I am usually saddened to hear of death, but I sure did not mourn Jerry Falwell’s passing.

I thought that Christiane Amanpour was very restrained when she interviewed the mega-bigot on “God’s Christian Warriors.” 

Still, it was no suprise to come across a lengthy defense of Jerry’s unforgivable remarks about 9/11 on a Southern Baptist’s website.

During an interview with Pat Robertson, Falwell pointed out that there have been no foreign attacks on mainland America since 1812. Jerry, as ignorant of geography as he was of sociology, attributed this omission to protection by God.  There is no God, so only geographic isolation has protected the US from the hatred that its foreign policies have evoked in the Middle East. 

In his egregious remarks, Falwell said:

 “And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”

Falwell’s remarks were ignorant and in the worst of taste.  He was disrespectful of those who died in the attacks as part of his ongoing attempt to bring the nation under the control of fundamentalist bigots. He was either ignorant of the actual motivations behind the attacks, deliberately ignored those facts, or he welcomed the opportunity to promote his narrow political agenda.

The remainder of the post is devoted to standard right-wing finger pointing and moralizing and is not worth describing.   

I have read quite a few comments about the programs and I think that most people completely miss the point by focussing on tiny details.  The point is that fundamentalism, which Amanpour took care to differentiate from moderate religious teachings, is dangerous because it is selfish, nasty, and violent. 

Christian Fundamentalists cannot claim that they have not committed violent acts in their bid for political enforcement of their narrow morality. In acts of supreme irony, “Pro-Lifers” have murdered seven adults.   

Catch ‘em young and many of them will never outgrow magical thinking because some are not genetically endowed with the cognitive powers to overcome illogic. Religionists seem unwilling to grasp the fact that atheists have escaped religious indoctrination through the operation of critical thinking rather than that atheists are victims of scientific cultism, naturally immoral, or incapable of emotional response. Read the rest of this entry »

He threw away his life and the lives of others in the mistaken belief that he was not throwing away the only life that he will ever have in exchange for nothingness. He, Islamic puritan though he might claim to be, expected to be rewarded for his crime with ownership of some mythical number of virgins, presumably without veils etcetera. This is what comes of sexual repression! Muslims might despise American sexual freedom, but their notion of Paradise necessarily includes licence for sexual license. Read the rest of this entry »

Reason for Blog : LAME arguments .

Atheism: Atheism .

I think that the chief difference between those who practice a scientific approach to understanding of the natural world and those who practice a philosophical approach is illustrated in the progress of thinking from the ancient philosophers to modern science.

The ancient philosophers believed that they could understand the world solely by thinking about a relatively few empirical observations. Although such approaches might be relevant to discussions of value-laden subjects such as ethics or esthetics, they were of limited value in understanding the physical world.

By the 17th century, Sir Francis Bacon was emphasizing the need for a more scientific approach to understanding the physical world.

“As a procedural starting point, at the dawn of a movement that would become modern science, Bacon rejected both the scholastic view that equated knowledge with conservation and the Renaissance reform that sought to recapture a long-lost perfection. Natural knowledge, he proclaimed, must be reconceptualized as a cumulative process of discovery, propelled by processing sensory data about the external world through the reasoning powers of the human brain.” [s]

The idea caught on and the scientific revolution ensured that scientific understanding replaced the metaphysics of the ancients, medievals, and the earliest scientists. In the scientific method, a set of observations leads to formulation of hypotheses that propose logical explanations for the empirical phenomena. Predictions are made on the basis of these hypotheses and are tested against further empirical and experimental data. If further data does not support the hypothesis, then a new hypothesis is formulated that better fits all available data. Ultimately, those hypotheses that withstand this possibility of falsification become accepted as theories. Thus, scientific theories are much more likely than are ‘vernacular’ theories to accurately exlain reality. Scientific knowledge, then, is a system of verified or verifiable empirical data logically interconnected by tested theories.

Although the history of ideas is interesting, science discards disproven hypotheses and moves on, “historical” philosophy does not. By “historical philosophy”, I refer to rhetoric, polemics, and apologetics, which are more concerned with the appearance of authority than with the truth value of content and which set out to argue a position by quoting those who have previously made a statement that follows the position taken by previous writers. This is quite different than the use of references to scientific articles, which point back to empirical or experimental evidence rather than to mere opinion.

It is circular to attempt to prove a point solely by noting that some ancient philosopher had said something with which we agree, yet this is a standard apologetic ploy. This tactic would be equivalent to my claiming that sperm contain microscopic humans and calling up Lamarck’s beliefs to “prove” my point.

In essence, the value of an idea depends upon its content and not upon how many illustrious, but mistaken thinkers have stated it. (To be fair to apologistic philosophers, I think that their intent is to discuss content even though their thinking is distorted by insistence on defending weak positions.) The strength of science, which is both misunderstood and attacked by its detractors, is that scientific knowledge is continuously scrutinized and refined by its qualified practitioners, whose work is measured according to accepted standards (peer review). Although professional (academic) philosophers do work within a logical system, philosophers work within areas that exclude the possibility of experimental verification. If the area under study could be experimentally tested, then that investigation should involve scientific method and would be outside the field of philosophy.

Not only do many people fail to understand the content and nature of science, they mistakenly assume that any thought system – set of opinions – counts as valid philosophy. In this Misinformation Explosion Age, people are increasingly unaware that lay opinion, particularly biased opinion, carries no real authority about the natural world whenever lay opinion runs counter to established scientific knowledge. Let’s designate such people, Laypersons of the Misinformation Explosion, or LAMEs. Not only do LAMEs form illogical opinions on the basis of too little information, they form mistaken opinions on the basis of deliberate or ignorant misiformation pasted across the Internet. LAMEs are particularly credulous in the face of emotionally appealing rhetoric, and this is particularly apparent in relation to the ridiculous creation vs evolution debate, which really ought not to be a debate at all since only the scientific explanation is empirically supported.

The problem, I think, lies not merely with polemics and apologetics as rhetorical devices to sell an argument, it lies also with the fact that those who argue such positions also ‘think’ in the same clumsy style. That is, rather than learning the techniques of critical thinking, they assimilate (and later quote) arguments that they have accepted purely because they like the argument or its conclusions. They often go so far as to admit, “I like what Joe Bloe says about this, [quote].”

Such emotional, LAME thinkers are not so much concerned with whether or not the argument is logically based upon relevant evidence as they are distracted by the emotional appeal that the argument’s conclusion provides. Such thinkers will uncritically accept any conclusion that fits their preconceived notions or biases without any concern or awareness of whether or not the conclusion represents reality.

LAMEs are emotional thinkers who construct their view of the world, not from logical analysis of empirical evidence, but from a pastiche of favored conclusions: ignorant conclusion 1 + unfounded conclusion 2 → illogical conclusion 3.

Typically, the arguments of LAMEs are packed to overflowing with false premises and fallacies of logic. For example, further compounding the cognitive mistake of favoring misinformation with emotionally appealing conclusions, illogical conclusion 3 may be cited as proof of ignorant conclusion 1 and/or unfounded conclusion 2.

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