Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Dishonest To God

Creationist discussing science.
It's almost as though religious people in general and Creationists in particular think there is some virtue in dishonesty.

I know that's a sweeping statement but it really is almost impossible to find an honest religious argument put forward by an honest religious person in the social media these days. It makes you wonder whether they know what intellectual honesty is. Maybe it's part and parcel of being religious in the first place; something to do with being able to delude yourself that your intuition is somehow the best measure of truth so your 'faith' must trump evidence, reason and logic.

One manifestation of this dishonesty can be seen in almost every question asked of proponents of rationalism and scientific methodology by Creationists and in their response to the answers. Almost all Creationists' questions are designed, usually naively in the extreme, to trap or catch out the opposition with no desire at all to actually learn anything new or to gain a deeper understanding.

A typical honest question designed to elicit information and increase understanding will be, for example, "Can you explain how the universe could have come from nothing, please?"

There may then follow an exchange of information, including links and references to books and videos such as A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss, or The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, maybe a discussion of 'quantum foam', the 'Anthropic Principle' and how lots of negative energy and lots of positive energy can add up to zero energy and yet provide more than enough energy to account for the universe.

The questioner may then decide to read the books and follow the links, or at least acknowledge that there are indeed scientific explanations for how the universe came from nothing. They may even disagree, just as scientists do, but at least they do so honestly.

An honest question is characterised by:
  • Exploration.
  • Invitation to explain.
  • Willingness to consider and think about the answer.
  • Willingness to change one's mind.
  • Thanks.

By contrast, a typical Creationist, having probably asked someone else the same question a day or two ago, will ask, "If the is no God who created the universe?", or even more profoundly dishonest assertion rather than a question, "Science can't explain the origin of the universe."

The dishonesty in this question is in the way it begs the questions. There is an inbuilt assumption that the universe was created and created by someone which his opponent is obliged to accept in order to engage the question. There is no request for information, merely a challenge to escape from the trap. The bald assertion that "science can't explain..." is merely an expression of ignorance at best and a lie at worst. In all probability the Creationist has been told that explanations exist every time he has asked the question, but he has chosen to ignore the answers.

More often than not an attempt to explain, or to suggest that it might be useful to read some physics is met with dismissal. "So you think your grandfather was a monkey! LOL!".

And almost invariably lurking in the background is the dishonesty of the false dichotomy fallacy, where the assumption is that there are only two possible explanations - either the scientific one or it must have been the locally popular god - coupled with the god of the gaps fallacy where the unspoken assumption is that, if science can't explain it, it must have been the locally popular god.

Characteristics of dishonest questions are:
  • False premise - the question is predicated on a fallacy or unproven assumption which the respondent must accept in order to answer it. This is designed to entrap and embarrass, not to elicit information.
  • Repetition. The question will be asked repeatedly regardless of how well or recently it was last answered.
  • Offence at the answer, often with feigned indignation, and very frequently with a change of subject or complaint that a different question wasn't answered (the shifting goal-post strategy).
  • Use of tactics in any discussion rather than substantive arguments, with evidence of rehearsal and practice, showing the disingenuous nature of the question and that the questioner, having asked it many times before, is not interested in any answers.

Personally, I find it staggering that creationists and apologists who use these strategies seem to take a pride in dishonesty and deception. I really can't see how it is consistent with a belief in a god of truth and honesty. If they really do believe in a god, it is a small god, easily damaged by information, or an insecure, vindictive little god who admires and rewards dishonesty and is afraid of losing control through ignorance and superstition, rather like a petulant child who throws its toys out of the pram when it doesn't get its own way.

But I suspect there is something else going on here. In fact there are probably several things:
  • The easy answer which Creationists feel puts them on an equal or superior footing to those people who go to all that trouble studying and learning things. Why bother when you have a 'faith' which tells you all the answers? The fact that 'all the answers' are the same one and it doesn't actually answer the question is besides the point. At least you can claim to be cleverer and may even impress a few equally ignorant people.
  • The 'Creationists' and Apologists who don't believe a word of it but love the power it gives them and the adulation (and often a substantial income) they get from promulgating this simplistic nonsense. No worries there about what their god thinks of them showing it takes lies and dishonesty to promote it. The market for books, talks and appearances on radio and TV chat shows is a multi-billion one in the USA alone, as is the lucrative trade to be had from online scams, usually complete with a 'donate' facility to help spread the tax-free good news.
  • The psychotically deluded individuals bordering on the insane, if not actually clinically insane, or at least morbidly paranoid theophobic. These unfortunate people have invested so much of themselves in their religiosity that it is part of, or even all of, their identity. To admit to the slightest doubt would shatter their delusion and destroy their whole persona. Their entire existence is devoted to reinforcing their delusion and handling the cognitive dissonance of an intrusive and troublesome reality. What better way to do that than to trap and abuse those idiots who don't agree with me? That's teach them!

It seems dishonesty is a frequent, if not invariable, component of religion and the more religious the person is the more dishonest they need to be to maintain it.

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  1. As one of the first interactions god has with Adam and Eve he lies to them, then at least for the followers of Yahweh its a requirement. Gen 3:3 but about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, 'You are neither to eat from it nor touch it, or you will die.

    Unless you assume that god created Adam+Eve to be immortal. But that throws up the problem of God not knowing what is going on in his garden...and as free will hadn't been given yet (that comes from eating the apple) the all knowing and powerfull god seems to have deliberately
    1. lied to them
    2. allowed them to eat the apple
    which has led to an untold amount of suffering and death, which must have been gods plan right from the start. Nice choice of diety to worship!!

  2. Surely religion is always part of the identity of the truly religious? So if people are taking these discussions at all seriously, the stakes are always going to be high.

    Any conversation which starts with the objective of proving we are right rather than either understanding the other person or simply being heard is always going to have some of these features. And I for one used to find it surprisingly difficult to move into a position of genuine curiosity (as opposed to understanding their position as the first step to winning the argument).

    I've seen all of these tactics by passionate atheists on the comments to the freethought blogs, for example.

  3. Let me read an argument from you, the author of this article, on the non-existence of God.

    You seek to point out the dishonesty of creationists; not conceding at all to your accusation, let me just ask you to present your best argument against the existence of God.

    My observation is that you are in this article engaged in dodging and quibbling, instead of pointing out exactly what dishonesty the creationists engage in with their arguments for the existence of God.

    Anyway, let me read from you your best argument for the non-existence of God.

    You will dodge right away of course as usual with atheists, by this kind of an answer, "I don't believe in God therefore I don't have to present any argument against God's existence."

    See, that is a dodge and a quibble.

    A dodge because you seek to escape from any accounting for the grounds why you deny the existence of God, and a quibble because denying God's existence is not any acceptable justification to neglect the investigation on the issue of God existing or not existing.

    That is my impression from talking with atheists, they are always into dodges and quibblings, they don't have any genuinely rational argument for denying the existence of God.

    So, will the take the challenge to present your best argument against the existence of God, and we will analyze it together to determine its cognitive merits if any?

    Marius de Jess

    1. >You seek to point out the dishonesty of creationists; not conceding at all to your accusation, let me just ask you to present your best argument against the existence of God.<

      You haven't said which god, but it's the same answer for all of them - the complete absence of any evidence.

      >You will dodge right away of course as usual with atheists, by this kind of an answer, "I don't believe in God therefore I don't have to present any argument against God's existence."<

      Sorry to disappoint you. Perhaps you would come across as slightly more honest if you didn't presume my answer but actually dealt with my arguments instead of the ones you wish I had made.

      >See, that is a dodge and a quibble.<

      Are you arguing with an invisible person or just yourself?

  4. Please email me, mdejess@gmail.com, when you have decided to publish my comment.

    If not, also email me to rewrite it so that it will pass your moderation.

    Odrareg aka Marius de Jess

    1. You can, of course, subscribe to this blog so you get an automatic notification of replies just like anyone else, but perhaps you thought it would somehow validate the argument you have just had with yourself if you followed it up with this.

      Can I suggest you revise your strategy and try honesty? Your current one is counter-productive and is actually reinforcing the point I made in the blog.

      Just a suggestion.

  5. odrareg18 March 2013 at 10:23

    So, will you take the challenge to present your best argument against the existence of God, and we will analyze it together to determine its cognitive merits if any?

    Marius de Jess

    Rosa Rubicondior18 March 2013 at 18:40
    >You seek to point out the dishonesty of creationists; not conceding at all to your accusation, let me just ask you to present your best argument against the existence of God.<

    You haven't said which god, but it's the same answer for all of them - the complete absence of any evidence.

    Dear Rosa, I came to your blog again this morning when I was surfing the net searching for what is demurrer to evidence.

    You are asking which god I am talking about, here is the concept of God I am talking about Whose existence for the purpose of this exchange we will take as to be not yet proven to surely exist in reality outside our mind.

    Here is my concept of God to answer to your question, which god.

    In concept God is the creator and operator of the universe and of everything with a beginning

    Now, you tell me which god you are talking about which does not exist in reality outside our mind.

    Glad to meet you again, I can’t remember now if I ever received your email, just the same if this blog is still being maintained by you and you read this present contribution from me, write your email to me, and I will return to your this blog and we can continue with our exchange.

    You see when what you say is an assumption in the issue God exists or not, it is not an assumption like when someone calls the fire men telling them that the house at the street corner is burning, because he sees smoke coming out from the windows of the house, so he assumes that the house is on fire (but he could be wrong).

    You are using that word assumption in that sense above; I want you to know that you are applying that word to the debate God exists or not, that theists already assume God exists, and that is according you you, not cognitively honest.

    You see, in an exchange of thoughts between two parties, in particular in a debate over an issue, “is it or is it not.’ There is no assumption at all that “it is’ – you are not getting the idea of an exchange on an issue or in particular a debate, with your use of the word assumption wrongly.

    What you call an assumption is not an assumption but a hypothesis; you notice that thesis word in the hypothesis word? It is like you are writing a thesis in a school paper advancing an issue.

    That word, thesis, it is like you are going to write a thesis to prove that God does not exist, and I am going to write an opposite thesis to prove that God exists – and we both agree that we should work on just one thesis, namely, either Thesis: God does not exist, and you take the contra position and I take the pro position, or we both work on Thesis: God exists, I take the pro position and you take the contra position.

    But when people write a thesis or a dissertation or propose an issue to discuss on or debate about, the statement of the thesis or the proposal is always formulated or normally formulated in the positive mood – find out why it is always formulated in the positive mood, go to the local college and ask the professor of debate and argumentation why a thesis is always formulated in the positive mood, instead of a negative mood.

    Okay, I await your email to me, my email address, mdejess@gmail.com.

    1. As I said, you can subscribe to this blog to get the latest comments. I don't intend to have a private debate with you via email.

      When you have decided what definitive evidence you think you have for whatever god you think it's evidence for, just post it here. If you are unable to do that then there is nothing to debate and you lose by default. Your choice.


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