On Atheism – UPDATED 2x

This is kind of a placeholder post — it’s the least I can do that isn’t a straight-up SNUL —  but Morgan had an update on something that I find perennially bothersome, so…

Y’all know that “atheism” is logically impossible, right?

I don’t mean that it’s logically necessary that there be a God — though I do actually maintain that.*  It’s the whole “proving a negative” thing.  For either sense of the word “believe,” you’re screwed.

1) If you “believe” in the nonexistence of God in the same way you believe in the nonexistence of aliens, then the best you can do — logically speaking — is agnosticism.  Yeah, the current “evidence” for their existence — abductions and probes and the like — is beyond flimsy.  And yeah, every single term in the Drake Equation is an ass-pull.  But if an actual flying saucer landed in your backyard, and little bald extraterrestrials with big eyes really started doing unspeakable things to your bottom, you’d have to believe.  Right?  Otherwise, you’re dealing with

2) The dogmatic sense of the word “believe.”  You’re saying that there is no possible evidence that could convince you.  No chain of reasoning is so tight, no standard of proof so precise, that you’d believe it.  Even as you’re strapped to the table, and the Grays are slugging it out with the Reptilians over who gets first crack at your sphincter, you’ll remain utterly, dogmatically certain that it’s a practical joke, or swamp gas, or a weather balloon.  Which is exactly the kind of thing Christofascist Godbags do, no?

What “atheists” really mean when they say they don’t believe in God is that they don’t like Christians.  Or, more typically, they really don’t like one particular Christian who plays a prominent role in their lives (usually Daddy).  And because the gap between “a logically necessary Creator” and “the Being described in the Bible” really does require a leap of faith to cross, wannabe-atheists take “lack of scientific proof for Jesus’s miracles” to mean “Christianity is false.”  Which entails that Daddy is full of crap, which is really all they wanted to assert in the first place.

But because every teenager in the history of ever has thought his or her father full of crap, and because agnosticism doesn’t get you any freethinking rebel street cred, they have to ramp all this up to “there is no God” to temporarily find themselves interesting.

And that’s sad.

 

*St. Thomas Aquinas’s famous five proofs for the existence of God are more than enough to show that a Creator was — and is– logically necessary.  You don’t need to plow through the Summa to get them, either.  Eward Feser sums them, and the most common objections to them, up very nicely in his Beginner’s Guide to Aquinas, and develops them at length in his The Last Superstition.  It’s true that Thomism isn’t easy, but a lot of that is due to a whole bunch of Scholastic technical vocabulary.  But sometimes technical vocabulary is necessary to describe how things actually are — if you’ll forgive a poor joke, life has a certain irreducible complexity, and you need the right words to describe it.  But nothing should be too daunting for the giant intellects of freethinking sophomores, and that’s doubly true of the liberal ones, who are far, far Smarter than the Angelic Doctor could ever have hoped to be. Go ahead — give it a whirl.  Show that medieval so-and-so who’s boss.

Update 1/1/2015: This started as a reply to Robert Mitchell Jr., but I thought it was widely-enough applicable to warrant inclusion above the fold. Mr. Mitchell says:

[religion] is a coherent belief system that is logical

To which I say: Exactamundo.  David Stove — an atheist — explains the problem I have with anti-religion* folks in a nutshell, in an essay called “What is Wrong with Our Thoughts?”  He starts by making fun of the famous (among theologians and early-medieval historians) argument that led to the Schism between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches: the filioque controversy.  The question is: Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone (the Eastern position) or the Father and the Son?

Stove points out that this question can’t be solved by logic alone.  If it could, the medievals — who were monomanically focused on logic — would’ve solved it.  Whichever side of the question you choose, the logic will be impeccable.

Now, Stove says this is a prime example of thought gone bad, precisely because it’s so logical. If you find the statement “the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father alone” to be nonsense, good luck using syllogisms to prove it.  You have to attack the terms: “Holy Ghost,” “Father,” and “proceeds.”  And those, too, are impervious to logic.  They’re also impervious to empirical proof — which is why Stove thinks they’re nonsense — but formal logic has nothing to do with it.

But most people badly misuse the word “logical” — which was the point of my post.  This JapanYoshi guy, for instance, claims to have logically concluded that God doesn’t exist.  Which is impossible, in the same way it’s impossible for me to logically conclude that the Holy Ghost does exist, or that It proceeds from the Father alone.  Or, if we want to stick with the metaphor of the original post, the way it’s impossible to logically conclude that aliens don’t exist.

You can’t prove a negative.

28228-Thats-Unpossible-Ralph-wiggum-PcuIWhat this fellow wants to assert, I’m sure — and if I’m misreading you, buddy, feel free to come on back and correct me — is that it’s reasonable to conclude that God doesn’t exist, or that it’s likely God doesn’t exist, or that there is no evidence for the existence of God (for certain carefully selected values of “evidence”).  All of which are reasonable enough propositions; they’re the same ones we mean when we say aliens, unicorns, and/or honest Democrats “don’t exist.”  They’re just not logical, in the strict, formal sense I’m using.

Or, alternately (and I suspect this is the case), he’s trying to assert that the Being described in the Bible doesn’t exist.  Which, again, is a reasonable enough proposition — not even Aquinas, whose proofs for the existence of a Creator I find indisputable, would argue for the existence of the Christian God from formal logic.  But you can’t disprove Him with formal logic, either.  We simpy can’t know all the attributes of the Creator from pure reason (though we can know a surprisingly large number of them; again, see Feser’s Beginner’s Guide to Aquinas).

Which is why I put the asterisk behind “anti-religion” up there.  Every “atheist” I’ve ever met has only been concerned with his (and it’s always his) culture’s dominant religion.  It bothers Western atheists not a whit that Hindus (supposedly) believe in 330 million gods; they only ever want to talk about Jesus.  And this is a testable hypothesis — invite a Western atheist to schlep on down to the local mosque and have a heart to heart with the folks there about the nonexistence of Allah. In just the same way, the Indian “atheists” I’ve met don’t care about Jesus; they either want to bang on Hinduism or Islam (or both), depending on which part of the Subcontinent they came from and the vitriol of their personal politics.

Again, all of which is fine.  Disbelieve in Christianity all you want.  Make fun of Christians all you want.  Christianity has had thousands of defenders; if none of that changes your mind, then you’re not going to see the light on a blog with about four regular readers.  But don’t come in here talking about logic.  That dog won’t hunt.

[And if, by some miracle, you really do think God’s nonexistence is demonstrable by means of formal logic, and you’ve got a proof all worked out on paper, then by all means take it to your local university.  Or, heck, take it up with Edward Feser.  He’s got a blog; I’m sure he’d love to hear from you].

UPDATE 2x (1/3/2015):The Superficial “Logic” of Atheism

This started as a reply to Nate Winchester, but I also think it has above-the-fold applicability:

As Mr. Winchester points out, there sure are a lot of conventions, fanfic, etc. for the tv non-show “Off.”  Which, again, shows that this is not a logical position.  Logic stands or falls on its own.

All men are mortal;

Socrates is a man;

therefore Socrates is mortal

is true whether nobody defends it, or if we hold a giant “mortality of Socrates” rally in Wembley Stadium.  Similarly,

All men are mortal;

Socrates is not a man;

therefore Socrates is immortal

doesn’t hold, no matter if ditto (“Socrates” could be the name of my pet goldfish; and goldfish are most certainly mortal).

I think “atheists” get caught up on points like this, especially when expressed formally:

All A are B; A; therefore B

is universally valid, but

All A are B; ~A; therefore ~B

isn’t.  This is no insult to the intelligence of “atheists” — or, if it is, it’s an insult to my own intelligence, too, because I surely thought the second statement was valid back when I took Logic 101, and had to go to the prof’s office hours to get it explained to me.  It sure looks right there on the page — especially to the non-mathematically inclined like myself — but is easily shown to be false when you plug in real-world examples (e.g. my pet goldfish, “Socrates”).

Alternately, lots of “atheists” might think it’s believers who are getting caught up in this kind of thing (All men are mortal; Jesus was a man; therefore Jesus was mortal; therefore Christianity is illogical).

Which, again, is fine — Christianity is illogical.  That’s why it depends on faith.  If you want to maintain that belief in the divinity of Jesus is illogical, knock yourself out.  As I’ve said, I’ll even agree with you!  But that’s a far different thing from saying God does not logically exist (and you’ll note, just for the record, that “All men are mortal; Jesus was a man; therefore Jesus was mortal” isn’t sufficient to “prove” atheism, since this is a tenet of faith among Jews and Muslims).

There are two other superficially logical arguments for atheism that I can see, because I used to find them appealing.  The first goes something like this:

If God, who is all good, exists, there would be no evil in the world; evil exists; therefore God does not exist.

This is the famous problem of theodicy, and you don’t need a blog with four readers to run you through it.  But I will point out that if you use this argument, you’re putting yourself on the same kind of logical hook those stupid believers are on — if there’s no God, then Evil exists in the same way the speed of light exists, or gravity exists.  It’s just a physical constant; just part of the way the universe happens to be.  But if that’s the case, then it isn’t really Evil, is it?

The other one goes something like this:

All cultures have a notion of God, but might just be part of our wiring.  Our belief-in-God behavior is no different than a dog’s sniffing-other-dogs’-butts-behavior; belief in God is innate to human-ness the way butt-sniffing is innate to dog-ness.

Again, this is reasonable.  It might even be true.  But it’s only logical in the sense that it’s a tautology — we do what we do, because that’s what we do.  To go beyond this

we can only do what we are biologically capable of doing;

therefore God does not exist

is quite obviously a Gem (and not one of the prettier ones, either).  And if you try to weasel out of the tautology by saying “humans have a biological tendency to believe in God,” you’re succumbing to the Ishmael Effect — how did you, a human, escape humanity’s near-universal tendency to belief?  What makes you so special?

Obviously none of these prove the existence of God, let alone the Christian God (as I believe — heh heh — I’ve said about 3,000 times now).  Indeed, both the Gem and the Ishmael Effects, two of the most useful concepts I’ve ever come across, were developed by avowed atheist David Stove.  I’m sure he read the Thomistic arguments I find irrefutable; clearly they didn’t convince him.  And since Stove is obviously far smarter than me, it’s entirely possible that there is some IQ threshold above which it’s logically possible to prove a negative.

But if that’s the claim you’re making, champ, then you’re facing what I call The Fundamental Paradox of Internet Liberalism:

  • Conservatives are too dumb to understand liberal arguments;
  • If they were smart enough, they’d be liberals;
  • I’m arguing with them anyway

Compared to that, atheism is “logical” indeed!

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Watch

You know what I’d do if I were trying to prime the American public for takeover by a white supremacist fascist movement?

I’d do something like this.

“We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” [Former NYC mayor Rudy] Giuliani said during an appearance on Fox News early Sunday. “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, all of them lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.”

Yup.  “The police are bad, the police are racist.”  And the alternative to the “bad, racist” police, as Ace notes, is dead civilians.  Lots of them, since the “wartime” rules of engagement effectively halve the number of emergencies the NYPD can respond to.

Ergo:  You want peace?  You want law and order?  You want to be able to walk safely down the street at night?  You want to have better than a 50/50 shot at a police response when you call 911?

Vote for the guys who vow to keep the coloreds in their place.

The phrase that pays is: “If I’m going to be accused of it, I want to be guilty of it.”  There’s a tipping point approaching — when enough people act on that sentiment, you’re going to see some real racism.

It will be horrible, but it’ll be your own damn fault, liberals.

Heh. “Science.”

At this point, I don’t think actual science, without the scare quotes, exists anywhere outside the most heavily fortified physics labs.

But in case you were curious, and if you somehow didn’t know this already: yeah, “social ‘science'” isn’t.  It’s just lefty cant with a few ass-pulled numbers attached.  Observe:

a study that sought to show that conservatives reach their beliefs only through denying reality achieved that result by describing ideological liberal beliefs as “reality,” surveying people on whether they agreed with them, and then concluding that those who disagree with them are in denial of reality — and lo, people in that group are much more likely to be conservative!

Oh, and again, in case you somehow didn’t know this already, “peer review” is bullshit by definition when all your peers agree with you:

This has nothing to do with science, and yet in a field with such groupthink, it can get published in peer-reviewed journals and passed off as “science,” complete with a Vox stenographic exercise at the end of the rainbow. A field where this is possible is in dire straits indeed.

Indeed.

“The Final and Utter Semisexual Craving of the Left”

This is why I’m not an award-winning nominated author.  This right here.  I’ll never come up with as good a phrase as “the final and utter semisexual craving of the Left, which is obliteration.”

How true is that?  I’ve been at least a dilettante Left-watcher for decades now, and I still haven’t managed to figure out what they actually want out of life.  Consider this knucklehead:

“What could I do that would eliminate having to work, would open up big opportunities, and be a really fun, interesting experience for me?” Chambers asked Campus Reform in an interview last week.

You read up on his subsequent “thoughts” about the slim pickings in a McDonald’s dumpster, and you’re forced to conclude that Patton Chambers, at least, wants his existence confined to a comfy chair, tv on an endless loop, a feeding tube full of delicious nom noms, and someone to change his diapers every now and again.

Or consider the UVa rape hoaxers (or the Duke Lacrosse rape hoaxers, or Lena Dunham lying about being raped by a college Republican, or….).  Or SlutWalk.  What is the end goal here?  As near as I can tell, all of this “blaming the victim” stuff boils down to “women in skimpy clothing should be able to get blackout drunk whenever and wherever they feel like it.”

This is “social justice”?

The endless hamster wheel of “activism” goes protest-regulate-litigate, even when — make that especially when — the end goals are undefined or, better, undefinable.  In what ways should, say, the financial or energy industries be regulated?  Which specific regulations would you like to see enacted, comrade?  Which specific statutes, since repealed, caused all the problems of “deregulation”?  Under what conditions can a business owner refuse service to a customer?  Clearly “conscience” is no defense.  How long, then, before penniless people are suing Mercedes Benz and Rolex, just because those companies claim the destitute can’t “afford” their products?  Is this not the worst, most arbitrary form of “discrimination”?

They don’t know.  They don’t even pretend to know.  They’re proud of their ignorance, and they spend endless amounts of energy on things that are designed to have no effect on the real world.  They consider too many consumer choices to be a mental disorder, and they term normal human interactions “microaggressions.”  They insist on “trigger warnings” before exposure to opinions, or even facts.  They insist there is no such thing as a fact.

Conclusion: They don’t want to achieve anything.  It’s impossible to actually live in Social Justice Land, and since living there is impossible — and they’re too cowardly for suicide — they want to make their lives as close to death as possible.  If they can, they want to stop their consciousnesses entirely, and reduce life to the autonomic.  If one must have food, and clothing, and shelter, and toilet paper, let there be only one kind of each, preferably delivered automatically at the first of the month.

George Orwell said that Eastasia’s version of IngSoc translated as “death worship.”  Once again, he was dead right.

[EDITED: Mr. Wright points out that he is award-nominated, not award-winning.  As terminological precision is important, I’ve corrected the post.  🙂 ]

Cromnibus

I’m a big fan of the “One Subject At a Time” Act.

I know, I know, “it’s not the way the system works”. Well how’s that working out, really?

That being said, no matter how much I don’t like “Omnibus” bills, I’m not going to abandon support for a politician who voted for it based on that fact alone.  Some of my more conservative friends have been seen excoriating Trey Gowdy, among others, for voting for the bill.

They have a strategy that may differ from ours, or some who may have preferred not to decided that signing on to this strategy was better than going it alone with their own and failing miserably.

It’s about like saying that the United States was “founded on slavery” because the union included slave states and didn’t outlaw it up front. There was a bigger, more complicated picture than today’s bumper sticker politics will allow room for discussion.

I read a great sentence this morning in the latest Imprimis — in an essay by Dr. Larry Arn. A lot of us would do well to ponder it.

“We hold convictions that are elevated above practical circumstances”

Recognizing this doesn’t mean we abandon our convictions. It is much better to hold convictions we strive to comply with and perhaps often fail to hit the mark than not to hold them at all.

Until enough of we the people demand that certain convictions be adhered to, a minority of us abandoning politicians that generally hold our principles the minute they do something we disagree with will only leave a vacuum for worse politicians to fill, and the rest of we the people who do not share our convictions will fill it with such a person.

What that means is we need to spread our convictions at the We the People level rather than try to elect it. We will almost always fail if we rely on the latter.

A Most Useful Metaphor

In the course of making some no-name SJW into his personal prison bitch, Larry Correia comes up with a most useful metaphor:

Yes, [H.P.] Lovecraft was a racist. He was a 1930s Democrat. It is actually kind of hard to find 1930s democrats who weren’t racists. Eugenics then was the “scientific” equivalent to Global Warming today. The “science was settled”. Proper good thinking folks didn’t question it and the world’s governments used Eugenics as an excuse for all sorts of programs that seem insane to us today.

Ooooh, that’s gotta sting.  It’s that kind of wordsmithing that makes one a New York Times bestselling author, I suppose.

Even Squirty likes H.P. Lovecraft

Even Squirty likes H.P. Lovecraft

Permanent Revolution

A followup to a thought I had over at Morgan’s place.

If you asked me to outline my ideal political program — something along the lines of “list the first ten things you’d do if you were made emperor for a day” — I could give you something coherent in fairly short order.  They’d be mostly or entirely negative, of course — “stop the government from doing X, Y, and Z” — but they’d be specific and implementable.

Can the Left do that?  I seriously doubt it.  As I said over there, the Left, being godless, is in a rather odd position.  They have to analyze everything in terms of raw, human power relations — Lenin’s famous “Who? Whom?” — but they themselves don’t fit into that scheme.  They are neither subjects nor objects, neither the who nor the whom.  They’re always agitating for the government to do something to or for some other group.

We’re so used to this that even those of us who make Left-watching a hobby rarely remark on just how weird that is.  How a-political, actually.  If politics is the art of the possible, or the working out of the general will, or however you want to define it, then your rank-and-file liberal rarely does anything explicitly political at all.  They suggest no compromises, offer no quids pro quo.  They rarely propose policies, and they sure as hell don’t follow up on the ones they do.  You could, in fact, make a pretty solid case, as Tom Simon does here, that they haven’t had a new idea since 1914.  (I’d personally argue for 1955, the publication date of Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization, but whatever – it’s been half a century at least).  And, of course, they’re famously unable to define their terms — just what is this “social justice” you keep going on about, comrade?  Does it come with a side of fries?

It’s almost Puritanical.  I’m not the first guy to suggest that Leftism is basically curdled Calvinism — Michael Walzer is, I think, and more recently this Mencius Moldbug guy — but neither of them, I believe, remark on the displacement activity aspect of it.  Puritans were famously pious, and were forever searching for signs that they were among The Elect, even though their own deepest convictions held that it was impossible to know, and wouldn’t matter in the slightest even if you did.

Modern liberalism is a lot like that.  Government should do something, rarely specified, for someone, even if — make that especially if — the someones in question don’t want it, can’t use it, or, as is increasingly the case, it’s not actually physically possible.

What do they — the advocates of these policies — get out of it?  They’re just endlessly spinning in place — permanent revolution, if you’ll forgive a bad pun.  Why?

An Irrefutable Argument for the Gamer Gaters

The GG people claim their beef is about ethics in game journalism.

The anti-GG people claim that this is just (poor) cover for misogyny.

Well, GG folks, I give you the UVa Rape Hoax for the win!  Here’s Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson on Twitter:

Tim Dickinson @7im Follow

2) But I’m appalled that people are turning a story about a public institution sitting on an explosive allegation of gang rape on campus

Tim Dickinson @7im Follow

3) into a conversation about ethics in gang-rape journalism.

Well, Timmy, the reason they’re doing that is — follow closely now — your reporter straight-up fucking lied.  About everything.
And it’s not just Krazy Konservative Konspiracy theorists who say so.  I give you the Washington Post:
B4iIlmaCAAAcHWa.png smallThere are really only three possibilities at this point.
1)This chick be cray-cray.  She made up a lot of stuff (because she cray-cray), and Rolling Stone‘s reporter bought it hook, line, and sinker, because all this stuff is just too good to check;
2) The Rolling Stone reporter made up nearly all of this stuff, and found a willing patsy to push it for her;
or
3) Some combination of the above.
My money’s on 3).
See, this is why journalistic ethics matter.  Yeah, Tim Dickinson, it is about “ethics in gang-rape journalism,” because the gang rape didn’t happen.  She made it up.  Just like — drumroll please — Crystal Mangum, of Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax fame, made it up.
There would be no “ethics in gang-rape journalism” problem to discuss if y’all would simply quit fucking making shit up.  Just as there would be no “ethics in game journalism” problem to discuss if game journalists would quit writing fake reviews of games in exchange for blowjobs from wildebeests.
It’s a simple, two-step process:
1) Quit fucking making shit up.
2) When you finally stop fucking making shit up, we can discuss the implications, including the “ethics,” of the real, actual, factual reports of events that really did happen somewhere other than the sick twisted fantasies in some SJW “journalist’s” head.
Mmmmmkay?

Hear Hear!

In other words, a small group of people will no longer enjoy the stranglehold they once possessed over politics, literature, philosophy, history, religion, music, and fine art, to “set the terms of Washington’s debates” and tell readers “what they should care about”.

This is supposed to be a bad thing? Are you kidding me?

Hear hear.  RTWT.

Good Will Hunting is a movie by, for, and about self-congratulatory liberal douchbags, but it does have one of recent cinema’s classic scenes, where Will Hunting tells the Harvard prick that anyone could get his fancy-pants “education” for about a buck-fifty in late charges down at the local library.

In the internet age, it’s even easier than that.  That same library card gets you free internet access, which allows you to become expert-level informed on any issue that takes your fancy.  You may not get the sheepskin with the fancy name on it, but you can take pretty much all of MIT’s course offerings online for free.

Of what possible use, then, is Ross Douthat?  Or Matthew Yglesias?  Or William F. Buckley Jr., for that matter?

Good riddance, boys.

Stolen Land

I find this interesting too….

Went to St. Charles for their Christmas Traditions Festival over the weekend.  Found a book, “Indian Story and Song from North America” by Alice C. Fletcher … a Victorian woman who did a lot of research on American Indian music around the 1890’s — by hanging out with them, listening to their stories.  I’ve always been interested in a lot of the cultural aspects of the American Indians.

So I bought the book.  And I’m reading along in it – she tells the stories behind the songs as told to her by tribe members.

“The He-du’-shka Society is very old.  It is said to have been in existence at the time when the Omahas and the Ponkas were together as one tribe.  There is a song with a dance which must be given at every meeting.  It is to keep alive the memory of a battle that took place while we were migrating westward, and where defeat would have meant our extermination as a tribe.  I will tell you the story.

One morning, the tribe, whose country had been invaded by the Ponkas, made an unexpected assault upon the camp of the invaders.  For a time, it seemed as though the Ponkas would fare badly at the hands of their assailants, who were determined to drive out or destroy the intruders;  but after a desperate struggle the Ponkas pushed their enemies back from the outskirts of the village, until finally their retreat became a rout.  Both sides suffered great loss.  The ground was strewn with the dead, and the grass stained with the blood of the warriors who fell in the battle;  but the victory was with us, and we had conquered the right to dwell in that country.”

There are those who insist on advancing the view that Europeans came across the ocean with some sort of unique “western” attitude that migration and acquisition of property by force to facilitate it means that the “white man” has no right to the land that he lives on today, many generations later.  This attitude is based on standards since set by those very “white men”.  We are judging the past through the lens of today’s standards, and we are leaving out important details to do that.

If we, the descendants of those who conquered this land have no right to it as it was obtained by conquest – and we obtained it from people who obtained it by conquest … where, exactly, does that chain of logic end?

D’Souza’s “America – Imagine A World Without Her” addresses this and many other memes.  It’s worth watching.