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Theist meets atheist, doubles down on incoherency

11 September 2012, 10:20

Theists are fond of using arguments based on equivocations. Specifically, an awful lot of theists are seemingly oblivious to the fact that just because a word has various meanings this doesn't mean that all those things are the same just because the same word is used. (Take, for example, the well known "Evolution is just a theory," pretending that a "theory" in the scientific context means the same thing as the colloquial meaning of "theory" as "just a guess," just because the same word is used.)

In trying to criticize atheism, Paul Dawson, in his essay "Mr. Irony the Atheist" (News24, Sep. 10, 2012), is apparently oblivious to the distinction between the word "reason" in the sense of "purpose," and the word "reason" in the sense of "applying principles of correct thinking." Dawson writes, "Atheism is ironic and self defeating" because "It appeals to reason for the existence of a reason-less universe."

Of course, he's also wrong that atheism appeals to reason for the lack of evidence of a god. The atheist uses reason (principles of correct thinking), by which he understands that the claims for the existence of various gods are either false (factually incorrect) or otherwise conceptually incoherent or meaningless. The atheist uses reason (epistemology) in dealing with what we know about reality (empirical information). Thus, what atheists appeal to is the real world evidence. And the fact of the matter is that we don't have any good evidence of some kind of fundamental teleological feature of the universe or of the existence of some god.

There are other basic errors in Dawson's discussion, such as when he asserts, "[Atheism] appeals for orderly thought in an existence to which there is no order." But that's just factually false, because the real world does in fact possess a number of different kinds of "order", and our brains have evolved precisely as part of dealing with various aspects of the world that we're in, as the outcome of hundreds of millions of years of natural selection in the biological realm. We deal with patterns we find in nature, and use this information to survive and propagate, whether it's a hunter/gatherer tribe following the seasonal migration patterns of meat animals, or chemists doing research to develop pesticides in order to improve agricultural yields (by decreasing insect predation on crops).

The rest of Dawson's discussion is an overflowing trash bin of false claims, misrepresentation, illogical arguments and incoherent statements, and so on.

For example, he literally denigrates the basic principle that claims about reality must be backed up with real world evidence. (Of course, when you don't have any good evidence for what you desperately want to believe in anyway no matter what, you're rather compelled to attack the very idea that you have to come up with any actual evidence to support it in the first place.)

He claims that atheists do "not believe in a greater authority". Seriously? The problem that atheists have with theists is precisely that reason is fundamentally superior to mere belief, and that the brute facts of reality are fundamentally superior to claims about reality made merely on the basis of religious faith. Thus, atheists are the ones who grant the real world facts themselves, utterly independent of the mere subjective opinions and desires of humans, the ultimate authority.

It doesn't matter what we wish would be true, it doesn't matter how we feel about it, it is the real world facts themselves that reign supreme. It's the facts themselves, which we can learn about only by actually looking at and analyzing the real world itself, that dictate what the truth is. (This is why science, as a premier example of such empirical investigation, is always used by atheists to trounce the extensive fictions of religious believers.)

This point alone demonstrates the utter absurdity of most of Dawson's rhetoric (not to mention the irony of someone pretending that atheists don't believe in a higher authority proving his own utter contempt of such authority by denigrating the very idea of needing to substantiate his beliefs with good evidence in the first place).

We do have to thank Dawson for continuing to expose the fundamentally nonsensical nature of both religious belief and anti-atheist rhetoric based on that belief. We atheists always appreciate such efforts on behalf of our pointing out the corrupt nature of religious faith in the first place.

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