Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The atheist barmaid's error

I'm usually a big fan of Jesus and Mo but today's cartoon is a bit disappointing. It is "resurrected" from 2009 [nerve2] and it is prompted by an excellent article on militant atheists written by Nick Cohen [The phantom menace of militant atheism]. Even Jerry Coyne likes it [A wonderful attack on the "militant fundamentalist atheism" trope].


The issue here is whether an atheist needs to study all religions in order to be an atheist. The barmaid seems to concede that point since she advances arguments that require knowledge of specific religions. Both of her examples require the provisional acceptance of gods because they refer to particular properties of those gods (i.e. whether they can have sons and prophets).

A Christian, for example, would happily engage the barmaid in a debate about the the divinity of Jesus as long as they begin with the assumption that gods exist. In order to engage seriously in that debate, the barmaid would have to read a ton of Christian apologetic literature. In other words, she would have to understand "sophisticated" religion. She would not be defending atheism even if she won the debate since there are billions of religious people who don't believe in the divinity of Jesus.

But atheists, by definition, don't believe in gods. The only arguments that are relevant are whether gods exist. Those arguments are not specific to any particular religion and they certainly aren't going to be found in the Bible or the Qur'an. I do not accept the premise that gods exist so I'm not the least bit interested in studying the religious beliefs of anyone who begins with the "fact" that gods exist. I'm about as interested in debating whether any of the gods had children as I am in debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.1

The atheist barmaid made a mistake. She should have said "Let's see - I understand that all religions begin with the idea that gods exist. What evidence do you have that this is true?"


Or, for that matter, the problem of evil. If there are no gods then there's no problem. Debating the "problem" of evil or whether Jesus is the son of gods is just like debating the cut of the Emperor's new clothes [On the Existence of God and the Courtier's Reply].

27 comments :

  1. Larry says: The atheist barmaid made a mistake. She should have said "Let's see - I understand that all religions begin with the idea that gods exist. What evidence do you have that this is true?"

    For IDiot me the scientific evidence for God still looks like:

    The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause whereby in biology (behavior of matter self-assembles) a collective of intelligent entities at the molecular level (self-replicating genetic systems) combine to cause emergence of intelligence at the cellular level, which combine to cause the emergence of intelligence at the multicellular level, to create us who are thereby a trinity of self-similar intelligence levels at different size scales each systematically and behaviorally in their/our own image, likeness.
    http://theoryofid.blogspot.com/

    And:

    The computer model also provides a precise, testable and scientifically useful operational definition for "intelligent cause" where each of the three emergent levels can be individually modeled, with a model predicted to be possible that generates an intelligent causation event, now goal of further research and challenge for all.
    http://www.planetsourcecode.com/vb/scripts/ShowCode.asp?txtCodeId=74175&lngWId=1

    Your opinion of who or what "God" is is irrelevant to discussion. The only opinion that matters in my case is mine. Therefore scientific evidence for "God" was just presented to you.

    I will anxiously await how you respond to my giving you what you asked for, Larry.

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    1. "The only opinion that matters in my case is mine."

      Therein lies your problem, Gary.

      Oh, and your opinion is not "scientific evidence".

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    2. Stating that opinion is not "scientific evidence" is a strawman argument.

      It is also scientifically unethical to not allow cognitive science to be presented as "scientific evidence".

      Insultingly speaking for me is an example of your antisocial behavior that makes you a danger to science.

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    3. Cognitive science... it doesn't mean what you think it means.

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    4. @Gary,
      There's a difference between "emergent" and "external" - guess which one the computer models you linked to earlier demonstrate.

      If your model is that any intelligence is externally provided as a rule set, it's not really that surprising to find that failing to provide a suitable rule set results in lack of intelligent action.

      That does not, however, actually say anything about emergent intelligence or need of design for that to exist.

      I think I suggested trying genetic algorithms as another approach. If you want to model emergent behavior, you might want to try using a system that allows it.

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    5. And now we have a new answer for this question:

      Larry, what makes a person who explains/teaches science like this a "creationist"?

      Said person presenting it as scientific evidence for "God" comes to mind.

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    6. Said person presenting it as scientific evidence for "God" comes to mind.

      According to your logic (not mine) similar religious implications of Darwinian Theory requires you to throw Evolutionary Theory out of science:

      Theistic evolution, theistic evolutionism or evolutionary creationism are views that regard religious teachings about God as compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory, but a range of views about how the science of evolution relates to religious beliefs.
      -
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theistic_evolution

      I'll be awaiting your excuse for a science stopping double standard that allows Darwinian and Evolutionary Theory to be used to explain how God works, while all other scientific theories where that is possible are deemed to be a religion then demonized.

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    7. Gary,

      Scientific, naturalistic evolutionary theory, whether "Darwinian" or otherwise, is not used to explain how "God" works, and that goes for any so-called "God".

      Evolutionary theory is not an evil, conspiratorial agenda intended to eliminate religious beliefs. The goal of biological evolutionary research and theory is to discover, study, understand, and explain the historical (back to the first replicators if possible), current, and future diversity, interactions, genetics, environments, extinctions, and other aspects of living things.

      Evolutionary theory and evidence can be and are often used in discussions and debates to explain how religious beliefs that deny or distort evolution are nonsense, but that's only because ignorant, narcissistic, religious zealots constantly deny and attack the evidence of evolution and assert that their religious beliefs are vastly superior to scientific, naturalistic evolutionary theory.

      Scientific, naturalistic evolutionary theory is not a religion.

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    8. The whole truth, if you objectively study the model and theory you would discover that the theory does not even care what you do with your "natural selection" based paradigm that comes from Darwinian Theory only. Evolutionary Theory contains Genetic Theory and probably thousands of others, along with Darwinian Theory which is like a drop in the bucket to explain evolution. Using the phrase "Evolutionary Theory" when you are only talking about natural selection based "Darwinian Theory" misleads others into believing that I have to disprove all in biology just to have a cognitive theory that explains how intelligence and intelligent cause works.

      Your belief that scientific theory cannot explain how God works is not shared by Evolutionary Creationists or even mainstream religion. The stereotypes you believe have led to religiously driven science denial, you probably thought you were immune from.

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    9. Gary, when I say "evolutionary theory" I am including all credible aspects of scientific, naturalistic evolutionary theory. I am not just referring to "Darwinian Theory" or natural selection. To me, there's no such thing as "Darwinian Theory". Darwin should get credit for whatever 'theory' (or theories, hypotheses, inferences) he put forward (including his mistaken ones) but the term "Darwinian Theory" and other terms with Darwin's name in them are mostly used by religious zealots as deliberate slams against evolution and evolutionary theory.

      Evolutionary theory has progressed a lot since Darwin, and it will continue to progress as more evidence is found and more things are figured out. Religious zealots constantly bring up and bash Darwin, even though he has been dead for a long time, because they see him as an evolution and evolutionary theory authority figure that is the most important direct competitor to their religious authority figures (yhwh-jesus-holy-ghost, etc, etc., etc..).

      To religious zealots, finding and bashing flaws (whether real or imagined) in Darwin is somehow going to disprove that evolution has ever occurred, put a permanent end to scientific, naturalistic evolutionary research and theory, and automatically make their particular religious beliefs the absolute, inarguable TRUTH for all time.

      Authority is extremely important to religious people, and the more religious the more important authority is. They think that because they see authority as so important, evolutionists must see it the same way, and that evolutionists must then see Darwin as the absolute authority, i.e. the 'God' of evolution and evolutionary theory. And of course such an important 'authority' that didn't zealously promote 'God-did-it' must be denigrated, censored, and destroyed by religious zealots.

      Gary, you're the one who said:

      "I'll be awaiting your excuse for a science stopping double standard that allows Darwinian and Evolutionary Theory to be used to explain how God works, while all other scientific theories where that is possible are deemed to be a religion then demonized."

      But now you say:

      "Your belief that scientific theory cannot explain how God works..."

      Are you mixed up or what? I did not say that scientific theory cannot explain how God works, but I will say it now. Scientific theory (or theories) cannot explain how "God" works and they don't try to. If anything, scientific theories show that "God" doesn't exist, although that isn't the reason for scientific theories. It's just a side benefit.

      You're now arguing a distortion of your previous assertions, and you're putting words in my mouth and beliefs in my head that are not representative of what I previously said. You've moved the goal posts, flipped the field upside down and backward, and are pretending to be staying on point. Frankly, it's hard to respond to you in a reasonable way because what you say is so illogical, inconsistent, contradictory, and incoherent.

      Take some advice, get off the internet, and go do something positive with your life. Leave evolutionary evidence, research, and theory to people who have the ability to understand it. If you feel that you must, there are ways in which you could contribute to scientific knowledge, but trying to push a designer-creator-god into evolution and evolutionary theory isn't the way to do it.

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    10. Gary,
      did you even read the snippet you posted from wikipedia? Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory and cannot be used as a basis for a scientific evidence of anything.

      Let's repeat that: Evolutionary Theory does not provide scientific evidence of gods and Evolutionary Creationists using it for that purpose is not science. Could you rephrase the "double standard" in a way that's supported by some evidence?

      About the whole creationist question - you were posting that as a protest of equating ID with creationism, and here you are now explaining how God works. Now do you see why someone would find the denials of religious agenda behind ID tiresome and dishonest?

      To borrow a page from you playbook, I'll be awaiting your explanation on why a model that's supposedly based on a theory of emergence on multiple levels has no mechanism for emergence on any level.

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    11. Gary, if you are trying to equate ID with theistic evolution, then good for you, great, we win the argument-- because neither one is a scientific theory, neither one is science.

      Gary: "I'll be awaiting your excuse for a science stopping double standard that allows Darwinian and Evolutionary Theory to be used to explain how God works"

      Using evolution to explain how God works is a religious belief, like Intelligent Design, it is not a scientific theory and it is not science, like Intelligent Design.

      Gary: "Your belief that scientific theory cannot explain how God works is not shared by Evolutionary Creationists or even mainstream religion."

      Evolutionary creationists and mainstream religion, like Intelligent Design, are espousing a religious, not a scientific, belief.

      No Gary, it was you who asserted an analogy between theistic evolution and Intelligent Design. We agree about the analogy, and to be consistent, we say neither theistic evolution nor ID is science.

      Do you still like the analogy you pushed or would you like to take it back now?

      Gary, you seem to be claiming scientific theory can explain how God works. Is that what you're espousing? So that makes you a creationist, right?

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    12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwinism

      Also called Darwinian theory. It originally included the broad concepts of transmutation of species or of evolution which gained general scientific acceptance when Charles Robert Darwin published On the Origin of Species, including concepts which predated Darwin's theories, but subsequently referred to specific concepts of natural selection, the Weismann barrier or in genetics the central dogma of molecular biology.

      ....

      The term was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in April 1860,[4] and was used to describe evolutionary concepts in general, including earlier concepts such as Spencerism. Many of the proponents of Darwinism at that time, including Huxley, had reservations about the significance of natural selection, and Darwin himself gave credence to what was later called Lamarckism.

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    13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-Reformation

      The Counter-Reformation (also the Catholic Revival or Catholic Reformation) was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War (1648), and was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation. The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort composed of four major elements:

      1. Ecclesiastical or structural reconfiguration
      2. Religious orders
      3. Spiritual movements
      4. Political dimensions

      Such reforms included the foundation of seminaries for the proper training of priests in the spiritual life and the theological traditions of the Church, the reform of religious life by returning orders to their spiritual foundations, and new spiritual movements focusing on the devotional life and a personal relationship with Christ, including the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality. It also involved political activities that included the Roman Inquisition.


      It's neither 1648 nor 1860 anymore, so what are these historical snippets supposed to show?

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    14. Gary,
      did you even read the snippet you posted from wikipedia? Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory and cannot be used as a basis for a scientific evidence of anything.


      I showed you that Evolutionary Theory is scientific but is likewise used religiously. Why do you still make exceptions for the scientific theory Evolutionary Creationism came from to be taught in the public schools?

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    15. Gary, you're not even trying to make sense anymore.

      Cows, snakes, integers, stars, money, music and underware have been used religiously but that doesn't mean they are religion.

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    16. Cows, snakes, integers, stars, money, music and underware have been used religiously but that doesn't mean they are religion.

      Then why does the scientific theory I defend instead become nonscientific religion just because it likewise has been used religiously?

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    17. Then why does the scientific theory I defend instead become nonscientific religion just because it likewise has been used religiously?

      It doesn't, it just isn't a scientific theory to start with and using it religiously doesn't make it one. Since you haven't been bothering to address the critique before, please note the comment on "The logic of lawyers."

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    18. it just isn't a scientific theory to start with

      I am obviously trying to reason with a science denier who is attempting to stop science that does not serve your religious agenda by using scientifically unethical tactics. You're simply creepy.

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    19. I am obviously trying to reason with a science denier
      What?

      You present a toy model of a singular designed organism in a designed environment, claim it is "scientifice evidence of God" and when confronted accuse them of being a science denier?

      ...

      I just don't know anymore. Either you are being pathologically dishonest or I need to find a way to inform Gary Gaulin from Discovery Institute that some cretin is posting creationist tripe in his name.

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    20. Gary, it seems that yout original introduction to Intelligent Design is somewhat different than the one you pasted here and no longer available. No matter, here's the webcache content in case you want to defend that instead:


      The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause whereby an intelligent entity is emergent from another intelligent entity in multiple levels of unique organization who sum to produce an emergent self-similar biological entity behaviorally in their own image, likeness. Nonrandom behavior of matter is here the “behavioral cause” of molecular intelligence, which is in turn the “intelligent cause” of cellular intelligence, which is in turn the intelligent cause of multicellular intelligence, which is in turn the intelligent cause of collective intelligence. In this way human male and female gender itself has an “intelligent cause” from a simpler cellular male and female gender, which has an intelligent cause from an even simpler two-allele molecular replication process which has a “behavioral cause” from matter which we are ultimately an expression of. In engineered designs, intelligent cause is from the intelligent entities that produce them.


      But, since you addressed the comment about emergence we can continue this there.

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  2. It's a cartoon, which I am assuming makes an effort to be amusing. Your suggested reply, Dr. Moran, is a fine response but is not amusing in the least.

    I think the description by the barmaid of the particular religious claims is amusing precisely because (1) they are so obviously implausible, and (2) when she states that simple fact, the reaction by Jesus and Mohammed is, ironically, that she's said something outrageous.

    So: amusement value of the particular claims, and amusement value of the irony in Jesus and Mohammed's responses to a reasonable factual evaluation of those claims by the barmaid.

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  3. Gary said:

    "For IDiot me the scientific evidence for God still looks like:....."

    So, Gary, you claim that your chosen, intelligent "God" designed and created intelligence in cells, genes, molecules, or whatever, right? As a part of that alleged divinely-designed intelligence, you claim that cells, genes, molecules, or whatever, make intelligent guesses and that their form and function are due to those alleged intelligent guesses, right? And your claims include the alleged guesses that cause harmful, disabling, disfiguring, and/or deadly diseases and other problems in living things, right? So then Gary, you're claiming that your chosen, intelligent "God" is responsible for all of the suffering and death that is caused by those alleged intelligent guesses, right?

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    1. Yeah, I don't see how Gary's shitpile is evidence for God. But what I really want to ask him is:

      Gary, do you think there are any humans or human institutions that know more about God's purposes than others? For example, consider the claim "Homosexuality is disapproved of by God." Which human institution(s) do you think has enough reliable knowledge about God's desires and commands to be able to make claims of this form and be right most of the time? Which human institution(s) are right more than 50% of the time when they claim to know God's purposes which should be applied politically?

      TWT, you make the mistake of always asking people about their religious BELIEFS. IDers believe that they can conceal their beliefs; they think they are smart enough to evade discussion of religious beliefs. ID is about the defense of churches and churchmen as political institutions. So which churchmen are they trying to prop up with science? Which churchmen does science say should have the suthority to impose God's will on us?

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    2. So, Gary, you claim that your chosen, intelligent "God" designed and created intelligence in cells, genes, molecules, or whatever, right?

      No I did not say that. I quoted the first sentence of the theory, which states:

      The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause whereby in biology (behavior of matter self-assembles) a collective of intelligent entities at the molecular level (self-replicating genetic systems) combine to cause emergence of intelligence at the cellular level, which combine to cause the emergence of intelligence at the multicellular level, to create us who are thereby a trinity of self-similar intelligence levels at different size scales each systematically and behaviorally in their/our own image, likeness.

      When applied to mainstream Christian theology the above theory explains how God works. There is a giant difference between explaining how something works using a testable model, and an untestable God did-it answer you wrongfully accused me of providing.

      Which churchmen does science say should have the suthority to impose God's will on us?

      Strawman arguments are a good indicator of your unwillingness to be scientific.


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