Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Routing infidels

This will probably be my final reply to the Rational Skepticism Forum. Normally, I don't even comment on what rank-and-file atheists say. I focus on high-profile atheists. I only replied to them because the moderator solicited assistance in responding to one of my posts. Mind you, there is some value in seeing the intellectual level at which the average atheist operates. The incredibly poor quality of reasoning.

laklak » Sep 28, 2014 7:35 pmI believe narcissism is a necessary prerequisite for fervent religious belief. You have to believe 1) you're the pinnacle of creation for whom the entire universe was formed

is that what devout Hindus, Vikings, and Baal-worshipers have to believe?

 2) you are created in the exact image of god

Is that what devout Hindus, Vikings, and Baal-worshipers have to believe?

 and 3) that of all creatures we're aware of you're the only one that gets to live forever.

Angels get to live forever. 

Sounds pretty f***ing self-centered to me.

From a secular standpoint, what's wrong with narcissism? 

ElDiablo » Sep 29, 2014 1:53 pmThe only thing the post affirms is that some adults need the crutch of a father figure to get them through life and give life meaning.

Because he can't engage the actual argument, he substitutes a claim that bears no resemblance to the actual argument.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that some adults need a religious crutch. From a secular standpoint (i.e. physicalism), that's what some people's brains are telling them. If the brains of atheists are telling them not to believe in that, how can one brain judge another brain? 

Ven. Kwan Tam Woo » Oct 08, 2014 10:50 amSez him. Other believers would emphatically disagree, and would eagerly back up their views with plentiful reference to holy scripture. 

He hasn't quoted any Bible verses commanding Christians to behead coworkers, bomb abortion clinics, or fly airplanes into skyscrapers. 

Furthermore the assertionist nature of religious belief means that the author’s contentions about what constitutes “objective morality” are no more valid than those of the extremists.

Notice that he himself is making an "assertionist" claim. 

“General basis” for morality? Sounds like backpedalling to me.

He lacks a grasp of rudimentary distinctions. For instance, the existence of electricity supplies the general basis for lightbulbs. But electricity doesn't entail lightbulbs. 

So how does a “general basis” for morality turn into objective moral norms?

For instance, humans have social obligations because God made us social creatures. 

What processes are involved, and how do you know that you’re doing it right?

We don't turn it into moral norms. God does. 

The question of “metaphysical foundations” of moral norms is a non-question; it is yet another fabrication (like the concept of absolute nothingness and a First Cause) which is merely asserted by its proponents without any corroborating evidence to justify it.

So he's just admitted that he's a moral nihilist or relativist. 

Once again the author demonstrates his disturbing lack of both empathy and reasoning ability. Beheading coworkers and flying planes into buildings is blameworthy because it causes loss of life and immense suffering for those left behind, and it is made all the more blameworthy by the fact that such acts are done on the behalf of some imaginary sky fairy. No “objective morality” required.

Empathy doesn't require objective morality, but culpability does. culpability is a value judgment. To say the absence of empathy is blameworthy is a value judgment. 

That’s because they do share the same referent! They’re both postulated to be the God of Abraham, they’re both postulated to be the supreme creator and ruler of the universe…

Notice the equivocation between "objective referent" (my term) and "postulated referent" (his term). 

…and they are both equally imaginary. 

Begs the question. 

Even if they weren’t referring to the same damn thing, the God depicted in Christianity has inspired and – according to the Bible itself - committed more than enough atrocities to be considered every bit as noxious as the God depicted in Islam.

Since he just said the metaphysical foundations of morality are a "fabrication," he's forfeited the right to use value-laden characterizations like "atrocities." 

Again, sez him. What an asinine analogy – we are talking about the qualitative and normative words of a bunch of Bronze Age goat herders…

Did Bronze Age goat-herders have the literacy to write the Bible? 

Show me how the Bible makes a definitive case against such extremism; show me how the extremists are “miscalculating” in their interpretations of their texts.

Since Woo is hurling the accusations, the onus lies on him to prove his claim from Scripture. 

For one thing, secularism does not equate to atheism. 

And green doesn't equate to color. 

Secondly, ecoterrorists (who might these be, by the way?) 

I gave examples. 

Yes an argument from authority. Stating that certain people have said such and such without providing corroborating evidence to back up their claims is in fact an argument from authority, because you are implicitly asking your audience to respect something simply by virtue of the fact that a certain person said it.

On my blog I've either linked to their arguments or quoted their arguments. But it's not my job to coach an atheist on what his own team says. 

Quite frankly I don’t give a damn what any of those philosophers say, I can think and evaluate for myself thank you very much. 

He illustrates why it's not a good idea to let students grade their own exams. 

My being an atheist does not in any way obligate me to subscribe to what certain philosophers say just because they happen to be “secular”.

He ignores their arguments. 

Yes it does, particularly if you can rationalise to yourself that setting a dog on fire is somehow a substitute for setting a man on fire. 

I didn't. 

Why would setting a dog on fire be any less “evil” than setting a man on fire anyway?

The longer atheists talk, the worse they sound. 

Atheism is merely a lack of belief in gods – there are no ethical implications of such a lack of belief in and of itself.

Whether or not God exists has far-reaching metaphysical implications for what the world is like. 

The question is, does he realize that different acts can provide a “particular standpoint” for the moral ‘judgement’ of other acts? This is why his moral framework is in fact a relative moral framework, because it says that some acts are relatively better or worse than others. On the other hand, objective morality alludes to the idea that any given act is either definitely “right” or definitely “wrong”, and that degrees of morality are beside the point.

He repeats the same mistake even after he was corrected. Moral relativism is not that one act may be better or worse relative to a different act, but in reference to the same act. 

Regarding the idea that no act has any fixed “moral value”: never mind whether there is such a thing as a “fixed” moral value, how could you even objectively measure the “moral value” of an act in the first place? Not only are moral acts relative based on historical period, culture, and their relationship to other im/moral acts, but they are also relative based on the perspective of a particular observer. 

In which case he's just disqualified himself from attacking Biblical morality. That was moral for that time and culture. 

For example, the act of killing a lion might seem moral from a human point of view because it means that lion won’t eat any people in the future, but from a lion’s point of view it is an evil destructive act. 

So lions view predation as evil. That ascribes remarkable moral aptitude to lions. 

These are not implications of atheism btw; they are simply observations of how the world actually works. Morality is an inherently adaptive phenomenon.

Notice that he's committing the naturalistic fallacy. 

I don’t quote it because I don’t need to. The author’s own words make it abundantly clear that he can’t fathom why a person would care about other people without an “objective” morality provided by a God who metes out reward and punishment. 

The question at issue is whether people ought to care about others. Woo has offered no secular justification. 

The author believes in an entity who resides in “heaven”…

He repeats that trope even though I corrected him. 

…and who monitors and judges his every thought and act; therefore the term “sky tyrant” is an apt description of his God.

Monitoring good and evil isn't "tyrannical," but just. 

How does he know that a brain high on LSD can’t indulge in reliable worthwhile self-analysis? Is he speaking from firsthand experience? Is a believer’s self-analysis trustworthy? At any rate, the “trustworthiness” of the brain’s self-analysis (however you evaluate that) is beside the point; the fact that it can indulge in self-analysis at all using a given set of data and logical rules is what’s relevant here.

It's hardly beside the point when he himself invoked the distinction between illusion and reality.

I wonder if the author also thinks that little drops of Pure Happiness exist somewhere in the cosmos? Even if they did, so what? “Moral facts” is an oxymoron, because – as I said earlier – morality is an inherently adaptive and practical enterprise. 

Once again, he's confused. "Happiness" is not a moral norm. Rather, happiness is subject to normative judgments. 

We care about the survival and well-being of the community because we are social organisms…

And once we become aware of our evolutionary conditioning, we're in a position to break the programming. 

…because being social organisms has been and continues to be an immense survival and evolutionary advantage. 

From a secular standpoint, why should I care about the future survival of the human race? Why should I care what happens after I'm dead? 

Furthermore the author is glossing over the fact that “Number One” is a fairly recent concept which has arisen within an unusual set of cultural circumstances, and it is a concept which falls apart upon closer inspection because it’s underlying assumption of personal individuality is fallacious.

i) In which case, he can't object to Biblical "atrocities." Individuals don't count.

ii) Notice, though, that he must tacitly assume a personal viewpoint in order to even distinguish between social identity and individual identity. So his claim is self-refuting. 

And no, it does not necessarily follow that promoting your communities well-being leads to imperialism. For one thing, what a person regards as their “community” can include the whole of humankind.

In which case everyone has less so that everyone can have something. But why should an atheist be altruistic at his own expense? 

Moreover, the same risks of retaliation, overstretch and revenge-cycles which help to give rise to (adaptive) moral codes within particular human communities also work to condition conduct between those communities.

Funny how ineffectual that hypothetical deterrent is in real life. 

The whole point of Dennett’s Cartesian Theatre is to point out the silliness of not completely abandoning the logic of Cartesian Dualism.

No, that's not the whole point. Dennett is basically an eliminative materialist, although he's a bit coy about admitting so. 

Wrong. The author might want to look up the concept of “introspection” sometime. The author also makes the implicit and erroneous assumption that his sense of self is the overseer of all his mental activity, when in fact it is just another dynamic mental construct generated by the brain.

Of course, if his sense of self was just a mental construct, he'd lack the objectivity to recognize that fact. His claim is premised on a third-person perspective which his conclusion denies. Describing what he's really like, from the standpoint of an independent, outside observer, when his claim is that our sense of self is just a neurological projection. But a projection can't introspect itself. For the "mental construct" is the effect of the brain-generated process. It has no rear-view mirror. The direction is cause>effect. 

The very fact that we even have effective tools like the scientific method and cognitive behavioural therapy shows that the brain can indeed construct a “third-person perspective” in order to assess the processes underlying some other aspect of its cognitive activity. 

Given his theory, he's in no position to know that we have effective tools like the scientific method and cognitive behavioral therapy. A mental construct can't assume a viewpoint external to itself. 

A man does not argue with his own brain; rather, the brain has a dialogue with itself, and the “man” is in fact a mental construct which contributes to that dialogue rather than orchestrating or leading it.

Like fictional characters in a computer game. Although there may be a reality outside the computer game, characters inside the game can never access or be cognizant of that external reality. 

What exactly does the author think is required for a process to be considered “intelligent” anyway?

If you have to ask how intelligence is defined, you lack the intelligence to grasp the definition. 

Is the author suggesting that he doesn’t in fact have any sense of self-identity??

I'm responding to him on his own grounds. 

Is he serious?! I don’t deny the existence of invisible entities if there is credible evidence of their existence . Abstract “objects” are just that – abstract. They are hypothetical constructs derived from our experience of the material world.

So he's a radical empiricist–oblivious to the bootstrapping problems endemic to his position. 

The author has missed the point of my analogy (what a surprise!), which is that such a program works by mimicking the processes of “naturalistic” evolution. “Purpose” is an illusory phenomenon which arises when habituation to a certain mode of activity causes a system to become dependent on that activity for that system’s continued functioning.

A betting program doesn't mimic naturalistic evolution. Purpose is not an illusory property of a betting program. So the comparison is critically disanalogous. 

Why does he put naturalistic evolution in scare quotes? That's standard terminology to distinguish naturalistic evolution from theistic or deistic evolution. 

And what is the difference between “internal” and “external” intelligence? 

I gave an example. 

What is guiding the cognitive processes of the “intelligent agent” operating the toy plane?

Predestination and providence.

Because it doesn’t have to! All it needs to select for is efficient ways of finding pathways to food. What is a “true” belief anyway?

In which case he can't say atheism is true and Christianity is false. 

Thought necessarily requires temporal sequencing. 

An assertion in search of an argument. 

How does the author propose that a “timeless” God can think, let alone interact with a temporal cosmos?

Strictly speaking, God doesn't "interact" with the cosmos. Rather, God enacts the cosmos. Like the way a novelist "interacts" with the plot and the characters–not directly, but by how the plot and characters are written in the first place. 

What natural effects, the ones that have been systematically explained by science and shown to require no conscious “intelligent” direction whatsoever?? 

Begs the question. 

Moonwatcher » Oct 08, 2014 2:57 pm

In looking over his blog, I see some typical sidestepping. For instance he takes my "Magic Man in the Sky" analogy to mean I literally think that he believes "God" lives in the sky. Of course he doesn't. He probably believes "God" is everywhere or that such things as placing him/ her/ it to a specific location and/ or all locations is wrong to begin with.

Actually, I think God is illocal. Subsisting outside of space and time. 

He doesn't believe "God" and Heaven are located in the physical universe for the same reason that any educated person doesn't believe that. Because through science, we have been in the sky and into orbit and outer space and we know that there is no "Heaven" sitting on a cloud or in the sky. In fact, people consciously or not, tap into ideas from science (and science fiction which derived its ideas from science) about other realities and dimensions. But previous to those scientific theories, people did believe Heaven was in the sky, always just out of visual range perhaps or above a cloud in inside of one, etc. The suave, sophisticated modern belief of God and Heaven as some vast and non-corporeal things developed over time as a result of the gaps being closed.

Wrong. According to Gen 1, God preexisted the world. God existed apart from the physical world, which he created. Therefore, God doesn't live in the sky.

I'd add that God's natural invisibility (according to the Pentateuch) is another reason for denying that God is a physical being who occupies space. 

Not of that requires astronauts or unmanned space probes. 


  1. Steve,
    I find this point dubious. What exactly makes an atrocity Christian inspired? If an atrocity happens, that’s not done in the name of any religion, perhaps done for some political agenda, does that mean atheism inspires that atrocity? Is politics then evil? Even if someone commits harm to another for reason X, does that mean X is evil? As you clearly asked, please quote some instructions in the N.T. that commands harm towards others. Since people, for political reasons, such as Nazis, were politically inspired, why would they not write off politics? Lots of atrocities were done by governments, why not bash governments altogether? Something doesn’t smell right with this statement.

  2. Ven. Kwan Tam Woo said:

    "My being an atheist does not in any way obligate me to subscribe to what certain philosophers say just because they happen to be “secular”."

    That's just what it means. You will do what your intellectual superiors say. The man with the biggest club rules.

    "“Moral facts” is an oxymoron, because – as I said earlier – morality is an inherently adaptive and practical enterprise."

    The Nazis would have loved a puppet like you. "Do this or die." "Yessir, that's both adaptive and practical."

  3. Steve,
    Not exactly a gun to a knife fight; more like Steve brought a howitzer to a spitball fight. What's pitiful is the unwillingness of your correspondents to recognize their illogicality and self-contradictions. Deeenial!

  4. "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

  5. "Once again the author demonstrates his disturbing lack of both empathy and reasoning ability. Beheading coworkers and flying planes into buildings is blameworthy because it causes loss of life and immense suffering for those left behind, and it is made all the more blameworthy by the fact that such acts are done on the behalf of some imaginary sky fairy. No “objective morality” required."

    Notice what's going on here. Since a great number of atheists are lefties, they don't dare come out and say that Islam is morally evil. That would be xenophobic. Racist. But since it's fashionable to mock Christianity, the atheist will take all the things they actually dislike about Islam (crashing planes into buildings, beheading innocents, etc.) then lump them under "religion," as though Christianity has to shoulder some of the blame.

    It's a cheesy and shameless tactic.

    1. True Mathetes. In fact I largely agree with many things anti-theists say. I agree that false religion leads men to commit all sorts of evil (and as a Christian-theist I have a category and explanation for there actually being such a thing as evil).

      I also agree with them that it's absurd to believe in "sky fairies", "sky tyrants", "magic men who live in the sky", etc. Those things simply don't exist.

      I also agree with them that science makes many helpful and accurate statements and predictions about the operation of the natural world (and as a Christian-theist I have good reasons for why the success of scientific endeavors should be expected).

      Unfortunately for anti-theists they have no apologetic for their worldview. It's an irrational, illogical, self-refuting system of thought, but they're blind to their own blindness.

    2. lols this is pretty funny for someone who believes in might makes right and blind faith you yourself admitted so, It's an irrational, illogical, self-refuting system of thought, but you CR blind to your own blindness.

    3. @wakawakwaka aka Tony Jiang

      "lols this is pretty funny for someone who believes in might makes right and blind faith you yourself admitted so, It's an irrational, illogical, self-refuting system of thought, but you CR blind to your own blindness."

      Let's set aside (for the moment) the fact that you don't offer a source for your contention about CR. An arguably more pressing concern would be your striking failure to grasp the rudiments of the English language (e.g. basic punctuation, elementary grammar). To say nothing of your inability to reason. You come across like a daft person. But maybe this reflects the fact that most online atheist apologists like yourself tend to have a fairly unimpressive IQ.

    4. ok then I am sorry I am not as smart as one who "rocks with hawking" like you

    5. @wakawakwaka aka Tony Jiang

      "ok then I am sorry I am not as smart as one who 'rocks with hawking' like you"

      What's funny is I never compared you to myself. Instead, you're the one comparing me to yourself. I guess this means you also suffer from self-esteem issues? Similar to a guy who feels inferior to another guy because the other guy has a nicer car.