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: Vox versus Jesus

Last time we saw how Vox Day brilliantly “refuted” Richard Dawkins’s rebuttal of the cosmological argument by conceding that the cosmological argument doesn’t necessarily lead to any conclusion materially different from ordinary atheistic evolution. In today’s installment, he goes even further, proving Dawkins “wrong” by the simple expedient of throwing out the Gospel and pretty much everything Jesus ever said about God.

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TIA Tuesday: Rhetorical friendly fire

Today’s installment of TIA Tuesday is almost dramatic: Vox Day comes around a street corner in Dodge City and finds Richard Dawkins struggling with a friend of Vox’s, by the name of “ID.”

“Dawkins, you villain,” shouts Vox, “you’ve messed with me and my friends for the last time!” And with that, he pulls out his trusty six-shooter—and shoots poor old ID in the back. “Take that, Dawkins, you loser!” crows Vox, capering around the body of his fallen comrade, with a bemused Dawkins standing there wondering whose side Vox is really on.

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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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TIA Tuesday: Dawkins on morality, theocracy, and psychological abuse.

Last time we saw how Vox Day tried to take a gross failure to understand Dawkins’s point and use it as ammunition against Dawkins. His succeeding two arguments are even more superficial and shoddy, to the point that one gets the impression he’s anxious to finish this part and get it over with as quickly as possible. He makes only passing references to “Dawkins said so-and-so,” and gives out isolated quotes, which in typical Vox fashion, he deals with by assuming that Dawkins must have meant whatever peculiar straw-man interpretation suits Vox’s purposes at the moment. But then we get to point number four and the much more interesting topic of morality. He begins, once again, with some slanted statistics.

It has been established that Christians give three times more to charity and are less criminal than the broad spectrum of atheists; experiments at the Economic Science Laboratory suggest that this might be because they believe that their actions are known to God. In variations on an envelope experiment designed to test random charity on the part of a subject who was given ten dollars as well as the opportunity to share it anonymously, the knowledge that the experimenter was watching increased the subject’s likelihood of giving by 142 percent and the amount given by 146 percent.

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TIA Tuesday: Natural wonders

When I was a teen, one of my chores was carrying the garbage cans down to the curbside every Tuesday and Friday so the trash collectors could pick it up. I’m not sure why I’m reminded of that when it’s time for another TIA Tuesday, but it’s probably just a coincidence. For today’s installment, we rejoin Vox Day as he attempts to prove that Richard Dawkins is wrong—wrong, I tell you—to suggest the opinion that Keats “might have been an even better poet if he had gone to science for some of his inspiration.”

Of course, this speculation is as improbable as it is untestable, given the centuries of evidence demonstrating that science is totally incapable of providing the inspiration for passable poetry, much less the sort of great art that religion has reliably inspired for millennia.

Well, ok, it’s true that, say, the ancient Greek myths have inspired more poetry, sculpture, and art than quantum physics has. And this proves…?

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TIA Tuesday: The historical irrelevance of Christianity

One of the things that Vox Day has done rather well in TIA is to document the fundamental irrelevance of religion to weighty, real-world matters like war. Unbelievers, of course, have known about this for some time, but it takes real skill to convince believers of this fact. Vox’s unsurpassed success in this field is demonstrated by a review, favorably quoted by Vox, which praises him for to thoroughly debunking the idea that religion played any sort of influential role in the outcome of real-world conflicts.

Unsurprisingly given my own background, it was on the subject of history that I found Day’s critiques of the New Atheists – and of anti-Christian arguments in general – to be most convincing. Not only does Harris in particular get it wrong when it comes to understanding the relationship between religious beliefs (or the lack thereof) and warfare, but atheists in general often distort such events as the Crusades, the Inquisition, Adolf Hitler’s personal faith, and the Aztec practice of human sacrifice in their zeal to demonize all religious believers as troglodytic and potentially homicidal maniacs.

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TIA Tuesday: How to disprove Christianity

Last time, Vox used the “play dumb” excuse for not being able to fathom what sort of evidence might convince Dawkins that God was real. This week, he plays even dumber by sharing his own suggested list of potential “evidences” against Christianity.

But if rabbit fossils found in a Pre-Cambrian strata would suffice to disprove evolution, then surely a brilliant scientist like Richard Dawkins should easily be able to come up with a few propositions that would suffice to falsify a specific religion such as Christianity. I suggest a few possibilities:

  • The elimination of the Jewish people would falsify both God’s promise to Abraham and the eschatological events prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
  • The discovery of Jesus Christ’s crucified skeleton.
  • The linguistic unification of humanity.
  • An external recording of the history of the human race provided by aliens, as proposed by science fiction authors Arthur C. Clarke and James P. Hogan.
  • The end of war and/or poverty.
  • Functional immortality technology.

Setting aside the obvious fallacy of demanding that Dawkins prove a negative, it might be fun to take a look at these “evidences” and how they actually relate to the question of whether or not Christianity is true.

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TIA Tuesday: Passing the buck

Over the centuries, believers have evolved a number of techniques for coping with God’s continuous and universal failure to show up in real life. One of the most common ploys is to try and deflect blame from God by blaming people instead. Here’s Vox Day, from Chapter 8 of TIA, to give us an example.

While Dawkins incessantly complains about the lack of evidence for God, he never quite gets around to explaining precisely what proof, presumably scientific, would be sufficient for him. He poses no potentially falsifiable experiment that would suffice to prove or disprove God’s existence nor does he even consider the question of whether any such experiment would conceivably be possible.

Notice the subtle shift from Dawkins’s request for evidence of God, to Vox’s insinuation that Dawkins is insisting on an arbitrary, unspecified, and unreasonably stringent proof of God. God consistently and universally fails to behave as though He believed the things men say about Him, but instead of blaming God’s behavior on God, Vox wants to claim that it is men who are behaving badly, by making impossible demands.

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