: Human brains were ALL designed by a genocidal Middle Eastern war deity who fathered zombie rabbi.

      What lousy design! Why the disconnect of (2) from (1)? Two possibilities:

      A. Design is accidental.

      B. Design is intentional.

      If A., God is incompetent. If B., God wants us to have false beliefs.

      Either way, the output of our brain is unreliable, at least where deities are concerned, as Christian demonstrate when they resolve their theological differences via their traditional methods, force and violence.

      This is of course traditional Christian theology. Original sin means that we can't trust our faculty of reason to produce reliable answers; and the Bible clearly describes God as deceiving people.

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    5. Of course, evolutionary theory results from a particular subset of brain functions arranged in a particular order, called the scientific method, applied to data and evidence. Religious belief does not.

      Disagreements regarding evolutionary theory can be and have been resolved by appealing to the scientific method, to data and evidence. Disagreements regarding Christian theology (monophysitism vs. dyophysitism, Protestant vs. Catholic, etc. etc.) were not resolved by the scientific method but via their traditional methods, force and violence, as Martin Luther demanded.

      Because one set of brain functions is unreliable, it does not follow that a completely different set of brain functions are equally unreliable.

      Listen some more to the lawyer!

      Arrington: Even ludicrous belief, if it produces survival enhancing behavior, will be selected for,

      Ridiculous! Why should we believe "ludicrous belief" is selected for? What observational evidences is there for that?

      We have observational evidence that NS operates, and NO observational evidence that "ludicrous belief" is selected for!

      Dogs, for example, evolved from wolves, gaining the ability to correctly gauge human emotions and intents, which wolves do not possess.

      Are we to believe that, in the absence of Godly miracles, dogs should have evolved from wolves by gaining WILDLY INCORRECT, ludicrous estimates of human emotions?

      Does the evolution of dogs from wolves, during which they gained ACCURATE estimates of human emotions, require miracles and violations of natural law?

      1. If yes, every animal species requires a constant stream of miracles to keep them from evolving "ludicrous beliefs."

      2. If no, and dogs do not require miracles to obtain one accurate brain function, then humans do not require miracles to obtain one accurate brain function.

      In short: the errors in wanker lawyer's logic are the following:

      1. NS does not select for belief.

      2. Plantinga and Arrington have no evidence NS selects for "ludicrous beliefs." The "ludicrous beliefs" that Plantinga suggests are all MORE COMPLEX than non-ludicrous beliefs, thus they waste brain power relative to simpler beliefs, and they are non-robust. Overly complex hypotheses are NOT ROBUST, that is, they do not adapt well to newly acquired data; overly complex hypotheses are less accurate in predicting data points that have not yet been observed, as any statistician can tell you. Plantinga and Arrington have no evidence NS selects for beliefs of any kind, least of all, overly complex, non-robust, "ludicrous beliefs."

      3. NS selects for genes, which affect brain structure, which affect brain function, which affect beliefs.

      4. Some brain functions (A) seek the simplest explanation for data, for reasons of ROBUSTNESS and minimizing wasting brain energy, and other brain functions (B) don't. The scientific method is an example of (A), religion is an example of (B).

      5. Beliefs about invisible intangible entities that do not interact with matter are of type (B), so no brain functions will cause differences in beliefs of this type to converge to a single, simplest, most robust solution. Historically, differences of opinion here will only be resolved through non-mental functions, typically force and violence. The history of religion confirms this.

      6. The belief in the primacy of reason is heresy according to the most important Christian theologians.

      Martin Luther: "Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom ... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism... She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets." — Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148

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  7. We seem to be hard wired to look for patterns.

    We have a tendency to find patterns in random data.

    For example, consider the night sky and the signs of the zodiac.

    We then seem to want to assign meaning to the patterns that our oh so busy minds keep finding.

    Put those two attributes together, shake and bake in a cultural cauldron, call it religion, and voila - the best system discovered so far for generating meaning from random data.

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  8. The obvious objection seems to me that the origin of an idea is not the same thing as whether or not it's justified to think it true. The bait-and-switch is to ask where the origin of an idea comes from, then take that as the justification of the belief. We account (by this reasoning) for why there is religious belief, as opposed to why it is false. The origin of an idea != its epistemic warrant.

    There also seems to me a flaw is the idea that if one thing is an evolutionary adaptation, then all things must be (or at the very least it is implied that if we consider one thing to be this way, then that should be the base way of thinking for all ideas). The second concern would be that evolutionary theory stems from the scientific enterprise and is not at all obvious to the way people think (it takes a lot of education to get people to understand it), so it's comparing apples to oranges.

    Then there are problems with the faulty premise. When one says religious belief is an evolutionary adaptation - what can they mean by this in order to put it in line with evolutionary thinking?

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  9. Well, 2 things. The first is not connected to this post but to Chrome and Blogger ... I could not post to Sandwalk for quite a while now, and have just found out that if you disable 3rd party cookies on a Blogger site with comments embedded as they are here, ... well you just can't post.

    Arrington has the EM identifying arguments or positions as being evolved ... but no reasonable person would ever say that specific arguments are evolved features of humanity. Religious belief may be a side effect of a possibly evolved characteristic related to socializing and community (say through oxytocin levels, I speculate). In any case, NDS as he calls it would have had until very recently a very negative selection effect.

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  10. After a moment of bewilderment, my first thought was "Can something be selected for in around 3 to 6 generations?". That took around 2 seconds.
    Then about 2 seconds after that I thought "I could make a case that religious belief could produce selective pressure, but how does the belief in evolution produce any selective pressure?"
    But then, I'm not a biologist or a lawyer, so what would I know?

    Just out of curiosity, what was the first fatal flaw that you saw Larry?

    Guy

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  11. Robin has made some comments about arrington's strawman, starting on this page:

    http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=514275a176d3fb7c;act=ST;f=14;t=7305;st=7860

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  12. As soon as I read 'You believe the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis [NDS] is true."

    My brain said "EQUIVOCATION"

    Belief n a god is NOT the same thing as accepting that the overwhelming evidence supports a scientific theory giving a high degree of confidence n its correctness

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  13. I raised my eye browse at Arrington's goofy question "How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?". Even I, a non biologist, knew that it takes a fair bit longer than few decades (which is how long NDS "belief" has been around) for a trait to be selected by evolution. I didn't time myself, but I recognised the mistake straight way. But I see George Marinov was here with this answer well before me.

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    1. Things can be selected for in a much shorter period than a few decades. But you need sufficiently high selective pressure, generation times that are faster than the period considered, and relatively simple mode of inheritance of the trait.

      Neither of these applies here, and in general ideas exist only in the cultural sphere, not in our genes. That includes religion. Certain characteristics of our brain predispose us to falling prey to religious superstition, but there is no evidence or reasons to think religion is somehow encoded in our genes. And if it was, it would not be as easy to get rid of it as simply not exposing kids to it at an early age.

      Now, selection does operate on ideas, but on the level of the cultural sphere itself, that's Dawkins' meme concept. In that sense, religion was selected for because it has characteristics that ensure its survival (especially when combined with the aforementioned cognitive deficiencies of the human species that make us susceptible to it). "Evolutionary materialism", BTW, does not have those - it is actually not at all good at self-perpetuating itself. Compare it with religion - you can be indoctrinated into believing there's a magical being in the sky when you're 2-3 years old and it does not take much more than telling you repeatedly so and exposing you to some fairly conceptually simple preaching. While you can only begin to establish a solid foundation for an "Evolutionary materialism" worldview after you have read quite a lot of books, thought about them, understood the theory of evolution, learned a bit of math, physics, chemistry, molecular biology, etc. This takes years and a lot of effort, and in general, with a few exception, people can only dive into those subjects in their early teens. That's not a recipe for a highly successful meme.

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    3. Thank you for the elucidation George. I do realise that in some cases, traits can be selected for within very few generations, but may be not in this case (assuming that a trait which predisposes its carrier for incredible credulity and naivity has a genetic basis. I know, I know, no evidence for that, but its a thought).

      Basees

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  14. The old strawman one-two sucker punch. Take that, you, you ... straw person, you.

    1) EM: Religious belief is an evolutionary adaption.

    Some might think that, but it's hardly been demonstrated that a tendency to religious belief has a genetic basis which caused increased survival among its bearers in an ancestral population of bearers and non-bearers. And certainly not that belief X is an adaptation , when 'belief X' is invariably transmitted culturally.

    2) Theist: How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?

    How does evolution select over 7 generations or so for a trait with no genetic basis whatsoever? Is anyone born a 'Darwinist'? NDS - to the extent that it is a 'belief' - is a 'belief X', culturally transmitted. It is also, of course, susceptible to investigation, if not direct observation. You sure you're up to speed on the theory you presume to criticise?

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  15. The Plantinga argument used by Barrington falls down on another point, I think. Yes, we are fallible, and have evolved to sometimes get it wrong. For all I know, we evolved to come to the conclusion that the earth is flat, something everybody believed for a long time because if you look around you it seems obviously true.

    But we have also evolved to have logic and communication, and we can argue with each other. Using that, we can collectively arrive at conclusions that are much less fallible than can be reached by any one person. So, starting back about the time of the ancient Greeks, humanity discovered that the earth was a sphere, and ultimately this was spread around by education.

    Similarly for the conclusion that we evolved.

    It sounds like Plantinga and Barry are flat-earthers, they just don't realize it yet.

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  16. http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2013/03/455-barry-arrington.html

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