June 29th, 2008

really?

50 reasons (NOT) to believe in god

#13 How could the complexity of human life possibly evolve on its own accord out of mindless cells?

Once again, an interesting question (it actually has to do a lot with complexity... someday maybe you should look up neural nets), but that's beside the point. A question is not a proof. We have a pretty good idea how this works, but even if we had no idea at all, that is not proof that there is a god. Asking a question that can't be answered is just a question.

Again, "proof" does not equal "question" and vice versa. Here is a nice listing of the definitions of the word proof. (Recall that this list was offered as "50 simple proofs" of the existence of god).

1. The evidence or argument that compels the mind to accept an assertion as true.

I don't find a question to be terribly compelling at all. The solution to a question is best solved by careful investigation, as is done in science. Making up an answer, "god" to solve problem without effort is not only uninformative, and unconvincing, but it's no kind of answer at all.

2. a. The validation of a proposition by application of specified rules, as of induction or deduction, to assumptions, axioms, and sequentially derived conclusions. b. A statement or argument used in such a validation.

Well, nothing I've seen so far is even remotely close to 2a.

3. a. Convincing or persuasive demonstration: was asked for proof of his identity; an employment history that was proof of her dependability. b. The state of being convinced or persuaded by consideration of evidence.

We haven't really be offered any evidence yet, have we?

4. Determination of the quality of something by testing; trial: put one's beliefs to the proof.

And I don't get the idea that our dear theist has ever put their beliefs to a real test.

(I'm pretty sure we aren't talking about the other proofs... 50 proof is pretty watered down alcohol, but usually more fun than this list, yes? :))

Sadly, we still have 37 to go and I have little confidence that they will get any better.
reading list

Irreligion

I've been listening today to the audiobook of Irreligion: A mathematician explains why the arguments for god just don't add up by John Allen Paulos. I had some driving today and that got me through most of it. I'm listening to the end right now.

He goes through a number of "proofs" of the existence of god and explains a lot of the crazy probabilistic arguments theists try to make against evolution or for their god without understanding what they are doing (or deliberately obscuring reality).

He covers:
The First Cause Argument
The Argument from Design
The Ontological Argument
Arguments from Faith & Biblical Codes (numerology)
The Argument from the Anthropic Principle
The Moral Universality Argument
The Argument from Complexity
Argument from Miracles
and others (12 in all)

He does make a point of disagreeing with Dawkins at one point... and then agreeing with him elsewhere. He also invokes several of the other "New Atheists" and Arthur C. Clarke.

This a particularly relevant book given the list of "proofs" for god I've been going through. From glancing through the list, Paulos would consider many of the 50 just repetitions from his 12.

Very enjoyable. I didn't think Dawkins was particularly shrill, but I have a hard time imagining how anyone could describe Paulos that way.