Monday, December 26, 2011

Why 'You don't know enough to reject my religion' is merely special pleading

An oft-made claim is that atheists are ignorant of this or that special reasoning about some religion and are therefore not in a position to lack belief in it.

Before even considering such special arguments that we're supposedly ignorant of, we must then ask 'What principle is being applied?' - for in the absence of some general principle, this is special pleading for ones own belief.

So is the principle something like all belief and disbelief must be fully informed, and without it, we must all suspend both out believing and disbelieving faculties? Surely not, for then no child could ever be indoctrinated with the religion of its parents, uninformed as it is. Advocates of such a principle must fight childhood indoctrination.

It's even worse - how many believers, even as adults - are even slightly informed about the arguments against the ordinary weak version of arguments that so many hold to? They are uninformed of those, just as they are uninformed of the 'sophisticated' arguments for belief that the apologists insist we must have, and the arguments in turn against those.

Is there are double standard, then, toward disbelief even though it is the the default position toward propositions until evidence or compelling argument is forthcoming? Such a double standard is of course, another form of special pleading, but let's see what happens if we for a moment allow it. Let's try to arrive at some principle and apply it only to disbelief in religious claims (allowing a first layer of special pleading for belief).

Then we have a principle something like 'you must know everything about any religious claim in order to lack belief in it', ignoring all arguments from the against side of the ledger.

But here of course, we run into the second problem - do believers apply that principle to beliefs other than their own? Do they know enough about other religions to reject them?

Overwhelmingly, and quite plainly not. Believers are almost entirely ignorant of even the basic beliefs of major religions, let alone the sophisticated arguments for other religions. Many don't do so well even on the doctrines of their own sects. Indeed, it's the atheists who tend to know about religious beliefs.

So a principle of even that kind isn't being applied to believers. We see a second double standard - a second form of special pleading.

This same idea pretty much applies to any argument that is made about needing sophisticated knowledge with respect to religion; they all come down to a form of special pleading.

When a theist calls for deep knowledge of their religion, they're merely making an argument from special pleading. Either the call is special pleading on its face, or it is based on a principle - but such principles end up at a double standard, for such principles are not applied to believers (and the people making the original argument assuredly don't want them to be), and so is special pleading at that point. It's special pleading, any which way you try to look at it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I only just learned yesterday that Paul Meier died.

If you don't know who that is (and if you're not a statistician or involved with clinical trials, you probably don't), take a read of the link.

Friday, December 9, 2011

You remember the old "anti-gay pastor/politician turns out to be gay" thing? It seems it's a real thing

You know the way it goes, some pastor or "christian" politician goes on a big anti-gay thing - and then turns out to be gay.

We've seen seen so many it's not even funny.

Well, it looks like it's not just irony coming along a little too often. It seems it's a real thing. See this paper ("Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?"). The abstract says:
The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.
(Short answer: Yes. The guys that aren't turned on by gay porn aren't homophobes. Actual straight guys don't seem to be the biggest problem. It's the guys that secretly think you're hot in those cut-off shorts that you have to really watch out for.)

So the next time you see that pastor or right wing christian politician screaming about the gays ... and you're thinking "oh, I bet he's secretly gay", well, maybe that's not such a silly bet.

Edit: Yeah, it's an old paper - but I've never seen it before, nor even seen any academic support for the effect. One wonders why this doesn't give them pause before launching the polemics.

h/t Furious Purpose

Monday, December 5, 2011

reddit's /r/atheism Doctors without Borders (MSF) donation drive goes crazy

Compare the donations from redditors donating to Doctors without Borders (MSF) in the last two days to all donations to MSF on in the last eight years

That's about $75,000 in maybe two days. $150,000 all up.

Doctors without Borders firstgiving donations

The whole circle represents (roughly) a million dollars.

Oh, and those r/atheism donations since last year? Nearly half of those were in the three days or so before the frenzy really started.

At least, that's roughly the picture as at right now - but this figure is changing rapidly.