The lottery fallacy, as used by theists debating atheists

I’m struggling with my new keyboard, which is resulting in double key-presses, including spaces… all the time. I may not get to correct all of them. So please excuse any weird spelling errors here. (OK, screw it. I was having to correct every single word. Do yourself a favour and don’t buy a Redragon Karura gaming keyboard.)

Although I seldom participate in these atheist versus theist debates lately, I still read the posts, and have seen this sort of question being posed frequently enough to justify writing about  it…

Normally their “logic” goes something like this:

  1. The probability of something complicated (that has already happened) is very small. For example, the precise sequences in DNA, or life existing on Earth.
  2. Therefore, that thing must have been designed.
  3. Therefore god, but not just any god, the one that the person making the argument already believes in.

(Let’s ignore the argument from personal incredulity here, and that there is no reason to leap from “I don’t understand” to “God”, OK?) One does not even need to know about the lottery fallacy to realize that the argument posed makes no sense. It’s safe to say, the probability of something happening that has already happened, is 100%. Because it already fucking happened, for fuck’s sake.

Steven Novella has written about this fallacy several times, but unfortunately I don’t have any links to his articles, which are much better than mine. (You can Google it.) But here’s how the lottery fallacy works, as I can recall from his explanation, in my own words with some sarcasm since this keyboard is really messing me around… The probability of Joe Schmoe winning the lottery is miniscule. So when he wins it, you could claim divine intervention, because his chances were negligible, yet he won anyway. (Praise God! It’s a fucking miracle.) Except if you make this claim after he already won the lottery, your logic is poor; you’re looking at it all wrong. Instead, if you consider that somebody had to win it, the probability of the lottery being won was 100%.

Likewise, you could claim that the probability of the particular sperm cell causing fertilization and your conception was miniscule. But one sperm cell had to make it. (Assuming you are not the product of fellatio or anal sex. We can rule that out since we exist, eh?) Therefore questioning the probability of the one that did, is crazy. It already happened, and the odds of any single cell being the one that did the job become irrelevant when one had to…

Likewise, the odds of conditions being perfect for life to evolve on any one planet is small. But given the size of the universe and the number of potential solar systems and planets where life could develop, which is a number so huge I can not comprehend it, it was bound to happen somewhere. It makes no sense, when you live on such a place, to question the probability of life evolving there. It’s like asking, “How can things be as they already are? What are the chances of that?” Well, the chances are 100%, you stupid fucker.

Porn star finds Jesus; takes Him to porn shoot. You won’t care what happens next!


Sorry about the mock clickbait title. But I do wonder how many readers got here after clicking the link in Facebook, even though the word clickbait is displayed prominently in the link preview. What is it about clickbait that baits us to click those links even though we know they are going to disappoint?

I remember when I first encountered such links a couple of years ago, they’d often be even more presumptuous than they are now. You’d start with a share on Facebook, promising to show you a video. It always promised something sexually suggestive, or something that provoked a feeling of disgust, or something psychologically interesting, or something else, some elusive thing that you’d need to know, no – have to know, by clicking that link. Then you’d click it and get redirected to a page that still didn’t show you the video, not until after you “LIKE” it and share it yourself. (I never did that; never found out what those somethings were, and am better off for it.) In other words, the share you saw in the first place, the one that sucked you in, was shared by somebody who hadn’t even seen the video that they shared. And that’s just wrong.

I’m not going to answer this question because I don’t know the answer myself. What I’d like is that more people think before clicking those links. Clicking alone generates revenue for someone, somewhere, based on the number of clicks coming from various media, where the statistics are collected by the middle-man affiliate site. If you really want to know that elusive thing promised, Google is your friend. And maybe Don’t help them to earn money that they don’t deserve.

Porn star turned evangelist

I now present that elusive thing that I promised in my own mock clickbait title…


Brittni Ruiz. Photo: Youtube/XXXChurch

Brittni Ruiz above is a former porn star, who was known as Jenna Presley. She now ministers to other porn stars in the inappropriately named XXXChurch. You can read a positive article about her here. (Edit: Note that the linked page has an annoying video that plays automatically on loading the page. There’s also a video of her at the bottom of the page, if you can stomach it. Her acting/reading skills have not improved with her departure from porn.)

But something feels a little off about the whole thing. She claims to have cut all ties to the “sinful” porn industry by closing her social media accounts and obviously not selling her sex anymore. But has she really cut all ties? She’s selling Jesus to people in the porn industry now. That’s what these high profile churches do – make money by selling Jesus. But by presenting herself as a former porn star, I don’t believe she has cut all ties. She’s manipulating her status as somebody who used to do porn, via clickbait marketing which appears to be aimed at getting other people to follow her church. But the point is, not only is she manipulating her status as a former porn star and talking about leaving the sinful industry, she’s OK with taking money from that sinful industry.

Apparently she tried to leave the industry before but it didn’t work out. But now she has found another way to make money also without really doing actual work. Jesus is her new cash cow.

I have this theory that some might consider controversial. It goes like this: There is no motivation stronger than addiction, and drug addiction is the primary reason that people sell themselves. Whether they are prostitutes, strippers, or porn “stars”, the people who sell their sex are doing so to get money for drugs. I can’t prove I’m right, but I know that I am right in many cases. That this woman speaks about Jesus and about the porn industry, but does not talk about why she got into that industry in the first place, makes me highly sceptical. This church gig looks like a way of maintaining her lifestyle, nothing more. I don’t know if she is an addict, and will not speculate about that, but I would find it very funny if the end result of the support for this church resulted in a former porn star making passionate cocaine-fuelled sermons to a bunch of credulous morons ready to part with their money for eternal life.

Update: I hadn’t read the linked article properly. I see she has admitted overcoming “addiction to drugs”. So maybe she is sincere and has found (false) hope in religion, as so many others have done before her. But the rest of my criticism still applies, and this seems to support my theory that porn stars are addicts. (Also, according to her story, the drug addiction came after the porn career began. I’m highly sceptical of her timeline. But besides all that, if she were sincere about spreading Christianity, why make use of her status as a former porn star? I don’t buy it.)

Appeal to hypocrisy

Some people might not like my criticism of Ms Ruiz. They might say that the intent of my writing can often be criticized for exactly the same reason. After all, I identify with being an ex-addict and write about the perils of addiction. Isn’t that the same sort of thing as a former porn star preaching to porn stars to turn to God?

No, it isn’t. I’m not making money doing this. I do this in my spare time. But wait, why defend myself? That argument is actually a logical fallacy called a Tu Quoque fallacy. Latin for “you, too” or “you, also” and also known as an appeal to hypocrisy. This fallacy attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. In other words, turn the tables on someone by accusing them of being hypocritical in their criticism of you. We’ve probably all heard this kind of argument used against us, in a relationship with a dishonest partner, or as a parent scolding a child. For example, anyone who lies and is confronted about their lies, uses this kind of argument to turn the tables on the accuser. It’s an invalid argument because it takes the argument away from the topic at hand, and redirects it to a personal attack on the person making the original criticism. In this way it is a type of ad hominem.

Actually every atheist has probably also had this argument used against them. Whenever a theist accuses an atheist of being religious in their atheism, they are making use of this same logical fallacy. I get it a lot, since I am vocal in my atheism. Being passionate about not believing and spreading the truth that religion is bullshit is easy to misconstrue as a belief system, which it isn’t. I saw a brilliant retort to this the other day. One atheist, who was confronted with the argument that atheism is a religion, replied with, “Then abstinence is a sexual position just like doggy-style”.

A common non sequitur

Recently I found an interesting non sequitur posed to an “atheist and freethinkers” Facebook group I belong to. Interesting because it’s an argument I’ve seen before. I commented that it was a non sequitur, and the OP didn’t know what that is. (Neither did I until recently, but Google is my friend.)

So what is a non sequitur? It’s Latin for “does not follow”. Very simply, it’s a bad logical argument where a conclusion is drawn that is not derived from the arguments presented. There are many different kinds of logical fallacies that result in non sequitur statements, but they do seem to follow a basic pattern, which is that some inference happens between the arguments and the conclusion; there’s a disconnect and some sort of implicit assumption going on, which is unstated.

For example: The sky is blue. My pen is blue. Conclusion: Who wrote the sky?

See what I did there? If I’d written, “The sky is blue. My pen is blue. Therefore the sky is written”, that would have been an example of a questionable cause fallacy. (Specifically, it’s one where correlation incorrectly implies causationcum hoc, ergo propter hoc in Latin.) To create the non sequitur, I assumed that the correlation implied causation, and then went on to make a conclusion about the written sky. So there’s a gap between the conclusion I leapt to and the arguments I presented.

I chose my contrived and obviously logically broken example, for a reason. Besides being really clearly wrong, it’s also very similar to the actual argument I read recently. (This is not the only kind of non sequitur. Sometimes the conclusion may be completely unrelated to the argument or previous statement.)

His argument, which I must confess I did not read properly because I saw the non sequitur straight away, went something like this: DNA is a language. Then several lengthy and verbose paragraphs about the structure of DNA and how it couldn’t have evolved, including some gross misunderstanding of what evolution actually is, with some scientific jargon thrown in for good measure red herring value. Conclusion: Intelligent design.

Can you see how this illogical argument is similar to my example? Firstly, it starts with a metaphor. I’m not a geneticist, but I know that DNA is not a language. Whether you use a metaphor or a simile, what you have there is a comparison. So the argument goes off the rails from the start. DNA, when modelled by us and when explained or framed a certain way, has some characteristics of language. But it also doesn’t. You can arrange letters in virtually any order, while the parts involved in DNA only go together a certain way. So the language comparison imposes grammar rules on DNA, comparing the rigidity of its structure with the way we define rules and form words out of letters. One could also say that DNA has some characteristics of Lego blocks, and this would in some ways be superior to the language comparison. But regardless, the comparison is not with actual DNA, it is with the way we model it. His argument then makes a logical leap that is completely unstated: Man designed language. DNA is like language. Conclusion: Who designed DNA?

To conclude, the common argument that there must be an intelligent designer because DNA is a language is a really poor one. It creates a statement that is a non sequitur. Simply put the idea that there is a god because everything is so complicated does not follow.