“Arguments that explain everything - explain nothing.”
― Christopher Hitchens

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

About this Blog

I am a negative atheist.  That means, I'm a skeptic with a tentative conclusion.  I will stick to the null hypothesis until I have a reason not to.

Many people don't understand what this means.  In science, someone begins by asserting a positive statement like "I can fly."  Then an experiment is designed to determine if they really can fly - like putting a parachute on their back and having them base jump off a cliff to see if they can fly before deploying the parachute.

After 50 or so successive jumps, we have our data.  Now, we need something to compare it with.  This is where the Null Hypothesis (NH) comes in:  "I cannot fly."  We then use our data to compare the alternative hypotheses.

In statistics, the only way to support our hypothesis is to refute the NH.  Therefore, we must assume that our hypothesis is false until we find evidence to the contrary.

When one person has enough evidence to move their conclusion to the hypothesis (that is, they believe the positive statement), the onus for then proving to the rest of the community that the hypothesis is true rests solely on the shoulders of the person who believes.  Those holding to the NH are not required to submit proof, because you cannot prove the negative.  (How would one prove that they cannot fly, but by trying to fly to show they cannot?)

Thus, when applying this to the God question, we must reject the positive assertion (God is real.), and hold to the NH (God is not real.) until we have evidence to the contrary.  When one person feels they have enough evidence to accept the hypothesis (God is real.), they then have the responsibility to present that evidence to the rest of us who are holding to the NH.  

They must also understand that their evidences will be tested for legitimacy and strength based on scientific controls.  What constitutes evidence?  Testable, demonstrable, empirical data.  One's personal experiences and anecdotes do not qualify.  

When testing the God question, we must have an honest desire to follow the evidence to its most logical conclusion - wherever that may take us.  We must not start at the conclusion we wish to be true.  This is the most common fallacy Christians are guilty of committing.  (The second being the use of personal experiences and anecdotes - ie: I feel the spirit.)

This also means we must have both sides of an argument honestly and accurately presented.  So I do not fear reading books about Christianity any more than I feared reading atheist books when I was a Christian, because I am honestly seeking the truth.

While there is no shortage of apologists shredding the atheists' books online, there does seem to be a shortage of honest critiques of religious works.  A cursory search for "critique of The God Delusion" will bring up 616,000 web pages as of April 2013 (I'm sure the number is still growing).  But my initial search for a critical review of "The Reason for God" was an overwhelming number of people raving about this book - something I flatly disagreed with.

Thus - the idea of this blog was born.  I will be reading the apologists books, and I will critique them and post the results here.

This will be slow going for the most part.  It takes me a long time to read these books because frankly, many of them make me angry, the logic is so messed up that it's hard to sort it all out, and they are so chock full of logical absurdities, fallacies and the like that I have to recharge my brain by reading something more cerebral (like Hume or Eliot), or something more for fun.  

Hang in there - I'm just one person trying to make a difference in the discourse.  =D