Questioning the origin of the claim that god exists is not a genetic fallacy. Here’s why…

I still don’t have time for much writing, but thought I’d share this excellent meme I found yesterday…

Magic

Of course it’s a variation of what I’ve written before – god is nothing more than an explanation for the unknown, invented by primitive man, and handed down through generations of indoctrination.

Once, when I wrote something like that here before, a commenter took offense and accused me of a genetic fallacy, then presented his version of an argument from first cause. And that prompted me to write about the argument from first cause. (Not my best piece of writing but it’s not bad, I think. I didn’t know what special pleading is, although I mentioned it without using its name.) Of course, in the case of the argument from first cause, it introduces a rule that everything needs a creator, in a sequence of causes and effects that can be traced back to a “first cause”. Then it leaps to the conclusion that the first cause is god (a non sequitur because that does not follow) and states that god does not have a cause, which violates the rule of its premise.

But seeing the meme I’ve shared today made me think about it again. The question in my mind, which I’d like to address today is: How can you believe that questioning the origin of god is a genetic fallacy?

So what is a genetic fallacy? From the Google preview…

The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.

So, clearly this is a fallacy where one reaches a conclusion on something, based solely on the origin of that thing, without considering its current meaning or context. I see then, how a person could claim that rejecting belief in god based on the origin of god might be considered such a fallacy… But I also see how that would be wrong. Can you?

It’s like this: If you assume that god exists, then the origin of the claim that god exists becomes irrelevant, because god exists.

Of course, the reason that’s wrong should be obvious… Like every religious apologetics argument, it starts with the assumption that god exists. That’s not how logic works.

In fact, almost every apologetics argument has this problem. And many of them work like this:

  1. Start with the implicit, always unstated assumption that god exists.
  2. Make some statements about something else.
  3. Conclude that god exists, even though it does not follow logically from whatever statements were made. (Steps two to three are a non sequitur.)

As you can see, questioning the origin of god can only be perceived as a genetic fallacy if you assume that god exists. And as I’ve shown above, this conclusion that god exists, in apologetics arguments in general, often only “works” because the assumption was made. (“I know that X is true because I assume that X is true.”… without stating the assumption directly but stating some unrelated stuff after making it.) This is why we often argue in circles in debates between theists and atheists… The theists always start with the assumption that their conclusion is true, but they do not realize that it’s illogical (circular reasoning) to do so.

But because that assumption (that god exists) is implied, not stated, the theists who debate expect us to address their other statements, the irrelevant ones from which they take a leap of faith to conclude that god exists. (Even though the leap of faith only makes sense if one assumes that god exists.) Arguing about the irrelevant statements, whether that involves refuting straw man arguments of science or whatever, is pointless, because they are irrelevant. This is why, when someone wants to debate evolution, I like to short-circuit the debate – suggest to them that we ignore evolution. Assume that it’s false if you want, and ask them how they get from unknown to god. Short-circuit the debate and reveal the assumption. But they don’t want to discuss their actual claim that god exists, or face the fact that an assumption was made. Since there is no evidence for god, they prefer to discuss something else.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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4 Responses to Questioning the origin of the claim that god exists is not a genetic fallacy. Here’s why…

  1. notabilia says:

    They should really pay you for this kind of work – what would say your success rate is?
    Americans can take inspiration from a recent book, by Leigh Schmidt, “Village Atheists,” which documents the rich, strong history of open atheism in America by some great forgotten heroes. The anti-communist hysteria of the 50s killed atheism in America, leaving the field barren in the 60s and 70s for the youth unfortunately nearly uniformly indoctrinated by all the religious pabulum an empire can fashion, but that officiated cult of obedience is over now, and village atheism, such as yours, is a beautiful form of opposition.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jerome says:

      It’s difficult to define success rate here.

      Theists, at least the ones I have debated, don’t debate to discuss rationally/logically and learn when they are wrong, unlike me. They debate to win. All people are different of course, and some of them (a minority) are polite and respectful, but even they aren’t debating to learn anything.

      But I think my arguments are solid – I see through their bad arguments to the extent that I see the underlying assumptions being made, and break them down well enough to express that – at least that’s my aim. So I think my arguments are more useful for other atheists, and I hope for agnostics, those on the fence who are undecided as to what to believe… I hope to reach the open minds of agnostics. At least they doubt the religions, and doubt is an important part of critical thinking.

      Like

  2. bbnewsab says:

    I think there is a rather strong positive correlation between (some kinds of) addiction and believing in woo bullshit.

    Have a look at http://neurosciencenews.com/gambling-addiction-neuroimaging-6413/ .

    The study shows that (at least some) addicts have altered activity in brain regions related to risk and reward, making them prone to prefer risky and/or stupid choices. They lack what in this article is called cognitive flexibility, which often means they don’t understand statistical reasoning and what probabilities are.

    That, in turn, makes them too certain, they are sure they know the truth, i.e. what is the best for them – or for all humanity – to believe/do. .

    Their cognitive inflexibility makes them believe that the only right way to think of how to solve/explain a problem is their own way of thinking and reasoning. They are stubborn like a little child and have difficulties understanding logical reasoning, meaning they often become science deniers (“Don tell me what to think, I know what I saw/heard/experienced!”)

    In short, I think the mechanism explained in this article – low activity in their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, dlPFC – tend to make people cocksure they know the right answer to a posed question (in this case the question “Does God exist?). And they lack understanding of how risk calculations are done (“What if I’m wrong? No, I can’t be wrong, I know, I’m absolutely not guessing, that’s for sure!”).

    Like

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