Oct. 15th, 2009

joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Today's Atheist Meme of the Day:

"Lots of smart people believe in God" is not a good argument for why God exists. Plenty of smart people, throughout history and today, have believed things that were mistaken. Smart people are not immune to error... especially when it comes to beliefs they're deeply attached to. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across

The point is not who said it.  The point is, does the statement have validity and can it stand on its own no matter who says it?  That's the real benefit of the scientific method.  We don't believe in evolution because Darwin said so.  We accept evolution because, no matter who says it, it holds true and no matter who denies it, the truth stands.  Darwin just happened to be the guy to get the paper written on it first (and just barely, at that - some other guy came along with a similar idea and tried to report on it before Darwin felt ready to publish his own ideas).

The Argument from Authority is a logical fallacy.  It is convenient to take someone's word for something when that person has given evidence that he usually knows what he's talking about.  We can't actually fully analyze and study and understand everything we hear.  Sometimes we do have to take "on faith" that what someone says is true.

But the difference between this and the logical fallacy is that we are not accepting that the statement is true just because someone said so.  The statement still has to hold its own.  And if the consensus among people who dedicate their lives to studying the subject disagree with the Authority Figure, then the validity of the Authority Figure must be questioned.

With science, any claim *could* be researched by anybody if they wanted to put in the time and effort to research it and attempt to replicate the study.  So maybe I, as an individual, do not have that ability right this moment because I don't have the background or the money for school to get the background.  But because the statement is researchable, others can research it too.  And if no one else comes up with the same conclusion, then the statement does not stand on its own. 

I don't have "faith" that it's true because someone famous said so.  I believe it's true because I can follow the evidence and so can anyone else, and the evidence consistently points in this direction no matter who is looking at it, provided one is using the scientific method to reduce human error and bias.

It's not true because He said so.  It's true because it's true, and I just happened to hear about it because He said so.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Today's Atheist Meme of the Day is:

It's not reasonable to say that only trained theologians are competent to discuss religion's validity. Most atheists aren't interested in the religion of a few theologians: we care about religion as it's believed and practiced by the vast majority of believers. Besides, many atheists have studied modern theology... and found it wanting. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across

Many religious advocates will end a debate with the idea that if you haven't spent your whole life studying this particular religion, you're not in a position to dispute it.  That is not a valid debate tactic.  It's a discussion ender.  I should know, I've used it myself.

When a person uses this line, it means "I don't have the patience to discuss this with you any further."  It also means that I don't believe you fully grasp all the concepts required to continue this debate.  It's condescending.  So am I, which is why I use it when I've lost my temper and my patience.

There are 3 problems here.  The first is what Greta Christina says, which is that we may not be discussing the theological religion, we may be talking about the greater harm as practiced by people who also aren't trained theologians.  I don't really care all that much that the more accurate translation of some 2,000 year old scroll said "servant" and was mistranslated to say "woman".  What I care about is now, 2,000 years later, millions of people are following the version that says "woman", or worse, believing some guy who claims that it says "unmarried, virginal women" without even reading for themselves the mistranslated version to see if that's what it really says.  That it once said "servant" is interesting, but not really my point when I talk about the harm that religion does in the world or why I don't believe in deities.

The second is that these theologians didn't spend their whole lives studying the thousands of other religions throughout history before rejecting all of them and choosing this one.  So they had better find another reason to dismiss me or be prepared to have their argument dismissed when they can't explain why they didn't apply the same criteria to their own rejection of religion.  No, they chose this one, usually, because it was how they were raised and it's the one they're most familiar with it.  What they *really* mean is that they hope they can finally convince you once they've fully indoctrinated you like they were indoctrinated themselves.

And the third is that one does not need to study all the intricate little details of a hypothesis to reject it when it's basic premise is false, flawed, unlikely, improbable, or flat out impossible.

I do not need to spend 20 years studying the Flying Pink Unicorn Theory, learning all the ins and outs of how he flies through the air farting rainbows and cures cancer only in really *deserving* little boys and girls before I reject your statement that there is a magic pink unicorn in your backyard that instantly transports itself to Guam the exact moment anyone looks at him.  It's so highly improbable on its face that I don't need much more information than that unless the information you have is actual, scientific proof that is falsifiable, replicate-able, has been replicated, and peer-reviewed and accepted, that not only suggests that this theory is true, but also answers all the other questions that the theories without the pink unicorn had previously answered.

And, besides that, I did study religion, and I continue to study religion.  So nyah.


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