Logic’s Last Stand

June 10, 2008

A Letter to Canada Free Press

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Zurahn @ 9:13 am

This is an e-mail I wrote in response to the article Logical Proof of the Existence of a Divine Creator, Why Atheism is Not Logically Sound. Given I am a Canadian with knowledge in the area of logic and religious argument, I felt compelled to speak in favour of Canadian atheists.

Dear Sirs and Madams of Canada Free Press,

I write to you out of concern of your site’s integrity having such a piece appear on your site. I will get to the problems shortly; however, a particular issue I have is that if the writer had replaced atheism with a particular religion instead, it would have been considered horribly inappropriate and offensive. This double standard needs to cease.

Personally, however, I would not have a problem with a sound, tactful argument against the position of atheism, which this article is not. It rehashes tired logical fallacies that have been repeated and refuted ad nauseum for centuries. Despite it being a lengthy article, he essentially repeats three fallacies over and over: The first cause argument, an argument from incredulity, and an argument from authority.

The first cause argument (also known as the cosmological argument) is that anything that exists must have been created by someone — a “design” must have a designer. The fallacy here is very simple in that it’s just an infinite regression; by that logic, the designer requires a designer requires a designer, etc.
Detailed background information: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/

Argument from incredulity is that you don’t know and/or cannot imagine how something could have happened, so “God did it”. While the creation of the first matter is something unresolved in science, arguing that “God did it” raises more questions than answers and is also subject to the same complications of the first cause argument.
Further detail: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_incredulity

Argument from authority is to refer to someone in an authoritative position and take their opinion as justification, in this case Anthony Flew. Though one man’s opinion means nothing at face value, Flew didn’t even write the majority of the book in question (source: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/12/craig-annoyed.html). The main point though is not philosophical position, but evidentiary argument, which none is provided.
More information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

It is clear from the article that not only does the writer (and given it was published, editors) have a severe lacking, ironically, in rational thought, but also in scientific knowledge. The following paragraph pretty much epitomizes this,

“The central point of the atheist, that all somehow came about randomly through evolution, does not help them either. While a separate column will deal with the scientific arguments for creationism and evolution, the topic is not germane here. Going back to the example of a set of encyclopedias, a set of Britannicas does not write itself, not from one massive ink blot and not starting out as dots, which form letters, which align into perfect phrases, paragraphs, books and sets. In fact, it’s even more incredulous to say that they aligned so perfectly, step by step and dot by dot than it is to say that all appeared at once. Yet that’s what the atheist contends when he chalks up life’s existence to gradual and detailed formation with no Creator at the helm.”

1 – Evolution explains the diversity of life after it is in place. This is not speculative, nor is it debated in the scientific community. If a scientist could give any evidence at all directly contradicting the theory of evolution, he would win a Nobel prize in at least one field. In simple terms, alleles (part of the genome) in offspring have mutations. These mutations may be good, bad or neutral depending on the environment and can be passed down to offspring if they have them. If a mutation is good, then it is more likely the organism will survive and reproduce, thereby passing down the mutation. That’s the essence of evolution.

The analogy of encyclopaedias is broken in that encyclopaedias are not living and do not reproduce, evolution is mostly non-random (the only part of evolution that could be described as “random” are the mutations, which are then filtered by the non-random process of natural selection; that is, however well that mutation affects the organism’s ability to survive in the environment).

I would particularly suggest further knowledge in this area:
Excellent series of videos – http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=GpNeGuuuvTY
Wikipedia entry is very thorough and well-sourced – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution
I’d also suggest the entry on its factual nature and the scientific terminology of “theory” as opposed to its colloquial usage – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_as_theory_and_fact

2 – Here (and repeatedly throughout the article) the writer calls everything in the universe “perfect”. The planets in “perfect orbit” the universe “perfectly tuned for life”. The planets are on elliptical orbits, for one. There are a massive amount of stars and planets, and within our view can only find life here, showing a distinct lack of precision in the universe’s ability to support life. We as humans are subject to thousands of virii, bacteria and parasites that under an evolutionary viewpoint are logical progressions would under a creationist viewpoint support a malevolant creator, and so forth.

3 – The writer continually summizes “the atheist” viewpoint under an all-encompassing scientific umbrella, though without scientific knowledge. Atheism is merely one who is without theism — does not accept, given the amount of evidence available, the notion of a god. An atheist need not know the answer to anything to be an atheist, just be without a belief in a god or gods.

I will digress at this point as this letter is long enough as it is. I would hope in the future that you have a bit more of a thorough process of editing for your materials because it is difficult to be as wrong as the writer is in this article. I can expand further if requested, but I hope it is clear at this point the problems with this piece.

Thank you for your time,
Derek Hamilton

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5 Comments »

  1. PURE OWNAGE except perhaps could have used non-wikipedia sources to avoid any potential criticism.

    I hope this gets published in an actual newspaper for people to read, but 99% chance it never gets anywhere but this blog.

    “One cannot conclude a column like this without mentioning philosophical and logical proofs of the Divinity of the Bible, the Torah. To begin with, the Bible is the only book in the history of mankind to make the claim that part of it was given by the Creator in front of an entire nation (of 600,000 families, totaling a few million people).
    (. . . )
    If someone were to come along today with a book, claiming that its Divine transmission had been witnessed by millions of people, they’d be laughed out of the room.”

    Oh irony, why are you so strong against the religious

    Comment by Yarcofin — June 10, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

  2. I guess someone really hit a nerve if it’s getting you to write so much about it. When you’re done trying to censor everything else you disagree with, will you also try to send their proponents to gulags, as did your like minded ilk or will you be contented with just blogging?

    Thank you Ben Stein.

    Comment by EXPOSED — June 10, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

  3. If there is a question on the Wikipedia article, they can cite the source. The reading was for their benefit anyway, I already know the majority of the content.

    And wow, a creationist in my comments? If I were up for censorship, I probably wouldn’t have posted this publically and linked to the article. I probably wouldn’t have suggested tactful debate, either. Saying that calling logically fallacies stupid is censorship is like saying that if you don’t teach astrology as science it’s “censorship”.

    I “write so much” because it is important philosophically, socially and politically. To have a Canadian news outfit to publish an article as wrong in so many areas that required mere minutes of research to show is not something I as a Canadian citizen feel comfortable just letting slide.

    Oh, and actually, I was being brief. I could have expanded much further if I merely wanted to dispute all the details as opposed to make an editorial comment.

    Comment by zurahn — June 10, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

  4. You write the paper seeking to quash the article but you wonder how that’s censorship. The logic of you atheists is astounding.

    Anyway, the writer actually asked us to pass around his follow up. Spoke with him tonight. He said he’s “up to his ears in ranting and raving atheists” but that none of you made sense.

    Here’s his follow up:
    CLICK TO SEE

    Comment by EXPOSED — June 11, 2008 @ 2:55 am

  5. Alright, let me try creationist logic on for size:

    I MADE A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH, THEREFOR THERE IS NO GOD.

    If you question the merits of my argument, it is censorship! CENSORSHIP!

    Comment by zurahn — June 11, 2008 @ 12:26 pm


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