In which I agree with Vox Day

I’ve been reading the comments over at Vox’s blog, and it’s pretty hilarious, not to mention providing double your recommended minimum daily dose of irony. For example, here’s Vox attacking the person who brought up my TIA series:

You’re absolutely wrong. Terrible example and you have apparently not read TIA nor understood that Duncan doesn’t even begin to rebut its arguments. He does not show that religion was involved as a pretext in more than 7 percent of the wars in recorded human history. Nor does he explain why no military tactician or strategist has EVER incorporated religion into their military tactics or strategy. His critique is totally invalid.

Now stop making groundless assertions and be specific. Precisely what about that his argument that religion causes war do you find persuasive?

Notice, the primary crime he accuses his critic of is a failure to read and understand the opposing point of view. He then insists that I failed to rebut his argument, and he demands to know what is so persuasive about my argument that religion causes war. Does he have a point? Does my argument—meaning the argument I actually made, not the one Vox attributes to me—fall apart when examined in the light of the evidence Vox cites?

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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Society, TIA. 12 Comments »

Hi Vox.

Well, it looks like Vox Day is once again sending me a bunch of new visitors. I’m afraid the poor fellow hasn’t quite forgiven me for my critique of his sad little book. He has become wise enough not to try any specific refutations of my rebuttals, at least. Stick to the vague, disparaging dismissals, that’s the safest thing.

Eh, Vox?

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Vox Day, War and religion

Via Ed Brayton comes this word that Vox Day is up to his old tricks again. Apparently, now that the so-called “New Atheism” is no longer making headlines, he feels safe enough to try and float an abbreviated version of his straw-man arguments against atheism, in the form of a short stack of Powerpoint slides (downloadable here). Who knows, perhaps it will boost sales of his sad little book?

The first point in his presentation says that the New Atheists claim that religion causes war, and that Vox can prove statistically that it does not. As always, his refutation consists of ignoring the role of religion in war, and focusing instead on an oversimplification that distorts the data so badly he can make any claim he wants. Specifically, for each war in the Encyclopedia of Wars, he asks, “Is religion the cause of this war?” Not surprisingly, given his biases, he “discovers” that only 3.2% of wars are caused by non-Muslim religions, and fully 93% are allegedly “Non-Religious Wars.”

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Posted in Society, TIA, Unapologetics. 7 Comments »

TIA Tuesday: Wrapping up

We come at last to the section of TIA that I have been most looking forward to: the last chapter. Not because it’s deep, or significant, or even because it’s so short, but simply because it is the last. The book ends with one rather pointless sports story, and a tired rant. Speaking of the 2007 Italian victory over the English in the Champions League soccer match between AC Milan and Liverpool, Vox writes:

In addition to seeing the Italians take revenge for their previous defeat with a 2-0 victory, they witnessed Milan’s brilliant attacking midfielder, Kaká, declare his Christian faith with a t-shirt that read “I BELONG TO JESUS”…

The reason Kakà’s prayer resonated so profoundly with Christians and non-Christians alike was because it testified to a higher purpose in life. Very, very few of us will ever know such a moment of complete triumph, almost no one can hope to reach the pinnacle of his profession and know that the eyes of all the world are upon him at the very height of his youth and beauty. In a world full of paparazzi, celebrity magazines, and shallow people releasing sex tapes in a desperate bid for fifteen minutes of fame, it is astounding to see a man reject the mass public adulation he has merited in order to humbly give God the glory.

Yes, that’s right. Humility is the reason he’s flaunting his personal religion, drawing attention to himself apart from his team, and setting himself up for the mass public adulation of millions of Christians who aren’t necessarily even soccer fans, in addition to the acclaim he’s going to collect from sports fans in general.

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TIA Tuesday: The game of life

It’s time for TIA Tuesday again, though it’s rather an abrupt shifting of the gears to go from William Lane Craig to Vox Day, especially when they’re both trying to address the problem of evil. Vox’s approach is a good deal less philosophical than Craig’s, having begun with the premise that maybe bad things happen because God “possesses” knowledge and power only in the sense that He possesses a capacity for both, which He chooses not to exercise, because—well, perhaps an illustration would help.

Vox describes for us a combat video game demo that his game-programming partner, “Big Chilly,” was demonstrating.

During the demo, Big Chilly and the three AI-controlled members of his fireteam had successfully taken out both the wide patrol and the guards, and they were just beginning to lay the explosives to blow the door that held the prisoners captive when there was a sudden burst of bright laser fire that caused him to jump in his seat and emit a startled shriek loud enough to make everyone else in the room jump, too. While his AI squadmates shot down the intruder before anyone’s battlesuits took too much damage, what shocked Big Chilly was that for the first time in hundreds of playings, an enemy AI had taken it upon itself to circle around behind the rescue force and attack it from an unexpected direction.

But how could this happen? How could a lowly artificial intelligence surprise a lead programmer who was demonstrably omniscient and omnipotent in the AI’s world? How can the created do what the creator did not will? The answer, when viewed in this context, should be obvious.

Indeed it is: Big Chilly didn’t know his own game as well as he thought he did. But can the same be said of God?

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TIA Tuesday: An even deeper hole

There’s no hole so deep that you can’t get yourself into even more trouble by digging deeper. I could stop there and have pretty much summarized the next part of TIA Chapter 15, but where would be the fun in that? Last week, Vox admitted that God isn’t really omniscient, but then used an equivocation fallacy to try and argue that God’s omniscience (or “tantiscience,” as Vox calls the inferior omniscience he personally ascribes to God) is merely a potential knowledge, and not actual knowledge.

His excuse for this substitution is that the “capacity” for an action is not the same as the action itself. Thus, since genuine omniscience leads to some intractable problems for theologians, Vox opts to retreat to the idea that God’s omniscience consists merely of the capacity for knowing, not actually knowing. Knowledge, however, is not an action; it’s a state. Learning what you know, and remembering what you know, are actions that involve knowledge, but the knowledge itself is data—a noun, not a verb. To equate knowledge with action is to fall into a serious category error, and it’s an error that Vox uses as the foundation for the next phase of his argument.

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TIA Tuesday: Twisting in the wind

We’re ready to start Chapter 15 of TIA, suitably entitled “Master of Puppets or Game Designer.” Not a terribly flattering set of alternatives either way, but given that Vox himself is a video game programmer, it makes sense that he would follow the traditional Christian practice of inventing God in terms of his own background and interests.

He begins with a cursory overview of the problem of evil.

When one surveys the long list of horrors that have engulfed countless men, women, and children throughout the course of history, the vast majority of them innocent and undeserving of such evil fates, one finds it easy to sympathize with the individual who concludes that God, if He exists and is paying attention to humanity, must be some sort of divine sadist.

Because doubts are reasonable, normal, and inevitable, they should never be brushed aside, belittled, or answered with a glib phrase, for not only does decency demand that they receive a sensitive hearing, but they also can have powerful ramifications that resonate long after the doubter himself has had them resolved one way or another…

But if God exists, it is a basic theological error to attempt to place the blame for earthly tragedies on Him. In fact, it is not only a theological error, but also a fundamental error of logic to conclude that God, even an all-powerful God, must be to blame for every evil, accident, or tragedy that befalls us.

Before we get to Vox’s answer to the problem of evil, though, he spends an entire section trying to belittle and brush aside a related issue, the question of God’s omnipotence.

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TIA Tuesday: The chainsaw runs out of gas

I’ve been looking forward to the end of this chapter of TIA: low-hanging fruit is supposed to be easy to pick, but when it hangs so low that you have to squat down to reach it, it gets tiresome. At least “Occam’s Chainsaw” sputters to a halt on a fairly light note as he tries to address what he calls the “three rational atheisms.” And lo and behold! Vox falls prey to the Gypsy Curse!

There are three variants of atheism that can be considered at least partly rational: these can be described as Somerset atheism, Nietzschean atheism, and Post-Nietzschean atheism.

Somerset atheism is the common practice of moral parasitism described in the previous section. It is a partially rational atheism that functions perfectly well on an individual level but cannot function on a societal level because it depends entirely on the existence of an external morality to support it.

Christianity, of course, borrows its morals (such as they are) from the surrounding cultures, which is why the only real moral innovation in Christianity is the impractical and rarely-practiced notion of loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you. In his haste to do evil to his enemies, Vox accuses them of a flaw that is actually a Christian failing, thus fulfilling the Curse and repeating the stumble that has brought him down so often in TIA. But we still have two more atheisms to go…

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, The Gypsy Curse, TIA, Unapologetics. 3 Comments »

TIA Tuesday: The Disingenuous Vox Day

Vox Day has assembled Chapter 14 of TIA out of a long series of  inadequate and poorly-reasoned drive-by pot shots at atheists, under the rubric of “Occam’s Chainsaw.” Their sole redeeming feature thus far has been that at least they were short. Today, however, we get to a section that is substantially longer, but without (alas) contributing anything of substance. It’s a rehash of the same tired rant Vox has been using all along: that because he (Vox) does not understand the material and secular basis of morality, it therefore does not exist, and atheists have no rational reason to behave morally. Hence the section title: “The Irrationality of Atheism.”

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, Society, TIA. 4 Comments »

TIA Tuesday: An exercise in rationalization

We’ve got a special treat for this week’s installment of TIA Tuesday: a textbook example of manufacturing an argument whose sole virtue is that it gives Vox a pretext for calling the other guys wrong. He calls it his response to “the argument from superior morals.”

There are many atheists who live lives that are morally exemplary according to religious standards. This causes some atheists to claim that this exemplary behavior is evidence of atheist moral superiority, because the atheist is behaving in a moral manner of his own volition, not due to any fear of being eternally damned or zapped by a lightning bolt hurled by an offended sky deity. However, this is a logical error, because while motivation plays a role in how we judge immoral actions, there are no similar gradations of that which is morally correct. There are many evils, there is only one Good.

Only one Good? Is this perhaps a reflection of Jesus’ remarks that only God is good? No, it’s not even that sophisticated. There is only one Good because Vox needs an excuse to deny the existence of the Better, and thus make it impossible, by definition, for atheists to be better than believers.

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, TIA. 4 Comments »