Roy Williams… Again

Hello there skeptics, atheists and scientists,

Today I am going to be blogging about Roy Williams again, I haven’t blogged about his arguments for a while now, I’ve been saving this one up. In his book, ‘god actually’ , Roy has a section entitled ‘Tackling arguments against a designing god’, today I am going to be rebutting some of these ‘rebuttals’. Most of his arguments are completely ridiculous in here, as he completely misses the point of particular arguments.

He discusses the idea of naturalistic, evolutionary, reasons for a religion to exist, and he misses the whole point of the idea. This argument is just a rebuttal of an argument used by Christians for religion. They say “If religion isn’t true, why does it exist. Religion must have some truth to it because otherwise why would humans have made up the concept in the first place. Natural explanations for religion like an evolutionary advantage to belief, or a ‘god center’ somewhere in the brain, are not arguments against god, as Williams portrays them as, they are rebuttals of arguments for god. And somehow, in all of it, Williams blames us for non-sequiters by saying that this is not an argument against god.

Another argument which Williams ‘takes on’ is the ‘god of the gaps’ argument, apparently, used by atheists. This is the first time I have heard god of the gaps being used to argue against god, but there you go. For as long as I can remember, the god of the gaps has been a logical fallacy describing religious people, not an argument against god. It has always been just like most, a rebuttal of theist arguments, not arguments of our own. Williams also happens to say that his beliefs are not god of the gap arguments, despite using arguments like irreducible complexity and creation of the universe, and quite often saying, “Science cannot explain this”, which is kind of the definition of the god of the gaps argument.

These are just a few of the arguments ‘taken on’ by Roy Williams, and they demonstrate the way Williams argues. He is completely unaware of the whole idea of most of the atheism VS religion debate. When it comes to science and logic, the burden of proof is on the affirmative (religion), and it is the job of the negative (atheism) to show the logical fallacies and factual incorrectness which may be present in these arguments. It’s quite fine for the religious to counter-rebut these arguments, but it’s not okay for them to claim that these are direct arguments against god, and then to just say that they are using non-sequiters. If he wants to tackle some real arguments against god, not some rebuttals, take a look at some of the apparent logical contradictions in god, the concept of cause-and-effect, or the idea of something from nothing.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from H. L. Mencken, “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”, H. L. Mencken, an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American culture and scholar.

Advertisements

Why do I say “Oh God!”, not “Oh Zeus!”

I was listening to a gateway Church podcast recently (yes, I listen to all the hit Christian podcasts), and the preacher presented to the audience an argument for why Christianity is a much more valid religion than Buddhism or the Greek gods of mythology. He presented this (paraphrasing):-
Why is it that when a theologian debates with an agnostic or a heathen (he used those terms), you can talk all you want about various theological concepts and ideas, but when the idea of Christianity or Jesus comes to the fray, they always get a bit more animated, angry and excitable. This is because Christianity has some undeniable truth about it, and they always have to resort to a bit more force in their words. And Why is it, that when they see something that amazes them they say, “Oh My God” and when they bang their hand with a hammer they say “God dammit!” Why is that? It’s because somewhere, deep down inside, they have the breath of the holy spirit within them. Blah Blah Blah… and on he went.
I had to stop the podcast at this moment. I had to think about this one because it was an argument for god, and not just some more “Believe in Jesus” talk. I have thought about it, and here are a few reasons why us atheists say God, not Buddha. I’ll also say that I personally do not say “Oh my God”, I prefer to use “Zeus almighty!” or “Thor! God of Thunder!”

First of all, most of us in the western world have grown up in Christian backgrounds, so must of us atheists used to be Christians, which means that our ‘cursing of god’s name’ is just a remnant of our pasts. I f I had grown up in a home where my father and mother had said, “Zeus help me” every time I was being stubborn, I would probably grow up to use Zeus as a curse word in my vocabulary. It’s also a lot easier to say ‘god’ (1 syllable), as opposed to ‘Anextiomarus’ (Celtic sun-god) (6 syllables) when I’m angry.

Second of all, The reason why atheists get so animated when you start talking specifically about Jesus, is because we are sick of it all. Most of us can tolerate you saying that your god wrote the rulebook and then just sat back and watched it all happen, but when you start telling me that “God made me with a special plan in mind”, “Jesus is patiently knocking on the door to my soul”, or “You really do know that god is real, but you are just suppressing it and denying it”, because these statements are so out there, random, intangible with reality, unproved, logically strange and impossible, that our brains overload with logical fallacy alarms, dumbass alerts and goes into shut down mode, or explodes.

The third objection to this argument, the reason why we use deities in our curses at all, is simple, and it comes back to 90% (ball-park, don’t quote me on this) of us having grown up in religious homes.  There is mounting evidence in many scientific tests that swearing reduces the sensation of pain. So when you stick your hand in a bucket of ice-cold water, using some expletives will give you a substantial amount of time more, with your hand in the water. When I was a Christian, and still now in my Christian home, saying “Oh My God” was as bad as the f-bomb or any other common expletive. So nowadays, ‘using god’s name in vein’ still gives me that therapeutic feeling that I experience with other swear words. That’s why I still do it.

I hope today’s post has put across the point that this argument for Christianity is paper-thin, with no logic or evidence to support it. I will you with a quote from Carl Sagan, “You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”, Carl Sagan, an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author and science popularizer of some note.

Penalty Shoot-Out, By the Numbers

Ahoy-hoy,

I recently was engaged in a debate with a friend of mine, over which position is more important in a game of soccer, the goal-keeper, or the on-field players. This argument worked through things like the fact that the goalkeeper walked on to the field followed only by the captain at the start of the game, the fact that the goalkeeper is the last player left in a drop-out over-time situation, and that goalkeepers have been the only position to be unchanged for almost 150 years in the sport which is association football. Eventually, it got to the penalty shoot-out, the most pure goalkeeper vs striker situation. Obviously, my pro-striker debater did have the fact that most penalty shoot-outs end up with scores of at least 3 goals to each team. 85%, over four-fifths of penalty shots go in, so you must ask, “What makes the odds so stacked in the favor of the striker?” I’ll attempt to answer this question, and how to combat it if you are a goalkeeper, in this post.

The area of a goal is about 192 ft², and the area of a goalkeeper, if you give dimensions of 1 foot wide by 6 foot tall, that’s 6 ft². about 1/32 of the size of the goal… so actually, this initial number of 85% almost seems impressive. But obviously, the goalkeeper does not just stand in the goal at a random spot, and expect the striker to also kick to a random spot in the goal. Lets figure out how fast the reactions have to be for a goalkeeper.

An average penalty shot goes at about 100 kph (60 mph), so if you do the maths, that works out to about 0.4 seconds, or 400 milliseconds from kick to goal line. The speedy end of the reaction time for humans (which you would expect a goalkeeper to have) is 100 milliseconds. You can’t get the direction of the ball from the first 100 – 150 milliseconds of flight, so this gives about 150 – 200 milliseconds to get to where ever the ball has been kicked. This is extremely hard, so we have to be able to find a better way of saving penalty shots, but first, a bit of interesting findings on penalty shots which may help make things easier for the goalkeeper or the striker.

It has been found that goalkeepers will dive to the right more when their team is behind on the scoreboard, and strikers will kick more at the goalkeeper when their team is behind on the scoreboard. This could give the goalkeeper or striker an advantage if they were to know about the habits of their opposition, but any good soccer player will be studied up on things like these, so it becomes an infinite regression of:-
I know that he will kick to the right, but maybe he knows that I know that he will kick to the right, but now I know that he knows that I know that he will kick to the right etc.
So it is best to just rule out picking a side based on psychology, and look for some biometric ways to predict the direction of a kick.

A study has been done in Canada, looking at this problem. The looked at the following variables :- the penalty taker’s starting position, angle of approach to the ball, lean of the penalty taker, the placement of the non-kicking foot, or the contact of the kicking foot on the ball. They found that the cue which had the sweetest combination of both accuracy and reaction time was the angle of the non-kicking foot. This gave the goalkeeper an extra 200 milliseconds of time before the kick, allowing for almost half a second (which feels like a million years when the trophy is on the line, I swear) to move towards the direction if the ball. The placement of the foot gave an 80% accuracy at predicting the kick.

That’s great, but as a goalkeeper, I want to squeeze as much as I can out of the research, and luckily, research in England has found just that. They attached eye-tracking goggles to strikers and followed the eye-movement before and leading up to the kick. They found that strikers who stared down the goalkeeper kicked a lot more of their shots straight towards the goalkeeper than those who looked at the ground or to either side of the goalkeeper, so this suggests that a goalkeeper who finds their eyes locked with a striker should expect a kick coming closer to them than those strikers who didn’t engage eye-contact with the goalkeeper.

So what we can find these studies is that just guessing or reacting after the kick is just not going to cut it, and the best way to predict the direction of a kick is to look at the planting foot, and the direction which it is pointed at. I’ll leave it at that, and give you a customary quote from Max Planck, “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Max Planck, a German Physicist of some note.

Fallacy Frenzy: Moving the Goalposts

Hi there, follow skeptics,

I am going to continue my on-going run of logical fallacies. Today I am going to be talking about a very common logical fallacy, not only used in discussions involving skepticism, but in everyday life. It is the argument called ‘moving the goalposts’. It is essentially a dirty, intellectually dishonest tactic to ensure that your opposition never reaches the full set of criteria for approval. It is not technically a logical fallacy, because there is no fault in logic in this argument, but it is usually counted as a fallacy because it is a common tactic, and it is not a very honest one at that.

The basis of this debating tactic is that you can always ask for more and more proof of something, all the time knowing that you will always be able to ask for more proof without ever having to concede defeat. I will explain it using the evolution/creation argument because it is a very common use of this arguing tactic.
A creationist states to an evolution proponent that there is a big gap between whales and land mammals, which must be filled in order to prove evolution.
The evolution proponent then proceeds to go out and do all the work, and manages to find a transitional fossil between mammals and a whale.
The creationist then has two options, he can either ask for a transitional fossil between two different species, or he can ask for fossils between the whale and the whale-mammal hybrid, or between the whale-mammal hybrid and the mammal. (notice this is also a god of the gaps argument in this case, I will deal with that logical fallacy later)
This is a moving the goalposts fallacy. This process can continue on for ever, with the creationist just asking for more and more proof, and the evolutionist providing it, and then the creationist asking for more.
No matter how hard the evolutionist works and how much proof he finds, it will always be just below the creationists criteria.

Another common example of this argument tactic is used by proponents of god in general. However, despite being a moving the goalposts strategy, it works in reverse to the previous example. God is usually described as the gap in our knowledge about the universe. This has been the general theory of god since its beginning.
When it was not understood how lighting and thunder was made, god was accepted as the creator of this thunder. An atheist at the time would have said that lightning is natural, the normal response would be “prove it.” So the atheist goes out and proves that lightning does not need god to explain it away. The god-believer will then say, “god makes the planets go around.” The atheist goes out and proves that there is no need for god to explain the planets motions.

This process continues to the stage where god is just the so-called ‘writer-of-the-rulebook’, and he decided upon the physical laws, and now just sits back and watches the action unfold. According to god proponents, god still exists, so they are happy, despite the fact that god is being pushed into an ever smaller corner. This is also an example of moving the goalposts.

That’s all for today, I will leave you with a quote from Bertrand Russell, “Logical errors are, I think, of greater practical importance than many people believe; they enable their perpetrators to hold the comfortable opinion on every subject in turn.” Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, logican, mathematician, historian and social critic of some note.

Ad Hominem Logical Fallacy

Yesterday I blogged about the logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc, or post hoc, and how it is used, and why it is an illogical argument. Today I will be continuing the logical fallacy blitz with the fallacy known as an Ad Hominem attack. This is a common argument used by a lot of different groups, even including skeptics sometimes, so it is important to understand this fallacy to make sure you don’t use it someday when arguing with a conspiracy theorist or a UFOligist. It is also used in politics a lot, especially at the moment in Queensland where there is a political election coming up in a few days.

The most recent use of this argument is by the Labor party in the campaign for the up-coming election. Due to the fact that the Labor Party is fighting an extremely up-hill battle (the latest poll shows that they could win as little as 12 of 89 seats in parliament), they are resorting to attacking the politicians themselves rather than just putting forward good policies or proposed plans. The most common one is the ‘Campbell’s web’ advertisement, which attacks Campbell Newman (the leader of the LNP) and his personal finances not the policies he is proposing or the political view-point he argues for.It is a prime example of an ad hominem attack, because they are attacking the arguer, and not the arguments.

I also mentioned that skeptics fall into this trap often. This is one reason why it is important to know about logical fallacies. The first is that you can call your opponent bluff when he uses one, the second is that you can also question your own arguments with them, to make sure your logic is valid, os that you can correct them, and not the person you are arguing with.

Skeptics often use this logical fallacy when they are arguing with people such as UFOligists, conspiracy theorists and homeopaths. They often fall into saying things like “This is just stupid, how could you honestly believe that what you are saying is true, it is ridiculous!”, or something of the like. This is a logical fallacy. You cannot just simply disregard an argument because it is silly, it is a logical fallacy. However, it is not a logical fallacy to say “The notion of homeopathy is just outrageous, and here is why.” That is not a logical fallacy. If you explain your ad hominem attack with logically sound arguments, then it is not a logical fallacy, it is just good use of the arguing technique of ‘making the other person look like an idiot.’

Ad Hominem attacks are usually last gasp attempts to salvage some victories in the dieing moments of a debate when the fallacious arguer realizes that he is losing by a large margin.

That’s all for me today, I will leave you with a quote from Thomas H. Huxley, “Science is simply common sense at its best; that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.” Thomas H. Huxley, most often known of as Darwin’s bulldog and refiner of agnosticism.