Pure signal.

No Smug Monkeys

I was contemplating a atheist enabling site (a site where lots of arguments for atheism are made) and it struck me how that, despite the fact that all of the arguments were clear to me (even though my position is somewhat more complex than strict atheism) — that if I were to have chosen to be a believer, that the same arguments would not be persuasive at all. Here is the site.

God is Imaginary.

This is a great list for anyone interested in establishing the claim of fact that the Bible is false, according to specific and modern claims of “truth” — which are a limited sub-set of the class of definitions of the operational idea of “truth.” What it does even better than that is show that the claim of fact is not actually the point where religion is concerned. A person has to make a separate decision that they are interested in considering claims of fact before arguments based on them will be convincing. Most people (even in the modern world) have not made this step.

An even better site, because it is clearer — the whole argument focuses on the irrationality of prayer:

Why won’t God heal amputees?

In an honest argument — these guys have it. Period.

However – like the first case, the point can be made that they miss the point of religious belief — which is that it is irrational. That is why we have a name for it: religious belief. We don’t call it “metaphysical position” — which opens up a different set of arguments and we certainly don’t call it “religious claim of fact.” The slip in that definition opens the door for the logical fallacy called “special pleading” — when it is handled in a formal argument. But special pleading can be valid if the terms under which the “specialness” of the case are all considered.

If I say that I reject the power of rational argument, as one of my terms of debate — then it is no longer special pleading. But then we also have no standard to determine a satisfactory conclusion to the argument. But that is JUST FINE with most of the religious folks — it is the “moderns” who want to impose standards for rational argumentation — those standards are NOT as old as the species and people DON’T have to accept them at the outset of an argument. But like most human beings, both the atheists and the apologists are eager to have it both ways. Because we do not have a satisfactory model of human cognition, religious people can always claim that they have their insight due to grace, and rationalists can claim that they accept their position by strict a posteriori reasoning — and the truth is that neither of those claims can be demonstrated to be true — and in fact there is a lot of evidence that neither of those claims are specifically true.

Most of your staunchest rationalists beliefs are not only irrational, they are incorrect. They are approximations made by their senses and cognitive apparatuses to steer them through a world that it is impossible to reason strictly about. Reasoning always involves abstractions — there is no way around that brutal and unforgiving stumbling block.

Of course — a lot of people who are believers also miss that point, and try to make rational arguments, or to claim that there are rational truth claims that can be made about religion — and those people are demonstrably wrong. Many of them are simply untrained in analysis, or unwilling to apply analysis to what they claim to be the most important things in their life. This is also not such a terrible or uncommon thing — how many married people do you know who sit around analyzing weather or not their spouses really love them? If you were to do that too much, you wouldn’t stay married long.

Bottom line is that no monkey has a right to be smug. And any monkey has the right to pretend like he is a super-monkey — and all the other monkeys have the right to laugh at him. (And even if they don’t have that right — they probably will do it anyway, just try and stop them.) Monkeys are like that.


April 7, 2008 - Posted by | People who fucking Suck


  1. bootslack,

    While I appreciate what you are trying to get at, I think the idea that religion is not making a “religious claim of fact” and is then somehow excused from having to stand up to rational argument is simply not true. What is an example of a religious belief that is not making a claim as to how the world operates? In other words… the religious often exempt themselves from evidence based reasoning by claiming that their god is beyond the physical and thus beyond debate. I say fine, but any god that is beyond the physical cannot by it’s very nature have an effect on the physical world and is therefore irrelevant to that world. The vast majority of religious claims center on the physical world and are absolutely open to evidence based criticism.

    Comment by Nathan | April 8, 2008 | Reply

  2. Angels on the sideline,
    Puzzled and amused.
    Why did Father give these humans free will?
    Now they’re all confused.

    Don’t these talking monkeys know that
    Eden has enough to go around?
    Plenty in this holy garden, silly monkeys,
    Where there’s one you’re bound to divide it.
    Right in two.

    Angels on the sideline,
    Baffled and confused.
    Father blessed them all with reason.
    And this is what they choose.
    And this is what they choose…

    Monkey killing monkey killing monkey
    Over pieces of the ground.
    Silly monkeys give them thumbs,
    They forge a blade,
    And where there’s one
    they’re bound to divide it,
    Right in two.
    Right in two.

    Monkey killing monkey killing monkey.
    Over pieces of the ground.
    Silly monkeys give them thumbs.
    They make a club.
    And beat their brother, down.
    How they survive so misguided is a mystery.

    Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven conscious of his fleeting time here.

    Cut it all right in two

    Fight over the clouds, over wind, over sky
    Fight over life, over blood, over prayer,
    overhead and light
    Fight over love, over sun,
    over another, Fight…

    Angels on the sideline again.
    Been soon long with patience and reason.
    Angels on the sideline again
    Wondering when this tug of war will end.

    Cut it all right in two

    Comment by teaphorone | April 8, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hey Nathen! I realize that what I am saying is counter-intuitive in the modern world — but it is logically sound. When you and I choose (and I suspect that we both have) to turn to some form of codified or systematic reason — that is a choice which we made. We found ourselves in a world without a manual — for various reasons — at least one of which is the historical fact that we were born in a time and society where a rational method has been codified, we have the choice to accept and use that method.

    But it is important for us to realize that in making that choice (for no doubt very good reasons) — we were not shown “behind the curtain”. We can’t make special pleading for our choice that somehow the rational method is the reality behind the world. In fact there is no logical difference between our special pleading and theirs — and that could take us a long way towards being more convincing (or maybe even having less need of convincing.)

    The other thing that we can’t claim is that we are purely and rigorously rational — in fact strict rationalism (logical positivism) collapses on the contradiction that there is no reason, a priori, to choose it. I choose it a posteriori — because it works, and because I believe a psychological argument explains the origin of religion better than the idea of divine revelation. But my making that free choice in no way constrains anyone else who finds themselves with the limited natural tools (language) and the systems which they build out of them from making a different choice.

    I would also say that it is vitally important for us, as users of the rational method, to realize that we do a lot of things that are not rational — we act on impulse, inclination and habit which it would be not just difficult, but impossible for us to justify completely and rigorously.

    I believe that reason is the best tool human beings have ever built — but it is still only a tool. Does that make sense?

    Comment by bootslack | April 8, 2008 | Reply

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