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DJ dAndroid

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The Enemies of Reason-logical fallacy?
« on: 2007-08-17 11:55:50 »
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Someone I know recently blogged about this. Cory (Perpetual_Lent) is terrible religious (soon to be attending seminary-and I add that only as a hint of background) and also terribly clever. My own transhumanism has long been an issue of light-hearted sparring. Except I freely admit to being massively outgunned academically, heh.

But this blog-entry I thought I would put up here and see what you all thought? I brought up the COV.

The original "convo" is here.

From Richard Dawkins' opening narration to his series The Enemies of Reason:

    There are two ways of looking at the world through faith and superstition or through the rigours of logic, observation and evidence in other words, through reason.

To which I reply that there are two types of people in the world: those who divide everybody up into two types, and those who don't.

And generally speaking, I am wary of the former.

Then there's some talk kinda off-topic...

And then I said:
But reducing something to extremely simple building blocks, does not render the core idea into ridiculousness. When it comes to religion there kinda are two types of people. *shrug*

Like below, one of the "sins" of the Church of Virus. Of which I am a long-standing member.

Through some twist of fate, western society has come to regard dogmatic faith as a virtue. To hold an idea as true despite all evidence to the contrary is an abdication of reason. Convictions are the end of knowledge, not the beginning; they are the enemy of truth more than lies.

The most serious definitions of religion that I've read is in the vein of William James: religion is however you orient yourself to whatever it is that you believe to be ultimately true. In this case, when it comes to religion, there's only one kind of person, and it's all people. Everyone orients themselves in some way to what it is that they believe to be ultimately true at any given moment, even if they're not entirely sure what that is.

When dividing things or people up into two groups, as Mr. Dawkins did, you're not creating a useful classification system. Rather, you're making a value judgement... You're asserting the superiority of one's own beliefs about what is ultimately true and how to orient oneself to it over the beliefs and orientations of others. It's even more wretched for the sheer gall of the crude and unintelligent stereotypes that must necessarily come with the demonization of The Other.

And of course, that's exactly what it is: the demonization of The Other. Dividing people up into two groups like this serves no purpose except to perpetuate ethnocentric belief in "Us" vs. "Them"... The Saved vs. the Unsaved, the Enlightened vs. the Unenlightened, the Orthodox vs. the Heretic, the Freethinking vs. the Superstitious, the Rational vs. the Dogmatic... The value judgements of binary-thinking fundamentalist groups are even inherent to the names they use for themselves. What, like no one else on earth is thinking "freely" if they don't subscribe to the dogmas of groups like the Church of Virus?

... it doesn't speak well of Dawkins' (or the CoV's) appeal for reason when their framework begins with a false dilemma... A logical fallacy... But a logical fallacy familiar to every binary-thinking fundamentalist group.

At which I have zero to add. I freely admit to not being well-read enough to, erm, defend anything. What do you think?
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Re:The Enemies of Reason-logical fallacy?
« Reply #1 on: 2007-08-17 13:32:18 »
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Re:The Enemies of Reason-logical fallacy?
« Reply #2 on: 2007-08-17 17:48:18 »
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[Blunderov] There may (!) be two types of person in the world; those who see every dichotomy as being false and those who don't. Seriously though, some things ARE either/or. There is no such thing as being almost honest or a little bit pregnant for instance. In particular ontological statements are flat out binary. A thing exists or it doesn't.

The fact that one cannot always be certain whether a thing does or does not exist does not mean that there is a third option as to the actual existence or non-existence of that thing! This would be a fallacy of composition if I'm not mistaken. It is really rather naughty of Corey to suggest that this is the case but I suspect he is not being entirely serious; at least I hope not.

God either exists or he does not. To see the world in either of these terms is not a false dichotomy. It is a decision.
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Re:The Enemies of Reason-logical fallacy?
« Reply #3 on: 2007-08-17 23:51:28 »
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Why limit it to "God" - after all, the Christian's babble does not. Any historian can validate the simple fact that tens of thousands of god-thingies have existed, many for far longer than the Jewish-Christian-Islamic versions, which are themselves pale shadows of earlier gods. Hundreds of other god-thingies are still worshiped despite the Christians having done their level best to eliminate the religions of others; not least that of non-conforming Christians. After all, the Christians made far more religious martyrs  of dissenting Christians, than others ever made of Christians.

This suggests that when Christians like Cory make precisely the same analysis of the delusions of other god worshippers as Corey asserts - without a shred of evidence - is invalid when a rational person looks at the demented ramblings and poisonous ethics which Christians swallow as proving that their child sacrificing gods are good, that these Christians are in fact following in the well rutted paths established contemporaneously with their belief system and all its nasty consequences. In other words, if Corey is, as asserted, both intelligent and rational, then he is guilty of an act of extreme hypocrisy or blatant prejudice or both. Perhaps he should reevaluate his preferred form of religious psychosis in the light he attempts to apply to those entirely capable of determining that the worship of gods must be invalid unless an independent ethical system not only can be, but is, used to determine that the chosen gods are in fact worthy of such behavior. Naturally the question of whether such monsters as the Christians assert their gods to be could possibly exist in any Universe, even one as brutal and uncaring of its creatures as ours also needs to be addressed. As we have recently been reminded by Bass, the answer to that question is no.

Were Corey sufficiently intelligent and unbiased to attempt such an evaluation then, if he is even middling honest, his conclusion will be that the gods of the Christians not only do not deserve worship, they are clearly inferior to many other brands of, long discredited - by Christians, god thingies. Even if the Christians do have the miracle of cannibalism to inspire them. I suspect that Corey will attempt to evade any such analysis, and this points to a simple reality which Corey's diatribe misses. We naked apes tend to cherish our delusions far above any silly ideas like "truths" which after all, are dreadfully hard to pin down in the absence of any evidence, even when some of its most precious writings are not made by liars who not only regarded lies as necessary but argued that they are beneficial.

I suspect this of Corey because, unlike many Virians, he didn't even bother to evaluate those he attempted to be scathing about; despite the fact that our website, wiki and bbs are all accessible and preemptive address the points he attempts to score - and many Virians are fully competent to address any questions he might have asked - had he been interested in anything other than attempting to score cheap shots. Doesn't this suggest a degree hubris incompatible with scholarship, intelligence or even responsible research to you? It does to me.

Is this UTism? Hardly. An invalid bifurcation? Nonsense. Whether the person guilty of this is a Virian or a Christian, indeed, totally irrespective of who engages in such nonsensical maneuvering, hypocrisy and poutery, there is nothing rational about it and it would be extremely irrational to try to pretend that there is.

Kindest Regards


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Re:The Enemies of Reason-logical fallacy?
« Reply #4 on: 2007-08-18 12:48:09 »
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Quote from: Mo on 2007-08-17 13:32:18   

Well, it seems from the thread as presented that Cory was the first to shift rhetorically from the idea of two ways (reason and faith), to the idea of two kinds of people (those who divide everybody into two types, and those who don't). And then you followed up his rhetorical shift, by literally complying "When it comes to religion there kinda are two types of people."

That was my first thought too. The suggestion that there are two types of films, black&white and colour, doesn't even imply that all films fit into a single category, let alone imply that there are two types of people. Cory's argument falls to the non sequitur and straw man fallacies.


When we had our "Great Faith Wars" in the Church of Virus (each time we invoke them they sound historically more dramatic, eh? ), the issue was making Faith one of the sins. I and some others argued against this, mostly in the fact that the word "faith" can be used for some concepts that aren't unreasonable, and that these things are often (but not always) what people mean when they hold their "faith" dear. For example, we can have faith in our fellow human as an act of expectation of one's capacity to achieve a goal, etc.. Here "faith" is really used more as an idea closer to "vision".

I would say here "faith" is used more to express "trust". Though I think many religious apologists take advantage of equivocation with respect to faith ("trust is good, therefore faith is good" or "everyone trusts something, therefore everyone has faith") in the end I added the qualifier "dogmatic" to faith in the sin description to clarify the kind of faith I was criticizing.


What I think we finally resolved on was that "faith" which we found sinful, were those ideas held in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

No, not just "overwhelming" evidence. I think faith (of the dogmatic kind) comes into play whenever the balance of evidence points in a different direction than your belief. I'll dig up my TGrid essay and repost here.
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Re:The Enemies of Reason-logical fallacy?
« Reply #5 on: 2007-08-18 13:00:21 »
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This essay is the culmination of my ideas at the end of the Great Faith Wars of 1997. In the intervening time my trust (not faith ) in the TGrid idea has only increased.

source: The Virus List

virus: The truth about faith

Following the Reed Principle, I took a vacation from the faith vs.
logic discussion last week to re-read the messages, reflect on
what I was trying to say, and really try to understand where my
worthy opponents were coming from. In the process I created a
semi-quantitative[1] framework for comparing and contrasting belief
systems which I thought I'd share in the hopes that some of you
would find it useful as well. I'm tentatively calling the diagram
the TGrid(tm) and you can find it on the web at
http://virus.lucifer.com/tgrid.gif [2]

I've noticed that many engineers like to draw pictures of abstract
concepts in order to understand them better. I'm not sure if it can
be attributed to the engineering education, or whether people that
like to think visually are just more like to take engineering. In any
case, the TGrid is a simple 2D graph of strength of belief plotted
against comparative evidence for any given proposition.

The strength of belief, S, reflects how strongly you believe the
proposition, P, is true or false. A +1 on this (the vertical) axis
corresponds to ultimate certainty that the proposition is true. A
-1 means that you are ultimately certain the belief is false. In
between these two extremes, a 0 on this axis means you can't say
one way or the other, either because of lack of information or
fuzziness in terms. An S-value, x, assigned to any proposition P
is equivalent to the negative value of x assigned to the logical
opposite of P:

S(P) -> -S(~P)

For example, if P is "God exists" and is assigned an S-value of
0.8, then that is equivalent to "God does not exist" having an
S-value of -0.8.

Another way to think about strength of belief is in terms of gambling.
How much are you willing to bet that the proposition is true (or false)?
[3] This is a bit easier to understand with respect to lack of information,
e.g. "I believe this coin flip will come up heads" would be given an S
value of 0.5 (assuming a fair coin, a fair toss, a rational speaker,
etc., etc.). But a 0.5 S-value can also reflect an ill-defined concept
in the sense that there is a 50% chance that the audience will have
a different definition of the terms of the proposition such that the
truth value will be reversed. Almost always it is some combination of
fuzzy terminology and uncertainty.

Now for the horizontal axis: the comparative evidence, E, corresponds
to how much evidence exists is support of the proposition compared to
how much evidence supports the opposite proposition. A +1 means that
there is overwhelming evidence for, and none against. A -1 means that
there is overwhelming evidence against and nothing for. A 0 could mean
there is equal amounts for and against, or there is no evidence either
way. [4] In a very real way, the E-value for any proposition reflects the
S-value of the sum of all evidence related to P.

There are two more features of the TGrid I'd like to point out before
trying to use it. There are two triangular shaded regions, one in the
upper left of the graph and another opposite the first in the lower
right. These regions are labelled "blind faith" and correspond to all
the points on the TGrid where an S-value deviates from the S-line by
more than 1. And what is the S-line? That represents the skeptical
position: that the strength of belief in a proposition should be
proportional to the evidence in support of that proposition. [5]

Now, given the TGrid, I can show how John's definition of faith differs
from mine, and why we both think the dictionary supports our own views.
I think John would agree that the more evidence there is supporting
a given proposition, the less faith is used. But he has also said that he
thinks that every belief contains an element of faith. Based on this, I
think John's version of faith can be modelled by the length of the line
from the point of belief, S(E), to the top of the grid, S=+1. The length
of the line is given by 1-S(E). In the TGrid image there is a point labelled
"b" in the upper right quadrant. Let's say that the E-value of point B
is about 0.4 and the S-value is slightly higher, 0.45. The length of the
faith line in this case is 0.55 (1-0.45), which could be interpreted as
a large component of faith, though a long way from blind faith. If, on
the other hand, the proposition is believed to be false given the same
amount of evidence, the length of the faith line would be measured from
the bottom edge (S = -1) giving a faith value of 1.45. This is clearly in
the region of blind faith.

My version of faith is measured in a similar fashion but with a different
base line. I think faith corresponds to how much the strength of belief
deviates from the skeptical position, i.e. how far the point lies from the
S-line: |S(E)-E|. In the case of point b on the grid, the faith component
is given by |0.45-0.4| = 0.05. There is still a faith component in that
belief, but far less than the one given John's version. The key difference
is that given my definition it is possible to reduce faith to 0 by staying
on the S-line, even if attaining an E-value of +1 is practically impossible.[6]

Now let's see how these two versions of faith fit with the dictionary

> From: John ''Storm of Drones'' Williamsby <prefect@tricon.net>
> Subject: Re: virus: Religion, Zen, post-structuralism, and the failure of , logic
> Date: Monday, June 23, 1997 8:07 PM
>My Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary from 1992 defines "faith" as "complete
>exceptence of a truth that cannot be demonstrated or proved by the process
>of logical thought."

I take this to mean that faith describes the situation where the S-value is
+1 (complete acceptance of truth) and the E-value is 0 (cannot be
demonstrated). Using John's faith metric, this describes the line that lies
along the y-axis from the origin to the top, a length of 1.0 (i.e. complete
faith, though not blind faith which is impossible in the absence of evidence
one way or the other). Now using my version of faith, deviation from the
S-line, the answer is also 1.0 (complete faith). The dictionary is consistent
with both of our versions!

Enough for now. Does the framework make sense?

[1] Even though the diagram uses quantitative measures, they are assigned

[2] Hopefully the image will show up below in the hypermail archives.

[3] I'm not just talking money bets here. We often gamble our reputations,
careers, relationships and lives on our beliefs. Every time you step off a
curb you are betting your life that your senses are not deceiving you about
oncoming traffic, so the strength of belief value for that proposition would
be very high (0.9999 or more).

[4] An example of a proposition that I would give an E-value of 0.0 is
"there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe". This is partly due to
fuzziness of definitions for "intelligent" and "life" but mostly due to
lack of information. I would also assign an E-value of 0.0 to "there
is snaffly broja elsewhere in the universe" because I have no idea
what that means.

[5] Sorry about any confusion between S-values and the S-line; I
wasn't thinking ahead when I drew the diagram.

[6] I think attaining an E-value of +1 is, in fact, practically impossible
for any empirical propositions. But it may be possible for special cases
like logical tautologies (if A then A) and mathematical theorems.
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Re:The Enemies of Reason-logical fallacy?
« Reply #6 on: 2007-08-18 14:57:30 »
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