Posts Tagged ‘argument from ignorance’
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 2, 2011
Recently, I’ve posted about how Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly displayed a great deal of scientific ignorance when he tried to argue that God exists because “we cannot explain the tides”. Of course, scientists do know how the tides work (as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson states: it’s gravity from the Moon, duh); but rather than admit his error, Bill O’Reilly has decided to double down on the stupid. Just watch this…
Once again, O’Reilly makes the all-too-common argument from ignorance, specifically the god-of-the-gaps argument. Of course, we actually do have scientific answers to many of the questions brought up by Mr. O’Reilly. Let us examine some of his statements/claims… Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in physics denial/woo, religion | Tagged: argument from ignorance, astronomy, astrophysics, atheism, atheist, Bill O'Reilly, Deimos, ET, evolution, extra terrestrial, FN, Fox News, God, god of the gaps, gravity, Isaac Newton, life, mars, Moon, Newton, O'Reilly, ocean, Phobos, physics, stars, Sun, tidal forces, tides, universal law of gravitation, universe, water | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 29, 2011
As a humorous follow-up to my recent post called God, Gravity, and the Anti-Science Lunacy of Bill O’Reilly, I just wanted to share a hilarious clip from The Colbert Report with you. In it, Colbert does a marvelous job of, in his satirical way, calling Bill O’Reilly to the carpet on his god-of-the-gaps argument when he says:
Now, like all great theologies, Bill’s can be boiled down to one sentence: “There must be a God, because I don’t know how things work!”
In addition, Stephen Colbert is surprised when astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson drops by for a visit and explains why the tides actually work …
Posted in humor, physics denial/woo, religion | Tagged: American Atheists, argument from ignorance, astrophysicist, astrophysics, atheism, atheist, Bill O'Reilly, billboards, Colbert, Colbert Report, David Silverman, FN, Fox News, God, god of the gaps, gravity, Isaac Newton, Moon, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Newton, O'Reilly, O'Reilly Factor, ocean, Stephen Colbert, tidal forces, tides, universal law of gravitation, universe, water | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2011
Oh man. As a high school & college physics professor, I have to say that I’ve heard some pretty bad arguments regarding physics in my day, but I think this one is worth a mention: Fox News celebrity Bill O’Reilly displays his gross ignorance of basic physics by… well, by ignoring gravity.
Apparently, Bill O’Reilly has never heard of the moon. In a debate Tuesday with Dave Silverman, head of the American Atheist group behind this, the Fox host tried to prove the existence of God by citing the unknowable mysteries of the tides. “I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam, in my opinion,” he told Silverman. “Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.” …
Yup, he’s ignoring gravity and replacing it with God. Just watch the video for yourself (the relevant part begins at the 1:40 mark)…
Wow… just, wow. Apprently, Mr. O’Reilly has never studied the universal law of gravitation (which is standard in any high school physics class) which explains quite clearly – without any mention of God, Zeus, Thor, or Santa Claus – where tidal forces come from. Essentially, tides in Earth’s oceans exist because one side of our planet is closer to the Moon (or the Sun, both exert tides) than the other. Thus, the side closer to the Moon (Sun) is pulled slightly more than the side further away from the Moon, resulting in the tidal bulges which lead to the rising and falling of the oceans. This article on Wikipedia (ever heard of Google, Mr. O’Reilly?) and graphic can help illustrate the point I’m making:
Graphic of tidal forces; the gravity field is generated by a body to the right. The top picture shows the gravitational forces; the bottom shows their residual once the field of the sphere is subtracted; this is the tidal force. Source: Wikipedia
Essentially, O’Reilly is making a stunningly stupid argument from ignorance (in this case known as the god-of-the-gaps) by saying that just because he doesn’t know how the tides work, then that must mean that his version of God is real. Of course, it might be interesting to ask Mr. O’Reilly’s feelings on the matter after he’s had a lesson in basic physics – would he then conclude that the tides are evidence against the existence of God? That precarious position is precisely why serious theologians & philosophers do not engage in arguing from ignorance.
Such ham-fisted arguments are also why natural science separated itself from supernatural causes back in the 19th century as natural philosophy transitioned into what we now call modern science. It seems that O’Reilly is still stuck in the 1800s.
In closing, despite my atheism, if Mr. O’Reilly or anyone wants to believe in God, that’s fine by me I suppose, just so long as they don’t piss all over science in the process.
Posted in physics denial/woo, religion | Tagged: American Atheists, argument from ignorance, atheism, atheist, Bill O'Reilly, billboards, David Silverman, FN, Fox News, God, god of the gaps, gravity, Isaac Newton, Moon, Newton, O'Reilly, O'Reilly Factor, ocean, tidal forces, tides, universal law of gravitation, universe, water | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 30, 2010
Oh my… some days something crosses my email inbox, and while a part of me says “this is just too silly, let it go” another part of me insists that this is simply something which must be dealt with in the most appropriate manner: by mocking it for the laughing stock that it is
Case in point: there is a video circulating on the Interwebs of a filmmaker, George Clarke, claiming – seriously, believe it or not – that he’s seen old footage from a 1928 Charlie Chaplin movie which “proves” the existence of a time traveler! His evidence consists of his claim that he’s seen what appears to him to be a mobile phone in the hands of a woman in the film. I’m not kidding, you just have to watch this stupidity in order to believe it…
At the 0:40 point in the video, he makes a blatant argument from ignorance: “Nobody can give me an explanation for what you’re about to see.” Using this sloppy reasoning, he goes on to state later in the video that the only possible explanation has to be that she’s a time traveler holding a modern day cellphone (presumably one which has been upgraded by The Doctor )
I think the best response I’ve seen to this silliness came from a post on the JREF Forum regarding this claim via an appeal to Occam’s Razor. I share that post with you here…
So which is more likely? That someone figured out how to travel back in time and once doing that, figured our how to travel through space roughly 886,973,634,480 miles (based on the Galaxy’s speed of approx 552 Km/s and the travel of 82 years and not counting leap year days or current time vs time that the shot was filmed)? And mind you, that’s not counting in the orbital speed of the Sun in the Galaxy (220 Km/s) over that time.
That someone of advanced age (and possibly diminished hearing) is wearing and holding onto a hearing assist device of the era?
I know which one I’m putting my money on.
So, because MR. Clarke states that “it’s unexplainable” then he’s going to explain it by appealing to time travel? Personally, I think that leprechauns are a much more valid explanation, because I simply cannot explain it any other way! ‘Nuff said.
Posted in humor, physics denial/woo | Tagged: physics, woo, argument from ignorance, humor, Occam's Razor, time, time travel, iPhone, time traveler, The Doctor, cellphone, phone, George Clarke, Charlie Chaplin, The Circus | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 30, 2010
A couple of weeks back, a bombshell of an announcement hit the scientific world: the first artificial cell has been synthesized in the lab. Needless to say, this is a big deal, because it not only has vast implications for bio- & genetic engineering, but the discovery can help fill in gaps in our knowledge of how life evolved naturally from non-life (see my previous blog post on this issue – The God-of-the-Gaps Just Got Smaller: Link Found Between Life & Inorganic Matter)
What’s also interesting is the reaction from some religious & creationist circles concerning this discovery. First, there is the response from the Catholic Church warning scientists not to “play God”…
Catholic Church officials said Friday that the recently created first synthetic cell could be a positive development if correctly used, but warned scientists that only God can create life.
Vatican and Italian church officials were mostly cautious in their first reaction to the announcement from the United States that researchers had produced a living cell containing manmade DNA. They warned scientists of the ethical responsibility of scientific progress and said that the manner in which the innovation is applied in the future will be crucial.
“It’s a great scientific discovery. Now we have to understand how it will be implemented in the future,” Monsignor Rino Fisichella, the Vatican’s top bioethics official, told Associated Press Television News.
“If we ascertain that it is for the good of all, of the environment and man in it, we’ll keep the same judgment,” he said. “If, on the other hand, the use of this discovery should turn against the dignity of and respect for human life, then our judgment would change.”
I’m all for proceeding cautiously in this particular research, because there is the potential for abuse, just as there is with any kind of new technology. But read between the lines of what the Vatican is saying – they seem to be implying that, somehow, this artificial life is fundamentally different from “normal” life simply because of the manner in which it was created.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in creationism, religion | Tagged: abiogenesis, argument from ignorance, Bible, biology, Catholic Church, chemical evolution, chemistry, Craig Venter, creationism, DNA, evolution, faith, God, god of the gaps, ID, inorganic, intelligent design, life, matter, old earth creationism, organic, origin of life, Reasons to Believe, religion, RNA, theology, Vatican | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 20, 2010
If you’re familiar with various creationist arguments, you will no doubt recognize the infamous god-of-the-gaps argument. This is basically a variation on the classic logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance, which basically states that if we don’t understand some phenomenon with 100% clarity (such as the origins of life), then that must mean that “Poof! God did it”…
There is one fatal flaw with this kind of argument, which begs an interesting theological question: what happens to the god-of-the-gaps when we do come up with evidence & naturalistic explanations for the gaps in our knowledge? Most scholarly theologians disdain the god-of-the-gaps argument precisely to avoid this trap, because they don’t want their god somehow diminished as science marches ever forward.
But not creationists, who usually take the intellectually lazy & dishonest route by simply dismissing the evidence filling in said gaps. Only by ignoring and distorting the science can their god-of-the-gaps be maintained, so while the rest of us learn more and more about our universe and our place within it, creationists insist upon wallowing in their ignorance, content that their twisted reading of a 2000 year-old holy text (only one of many different supposedly “divinely inspired” holy texts out there) has revealed to them the truth.
So here’s the big news, and why the god-of-the-gaps just got a lot smaller: scientists have discovered a missing link between life and inorganic matter…
Philosophers and scientists have argued about the origins of life from inorganic matter ever since Empedocles (430 B.C.) argued that every thing in the universe is made up of a combination of four eternal ‘elements’ or ‘roots of all’: earth, water, air, and fire, and that all change is explained by the arrangement and rearrangement of these four elements. Now, scientists have discovered that simple peptides can organize into bi-layer membranes. The finding suggests a “missing link” between the pre-biotic Earth’s chemical inventory and the organizational scaffolding essential to life.
“This is a boon to our understanding of large, structural assemblies of molecules,” says Emory Chemistry Chair David Lynn, who helped lead the effort, which were collaborations of the departments of chemistry, biology and physics. “We’ve proved that peptides can organize as bi-layers, and we’ve generated the first, real-time imaging of the self-assembly process. We can actually watch in real-time as these nano-machines make themselves.” …
… The research is part of “The Center for Chemical Evolution,” a center based at Emory and Georgia Tech, for integrated research, education and public outreach focused on the chemistry that may have led to the origin of life. The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy have funded the research.
Many groups studying the origins of life have focused on RNA, which is believed to have pre-dated living cells. But RNA is a much more complicated molecule than a peptide. “Our studies have now shown that, if you just add water, simple peptides access both the physical properties and the long-range molecular order that is critical to the origins of chemical evolution,” Childers says.
Posted in creationism, religion | Tagged: abiogenesis, argument from ignorance, Bible, biology, chemical evolution, chemistry, creationism, DNA, evolution, faith, God, god of the gaps, ID, inorganic, intelligent design, life, matter, organic, origin of life, religion, RNA, theology | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 20, 2010
In a quickie post for all you UFO & alien buffs (whether you are a skeptic or believer), here’s a bit of news that is guaranteed to give the conspiracy theorists among you absolute fits. It seems that some former workers at Area 51 (yes, that “Area 51″) are now going public with the work they conducted there many decades ago. And none of it involved crashed alien spacecraft or bodies of ETs near Roswell, etc.
Apparently, there was a real conspiracy to cover-up research on experimental aircraft such as the A12 and SR71 reconnaissance planes. And it did involve scaring witnesses into shutting up about what they saw, confiscating photo equipment, and even paying off some people with hush money (to the tune of $25,000 per person – in the 1950s and 60s!)
Read the entire article here. Here are some highlights…
After nearly five decades, guys like James Noce finally get to tell their stories about Area 51.
Yes, that Area 51.
The one that gets brought up when people talk about secret Air Force projects, crashed UFOs, alien bodies and, of course, conspiracies.
The secrets, some of them, have been declassified.
Noce, 72, and his fellow Area 51 veterans around the country now are free to talk about doing contract work for the CIA in the 1960s and ’70s at the arid, isolated Southern Nevada government testing site.
Their stories shed some light on a site shrouded in mystery; classified projects still are going on there. It’s not a big leap from warding off the curious 40 or 50 years ago, to warding off the curious who now make the drive to Area 51.
The veterans’ stories provide a glimpse of real-life government covert operations, with their everyday routines and moments of excitement.
Noce didn’t seek out publicity. But when contacted, he was glad to tell what it was like.
“I was sworn to secrecy for 47 years. I couldn’t talk about it,” he says.
In the 1960s, Area 51 was the test site for the A-12 and its successor, the SR-71 Blackbird, a secret spy plane that broke records at documented speeds that still have been unmatched. The CIA says it reached Mach 3.29 (about 2,200 mph) at 90,000 feet.
But after September 2007, when the CIA displayed an A-12 in front of its Langley, Va., headquarters as part of the agency’s 60th birthday, much of the secrecy of those days at Area 51 fell away.
Advance warning to UFOlogists: Sorry, although Noce and other Area 51 vets say they saw plenty of secret stuff, none make claims about aliens.
Of course, the conspiracy theorists will say, all of these explanations are just part of the bigger, wider cover-up to conceal the Roswell aliens from us… right? I can almost hear the conspiracy nuts getting out their aluminum foil hats
Posted in aliens & UFOs | Tagged: A12, alien, aliens, Area 51, argument from ignorance, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, conspiracy, jets, Nevada, plane, reconnaissance, Roswell, Roswell Incident, ship, spacecraft, spaceship, SR71, UFO, UFOlogy, ufoology, visitors | Leave a Comment »