Class Warfare Blog

February 2, 2018

Do You Buy This Argument?

Clearly our educational system is failing, heck it has failed. In the last 100 years, the average IQ of Americans has been stuck at 100 and if we are going to solve the problems of the future, we need to get smarter!

Is this a valid argument?

Do you accept it?

You should not.

IQ tests are “re-normed” every year, that is the average IQ test score, whatever it is, is defined to be a score of 100. Studies have shown that actual IQ scores are 10% higher now than they were 100 years ago, which means that a tester with a score of 100 (aka “average”) now would have had scores 110 back then or a tester back then who scored a 100 would score a 90 now.

So, this “complaint” about “the system” is taking what is actually a positive result and making it sound negative. This is not a new practice. People have been cherry-picking evidence since the dawn of making arguments. Often this is exacerbated by ignorance but possibly as often this is done with full knowledge of such distortions. The unfortunate thing for us is this practice is becoming acceptable to large swaths of the American people.

We see it in politics and we see in religion. For example, Christian apologists keep trotting out arguments that were disproved centuries ago as if they were new. I can’t believe all of them are ignorant to the facts, so some of this is done deliberately. What happens to an apologist who is caught out, basically telling an “untruth”? The answer: nothing. Similarly, in politics, politicians who lie and are shown to have known the truth ahead of the lie suffer no ill effects. We used to have a joke from many, many years ago that went: Q: How can you tell a politician is lying?, A: His lips are moving. This was considered funny and was based partially upon the fact that politicians are not allowed to tell the truth in many cases due to security issues (it is illegal to release “top secret” info) or they have been ordered by political superiors to not tell the truth yet (timing issues), etc. Now, lying is so commonplace that politicians don’t even bother responding to journalists who catch them lying. It is almost as if they are saying “Of course I was lying … didn’t you see my lips move, fool!”

If we are to save our democracy, we need to become better participants as citizens. We need to make sure there is a penalty for lying. To do this we need to stop trying to be universal experts in every political issue that comes up as that is a Herculean task and we are not demigods. Pick a topic (climate change, dark money, gerrymandering, whatever) and set out to become educated about that topic. Heck pick two topics, but whatever topics you pick, learn about the nuances. Then fire away.

In the absence of an educated citizenry, we will fall victim to arguments that sound valid, such as the one above, created by those wanting to manipulate the process and do not care for the truth, the people as a whole, or democracy in particular. We are many, they are few. No matter how many of us chose to become “experts” in a particular topic, we will still be many and they will still be few. But if we continue to flounder and, watching the “news,” bounce from topic to topic we really know nothing about, we will fail. We are many and they are few … and it is easier to organize a few than many.

Oh, and the answers you seek are not available on the “news.” In fact, I am not sure there is anything of value any more in the “news,” so if you think you are keeping up on current events because you watch “the news” on TV, you are being duped. I never watch TV “news” and when I stopped, I became much better informed on the issues I care about.

Advertisements

January 27, 2018

Breaking News: Religious Faith No Longer Needed!

I ran across an amazing breakthrough yesterday and needed some time to process it. Apparently the existence of a god or gods is now proven and therefore religious faith is no longer needed or wanted! Why operate upon a basis of faith when one has proof?

The document under discussion was posted at The Christian Post under their “Christian Evidence” column. The title? Need Proof That God Exists? Check This Out! The subtitle was “If you ever needed proof that God exists – here’s 30 of them.” What followed was astonishing. The first four on the list were the usual suspects: the ontological argument, the teleological argument, the fine tuning argument, etc. but then things got interesting in the form of 25 new proofs never before published! Here for example is #5:

  1. The Golden Ratio. In God’s creation, there exists a “Golden Ratio” (the mathematical constant of 1.618) that is exhibited in a multitude of shapes, numbers, and patterns whose relationship can only be the result of the omnipotent, good, and all-wise God of Scripture.

And here is #15:

15: Specific Bible verses have numbers and themes in the text of the Bible that seem to line up with the locations where the verses are found. This requires a supernatural author. For example, Matthew 24:42 is about the Day of the Lord. It is the 24th chapter, it’s about the DAY (24 hours) of the Lord; and the 42nd verse (reverse of 24) is the key verse to watch out for we don’t know when this DAY will occur. These three references to things related to 24 are all found in the 24,000th verse of the Bible (now that really sets it apart)! Mathematics shows it’s statistically impossible for this to be chance occurrence (calculated at billions to one could not be coincidence).

The sheer breathlessness of the presentation of these glaringly obvious proofs points to the author of the list being a home-schooled high school valedictorian. But I might be wrong in that guess (unlike the author).

Let’s just take just these two apart to see what we can see.

#5
The exposition here seems somewhat incomplete as geometry is loaded with the fingerprints of the Lord and not just in the Golden Ratio. Take for example the fact that the interior angles of a square, actually any rectangle, add up to 360°, the same number of degrees as in a circle! What are the odds of that happening?! And there is nothing round about a rectangle! Parallelogram’s interior angles also add up to  360° even though it has no curves and not even a single right angle! Triangle’s interior angles add up to 180°, exactly half of those in the rectangles and has a different number of sides! Surely the Lord’s Creation is exposed here for all to see.

Uh, no. I just don’t think one can take mathematical oddities and follow them with “therefore God.” I suggest this person read the book Flatland to find out the real mystical properties of geometry.

#15
Uh, no. It is highly unlikely that the authors of said scriptures embedded information in the numbers referred to. For one, nobody has ever seen the original manuscripts and copyists make mistakes, so these numbers could have gotten jumbled. More importantly, chapter and verse numbers were inserted into Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in the fucking 16th century. Robert Estienne (Robert Stephanus) was the first to number the verses within each chapter, his verse numbers entering printed editions in 1551 (New Testament) and 1571 (Hebrew Bible). Embedding knowledge in numbers that did not exist is not another miracle, by the way.

Well, this is disappointing. I thought these proofs would finally put faith to rest, but sadly it was not to be. It is encouraging, though, that the ranks of apologists are so thin they are recruiting teenagers to the task.

I will keep other examples from this list at hand for occasions in which I think you, dear reader, need a laugh. (Oh, go ahead, read the whole list if you want, but don’t blame me if you pull a muscle laughing. Take it slow and just read a few at a time and you should be okay.)

 

 

August 18, 2017

Apologists: Making Stuff Up (Poorly) for a Living

I am still making my way through “Philosophers Without Gods” (Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition.) and last night I was struck by yet another comment in that book. The author of one particular chapter (which one isn’t relevant this time) was writing about the role Hell played in his life and shared a comment made by C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity.” Here it is:

The fear that engendered these types of thoughts was deep in my psyche. Lewis expresses it well when he talks about the idea that God is going to invade the world again: ‘Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. … God will invade …. It will be too late then to choose your side.’”

Once you die, you see, there is no more repentance; you are screwed … for ever and ever, amen. What C.S. Lewis is addressing additionally is another common problem for apologists. In their scripture Jesus promises to return (The Second Coming) before people then alive had died. Well, so far he is late by about 2000 years. So, did Jesus lie? Was he mistaken? Why the delay? According to Lewis, “He” is waiting “to give us the chance to join His side freely.” Other Christian apologists have taken up this argument and delivered it to nodding heads in church pews, but on its merits it … makes … no … sense … whatsoever … (logically, scripturally, theologically, etc.).

Consider the simple fact that the entire Earth’s population in the first century CE was about 300 million people, so only that many people’s lives were in jeopardy of not being saved. That was also the maximum number of people who could be saved. Plus, after “The Return” the “game” is over and no more babies have to burn in Hell. Currently the Earth’s population is over 7500 million people, 25 times more people, so while we were “waiting” for Jesus to come back, for every one person in jeopardy of Hell, there are now 25. Sheesh!

But wait, there’s more!

Of the current world population, 2200 million are Christians, which means that 5300 million people of the 7500 million total Earthlings are non-Christians, all of whom have a guaranteed ticket straight to Hell. (I won’t argue at this time, which of the many thousands of versions of Christianity is indeed correct, all the rest being losers in “the game,” and so too end up in Hell.) This number alone is almost 18 times as many people as were alive in the first century! Waiting to give us time to “join His side,” my ass. The only argument one can make using this apologetic is that their god is expanding his herd to increase the slaughter come harvest time.

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors and he came to apologetics late in his game, and he was not a man of limited intellect. But the allure of apologetics is subversive. Say anything, no matter how stupid, that reassures those sitting in pews on Sunday, and you will receive many, many (many) positive comments and thank yous for confirming their faith (and, well, there are those book sales).

This has not changed. I see many amateur apologists making the same lame, incorrect, and untrue arguments (now on YouTube, so you don’t have to go to church to be subjected to such thinking). The goal of these people is not an examination of “why” but a reassurance that Christians are on the right path. Repeating hoary old arguments, long debunked or completely contradicted by their own scripture, is still reassuring to those people needing reassurance. There is a new generation of rubes every 25 years or so. These constitute fresh audiences who haven’t heard the old arguments, or didn’t realize there were such arguments, and each generation gets larger, so the audience for such tripe gets larger, too.

The flock really needs to be concerned over the quality of its shepherds, as the wolves are real … if you believe in them.

April 9, 2017

Inquiring Theists Want to Know!

Theist apologists are always coming up with questions for atheists, kind of like the questions Catholic kids come up with for their Catechism teachers, e.g. “If God is all-powerful can he create a rock so big even he can’t lift it, Father?” Here is one of the latest:

Without a personal Creator-God, how are you anything other than the coincidental, purposeless miscarriage of nature, spinning round and round on a lonely planet in the blackness of space for just a little while before you and all memory of your futile, pointless, meaningless life finally blinks out forever in the endless darkness?”

Gosh, as an announced atheist, this makes me want to go slit my wrists, but I am laughing too hard to undertake that task with any skill, so I will just tackle this question first.

Underneath all of the snark embedded in this “question,” is a feeling of superior knowledge, that the questioner knows that without his creator god, life is just futile. (None of the other creator gods will do, don’t you know.)

So, “a coincidental, purposeless miscarriage of nature,” hmm. Well, I can’t be a miscarriage because I actually was born, but coincidental, I’ll own up to that. My parent’s believed in planning their family and I was the third of the two children they planned, so, coincidental I am.

Now, “spinning round and round on a lonely planet in the blackness of space.” I can detect no spinning. There is a gym nearby that offers spinning but I do not subscribe for that. The planet is “lonely,” that I do not get. The solar system has eight major planets, some minor planets, and myriad moons, etc. This guy makes it sound like there is the Sun and the Earth and little else. He must be reading his Bible. Maybe he means that I am lonely. Well, if I am, then I am very picky regarding having friends with over seven billion other humans to chose from, plus myriad other non-human companions I could entice to come live with me (for free room and board). No, I am not lonely; he got that wrong.

“In the blackness of space?” We seem to be quite well adapted to the light-dark cycles on our planet. The Scandehoovians who experience almost no “dark” during the winter go a little batty behind that, so “dark” is apparently a good thing for us. I like looking up at the dark sky and seeing all of the pretty lights, so not really dark at all, so he got this wrong, too.

But, yes, in a little while (littler all of the time) I shall die and kinda-sorta be forgotten. I still remember my parents and grandparents and other deceased relatives, so I expect to remain in memory of my younger relatives for some time. I am named in a family genealogy that goes back to the 1700’s and am recorded in a number of diverse histories, so will be “remembered” that way to some extent, and I have written close to a dozen books, which will remain available for a very long time, possibly many decades, but really I will not give a shit as I will be dead.

I have to ask, are all of those people supposedly in Heaven and Hell enjoying their immortality? Are they “remembered” by the living? Is not everyone remembered by your God who cannot forget anything (otherwise He would not be all-knowing), so is not everyone, in your world view, remembered forever and ever? Very puzzling attitude then for for you, a believer, to have.

And “your futile, pointless, meaningless life finally blinks out forever in the endless darkness.” I am looking forward to the endless blackness, far preferable to the Lake of Fire you promise my kind. But where do you get “futile,” and “pointless,” and “meaningless” from? Are you saying that because you are a Christian, your life is automatically not futile, not pointless, and not meaningless? If so, you are going to have to provide some details. What is your purpose in life? If it is to end up in Heaven at the side of your God, isn’t that a little self-serving? It sounds a lot like “I am going to get mine and the rest of you can go roast in Hell.” Many of your ilk tell us that good deeds will not get us into Heaven, but faith will, so you exalt people who do not do good deeds by have faith over people who lack faith, like me, who do good deeds. Sounds a lot like “I am going to get mine and the rest of you can go roast in Hell.” It also sounds as if you believe that your God has a plan for you. (He believes in family planning, unlike our current GOP.) Can you tell me what your plan is so I can see whether or not you are meeting your quarterly goals? No? Another thing I just have to take on faith, I guess.

And, last, regarding “meaning” as applied to one’s life. Meaning is something that is created in the hearts, minds, and words of others. You can read about the meaning of people’s lives in Wikipedia, for example. These meanings are divined, if you will allow the use of that word, from others observing our deeds. So, one creates the meaning of one’s life by doing. I can live with that.

And, I can die with that.

 

July 28, 2016

The Problem of Evil … Solved!

Uh … well … no. Sorry.

Christian apologists have always been drawn from the pool of small caliber intellectuals and their arguments often show this. Recently a noted apologist by the name of Alvin Plantinga (of the same stature as William Lane Craig or as I prefer to call him “Bill”) authored a massive formal logical defense of the solution to the problem of evil that centers on the existence of free will. He “proves” that an all-good, omnibenevolent god is perfectly compatible with the existence of evil.

For those of you whose heads are spinning a bit, recall that the “Problem of Evil” is simply a contrast of the supposed existence of an “all-good, omnibenevolent” god who created this system with the fact that evil is all around us. That god is responsible for all of that evil, and therefore isn’t really “all-good,” no?

Now I do not want to get bogged down in the philosophical fine points. For example, some philosophers break “evil” down into types, even describing a “natural evil” in the form of earthquakes, forest fires, landslides, etc. I think this is sort of silly because I consider nature to be neutral. If you happen to die in a landslide, it may be sad but there was no intent on the part of nature to do you in, it just happened. So, gliding gracefully over trivial sticking points, I proceed. Let’s get to the core of the matter.

Plantinga and Craig and all of the others use school boy logic up to and including very refined philosophical logical systems to make their points. But they all, Plantinga included, make basic mistakes that are quite appalling. They state premises like “you can’t have good without evil.” Uh, really, says who? Such a premise is loaded and cannot be the basis of a sound conclusion.

Consider the parallel argument: you can’t have the rich without the poor. Well, there are countries in which poverty has been virtually eradicated (there are always a tiny minority of the poor which fall between the cracks but not a big enough cohort to supply the wherewithal to support a class of rich people). In these countries without significant poverty, have rich people disappeared? In fact, would this not be a way to deal with inappropriately powerful rich people? Get rid of poverty and their wealth would collapse. Yes, it is a ridiculous statement because it is a ridiculous premise for any discussion, as is “you can’t have good without evil.” Dichotomies of opposites were popular a couple of thousand years ago and still have a lingering power, but sheesh!

I am a science-fiction buff, so allow me a flight of fancy. Intrepid ’Merican space jockeys reach a number of alien planets and on one they discover a society in which there is no evil. Bad things happen all of the time but none of them have evil intent on the part of any alien. For example, a youth was swimming in a lake and got a cramp and drowned. An adult witnessed this but did not jump into the water to try to save the drowning youth. Surely that is evil. But, actually the adult could not swim herself and would have drowned, too, if she had jumped into the water to attempt a rescue. The adult frantically tried to find a flotation device, a rope, or a boat to effect a rescue, but none was available. This was a sad event. It was “not good.” You see “not good” is the opposite of “good,” not evil. You do not need the extreme contrast of evil to be able to identify “good,” there is plenty of contrast in the “not good,” the absence of good. It would have been good to be able to save that alien youth’s life, as it was it was not good; if you unsure, ask his mother.

On this planet, nobody ever has the thought to run into a church and blaze away with a gun, killing as many people as they can. None thinks to strap explosives to their bodies, then go into a crowded theater and detonate them. No one thinks that it would be a good idea to butcher their neighbors for meat to feed their dogs or kidnap young females and keep them as sex slaves in their basement. These thoughts just never occur to the aliens.

Our philosophers seem to think that evil is the cost of us having free will. That if we don’t have totally, completely, awesomely free wills, we would be diminished beyond repair. The aliens in my little fantasy have oodles of free will. They get to decide what they want to train for in the way of a job, which jobs to apply for, where to go on vacation, how many kids to have or whether to have kids at all, which church they want to belong to, which sports teams to root for, which car to buy … <pant, pant, pant>. Do you get the idea? They just don’t have the will to do evil things.

Are we better off having the part of our totally awesomely free will that causes us to commit evil acts or are we better off without it? Is the cost of not just free will, but the part of free will that enables us to do evil so precious that it is worth the price you see? The apologists think so. I suspect that normal people do not. They would prefer to live in a world without evil.

The Christian apologists are black and white absolutists. You can’t have good with out evil. You can’t have any restrictions on free will otherwise we are just robots, etc. Then they top it off and say things like their god loved us so much that He gave us free will including the evil part, you know, so we could have some good, too. They even indicate that He couldn’t have done it any other way, that a society without evil results in us being without free will and therefore being robots having no reason to live (in their minds the reason to live is to be able to freely, and without coercion, worship their god).

They say this while making the contradictory claim that their god has already done exactly that: He created a world in which evil doesn’t exist yet humans will enjoy immensely. He called it “Heaven.” The philosopher-apologists responded with “Well, Heaven isn’t really a world…,” yeah, right.

Let me make it simple. If I can imagine a world in which there is only good and not good, filled with happy people free to make myriad choices about how to live their lives (aliens are people, too), why couldn’t their god?

I’ve got to tell you, sometimes my people (intellectuals) embarrass me. To them, the truth is pretzel dough to be twisted into the shape desired for today’s eating.

April 7, 2016

Interviewing a Christian Apologist

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:22 pm
Tags: , ,

This is merely an intellectual enterprise, not a “real” interview, but it might be interesting (as well as self-indulgent) to actually carry it out. (Note I said “interviewing” rather than debating because debate is largely impossible.)

  • Do you believe the Earth was created?
    So, the first thing I would ask was whether the Christian Apologist (hereafter called CA) believed in the biblical creation account. CA would generally answer “yes” and go on and on about “because how the Bible tells me so,” etc. which is fine by me.
  • Was magic used to create the Earth?
    In science “what” is not always as important as “how.” Causation can only be determined by following a step by step chain of events, one thing inexorably leading to the next, so if the Earth was created as opposed to having an origin steeped in nature, what was the mechanism of this creation, magic? The answer most assuredly would be “no” but unless the words used are completely redefined to mean something they do not to ordinary people, the answer should be “yes.” Magic is a supernatural agency, period. In other words, magic is a cause that does not involve nature.
  • The philosopher Nietzsche declared that God was dead; can your god die?
    Then I would shift gears: I would ask “the philosopher Nietzsche declared that God was dead; can your god die?” The CA would have to answer “yes” because his god was “undying,” “existed outside of time and space,” etc.
  • Since you are a Christian, I suppose the Resurrection is the cornerstone of your belief, no?”
    Again, Christians almost have to answer “yes” because the three pillars of Christianity are prophecies, miracles, and the resurrection.
  • Do you believe in the Trinity?
    The question asks whether CA is a Trinitarian, the odds are high that the answer is “yes.” Basically, this belief indicates that Jesus is one and the same as Yahweh. Not all Christians have believed this with the two largest non-Trinitarians sects being the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Unitarians used to be more popular but it is hard going against the mainstream.
  • If you believe Jesus is God and God cannot die, how could Jesus have died, let alone be resurrected?
    Assuming CA is a Trinitarian the trap laid has been sprung.

You can see how this goes. I could ask who resurrected Jesus. I could ask why God chose a forbidden practice, human sacrifice, for His saving us from our sin. I could ask why God created sin in the first place? I could ask why he forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, knowing full well they would disobey Him. I could ask why He made Adam and Eve that way? I could ask is there were free will in Heaven, which is, of course, impossible, and if there is none in Heaven, why was it so important for us to have it on Earth?

I went through this exercise to show why this line of argument is counterproductive. No sane person would maintain the set of beliefs being challenged rationally. This is why believers do not allow rational challenges to their beliefs. Their belief is quite impervious to reason.

This is why there needs to be emotional arguments to free people from the grip of irrational beliefs, but more importantly there need to be replacements for the social supports their religions provide. We may snicker at terms like “fellowship” and “surrender” but these are powerful social forces. Until we start making more emotional arguments and coming up with secular supports that rival those offered by churches it will be a long uphill slog prying loose the grip religion has on people’s hearts and minds.

Or we could just wait until the generations coming get so involved in their smartphones that they won’t notice anything going on off of them. That may work, too.

Blog at WordPress.com.