Sunday, October 18, 2009


I'd like to continue the theme of 'words' here.(maybe I'll get a little more agreement from a certain 'oneblood', who shall remain nameless)

We can see how easy it is to use words to trick each other by using some examples of how religious people trick themselves.

Sometimes it will be a lack of words that is the trickery, an overgeneralzation, meant only to make the comment concise, taken at precise value to undermine the entire meaning of the comment in contention.

Case in point. Someone might go ahead and say, "You're so full of it Ian, I'm a Christian and I NEVER trick others with words or trick myself with words, EVER!" This in itself is a favourite trick of debaters(debators? Looks wrong.), someone makes a general statement and the opposer points to him/herself as an example of how that general statement is false.

Seems we have to be very, very careful to say, some, or , a lot of, but even then, we might expect denial from someone trying to take the legs out from under an argument or point.

The word 'supernatural', I think is misleadin, to say the least, when it is combined with the notion that God created everything. Seems fairly obvious to me that anyone(everyone?) using the argument that God created everything, is dismissing the notion of 'natural' as opposed to 'supernatural' all together, just without 'saying so'.

To say that God created everything out of nothing or out of God-stuff, is to say that everything STILL IS made of God-stuff and we just call that particular God-stuff 'natural' to differentiate it, somehow, from other 'nothing' or 'God-stuff' that hasn't been 'transformed' by God to be 'the world around us'(I guess).

The 'design' argument is implied, and put forward as indisputable, right off the bat, as if THAT is any kind of fair argument to make.

As in, "God made everything. You can see, feel and touch everything. Therefore you must believe that God made everything."

But, of course there MUST be a certain percentage of devout, faithful believers 'out there' who can see that this is a circular argument and therefore no argument at all.

Then there's the other twist that the word 'natural' can simply mean, 'not man-made' which can be used to dither over, because on the one hand that makes all the materials of a man made object still natural, and it's just the manipulation OF these objects, BY people, somehow 'artificial', which we can STILL use as examples of 'creation', and on the other hand a completely DIFFERENT process, supposedly used by God to create everything out of 'nothing' or 'God-stuff'.

We can go on and on, spiraling backwards never admitting that we are just waffling. For example:-

"God made us those beautiful mountains. When I look at them they make me feel so spiritual."

But the mountains are made by the natural process of erosion.

"Why, God invented erosion!"

STFU! Wind and rain, snow and ice act on rock to make the mountains just like that, nothing to do with anything supernatural at all!

"But, God made the wind and the rain, the snow and the ice!"

Rubbish, the wind and rain etc. are caused by the Sun warming the planet during the day and the seasons etc.

"But God made the Sun to shine down on the Earth!"



But this is just a word-game, trickery. If your premise is that, 'God did it!", followed by any argument which concludes that, "God did it!", that's no argument at all.

Of course anyone pointing this out to a believer is likely to be stepped along to the next 'argument' in this chain of 'non-argument', "But you need to have faith!"

Straight out of one set of ill-defined words, and on to the next, keeping in mind that the first 'argument' is taken to be at least a 'draw', if not in fact a 'win' for the religious side, and can be refered back to at any convenient time.


oneblood said...

Well not to burst your tartan colored bubble, but I agree with you.

Like Hitchens so aptly puts it, this kind of argument is no argument at all. I think Hume calls it ending up in "fairy land."
But Hitchens' overarching point is once man reasons himself into the 'beginning' he hasn't a clue.

I know you might get the ardent naturalists spouting crap about something coming from nothing. Or showing off the latest fad in speculation.

Or you might, if you're lucky get a 'God did it' in here besides me.

But I digress, yes believers of the ilks I have encountered, Christian, Jewish and Muslim (if they're conservative) play these ridiculous word games. They try to reassure themselves by arguing you down, until both of you end up in "fairy land."

I think I pointed it out before. The logic term is infinite regress.

I haven't come up with a good way to get the sincere non-beleiver out of such a frustrating mess. But I think cutting to the chase would work nicely.

But forget all the word games pboy. I bust your chops (incorrectly even, as Jared pointed out) cause I like you. It's a defect on my part. Not liking you, the busting chops thing.

As a final note, you might appreciate Jacques Derrida's thoughts on language.

I think I mentioned him last post.

oneblood said...

You know I think I mentioned last post about mentioning something last post.

Somehow my inability to inarticulate is your fault pboy. I'm not sure how, but as a "believer" I can't take responsibility for my actions.

pboyfloyd said...

Not sure if you're saying that God did it therefore (many words explaing how/why God did it) therefore God did it, as a non-argument leaves you ANYTHING at all to hang the God did it notion on, oneblood.

GearHedEd said...

The thing that peeves me the most about these "arguments" is that the b'lievers will invoke all sorts of magical nonsense, then claim a foothold in logic-land from the sheer fact that since they postulated the God-Magic, it's now a valid premise and cannot be excluded without proving a negative.

On the other hand, the guy on Brian's blog from back around Christmas last year that was always going on about Aquinas claimed that Aquinas started from natural premises and arrived at some sort of "Creator" through logic. If we accept that Aquinas' "creator" is the Christian God, doesn't that then force God to be subject to logic?

And if God is subject to logic, then He cannot be almighty if there are rules He must follow.

Or is that all wet, too?

Asylum Seeker said...

I suppose it should bear mentioning that if, as you put it, religious people trick themselves with words, then their seeming attempts to deceive others may actually be more along the lines of genuine misunderstanding. That is to say that they just want to make a positive case for what they believe, however they actually arrived at that belief, and may not actually realize the holes in their own logic. There are a lot of logical fallacies and other such failings and people tend to run into them into a lot when reasoning about a whole lot of subjects. Just imagine when the subject is something that you are emotionally invested in. Something that even the most gentle critical exploration would make you feel uncomfortable or outright devastated. So, you can expect this kind of thing from people in general.

However, in the case of people who are expected to be critical of their own opinions, to make fully rational cases and avoid blatant fallacies, and who are presenting their arguments as authoritative rather than a personal defense for their personal ideas, that is something else entirely. It's when the "trickery" reaches a bigger audience and is less likely to be explained as an unwillingness to scrutinize their own positions that one should even deign these kinds of failings fit to be called a form of deception.

As for the specifics: "natural" is a word with many broad definitions and is ripe for equivocation in many different kinds of arguments. In fact, one could argue that the naturalistic fallacy is based entirely on turning "occurs in nature" to "good because it isn't strange".
The design argument should be dead because evolution is the counterargument to it (at least in regards to biology). The fact that people actually use the design argument as an attempt to try to argue against evolution existing is a source of endless entertainment/frustration for me.
And, finally, suggesting that God is behind natural processes like erosion is not wrong if you are presupposing that God exists and is consistent with your own argument that natural and supernatural are basically the same thing. It is obviously not parsimonious, adds nothing in terms of explanation, and does not let one conclude that the process is evidence for the God that is proposed to be behind it, and is essentially undisprovable, much like God itself. So, in other words, the claim is essentially pointless. Might as well have given thanks to the phantom city that fuels the sun. Bonus points if you claim that it is actually a metaphor for nuclear fusion.

oneblood said...

I don't know pboy. I wasn't trying to proove anything. I actually do agree with you about the futility of the argument on the conservative believer side. I think it's maddening.

But then there's the argument that both "sides" take part in which usually ends in 'Who made God?' or 'Who/What made the Universe?'

I try not to make a pretense that I can prove any type of God anymore. I only loosely describe myself as a deist; making me a 'believer' for the sake of having fun with the post.

Does that make more sense?

pboyfloyd said...

Yea, Seeker, I'm sure that the idea of God is a great comfort to some folk who might otherwise not be able to handle the truth, that there is no life after death. (another play on words.. I mean, life after your life has ended).

It's the using it as a with us or against us tool for conflict that seems to be keeping us in this childish state where we need guns to fix problems.

Yea, Ed.

oneblood, I wasn't trying to hold your feet to the fire, just thought you might have something interesting to say about that.

:o)... it was.

Asylum Seeker said...

"It's the using it as a with us or against us tool for conflict that seems to be keeping us in this childish state where we need guns to fix problems."

Yep. It's because of people like that I even care about religious debate. If it weren't for them, the essential difference between a believer and non-believer would be mostly irrelevant; we would both think the other to be wrong, but the difference in opinion wouldn't have to have political consequences. But, with the likes of creationists or those who simply feel the need to assert their religious dominance by striving for baby steps to theocracy, things get slightly more serious.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

It is obviously not parsimonious, adds nothing in terms of explanation, and does not let one conclude that the process is evidence for the God that is proposed to be behind it, and is essentially undisprovable, much like God itself. So, in other words, the claim is essentially pointless.

I think this is the essence of why science is seen as such a threat. The god of the gaps is getting smaller and more obscure. The greater the distance between man and god (i.e., the less direct is god's control over natural events) the less personal is the relationship with God. Absent this relationship (in essence an indifferent God) the less appealing is the belief. As science progresses the god constant is getting smaller in every equation. At some point, a constant's contribution can be safely ignored. That is the fear, in my opinion.

GearHedEd said...

"Yea, Ed, it's all wet", or "Yea, Ed, you've got a point about God being subordinate to logic"?

GearHedEd said...

Sometimes I have a hard time following what Ian says;
then I read it out loud again with the best approximation I can make of a Scottish accent, and it suddenly makes more sense...

Harvey said...

Once again, we seem to have agreed that the conflict/argument between belief and non-belief stems entirely from the apparent need of believers to obtain/mandate everyone else's agreement that they "have it right". Since this apparent agreement/affirmation by others is the only way they are able to reassure themselves that they may somehow avoid the cessation of their awareness (soul?)after inevitable physical death (precisely the same lack of awareness they had before their personal conception took place), most of them are never content to leave the rest of us to our own conceptions of reality. Not all of us need to feel any more "special" than every other living thing, even though we can see that our only "purpose" is to survive long enough to reproduce and, in the case of the human species, continue long enough to nurture our offspring to the point where they are able to reproduce in turn.
Were this "need" on the part of many believers not the case, there would be no "need" for arguments in the first place.

GearHedEd said...

I like Pliny's idea about facets of life having "relevance coefficients". That's a metaphor I can bite into...

pboyfloyd said...

Yea Harvey, "Once again..."

Guess I'm hoeing the same row.


GearHedEd said...


As Alex said to his droog Georgie,

"What dost thou in thy mind have, then?"

pboyfloyd said...

Relevance co-efficients?

GearHedEd said...

From Pliny's comment:

"As science progresses the god constant is getting smaller in every equation. At some point, a constant's contribution can be safely ignored."

As in math, 1 divided by infinity effectively equals zero.

GearHedEd said...

And as science peels back the layers of "Mystery", the coefficient in front of the "God Term" in the equation approaches zero as well.

GearHedEd said...

I know it doesn't make sense, but it sounded good.


oneblood said...

It makes sense but what happened to your costume? Where's your sense of Dia de los muertos meets Samhain meets candy capitalism spirit?

"Where's your...spirit?"

Ha ha. Like Brian says, "I slay me."

But did 'me' really deserve slaying in the first place?
It was 'myself' and 'I' that had all the naughty fun.