Thursday, September 22, 2005

Universe Abridged, Part III: Who's your God?

I am not, in fact, against God. I am certainly an atheist, by Douglas Adams' definition I believe-there-is-not-a-God. However, it was Adams who summed up all religion gloriously on the example of a man who was nailed to a piece of wood two thousand years ago for suggesting that we actually be nice to each other for a change. So, I am all for faith and spirituality, because they truly accomplish some marvelous things. It would be very nice if people could just be moral on their own, without fear of eternal damnation, but hey, you can't have everything.

What I do have a problem with, is religion. Because any organized religion, by default, is a bunch of people telling others that they know what God wants them to do. This is annoyingly arrogant of them, but I couldn't pass judgement on that basis alone, because I'm annoyingly arrogant myself (err... sometimes). Organized religion is bad because it provides unassailable justification. It allows people to act on their darkest impulses because they believe it is for the best, they are doing God's work, and they are justified.

I'm sorry, but there are things which you are never justified in doing. Not even if the Lord Almighty has descended from Heaven above and placed the gun in your hand. Moral judgement cannot be deferred to a higher authority, it is the one thing that every person must process for themselves.

Justification is the root of all that's evil about religion.

And when people have been exposed to religion enough, when they form a habit of substituting justification for judgement, they end up saying and doing some really stupid shit. Like teach creationism in schools.

Frankly, I cannot understand how this could be happening. Like Charles Babbage with his MPs, I am incapable of correctly assessing the confusion of minds that produces such bullshit. And at the end of the day, these assholes have the gall to challenge evolution on the basis that "it is just one of many theories", and attempt to substitute it with idiocy like Intelligent Design.

Unfortunately, I have no power to do anything about it, I don't live in the USA and don't vote in their elections. So I'm going to do the best I can, and dismantle, in clear and understandable terms, the laughable claim that creationism in any form is remotely scientific.

Creationists do not present a scientific argument about the existence of God. They never have. A proper scientific argument begins with "Let us assume that an apple of X weight falls down from the tree at Y speed and hits the ground with Z force", and eventually arrives at "therefore, all objects are drawn to each other with a force directly proportional to their weight and inversely proportional to the square root of the distance between them".

A creationist argument begins with "Let us assume there is a God", and eventually arrives at "therefore, there is a God".

Creationism also has no falsifiers. If you assume that there is an Intelligent Designer who has kick-started the Universe and is now directing its actions, then it explains absolutely everything. It is not possible to conceive of a situation or event that could not be explained by the existence of an Intelligent Designer. Therefore, an Intelligent Designer cannot exist.

So, the notion of teaching creationism in science class is entirely preposterous on the basis that it is demonstrably and indubitably unscientific.

The existence of God is not just highly improbable; if you discount relentless blind faith in what your parents and your minister told you, if you simply take the entire wealth of knowledge available to the intelligent thought of man, you will be forced to come to a singular conclusion; that despite any advances in research or scientific philosophy that have come about in recorded history or may come about in the future, the existence of God is fundamentally impossible.

Evolution is not for certain, but only the most plausible explanation we have for the moment as to how life works.

Creationism, however, is indefensibly wrong.


tailotg said...

Flasher, you were fine up until the bolded paragraph, where you contradicted yourself. If the existence of an Intelligent Designer is unfalsifiable, then no amount of the "wealth of knowledge available to the intelligent thought of man" can establish your conclusion that God does not exist.

Flasher T said...

Ah, well, let me clarify: the wealth of knowledge available to the intelligent thought of man has lead us to adopt Popper's falsifier system (explained in Pt II), and to conclude that an unfalsifiable theory is conclusively untrue. Since the existence of God is unfalsifiable, it is untrue.

tailotg said...

That isn't what you said in Pt. II. Unfalsifiability relates to the scientific validity of a theory, not its absolute truth. I'm not saying Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory... it's not, and it shouldn't be taught in science classes. But being unfalsifiable doesn't guarantee that it's false.

Flasher T said...

I understand your point, I think. But you're confusing cause and effect. A non-science like astronomy may occasionally get it right about what sort of day you're going to have, and creationists might occasionally use their incorrect assumptions to arrive at valid results. But the fact that a theory can be used to arrive at verifiably correct results does not make the assumptions valid.

It is a core stipulation in Popper's system that no matter how thoroughly a theory has been verified, a single instance that it cannot explain makes it invalid. I don't know if he actually ever said that a theory which cannot be falsified is by definition incorrect, but it is the logical development.

tailotg said...

(I'm going to assume you meant astrology, not astronomy)

"no matter how thoroughly a theory has been verified, a single instance that it cannot explain makes it invalid."

Add the word "scientifically" before "invalid" and I agree. But that argument tells us nothing about unfalsifiable theories. Why? Because by definition, there's not a single instance that they cannot explain. That's what made them unfalsifiable in the first place. They don't fit within the context of your argument, so you can't use your argument to draw logical conclusions about them.

tailotg said...

Keep in mind, please, that I'm not saying unfalsifiable theories are inherently true, either. What I'm saying is that you cannot logically interpret anything about them one way or another.

So God may exist, and he may not. In the absence of a scientific and measurable definition for God, it's a question that can only be answered (one way or the other) by personal faith.

And yes, that means I'm saying atheism is faith-based.

Flasher T said...

I don't think that, if you make concessions for the way scientists (and philosophers) are used to speaking, there is a huge leap of faith from "If it can't be false, it's not worth considering" to "If it can't be false, it's not true".

A little metaphysical, maybe, but there you go. :)

tailotg said...

No, I don't think it's a huge leap. But it's a nonzero leap, isn't it? Those two statements aren't identical, are they? So in its own way, it is a leap of faith from "the existence of God is unproveable" to "God does not exist".

...which is why we have the difference between atheism and agnosticism in the first place.

Heiti Kender said...

and make that "nonscience astronomy" to "nonscience astrology" :)

Flasher T said...

yes, yes, astrology :P


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