Atheist fallacies (installment #1)

Posted on July 30, 2019 By

atheist logical fallacies

“Believing in God is like believing in the Easter Bunny, fairies, goblins, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster!”

Such claims are extremely abundant on the internet, and in books by atheist science popularizers such as Richard Dawkins. But to be an effective critical thinker, one must learn to quickly spot logical fallacies, such as the two glaring fallacies which claims such as the above commit.

When a person compares belief in God to belief in goblins (etc), he is really just expressing his beliefs in a forceful manner which does not present any logical argumentation. It is important to first realize that every disbelief or skeptical stance is really just an alternate belief. For example, one can only doubt that life is the result of intelligent causes from the vantage point of belief that life is the result of unintelligent causes. There is simply no way around this. Period.

As a Christian, I am a deeply skeptical non-believer in atheist claims that life is the result of unintelligent natural causes. I explain some of the logical reasons for my disbelief in posts such as The Case for God is not a Case of the God of the Gaps and Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without God.

But it would be patently fallacious for me to express my disbelief by comparing atheists who believe as such to believers in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. Doing so would commit the two following logical fallacies, as excerpted from the following posts:

The Argument from Incredulity

The popular fallacy of doubting or rejecting a novel claim or argument out of hand simply because it appears superficially “incredible,” “insane” or “crazy,” or because it goes against one’s own personal beliefs, prior experience or ideology. This cynical fallacy falsely elevates the saying popularized by Carl Sagan, that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” to an absolute law of logic. The common, popular-level form of this fallacy is dismissing surprising, extraordinary or unfamiliar arguments and evidence with a wave of the hand, a shake of the head, and a mutter of  “that’s crazy!”

Appeal to Ridicule (reductio ad ridiculum)

(also known as: appeal to mockery, the horse laugh)

Description:

Presenting the argument in such a way that makes the argument look ridiculous, usually by misrepresenting the argument or the use of exaggeration.

Logical Form:

Person 1 claims that X is true.

Person 2 makes X look ridiculous, by misrepresenting X.

Therefore, X is false.

Example #1:

It takes faith to believe in God just like it takes faith to believe in the Easter Bunny — but at least the Easter Bunny is based on a creature that actually exists!

Explanation:

Comparing the belief in God to belief in the Easter Bunny is an attempt at ridicule and not a good argument.  In fact, this type of fallacy usually shows desperation in the one committing the fallacy.

Again, an atheist who compares belief in God to belief in goblins (etc.) is merely expressing his beliefs in a forceful manner. But merely assuming one’s beliefs to be true without providing any logical argumentation is meaningless and fallacious. Cultural and other experiential factors place limitations on the usefulness of beliefs which have not been logically vetted, but rather, have been passively and uncritically accepted. As an illustration, Craig Keener references a story about a king of Siam, in his book Miracles.

Because the king lived in a tropical region, before the advent of mass communication and rapid transit, his perceptual framework did not allow for the possibility of frozen rivers. Hearing from Dutch visitors about riding horses on top of rivers that became so cold that they became hard like stone, this ruler “knew that the men were liars.” The king’s inference was a logical one based on the reality with which he was familiar, as Keener notes. But one must not confuse reality itself with the reality with which one is familiar. If the King of Siam had compared the Dutch visitors’ belief in frozen rivers to belief in fairies or goblins, he would have been guilty of the two above mentioned logical fallacies.


  1. ResidentAtheist says:

    Got any Evidence yet?
    I’m still waiting.

    • God Evidence says:

      Resident Atheist,

      You have two choices here:

      1) Provide a logically constructed, fact-based rebuttal to the evidence for God which I present in posts such as The Case for God is Not a Case of the God of the Gaps.

      2) Continue to assert that I have not presented any evidence, while simultaneously ignoring the evidence which I have presented.

      If you elect for option #2, the ideological and emotional (as opposed to logical) basis for your atheism will be readily apparent to all third-party viewers of this discussion.

      • Can you point to the article (or several articles) that you think makes your best case for God? Or is that one your best?

        • God Evidence says:

          Bob,

          I do not rank my essays in terms of how good they are. However, I have produced evidence for God from several different angles. The last time I debated you at your website, I posted evidence for God from biology. Why don’t you go ahead and respond to this argument which I presented in the past?:

          The Case for God is not a Case of the God of the Gaps

          You never furnished a rebuttal to my above arguments, or if you did, I did not see it. An excerpt from the above post:

          In the primary text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the question of the origin of life, titled Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life, physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey explains how many of the principles of human language are also applicable to DNA, the language of life:

          Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.” [1]

          —Symbolic representation is necessarily the product of a mind.—

          Symbolic representation, such as the complex set of instructions symbolically communicated by DNA, requires a conscious and intelligent agent. Such is the case because the meaning which symbols convey is entirely arbitrary, and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. For example, the letters C-A-T serve as a symbolic representation of a furry animal that purrs and meows only because the intelligent agents who created the English language arbitrarily assigned this meaning to this set of symbols. There is no physical or chemical relationship between these symbols and what they serve to represent, only a mental relationship.

          This is further illustrated by the fact that a set of symbols can have entirely different meanings in different languages. Yockey (in Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life) eloquently explains this crucial point:

          The messages conveyed by sequences of symbols sent through a communication system generally have meaning (otherwise, why are we sending them?). It often is overlooked that the meaning of a sequence of letters, if any, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement. For example, the English word “hell” means “bright” in German, “fern” means “far,” “gift” means “poison,” “bald” means “soon,” “boot” means “boat,” and “singe” means “sing.” In French “pain” means “bread,” “ballot” means a “bundle,” “coin” means a “corner or a wedge,” “chair” means “flesh,” “cent” means “hundred,” “son” means “his,” “tire” means a “pull,” and “ton” means “your.”

          In French, the English word “main” means “hand,” “sale” means “dirty.” French-speaking visitors to English-speaking countries will be astonished at department stores having a “sale” and especially if it is the “main sale.” This confusion of meaning goes as far as sentences. For example, “0 singe fort” has no meaning in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means “0 sing on,” and in French it means “0 strong monkey.” [2]

          —DNA is a literally like a human language. This is no metaphor.—

          At this point, one can almost hear atheists shouting, “Suggesting that DNA is a language is only a metaphor, or a figure of speech! It is not literally true!” But, an entire school of thought in biology called biosemiotics considers language to be a primary lens through which living things must be understood, as Perry Marshall points out in his book Evolution 2.0. Marshall elaborates on the scientific reasons why DNA is a language in the most literal, not metaphorical, sense:

          Rutgers University professor Sungchul Ji’s excellent paper The Linguistics of DNA: Words, Sentences, Grammar, Phonetics, and Semantics starts off, “Biologic systems and processes cannot be fully accounted for in terms of the principles and laws of physics and chemistry alone, but they require in addition the principles of semiotics— the science of symbols and signs, including linguistics.”

          Ji identifies 13 characteristics of human language. DNA shares 10 of them. Cells edit DNA. They also communicate with each other and literally speak a language he called “cellese,” described as “a self-organizing system of molecules, some of which encode, act as signs for, or trigger, gene-directed cell processes.”

          This comparison between cell language and human language is not a loosey-goosey analogy; it’s formal and literal. Human language and cell language both employ multilayered symbols. Dr. Ji explains this similarity in his paper: “Bacterial chemical conversations also include assignment of contextual meaning to words and sentences (semantic) and conduction of dialogue (pragmatic)— the fundamental aspects of linguistic communication.” This is true of genetic material. Signals between cells do this as well. [3]

          —It is a case of the God of what we know, not the God of the gaps.—

          The arrangement of symbols (such as letters) according to a language is not something that can be accomplished, even in principle, by unintelligent physical or chemical processes. Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his book Without Excuse, he discusses the substitutive function of what he terms “Universal Information “(UI), as it relates to DNA, the language of life:

          Universal Information is always an abstract representation of some other existing entity. Universal Information is never the item (object) or the fact (event, idea) itself but rather the coded symbols serve as a substitute for the entities that are being represented. Different languages often use different sets of symbols and usually different symbol sequences to represent the same material object or concept. Consider the following examples:

          -The words in a newspaper, consisting of a sequence of letters, substitute for an event that happened at an earlier time and in some other place,

          -The words in a novel, consisting of sequences of letters, substitute for characters and their actions,

          -The notes of a musical score substitute for music that will be played later on musical instruments,

          -The chemical formula for benzene substitutes for the toxic liquid that is kept in a flask in a chemistry laboratory,

          -The genetic codons (three-letter words) of the DNA molecule substitute for specific amino acids that are bonded together in a specific sequence to form a protein. [4]

          The substitutive function of the the symbols in a code or language is something that can only be set up by the activity of a conscious and intelligent mind because, again, what a set of symbols serve to substitute for is entirely arbitrary and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. Symbolic representation is by necessity a mental process. As information scientist Henry Quastler put it, “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Biologists with less rigid ideological commitments to atheism (or at least more intellectual integrity) have been frank enough to admit the necessity of mind (a conscious and intelligent agent) in the origin of life. The Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, admitted the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

          “It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.” [5]

          1. Hubert P. Yockey. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Locations 128-129). Kindle Edition

          2. Hubert P. Yockey. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Locations 137-138). Kindle Edition

          3. Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 167). Kindle edition

          4. Gitt, Werner. Without Excuse, p. 73

          5. Wald, George. Life and Mind in the Universe. Source: International Journal of Quantum Chemistry, Volume 26, Issue Supplement 11, 16 APR 2008

          • Jim McClymont says:

            //”DNA is a literally like a human language. This is no metaphor.”\\

            Saying that it is LIKE a language means that BY DEFINITION, you are engaged in a simile. True, it is not a metaphor in that construction (the metaphor version is saying that DNA is a code or language, not just like one), but it still means that it is an argument from comparison. “A” is like “B”, therefore, “A” is “B”.

            And, since you are engaged in accusing others of fallacies, it’s ironic that you are engaged in a fallacious appeal to authority. You are appealing to physicists and a BUSINESS CONSULTANT about biology.

            • God Evidence says:

              The genetic code IS a language (not merely like a language), and it is like a human language. In other words, the genetic code is a language in a literal sense, and it resembles a human language.

              There is no simile here. Even the world’s most outspoken atheist, the Oxford University biologist Richard Dawkins, concedes that the genetic code is a language very similar to a computer language. In his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, Dawkins writes:

              “…The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.”

              In an article for The Times (UK), Dawkins writes:

              “What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology. The genetic code is truly digital, in exactly the same sense as computer codes. This is not some vague analogy, it is the literal truth.”

              If you deny that the genetic code is a language in the most literal sense, then you are in denial of science. Period. Game over. Really.

              No, there is no appeal to authority here. The citation of authorities is a routine part of rational discourse. If you doubt me, just check absolutely any scientific or scholarly journal. The logical fallacy of Appeal to Authority only occurs when a person argues that something must be true merely because an authority says so. Example: “Albert Einstein says that general relativity is true, and Einstein was a really smart guy with a PhD, therefore general relativity must be true.”

              But nobody really accepts general relativity based merely upon the weight of Einstein’s opinion. Einstein’s logical arguments are the basis for accepting or rejecting general relativity, and not his mere opinion.

              The fallacy is entirely yours: You write, “You are appealing to physicists and a BUSINESS CONSULTANT about biology.” I cite the biologist (and outspoken atheist) Richard Dawkins above.

              Secondly, you commit the Ad Hominem fallacy (Latin for “to the person”) by commenting on the person presenting the argument, instead of the argument itself. Please recall that, if Chuckles the Clown argued that the earth is round, he would still be right, even though he is just a silly clown who once flunked out of clown school. Similarly, if the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un argued that the earth is round, he would still be right, even though he is an evil dictator who lies a lot.

  2. ResidentAtheist says:

    There is nothing to rebut in “The Case for God is Not a Case of the God of the Gaps” as there is no evidence for the existence of your God or any other God in that article. If I missed it (which is unlikely) would you please point it out to me. Be specific.

    • God Evidence says:

      If you refuse to logically engage with the evidence which I present, that is fine. But don’t fallaciously argue that there is no evidence when the evidence is right in front of you.

      Symbolic representation, such as the complex set of instructions symbolically communicated by DNA, requires a conscious and intelligent agent. Such is the case because the meaning which symbols convey is entirely arbitrary, and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. For example, the letters C-A-T serve as a symbolic representation of a furry animal that purrs and meows only because the intelligent agents who created the English language arbitrarily assigned this meaning to this set of symbols. There is no physical or chemical relationship between these symbols and what they serve to represent, only a mental relationship.

      In the primary text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the question of the origin of life, titled Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life, physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey explains this crucial point:

      The messages conveyed by sequences of symbols sent through a communication system generally have meaning (otherwise, why are we sending them?). It often is overlooked that the meaning of a sequence of letters, if any, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement. For example, the English word “hell” means “bright” in German, “fern” means “far,” “gift” means “poison,” “bald” means “soon,” “boot” means “boat,” and “singe” means “sing.” In French “pain” means “bread,” “ballot” means a “bundle,” “coin” means a “corner or a wedge,” “chair” means “flesh,” “cent” means “hundred,” “son” means “his,” “tire” means a “pull,” and “ton” means “your.”

      In French, the English word “main” means “hand,” “sale” means “dirty.” French-speaking visitors to English-speaking countries will be astonished at department stores having a “sale” and especially if it is the “main sale.” This confusion of meaning goes as far as sentences. For example, “0 singe fort” has no meaning in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means “0 sing on,” and in French it means “0 strong monkey.” [2]

      —DNA is a literally like a human language. This is no metaphor.—

      At this point, one can almost hear atheists shouting, “Suggesting that DNA is a language is only a metaphor, or a figure of speech! It is not literally true!” But, an entire school of thought in biology called biosemiotics considers language to be a primary lens through which living things must be understood, as Perry Marshall points out in his book Evolution 2.0. Marshall elaborates on the scientific reasons why DNA is a language in the most literal, not metaphorical, sense:

      Rutgers University professor Sungchul Ji’s excellent paper The Linguistics of DNA: Words, Sentences, Grammar, Phonetics, and Semantics starts off, “Biologic systems and processes cannot be fully accounted for in terms of the principles and laws of physics and chemistry alone, but they require in addition the principles of semiotics— the science of symbols and signs, including linguistics.”

      Ji identifies 13 characteristics of human language. DNA shares 10 of them. Cells edit DNA. They also communicate with each other and literally speak a language he called “cellese,” described as “a self-organizing system of molecules, some of which encode, act as signs for, or trigger, gene-directed cell processes.”

      This comparison between cell language and human language is not a loosey-goosey analogy; it’s formal and literal. Human language and cell language both employ multilayered symbols. Dr. Ji explains this similarity in his paper: “Bacterial chemical conversations also include assignment of contextual meaning to words and sentences (semantic) and conduction of dialogue (pragmatic)— the fundamental aspects of linguistic communication.” This is true of genetic material. Signals between cells do this as well. [3]

      —It is a case of the God of what we know, not the God of the gaps.—

      The arrangement of symbols (such as letters) according to a language is not something that can be accomplished, even in principle, by unintelligent physical or chemical processes. Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his book Without Excuse, he discusses the substitutive function of what he terms “Universal Information “(UI), as it relates to DNA, the language of life:

      Universal Information is always an abstract representation of some other existing entity. Universal Information is never the item (object) or the fact (event, idea) itself but rather the coded symbols serve as a substitute for the entities that are being represented. Different languages often use different sets of symbols and usually different symbol sequences to represent the same material object or concept. Consider the following examples:

      -The words in a newspaper, consisting of a sequence of letters, substitute for an event that happened at an earlier time and in some other place,

      -The words in a novel, consisting of sequences of letters, substitute for characters and their actions,

      -The notes of a musical score substitute for music that will be played later on musical instruments,

      -The chemical formula for benzene substitutes for the toxic liquid that is kept in a flask in a chemistry laboratory,

      -The genetic codons (three-letter words) of the DNA molecule substitute for specific amino acids that are bonded together in a specific sequence to form a protein. [4]

      The substitutive function of the the symbols in a code or language is something that can only be set up by the activity of a conscious and intelligent mind because, again, what a set of symbols serve to substitute for is entirely arbitrary and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. Symbolic representation is by necessity a mental process. As information scientist Henry Quastler put it, “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Biologists with less rigid ideological commitments to atheism (or at least more intellectual integrity) have been frank enough to admit the necessity of mind (a conscious and intelligent agent) in the origin of life. The Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, admitted the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

      It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.[5]

  3. Jeff Mwangi says:

    Hey Scott, I hope you’ve been well. I want to get to the Bible verses as we had agreed earlier but I want to out that hold on first. A YouTube atheist named Tom Jump made an intriguing point when debating Michael Jones of inspiring philosophy. Mr. Jump said that everything metaphysical is an assumption because we don’t have access to metaphysical data until to conclude metaphysical attributes to God.

    • God Evidence says:

      Thanks Jeff! I have been doing great!

      The fatal flaw with Mr. Jump’s argument is that no metaphysical conclusion is made with metaphysical data. Atheism, for example, is grounded in the metaphysical assumption that nothing exists except the physical/material universe. This metaphysical stance is also known as “materialism.” But how could one draw this conclusion using only physical (an no metaphysical) data?! With a chemistry experiment involving a bunsen burner and test tubes? With a biology experiment involving a microscope and a petri-dish, perhaps?

      The metaphysical is the metaphysical precisely because it lies beyond the realm of physical data. The Greek term “meta” means beyond or after, hence metaphysical means beyond the physical.

      Please note that science only deals with one level of causation….material causes. Science does not even address ultimate causes. Meta-scientific interpretation is necessary in order to determine the ultimate cause for such things as the origin of the universe and the origin of life.

      Mr. Jump is confusing and conflating science with ontology, in the same manner that so many atheists so often do. There is a crucial distinction between scientific observation and experimentation, on one hand, and the interpretation of those observations and experiments, on the other hand. Data in isolation does not provide any explanation. Only human interpretation of data can provide explanations. Roy A. Varghese brilliantly elaborates in The Wonder of the World:

      If we ask what are the laws that govern the universe, we are asking a scientific question. If we ask why does a structure of laws exist, we are asking an ontological question. The data of science can, of course, serve as the starting-point for ontological study but that study will require ontological and not scientific tools.

      Now certain scientists might respond that they’re only interested in cold hard facts, not so-called meta-scientific or ontological ones. But it’s easy to show that even the most hard headed experimentalist can’t get away from the ontological realm even for an instant. I ask: How do you determine that something is a “cold hard fact?” You make a mental estimate by weighing the evidence for and against, and you try to find out if the premises warrant the conclusion or if known facts support the hypothesis.

      All of these mental acts are ontological judgements. You can’t arrive at a judgement by pouring the facts into a test-tube or peering at them through an electron microscope. So even to do “hard” science, to generate, evaluate and categorize data, you need to go beyond hard facts and concrete reality.

      Craig Keener echoes Varghese’s above points:

      Views about whether any intelligence exists outside nature are interpretations, not data, hence belong to a different sphere of reasoning than purely empirical scientific expertise confers. As one scholar puts it, facts in isolation “are unintelligible and non-explanatory,” inviting explanation. Yet science as science in the strictest sense proceeds inductively, accumulating finite bodies of information and constructing patterns.

      The interpretation that structures the information, by contrast, is ultimately meta-scientific. Even moving to the meta-scientific level may presuppose an intelligence that exceeds pure, random naturalism. Einstein believed that acceptance of the world’s “rationality or intelligibility” also entailed belief in “a superior mind,” which he defined as God.

      As an example, Jeff, consider the meta-scientific question of why material things so consistently follow natural laws such as the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. In the theistic model, it is immediately obvious why matter follows natural laws: The same mind that creates matter (God’s mind) also directs it. As Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry, put it:

      “The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it [and] to speak properly, a law [is] but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.” [italics added]

      Or, as James Joule, the propounder of the first law of thermodynamics, for whom the thermal unit of the “Joule” was named, put it:

      “It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”

      Or, as the knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans put it in his book The Mysterious Universe:

      “There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)

      What answer does the atheistic model provide to the question of how an inanimate thing can be compelled to follow a law (or “regularity,” or whatever term one prefers)? Only various versions of “matter follows laws because it just does.” But “it just does” is not a reasonable meta-scientific conclusion because it does not result from the application of reason to data. Rather, it results from an ideological presupposition absent of any logical analysis.

      • Jeff Mwangi says:

        Hey Scott, this was a quick reply. You don’t normally reply this quickly. Well my good sir, as a collection of water, calcium, and organic molecules. You are definitely doing a good job. I’m joking by the way.

        I’d suggest that what you call an ideological presupposition absent of any logical analysis is what is called metaphysical naturalism. Therefore, he just discredited his own view by using metaphysics to discredit metaphysics.

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