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A critical response to the trouble with dumb luck

06 June 2014, 09:57

A critical Response to “The trouble with dumb luck” written by Dan Mathews to berate, belittle and insult atheists, even though he refuses to admit to this.

OK, as an atheist, that also happens to be a scientist, I'm going to pick a few holes in some points in your thesis, even though I agree with some of your points. I'll try and not sound as condescending as you did in your previous article, but I might fail.

  First is just an overall observation: It seems you are arguing from the typical position of an agnostic, but not just a normal agnostic, but rather a smug agnostic. I'm guessing you are either an agnostic or a theist arguing like an agnostic. After your first article berating atheists (all atheists, you didn't fool anyone), I thought of countering with an article with the title: The Irony of the Smug Agnostic. But OK then I didn't. What I'm saying is that you think you are above the fray and you can pigeonhole the lesser individuals from your elevated pedestal, a typical agnostic position. You are wrong. You are just another pigeon with your particular peculiarities in your own hole. Most of the things you accuse atheists and theists of, you are equally guilty of yourself. So don't fool yourself.

That said:

  So where to start? Let's start with your title; "The trouble with dumb luck". Here you fall into the typical theist's trap and mantra that all naturalism and determinism is based on pure chance, as you derogatorily refer to it "dumb" luck. Meaning of course that anybody that ascribes to this, are pretty "dumb" themselves. This is incorrect and you are arguing from a position of ignorance. Allow me to give you some information to abate that position.

There is a scientific field known an "Emergence". Admittedly this is not a well subscribed field and also not at all known by the general lay public or popular media. It is heavily based on both information and chaos theory, and it attempts to explain how complexity arises from simplicity. It attempts to, for example, explain the natural laws that allow a "simple" swirling cloud of gas and dust in space to coagulate into a "complex" solar system. Or a "simple" singularity to become a "complex" universe. It also quite adequately explains how DNA can "gain" information from it's environment, and how the "information" gets to be in the environment in the first place. So I would suggest before you make such statements such as "where does the information come from", and "information cannot come from nothing", do some research on this topic. Before you do this and understand the topic a bit better, you sound a bit like a YEC arguing for a young earth.

>>>Atheists believe that before there was something, there was some kind of nothing,

  I don't think your statement here is quite accurate on quite a few levels. You are conflating atheists with scientists. There is a statistical correlation, but you need to understand what that means, and I don't think you do fully. There are brilliant scientists that are theists, and there are astute atheists that aren't scientists. You really need to sort this out for yourself.

  Oh and "some kind of nothing" is meaningless. It's either something or nothing. Don’t try any fancy Jedi mind tricks with words. It won’t work.

  Also you are again putting all atheists into your pigeonhole. Atheists are a very diverse group. The only thing they have in common is a belief system that doesn't accede to the existence of a personal god, such as the Abrahamic God/s. You will get some that have a more agnostic point of view on "deism", and others that flatly deny supernaturalism is at all possible. Others that will accept that the earth/universe is god etc.

  Then on the topic of "Nothing": If you go and analyse the BBT, you will find the theoretical starting point one Planck (time) unit after the so-called singularity. If you watch carefully no-one is making any definitive statements about where the singularity came from, why it was there, if it even WAS a singularity (research inflation), what happened before the singularity, why it banged, etc. And whatever it might have been, it's most DEFINITELY not "nothing" by any means. This "nothing" position, is just a typical creationist mantra, a trap that you have fallen into. The position on the singularity is one of agnosticism, with some speculation and hypotheses that some scientists and the popular press has exploited to their advantage; and definitely not one of faith, as you postulate. Hawking has his views, others have other views.

  Hawking isn't the pope. Neither is Penrose. Neither is Krauss or Dawkins.

  I see you repeat you argument of "nothing" quite a few times in your article. Sorry, but it's a fallacy.

>>>but our best theories are still no more than that; ideas.

  OK, at this point you fell into a rather theist big trap. The THEORY fallacy. There is a fundamental difference between a colloquial theory or hypothesis, and a scientific theory or hypothesis. The different semantic senses are used by theists as a disparaging of science. How many time have you heard (used); evolution is just a theory? I suggest you brush up on this one or you will again sound like a YEC. (God I hope you aren't a YEC). If you want to come and debate on the theist/atheist position, arm yourself with this piece of essential information.

>>>that inanimate natural processes themselves can spontaneously create life. This has not yet been demonstrated

  No, indeed it hasn't. So this also falls into the category of hypotheses and speculation. Exactly the same position that electromagnetism held some 200 years ago. To state that atheists "believe" that abiogenesis happened is a logical fallacy. Some might do, but they are ignorant. There isn't a "theory" of abiogenesis, so there isn't a "fact" of abiogenesis to be explained by a theory. To state that atheists or scientists "believe" there is a fact of abiogenesis is misstating their position.

  Conflating abiogenesis and biological evolution is a common strategy used by theists. The two fields are “really” quite different. One has to do with chemistry, the other with biology. They only overlap is where the one ends the other starts. To disparage the ToE because there is no established theory on abiogenesis is intellectually dishonest.

>>>But from where we stand right now, again saying that life came from God is a 'joke' is not really sensible,

  From a philosophical viewpoint I don't agree with this statement. You are saying because we don't know with some level of certainty how something originated, that all hypotheses are equally relevant and must have equal respect. In that case you must also concede that the obviously parody inspired concept of the FSM is also sensible. So the FSM created life must be created with the same respect as God created life. It IS sensible that by saying life came from the FSM is a "joke".

>>> It is pretty much universally accepted that information can only come from information,

>>>how can complexity and order come from simplicity and chaos?

>>>we find that the organism already contained the information-generating information

  OK, here you go again. On and on and on with the same fallacy. I treated this subject above under Emergence. It is NOT universally accepted. It is only universally accepted by theists, and some agnostics, but only the ignorant (not stupid, ignorant) ones. I can with a pen and paper and about 5 minutes of time show you how DNA can gain additional information just by the simple process of vertical gene duplication. I can write a computer simulation program based on DMA Informatics and a realistic environment that DNA "gains" information quite readily and over time becomes more “complex”. At CERN they have simulation programs that generate realistic universes and galaxies from basic BBT information. And please don't come with the lame excuse that the "information" or "intelligence" is supplied by the simulator programmer. You, and your theistic supporters (mainly YECs) simply have this point DEAD WRONG. You guys must really deprecate this silly argument.

>>>That way, we can all benefit from your wisdom!

  I don't profess any wisdom, but I didn't miss your sarcasm. I'm just like you trying to get to the best approximation of the partial view of reality that we seem to perceive. I just try not to lie to myself to solve any death related emotionality.

>>>Certainly theists cannot, with any reasonableness, be labelled 'ignorant' or 'stupid'.

  Agreed, not all. But "some" definitely can. Some are just simply batsnot insane. Some are just totally unreasonable. Others are just clueless. Some are unable to reason but only preach fire, brimstone and damnation. Some are intellectually dishonest. Some are just crooks.

On Faith:

  Even though your title didn't indicate that, you claim that atheists use "faith" to come to their conclusions, just as much as theists do, so either you elevate religious faith to that of reasonable faith used by scientists, or you dumb down reasonable faith to the level of religious faith. It's called the "faith fallacy". You are using the different semantic senses of faith that means different things. The two are not the same.

  I have reasonable faith that my car will start tomorrow morning, although it has let me down in the past (It's a BMW after all). It is reasonable faith and not blind faith. I have reasonable faith that the tenets of biological evolution points to the fact that evolution took place, even though I haven't studied every single aspect of the theory. I also have reasonable faith that not all evolutionary biologists, DNA information researchers and paleontologists are all idiots, or want to fool the world with a world wide conspiracy initiated by ancient aliens or the government or the pharmaceutical companies. Religious faith makes people believe that the earth is 6,000 years old and is not reasonable faith.

On Thermodynamics;

  You had some interaction with Ennui on thermodynamics. Your take on this matter is totally 100% wrong, and Ennui is 100% totally correct. It's OK to argue some wishy washy philosophical woo woo with atheists. If you however want to argue science with scientists, I suggest you get your ducks in order.

On Probability:

  It’s futile to argue that a probability of some or other natural even occurring is so astronomical low that it could not possibly happen. This is the “probability fallacy”. If you want to engage in probability arguments, then you must establish a probability for the existence of your God, and then compare that probability to the probability you’re talking about. If you can’t do that you are wasting everybody’s time.

On God’s abode:

  By saying God exists outside time and space is the ultimate copout and Gods of the Gaps argument. God started out as a sub god in the earthly pantheon of El, he then morphed into Yahweh that was the same as El that lived in a palace that then moved into heaven just above the clouds. He kept on moving as science kept on chasing him away up to where he is now a trinity god that lives outside time and space. Where will he go to next?

On Special Creation:

  I understand why you don’t want to discuss this matter. No matter if you choose YEC or any of the other Old Earth narratives, you have some serious explaining to do. I personally see that as intellectual dishonesty. The fact that you avoid this subject as the plague probably means you are a YEC.

On Eternal Existence:

  You fell into this trap as well. You argue that God can be eternal, but you argue that the universe mast have had a beginning. You ignore the possibility that the universe can be eternal as well. Do yourself a favour and find out about the problem of infinite regress, as this one will kill you if you start moving in this direction with uncaused causes arguments.


  You are using the standard creationist arguments on most aspects. You are most probably a theist, and could even be a YEC. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are a preacher or pastor. So if you want to argue you can either used this as an information update, or you can just use the same arguments as before, as your congregation won’t notice.

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