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Friday, 1 June 2012

How Creationists Lie to Us - 15

Readers of my blog will be aware that I have recently been in 'debate' with Dr Peter Saunders, CEO Christian Medical Fellowship over his claim in his blog, 20 Questions atheists struggle to answer, that there are 20 questions which "as yet in over forty years of discussion with [Atheists] I am yet to hear any good [answers]".

In the blog, 20 Questions Atheists Have Answered, I showed that all these questions have been answered, either by answering them using established science, or provided links to books and articles which answer the questions asked.

I have since been waiting for Dr Saunders to respond, specifically to explain why he believed these questions had not been answered when they clearly have been. So far he has failed to do so, though he is now using Twitter to tweet a link to a Christian apologetics website which purports to (Questions That One Atheist Could Not Answer). The article on this site is anonymous and there is no opportunity to reply to it. I have asked Dr Saunders if this represents his view and should be taken as his definitive reply. He has not provided any reference to it either in reply to my comments on his original blog nor on my blog.

However, the article is interesting in its own right, not for it's reply per se but for what it reveals about the technique of Christian apologetics and how this is used to deceive and mislead rather than to inform through honest debate and to arrive at the truth through reason. This is illustrated very nicely by the 'reply' to the very first reply.
While I am certain that if I dug into her responses to the other questions, I would find much intellectual inadequacy (based on the responses that I found here), but I will leave them for somebody else to dissect. I offer a response to seven bad objections.

Question One: What Is The Cause Of The Universe?

Rosa’s Response:
We do not know exactly what happened in the first 1*10-43 [note that I expressed this throughout as 1*10-43] seconds of the life of the universe. This is the Planck length of time, in other words, the smallest unit of time which can exists so it is, in effect, unexaminable by science. Stephen Hawkings, in The Grand Design goes into this question at some length and concludes unequivocally that gravity alone is sufficient to explain it and that there is no evidence for a supernatural involvement.

Given that, at the quantum level, there is no such thing as nothing and everything is subject to unbounded fluctuation, this initial Planck length of time probably does not need to be explained in terms other than an unbounded quantum fluctuation. At the moment of it’s nascences, the universe was already 10-43 seconds old and this time is sufficient for gravity to separate from the other three forms of energy, so allowing a hyperinflation in which energy can be created with reduced entropy so obeying the Laws of Thermodynamics. Science has developed very accurate mathematical models of the Big Bang following this initial 10-43 seconds and observation has confirmed these models to a remarkably high degree of accuracy.
This is a very strange response, for it does not attempt to answer the question at all. The question is, “What is the cause of the universe?” But instead of tackling that question, Rosa answers, “what is the material cause of the formation of the universe?”
So the question is now miraculously re-defined. Having tapped the ball into the empty goal-mouth the goal-posts are relocated to a different part of the pitch. The 'cause' of the universe as originally referred to now does not include the 'material' cause, but something else. And of course, that 'immaterial' cause can only be the Christian god since that is the only one which the author will accept. How to dismiss an answer and hope the credulity of your readers will prevent them noticing the intellectual dishonesty.
Rosa answered a question that was not posed. But to the question that was posed, she replied that she does not know.
So, from "it does not attempt to answer the question at all" the complaint is now that I replied that we do not know the precise details of something which is probably fully explained as a quantum fluctuation anyway... (Note how my reply was truncated to remove the pertinent part in an astonishingly blatant display of selective quote-mining worthy of any creationist 'science' website).

There then follows a puff for an article by our anonymous author and a rather sad repetition of the long-refuted Kalam Cosmological Argument about which many books and articles have been written, including my own, Favourite Fallacies - The Kalâm Cosmological Argument. The KCA is of course nothing more than the God of the Gaps and the Argument From Ignorance fallacies dressed up to look intellectual and which, with equal (in)validity can be used to support any god or any other daft notion one can invent to explain something unknown. Indeed, it was originally devised by Islamic scholars to promote Allah, which few, if any Christians would try to present as the one true god as revealed to Mohammed...

So Rosa’s objection to the claim that atheists’ struggle to answer this question is not founded on any intellectual basis (at least not in this writing).
Er... apart from showing exactly how the question could be and had been answered and providing links to sources which did exactly that, and thus falsifying the claim...
However at the end of the writing, she offers three questions meant for Doctor Saunders. I will be so bold as to answer in his absence.
Were you unaware of the work of Hawkins, Krauss, and Stenger?
Then you were aware that the question had been answered by Atheists and your pretence that is has not been is dishonest and disingenuous, as is your pretence that I was addressing something other than a claim that this question had not been answered.
If not unaware, in what way are their explanations unsatisfactory?
They attempt explain the material cause of the universe (the stuff out of which the universe is made) but not the efficient cause of the universe (the cause that brought the universe into being).
In other words, they don't answer a different question to the one asked and for which the only answer you will accept is that the Christian god did it. Sorry, but there is no requirement for science to include your magic friend in any explanation to make it's answers satisfactory. If you insist on complaining that science doesn't agree with your superstition you merely betray the fact that your superstition is wrong.
In the absence of a scientific answer to this question, how exactly do you conclude that the only alternative is that the Christian god caused the universe to exist?
It is not that a scientific answer is absent; it is a matter of deduction.
Which of course neatly side-steps the question and the fact that the argument relies entirely on presentation of a dishonest false dichotomy in what is clearly a well-rehearsed attempt to divert the question. Even if there is a gap in scientific knowledge, it does not follow that the Christian god is the only possible alternative answer on offer. I have previously shown how this dishonest tactic depends entirely on the parochial ignorance of its target in The False Dichotomy Fallacy - Creationism's Moral Failing. The anonymous author's response to this question betrays his awareness that it destroys his entire tactic.
From the argument that I presented, we are justified in deducing the existence of a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, intelligent, personal Creator of the universe. However this argument does not aim to demonstrate that the Christian God exists; just that God exists.
Except, of course, as you know, you have presented nothing more than a god of the gaps argument, an argument from ignorance and a false dichotomy, in lieu of a single shred of anything resembling evidence for the Christian god, let alone explaining how, in the absence of a scientific answer, this god should be regarded as the only alternative explanation on offer.

So there we see:
  1. A claim that a question has never been answered refuted by evidence which is simply waved aside.
  2. An attempt to redefine the question to avoid the fact that the one asked has been answered.
  3. A false claim that the question has not been answered followed by a complaint that the answer was not the one wanted.
  4. The presentation of a dishonest false dichotomy and a clearly rehearsed response to this charge which betrays the dishonesty of the tactic being employed and the author's awareness of it.
All good examples of how Creationists try to get away with tactics over substance and aim their arguments at the credulous and gullible, and of their intellectual dishonesty and their need to use the tactic of the confidence trickster and the snake-oil salesman.


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  1. Richard is actually quite correct in saying that you have not answered the question I posed.

    You have instead simply attempted to describe the material process. And yet you seem to have no insight into what you have actually done.

    Are you familiar with Aristotle on causality and of the difference between mechanism and agency I wonder?

    Or are you not able to think outside the box of scientific materialism?

    1. If you wanted Atheists to answer a different question, why did you ask such a poorly constructed question in the first place and not make it clear that you were merely complaining that Atheists were not providing you with arguments for your favourite superstition?

      Are you not ashamed of having to use these deceitful and clearly misleading tactics to fool your gullible victims into believing that you have scored points where none exist and to have somehow succeeded in overcoming the complete absence of any evidence for your claims by deft intellectual somersaults?

      And still you have failed to address the quite blatant use of the false dichotomy fallacy...

      I had hoped for a more honest debate from someone who depends on science for his living.

    2. I doubt there is any point in asking you to provided substantive evidence to show that there is, in reality, anything outside the 'box of scientific materialism', let alone how you were able to examine it or could validate any claims which could be made about it.

      I'm afraid your implicit insistence that I just accept your assurance that there is something and that you know about it through some mysterious 'immaterial' process is not adequate.

      Or were you maybe hoping to slip that assumption passed me without it being noticed too?

    3. BTW, your challenge is to justify your claim that these questions have never been answered despite that fact that I have shown that they can be and have been.

      When are you going to have the integrity to deal with that instead of trying to divert attention away from your inability to do so?

  2. René Descartes was far better at logical deduction than Saunders and his ilk, and he totally failed to produce any logical argument for the existence of God either.

    Saunders always moves the goalposts so fast they appear as a faint blur. One of the most dishonest debaters I've ever seen.

    1. There seem to be a sub-culture in fundamentalist religious circles which actually admires intellectual dishonesty and an ability to use it in debate. I can think of no other logical reason why they seem so keen to display their skill at it. The tactics become so infantile, at times it's like being back in the playground.

  3. Fascinating. It seems as though that there is a tendency to cry "dishonesty" when really the issue is that people simply don't agree. Is it that it is beyond the comprehension of some atheists to grasp that rational people can be theists, or is it just a desperate attempt to discredit the theists with whom there is disagreement because you can't otherwise prove them wrong?

    Sometimes, of course, there is genuine dishonesty, and I am not going to argue that all Christians show honesty and integrity in their viewpoint. But it works both ways, and Rosa does not have the best record of playing it straight herself. A case in point is the last post where she clearly implies that the quotes are directly from the video she has included, when this is - in fact - not the case.

    I think, Rosa, most of us would agree with your desire for honest debate and suggest that you lead us by example.

    1. I don't know about you so I'll take your word for it that you have that tendency. I however reserve the charge of dishonesty for when someone is using dishonest tactics like making a claim (that they have a detectable god, for example) and then spend days on end constructing ever-more implausible excuses for not being able to say how their claim can be substantiated, desperately trying to sift the burden of proof, hiding behind smokescreens and diverting the conversation away from the claim, but never, under any circumstances, addressing the point that they made a claim which they knew to be false.

    2. I think you will find that I answered all your questions honestly. Whether you agree with me is another matter.

      "...never, under any circumstances, addressing the point that they made a claim which they knew to be false..."

      Talking of which, are you ever going to provide the evidence to substantiate your claim that "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe"?

    3. >I think you will find that I answered all your questions honestly.<

      Apart from any questions relating to how we can detect the detectable god you claim to have, of course...

      >Talking of which, are you ever going to provide the evidence to substantiate your claim that "[a supernatural God] by definition cannot interact with the natural universe"?<

      Certainly, but since you seem to be incapable of reading a dictionary for yourself, why would you read any definition which I could cut and paste from a dictionary for you?

      I'm sorry to see you've reverted to the playground tactic of arguing about definitions of everyday words and demanding we accept your private definition instead of the normal one. I thought we had got past that one.

      Do you think there is anything more you need do to demonstrate that you made a false claim but lack the integrity to admit it? There can surely be little doubt now.

    4. "Apart from any questions relating to how we can detect the detectable god you claim to have, of course."

      Maybe you missed the whole discussion on that. It's a couple of posts down, if you - or anyone else - wants to read it.

      "Certainly, but since you seem to be incapable of reading a dictionary for yourself, why would you read any definition which I could cut and paste from a dictionary for you?"

      The dictionary definition I read (and referenced for you) did not rule out such interactions between the supernatural and the natural. Hence the question I asked. If it's as easy as "cutting and pasting" from a dictionary, perhaps you would - finally - like to reference the dictionary you were using.

    5. >Maybe you missed the whole discussion on that. It's a couple of posts down, if you - or anyone else - wants to read it.<

      Indeed. If I recall, you were claiming to be able to detect your god by supernatural means.

      To do that of course, you would need to be supernatural yourself and would therefore be incapable of making the claim in the first place or of contributing to this blog, so we can dismiss that as yet another attempt to fool credulous and ignorant people.

      So, would you like to explain how you can detect your god without having to make equally absurd claims about yourself and which anyone with the IQ above that of a plank of wood can see is false?

    6. "It seems as though that there is a tendency to cry "dishonesty" when really the issue is that people simply don't agree"
      Certainly there is. That does not mean every accusation of dishonesty really just boils down to a difference of opinion. In this case intellectual dishonesty on the part of the anonymous blogger is rampant.


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