Creationist Wisdom #377: Mental Martial Artist

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Williston Herald, located in Williston, North Dakota. It’s titled Common sense proves there is a God, not evolution. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Because we don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians or otherwise in the public eye), we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. Okay, here we go:

Aikido is a form of Japanese self-defense where one uses the momentum from their opponent and reverses it against them. In Aikido, you don’t use brute force against brute force. Instead, you redirect the momentum from the opponent with different types of swift moves, making them immobile.

We can use this same technique when someone brings up evolution as a case against God. This isn’t some type of trick or mind game type move. It’s reasoning.

This is what we’re always looking for in these letters — an original approach to the subject. The letter-writer then gives a reasonable definition of evolution, but then he says:

Naturalism is the view that there is no God or anything like a god. At first glance, it may seem that naturalism and evolution go hand in hand. But after delving deeper into the issue, you find that it’s just superficial and there appears to be deep conflict.

We’ve seen that erroneous entanglement of science and Philosophical naturalism before. We did a decent job of dis-entangling them in Discoveroids’ Straw Man: Naturalism, so we won’t bother to go through that again. Well, briefly, methodological materialism is a procedure (not a philosophy) which is inherent in the scientific method. It’s an operational constraint of science, not a philosophical attack on theism.

Skipping some irrelevant material, the letter-writer starts to get to the point:

Using Holy Scripture as brute force against the atheists assertion of evolution’s truth is not the way to have a meaningful discussion. Let’s use momentum that evolution gives us. There are several issues that can be brought up when evolution is used as evidence against God, but I will only show one.

Here comes the momentum method of defeating evolution:

For the sake of argument, let’s grant that it’s true we are a product of unguided evolution. This means humans have evolved for survivability. Everything about humans is a product of evolution, including our minds. This follows that our mind has adapted for survivability. All our beliefs we hold are ultimately there to help us survive.

All our beliefs? Aaaargh!! No, not necessarily all of them. It’s true that the brain evolved, but it can be led astray. The letter continues:

Many atheists are very quick to affirm that the belief in God rose as a result to help us survive. It’s a false belief we gained for survival.

Is that what “many atheists” say? We wouldn’t know. The survival value of theism seems debatable, given that atheists seem able to survive without it. Here’s more:

Now, just think about that for a second. Why doesn’t this strike the atheist as disturbing? Evolution has infected a false belief in roughly 80 percent of all human beings. Naturalistic evolution doesn’t care if the belief we obtain is true, as long as it helps us survive we will believe it. If evolution has brain-washed 80 percent of the human race about a single false belief, how can we trust our convictions of truth for anything? This provides a huge defeater for every single one of our beliefs.

Whoa! How can we trust our thinking about anything? Considering that we don’t accept the letter-writer’s premise about the evolution of beliefs, we’ve not particularly impressed by his conclusion. Besides, science isn’t a mere belief. Scientists routinely test their ideas to be assured of their reliability, whereas religious beliefs are inherently untestable. Anyway, he then says:

All of science falls apart. Ultimately, unguided evolution is self-defeating. We cannot know if it’s true. If naturalism is true, then we can’t know anything. But, if we can know something, then naturalism is false. The two cannot go hand in hand.

Huh? How did he get there? Maybe the letter-writer’s martial arts technique is too quick for us, and we’ve been tossed flat on our back without even realizing it. Now, while we’re dazed and don’t even know what happened, he moves in for the kill:

Charles Darwin saw this problem. He didn’t know if he should trust his mind’s convictions since it arose from lesser animals.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! He doesn’t bother to provide the mined quote, but we know what he’s talking about. In a letter, Darwin mentioned “the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.” We’ve debunked it several times before — most recently in Discoveroids: You Can’t Trust Your Thinking. Now that we think about it, the letter-writer’s entire argument may have been lifted from the Discoveroid post we wrote about there. Anyway, here’s the rest of today’s letter:

The coherence of evolution on theism stands supreme over naturalism. If God guided evolution, we can rest assured that our convictions of truth are true. If evolution turns out to be the truth of how we came about as a species, this wouldn’t come close to ruling out the existence of God or the authority of the Bible.

So there you are, dear reader. Is your head spinning? That’s because the martial artist has used your strength against you. Admit it — you’ve been defeated.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #377: Mental Martial Artist

  1. Dorian Mattar

    He fails to understand that this PRECISELY why we have the Scientific Method, because we don’t trust human nature, we trust Empirical Evidence.

  2. Hmm, interesting letter. Theology in the Judo-Karatean tradition.

  3. Richard Olson

    I’ve walked away from quite a few arguments I regret ever getting into with women about exactly what I did when and why in more or less the same mental state the excerpts from that letter leave me in.

  4. As Quine pointed out: “Creatures inveterately wrong in their inductions have a pathetic but praiseworthy tendency to die before reproducing their kind.” “Natural Kinds”, in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (1969), p. 126.

  5. “the letter-writer’s entire argument may have been lifted from the Discoveroid post”
    It’s rather an unsubtle version of Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. That one is silly too, but I do know a Dutch philosopher of religion who used it in his thesis.

  6. The same fellow posted the same article on his blog the day before: see http://inspiringchristians.wordpress.com/

  7. Why do folks like this letter writer think they’ve come up with a simple yet super duper argument for defeating all of science when in reality their reasoning sounds like something a 7 yr old high on cotton candy and red bull would come up with?

  8. I may have another comment later, but as I guessed, it’s a guy. Do you have any stats on the % women among the 377 “wisdom” peddlers? I’m guessing 10% max. Not that I think they’re any more or less confused and/or willing to join the scam as men, but I think they’re better at hesitating when they suspect a risk of embarrassment.

  9. Forgot my name, but regular readers probably figured it out.

  10. This follows that our mind has adapted for survivability. All our beliefs we hold are ultimately there to help us survive.

    A mind that can outwit it’s competitors and avoid dangers probably does have a survival advantage, all other things being equal. In our case, we have minds that are very flexible, and can engage in abstract thinking, can project into the future, and so on. That was undoubtedly a huge factor in our recent evolutionary history.

    Given that mental flexibility, however, we can also convince ourselves that all sorts of improbable things are true – it’s a byproduct of being able to engage in abstract thinking. Those beliefs can be detrimental, beneficial, or neutral to a single individual’s survival or ability to attract a mate, but they are not inherited in any biological sense.

    The only way religious belief might be considered to affect evolution is the fact that people who believe in differing religions can slaughter each other in vast numbers, possibly altering the gene pool for future generations. I would guess this has never been a major factor in our overall evolutionary history, however.

    Test question: When the Mormon religion was invented, was that the result of a mutation in Joseph Smith’s brain? If so, did it aid in his survival or help him find a mate?

  11. Frank J: “Forgot my name…”

    We can help you out there. It’s Frank. (And I thought I was getting old…)

    Really, though, this guy would be a riot to watch if he actually practiced any form of martial arts. He could be alone in the dojo and still knock himself out.
    His logic (using the term loosely) is so convoluted that he has twisted his brain in a knot.

    For instance, his comment, “All our beliefs we hold are ultimately there to help us survive”, Would imply that he thinks our beliefs are genetic, and thus inherited. Of course this is wrong. We are taught our beliefs. That’s why children are indoctrinated in their parents’ religion at such an early age. They are not born with their beliefs, or knowledge, for that matter.

    Yes, professing belief in the prevailing religion did have survival value — back in the day when unbelievers were routinely put to death. But that had nothing to do with evolution.

  12. Again, I messed up the italics and bold. I intended to italicize “genetic”, but I bolded it instead, and then the “close italics” mark didn’t turn off the bold.

    Trying to watch a football game while typing doesn’t work well for me. I am getting old.

  13. Gee, thanks, Curmy. You’re quick. you had it corrected before I could write.

  14. retiredsciguy says: “Gee, thanks, Curmy. You’re quick.”

    Timing is everything.

  15. Ironically, the letter writer cites St. Augustine in his blog linked by Stickler above.

    Saint Augustine has something to say about this: “Even a non-Christian knows something about the earth…about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in the Christian and laugh it to scorn.”

    He should follow St. Augustine’s advice.

  16. Pete Moulton

    Too late, rsg. I’m already convulsed with scornful laughter.

  17. Ceteris Paribus

    The Frozen Dakotan mystifies:

    All of science falls apart. Ultimately, unguided evolution is self-defeating. We cannot know if it’s true. If naturalism is true, then we can’t know anything. But, if we can know something, then naturalism is false. The two cannot go hand in hand.

    Either The Dakotan is using that language to encrypt a secret message to some nefarious evil-doer on another continent, or learned to plays chess with one side using chess pieces and the other side using checkers.

  18. @Ceteris Paribus concerning the cryptic language of The Frozen Dakotan. This is an allusion to the argument known as the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism at Wikipedia.

  19. “Trying to watch a football game while typing doesn’t work well for me. I am getting old.”

    As you can see, sometimes I can’t even type while typing anymore (and yes I use only 2 fingers).

    Speaking of football, to show how seductive pseudoscience (creationism, astrology, etc.) is, it even tempts me on occasion. While I don’t “believe in jinxes” I would bet that the Eagles’ record over the past ~45 years is much better when I miss the game. I haven’t kept records, and am fully aware of confirmation bias, and “correlation is not causation.” But I still can’t help thinking “what if I could turn the clock back to 8:00 last night and run a control experiment?”

  20. @Ed:

    When the Mormon religion was invented, was that the result of a mutation in Joseph Smith’s brain? If so, did it aid in his survival or help him find a mate?

    See the Wikipedia article on List of Joseph Smith’s wives.

    Apparently, he only actually married one of these women; with the rest it appears that he was only engaging in his Darwinian Duty of the Horizontal Persuasion.

  21. Yes, as already pointed out, Plantinga complete with truncated Darwin quote; I wrote about just this at http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2013/10/darwin-god-alvin-plantinga-and-evolution-ii-plantinga-god-and-evolution.html

    As for the idea that the human mind is well designed to discover truth, see Kahneman’s wondeerful and disturbing Thinking Fast and Slow.

  22. Frank J:

    Speaking of football, to show how seductive pseudoscience (creationism, astrology, etc.) is, it even tempts me on occasion. While I don’t “believe in jinxes” I would bet that the Eagles’ record over the past ~45 years is much better when I miss the game. I haven’t kept records, and am fully aware of confirmation bias, and “correlation is not causation.” But I still can’t help thinking “what if I could turn the clock back to 8:00 last night and run a control experiment?”

    Wow, that’s weird; as a Saints fan, I’ve had the same feeling about watching their games, to the point that I’ve actively gone out of my way to avoid watching them. I did watch this game, though- that’s a data point against my feeling that the Saints do better when I don’t watch. Next step in the experiment- find something else to do this coming Saturday afternoon (I have a feeling it won’t make any difference- if they can’t do any better against the Seahawks than they did against the Eagles, they don’t have a prayer).

  23. @aturingtest, my heart goes out to you. I know there are some kids in day care in New Orleans who have gone all of their lives without seeing a Super Bowl win.