It’s a trick

To paraphrase Frodo from The Lord of the Rings:

I know what you would say, and it would seem like logic, but for the warning in my heart

For true believers logic is only a trick. It’s a way for clever people to “convince” you that they’re right by distracting you from what you already know in your heart to be true.

Falsified AND Unfalsifiable

From a recent comment on Good Math, Bad Math (edited here for clarity…and yes it’s my own comment):

“So you’re saying you falsified my claim, AND the claim is unfalsifiable?”

This seems to be a common response when some people are confronted with the fact that their ideas* are unfalsifiable. It’s intended to demonstrate how ridiculous such a stance is.

What’s actually happening is that a prediction is generated based on the given idea and a thought experiment is proposed which could potentially falsify the prediction. When the test is followed to it’s logical conclusion it is found to contradict the prediction and thus falsifies the claim. In rebuttal definitions are changed, values are shifted, and concepts are restated using different words, all of which serve to render that test invalid in some way, or to make the results consistent with the reworded idea. The fact that all of these change are still consistent with the original idea is a clear demonstration that it is in fact unfalsifiable.

The claim is not that “I tested it AND it’s untestable.” The claim is “I attempted to test it, but every test resulting in a falsification is simply reinterpreted in such a way as to render it unfalsified. Since this can be done at will while remaining consistent with the original idea, it is in fact unfalsifiable.”

* I am purposefully using the term “idea” here instead of “theory” because the fact that these ideas aren’t falsifiable means that they are not in fact theories at all.

A Petty Snipe

This isn’t about someone else’s petty little snipe at someone else. This is my petty little snipe at someone over at UD. A common theme over there is the claim that Darwin was a racist, and one bit of evidence which is brought up often is the full title of his most famous book: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” (emphasis mine of course). What becomes obvious if you actually read the book is that races in this context meant only varieties rather than the modern connotation of human races. For example at one point in the book he refers to “the several races…of the cabbage” (remember, when you see ellipses like that, check to make sure I’m not changing the context of the quote…look it up yourself).

But of course, that’s all rubbish. Whatever the word means today is what it meant back then, even if he didn’t know it.

Then there’s this comment by johnnyb:

This is a common problem with Biblical interpretation – the word “slave” that we think of is not the same thing as “slave” in that time. It is certainly worthy of discussion whether the Hebrew system was good or bad, just or unjust, necessary or unnecessary, and the like, but it is a category error to make a simple equation of Hebrew slavery with 19th century Western slavery.

This is very much like the argument used against the whole “Darwin was a racist, and the title of his book proves it” argument.

This is a common problem with [Historical]  interpretation – the word “[race]” that we think of is not the same thing as “[race]” in that time. It is certainly worthy of discussion whether [Darwin’s views on race were] good or bad, just or unjust, necessary or unnecessary, and the like, but it is a category error to make a simple equation of [Darwin’s use of the word “race”] with [21st] century [use of the word “race”].

I wonder if they are aware of their double standard, or if they’re really that stupid.

This is a common problem with Biblical interpretation – the word “slave” that we think of is not the same thing as “slave” in that time.

Paleyism Will Never Die

The design argument relies on ignorance to work. This was just as true for Paley’s watch as it is for current Intelligent Design theory. The basic thought process is this (for the design argument known as the Watchmaker Analogy):

  1. The complex inner workings of a watch necessitate an intelligent designer.
  2. As with a watch, the complexity of X (a particular organ or organism, the structure of the solar system, life, the entire universe) necessitates a designer.

Step 1 relies on our knowledge of the watch and how it was designed and created. Step 2 relies on our ignorance of X and how (or even if) it was designed and created. The idea is that we should explain what we don’t know in terms of what we do know, and since we know that the watch was designed, we should be able to explain what we don’t know about X as the product of design as well.

I’m not here today to argue the merits of this. Rather I wanted to point out the simple fact that such arguments will never go away.

“But Venture,” I hear you say, “as we learn more we’ll be better able to explain X as a result of natural processes, thereby chipping away at this argument!” There is one glaring problem with that view. History has shown us that the more we come to know, the more we also come to know how much we don’t know. It’s not that ignorance increases along with knowledge but that our awareness of our ignorance increases. The sophistication of the Intelligent Design arguments are a testament to that. Scientists such as Michael Behe use our ignorance to great effect by providing very detailed explanations of exactly what it is that we don’t yet understand and making a design inference from that.

The fact is that the design inference will never go away because it relies on our knowledge of one thing to explain our ignorance of another thing, and as science progresses we will always become more and more aware of both.

Mutations Let Me Be An Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist

Here’s the latest from Ms. O’Leary:

But I have never heard anyone famously say, as Dawkins said about Darwinism, that [endosymbiosis, gene transfer or neoteny] make it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Why not? Because it’s not clear that these processes could not be guided. The mechanisms are proposed simply as mechanisms by which significant changes might take place, not as mechanisms that rule out guidance.

“Darwinists” aren’t pointing to these specifically as making it possible to be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist” because these are details in the larger picture of evolution that allow such a thing. Claiming it for these specifics would be akin to claiming that genetic mutations make it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Absolutely genetic mutations are a necessary component of evolution, but they on their own are not enough to make such a broad statement sensible. It’s the totality of evolution, both what is known and what is as yet unknown, that makes such intellectual fulfillment possible.

So Clever It Circles Back Around To Stupid

Here is the truly mind boggling hypothesis thrown out by GilDodgen over at UD:

I would like to offer the following hypothesis: The universe was rigged. It was designed for discovery (a thesis put forward in The Privileged Planet), but also designed in such a way that there would always be an escape clause in the contract for those who are committed, for whatever reason, to reject the obvious.

This is such an amazing hypothesis because it is necessarily and provably true. Any evidence that the universe is designed obviously supports it since “It was designed for discovery…”. On the other hand, lacking that evidence, or any evidence that it was not designed also supports it since such evidence (or lack thereof) is the “escape clause” that is hypothesized. So you see all evidence either for or against the hypothesis as well as a complete lack of evidence all end up proving the same thing: that this hypothesis is true.

Don’t think about it too much. Your head might explode.

Bet They Didn’t Ask The Important Questions

Take a look at this new article over at Science Daily about morality and religion.

Here’s a link to the original article which appeared in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences

Citing several studies in moral psychology, the authors highlight the finding that despite differences in, or even an absence of, religious backgrounds, individuals show no difference in moral judgments for unfamiliar moral dilemmas. The research suggests that intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments.

This is obviously false. The fact that you can’t have morality without Jesus proves the morality doesn’t exist without Jesus which proves that this entire study is false.

Maybe you atheists should try using logic for once instead of blindly accepting whatever some scientist says just because he has “evidence”.

Cognitive Disfunction

I really enjoy the show Mythbusters. The science isn’t always as rigorous as I’d like, but the engineering can be really fun to watch.

One show in particular stands out to me because of the audience response. If you go the Mythbusters forums on this topic you’ll see a thread with posts into the thousands. I am, of course, talking about the (in)famous Plane on a Conveyor Belt episode. Here’s Adam Savage describing the problem on the show:

Let me spell it out for you, normally a plane sits on the runway, spins up its engines, moves forwards gets enough air over its wings and takes off. But in this case, the plane is sitting not on the runway, but a huge conveyor belt that is matching the planes forward speed in reverse, and the grand question is can the plane take off? The myth is that it can’t

Just in case you haven’t seen the show I’ll continue below the fold so that I don’t spoil it for you. Continue reading

Rule of Thumb #1

If you understand something better than everyone else, than chances are pretty good that you don’t understand it at all.

Physicists are often approached by amateurs that claim to have proven that Newtons Laws of Motion are wrong, or that in fact E ≠ mc2. Heck, I’m no physicist and I’ve been approached by other amateur “scientists” who know me as a science buff with similar claims. In the vast majority of cases the person is simply misunderstanding some key point in the science, and in a large portion of those cases any attempt to correct that misunderstanding simply results in the claim that I and the entire scientific community are the ones misunderstanding it.

Yes, it’s theoretically possible that every other human being on the planet somehow missed this idea of yours that completely changes our understanding of the universe. It’s theoretically possible that no one ever considered the physical results of a person throwing a baseball far from any other gravitational body. It’s theoretically possible that every calculation ever done based on the known scientific laws were only right because every scientist before now was willing to “fudge” the result to make it fit with what they already knew to be true anyway. And yes, it’s theoretically possible that you understand something better after a few hours of study than other people do after a lifetime.

It’s just not very likely.

Proof That You Can Trust Catholic Priests With Children

It’s really quite simple to prove this. Millions of Catholics have already figured it out. If they couldn’t on their own, then certainly their local Catholic Priest helped them, and of course they can be trusted completely as we prove below.

  1. Only a Christian can become a Catholic priest
  2. Any Christian, being morally superior, would not and could not molest a child
  3. Anybody that molests a child obviously is not a Christian
  4. Since
    1. A child molester is not a Christian and…
    2. Only a Christian can become a Catholic priest
    3. Any person that molests a child cannot possibly be a Catholic Priest
  5. Therefore all Catholic priests can be absolutely trusted with children