Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Atheist Scam

[Christopher Hitchens, atheist, alcoholic, former Marxist]

1 - The fossils prove that life in the distant past was much different than life today. [This is true.]

2 - Therefore Darwinian evolution is clearly true and Genesis is clearly false. [This is a fallacy, and falsifies the rest of the argument.]

3 - Therefore the "argument from precedent" is clearly true, meaning that scientists have consistently discovered natural causes underlying things once thought to be supernatural, such as the origin of species. The logical inference is that since past gaps in knowledge have been filled by naturalistic explanations, probably all remaining gaps in knowledge will be filled by them as well. Hence we should presume that any unexplained fact has a natural explanation.

4 - Therefore, since everything has a natural explanation, we may use the "argument from absence" to support atheism. If the supernatural exists (whether as gods, powers, or spirits), it is so silent and inert that its effects are almost never observed, and if they would be observed we would presume a natural explanation will be found based on the above "argument from precedent". Therefore there is no evidence of God and atheism is true.

Religion is not needed to be happy. A person can be perfectly happy by simply enjoying the world's physical pleasures to the greatest extent possible. Religion, on the contrary, distracts a person from life's pleasures and unnecessarily inhibits him from enjoying them.

Religion is not needed to be moral. A person can be perfectly moral by simply following his natural, inner conscience. Religion, on the other, encourages hatred of anyone different.

Therefore, an atheist will logically be the most moral and happy person. The low crime rate for atheists in English speaking countries and in Western Europe proves this. It is true that Communists killed millions, however they did that because of their belief in Communism, not their lack of belief in God.

[In fact, there is no question that Orthodox Jews are on the average nicer, happier and more sober than atheists.]

So the atheist skips merrily and illogically along, going from fossils to Darwinism to naturalism to atheism, hedonism and natural morality.


Henry said...

Christopher Hitchens is such an idiot he is not worth taking seriously

DrJ said...

I'm back from a bicycle trip in through Slovenia, nice and refreshed and ready for some good debate.

You claim that point #2 is the Achille's heel of the atheist argument. You have repeatedly acknowledged the validity of only the "exact sciences" of laboratory and measurement and allow only for study of the present. By doing so you summarily discard all scientific work which relies on inductive reasoning, including economics, history, medicine, and psychology. Even inductive logic and things stated about the past CAN be tested, because they also make predictions that can be reproduced. The process of evolution is being observed in the PRESENT time. Admitted, the changes are small, over the time that they have been measured, but the process has been verified. Recently it was documented that a species of lizard native to one island was place on another, and after only a few years significant morphological changes occured. Mutations of viruses and bacteria are observed NOW.

Regarding point #4-- I don't claim that we'll pinpoint that exact naturalistic explanation for everything, and I don't have to. But if I have a tool that has successfully solved many puzzles by naturalistic means, why must I resort to a metaphysical tool for things that I don't understand yet, when it has failed to explain things in the past based on the evidence? You gave the example of the eclipse, but the torah and rabbinic literature (not just talmud) is full of claims about the metaphysical causes of disease, mental illness, blindness, natural disasters, droughts and man-made catastrophes.

jewish philosopher said...

Henry, Hitchens is certainly a lunatic and he is also respected as one of the leaders of the atheistic community. What does that tell us about atheism?

DrJ, please don’t waste my time attempting to prove evolution unless you can explain how something so astronomically improbable could have happened and you can explain how the fossils demonstrate gradual change rather than sudden change.

“the torah and rabbinic literature (not just talmud) is full of claims about the metaphysical causes of disease, mental illness, blindness, natural disasters, droughts and man-made catastrophes.”

Science still cannot predict any of these disasters and illnesses. No one can tell us when the next major earthquake will occur or when the next killer hurricane will hit. In spite of the most advanced medical care, the death of Tim Russert came as a shock. Therefore there is no reason believe that Divine providence is not involved in these events.

What if the bacteria in your toilet bowl are saying to each other “We can explain everything without believing in the existence of so called ‘humans’. This bathroom could have completely natural causes. Why should we think such incomprehensible intelligent designers exist?”

DrJ said...

Divine providence is able to predict nothing. Science on the other hand is able to predict, to varying degrees of accuracy, weather, oceanic, atmospheric, and cosmological phenomena. Divine providence stands up to no standards of statistics or logical testing.

The fact is that through the past several thousand years of recorded history, the sciences are explaining more and more of the world, and the metaphysical and divine less and less. Soon, religion, the biggest con job man ever invented, will fade into oblivion as an explanation for how the world works, except among a few die hard believers who blind themselves to the facts around them.

jewish philosopher said...

I can’t really vouch for “religion”, including shamanism, animism, Mormonism, Scientology, or what have you.

I can however say that Judaism still does a wonderful job of explaining what it has always explained – origins. Science has made some progress in describing what is happening now and almost no progress in predicting the future or for that matter explaining the past.

jewish philosopher said...

The fact is that in my humble opinion, even if Darwinian evolution would be true, the "argument from precedent" makes no sense.

Would anyone argue that there is no point in searching for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe because so far all UFO sightings have been found to have other causes?

DrJ said...


I can explain to you how I deal with your objections regarding the apparent improbabilities of abiogenesis and mutations from simple to complex life forms.

1. Suppose you take a walk and find a green Dentyne wrapper in a specific place on the sidewalk. Now ask, 20 years before, If I were to ask somebody, what is the chance that 20 years from now, there will be a green Dentyne wrapper on this specific place on the sidewalk, on this specific date and time, and somebody named JS will walk by and see it? The answer is, exceedingly low; yet it happenned, because of out of all of the millions of improbable things to occur, some of them will definitely happen.

2. The human mind is wired to be able to grasp magnitudes within a certain range, that occur within our experience. I few inches, a few miles, a few years, a few hundred items, etc. We cannot conceive of things that are exceedingly small or big. Can you picture 93,000,000 miles? A thousand light-years distance? 10 million years? An Angstrom of distance? Most certainly not. Yet they exist and we accept their existence. Similarly you cannot grasp extremely small improbabilities (non-zero), over vasts amounts of time and space, and what they mean, except in mathematical models. Your intuition doesn't help here.
So you might say that both of us believe in things we can't quite grasp-- mine is naturalistic and yours is not. I go with naturalistic because that's "where the money is"-- the approach has led to great progress and achievements.

jewish philosopher said...

The fallacy regarding the Dentyne wrapper analogy is that living things demonstrate complex purposefulness, the gum wrapper doesn't.

Take for example words printed on a page. Let's say I were to argue that those words formed by someone spilling ink on that paper. After all, some shape had to form when the ink spilled, isn't this shape just as likely as any other? Furthermore, the universe is so incredibly huge and old isn't it quite possible that in some cases spilled ink would form spontaneously a legible document? And in addition, natural explanations (random ink blots) are always better than artificial explanations. (I don't know why.)

Before we prove that God exists, how about proving that you exist. What proof is there that there is a DrJ? Because you leave comments on this blog which contain information. Well, DNA also contains information. If there is no proof of God, then likewise there is no proof of a DrJ.

I think that once we accept that the fossils do not prove Darwinism and do not disprove Genesis, we are pretty much back to square one philosophically, meaning that secularism, atheism and agnosticism have no validity. This is why atheists fight fanatically for evolution.

Anonymous said...

I was reading this philosophy professor -- a guy out of wisconsin who write about this stuff. a Jewish guy. He said basically that evolution does not prove or disprove the existence of G-d.
JP, I am a sort of one foot in and one foot out kind of Jew -- I go to minyan sometimes, do Shabbot at my Chabad rabbi's home. Argue all the time about difference aspects of Judaism. I have serious BT black hat cousins.

I don't really have a question -- I am just amazed at all the Jblogging in general and read much of the formerly frum types quite a bit. I do think a few things.
One, the formerly frum or bitterly currently frum are first and foremost writers. This means they are going to read anything written with something of an insider's idea that it may be, well, just a person writing it. This would include Torah.
Second, they are serious people. They are thinking hard about truth. They write and write about it because they have a million and one objections and questions.
Third, Judaism is truly hard for some people -- I am among them. Y'know what else is hard for some people? having a typical job, or a typical marriage and family, or holding mainstream views on every and anything. there are born contrarians. often they are a little different. the jblog skeptics strike me that way. they also strike me as angry - which i can say from personal experience is a very big factor in rejecting the world or parts of it.

Just thought i would chime in.

MikeTwo said...

JP, you hit the nail on the head with this comment:
"The fact is that in my humble opinion, even if Darwinian evolution would be true, the "argument from precedent" makes no sense.

Would anyone argue that there is no point in searching for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe because so far all UFO sightings have been found to have other causes?"

That's perfectly reasonable. I do think we should keep searching for God. But if every time something that was once attributed to a god (Apollo's chariot for the "motion" of the sun, Poseidon's anger for stormy weather, all sorts of gods being responsible for natural disasters, lightning, the seasons, most recently the complexity of life, and soon (probably) the origin of life) -- if every time we've said "I wonder how this works," and someone else said "Because of God!", and they turned out to be wrong... doesn't that mean that when new questions arise the God solution should be seen with some skepticism?

If every UFO sighting has turned out to be a hoax, you don't stop looking for life, but you do starting regarding new UFO claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. That's basically atheism applied to UFOs. Replace UFO with GOD and you get the same.

(One final point: Although I agree with most of the paraphrased analysis in your blog entry, I disagree with all the parts that say things like "Religion, by contrast, [does something bad for people]" That's not necessarily true -- there are good and bad people with and without religion. Some use religion as a source of inspiration and benevolence, others use it as a weapon. The atheist argument does not depend on how people use religion (whether right or wrong), but only on whether the claims of that religion are true.)

jewish philosopher said...

I think that most of us realized sometime ago that the Greek and Roman pantheons were bogus. Modern science didn't discover that. What atheists today focus on is the Bible, and basically creation story vs. the fossil record. I don't think that one thing creates a precedent, and in any case I think atheists are misinterpreting the Bible.