Doggerel #3: “You’re Just Jealous!”

Welcome back to “Doggerel,” where I discuss words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Fry: This is so unfair! I liked you back when you were a cyclops! That guy’s only interested now that you have two eyes.
Leela: You’re just jealous!
Fry: No, I’m not! Oh, wait, I am. But my point remains valid!

It’s a classic mix of fallacies: appeal to emotion and appeal to motive. An arguer’s emotional state doesn’t make his point invalid. Neither do motives. They may give you a good reason to double-check the quality of evidence, but they do not change the way you should approach the argument.

The way this argument is commonly used is a bit worse than that. Quite often, someone will accuse a skeptic of being jealous of a psychic’s alleged powers, an alleged healer’s skills, or whatever. The problem is that, contrary to what many believers have been led to say, skeptics are skeptics. We simply don’t believe in extraordinary things without good evidence. Lots of people have been harmed by frauds, and it’s a common motive among skeptics to protect people from those frauds by spreading information and teaching people to think critically. We can’t exactly be jealous of someone’s ability if we don’t believe they have it.

Worse, some believers will accuse us of being jealous of their wealth or their fame. This cynicism is quite a toxic attitude. We know quite a lot of the tricks from various frauds we’ve seen, but refuse to sink to that level because of our ethics. It’s also a very shallow way to view humanity, as if no one has desires beyond money and fame.

In the information age, censorship is generally much more difficult. With the Streisand Effect, legal challenges can end up emboldening critics because they signal a lack of rational arguments. The favored alternative method for handling critics is propaganda and indoctrination. Intentionally or unintentionally, frauds and self-deceived believers create a culture that encourages the use of logical fallacies and other ways of evading critical scrutiny. Encouraging cynicism by depicting their critics as having petty, ulterior motives is an effective means to prevent followers from listening to their core criticisms.

Advice to my opponents: Focus on the facts, not the emotions. To a skeptic, employing this argument is a sign of weakness if you don’t include rational arguments alongside it. Assuming we’re jealous of great wealth or fame typically makes us wonder if you’re projecting your own psychology onto us and it shows great cynicism toward humanity in general if you jump to such conclusions so quickly.

Always Something New

I was reading a thread dealing with the usual dualist stuff. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle was brought up, and it lead to johnnyp76 posting a link to an article I thought was interesting. Time for me to catch up on some quantum mechanics, again. I did know that the HUP was about accuracy of measuring a particle’s position degraded accuracy about its momentum, but I never put much thought into “weak” measurements, so it’s intriguing to me that a double-slit experiment could produce both the “wave” and “particle” results at the same time.

At the moment, based on my limited understanding of QM, this is falling into the category of “why didn’t I think of that before?” since it seems to me that weak measurements wouldn’t force the photons into a “hard” wave or particle state, but leave it somewhere between the two. Of course, being a layman and having some old blog friends with better understanding means I should prepare myself for someone to come in, point out something significant I missed, or a misunderstanding of mine, and blow my mind. I will now brace myself.

An Elephant in the Room

Nearly all my atheist acquaintances talk about it, but whenever I read or get involved an argument with a fundamentalist Christian, especially about Creationism, there’s one thing that they generally won’t acknowledge: The dishonesty of their allies. Most Creationists I’ve met online or seen videos of will repeat outright lies, even after being corrected multiple times. They criticize foundational theories of biology, astronomy, and cosmology without understanding the basic ideas behind them. Even when they modify their claims based on the scientific replies, they’ll often jump to a new thread or blog and start over with their original claims.

I will say that I have encountered some honest Christians. Typically, they’re far from fundamentalist, believe in a theistic version of evolution, and work under a largely secular morality. We’ve got our differences, but those sorts of Christians can form an alliance with us against the fundamentalist trolls, even if it’s an uneasy one. If you’re one of them, give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve argued against fundamentalist dishonesty about science. If you haven’t done it a while, please consider raising your voice. It’d help morale among atheists who’ve seen far too many fundie trolls and politicians to know people like you are more common than you might appear.

But, back to the dishonest fundie segment. It’s a sick joke that they think we’re without morality, and yet they’re pathological liars who are all too happy to say we deserve to be pointlessly tortured for eternity. They engage in heavy quote mining, intentionally removing important points from context for the sake of scoring rhetorical points. Of course, the tactic only works on their own because those of us who have been arguing the issue already know the tactic and the Creationists’ reputation for using it. They’ll also happily perform rhetorical games like the Gish Gallop, throwing out lots of fallacious arguments, deceptive half-truths, or outright lies and declaring victory if we don’t intercept each and every one. They have a fondness for many logical fallacies, like false dichotomies, appeals to authority, appeals to consequences of belief, appeals to force, appeals to popularity, and so on. Of course, when we point out why their arguments are fallacious, they’ll keep on using them or even be proud of using such fallacies.

So tell me, Creationists, why should we trust anything you say? Why should we look up to you as moral paragons? What can you hope to gain through deception when people like me will clearly point it out? Why do you feel a need to lie?

It’s been a while since I’ve hosted a troll roast, so feel free to take the bait. I know I’m back to being an even smaller-time blogger than before, but I know at least one of us would probably have fun, with or without observers.

The Ontological Argument

It’s an annoying type of argument that tends to show up when theists are backed into a corner. Other people have covered it pretty well. I feel like adding a little bit of my own thoughts. If you’re not familiar with it, one goes something like this:

1. I can imagine something of maximum greatness.

2. It’d be even greater if that thing I’m imagining was real.

3. Maximum greatness means the thing I’m imagining must exist.

Okay, so I mangled it a little, but I think my summary helps bring out one of the problems I prefer to focus on: It assumes the universe cares about what humans define as “great.” I think that’s a pretty arrogant leap to make. Of course, the arrogance seems greater when we’re talking about what certain humans think of as “great.”

To illustrate the latter part of that, let’s move into the world of fiction for a moment. Comic books, specifically. Compare Superman and Batman. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but generally I’m a bigger fan of Bats than I am of Superman. While many comic heroes have innate powers granted by alien origins, mutations, lab accidents, and so on, Batman is the Ur-example of a “Badass Normal.” Sure, he’s smart, athletic, and has the bank account to afford all of those wonderful toys, but he’s still a “mere” human. And yet, despite the relative handicap of lacking innate powers, he can still pull his weight among his superpowered allies. That’s part of what I think makes Batman a great heroic character.

And theists generally want me to accept a lazy super non-hero (if not outright villain, depending on how much cherrypicking the theist does) as the greatest being in existence, and use that alleged greatness as a foundation for asserting its existence. Kind of falls flat with me.

Another ontological argument goes like this:

1. It’s possible that there is a necessary being.
2. If it’s possible that there is a necessary being, then a necessary being exists.
3. Therefore, a necessary being exists.

I may not know as much nuance about types of logic as the source I quoted, but a question that seems obvious to me is “what do you mean by ‘necessary?'” Naturally, another observation for both of these ontological arguments made in the Debunking Christianity links I’ve added is this: Being able to conceive of something, or of a possibility for something doesn’t make it real.

The fact that theists (Christian or otherwise) use these kinds of arguments make me wonder who they’re trying to convince: Atheists, or themselves?

Doggerel #2: “You’re a Girl!”

Welcome back to “Doggerel,” where I discuss words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. Today’s Doggerel entry would be simple to write in a fair and just world, but there’s a lot of nasty sentiments that are typically involved. Though I resolved to write the series in a calm tone, I think this is an important entry worth making an exception.

The simple response is this: An arguer’s gender has nothing to do with the validity of his or her arguments or the quality of evidence presented.

The more in-depth response:

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A Simple Observation

Just a few minutes ago, my dad took a sip of Diet Dr. Pepper and started an impressive stretch of coughing.

Me: “Annoying when it goes down the wrong pipe, isn’t it?”

Dad: “When it goes down the wrong pipe, it means there’s no Intelligent Design.”

I like that my family can openly talk like that. A lot of atheists don’t have it as easy as I do.

Of course, it’s little biological quirks like that which challenge the notion that a super-intelligence designed the human body. There are so many things that can go wrong, and they range from small annoyances to potentially fatal. Thankfully, modern medicine has aided a number of them. I’d rather not imagine what it’d be like for me if I didn’t have my wisdom teeth taken out. I’ve seen an X-ray of an extreme case, where a wisdom tooth was nearly perpendicular to the back molar.

About the only argument I remember being offered to explain that evidence is the assertion of an incompetent designer, or an intentionally incompetent designer. Oh, yeah, and the idea of The Fall, which, if you’re describing an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent designer, still falls under incompetence or intentional incompetence, the latter of which contradicts the omnibenevolent part.

Another explanation I imagine, but haven’t heard asserted by a Creationist is a designer with very strange, incomprehensible motivations, instead of the human-like ones typically described. Of course, it similar to the “mysterious ways” argument in that it can be used to make the hypothesis unfalsifiable. If you can’t describe the god’s motivations, desires, and methods, you can’t make falsifiable predictions.

Worst Launch Day I’ve Had

I’m sure there have been worse for other gamers, and I imagine the more recent ones involve downloadable content, possibly for stuff that shouldn’t be optional. But mine’s certainly a pain.

Armored Core V. It’s a niche series for people who love custom mechs, and despite its flaws, I generally love the series. Overall, Armored Core has been dragging its feet when it comes to online potential. AC4 and FA had a fairly spartan system of online arena matches and online co-op for the campaign’s short missions. So, when I first heard that ACV was going to be premised on online play and emphasize tactics over twitch, I was quite happy.

Unfortunately, that online part has caused a severe problem for me… I can’t buy parts! All I’ve got are the basic parts which are explicitly labeled “junk” as an excuse why you can’t sell them. I’m sure they’ll fix it sooner or later, but this is really not how launch day is supposed to go. (EDIT: Figures they’d fix it right after I posted. Though I did get a new annoyance: “Could not connect to server. Discarding mission results.”)

Side thing: If anyone’s interested, I’ve formed a team, Silence, on the PS3 server. Let me know if you’re interested in experimenting with stealth (though for now, likely leveling up is a bigger priority) and I’ll send you the team password.


Thankfully, the morning after, everything was hunky-dory. I’ve been having lots of fun with it the past couple days. One thing I like: My lightweight sniper’s been able to handle just about every mission in the campaign on its own, with no need for me to create heavy-hitters for the first 62 Order missions… But I might need to consider it for Story 02 (it starts with 00), since there’s this one police AC that apparently knows which direction I’m going to dodge.

I raised my brother’s interest by showing him the “sub-quests” of Story 01’s mission. He loves trophies, and the sub-quests are things like “Destroy 15/15 aerial units” or “Destroy the armored train in less than 30 seconds.” They went back to one feature I liked in the older games: Story missions have sub-quests for “scraps” that give you new parts if you find them. So, I think my brother and I will get some good play value out of this game.

Genesis Alone

After my last post, I continued rewatching Qualia Soup’s videos, and one of the standouts was this:

He presents a lot of familiar objections to the Genesis story, but one idea that he emphasized was what the text said. Being culturally Christian, even if I’ve grown to be an atheist, I’m still used to thinking in terms of apologetic interpretations. Of course, many Creationists are also used to thinking in those terms. Reflecting on all the exchanges I can remember, I can’t recall anyone who ignored all the apologetic tweaks I realize I’ve been taking for granted. Some apologetics refer to passages from later books to alter the meaning of the text as is.

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Excellent Videos

It’s been a long time since I’ve plugged them, but QualiaSoup and TheraminTrees are a pair of brothers who have put up some really wonderful videos on YouTube, dedicated to critical thought. I’ve occasionally considered making educational videos, drawing inspiration from their style, though I probably need a lot of speech practice to get anything down, as well as some software for making a good presentation.

But first, I should probably see how well I can maintain my blogging energy, which has been much more solid for some reason. I guess committing to the new place and starting with a clean slate has really helped. Anyway, some favorite videos below the fold:

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Bill Maher is Crap

Crap. I don’t like Bill Maher. I know he’s said some clever pro-atheism/anti-religion things, but my charity towards him pretty much vanished when I found out about his anti-vax stance along with some miscellaneous altie canards he spread around. The misogyny I later found out about didn’t help his case, either. There’s probably more crap that’s shown up since the time I started mostly ignoring him.

I want to make it clear that I don’t consider him a role model, and that I wouldn’t want him to speak for me, politically, scientifically, or philosophically. I’d rather avoid being lumped with him whenever possible. I know that I can’t expect anyone (even myself) to have perfect reason, but Maher falls too far outside my range of tolerance for a supposed leading atheist.