Tag Archives: rationality

The Null Hypothesis: A rational basis for scepticism

This was posted as a response to this blog, Raised by ‘Theological Conspiracy Theorists’: How I Lost my Faith, concerning a former Young Earth Creationist who lost her faith due to uncovering the absurd lies that movement makes about reality. The author betrayed signs of missing religion – understandable, given her whole life has been steeped in it. I attempted to give some advice on how to stay the course and accept her scepticism (I used the American spelling below in view of the audience). The last line was thrown in because the likelihood is the author was hanging on to faith for emotional and moral, not intellectual, reasons.

Subsequent responses are reproduced from godofevolution.com with kind permission by Tyler Francke.

 

“I’m only just starting to claw my way out of deep, angry skepticism back toward religion in general.”

Why not try calm, rational skepticism? Religion has lied to you once, and so it’s quite possible it’ll continue to lie to you.

While YEC is absurdly wrong, take a look at the truth claims even ‘mainstream’ religion makes. Cutting right to the heart of the matter, let’s examine the resurrection. Note that in science, when making a null hypothesis, we use the most likely answer, then attempt to disprove it.

Thus, in order of increasing likelihood, the resurrection was:

1) Jesus rising from the dead by divine intervention,

2) Jesus arising from the dead due to being an alien, or use of alien technology,

3) Someone made it all up, because no religious figure worth his salt in those days didn’t have a resurrection myth e.g. Osiris, Mithras etc.

Dispassionately examine the evidence for this and then decide which is the most likely answer.

It’s perfectly possible to live a fulfilled, moral and loving life without a trace of religious observance. We are a moral species, it comes from within.

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Creationist limericks #2

More limericks – I’m on a bit of a roll!

With views from a previous century
creationist knowledge is quite rudimentary.
Despite our groans,
They believe the Flintstones
is a documentary.

The National Trust is a laughing stock,
in their attempt to turn back the clock,
Giving credence to nonsense,
must weight on their conscience
Yet our complaints to them come as a shock?

The Trust buckled and took the money,
But the stonewalling is no longer funny,
Noah’s Flood has no place,
In a factual space
Anymore than the Easter Bunny.

The National Trust cannot be fussed,
about the truth of the age of Earth’s crust,
Their reputation in tatters
Fact no longer matters
They’re a Trust we can no longer trust.

In the Causeway visitors’ complex
An exhibit promotes young Earth bollocks,
Many times they’ve been told,
it’s not 6,000 years old,
It’s thousands of upended Daleks?

Creationist limericks #1

Here’s my first instalment of limericks to do with creationism at the Giant’s Causeway and elsewhere.

Of the Giants Causeway formation,
an audio exhibit does say,
though their minds are deluded,
some nutjobs concluded
the debate continues today….

Creationists hate good scientists,
with their adherence to reason and fact.
“They’re just showing defiance
to God with their science”
even though their own story is quite whacked.

The National Trust were so foolish,
To Caleb they did consult,
Paying lipservice to dogma,
about how molten magma
formed hexagonal pillars of basalt.

Are creationists really as stupid,
as they appear at first glance?
Ken Ham’s nonsense they swallow,
Yet of science they wallow
in a state of total ignorance.

Fallacio – the act of debunking false arguments

I am not a philosopher. Logic and reason were things I mostly figured out on my own. It is only recently, when debating online with fundamentalists of every stripe, be they religious, homophobic, global warming deniers, conspiracy theorists or even some vegans, that I came upon logical fallacies in their official form.

There are hundreds of them, and it seems fundamentalists use a significant proportion. Everything from special pleading, non-sequiters, straw men and ad hominem attacks, arguments of popularity and tradition, sunk cost fallacies, to suppression of evidence, confirmation bias, slippery slope, arguments from ignorance and of personal incredulity, misrepresentation, and bare-faced lying.

Many of the less honourable acts on the Internet are fallacies of some sort – trolling is a form of poisoning the well, quote-mining is a form of misrepresentation, and ad hominem is a well understood phrase in the faceless Web.

Bullshit (American) or bollocks (UK) is perhaps a new addition. A common argument based on bullshit is the infamous Chewbacca defence – it is an argument of attrition, a tide of nonsense put forward with enough vigour and volume that a rational opponent must either exhaust themselves refuting it, or withdraw from the argument, which is claimed as a victory by his opponent.

The Internet has been a phenomenon – I think of it as the Information Revolution. Perhaps it will herald a new Age of Reason. One thing for sure is that it tests our ability to vet and evaluate information in quantities we have never experienced before. Thus we need to learn reasoning skills at a far earlier age, in favour of raw knowledge. The knowledge is all around us – it is now a cheap commodity, though the quality is variable. It is how we assess that information that is now the premium skill.

This brings us back to fallacies. I blogged a few months back about David Cameron’s proclamation that “Britain was a Christian country” – the implication being that Britain should uphold Christian values for no other reason than our ancestors did. This is a fallacy straight out of the list above, the appeal to tradition – a popular one with Conservatives, as a cursory read of the Daily Telegraph or Daily Mail reveals. My usual response to an appeal to tradition is the example of geocentrism, which was considered by most to be the correct model of the Universe until Galileo Galilee put forward evidence for the Copernican heliocentric model, at the cost of his freedom. Just because most people believe something, does not mean it is true.

If our own Prime Minister, a privileged man with the finest education one could hope for in the UK, can commit such basic errors, what hope for the rest of us? Well, learning how to spot false arguments is a good start (here’s a PDF poster of common fallacies). Teaching our children how to think clearly and rationally is another. And perhaps most importantly, we need to rip asunder fallacious arguments as soon as they are uttered, by the myriad means we now have at our disposal.