Saturday, May 9, 2015

Is The Flying Spaghetti Monster From Canada?

In several essays ("Atheism's Circular Reasoning", "A Bit Disappointed in CSICOP - The Difference Between God and UFOs", "Skeptics? Really? I Beg to Differ", "Debunking 'Debunking Global Cooling'", "Certainty and Pop Science"), I have made the case that proving or disproving God's existence is a fool's game, as it is a question of such a nature that strict, scientific proof is just not possible. However, I have also argued that, because they instantly dismiss any first hand experience as delusion, deception or "mass hysteria", atheists have stacked the deck to "prove" God does not exist. In fact, the terms they adopt for the argument makes proof of God's existence impossible, and creates conditions which make it inevitable one would assume God does not exist.

In truth, the arguments offered by many atheists amount to little more than cutesy immaturity, such as "my invisible friend" arguments, or "flying spaghetti monster" style nonsense. And so, in that spirit, I want to make a case that similar nonsensical argument, based on equally suspect methods of argument, can prove just about anything you care to choose.

To demonstrate my case, allow me to use similar methods to prove something a bit less emotionally charged, well at least for many readers. I am going to prove that Canada does not exist.

First, allow me to explain that I have never been to this fictional land, have never passed through it, over it or otherwise been within the supposed borders. Then again, how could I, as it clearly does not exist?

Of course, some of you will point to all the evidence, the fact that books exist which mention Canada, maps show it, there are even people who claim to come from this mythical land. Why, Google even shows satellite photos of it! With all of that evidence, how can I deny Canada exists?

But, I would counter, there are even more books mentioning the existence of God, books going back much farther in history, from an even wider range of sources. Why, every culture you can name has mentioned gods. And as for first hand experience, there are countless testimonies about miracles performed by God or gods, about first hand encounters either with the divinity or his agents. Even today, people claim they have first hand experience of God. And yet, all of those are dismissed as deceptions, either intentional or self-delusion. So, why should I accept the delusional claims of this "Canada" as being of any greater validity?

I know, it is a silly argument. And yet, the very same method is used to dismiss all claims of any evidence for the validity of religion. Any miracle, any first hand experience, any divine revelation is instantly dismissed as delusion or deception.

What makes this dangerous, is not so much that it is a terribly biased way to approach evidence, though that is troubling as well, but that it is a method which, if we apply it to any other matter, can be used to prove or disprove anything we like, be it the nonexistence of Canada, or something of consequence. After all, if we start from the a priori assumption that any empirical evidence of X is a lie, or a delusion, then by definition, since empirical evidence is our sole source of knowledge about the world around us, then we will, of necessity, end up proving X does not exist. Why, even if someone gives us "conclusive proof" of  X (in this case the existence of Canada), say drags us to Quebec, persuades us to watch a marathon of Murdoch Mysteries, torments us with endless Celine Dion songs, forces us to shake hands with a mountie, makes us drink a case of Molson, serves up platter after platter of poutine or makes us attend the Gray Cup playoffs, in the end we must still deny the existence of our neighbor to north, simply because, by our own definition, all such evidence, even of our own senses, must be nothing but illusion, and thus, because we have defined all evidence of Canada as illusory, we can do nothing but find Canada not to exist.

And this is the same faulty form of argument that supposedly rational, skeptical types think "proves" the nonexistence of God.


4 comments:

  1. Hmmmm....interesting argument.

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  2. Glad you enjoyed it. I am not about to try to argue God exists, as the fact remains proving it is as impossible as disproving it. However, I have long contended that the "rationalist" habit of dismissing any first hand evidence as "delusion" or "lies" and even evidence attested by groups as "mass hysteria" stacks the deck in such a way that it makes the argument pointless.

    By the way, unrelated to this, there is a comment on http://ghostsquirrels.blogspot.com/2011/02/biological-determinism.html which adopts such a sarcastic tone, I can't figure out what it is saying. Thought maybe if someone else read it they might give me a clue as to the point, because I can't really tell exactly what is being argued.

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    1. Keep in mind that I had to look up “biological determinism” before I could attempt to answer you.

      I understand the first part of his comment where he complains that your title doesn’t relate to the post, because biological determinism is “…the idea that most human characteristics, physical and mental, are determined at conception by hereditary factors passed from parent to offspring” (per Britannica.com). That’s different than what you’re pondering, which relates more to the body’s natural abilities to deal with mental illness or dependency vs. artificial means (i.e. drugs). Then it looks like he takes issue with your assertion that we can overcome certain inherited instincts or characteristics through sheer will.

      It is not clear to me, when he talks about “genes and memes,” if he is giving the biological determinism point of view or his own p.o.v., or if they are one and the same. I don’t personally agree that we are powerless, nor do I necessarily agree from the definition I read that this is what biological determinism means. I happen to believe that both biological and environment factors shape who we are and how we deal with life, and free will fits in there somewhere as well.

      As for the “all people are idiots” comment, is he not a person as well? Does he mean to call himself an idiot? Wouldn’t you have to be at least a step above an idiot to recognize that everyone else is an idiot?

      Not sure if it helps but that’s my two cents.

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  3. Yes, I was using the term in the sense that "all is biology", mostly as a counter argument to those who argue that mental illness requires medication. I grant, it is not "biological determinism" in the sense of biology fixing our behaviors in advance, but it still in the same ballpark, as it says biology determines our behavior, which cannot be altered by will, only by chemical modification, at least in a number of areas, so it is not exactly unrelated.

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