Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On Teleological Thinking...

On this blog, I tend to take somewhat different tacks to classical arguments.  It's not so much because I think the old counterarguments are invalid, but simply because I think there is so much more that could be said that simply isn't being explored.  Reddit's atheism channel had quite a time with my earlier approaches to WLC's favorite -- the Kalam Cosmological Argument -- for a little while because I put forth points and thought experiments that nobody else had apparently considered up until then;  in particular, in part two.  The thought experiment I mentioned has been brought to WLC's attention, but he has not responded in these years since -- either he has nothing to offer without straw-manning it (which he can't afford to after I spent so much time pointing out how often he does that), or he simply didn't care enough to pay it any mind.  Given how long ago this was and how new I was to blogging at the time, I'm inclined to believe that it's the latter.  To be honest, though, I don't think it was a particularly esoteric or brilliant counterargument, but it's merely one that never really gets explored because people don't typically have to go to that extent.

In that sense, I'm going to try in this one to get at some of the hardly -- if at all -- covered issues with the teleological argument, aka the argument from design.  We all know this one : a watch implies a watchmaker, a building implies a builder, therefore life, which appears designed, implies a designer.  Well, the obvious counterargument here is that the analogy falls apart when you compare to living things that can reproduce. Buildings don't have sex with other buildings to make little baby buildings that grow up to become skyscrapers and what not...  that would be terrifying when you think about it.  Living things have that option and the imperfections of the process coupled with natural selection can yield changes in the average probabilities of alleles throughout a population over generations.  That's the obvious counterargument, and most would stop right there;  but you could go further and really start to tear down the concept of teleological thinking to begin with.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Arguments That Need Amending

Being in the atheist community means being exposed to the way disbelievers handle the believers.  There is a wide array of behavioral patterns ranging from the sorts of immature crowing that lends some credence to the accusations that we atheists are so "angry" and "miserable" all the time to the broadly academic and thorough.  People who throw out the clever insights and people who make idiotic misappropriations that are no better than religious nutbars accusing us of wanting to sin all the time.  It's all over the place.  And yes, this is largely a sign of the fact that atheism as a community flag has nothing unifying it beyond a common lack of belief.  At the very least, a religion has a large set of overarching dogma and therefore multiple things you have to share with your fellow believer to be part of the same club.

Well, even Answers in Genesis goes as far as to include a wide array of common YEC arguments that YECs should stop using.  So that at least says that they are willing to recognize that some arguments just don't work, or at the very least need some sort of modification to bring them up to a meaningful status.  It's a little ironic to think that even the side which is run by a man who unwittingly brags about the inherently illogical and irrational status of his position would be willing to apply at least some criticism to his own brothers-in-bollocks.

In theory, atheists are supposed to be the side that shows more reason, rationality and skepticism on the whole, though that is at best a loose generalization.  Nonetheless, we, as a community, tend to get things wrong quite often.  Atheism by itself is not really tied to intellectual rigor in particular, but the reverse is typically the case.  Those of us who are more open and out there about our atheism (and as such, will be active in the atheist community) will be those who are more likely to make silly mistakes as well.  It's no surprise really, because these are the people who are most vocally frustrated with the venom in religion's bite.  That kind of frustration only leads to errors in thought processes clouded by the righteous ire that is so abundantly roused by the idiocy with which we are adversarial.  That coupled with the nature of internet community dynamics means that one can very easily fall prey to memes and patterns that other people used just because they were there.  The very same people we usually might see as critical thinkers (e.g. Thunderf00t, Jaclyn Glenn, PZ Myers, Matt Dillahunty, et al) all make the occasional slip-up because they're just too angry and too fuming to temper their thoughts.  It's only natural.  We're human, too.  What becomes problematic is when those little missteps spread more than the better, more well-thought out arguments.  So here are a few arguments that I feel are really being misused, misstated, or are just plain wrong and just too popular.  Note that I'm largely avoiding the more rare or obscure ones, so this is about those that appear to be a little more widespread than, say, 2nd decalogue arguments.