TIP of the day (logic): Dawkins' big oops

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 29 2016 7:42 PM

Two quotes, the first from a Logos resource:

Alister McGrath:

First, he declares that faith is fundamentally irrational. There’s no evidence for the existence of God. Those who believe in God are therefore running away from reality, seeking consolation in a make-believe, fairy-tale world.

Alister McGrath, Why God Won’t Go Away: Engaging with the New Atheism (London: SPCK, 2011), 9.

The second from the web:

Greta Christina:

This is probably the best argument I have against God's existence: There's no evidence for it. No good evidence, anyway. No evidence that doesn't just amount to opinion and tradition and confirmation bias and all the other stuff I've been talking about. No evidence that doesn't fall apart upon close examination.

"The Top 10 Reasons I Don't Believe in God" from Alternet

Do you see the problem? Think about it this way. How many millennia did humanity have no evidence of the existence of the (semi)planet Pluto? the existence of electrons? quantum entanglement? Did the lack of evidence that humans had have any effect on the reality of Pluto, electrons or entanglement? That is what Dawkins and Christina are arguing.  no evidence of God = no God. This is known as the argument from ignorance mentioned in a previous post as a fallacy that tries to change who has the burden of proof.

The appropriate response to this argument is simply to identify the fallacy and refuse to bite. Poor Greta Christina is in the worst position having claimed a fallacious argument is her best argument. If McGrath correctly reported Dawkins' argument Dawkins' and everyone who has let him get by with this ought to be embarrassed.

From Wikipedia:

Wikipedia: argument from ignorance:

Argument from ignorance (from Latin: argumentum ad ignorantiam), also known as appeal to ignorance (in which ignorance represents "a lack of contrary evidence"), is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that: there may have been an insufficient investigation, and therefore there is insufficient information to prove the proposition be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but may be as many as four,

  1. true
  2. false
  3. unknown between true or false
  4. being unknowable (among the first three).

In debates, appeals to ignorance are sometimes used in an attempt to shift the burden of proof.

Two takeaways:

  1. avoid this mistake by remembering "the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence"; the fact that this argument can sound very convincing doesn't make it true or valid ... think about Pluto.
  2. don't get pushed into declaring a statement as true or false. It is perfectly valid to admit that you don't know or even to say that it appears at this time to be unknowable. (In heaven I may know ... I keep that hope alive but the phrase "at this time")

Run this search or a similar search against your library to find quotes to add to the Hall of Shame alongside Dawkins and Christina.

This post is intended to measure the interest in a logic oriented sporadic series of posts that may or may not directly involve Logos as a tool.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 29 2016 8:23 PM

Thank you, MJ.

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Bridgeport, CT USA

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Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 29 2016 11:07 PM

That's a loud slam-dunk against new atheism. Thank you, MJ.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 29 2016 11:15 PM

Lee:
That's a loud slam-dunk against new atheism.

Slam dunk against this particular argument. However, if they start with something in the form of "If God N exists, then observation x should occur and it does not" is still a viable argument. But new atheism is very sloppy logically.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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D Bouey | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 29 2016 11:55 PM

Yes

'Tis greatly appreciated, MJ.

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 1 2016 12:28 AM

MJ. Smith:

Lee:
That's a loud slam-dunk against new atheism.

Slam dunk against this particular argument. However, if they start with something in the form of "If God N exists, then observation x should occur and it does not" is still a viable argument. But new atheism is very sloppy logically.

Add that when a new atheist says "evidence," they usually mean "empirical proof" and argue accordingly.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 1 2016 1:00 AM

Sean:
they usually mean "empirical proof" and argue accordingly.

That depends upon whether or not they understand the nature of science i.e. abductive logic.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 1 2016 3:37 AM

MJ, Thank you very much.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 1 2016 4:04 AM

Very good. Thanks.

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Dave Hooton | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Mar 1 2016 12:57 PM

MJ. Smith:
But new atheism is very sloppy logically.

This is illustrated in "The God Delusion Debate". Dawkins is supposed to be a scientist but he comes across as pathetic when debating with John Lennox, a scientist and Christian theologian!

Dave
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