More Logical Fallacies

I think it’s time to set the record straight on a number of issues, almost all of them poorly constructed arguments from a poverty of knowledge and lack of research. In other words, putting aside the scientific method to elevate science, or rather atheism. Science and atheism are after all bedfellows, are they not?

Well, in the view of the majority of atheists on this site it would certainly seem to be the case. I’m going to quote some pretty eminent fellows here, fellows you should be familiar with; you quote them frequently enough.

“Religion raises the stakes of human conflict much higher than tribalism, racism, or politics ever can...  Consequently, faith inspires violence in at least two ways. First, people often kill other human beings because they believe that the creator of the universe wants them to do it.” - Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, page 80

“Without religion there would be no labels by which to decide whom to oppress and whom to avenge.... Look carefully at any region of the world where you find intractable enmity and violence between rival groups. I cannot guarantee that you’ll find religions as the dominant labels for in-groups and out-groups. But it’s a very good bet.” - Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, page 259

“[Religion] must seek to interfere with the lives of nonbelievers, or heretics, or adherents of other faiths.  It may speak about the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this one.... And it does not have the confidence in its own various preachings even to allow coexistence between different faiths.” - Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great, page 17

Sound familiar? It should; it’s been quoted on these pages at one time or another as long as I’ve been reading and contributing to these pages. Now, I’m going to do a little nasty on you, and these Three Stooges.

Since accurate record keeping began, there have been 1763 wars fought. As I posted a while ago, the history of man is the history of war. That’s a large number. From 8000 BC to 2000 AD, 1763 wars.

Of those wars, 93% were secular, 3.8% were Muslim, and the rest all the other religions combined. Source: Encyclopaedia of War.

So it rather exposes their pernicious little lies, doesn’t it? Or does the scientific method not suit you when it goes against your fondest beliefs?

“Religion is as much a living spring of intolerance today, as it was at any time in the past”- Sam Harris, The End of Faith, page 26

“Religion kills.”- Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great, page 15

“It would be interesting to know to know whether there was any statistical tendency, however slight, for religious believers to loot and destroy less than unbelievers. My uninformed prediction would have been opposite. It is often cynically said that there are no atheists in foxholes. I'm inclined to suspect (with some evidence, although it may be simplistic to draw conclusions from it) that there are very few atheists in prisons.” - Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, page 229

So let’s examine the claims of these learned gentlemen, shall we? According to the FBI, 16 686 murders were committed for a variety of reason, and 6 on religious grounds. Six! That’s a staggeringly large number, I know, and it proves what religion does to people.

Source: FBI Crime in the United States 2005

So then let’s examine Richard Dawkins claim that there are fewer atheists in jail than religious people. These figures come from the UK in 2000 and is from their Inmate Information System. And it would seem that Professor Dawkins is right! Or is he? Here are the figures:

31.6% No religion in prison vs 39.1% Christian. Could he be right in something after all? Let’s have a look at the census figures for 2001.

General population:  15.1% no religion, vs 71.8% Christian

So if we take the prison population as a percentage of the general population, we come up with the following figures:

15.1% of the General Population represents 31.6% of the prison population, making it a percentage of 47.7%., while 39.1% of the religious prison population make up a staggering 18.3%! Wow! It’s like he has a crystal ball or something!

There is another fallacy trotted out by these men, and that is that intelligent people (smarts) like them, belong to the Democratic Party, while the less intelligent (read Christian) belong to the Republican Party. Now all I actually know about either of these parties is what I glean from the newspapers and other second-hand sources. Nevertheless, I think amongst most South Africans, especially since the Bush regime, we probably feel the same.

So these esteemed gentlemen trot out their statistics to prove it.

This is an argument first put forth by Sam Harris in Letter to a Christian Nation.  It so impressed Richard Dawkins that he quoted it in full in The God Delusion.  The Red State argument purports to disprove any strong correlation between Christian conservatism and social health based on Harris's comparison of the crime statistics of 25 cities with the percentage of Republican voters in the states where those cities are located.  Harris writes on pages 44-45, (Dawkins p. 229):

“If there were a strong correlation between Christian conservatism and social health, we might expect to see some sign of it in red-state America. We don’t. Of the 25 cities with the lowest rates of violent crime, 62 percent are in “blue” [Democrat] states and 38 percent are in “red” [Republican] states. Of the twenty-five most dangerous cities, 76 percent are in red states, and 24 percent are in blue states.”

The Red State argument is riddled with errors of logic and maths.  While the entire basis of the analysis is fallacious, even if one accepts it at face value, the conclusion Harris reaches is nevertheless precisely backwards.  Harris appears to have forgotten that in addition to the state, there is another civic unit for which national voting data is available, and which serves as a much more accurate indicator of a city's voting population than the state.  Namely, the county in which the city is located

So, the 25 most dangerous US cities: 83% Republican and 17% Democrat if we go by State.

However, see how the picture changes if we go by counties. The 25 most dangerous US cities: 22% Republican vs 78% Democrat! I must admit, I was shocked, and I’m not even attempting irony here, but there it is. They’ve failed spectacularly again!

There’s also the fact that they constantly say religion threatens the very survival of humanity and, if left unchecked, will destroy us all.

The Extinction Equation is the central theme of Sam Harris's The End of Faith and provides his justification for calling for an end to religion.  It involves the hypothesis that the combination of science-based technology with religion is a deadly danger to Mankind that will inevitably lead to the extinction of the human race.  On pages 13-14, Harris writes:

“Our technical advances in the art of war have finally rendered our religious differences—and hence our religious beliefs—antithetical to our survival.... There is no doubt that these developments mark the terminal phase of our credulity. Words like “God” and “Allah” must go the way of “Apollo” and “Baal,” or they will unmake our world.”

Harris not only forgets that his argument cuts both ways, but also fails to see how logic clearly dictates that the correct solution to the Extinction Equation would be to put an end to science rather than religion.  The five major religions, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have collectively been around 33 times longer than modern science without ever once threatening the species, whereas in a mere 350 years, science has managed to produce multiple threats to continued human existence.

So the collected religions have been around for a combined 11 600 years and have not managed to even threaten the eradication of mankind, whereas science, as we know it, has been around for a mere  350 years, and since the 6th and 7th August, 1945, the world has been under the constant threat of annihilation.

There is an old adage, that if you repeat a lie frequently enough, it will then be seen to be the truth, and these learned gentlemen excel at that very thing. Look at the following quotes:

“The truth, however, is that the conflict between religion and science is unavoidable.  The success of science often comes at the expense of religious dogma, the maintenance of religious dogma ALWAYS comes at the expense of science.” - Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, page 63

“The Party cannot be neutral toward Religion because Religion is something opposite to Science.”

- Josef Stalin, TIME Magazine, Feb. 17, 1936

“All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule.”

- Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great, pages 64-65

“In parts of the United States, science is under attack from a well-organized, politically well-connected and, above all, well-financed opposition....  Scientists could be forgiven for feeling threatened, because most research money comes ultimately from government, and elected representatives have to answer to the ignorant and prejudiced, as well as to the well-informed, among their constituents.” - Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, page 66

So let’s have a look at how religion, especially Christianity, threatens the very existence of science.

In the field of Genetic and Biological Science, we’ll use as our example the paper output per capita, and the religious inclinations of the countries involved. We’ll look at just three:

The USA claims the be 76% Christian, with 15% of the population claiming no religious affiliation at all. The scientific papers published per capita in just Genetics and Biology is 2.3.

Next we look at Switzerland, where they claim 77% of the population to be Christian and only 11% with no religious affiliation. Their paper output per capita is 4.72.

Then we look at probably the most secular nation in the world, France, which claims 54% Christians and 32% with no religious affiliation. Paper output per capita: 1.77.

It’s clear from these figures how Christianity stifles science.

Source: SCImago; ARIS; CIA World Factbook

Then of course, our loveable little imp, Richard Dawkins, again putting on a show for everyone’s amusement, with his ‘Who designed the designer’ question.

This is an idea put forth by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion as an integral part of his Ultimate 747 argument, which he describes as the book's central argument.  He writes on page 114:

“However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747. The argument from improbability states that complex things could not have come about by chance. But many people define 'come about by chance' as a synonym for 'come about in the absence of deliberate design'. Not surprisingly, therefore, they think improbability is evidence of design. Darwinian natural selection shows how wrong this is with respect to biological improbability.”

Dawkins makes several errors here.  First, he confuses the specific mathematical probabilities that are utilized in the anthropic principle which underlies the aforementioned argument from improbability with an imprecise and casual sense of the word 'improbable'.  Second, he fails to define 'complexity', which serves as the basis for his non-specific, non-mathematical concept of probability.  Third, unless his undefined concept of complexity does not concern information, Dawkins is incorrect to imply that Darwinian natural selection entails increasing complexity, as can be seen by comparing the informational complexities of the various stages in the assumed evolutionary progress from fish to amphibian to mammal.

So let’s look at the complexity of the creatures in the evolutionary chain. It makes for interesting reading: The Comparative Genome Information Complexity of the following creatures is truly an evolutionary masterpiece!

Fish: 1.93

Amphibians: 18.14

Mammals: 3.37

Source: Animal Genome Size Database

So the last creatures to appear are less complex, and that by some measure, than the second set of creatures to appear. Surely that flies in the face of evolution, which proposes simple to complex?

It’s like Hiram said to Abner and Buford,’ B’cause they’s eddicated, don’t mean they ain’t dumb.’