Posts Tagged ‘fallacy’

These are a couple of short parables (and a true stories) depicting a brief history of the nature of religion(s)

Homeless God(s)

When early man first conceived of God he saw him in the beasts and the trees and the rocks.

But soon man learned to make hammers break open the rocks, weapons and tools to hunt and carve the flesh of the beasts and still other tools to harvest the plants and trees for food, fuel and building materials.
He found no gods inside them.

So man decided that the Gods must obviously be in the distant lands and across vast the oceans.

But as man spread out he learned to build ships to cross wide the oceans and vehicles to travel to the distant lands.
And again he found no gods there.

So man stated that the Gods must therefore be under the seas and exist in the skies and even out in the heavens among the stars.

But again, man learned to devise capsules to venture under the seas and built machines to soar the skies and eventually made devices to peer into the heavens to see the distant stars and even rockets to visit the nearby planets.
And still he found no gods.

Now man has evicted his god(s) to a place outside of all reality itself, to a supernatural realm where no one can ever go unless the god(s) let them in. An imagined place in an alleged mystical realm outside of all that we know to exist.

I can’t help but wonder when we finally realize there is in fact nothing outside of reality, where we will send poor God to next?

The Religion that is Subjectivism

Way back at the dawn of man, some men who were older, perceived as wiser and smart enough to sound important would wander off into a mountain somewhere to think to themselves. They would ponder long and dream up many great sounding ideas then come back and speak to the masses in big sounding words and spew out complex theories about man and creation and the nature of the universe. And all the common folk who were too busy trying to please their slave drivers and maintain their meager lives to ponder such things would bow down to them saying ‘oh oh great wise one, tell us how to think, tell us how to behave, tell us more of the truths you have received through revelation!

Yet more amazing still is that 4000 or so years later, similar men who are older, perceived as wiser and smart enough to sound important now go off into the ivory towers of their universities to think to themselves. They also ponder long and dream up many great sounding ideas then come into the public and speak to the masses in big sounding words and spew out complex theories about man and creation and the nature of the universe. And the common folk who are too busy trying to please their employers and maintain their meager lives to ponder such things still bow down to them saying “oh oh great wise ones …..

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Some time ago I stumbled upon a picture on the internet of a sign in front of a church somewhere.  Below is the picture of the sign:

I posted a copy of this sign to a folder dedicated to such things on my Facebook profile to show an example of the absurdity sometimes exhibited by religious logic.  I saw it as an example of such absurdity due to the inherent flaws in this kind of a statement.

Well, this morning as I was on my way to the grocery store I saw that one of the local Churches along the way has apparently found it admirable to emulate this sign and now bears a similar message.  (I will try to get a photo of it tomorrow to replace this one in my facebook as well as possibly to add to this blog post – first hand evidence is always superior to the anecdotal kind)

I figured as long as I am going to be going by that way to take the photo anyway, it might be worthwhile to drop a quick note to the pastor to let him know that his posting of the message may not have the desired effect(s) he intended.  The following is the text I am considering sending in such a letter if I do decide to leave one behind:

To whom it may concern,

  I couldn't help but notice that the marquis sign
in front of  your Church is emulating a message
that has been making the rounds of the internet
by way of a similar sign seen in front of a
small Presbyterian church in eastern Ontario.

  I think it may be of value to inform you that this
message may not have the intended result you desire
for a couple of reasons, not the least of which are
two inherent flaws in the statement itself.  Flaws
that any reasonable person should quickly realize.
  To address the flaws first, let me begin with
the obvious one of the two.  Google is not an
'answer' engine, Google a search engine.
  Although I understand the intent of the message,
the way it is worded immediately jumps out to me
as inaccurate. I realize the intention is to
say that there are some things that can't be
answered by 'using' google, but then why not
instead have the sign read:


The second flaw in the statement is a fallacy
that is implied when putting such a message out
in front of a Church like yours.  The implication
being that the Bible and the Church 'can' answer
such questions.
  I will not speak to my own opinion as to whether
or how well notions of faith and belief in God
may or may not answer such questions, but I
shall address the fallacy of this implication.
  This is a typical "Because Not A, therefore B"
type argument and is a fallacy.  Using such
reasoning, one could just as easily imply:
"because you cannot find all the answers on
 Google, therefore you 'can' by way of Astrology"
  or "...asking a stranger on the street"
  or "...flipping to a random page in the nearest book"
  Because you cannot find all the answers using
Google does not automatically equate that you
can through any suggested alternative.  Any such
alternative still needs to establish that it is
not only a consistent and valid source of such
answers, but by way of that wording, that it is
an all inclusive source of such answers as well.

Again, it is not my desire to hash out whether or not
the Bible or a Church does this.  But with both of
these flaws addressed, I would like to point out one
other possible 'effect' that you might not have
  As I stated, any reasonable person can quickly
see one if not both of these flaws.  Any reasonably
connected person (on the internet) may well have
seen this sign's message and thus realize your's
is not original, but flattery through imitation.
But have you also considered that it might be seen
as 'self-righteousness' on the part of the religious
or your particular parish?  (if I am not correct,
self-righteousness is discouraged in Christian
doctrine as a form of vanity, is it not?)

What do I mean by this?  If you examine the two
flaws, and if you consider it plausible for people to
discern them, then it is not a leap to consider
that only people who already believe
'God and the Bible 'do' have all the answers'
will be the most likely people to agree with such
a statement on face value.
  In other words, the wording will likely not 'convince'
anyone that is not already convinced.  If it's not
there to convince anyone (or, if convincing them
was an intention but is one that will not be likely
to achieve such a desired purpose) then what other
purpose can the message serve other than to
'brag' or 'boast' about the about religion/church's
self-perceived ability to be the sole source of
answers to such questions?

In other words, for a reasonable person capable of
critical thinking, your sign might actually turn
people away from the idea of turning to the
church for answers.
  Just some thoughts for you to consider.


one of your friendly neighborhood atheists...

P.S.  I thought it might also be of interest to
  you to know that I have a copy of this sign that
  I post as an example of the flaws of religious
  logic - due to very the two things I mentioned.

And I don’t think it’s a leap to consider that the two reasons I mentioned are also part of the reason the original version from Ontario has gotten such circulation on the internet.

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The subject of ‘Randroids‘ keeps coming up.  The Urban Dictionary defines it as “A blind follower of Ayn Rand & her philosophy of objectivism,” going on to say “…with emphasis on the more cultic aspects of the movement. Often marked by exclusivist rhetoric, dogmatic individualism, and determinedly narcissistic self-praise.”

I generally tend to think that labels are only really useful for telling the difference between a can full of peaches and a can full of peas, but let’s examine this further.

Obviously, it’s an attempt at ad hominem and is intended to belittle someone who self-identifies as ‘an objectivist‘ or who frequently quotes from Ayn Rand.  Ad hominem is a term referring to a fallacy in argumentation that involves attacking the individual making an argument rather than the premises they present.  In short, it’s a lazy person’s way to avoid addressing the facts involved in an issue and often times serves as an indicator that they are either ignorant of those facts or just plain wrong.  More often than not, it’s both.

Truth be told, I have run into a few ‘cultish’ types in the Objectivist community myself, but they are by far not a majority.  And the fact is that a lot of people engage in various forms of ad hominem as well as many other forms of fallacious argumentation.

One thing that I have learned over the years when it comes to ad hominem and other forms of personal attacks is to examine what is really being said and then, try to see if what they ‘mean’ and what they are actually ‘saying’ are really in tandem with one another.  In other words, is what they are saying (or the words they are choosing to say it) really that bad after all?

Consider ‘Randroid’.  It’s an obvious coinage merging the terms ‘Rand’ from the author’s last name and the word ‘android’ – the implication being that you are an unthinking robot.  But let’s first start with the definition of the word.  Dictionary.com says:

an automaton in the form of a human being.

The same source says of automaton that it is something capable of acting automatically or without an external motive force. And wikipedia says of automaton that it is a self-operating machine. The word is sometimes used to describe a robot, more specifically an autonomous robot.  Wiktionary goes on to say it is a machine or robot designed to follow a precise sequence of instructions; A formal system, such as finite automaton.  I saw a few other sources that described it as an ‘intelligent machine’ and having a free or independent will.

When it comes to words, I also like to go back to their originations to help get a better feel for their true meanings.  Automaton extends from Ancient Greek αὐτόματον (automaton), neuter of αὐτόματος (automatos, “self moving, self willed”) and android was coined from the Greek root ανδρ- ‘man’ and the suffix -oid ‘having the form or likeness of’.  Both terms have gotten more exposure from science fiction where they are often depicted as mindless monsters bent on destroying mankind, but – as with most things – reality works out differently.

In reality, we are learning that making a ‘human like’ machine that can act on it’s own volition requires an ‘intelligent’ – in fact – a ‘very VERY intelligent machine’.  In essence, the ideal android would be something that appeared and behaved in a manner identical to most biological humans but that also possessed the superior abilities of a machine.  A being who’s decision making was based on a logical process of ‘rules’ including many compiled in through very hard work of those that came before it or helped to develop it, but also many rules created through learning capabilities and drawn from the realities of the universe.

There is nothing more dispelling to an attempt at ad hominem or other means of tainting an argument by-way-of ridicule than to point out the obvious flaws in the attempt and then own the moniker with pride.

So based on the examination of the words and motivations involved, I re-assemble the definition:

Randroidn. a human being who behaves like an intelligent machine, following a logical set of rules – many of which were exemplified by Ayn Rand in her Objectivist epistemology – that extend from the nature of what ‘is’ (existence) and all that reasonably can be deduced or induced from it.

Randroid?  Yeah, I can live with that!

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