The Bible, a Logical Fallacy

One of the things that bothers me about how theists understand the Bible is that they think it is somehow proof of god. I once spent multiple hours stretched across a few days explaining to one particular person that they can’t use the Bible to prove the existence of god to me. After I got it through to them the debate was a lot better and we could discuss religion properly without this person resorting to a Bible quote at every point as their only argument.

The truth is that the Bible can not be used to prove god. To do so would be the fallacy of begging the question. Basicaly the fallacy goes:

  1. God wrote the Bible/inspired the Bible/influenced the Bible…
  2. Therefore, the Bible proves god exists

The fallacy exists in that the conclusion is assumed in the premise. It is assumed that a god wrote the Bible in order to prove that god exists. Does it make sense to assume that god exists to show that god exists? Is there any evidence that shows divine authorship?

If there was compelling evidence that a god did in fact exist, I probably wouldn’t be writing this right now. To assert that a god was the author for any lesser evidence that his existence in addition to evidence for his authorship would be affirming the consequent, another logical fallacy.

So, next time you try to use the Bible to convert an atheist or someone from another religion to your religion, consider the fallacy involved and you better hope they don’t spot it.

Biblical Contridictions

This portion of the article is in response to another article by Juan which can be found here. Juan has also made other comments on my blog including one which attempts to prove the existence of a god to me using the above fallacy.

Juan’s article addresses a few common contradictions in the Bible where the Bible conflicts with science or even itself. Although I can’t possibly expect everyone to counter every contradiction in the Bible as there are quite a few, there was at least one mistake I noticed during my quick skim of the article.

People Actually Look for CONTRADICTIONS? They practically find themselves!

The topic in question is whether or not the earth is in the center of the universe. Here is what Juan says:

I really can’t believe I even have to address this one. The effort and time put by people to find these “contradictions” could be spent on actually figuring out what they really mean.

However, it is not exactly hard to find these contradictions has people have been imprisoned for suggesting otherwise. It seems that the Catholic religion is still suffering from the backlash of this imprisonment and has has multiple popes preform actions including the decensoring of Galileo’s writings and apologies for the actions of the past.

Wait! There’s More?

Yes, there is more. For this information I would have you look at the Skeptics Annotated Bible. It points out thousands of contradictions within the Bible as well as various things which are immoral or just flat out crazy. You haven’t read the Bible until you’ve read it like this.

I’ve seen as many as 10 contradictions in a single chapter from Matthew not even counting other absurdities.

Read Your Bible!

I’m not the only one who is saying it. The cure to religion is having people actually read what is in their Bible. Everything from racism to sexism, rape to killing, genocide to child abuse. And this is still called the “good book.”

Intelligent Design – Looking at the Logic

Intelligent design as a logical argument essentially states that was the universe was created by god and this can be known because of the complexity of the universe. Let’s look at how the logical argument would go in the form of a debate:

  • The universe is complex or designed, it therefore requires a creator or designer
    • Wouldn’t a creator of a complex universe be even more complex and therefore even more in need of a creator?
      • No, god is less complex
        • Then in that case, the universe can arise from a natural system without the need for the problem of complexity. Any complex god would then require a less complex god or naturally arising system to come into existence but such a system could then create the universe as well without the need for a god.
      • Yes, god is more complex but he has always existed or time doesn’t apply to him.
          • This is what scientists say about the universe . It’s called space time.

Hopefully I managed to get all the main points in there but I would be welcome to additions.

Intelligent design is often seen by theists as a scientific approach to theology but it relies on various unverifiable assertions thus meaning that it is not science.

For example, the argument commonly goes that the universe appears designed or is so complex that it therefore requires a designer. An argument against this position is the frame of reference used to define design. To claim that the universe is designed one would have to know what a universe that is not designed would look like to compare it to. Of course, anyone can make up their own vision of a universe lacking design which is I why I don’t favor this argument.

Also, intelligent design is not science because science must be testable and verifiable. Of course, it is refuted via a simple logical sanity check and has no need to progress to the level of scientific scrutiny, but intelligent design is not testable either and therefore not science.

If you look at how testable intelligent design is you see as set of assertions which are added upon to create  a system which “proves” god. However, with no evidence shown, these assertions are unfounded and act as mere premises rather than verifiable fact. Creation scientists do a better job and creating a goal to twist evidence towards than they do for supplying evidence.

Intelligent design does not meet the scientific burden of proof or even present a valid scientific hypothesis (and that’s not even considering that many theists claim that their god is un-testable which makes intelligent design meaningless even as a scientific theory).

As you can see, intelligent design is not science in any way. Not only that but it has even failed logically. It is clear that it should not be taught in science classes as it is clearly not science. Don’t children deserve better than unfounded claims used to advance a religious agenda?

Re: Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed

Cover of "Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed"I recently finished watching the documentary “Expelled – No Intelligence Allowed” at the recommendation of a person I have been debating on Youtube (I would hardly call it a debate as it barely got started). One impression I got was “wow, I just wasted an hour and forty minutes watching this” and another impression I got was “there is something in this video that is right.”

Of course, the thing that is right is not intelligent design, it is the fact that people should be allowed to research intelligent design and talk about it. They should be allowed to address it with science if they so desire. Of course, I will not be the one to lend them any such credibility, but if they want to address it with science, they are more then welcome to use their own funding to do so.

If you want to talk about it at a real scientific level, bring something to talk about. Get some evidence! We can’t expect scientists everywhere to start working on proving or disproving some random hypothesis in the same way we don’t allocate resources like that to UFOs, space aliens, ghosts, the flying spaghetti monster, etc.

Don’t accuse us of being close minded when we merely await the evidence. One would be a fool to believe in that which there is not evidence for and ghost stories, monsters, and god are all things which need exceptional evidence as they are exceptional claims. In fact, many religions have gone out of the way to say their god is not testable by science but now I wonder why they think that can prove god with science. God has been disproved time and time again by science but the goal post have always been shifted or it was said that god can’t be tested. Now people think they can prove god with science? I’ll be one of the people to use one of their fallacious arguments against them. If god is not testable via science, you certainly can’t prove him with it.

We don’t need to disprove these hypothesis because there is not a shred of evidence suggesting that they might be true. If there is evidence, show it! Don’t allude to the evidence like this video does; don’t pretend you have evidence. And when you have the evidence, I want to be the first to know about it. I want to see it.

Is God Testable?

It is a common claim among theists that god is purely faith based, untestable, and outside of the bounds of science. Maybe god even created the laws of the world as we know it. That is the question asked in the blog post “Can God be Scientifically Proven?” and that is exactly the question I hope to answer.

Theists have maintained that their god is untestable but they also make claims that this god did things which are very testable. For example, it is said that god answers prayer. It is trivial to collect quantifiable data on prayer, and people did. That New York Times article details the data which was scientifically collected which shows that prayer does not seem to have any correlation with healing.

Also relevant to the success rate of prayer is this (funny but serious) video by GIIVideo on YouTube:

As you can see, prayer is nothing but an optical illusion and is not proof for a god. Atheists, 1; Theists, 0. Although it does not disprove god, it does show what is really going on behind one aspect which theists use as proof for god.

As you can see, many theistic claims are quantifiable in this way. Also, many arguments for the existence of god have been logically disassembled on the Iron Chariots Wiki.  In fact, the only claims I have not run across a way to address logically or scientifically are arguments from personal experience (which are logical fallacies so they don’t really need to be addressed) and this is exactly the proof Juan cites in the comments on the post I mentioned earlier.

In conclusion

Can god be tested? No. Can claims about god be tested? Certainly. They can and have been tested logically, and scientifically and no reason to believe in a god has ever been found. From the origins of the universe to prayer, there is no reason to suspect anything but natural processes (i.e. no supernatural beings).

Do you hate atheists?

Quote

“Why should a believer in God hate an atheist? Surely the atheist has not injured God, and surely he is human, capable of joy and pain, and entitled to all the rights of man. Would it not be far better to treat this atheist, at least, as well as he treats us?”

— Some Mistakes of Moses by Robert Green Ingersoll

Atheism, it’s not a phase

I have been doing some reading since my last post, Religion is Tearing Families Apart. I have come to realize that after reading some more stores about atheists telling there families about their lack of belief in god that parents often treat it as an immature decision or something that will pass with time. That’s why this article is targeted at parents of atheists, not the atheists themselves.

I would like to let parents of atheists know that atheism is generally not a phase. Once you see the truth it is extremely hard to un-see it. Of course, if you were de-converted on faulty arguments, it is always possible to go back to religion, but once people see the atheist point of view for a while, they start to learn more and more about religion and why so many atheists dislike it. It will often times change someones view of religion for a lifetime.

What should I do if my Son/Daughter is an atheist

Well, they are not likely to move back to any form of religion, but I would do a basic sanity check to make sure they actually have a good reason for becoming an atheist. Many will cite various logical arguments and de-conversion stories of other atheists. I am asking you to try to understand why they are an atheist.

When my parents found out I was an atheist, they didn’t care about the logical arguments. In fact, they didn’t care why at all. They just treated it as a phase that I would grow out of. But it is not something that you can grow out of. My family situation has digressed to the point where the only way religion is discussed is through jokes I make about religion and a series of personal attacks they inject against me.

Don’t let it get to this point. If it gets to this point, you may never get out of it, you may never reach an understanding of each other. The best advice I have for parents is to try to be understanding (and definitely don’t try to force religion on them).

Religion is Tearing Famlies Apart

Yes, I know the title of this post is a little dramatic for the remaining text, but you will soon see that it isn’t far off from what I am trying to say.

About a month ago I had the “pleasant” experience of trying to explain to my parents that I am an atheist. It all started as normal conversations do in my family. My father was as close minded as usual and my mother, always there to listen, was at least somewhat understanding of my thinking even if she did not agree with it herself. In spite of a normal beginning, by the end of the conversation, my father was yelling, my mother was crying, and I was wondering what had gone wrong.

I hope that you will use this article to see how to go about a similar discussion with your own family and avoid some of the mistakes that I have made. When debating your own family, you can’t be prepared enough, but you likely already know the arguments they will make or what they believe so that is an advantage.

How it all happened

I started the conversation out by suggesting that we watch an episode of The Atheist Experience together. They didn’t like the idea and immediately responded with “Why are you always trying to push your ways on us.” In reply I stated that it was merely a suggestion that we could use to learn about other religions (as they are commonly discussed on the show) and atheism. After all, my mother had previously expressed distaste for the catholic church with their constant demands for money and their child abusing priests.

Following this, I asked why they felt so sure that a god exists. My father answered saying, “You know, sometimes you just have to take things on faith.” With complete disregard for my argument explaining that science is a better means of discerning whats true than just believing something is true, he began to become quit irritated with my arguments and asserted that I was close minded. Yes, he asserted that the person who was proposing we watch a television show to expand our understanding of other religions and atheism is close minded. However, he was practically out of the discussion at this point and didn’t talk much for the next 30 minutes while my mother and I discussed religion. When he did speak, it was only to rephrase his first two arguments (assuming we count calling someone else close minded an argument) and to inject irrelevant information which has no logical impact on the existence of god.

Fast forwarding into this debate, it was visibly discernible that my logical points where having some kind of an impact on my mother who was beginning to cry as this brought into question her own personal dream in which she saw her dead mother.

She is too emotionally attached to the idea of an afterlife to even conciser the issue logically. This is what religion does to people. It clouds their minds with thoughts such as this so that they don’t want to leave; they don’t want to see the truth.

It is essentially a prison, a prison for your mind. You can be perfectly happy sitting inside it, however, if one you try to leave, all these emotional traps are sprung. Nobody can show you them the truth because they don’t want the truth. Sure, people have escaped this mind prison, but first, they generally accept that the truth is more important than a fantasy (or they are just not that far into religion where they need it to be happy).

Things I wish I would have said

In no way do I wish to imply that I am unhappy with the outcome. To be honest, I am shocked I got as far as I did. However, there are always things which could have been done better.

  1. I let my father get away with yet another of his classic “You’re so close minded” well poisoning fallacies. I’ve really gotten sick of this one and had even prepared a response to it. Sadly, I did not manage to use my response as I was too busy addressing other more logical points to acknowledge a simple fallacy such as this one. (In case you are wondering, my counter argument would be something like this: “You’re pinned up against a wall with valid logical arguments against your claims and the only thing you can say is a fallacious statement that I am close minded?” Another one which would work in this situation for many people is “I’ve gone out of my way to look at other religions, atheism, and weigh the facts and evidence for both of them. That doesn’t sound very close minded to me.”)
  2. Both my parents during this discussion/debate used a form of Pascal’s Wager and I which I would have focused on this more as it would have been important later in the discussion (of course, I did not know that at the time). If you are looking for arguments to use against Pascal’s Wager, I would check the Iron Chariots Wiki, the same place where I get much of my information.

Things I wasn’t prepared for (but am now)

  1. At the time of this debate, I was not prepared to respond to the argument “it requires faith” properly. Arguments requiring evidence obviously fall upon deaf ears when used against someone what takes religion purely on faith. Since this time, I have approached my mother with a simple example of how foolish this is (maybe for another post, sorry). If you want information on this topic, I will have to (once again) point you towards the Argument from Faith article on the Iron Chariots Wiki.
  2. Answering to to people at the same time it a debate can be rough. Don’t fall into the trap of giving short half-constructed arguments when debating two people at the same time. Force them to wait for you to give your full reply before answering any objections. Short responses are unlikely to be sufficient, especially if they are dealing with logical proofs and fallacies the people you are discussing/debating with don’t understand.

Conclusion

I hope that after reading this you are better prepared to address this issue with your own family, but remember, you can never be too prepared for it. You are likely to encounter some type of emotional trap like the one I described above, so think about how you would deal with that too.

Of course, if you are not a legal adult yet, remember that your parents can force you to go to church, to Bible camp, and other such events. If you fear that this might happen, you may want to hold out. Of course, if you enjoy debates as much as I do, de-converting the kids at Bible camp might become a favorite past time (I think a tactics article is necessary to cover this).

Anyways, keep the above advice in mind. And if you have any questions, feel free to contact me by email or IRC at any time.