Reasoning With Unreason, and Where It Gets You Sometimes


Two YouTube Videos:

The First Video

AronRa is an atheist recruiting “like-minded activists” to the Reason Rally. I’ll lift out two excerpts for you:

[10:58] Here’s what I want. I want to see religious leaders held accountable for their b***s***. If you state as fact that which is not evidently true, you should be called out as a liar, just like the rest of us would be.

Hmmm… is that good logic, good reasoning? Let’s apply his test somewhere else. Consider someone who states as fact that there is no God. Is that evidently true? No. Is that person automatically a liar for saying that? No, again; for he could be mistaken, or (even though it’s not evidently true) he might be right. Either way he’s not a liar. The same applies for someone who says there is a God. So if you state as fact that which is not evidently true, that alone is insufficient to mark you as a liar. What this speaker has done has been to confuse the location of his negatives. To state as fact that which is not evidently true is not equivalent to stating as fact what is evidently not true.

Of course I think it’s evident that there is a God. I know that’s debatable. What’s not so debatable, though, is that this speaker has exhibited rotten logic with that opinion of his. His reasoning was embarrassingly poor, in view of his advocacy on behalf of reason. This speaker manifestly knows how to edit—and to correct—his videos, by the way.

Still, that’s comparatively trivial next to this:

[7:24] I see religion as dangerous on every level. It is a political tool of mass manipulation and a social retardant opposed to progress in any form, except of course in marketing and propaganda. It is perpetuated by prejudice and paranoia, and wherever religion has had rule over law, the result has been an automatic violation of human rights. It is time for reason to rule. That’s why I’m inviting all you like-minded activists to join me in Washington, D.C. in March…

Someone certainly does deserve to be called out, whether he intended “not evidently true” or “evidently not true.”

But then there is…

The Second Video

which provides a marvelous image of what it feels like trying to explain to atheists that Christianity was responsible for the abolition of slavery everywhere it has been abolished; that its influence has been responsible for the freeing of women from oppression in countries around the world for many centuries; that it has been the world’s greatest force in favor of the poor, diseased, and oppressed; that its followers were the founders and builders of modern science; that its principles laid the foundation for modern democracy; that it was the fountainhead of the modern university; and that its followers, far from being paranoid, exhibit higher levels of emotional and social well-being than others.

Here’s what it’s like sometimes trying to get this message across:


Update February 27: Recent thoughts on the Reason Rally from other blogs