Friday, 29 June 2007

Gaps, gaps, gaps

Perhaps you had spotted a new addition to this pro-ID blog. Unlike the vast majoirty of blogs it doesn't allow comments.

It shares this rather close minded approach with the infamously silly BCSE Revealed blog despite the fact that it claims to encourage comments. In reality comments don't get posted unless the infamously silly author deems it appropriate, and of course it goes without saying that pointing out his silly errors is obviously not appropriate.

I myself revealed the truth behind that author - David Anderson - in my own BCSE Revealed Revealed blog. Revelations about silly little things like him saying he has a science degree when he has a maths degree and silly big things like him thinking the earth is 6,000 years old because the bible says so, that dinosaurs existed alongside man, yaba daba doo, and that most of the discoveries of modern science including biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, cosmology etc. are wrong because they contradict his own particular interpretation of the bible.

Gaps - the first

So it wasn't a surprise to me when his self penned introduction to the public in Unintelligently Sequenced had some rather significant gaps in it, namely his extreme religious beliefs or indeed any of the facts mentioned above or in the BCSE Revealed Revealed blog.

However, he is not so shy about these things if you attempt to engage him in an email debate about the ID issue. This is an extract from an email he sent me;

The difficulty with this discussion is that we're not talking about the main thing. Condoms might be interesting to you, but a correct view of them will do nothing for your soul. So I want to go straight to the main issue this time round.

That main thing is Jesus Christ. History all revolves around him. He was prophesied and predicted many hundreds of years beforehand. The time of his birth, the place, the circumstances; all kinds of details from his life and from his death - details which never could be fabricated by him or anyone else in collusion - were all announced a long time before hand.

He was announced beforehand as the Saviour - which is what his name (Jesus) means. Our problem is not ultimately intellectual - lack of evidence - but spiritual. We are twisted, perverted, fallen beings, who prefer to serve ourselves rather than God and others. You have already had it demonstrated to you many times over that you have enormous faith in materialism, despite your inability to produce any coherent explanation for a number of fundamentals in your world-view. The
problem is not that trusting Jesus Christ requires faith without evidence and materialism doesn't - the problem is that you are spiritually biased against the clear evidence.

You have a conscience, and it continually witnesses to you about the existence of right and wrong, and your accountability to do what is right. Your whole being and the world around you moreover are constantly declaring to you the glory of God - the existence and magnifience of the uncreated being who created you. You know these things, no matter how much you make selective appeals to hyper-skepticism in order to evade them.

But there is no need to try to evade them. God does not wish to damn us, but to save us. Jesus Christ lived the life that we ought to have lived - holy, well pleasing to God. He never lied, or dishonoured his heavenly Father in any way. His death was not deserved, because he had
never sinned. Yet die he did - because of the eternal plan and purpose which he had agreed in eternity with his Father and with the Holy Spirit. Together they agreed that he would become a true man so that he would be the perfect man as well as the true God. As a man, he would die - and in that death, bear the penalty for all the sins of everyone who would ever come to him. Dying, Jesus Christ swallowed up and defeated death. Rising from the dead, he was appointed as universal
Lord and Saviour, to whom every knee must bow. Bow to him as Saviour.
He is ready and willing to forgive you, cleanse you, and give you the gift of the Spirit - more willing than you are to receive it! Jesus Christ did all of this for me. He even put me into the work of the Christian ministry, that I might tell others about this. But if you do not bow to him as Saviour, you must bow to him as your judge. And all the hyper-skepticism in the world will do nothing for you then. Now is the time of the Lord's patience - he urges you to repent, and gives you time to do it. Do not presume on that patience - because it is not forever. My life is limited, and so is yours. Call on him whilst you may!
As you can see he cares little about anything if it doesn't fit in with his particular interpretation of the bible.

I think that this kind of irrational "theo-babble" and bully boy tactics might have worked in the bronze age when most of his precious book was supposed to have been written. Or perhaps it may have worked in the middle ages. But nowadays, with more religiously inspired bombers at large in the UK even today, this kind of extreme talk will generate reactions from most rational and/or moderate religious people ranging from a sad sigh and a pointing to one's head with a gently circling index finger, to a genuine upset and anger at the realisation that such irrational belief in the inerrancy of an old book can wreak havoc upon the rest of us when it is taken to the extreme.

Gaps the second

Rather ironically Anderson's second post provides a much better introduction to how he thinks than his own introduction did.

His first attempted contribution is about "The God of the Gaps".

Lets see just how many school boy errors he has made.

Is "God of the gaps" always a fallacious argument?
He asks in his title. Well lets lay some groundwork and start at the beginning. Here is the Wikipedia definition;

The God of the gaps refers to a view of God deriving from a theistic position in which anything that can be explained by human knowledge is not in the domain of God, so the role of God is therefore confined to the 'gaps' in scientific explanations of nature.
Whereas Anderson says this;
In contemporary materialist apologetics, much is made of the alleged "God of the gaps" fallacy. It goes a little1 something like this:

  • X argues that Y cannot be explained by purely natural processes. Therefore X infers that a creative super-intelligence has been involved.

  • X, though, is invoking "God of the gaps". X's God lives only in the gaps that cannot be explained by naturalism; his God must shrink every time science advances. His God must be very small by now.

  • Therefore, X's arguments can be dismissed.
So despite the fact that, from reading both the Wikipedia definition and the common usage of the term, we can see that "God of the Gaps" is merely a description of a religious position Anderson can't live with this.

In fact we can see that Anderson has rather amateurishly and dishonestly constructed a strawman in an effort to give himself some wriggle room.

If you read the third point again you will see that Anderson has actually inserted this in its entirety, dare I say created it, out of thin air.

Whilst the first two points are an accurate description of the two opposing views held by say, most rational people, versus say, religious fundamentalists like Anderson, the third point can not be drawn as a logical conclusion to demolish the fundamentalists arguments.

My main point here is that in rational discussion no one attempts to dismiss the fundamentalists arguments in this way. No one needs to. This is because the fundamentalists have in fact provided their own nemesis within their very own arguments. This is revealed in the first point Anderson himself has given us. Did you notice that "therefore X infers" bit?

That is the problem.

The particular logical fallacy here is well known (although apparently not by Anderson) and even has a special name. It is called "the argument from ignorance". Wikipedia can again shed some useful light on this for us;
The argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam ("appeal to ignorance" ) or argument by lack of imagination, is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proved false or that a premise is false only because it has not been proved true.
I have also covered this in my own Guide to Straight Thinking - which I have recommended to Anderson more than once, obviously to no avail.

Back to Wikipedia's entry on "God of the Gaps" and we see this explained in full;
The God-of-the-gaps argument is the target of frequent criticism, often over the fact that the so-called "explanation" it provides for unexplained phenomena is not really an explanation (particularly in the eyes of atheists), but rather an argument from ignorance. Such criticism is usually related to the use of the God-of-the-gaps-argument as proof of the existence of God. A common argument is that the lack of scientific knowledge about an unexplained phenomena does not mean that it is an act of God, but rather that scientific research has not yet found an answer. A commonly cited example is Thor, the Viking god of lightning. The Vikings believed that lightning was the path of Thor's hammer as he threw it across the sky at his enemies. Later on, however, scientists discovered that lightning is in fact the result of static charges building up between the Earth and clouds during a storm, resulting in movement of electrons to counteract the charge. Thor is not required to explain the existence of lightning.
If we now go back to Anderson's rather muddled posting we can see this;
At worst, naturalists resort just to wheeling out the phrase "God of the gaps" whenever their paradigm is challenged, in order to avoid argument.
Perhaps he could give us an example of this? Although we must remember that the bible trumps any form of evidence. So perhaps asking for evidence to supprt a claim like this is silly.

Next he manages to paint himself rather neatly into another awkward corner;
The Gaps Are Real!

Actually, "God of the gaps" can be a perfectly valid argument; in fact, a required argument. If phenomena Y cannot be explained satisfactorily within naturalism, then we might say we have a "gap". We grant, for the sake of argument, that naturalism could cover a certain amount of space - but then we show that there is space that it doesn't and can't cover. That space is a "gap". The logical complement to naturalism is super-naturalism; if a naturalistic explanation can't cover the gap, then a supernatural one is required. That's not "God of the gaps"; that's simple logic. The gap is evidence of the supernatural.
"The gaps are real!" Well of course they are you silly little man!

"The gap is evidence of the supernatural." No David that statement is itself precisely the argument from ignorance logical fallacy.

A lack of evidence for one thing does not prove another. Not unless you believe every word in the bible at any rate.

PS David - Supernatural means God, unless you believe in ghosts, superman, the tooth fairy etc.

Remember the Thor example from Wikipedia?

If Anderson had lived at a time when Thor was a popular supernatural explanation for the unexplained then presumably he would be merrily citing lightning as evidence for his god.

Next he starts enthusiastically listing gaps for his particular god to inhabit.

If you are a reasonably rational person then by now you are probably asking yourself if David Anderson can really be this daft? Does he really have no inkling that he is using the fallacy inherent in the theological position he has named to distance himself from that very logical fallacy?

No, he doesn't seem to have an inkling. He seems totally incapable of following basic rational argument of this kind.

Wow he really throws those gaps around like they are going out of business doesn't he?

I can almost hear him now; "Ha Ha, Don't you understand XYZ? Well I know exactly what explains it because I think every word in my holy book is true."

He actually mistakes his own certainty, which is based upon an irrational belief in the infallibility of the bible, with the kind of certainty most people reserve for things demonstrated by evidence and logic.

To cap it all off he rams his own failure and incompetence down our throats again;
There are such things as invalid "God of the gaps" arguments. Those arguments have this structure:
  • We don't understand X.

  • Therefore X is supernatural.
Yes I know. This is indeed exactly what he has just been arguing. Get that man a mirror!

Next he manages generate a level of obfuscation which only his absolute certainty in his own exalted powers of thought can produce. This is the verbal equivalent of the three card trick with the added bonus that he is outwitting himself by using three kings and challenging himself to try to find the queen.

Try to hold on to the real world tightly and we will pick this diatribe apart a little;
I do not believe that God inhabits only the gaps, or that the "natural" exists separately from him. That would be another "God of the gaps" fallacy. I believe that the "natural" is God's ordinary way of working, and the "supernatural" is God's extraordinary way of working.
Well the point is David that they would be viewpoints. Viewpoints which contain the "Argument from Ignorance" fallacy, which does seem to be nagging away at the back of Anderson's mind. But he is used to shrugging off questions and so he easily silences this nagging question with a bit of word play;
Such arguments deserve to be rejected. To point out, though, that reality contains fundamental complexity which cannot be explained within naturalism's paradigm, is not only valid, but essential.
Here he has jumped form "unexplained" to "cannot be explained". What does he mean by this? Does he mean that they never can and never will be explained by science? This seems to be what he is implying but you can't actually tell from his rather sloppy explanations.

Let's quickly recap - Anderson is actually using the argument from ignorance whilst at the same time pointing out it is indeed a logical fallacy.

Next he begins his verbal gymnastics;
By definition, the only way to point to the supernatural is to point to that which is beyond the natural. When materialists deny this as a valid argument, they are trying to win the argument by default.
But he hasn't actually made an argument has he? I don't think he actually realises this himself.
If pointing to the gaps is disallowed, then no discussion is possible, because it is the only thing that can be discussed.
Pointing to the gaps is definitely allowed - it is what science is all about, and when you think about it for a couple of seconds, it is what most of the human experience is about and it is what most of everybody's lives everyday is all about.

The only thing which is not "allowed", by the simple laws of logic, is drawing any conclusions from the fact that we don't understand something yet.

If all you have on your side of the argument is the gaps, then logically you don't have a "your side" of the argument.
When materialists have to resort to that, it's becoming clearer that their world-view has some severe problems.
When rational people point out Anderson's simple error in his basic schoolboy logic, it would appear that his religious fundamentalism leaps to the fore and he has to resort to yet more irrational claims.

More Gaps?

A few suggestions;

  • A gap between reality and David Anderson?
  • A gap between how he likes to appear in public and how he corresponds in private.
  • A gap between the qualifications he claims and those he has?
  • A gap of about 4 billion years between the age of the earth as revealed by the evidence and that revealed by his interpretation of the bible?
  • A gap between his ears?

I know that David visits this blog quite often - hopefully this entry will give him some food for thought or maybe even prick that hominid evolved conscience of his.

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