TIA Tuesday: Does Vox really understand?

In reading Vox’s response to Daniel Dennett, in chapter 10 of TIA, it’s sometimes easy to jump to the conclusion that Vox doesn’t really understand the issues Dennett is talking about. For example:

[Dennett] raises [the] possibility that religion is merely a by-product of evolution, otherwise known as a spandrel. It’s here that the philosopher finds himself in logical trouble. Both of Dennett’s memetic proposalsand [sic] his subsequent argument against Starke and Finke’s economic case for the rational value of religion directly contradict his assertion of the way that evolution’s remarkable efficiency means that a persistent pattern amounts to proof—”we can be quite sure”—that the pattern is of benefit to something in the evolutionary currency of differential reproduction. How, one wonders, does Dennett fail to grasp that a creed which explicitly states “go forth and multiply” is likely to be inordinately successful in evolutionary terms, genetic or memetic?

Vox seems to like the argument that religious people are more likely to reproduce than non-religious people—as though nobody really cared much one way or another about sex until Moses came along and showed them in Genesis 1! This kind of silly, superficial thinking suggests that Vox hasn’t really put much effort into trying to understand how religion and evolution would interact in the real world. All he really seems to be interested in is mining the idea for talking points he can use to make religion sound better than atheism.

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TIA Tuesday: Imagine there’s no heaven

Last week, we left Vox cackling gleefully amongst the flaming debris of what he thought was the wreckage of Dawkins’s Ultimate 747 argument—an argument that Vox “demolished” by the unexpected strategy of admitting that Intelligent Design is a self-defeating sham. This week, he serves heaven as well as he has served ID, in his presentation of the anthropic principle.

As we saw before, the flaw in the anthropic principle, as an argument for an intelligent Creator, is that it fails to distinguish between imaginable alternatives and those which are actually possible in the real world. As Vox correctly points out, there is not—so far—any conclusive scientific reason for supposing that any other configuration of the fundamental physical constants of the universe could actually occur in objective reality.

Only by postulating a potentially infinite number of universes can our wildly improbable universe become mathematically probable. Of course, there are no signs of any of these other universes, nor did science ever take the idea of parallel universes seriously until the alternative was accepting the apparent evidence for a universal designer.

If, however, the total number of actual possibilities is limited to one, then it is at least an exaggeration to refer to the 1:1 probability as “wildly improbable.” By Vox’s own argument, the anthropic “problem” is not so much an improbability as a misperception.

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Vox Day’s favorite theistic argument

Somebody offered Vox Day a chance to respond to a blog meme originally intended for atheists, and he decided to have some fun with it. I think his answer to question 7 is particularly revealing.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

The evidence argument. It’s proven to be rather difficult to refute since the vast majority of atheists have a very poor understanding of what evidence is – their tendency towards science fetishism often causes them to believe only scientific evidence is evidence – and quickly find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to deny the existence of things they quite clearly believe.

Notice what he’s doing here: he’s claiming to have evidence (“difficult to refute” evidence, no less), without ever offering any actual examples. I can well believe that this sort of empty boast is Vox’s favorite argument, as we’ve seen him use it before.

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TIA Tuesday: Consider the possibilities…

Here’s a warm up for today’s excursion into the wild world of TIA. Ready? How many answers are there to the question “what’s 2 plus 2?”

Right, it’s a trick question. There’s an infinite number of answers: 48, 823, 1, “walnuts”, and so on. But there’s only one correct and relevant answer: 4. In other words, there’s a difference between the number of imaginable possibilities, and the number of valid possibilities. We need to keep that in mind, because today Vox is going to try and take down Richard Dawkins by appealing to the anthropic principle. Let’s see if he makes out any better than Geisler and Turek did.

The anthropic principle has been an embarrassing problem for secular scientists in recent decades due to the way in which the probability of the universe and Earth just happening to be perfectly suitable for human life is very, very low. The extreme unlikelihood of everything being not too hot, not too cold, not too big, and not too small, to put it very crudely, has often been cited as evidence that the universe has been designed for us, presumably by God.

“Presumably” is right. This is an argument that is built on presumptions, but more significantly, it’s built on a failure to distinguish between imaginable possibilities, and valid possibilities.

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Why Vox Day fails

I know it’s not TIA Tuesday, but this popped up recently on Vox Popoli, and it’s a really clear example of why Vox’s attempts at debunking fail so badly. He’d like to prove that he has the inside scoop, the intelligence, and the objectivity to see what other people miss, but what he really ends up showing is that he has failed to understand the material.

As I have mentioned before, anyone who repeats the common atheist talking point that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is demonstrating one of two things. The first option is that they haven’t actually thought about it; they’re simply echoing what they’ve heard before. The second is that they aren’t very intelligent.

There’s also a third option: they’ve realized that truth is consistent with itself, and therefore when you claim that extraordinary things are part of the real world, then we ought to be able to find these extraordinary things in the real world. That, however, does not seem to be an option Vox is willing to consider.

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Medium, Message, and Intelligent Design

One of the topics creationists like to bring up is the idea that DNA molecules constitute some kind of “message” which we can use as the basis for concluding that intelligence was involved in its invention. We could, of course, point out that analogies between DNA and “words” are just that—analogies. We can use analogies to help our limited minds grasp the complexities involved, but in the end, saying that DNA is “like” a string of words only tells us how we perceive DNA, not necessarily anything about DNA’s origin. And if we think about what a message is, and what distinguishes a message from a natural configuration, we can demonstrate that there is an even better reason for rejecting the “DNA=words” argument.

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Neurostition

What do you get when you cross neuroscience with superstition? One answer might be the word I made up for the title of this post. A somewhat longer answer, though, can be found in Chuck Colson’s latest post at townhall.com.

In a recent issue of the New York Times, respected columnist David Brooks described how what he calls a “revolution in neuroscience” is shaping “how people see the world.” I agree with him—up to a point…

Our brains are not “cold machines.” Rather, “meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings.”

And Brooks is right when he says that research like this will turn the recent debates over atheism into a “sideshow.” There is simply no way to sustain a “hard-core” materialistic understanding of human consciousness and morality in light of the new research. Where does the consciousness and moral decision-making come from?

That’s a question with an interesting answer, but before we look into that, what shall we make of Colson’s triumphal declaration that recent neurological studies have sounded the death knell for materialism?

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Christians Launch Campaign against Global Warming Hype | Christianpost.com
WASHINGTON – While it may seem like everyone believes in global warming and the impending catastrophe it will bring, a group of conservative Christians countered that message Thursday by launching a national campaign to gather one million signatures for a statement that says Christians must not believe in all the hype about global warming.

The “We Get It!” declaration, which currently has nearly 100 signers, is backed by prominent Christians including Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, award-winning radio host Janet Parshall, and U.S. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

What supporters of the statement seek is to inform Christians about the biblical perspective on the environment and the poor, and to encourage them to look at the hard evidence, which they say does not support the devastating degree of climate change claimed by mainstream society.

Ok, maybe just one comment: are these the same people who claim to be able to see “signs” of the imminent return of Christ? Any bets on which signs we’re going to see fulfilled first?

 
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Testing worldviews: what the “experts” have to say about naturalism

We come now to the third and final test proposed by schooloffish in his post “DOES YOUR WORLD VIEW PASS THE TEST?“, at least as far as naturalism is concerned.

What do expects say about this world view? Many of the experts that reject naturalism from within the scientific community are blacklisted so scientific experts are hard to find, but they do exist. In addition to this, the actions of the experts within the field speak volumes. It seems interesting to me that science has started looking at other planets for life. The naturalist knows that life simply could not have happened in such a short span of time here on earth, so they are looking at other planets for evidence that itoccurred elsewhere and was deposited here. This is a silent admission that evolution is in trouble.

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Testing worldviews: the canards of creationism

We’ve been looking at schooloffish’s post “DOES YOUR WORLD VIEW PASS THE TEST?,” about whether various worldviews (naturalism in this case) live up to standards of self-consistency, evidence, and “what the experts say.” In today’s excerpt, schooloffish thinks he has found some problems with evolution that all those PhD biologists have somehow failed to notice.

Since evolution postulates that things evolve from simple cell organisms into complex ones, there should never be a stage where the complexity of an organism cannot be reduced to a less complex stage (calledirreducible complexity). Has any one ever wondered how the heart could have continued to work as it mutated from two chambers to four? How could such a defect still keep the mutated creature alive? How could an animal with a half flipper and half leg survive? It seems logical to assume that a half flipper would not allow the organism to swim and the half leg wold make hunting on land impossible as well. It seems that the organism would starve to death of be a perfect meal for a non-defective creature. Lastly, how can abiogensis occur? How did a rock turn into DNA? These questions have been largely ignored because they show that the naturalistic world view should only be rejected as false.

Well, no, actually, that’s not true. Not only have these questions been extensively studied, scientists have made some significant progress towards finding reasonable answers. It’s not the questions, it’s the answers that are being ignored—by creationists.

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