The red herring theist returns

I wrote a couple of months ago about the notorious red herring theist. That’s the person who will move the discussion from whatever the topic at hand is in order to attack atheists. It’s the same thing every time: “What? You think something is wrong? You have no basis for saying that because you don’t believe what I believe! Morality must be objective in order to say anything is true!” It’s tiresome if only because it’s pathetic. What’s more, there isn’t a person on the planet who somehow adheres to any sort of objective morality. People will claim they do, but they are necessarily interpreting ideas subjectively. When a believer says “God tells us what is moral”, they are coming to their conclusion through a subjective interpretation of (what they think is) the evidence. Furthermore, even if I grant that morality can be objective, theists undermine their case all the time.

What brings this on is my recent participation at the site of a religious nutbag. My first comment was to his bad post about Planned Parenthood. The important part of his post claimed that humanity begins at conception (whereas the rest of his post was the use of anecdotes to draw broad conclusions). When pressed on why conception is the best marker of humanity, he just kept repeating his position, sometimes citing anti-abortion websites which said the same thing. Great. But that doesn’t tell me anything. I eventually got one user to answer the question when she cited the coming together of chromosomes, but I was unable to get her to go further before the administrator nearly banned me. And I was the most respectful person the whole time. I know. It’s crazy.

I plan on making a separate post about abortion, so I will address their dogma arguments there. Of course, that would be the appropriate thing to do, right? Not according to Roxeanne. She insisted that I tell her my personal views in response to the questions I was posing. That is logically inappropriate. The issue at hand needs to be resolved; it is only a red herring to go after my views as a means of defending her views. To help clarify:

And she isn’t even a Christian.

She violated number 1 in the list over and over again. That apparently makes me dishonest. Oh, and a “jerk” and “stupid” and somehow sexist. Okay, okay. The sexist part doesn’t come from that, I admit it. I actually accused her of grabbing the mantle of science. We all know how sexist that is, amirite? (Oh, and for the record, she said I called her anti-scientific; her point in claiming that was to brag about her undergraduate degree in engineering (because that constitutes authority in biology?), but she was wrong. She may very well be as anti-scientific as a creationist theist (just like the blog owner), but I was calling her position an attempt to misuse science. I said very little of her.)

Then there comes the Comments tab. The blog owner goes on and on about some random Internet guy and his supposedly bad arguments, but he only quotes one supposed comment. Who knows what the real context was. But since the author had some obvious flaws in what he said, I quickly pointed them out: 1) In addressing the charge of being censorious, he cited that awful creationist movie Expelled; 2) he said Darwinists insist that evolution explains the origins of the Universe; 3) he said reason and logic are “clearly” immaterial. The issues are obvious: 1) the false charge that anyone from Expelled was censored doesn’t even begin to address whether or not he was right to censor others; 2) it is creationists who often conflate evolution with the Big Bang – I have never once witnessed a Darwinist (he means atheist) do that; 3) reason and logic are products of the electrical impulses in our brains. So are our thoughts, our feelings, our perception of reality.

Of course, he hardly responded to any of that. Of what he did say, he had two revealing replies. First, I pointed out that when he says “morality”, he really means objective morality. This is a common error of assumption theists make. It’s annoying. If we’re going to compare objective and subjective morality, we need to use our qualifiers. Aside from creating a lack of clarity in discourse, it’s begging the question: if we’re trying to determine what is moral and one side is asserting that objectivity is the key factor, then they don’t get to assume “objective” in front of morality. It would be like saying, “What makes objective morality objective is objectivity.” This shows an unwillingness to approach the topic in a way resembling any sort of fairness (or logic). Second, he claimed that he embraces science. Let’s take a peek.

I don’t reject science, I embrace it as discovering how God put his universe together.

That sure doesn’t sound like an “embrace” of science to me. It sounds like he will only accept science which reaches the conclusion he already has. Need more proof? No problem.

My evidence comes before science. I see the evidence for God and the supernatural and I see evidence in the natural and how science sometimes gets it right.

That is an outright rejection of what science is, of what it stands for. By only accepting what reaches his pre-held conclusion, he shows an unwillingness to look at any evidence objectively; every idea he will ever have on science must be distrusted. He’s a walking stereotype.

The primary reason for this post was that I was apparently banned (despite being the only respectful person there – and you all know how dirty that makes me feel). I have no idea where the administrator said I would no longer be allowed to post, but I thank Dan Trabue for letting me know before I made some big reply. As it turns out, my comments are ‘only’ being held in moderation. As a result, I won’t be making any further posts over there; someone who feels the need to moderate perfectly rational discourse for no more reason than because he disagrees with it is not someone I can trust.

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11 Responses

  1. Oh, this is like some beautiful dream. Dan Trabue, who is the theological manifestation of 2+2=5, is now BFFs with Michael, the scientific equivalent of the same. When I tired of Dan’s blasphemies he actually wrote my pastor to complain (my pastor and I had a good laugh over that). Michael, I’m sure Dan can give you the name and address if you want to do the same. Yeah, the Internet is a creepy place sometimes.

    So please please please send people to pore over every post and comment of mine, just like Dan does. It is a best-case scenario. He keeps reading and learning and I don’t have to read his blasphemies.

    And the complaint about banning (actually, moderation in Michael’s case — there are only two comments I haven’t posted, where he whines about not getting to comment) is just more irony. Michael the atheist who can’t ground morality seems to think it is universally bad to ban comments. But I have a comment policy and, even though I’m too liberal with it, I eventually run out of patience with some commenters.

    I let Dan prattle on with his false teachings for over 400 comments before banning him. I’ve learned not to waste time with such types, so Michael didn’t even make it to 20. I have way more important things to do than let those conversations go on in a continuous loop.

    “The important part of his post claimed that humanity begins at conception (whereas the rest of his post was the use of anecdotes to draw broad conclusions). When pressed on why conception is the best marker of humanity, he just kept repeating his position, sometimes citing anti-abortion websites which said the same thing.”

    Actually, my reference was 10+ mainstream embryology textbooks — http://tinyurl.com/yfje8lq — references that Michael conveniently ignored. The fact that the quotes were listed on an anti-abortion site is irrelevant and just another fallacious attempt by Mr. Science Person to avoid the facts.

    Oh, and I have no problem being called anti-abortion. I am anti-the crushing and dismembering of innocent human beings, and Michael is obviously in the pro-abortion column.

    “That is an outright rejection of what science is, of what it stands for. By only accepting what reaches his pre-held conclusion, he shows an unwillingness to look at any evidence objectively; every idea he will ever have on science must be distrusted. He’s a walking stereotype.”

    No, you are buying into the “we can only trust science” canard, which is a pure circular reference (go ahead and use science to prove that you can only trust things from science). Again, I dispute one sub-branch of one of the dozens of branches of science, and I do so because of the lack of evidence in favor of it, the great evidence against it, and the institutionalized bad philosophy propping up the pathetically bad worldview.

    You can whine about Christians all you like and release endorphins 24x7x365, but those will give you no comfort once you die. And if you really think you are annihilated at death, why waste time trying to correct these “ignorant” Christians who faith was 100.000% determined by Darwinian evolution? That’s so irrational.

    Again, please visit often! Unlike Dan, I am an authentic Christian who cares enough to tell you the truth. There is a God — and deep down you know that but suppress the truth in unrighteousness a la Romans 1. You will be accountable to him for all your sins. You can take the punishment yourself for eternity or trust in what Jesus did for you. All your sins are transferred to his account and his perfect righteousness is transferred to yours. There are many solid facts and reasons behind my belief that Jesus really lived, died and rose again — http://tinyurl.com/ykzpu42 .

    It is a great deal. I’d take it. Or you can spend eternity in Hell. I’m on the Great Commission, not the paid commission, so do whatever you think is most rational.

  2. BTW, that graphic is excellent. You just forgot to realize it is a two-way street and applies to atheists as well. Please re-read it and see why you entered the land of moderation at my place.

  3. P.S. Unfortunately, you didn’t read the last line of the chart: Since you broke those rules, you forfeited the rights to complain about the discussion. Yet here we are . . .

  4. Michael: actually…. you’re wrong. In a lot of ways.

    First, there’s the issue of burdens of proof. We never, even when a court of law administers the death penalty, require something to be proved beyond all doubt. Rather, the touchstone is reasonableness. So when you’re asking me to refute the biological equivalent of alien abductions, it’s not appropriate. I don’t have to do that.

    Second, depending on the argument, you ALSO have a burden of proof. Human life obviously exists, and individual people obviously did not exist at one point and do exist now. So the obvious question is, “When did they start existing?” Neil and I say conception; you say that we’re wrong, but refuse to say when humans, SCIENTIFICALLY (not philosophically), come into existence.

    As an analogy: The parents of two children left the house, and, when they departed, it was clean. When they arrive back at home, there’s brownie batter all over the kitchen. One child says, “I didn’t do it; I was at the movies with Marsha from the time you left until thirty minutes ago.” The second child, without stating whether or not he was responsible for making a mess of the kitchen, says that the first child could have done it for a million absurd reasons, then claims that, since she hasn’t fully explained herself, she doesn’t get to ask HIM what he was doing when the brownie batter got all over the place. Obviously ridiculous, but that’s the game you’re playing.

    *That you’re an UNDERGRADUATE who tells me to “take bioethics courses” cracks me up, by the way. I did engineering and history as an undergraduate, read Plato in the original Greek, worked in nanotechnology, and went to law school (where I graduated with honours and worked on a law journal). Smearing my academic credentials… as an undergraduate… is… wow.

  5. Neil, I noted that you nearly banned me, putting my comments in moderation. I have no need to embellish the fact that you get too emotional to argue when challenged. Also, thank you for confirming your red herring status. When I made that original post here and privately on Facebook, there was some question about whether or not theists actually do that; you are obviously of the breed that is unable to stay on point. Oh, and stop saying “morality” when you mean “objective morality”. There is a significant difference that only dumbs down discussion when it is ignored.

    Thank you for confirming that you are a True Christian. Even though your religion offers you absolutely no methods for verifying any knowledge; it remains unclear how your non-methods are superior to another Christian’s non-methods.

    When you say you’re okay with being called “anti-abortion”, I presume you’re conflating this post with the separate topic I have on my views on abortion. I made the point that it is dishonest rhetoric to call one side pro-murder or anti-women’s rights. Since I’m not of the sort who falls prey to such immature junk, I referred to you in a way that represents your position. That you think I was trying to be offensive is only indicative of your emotional involvement with the issue.

    You may want to recheck your source. It appears, as I pointed out in my abortion post here, you have confused development for humanity. Besides, your argument is still tautological: “A human begins at conception because conception is the point where humans begin” doesn’t tell anyone anything. Well. Except maybe that you aren’t bothering to consider the issue.

    Evolution is not one sub-branch of biology; it is the unifying theme of the entire field. As you told everyone, your rejection of it is based upon religious dogma, not evidence, not science.

    You’re very confused about the descriptive facts of evolution and the normative claims of humans.

    Yes, yes, we all know how authentic you are. Thank you for telling me that I really believe in your god. You’re a True Christian deep down.

    BTW, that graphic is excellent. You just forgot to realize it is a two-way street and applies to atheists as well. Please re-read it and see why you entered the land of moderation at my place.

    I appreciate good rhetoric. It’s an art form, really. Yours, on the other hand, would cause Cicero to puke at least a little in his own mouth.

    Roxeanne,

    1) I asked you why conception is special. You managed to cite the coming together of chromosomes, but you were unable to go further. You need to actually consider the reasons for your arguments.

    2) When I ask you “Why is conception important” and “What makes chromosomes coming together special”, I am not magically burdened with needing to answer your questions of me. It would be like someone asking you why you think coffee is good and all you can do is demand they tell you why they prefer tea.

    The burden of proof rests on the person making the positive claim. That was you and Neil. I only asked you questions. Besides, you have your answers in an appropriate location now.

    As for your fallacious argument from (your own supposed) authority, none of your degrees make you somehow correct that not only is conception when humanity begins but that you also need not explain why you think that. In fact, if you wanted to go with this fallacy, I’m sure I have far more formal experience in biology than you. Does that make me an authority over you? (Well, I suppose the fact that I don’t confuse development for the subjective idea of non-taxonomic “humanity” does give me more credibility, but that’s a matter of knowing my stuff better, not how far along anyone is in their education.)

  6. A bit of clarification, just for the record. Neil said…

    Dan Trabue, who is the theological manifestation of 2+2=5, is now BFFs with Michael, the scientific equivalent of the same. When I tired of Dan’s blasphemies he actually wrote my pastor to complain

    I visited Neil’s site and we engaged in conversation. Over weeks and months, this conversation went on for hundreds of comments. Oftentimes, this was due to the conversation going like…

    Dan: I think X
    Neil: Oh really? You think Z? Isn’t that a horribly wrong position to take!
    Dan: I didn’t say Z, I said X.
    Neil: But when you SAY X, you obviously mean Z and probably Q and 3, too.
    Dan: No, when I say X, I mean X, not Z, Q or 3.

    And on it would go. Neil apparently has a hard time understanding or repeating back correctly what others who disagree with him think. I’m not saying this is intentional, I don’t know what the reason is. Just that our conversation required MULTIPLE and repeated corrections (almost always politely delivered) and so, soon those comments reached into the hundreds (according to Neil, I never counted).

    I call that conversation. Neil appears to find something sinister in that.

    And yes, I did write his pastor. As a Christian, I hold the teachings of the Bible in high regard. The Bible teaches us that if one of us has a disagreement with others, that we are to try to correct the misunderstanding privately (I did that) and, if that fails, to take one or two others and have a conversation. This is what I attempted to do with Neil’s pastor, who opted to not try to work out the misunderstandings.

    Fair enough. Neil finds that creepy, I find that biblical.

    Having said that, given Neil’s reaction, perhaps the internet world is a sufficiently different time and place from Jesus’ time that the same teaching does not cover the situation. Perhaps it IS too creepy to try to seek an understanding via email in that manner.

    Regardless, it was nothing more creepy than merely trying to follow the Bible’s instructions, which Neil appears to find worthy of mocking.

    Neil, for his part, prefers to follow me around the internet and gossip about me, as he is doing here. The Bible (and good sense) tell us that gossiping is not the ideal. I’d suggest it’s a bad idea and that Neil should quit.

  7. Neil and Roxeanne both suffer from an inability to argue on point. If they were constantly doing some subtle goal shifting, maybe I would call them on being dishonest. Maybe. I would probably need far more interaction. But as it is, I just don’t think they’re very well versed in how to face an intellectual challenge. That would certainly explain why Neil bans or censors people so easily. It’s easier to stay within one’s own in-group than to answer difficult questions (such as “Why is conception important?” … “YOU’RE BEING DISHONEST!!1! CONCEPTION IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT’S WHEN HUMANITY BEGINS BECAUSE HUMANITY BEGINS AT CONCEPTION!!” – Actually, that wasn’t a difficult question, but I’m sure where its answer leads would be uncomfortable for them.)

    As for Roxeanne, she has taken to this massive fantasy that the reason a man would disagree with her is because it’s threatening that a woman would dare have an opinion on science. It couldn’t be because, along with Neil, she really is just trying to claim the mantle of science in order to support something that is a subjective opinion (not to mention the fact that they both have confused development and humanity – something to which their own sources attest). But I don’t expect these two to stay on point any longer.

  8. Michael…

    as it is, I just don’t think they’re very well versed in how to face an intellectual challenge.

    That does seem to be the case, but that’s true for a lot of us a lot of the time, seems to me.

    By the way, nice graphic.

  9. It’s from Stella Point, just below the summit of Kilimanjaro.

  10. Wow. That’s cool.

    But I meant the “Our Conversation” graphic.

    What were you doing near Kilimanjaro?

  11. Ah, of course. Yes, as it says on the graphic, the creator comes from atheismresource.com; I had no part in making it.

    I was hiking Kilimanjaro. I went over by myself, joining up with an absolutely incredible group of 7 other hikers. Seven out of eight of us made it to the top (that includes me). I highly recommend you just do it if you ever have the chance. There isn’t anything technical about it and it’s an incredible experience to see the sun rise over Africa from 18,000 feet (if you leave early enough in the night you might see the sunrise from the summit, which is about 19,340 feet). Search Kilimanjaro on here to see a few other pictures.

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