Tag Archives: atheism

Why I Do Criticize Israel – A Response to Sam Harris

A few weeks ago, prominent author and skeptic Sam Harris, recorded a podcast entitled “Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?” wherein Harris made a case for Israel as a state and tried to preemptively attack some claims made by modern critics of Israel.

Given the nature of this blog and my views on the subject, I figured that a response to Mr. Harris is in order. However, I thought I’d change it up a bit and record my own little podcast. Please take a listen and I ask that you forgive any cuts that are still audible – this was 20 different takes with different thoughts compressed into one version I think I like.

So, without further ado, I give you Why I Do Criticize Israel:

Here is Asmaa al-Ghoul’s piece entitled Never ask me about peace again.

Response to God and Science.org

So I was sent an article on godandscience.org that supposedly proves god using science and I, the magical and egotistical Peter, am here to refute the claims that are made on this beloved site! I will most likely be referencing other posts I make so be prepared. The page itself is broken up into sections and I will refute them in order.

 

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Rationalizing Prayer

During the course of this post I will be showing what people thinks prayer does and a way to rationalize the, sometimes, big amounts of coincidences associated with “answered prayers”.

 

Point 1: What does payer do?

Prayer is used by people of many different religions to either bring about change in a personal setting or on the world’s stage. Prayer has been used by people like George Bush *GOD BLESS AMURICA* or more recently by governor Rick Perry. To the religious community prayer means a lot and the belief that it actually does something is wide spread and is a basic tenant of almost all religions. I for one used to think that if I prayed to Yahweh he would answer my prayers (of course I have since moved on). But to the secular community prayer seems to be, and is, a way to feel like you are doing something/are in control when you are actually doing nothing/are not in control. During the course of this article I will give a way to rationalize the somewhat off coincidences associated with answered prayers.

 

Point 2: An Example.

So a while back a post was written in a group I a member of and the post said this:

“I signed up online to get texts from the news for school day closings and whatever.But I always end up getting extra texts about random news. Yesterday I got a text it said they put out an amber alert for a missing 4 year old boy in Ohio at 12 at night. I prayed and prayed that he wouldnt be harmed, that his parents would be able to have as much peace as they could in the situation, and that he’d return home safely. I prayed for about and hour straight. I fell asleep. About two hours later, I woke up for no reason. I looked at my phone to check the time, it was a text from my news. It read ‘an amber alert for a missing pickaway county boy has been lifted. He was found safely in lanecaster, Ohio.’ God is sosososo good. ♥”

And I questioned this by asking if they ever thought that this could merely be coincidence. I got an answer. The answer was that in some cases it could be but if one looks at the events that happened on that night it is obviously divine intervention. The same person that wrote the previous quote wrote this:

“1. I could not go to sleep at the usual time.

2. I signed up to get texts to tell me when Westerville city schools have a snowday, or just school closing in general, yet I get other texts such as ‘a semi on 270 has a gas leak’ and ‘Obama says he will not release photos of Osama.’ even though I canceled and re applied specifically for school closing texts.

3. Once I got the amber alert text, I prayed for an hour, then I fell dead asleep.

4. I randomly woke up two hours later, looked at my phone to see what time it is, like always. There was a text, from about 10 or 15 minutes before I woke up, saying he had been found safe.

5. Like I said, I was only about the text saying he was found safe was received only 15 or 10 minutes Before I woke up for no reason..”

These are all fine and dandy but let’s rationalize them!

 

 

Point 3: Rationalization.

Of course small things that will already happen but are prayed for a quite easy to explain. One simply says “It would already happen.” and that is that. It’s the things with lots of oddities that make prayer seem to work. Before I go in depth into this we will analyze the 5 points laid out above. Point number 1 is just saying that the person could not sleep at the usual time which is not all that odd because their mind was either engaged, they had eaten something that kept them awake etc. This is really not special in the least.

Point number 2 says that even though the person applied only for school closing texts, they got others as well. Since the site was not given I cannot do research into it but I do not find it surprising at all that this would happen. Most likely the texts had an advertisement at the bottom (much like ChaCha) which is a way for them to make money so the more they send you the more they make which would explain lack huge numbers of texts that were received. Of course that could not be the reason and the person merely signed up incorrectly or did not successfully stop the first set of texts. There are countless ways to explain this that it is not special at all. I feel that I needn’t waste more of anyone’s time debunking 2.

Point number 3 is just saying what happened. Nothing needs to be said here.

Point number 4 says that the person randomly woke up and looked at her phone only to find a text that said the kid was safe! Amazing right? Not per se. Randomly waking up is not mysterious at all seeing as body functions could easily be beckoning or a dream woke her up. (Remember, if one wakes up within a REM cycle or within 5 minutes after one you will not remember your dream) This is not magical at all. As to the kid being found, according to FBI statistics 99% of all the kids that go missing each year are found thus is not surprising at all that the kid was recovered.[1] Of course the child could have been part of the 1% that are not found but that is improbable.

Point 5 basically says the same thing as 4 and thus all my arguments can be applied here.

But let me put it another way, what would one say if the child had not been found? “Oh, well, god didn’t answer it.”? Or, more likely, she would have forgotten about the child. These things only seem extraordinary because they happen. If the kid was not found she would not have given it another thought. This is a form of anthropic principle to be used with prayer. The simplest way I can put it is: If the child were not found there would be nothing to attribute prayer to. Prayer necessitates something to happen thus if nothing does there is no use in thinking about prayer at all.

 

Point 4: Scientific data.

Is there any scientific data on the effectiveness of prayer? Well yes actually, there is!

Galton, who loved to quantify everything from intelligence to female beauty, collected mortality data on groups of people who were the objects of much prayer—kings, clergy, missionaries—and found that they lived no longer than others. Moreover the proportion of stillbirths suffered by praying and nonpraying expectant parents appeared similar.[2]

There are many cases where prayer has been tested in double-blind studies and has shown to be ineffective in hospital stays/mortality rates etc.. Of course there are some examples where prayed for patients do better but that is nothing compared to the amount of sameness between two groups. But also let’s look at one of the most famous prayer experiments, the Harvard Prayer Experiment (HPE)! The HPE was set up in the following way: There were 3 groups of Cardiac Bypass Patients who were assigned to 3 conditions. Group 1 was told that they may or may not be prayed for when in actuality they were not. Group 2 was told the same thing but they were actually prayed for. Group 3 was told that they would be prayed for and they were. The results are as follows:

“Some patients were told they may or may not receive intercessory prayer: complications occurred in 52 percent of those who received prayer (Group 1) versus 51 percent of those who did not receive prayer (Group 2). Complications occurred in 59 percent of patients who were told they would receive prayer (Group 3) versus 52 percent, who also received prayer, but were uncertain of receiving it (Group 1). Major complications and thirty-day mortality were similar across the three groups. Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups. (13 in group 1, 16 in Group 2, and 14 in Group 3)
Not only did prayer not help the patients, those that were told they were being prayed for experienced more complications.” [3]

Point 5: Conclusion. 

Numerous scientific experiments as well as all the unanswered prayers in the world prove that prayer is NOT effective in the least and in some cases actually is counterproductive! So remember, not only is there no god but the myth of prayer is just that, a myth.

~~Peter

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1: “Missing Children Myths | SparkAction.” SparkAction | For children. For youth. For change.. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2011. <http://sparkaction.org/node/223>
2: “Prayer.” DavidMyers.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2011. <http://www.davidmyers.org/Brix?pageID=53>
3: “FreethoughtPedia.com.”FreeThoughtPedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Aug. 2011.  <http://www.freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Harvard_prayer_experiment>

Debunking the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God

The astute reader of my blog will notice that I have debunked two big arguments for god but have neglected to mention the third. The third is known as the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG as it shall henceforth be refered to as). This argument is, as the Christian Aplogetics and Research Ministery (CARM) says,

“This is an attempt to demonstrate the existence of God using logical absolutes.  The oversimplified argument, which is expanded in outline form below, goes as follows:  Logical absolutes exist.  Logical absolutes are conceptual by nature, are not dependent on space, time, physical properties, or human nature.  They are not the product of the physical universe (space, time, matter), because if the physical universe were to disappear, logical absolutes would still be true.  Logical Absolutes are not the product of human minds, because human minds are different, not absolute.  But, since logical absolutes are always true everywhere, and not dependent upon human minds, it must be an absolute transcendent mind that is authoring them. This mind is called God.”1
Of course I could point out a number of flaws in the paragraph above but I fail to see the need to since most of the above will be outlined in the argument itself. **Let it be noted that I have taken some of the finer points out as to keep this post short but I shall still refute them. If you wish the read the argument in it’s entirety please see foot note 1.**
 
The argument:
 
  1. Logical Absolutes
    1. Law of Identity
    2. Law of Non-Contradiction
    3. Law of Excluded Middle (LEM) 
  2. Logical absolutes are truth statements such as:
    1. That which exists has attributes and a nature.
    2. Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time.
    3. Something cannot bring itself into existence.
    4. Truth is not self-contradictory.
    5. Therefore, Logical Absolutes are absolutely true.  They are not subjectively true; that is, they are not sometimes true and sometimes false, depending on preference or situation.  Otherwise, they would not be absolute.
  3. Logical Absolutes form the basis of rational discourse.
    1. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then truth cannot be known.
    2. If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then no rational discourse can occur.
    3. If Logical Absolutes are not always true, then it might be true that something can contradict itself, which would make truth unknowable and rational discourse impossible.  But, saying that something can contradict itself can’t be true.
    4. But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true.  Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth.
    5. If they are not the basis of rational discourse, then we cannot know truth or error since the laws that govern rationality are not absolute.  This would allow people to speak irrationally, i.e., blue sleeps faster than Wednesday.
  4. Logical Absolutes are transcendent.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on space.
    2. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on time.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on people.  That is, they are not the product of human thinking.
  5. Logical Absolutes are not dependent on the material world.
    1. Logical Absolutes are not found in atoms, motion, heat, under rocks, etc.
    2. Logical Absolutes cannot be photographed, frozen, weighed, or measured.
    3. Logical Absolutes are not the product of the physical universe, since that would mean they were contingent on atoms, motion, heat, etc., and that their nature was dependent on physical existence.
    4. But, if the universe did not exist, logical absolutes are still true. 
  6. Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    1. Logic is a process of the mind.  Logical absolutes provide the framework for logical thought processes.  Therefore, Logical Absolutes are conceptual by nature.
    2. Expanded:  Logical absolutes are either conceptual by nature or they are not.
  7. Thoughts reflect the mind
    1. A person’s thoughts reflect what he or she is.
    2. Absolutely perfect thoughts reflect an absolutely perfect mind.
    3. Since the Logical Absolutes are transcendent, absolute, are perfectly consistent, and are independent of the universe, then they reflect a transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind.
    4. We call this transcendent, absolute, perfect, and independent mind God.
The way I plan to do this is the points I have an objection with I will copy like this: and refute them here.

That which exists has attributes and a nature: While I agree this is true, the question regarding the nature of god is raised. In the example given by CARM is that “a cloud exists and has the attributes of whiteness, vapor, ect. It has the nature of water and air” . The key thing regarding this is that the way in which the word nature is used. It reflects the definition that states “the elements of the natural world”2 thus meaning that if god were to exist, according to CARM’s own argument, he must be made up of physical elements or things since that is how nature is used and what it means.
Truth is not self contradictory: While I agree with this premise as well it eliminates the Bible as being the truth. The reason this is so, is because truth must not be self contradictory meaning that for the Bible to be true it must not have any internal contradictions. **Here one could say that this only refers to a saying such as “you are reading this and not reading this at the same time”1 but if one goes by the definition of self-contradiction which is “contradiction of oneself or itself”3  we can see that for the Bible to be true it must not contradict itself. ***In some rare quantum cases this can be broken, see bellow***

If the Logical Absolutes are not absolute, then no rational discourse can occur: I would say that logical absolutes cannot be not absolute (in the same universe that is). To prove this I will use the three logical absolutes given above. The first one, the law of identity says that something is what it is and isn’t what it isn’t. There is no way for this to be false. If a cloud is a cloud is is not not a cloud. If a cloud is not a cloud it is not a cloud and it is something else. There is no amount of semantical word play that can be done where one can conclude that a cloud is not a cloud and is a cloud. With point 1 there is no need to worry about it ever not being absolute. Let’s look at number 2, the law of non-contradiction. This is that something cannot be true and false at the same time in the same sense. This cannot and will not be broken regardless of what anyone does. True and false in the same sense are mutually exclusive and thus there is no need to worry about this one either. The third is basically the same saying that a true/false statement cannot be somewhat true/somewhat false. This again cannot be conceivably broken since true and false are discrete values. They are not in a continuum and thus there is no fear that this one will be broken either. But even if they could be, rational discourse could still occur. One could talk about sports, or the weather, or family life. All this could still occur but there would be a chance it would get odd. One can still engage in rational discourse even if someone is contradicting themselves. Rational discourse is merely successful communication and that can still be achieved.

If Logical Absolutes are not always true, then it might be true that something can contradict itself, which would make truth unknowable and rational discourse impossible.  But, saying that something can contradict itself can’t be true: All this is is a big what if statement. What if things don’t contradict themselves? Then truth can still be known. This premise is pretty baseless and it is also ignoring the point that somethings can contradict themselves whist still being true. For example, let’s look at light. There are mountains of data that shows that light is a wave but when one looks at it through the lens of the photoelectric effect it appears as a particle. This is in direct contradiction but both are true. The truth about light contradicts itself, some data show it is a particle whereas others show it is a wave but one can easily say it is either a particle or a wave. This point falls.

But since we know things are true (I exist, you are reading this), then we can conclude that logical statements are true.  Otherwise, we would not be able to rationally discuss or know truth: This too is a flawed premise. I do not know you exist and you do not know I exist. I do not know anyone exists and you do not know anyone else exists. If one takes a look at the solipsist point of view one can see that the only thing that is sure to exist is ones own mind thus we do not know things are true. We must make assumptions to start off thus this premise is false.

If they are not the basis of rational discourse, then we cannot know truth or error since the laws that govern rationality are not absolute.  This would allow people to speak irrationally, i.e., blue sleeps faster than Wednesday: How can truth not be known? As I have shown above, even if it is possible for the aforementioned logical absolutes to be broke, things can still not contradict themselves thus truth can be known. But again, somethings can contradict themselves and still be true as is the case with light.

Here I will lump together all the contingency arguments: The claim is made that these logical absolutes are not contingent on anything (natural that is) and thus if the universe just ceased to exist these logical absolutes would still be there. From the outside this may seem like a sound argument but I assure you that it is not. The logical absolutes are not dictating the way the universe must behave (which is what they would be doing if they were not contingent upon the universe), instead they are merely describing interactions in our universe. Since they are describing actions in our universe they are contingent upon it since if the Universe ceased to be, these logical absolutes may not still be true. It may be hard to grasp that the Law of Non-Contradiction may not hold true at a time, but asserting that it will always hold true, even in a universe with vastly different interactions is taking a huge leap of faith. The burden is now on the proponent of this argument to prove that these would hold true in every possible form of universe (which is of course impossible to prove since we have not observed even one other universe).

Here I would also like to quote Michael Martin, a man who proposed the TANG. The Transcendental Argument for the Non-Existence of God. Martin has the following to say on logical absolutes being contingent upon god:

“Consider logic. Logic presupposes that its principles are necessarily true. However, according to the brand of Christianity assumed by TAG, God created everything, including logic; or at least everything, including logic, is dependent on God. But if something is created by or is dependent on God, it is not necessary–it is contingent on God. And if principles of logic are contingent on God, they are not logically necessary. Moreover, if principles of logic are contingent on God, God could change them. Thus, God could make the law of non-contradiction false; in other words, God could arrange matters so that a proposition and its negation were true at the same time. But this is absurd. How could God arrange matters so that New Zealand is south of China and that New Zealand is not south of it? So, one must conclude that logic is not dependent on God, and, insofar as the Christian world view assumes that logic so dependent, it is false.4

The above statement is showing that the TAG necessitates logic be contingent upon god which just doesn’t fit with what logic is. **Here one could argue that previously I said that logic was contingent upon the universe yet here I say that logic cannot be contingent upon anything. Contradiction? No. As stated above, logic is used to describe the universe thus if there is no universe, there is nothing to describe thus logic ceases to be. Logic is only necessarily true in a universe.**

The final objection I want to make before I end this all is to the claim that says A mind that is irrational, will produce irrational thoughts, A mind that is rational, will produce rational thoughts: This is not necessarily true. But before I show why it is not I must expose the assumption being made. The assumption that is being made here is that humans are irrational which is not true at all. Irrational is defined as “without or deprived of normal mental clarity or sound judgment”5 thus if humans have normal mental clarity or can make sound judgments, they are not irrational. All one has to do to prove that humans are not irrational is to talk to a few of them.
Now that we have shoved this assumption aside let’s look that the points being said. It is said that an irrational mind will produce irrational thoughts but this is simply false. Even if one ignores the above argument and asserts that humans are irrational, this premise would mean that the equations describing gravity are irrational. The equations describing electromagnetism are irrational ectectect but we know this is not the case because if it were we would not be able to plot amazingly accurate trajectories of rockets or be able to even view something on a computer. This alone proves that “irrational minds” can produce rational thoughts.

Conclusion: The conclusion that CARM draws is, obviously, that god made the logical absolutes!! This is, of course, false seeing as a) a thing creating logic undermines logic and b) logical absolutes need no creator, they are merely descriptions of the universe.


~~Peter


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1: Slick, M. (n.d.). The Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry . CARM – Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from http://carm.org/transcendental-argument


2: Nature. (n.d.). Dictionary.com. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from dictionary.reference.com/browse/nature


3: Self-Contradiction – Definition of self-contradiction at YourDictionary.com. (n.d.).Dictionary and Thesaurus – Free Online at Your Dictionary. Retrieved June 22, 2011, from http://www.yourdictionary.com/self-contradiction


4: Martin, Michael . “The Transcendental Argument for the Nonexistence of God.”Secular Web: Atheism, Agnosticism, Naturalism, Skepticism and Secularism. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2011. <http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/martin-frame/tang.html>.


5: “Irrational .” Dictionary.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 June 2011. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irrational>

Re: The Greatest Killer

This is a response to the author of The Greatest Killer which is located on Victims Against Crime which is located here. What is said is essentially that secular states have killed the most people. The way I will refute this is I will copy a quote from the article and put it like so: //Quote goes here// and I will proceed to refute it OR I will simply state what is being said.

After reading just a few paragraphs in the first insane claim rears it’s ugly head. This claim is that “survival of the fittest has devalued human life”. This is just not true. The claim, survival of the fittest, is just a way of explaining how, when shoved in primative situations, organisms would survive. It makes no claim regarding human life. The author then claims that if there is no God there is no objective morality. This is also not true, even if one believes in an objective moral standard evolution provides an extremely easy explanation which is as follows: In tribal settings where food is scarce and just getting food is extremely difficult, working with people increases your chances of survival whereas working alone or killing people lowers your chance. Thus one can see that the evolutionary standpoint provides a nice explanation for the objective morality that is “given by god”.
Moving on:

Here the author is just quoting people who are “defining humans”. I see no need to waste time adding anything on this except that claim that this is just stupid. People don’t believe humans are “an accidental twig”.
The author says the following: When atheism takes hold of a society, moral relativism is inevitable.” Moral relativism already exists! Just look at what is deemed acceptable regarding murder in American and in waring African nations. They are different. Would you like a more, close to home example? Take abortion. Some Christians accept abortion and other do not. There, moral relativism. Now, the author tries to argue that the rise of atheism has lead to the rise of many Communist dictators. He goes more in depth into this later and I will refute it then. 

Next the author tries to make the claim that wars were not the biggest threat to human life. What I have to say to this is, ORLY? If one JUST looks at WWI and WWII the combined casualties are over 80 million people. Even if we take all the assertions made in The Black Book of Communism which is referenced in the post, they are about equal. And I only mentioned two wars. So one cannot claim that wars have not been serious threats to life. But let’s see what happens when we add the Korean and Vietnam Wars. There were roughly 4 million casualties in Korea and there were over 300,000 American casualties alone. Thus one can see that war is a huge threat to life. But let’s continue:

 

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