Sunday, 28 December 2014

How Creationists Lie To Us Some More

Following on from my blog a couple of days ago about Ray Comfort's idiotic claim about the absence of gravity in space (sic) and his clear implication that the only explanation for how the people who wrote the Bible 3000 years ago knew this is that his locally popular god inspired them, I thought I would look more closely at this familiar religious false dichotomy fallacy and it's close similarity to the tactics of the snakeoil seller, con artist and shyster.

His fallacy has actually made me quite angry because of the contempt Comfort shows for his dupes, confident that their scientific illiteracy, eagerness for confirmation of their pre-existing bias, and difficulty with basic joined up thinking, would do most of the work for him.

Comfort is also playing to the schizophrenic attitude towards science of the average fundamentalist creationist: on the one hand, when it destroys and renders ridiculous their preferred mythical view of the Universe, it can be waved away as wrong, Satanic, the work of evil/mad/stupid/elitist scientists as appropriate; when there is the slightest hint that it might support them, suddenly brilliant scientists have proved the locally popular god is real.

And these poor, deluded simpletons actually give people like Comfort more money in a year than they could hope to earn in a lifetime in return for people like him selling them the idea that their only hope for something better (to be delivered after death, when it's too late to ask for their money back, naturally) is to accept their lot, keep giving them their money, and be satisfied with the easy answers they sell.

Let's see how the deception works. We won't be finding any honesty, moral or intellectual, and no principles save that of the bottom line, because there is none. It's a prime example of the moral bankruptcy Francis Collins said Young Earth Creationist have degenerated to.

First, let's disregard the obvious lie in the claim that science has recently discovered there is no gravity in space and assume it's correct for the sake of argument. In fact then Comfort has presented us with a classic scientific hypothesis which can be examined:

Because some Middle-Eastern tribal hill farmers from 3000 years ago believed Earth was hanging in space with nothing to hold it up, they must have been told this by the god currently popular in the USA (i.e, an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, creator god).

'Proof' of this hypothesis is the scientific 'fact' that there is no gravity in space so they were right that nothing was holding Earth up (i.e. preventing it from falling down!)

Firstly, as a scientific hypothesis, this get about as bad as it's possible for a scientific hypothesis to be - but Ray Comfort knows his dupes won't know that. For example, the hypothesis takes no cognaissance of the fact that 3000 years ago, Middle-Eastern hill farmers would have believed that Earth was flat and at the center of the Universe, the celestial bodies were stuck to or hanging from a dome over it to keep the water out and rain was caused by water leaking through the dome.

Be that as it may, there are clearly many reason why they might have have believed Earth was hanging, even if it was hanging from nothing and nowhere in the Bible is gravity ever referred to.

Lastly there is an unproven assumption - that the god locally popular in the USA existed 3000 years ago and would have told the hill farmers that nothing was holding Earth up - other than magic of course, because without the magic it would all come falling down.

What Comfort is doing here is sneaking the desired conclusion into the hypothesis without bothering to establish its validity first, so the only outcome from his 'logic' is the one he wants.

Let's try this out with some other gods, other than the popular American version. Let's substitute Ganesh, Wotan, Thor or Osiris, or indeed any reasonable natural explanation, for 'God' in Comfort's argument. Have we then proved any (or all) of those gods inspired the authors of the Bible or that there is a perfectly natural explanation? If not, why not, other than that the local parochially ignorant assumption of Comfort's dupes is that there is only one god - theirs - so all the others can be automatically excluded, and science can't explain it. Ray Comfort's argument depends entirely on the parochially ignorant and scientifically illiterate, pre-existing bias of his dupes.

What we have 'proved' is that Ray Comfort's dupes are all depending on confirmation of an existing bias and not on being convinced by a proven scientific hypothesis at all. This is the tactic of the unscrupulous propagandist more concerned with winning sales than of promulgating the truth. The provider of slogans as substitutes for rational thought such as we would have seen on any Soviet era Russian or East German propaganda poster or those of any extremist Fascist state of the 1930's where the last thing the authorities wanted was independent, rational thought and the Party Line was paramount.

So, there we see how creationist pseudoscientists can make an argument look like a scientific one by using a sciencey structure, when actually, the science is as bad as it gets.

Now, if it were real science, the hypothesis would either be confirm or refuted by the evidence. If confirmed, to the exclusion of all reasonable alternatives, using appropriate controls, all well and good, but what if the evidence turn out to be wrong? The hypothesis would be disproved, of course, and that would be it.

Let's look at Ray Comfort's hypothesis again - the evidence which he implies establishes his hypothesis that the locally popular god in the USA inspired the Bible 3000 years ago. The scientific evidence he presents is the discovery by scientists that 'gravity doesn't exist in space'. The problem of course is that scientists have never made that discovery. Quite the contrary, in fact. Gravity exists everywhere is space and is an essential, integral part of the very fabric of space. This has been known about since 1687 and has been firmly embedded in cosmology since 1916. It is astonishing that someone who pontificates on science isn't aware of that even if it's hardly surprising that the superstitions simpletons he dupes for money don't.

So from where does Comfort's 'evidence' come? He couldn't have read it in any science text book or peer-reviewed journal of physics or cosmology. Comfort's scientific 'fact' which 'proves' his hypothesis is false. It's a lie; either unwittingly or deliberately, but it's a lie which Comfort could easily have checked and so he has either deliberately or by a scant regard for the truth, mislead and misinformed his dupes. His deception lies in posing as someone who understands the science.

What a scientists with moral and intellectual integrity would do, having had his/her hypothesis shown to be fundamentally flawed and in any case shown to be disproved, would be to withdraw it and accept that he/she was heading in the wrong direction. In Ray Comfort's example, his hypothesis that the locally popular god of his dupes inspired the writing of the Bible 3000 years ago, has actually been disproven. Will Ray Comfort have the moral and intellectual integrity to go public and admit he's inadvertently produced proof that his omniscient, omnibenevolent, god could not have inspired the Bible because the science in it is wrong? Don't put your shirt on it.

And before a science purist jumps on the word 'proof' there, it is possible to prove a god isn't omniscient and omnibenevolent since such a god would not seek to mislead with false information and would not get scientific facts wrong. The problem for theists is in the infinite nature of the claims they make about their god, which means any lack of perfection renders the claim false. The fact that, if we accept Ray Comfort's basic premise, the scientific facts disprove it, we have disproved an essential part of fundamentalist dogma.

We have proved that the god Ray Comfort tries to sell to his dupes couldn't have inspire the Bible.

In fact, it's almost too easy to go through the Bible picking out the scientific errors in it and pointing out that no omniscient creator god could have got so much so wrong without trying to deliberately mislead and misinform us. This is why creationists put so much effort in trying desperately to force-fit its claims into modern scientific knowledge whilst simultaneously trying to discredit science, and why they seize so eagerly on these little morsels that people like Ray Comfort earn their living manufacturing for them.

Now's the time for creationists to declare science is all wrong again and send Ray Comfort some more money for lying to them and so proving them right all along.

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  1. Ray Comfort is a real douche and totally ignorant of science. Anyone listening to him about anything scientific is a fool.

  2. I'm sure the world would be a better place if snake oil salesmen like Ray choked on their own snake oil.


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