Refuting an absurd “mutual consent” straw man

Recently I saw this:

MutualConsentStrawMan

I didn’t need to read beyond the preview and neither do you.

Let’s first address what consent actually is: Consent is when you give permission or agree to do something. The ‘mutual’ in mutual consent is redundant because if both parties don’t consent, one of them is being forced against his or her will. And that is the only context in which consent is ever discussed.

Normally when we discuss consent, we are talking about rape, which is when someone, normally a woman, is forced against her will to perform a sexual act.

Little Johnny tries to frame mutual consent as an agreement between two people to do something “immoral”. But literally nobody except little Johnny has such a discussion. That’s not at all what consent is about. Consent is normally only used when we discuss sex between two adults, that is between two people legally old enough to be able to agree to have sex.

Consent is relevant when somebody was forced to do something he or she didn’t agree to do. That’s all. And nobody ever claimed that when two people consent to do something bad, their consent is somehow defensible.

Furthermore, John is using code here… He equates homosexuality with something immoral, but doesn’t say it directly. But everyone in that group knows exactly what he means. To Christians like him, homosexuality is the same as paedophilia and anything else he considers immoral. This, ladies and gentleman is what Christian hate speech looks like. It’s often subtle in that he doesn’t say directly that he hates gay people, but that’s what he really means. Such hate speech ironically often does not violate community standards.

In fact, the reason I’m in that awful Facebook group is that a friend, who happens to be gay, invited me there. The group is filled with some of the most hateful, stupid, Trump supporting Christians I have seen anywhere. The group has been infiltrated by atheists, lots of atheists, and we generally troll them there, but I do find it useful to see what these sorts of people think. We are surrounded by them after all, and when they feel “safe” to express their true beliefs in such a group, that’s when their true nature reveals itself.

Edit: I see a friend just posted this on another group:

81416475_10221012997016508_4387921138588581888_o

He’s right. I’m not sure if his claim that no human being ever intervenes is accurate, but in principle he’s correct. Real hate speech, homophobic vitriol by people like John or “Activist Mommy” does not violate community standards, but harmless jokes often do, as does nudity (Why though, when you must be an adult to have an account?), and even worse, activists often get shut down there.

Refuting science that you don’t understand does not make your preferred god hypothesis true

I’ve written about this before, but today I’m taking a slightly different approach. Firstly I’ll present the brief version of my argument, followed by my reasons for approaching it this way.

Yesterday somebody trolled a popular local atheist Facebook group with the usual bullshit… He presented a misunderstanding of science that proposes the universe and all life came about as it is now, purely by chance. Then asked, “What are the chances of this?”

Since I can’t remember the exact words of my answer and I’m too lazy to look now, here is the paraphrased version: Straw men are great because they’re easy to burn. Let’s assume for a moment that all science is wrong. Throw out the Big Bang Theory and throw out evolution. What then? (I’ll tell you…) Then, what we have is the big ol’ scary unknown. (Cue the scary music and “da da daaa”.) And you know what? Even then, it still doesn’t make sense to think creation by god is the answer. When you remove science, god is still just a magical, ready-made explanation for the unknown. To think otherwise, is to start with the assumption that god exists, because you think you know he does as I wrote last time, and then thanks to your belief bias, you work backwards from your foregone conclusion and look for reasons to reach it. Not only is that simply begging the question, but it is also a false dichotomy to think that creation is the only alternative to science.

And that’s as much detail I’m interested in writing of my argument today. I’m more interested in why. As I’ve observed in every such discussion, the subject of the discussion is then the misunderstood science as posed by the creationist. I can understand why… It is the subject of his post of course, and he didn’t even mention god. But that’s only because of the assumption he made that if some aspect of science that he didn’t understand is not true, god is the answer.

And here’s what always happens: Several people who know science post loads of detail, enough to give the person a reasonable understanding of that portion of science. And for what? Tomorrow he will return with another straw man, a god of another gap.

I call this kind of approach (from the atheists) defending the straw man. You’re missing the point if you do that. I am not willing to debate science with creationists. Science has gaps. It’s not like science is finished yet. Nor is it like science has anything to do with god. The point here is their underlying thinking, that refuting some aspect of science, that they believe is wrong, leaves god as the only alternative. You need to realize is that defending the straw man is a waste of time. They are not bound by honesty. I’ve even read arguments by creationists who know a fair amount of science, writing pseudo-scientific papers filled with scientific jargon, refuting speciation. But the pattern is always the same: Refute the straw man and claim victory. Meanwhile in reality, the subject of their claim that god exists is not even addressed.

Don’t fall for such arguments that avoid the issue. Expose the belief bias, the circular reasoning and the false dichotomy, and ask directly how the creationist gets from “I don’t know” to god. It’s not about winning the debate. Nine times out of ten, both parties who debated will think they won, and nearly everybody who observed will leave with the same beliefs they started with. But if you expose that their “logic” isn’t logical at all, you might reach an impartial or thinking observer.


Fuck it… I should really avoid such FB arguments. Now someone is claiming that my argument is a straw man because the OP didn’t state his position. I don’t care that he didn’t. Even if he meant something else, my point still stands. Refuting one thing does not mean your preferred hypothesis is true. (Especially if you refute a straw man.) You still need to provide evidence.

This is a frequently posed generic argument for intelligent design. It’s also a classic bait and switch. Don’t state your position but invite those who oppose you to defend the straw man. Then if anyone goes after the implied “conclusion”, you can change your position, since it wasn’t stated.

This again reminds me of the dishonesty of such creationists. Why post a loaded question about science being wrong to an atheist group if you don’t mean to imply that science is wrong “because god”? I have personally seen such “arguments” posted hundreds of times, and this is no exaggeration. By making the post only about the straw man of science, they assume their own position, whatever it may be, is made stronger. Comment and explain how science really works, and you’ll just get another straw man of some other science tomorrow. Comment about the assumptions being made, and they change to bait and switch. It’s a win-win for them, in their small minds. Just another reason not to debate creationists.

The ironic dishonestly of religious apologetics and theist debaters

Maybe I came on a little strong yesterday? I was thinking about this again this morning and came to something of a mini breakthrough…

Every believer who debates atheists believes in god. (Obviously.) But what does that mean? … It means that in every case, they believe that they know god exists. If you accept some claim as fact, then it is difficult not to be biased toward it, because you take it for granted that the claim is true. In every case, for every theist I have ever debated, and every argument for the existence of god I have ever read, it is crystal clear that they start with the assumption that god exists. Then they work backwards from there, coming up with strange pseudo-logic that only appears logical to fellow believers (who also think they know god exists) and non sequiturs. Thus every single argument produced is not about evidence for god, but about something else.

Consider this statement, which happens to be the most concise example of the argument, without the bullshit logical statements and other word salad:

Every creation needs a creator.

Now consider this equivalent statement that could be made by a flat earther:

The flat earth is flat.

If you are religious and can’t see the similarity between the two statements, you might have a problem.

In the case of “Every creation needs a creator”, the assumption is obvious. Existence is called creation. A creation needs a creator because it was created, because that’s what a creation is. But by assuming creation, you also assume a creator (implicitly). The second statement, “The flat earth is flat”, is also logically sound. If the earth was flat, it would indeed be flat. Both statements assume their conclusion, and while the first is one a creationist wrote in a debate, the second one was written by me to be funny and doesn’t disguise the circular reasoning by assuming the conclusion implicitly, but states it explicitly instead.

When we debate, we atheists ask for evidence of god, and none is ever produced. Actually I once had the misfortune of debating a group of people who asserted that evidence exists, and then declared victory. They became angry when I questioned what that evidence is and pointed out that asserting that evidence exists is not the same as producing evidence. (Seriously. It pissed them off. “You have not provided evidence. You just asserted that evidence exists, which is not the same thing.” That made them livid.) So we point out that their arguments are invalid. Because they are. Every argument makes as much sense as the single line example given above, just with more words. (And more words makes the assumption less obvious. It usually isn’t stated directly. And the words can be several points, paragraphs, or hundreds of words, or entire books, which seem logically valid, but still only work if one assumes god exists. And anyone else who shares those beliefs does not see through the poor logic.)

And can you guess what we get in return?

In return, we are told what atheism is. We are told what we believe. Then the debate goes off on a tangent about what the definition of atheism is.

And here’s why they do that: On some level, theist debaters must realize that they start with the assumption that god exists. Of course they do, but admitting it would be to admit dishonesty. It would mean admitting that the “logic” isn’t really logical but is working towards a conclusion that was assumed up front. Rather than do that, they frame atheism as a polar opposite belief, the belief that god doesn’t exist. Because if it were true, if we atheists started out with the assumption that god doesn’t exist and worked backwards towards it, we’d be “equal” to them somehow in the debate. And yes, that would make our arguments equally wrong. It’s a tu quoque fallacy of course to accuse your accusers of doing exactly what you’re doing, but let’s not go further down there. I’m mostly trying not to name the fallacies in this post, but I’ll tag them.

Of course that’s not what atheism is about. Many of us start out believing in religion and doubting it. The claim that a god exists is just that, a claim. We simply question that claim, and when no evidence is produced to support it, we reject it. We don’t claim anything at all. We simply reject your claim that a specific god exists. Then we move on… Looking at other religious claims, we see the similarities and the lack of evidence in all such claims. When someone says we “hate god”, we ask, “Which one?”. But theists ignore that, because they assume a specific god exists and ignore all others, ironically believing that those other gods don’t exist. I don’t do that. I don’t hold up your Christian god, for example, and give any more credence to it’s claim than say, Zeus, or Odin.

So at the end of the day, theists claim that atheists are making a claim just like them, because it would be easier if we were. It would be easier if my argument was “there is no god” rather than the more nuanced, “I reject your claim that god exists because I have seen no evidence to support it. Please produce something to show me it is real”.

And that’s why I see no reason to debate them any more. When all I get is someone who assumes their god exists and pretends to be logical about it, dishonestly not admitting the assumption, and who tells me what I believe no matter how many times I correct them, there is nothing to debate. We have no common ground and I am bored of telling them that their straw man of atheism is nothing to do with actual atheism, and even more bored of pointing out how pathetic their arguments are. Reading their nonsense over and over again also makes me angry; it leads to an emotional response. And I am tired of it.


Edit: My apologies for so often adding points in after publishing, but this post was written in a hurry… Also worthy of mention is their argument against atheism is often also phrased something like “It takes just as much faith to be an atheist”. No, it doesn’t. Faith is belief despite no supporting evidence. Atheism is precisely about rejecting such faith because of the lack of evidence, thus it can’t be about having faith. To insist it is, you are again claiming that atheism is the belief that your god does not exist, just phrased differently.

Imagine for a moment that their straw man of atheism were correct. It would result in a debate where you assume one thing, I assume the opposite, and neither of us is willing to change our mind. In reality, since many of us started out as believers, we have already changed our minds. That’s why we’re atheists. It’s the theists who set out to “win” a debate and are unwilling to change their minds. I’m not interested in winning a debate. I’m interested only in the truth. Thus I am not interested in how good your vocabulary is, or how well your prose flows, or how logical your pseudo-logic appears, or how confusing your word salad is, or how much philosophy or scientific jargon you throw into your arguments. If it doesn’t cite evidence for the existence of a god, it’s just words. Words are easy.

This meme again (The apologist meme about “nothing and then nothing exploded”)

I wasn’t going to write anything today, but recently a family member shared this old chestnut of an anti-atheist meme, and even though I have written about this subject before, it might be worth tackling it again from a different angle.

StupidAtheistBeliefs

I pointed out to him, and rightly so, that this is a straw man argument… To which he responded that I am fixated on the straw man argument. (What???) Let’s ignore his ad hominem, OK? (Ignore that he responded by attacking me rather than my argument.)

Two things:

  1. Atheism is the disbelief in all gods.
  2. A straw man argument is an oversimplified, or caricaturized, or misrepresented version of an apposing view. It is used to argue against an argument that is easily defeated (because it isn’t the real opposing view).

This meme was the follow-up share to a question, a “challenge” for atheists, to state how anything could result out of nothing. (Paraphrased.) Getting back to point one, atheism is the disbelief in all gods. It isn’t the belief in anything else. I don’t have to believe in the Big Bang to be an atheist… I just have to believe that all the gods ever invented, were invented by man, as explanations for stuff that man did not understand.

Answering the so-called challenge is to defend a straw man, to defend the view of atheism which is not about atheism at all. The challenge also stated that it should be answered without referring to god. (Again… What???) Atheism is about the disbelief in gods, and my views on other subjects like this deliberate misunderstanding of cosmology pretending to be atheism, are not representative of all atheists anyway.

Also, stating that the answer should not refer to “God” reveals that the person asking assumes the existence of only one god, the “true” god, which also happens to be the god that he was taught to believe in since his childhood. (Or some sort of rationalized version of that “true” god.) This is not how you debate logically. If you start with the assumption that god exists, and ignore or discard anything that contradicts it, paint a picture of the opposing view which is not based on the actual opposing view, and then disregard the valid criticism that points out that your idea of that opposing view is a straw man, there is no debate to be had. A debate where you simply want to win, by saying or writing things that others with similar views will agree with, but disregarding anything else, is a waste of time. You learn nothing.

(Regarding my last point above, at least for me, debating is never about winning. It’s about presenting my logical argument, which I base on years of deliberation and previous debates, which I believe is correct but may itself contain fallacies. It’s about presenting that argument, about learning from my opponent while my opponent also learns from me, with the objective being to refine the argument, to improve it and reach the best logical and realistic view that is possible. And if my opinion turns out to be completely wrong, I change it. My current views on atheism didn’t come to me in a day. It took more than twenty years to reach them, and while my logic is pretty solid, there’s always room to learn more, to improve and to change any opinions that are wrong. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of becoming skilled at debating itself, to win at all costs, so I am extra careful not to do so.)

The fact is, I can’t explain how anything comes out of nothing, but I don’t have to because I don’t believe that. (I’ll get back to that point.) You can’t explain where your god came from. So you will resort to special pleading and claim that he always existed, therefore you don’t have to answer the question. (This leads on to an argument from first cause, which I have also written about before.) And that’s where your “nothing exploding” bullshit falls apart. If you can assume that your god always existed, why not the universe too? (Told you I’d get back to that.) You didn’t solve the problem (of explaining how the universe came to exist)… You just fabricated a magical explanation for it, then accused anyone who doesn’t believe in your magic, of not making sense.


Edit: I feel that this must be added. I hate this… hate responding to Facebook shares and arguments by my family member, although I can console myself that he doesn’t read these posts. We are getting quite close after years lost due to my meth addiction. Lately our relationship is improving, and I struggle with reconciling that with partaking in arguments online, which I worry may affect the relationship negatively. I respect the opposing view, but his arguments are often smug and condescending, and littered with a complete misunderstanding of my views as an atheist. I am accused of being intolerant, disrespectful, obnoxious and angry, and those accusations are not only patently wrong, they’re insulting. I can’t seem to reach him; get him to understand that my views are based on pure logic and are different to his, but do not insult anyone or assume that theists are less intelligent. I do hope that one day he can come to some sort of understanding of what atheism really is, but that’s probably never going to happen.

In a nutshell, theists believe in a god or gods without any evidence to support the claim. Atheists don’t. That’s it! All apologist arguments are rhetoric and nothing more. Some of them like the one featured in this post, rely on misrepresenting the view of atheists, but don’t let such arguments fool you. No logic lies behind their assumptions and fallacies, and there are no good apologist arguments.

Why logical fallacies interest me

A while ago I wrote about circular reasoning. Today I read another example of it, which better illustrates the other name for this fallacy: begging the question:

twat

(Oops. Forgot to blur the twat’s name. Hopefully she won’t be in that group for much longer anyway.) Sorry, twat.

Not that it needs explanation, but the above meme assumes indirectly that god created us, then asks about god as if the assumption answers everything. That’s a classic example of begging the question, since the premises includes the claim that the conclusion is true.

I hadn’t even heard of logical fallacies until about four years ago. The truth is, I started out as gullible as could be… In the throes of meth addiction, I was interested in the occult, just like everybody else (on meth). My girlfriend was interested in Wicca, white magic, black magic, astrology and so on… I even bought us each a deck of tarot cards at one stage, though admittedly I chose mine because I liked the art – mine were all depictions from the legend of King Arthur. (Those cards were sold long ago, but I think it was this deck. Not that it’s relevant to this post, but selling stuff was something she did back then… including those cards and many other things that I bought. I don’t know if all addicts do that… I didn’t.)

It became my duty (since I was the one working) to research all her interests online. (No, really. If I didn’t take her every interest seriously, I was accused of “not being supportive”. And I was interested in some of it too.) I tried to be as fair as I could, and found as much information as I could on each topic, then printed it all out for her. But in my objectivity, I didn’t limit myself to articles written by believers, as I thought it would be best to get different points of view. So my credulity didn’t last terribly long, and within days of starting my research, I began debunking everything she believed in. (She was not happy with that.) Then my skepticism got helped along by accident… I’d believed in astrology for a while, and printed out our generated charts… proper Natal charts and reports using the most popular Astrology software I could find. But in my methamphetamine-addled stupor, I somehow mixed up our charts… yet the wrong chart, with it’s plentiful Barnum statements, applied to me just as well as my own. That was the turning point for me, and I soon found myself believing in nothing without evidence. For a couple of years, it became my pet obsession, something to tweak on while I was high. But with sobriety, although my obsession isn’t quite what it was while using, I have something I didn’t have then; a genuine passion for skepticism.

As I mentioned, about four years ago I discovered bad arguments and logical fallacies, and I have gradually been learning about them ever since. I find them fascinating, because in my opinion, I am using that same part of my brain that drove my gullibility and my credulity, the pattern-matching part of my brain, except rather than use it to see patterns and find meaning or significance where none exists, I now recognize patterns in arguments of believers. Once you start to see them, they’re hard to miss. Especially when it comes to religious apologetics, there are no logical arguments and no new arguments… Just the same assumptions made, and logical fallacies stated. (I mostly debate believers of Abrahamic religions, and it doesn’t matter which religion they are; their arguments are interchangeable.)

At first when debating, I wasn’t at all confident, but after a couple of years, it has reached a point where I’m not just spotting patterns anymore – Now, I often recognize the person’s thinking that’s going on behind their statements. It makes for a fun debate, because I can attack the thought process, and the often subconsciously held illogical assumptions and  motivations behind somebody’s statement aggressively, and that makes them angry. It makes them angry because they don’t want to face their own contradictory beliefs and irrational assumptions… They often think that they are rational, so facing their subconsciously held nonsensical assumptions causes a feeling of discomfort. For example: Read their statement… then instead of countering the straw man of atheism they try to impose on me, point out the implicit assumptions they have made, the fallacious belief behind the straw man (usually argument from morality, or circular reasoning, sometimes with an argument from first cause and its sprinkle of special pleading, or maybe an argument from ignorance), and deny them their request for evidence of a negative. Remind them how burden of proof is supposed to work.

Of course, debating people and making them angry doesn’t help them, but I don’t care. It’s the audience I care about – those who read or hear the debate, not the delusional believer.

An interesting example of someone fishing for answers they want to hear (Confirmation Bias)

Recently I was confounded by this share… (Note that there were a lot of replies. I’ve included only some of them; my own require less name and picture blurring.)

HappyTheyDied

Context… once again this is an “atheist versus theist” debate group. The person who made the odd statement that we should not be sad when people die (because it’s natural?) is a theist.

What’s odd here is that he disregarded every comment that explained how we are sad if people we love die because we miss them. He took offense to my comments in particular for some reason, so at least I managed to make him state his case, but it’s a case that doesn’t make sense. (You can’t see because of the way I cut and pasted parts of the conversation via Photoshop, but that long thread at the end starts with him replying to one of my comments that isn’t shown.) He is saying that death is natural and that we (atheists) have accepted that; therefore we should not be sad.

Of course that is a non sequitur. The two statements are unrelated: The premise being accepting death as natural, while the conclusion being a lack of sadness. He must know that the conclusion does not follow from the premise, yet he insists that this is the case for atheists and is not interested in any answer that contradicts this notion. So what’s really going on here? Obviously I am not psychic (and neither is anybody else by the way), but I can make an educated guess as to what his thinking is, even if he doesn’t realize it himself. No, he is not a psychopath…

What’s really going on here is an implicit (and as usual unstated) argument from morality. (Described in detail here and here.) That is, he assumes that all morals come from god – from his religion’s god in particular, which in itself refutes the argument – but he will never see that.

So he is thinking that all atheists lack morals, and empathy, and all that go along with morality, because we have rejected his god-given morality. Therefore we are incapable of feeling sadness… in other words we are all logical “robots” like Mr Spock. Or we are all psychopaths… something to that effect because his straw man of an atheist has no morals and even no humanity without god.

So his post is written only to satisfy his confirmation bias. He will disregard every comment that doesn’t confirm this odd straw man version of atheism, no matter how much sense it makes. This fascinates me because it is an example of confirmation bias taken to an extreme. My comment, and the comments of many others, explain quite clearly why we would be sad to lose loved ones, but he remains unconvinced. Nothing will change his mind. He will learn nothing from this debate. He will only be satisfied when someone writes something that he can reinterpret (that is deliberately misconstrue) to confirm his conception of what it means to be an atheist.

And that fascinates me. There is no way I or anybody else can ever get through to that person. I wonder how many others there are out there just like him?

Also of interest to me is that this is once again an example of someone telling atheists his definition of what atheists are. (Indirectly of course.) He assumes it and wants us to confirm this straw man, but essentially that’s what it comes down to: To him an atheist is a sinner, but more than that, an atheist is someone who has rejected his god-given morals, where all morals come from god, and is therefore incapable of feeling empathy, incapable of feeling sadness or loss, but rather lives by logic alone and is evil and a danger to every god-loving theist out there. And when any atheist says anything that contradicts this strange view, it should be discarded without even a moment of thought.

This theist is in many ways the polar opposite of someone like myself… I rejected all gods because I realized that there is not only a lack of evidence for them – there is plenty of evidence indicating that man created all gods… gods are a by-product of our cultures and are interesting in terms of understanding human development over history. Morals are also a by-product of human culture where a lack thereof would be a disadvantage to survival. To come to my opinions took critical thinking and a willingness to question what I had been taught. (My indoctrination.) My opinions are always fluid and I have changed them drastically over the years, responding to my improved understanding of reality, and this leaves me a perpetual student of life; my worldview is filled with wonder at nature as I grow old and have a better understanding of this amazing place in which we live and the truly astounding animals that we are. Whereas his worldview requires dogmatic belief and unyielding faith, faith that is so rigid it can not be questioned at any cost, even if he must assume that anyone who does not share that belief is inhuman. Moreover, he then “debates” people who do not share his views, but chooses not to engage with them but to present them with his assumptions about what they believe instead. (No irony here. I don’t go to Christian groups and tell them what they believe.) How pitiful it must be, to be such a person, to be incapable of even a solitary, independent, critical thought.