What the Heck?

Heck

Here’s a doozy, a Christian claiming no atheists could be in birthing centers because human births are SO amazing that he can’t fathom how they could occur without a god. Time to revisit the logical fallacy of personal incredulity:

Personal Incredulity: Also known as the argument from ignorance, is an assertion that because one can’t understand or believe a premise, then it must be false.

Of course once a premise is then “proven” to be false, then that opens the door for alternative premises, often rather irrational ones. Let’s look at some examples…

• I can’t see how this wireless thing works, so it must be some kind of magic.
• I fail to see how a man of god could hurt a child, so clearly none have.
• There’s no way I can see how you could have guessed the correct answer, so you must be psychic.
• There’s a noise coming from the attic but no one is up there, so it must be a ghost.

You would (hopefully) laugh at such comments, but would you also laugh at the idea that human reproduction is so amazing that it must be due to a god? Still laughing? How about because it’s unknown how life started here, that it must have been put here by a god? Or it’s so amazing that we’re on this planet which is perfectly suited for our existence, in the perfect place for such an existence, that it must all be due to a god? These all are examples of this fallacy, as unwarranted as the ones above, yet people still make them even if they can recognize those other ones as being fallacious.

So why is it done? Well generally it’s not so much an exercise of intelligent inquiry but rather a clearing the way for the premise you want to pass. For instance, you may not want to accept that religious leaders could hurt children, so you conclude it’s not possible. You may want to believe there are ghost, perhaps as a confirmation for the existence of life after death, so an unexplained noise is credited to a ghost. Of course this method could easily be used by someone else to make way for their belief (ie – “The idea of just one god makes no sense, so clearly Hinduism is the true religion.”)

Mr. Heck also exhibits a false analogy to bolster his personal incredulity, a variant of the watchmaker’s fallacy using F-16s in a hangar instead of a watch on the beach. How clever.

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24 Responses to “What the Heck?”

  1. I had one of those conversations this past weekend. I wish I had thought about the motivation part to be able to discuss it: "…generally it’s not so much an exercise of intelligent inquiry but rather a clearing the way for the premise you want to pass." That's a great point.

    I think also that once the personal incredulity supports the desired premise, personal inquiry stops. For example, why worry about learning how evolution works when the premise of creationism already supports your desired belief and evolution, while possibly neutral, has the potential to conflict with your desired belief? Or has the potential to conflict the the beliefs of your peer group.

  2. Well once you're happy, why rock the boat?

  3. Well, in case anybody cares about accuracy, I'm not sure who Philly's source is, but it appears either Philly or his source (or both) have conflated an argument from personal incredulity with an argument from ignorance. Although related, the two are not the same fallacy.

    At least you're thinking in the right direction though, Philly – towards logic.

  4. Is it only human births that are supposed to be so amazing, or all births? Frankly, I think all births are amazing, just as all forms of life are amazing. Having done the birth thing on multiple occasions myself, I will attest that it is an amazing experience (and, yes, it does hurt <del>like</del> more than hell). Still, I don't believe any gods are required to make it work.

  5. Is it only human births that are supposed to be so amazing, or all births? Frankly, I think all births are amazing, just as all forms of life are amazing. Having done the birth thing on multiple occasions myself, I will attest that it is an amazing experience (and, yes, it does hurt lik- scratch that, more than hell). Still, I don't believe any gods are required to make it work.

  6. Is it only human births that are supposed to be so amazing, or all births? Frankly, I think all births are amazing, just as all forms of life are amazing. Having done the birth thing on multiple occasions myself, I will attest that it is an amazing experience (and, yes, it does hurt lik- scratch that, more than hell). Still, I don't believe any gods are required to make it work.

  7. cl, the argument provided is both ignorant (where's the data to back it up?) and incredulous (I can't believe that anybody could make such as statement about how childbirth has anything to do with having or picking up an imaginary friend). But I will fully agree with you that Philly is usually thinking in the right direction, towards logic, that's why I keep coming back.

  8. QF,

    I didn't comment on the argument provided, because from a logical standpoint, I agree it's ignorant and incredulous. I commented on the fact that either Philly, his source, or both – have conflated the argument from personal incredulity with the argument from ignorance – and thus misinform readers, even if only slightly.

  9. Usually?

  10. Hey, nobody's perfect, right? (except my GPA in college and my future plans for making 14 figures while taking over the world via ruthless business strategies)

  11. T

  12. He probably thinks that shoving the a baby out between the legs is intelligent design. Intelligent design would be wonderful sex and finding a baby in a baby capsule in the car after you'd been to the supermarket.

  13. In light of Heck's opinion of intelligent design, I probably should have linked to < a href="http://evolutionarymiddleman.blogspot.com/2009/09/can-god-defeat-satan.html">this video earlier, which I found on Evo's site.

    I skipped the obvious points of contention in his article, the assertions that various things are perfect and therefore could only be from a perfect god, to focus on the glaring, migraine inducing point, but that video nicely addresses some of those assertions of perfect design.

  14. In light of Heck's opinion of intelligent design, I probably should have linked to this video earlier, which I found on Evo's site.

    I skipped the obvious points of contention in his article, the assertions that various things are perfect and therefore could only be from a perfect god, to focus on the glaring, migraine inducing point, but that video nicely addresses some of those assertions of perfect design. <div style="display:block;margin:6px 0 0"><a class="a2a_dd" href="http://www.addtoany.com/share_save"><img src="http://static.addtoany.com/buttons/share_save_171_16.png&quot; width="171" height="16" border="0" alt="Share/Save/Bookmark">

  15. In light of Heck's opinion of intelligent design, I probably should have linked to this video earlier, which I found on Evo's site.

    I skipped the obvious points of contention in his article, the assertions that various things are perfect and therefore could only be from a perfect god, to focus on the glaring, migraine inducing point, but that video nicely addresses some of those assertions of perfect design.

    <img src="http://static.addtoany.com/buttons/share_save_171_16.png&quot; width="171" height="16" border="0" alt="Share/Save/Bookmark">

  16. Giving birth hurts, so that's why humans have finally intelligently designed sedatives after a couple million years of walking upright and eating things with opposable thumbs…..Skull that rewrites the history of man

  17. I'm always pissed off by folks who go through heavy-duty fertility treatments, and then produce a litter of kids with serious medical problems due to underdevelopment in an overcrowded uterus. (Reducing the number of implanted zygotes would be murder, after all.) I'm a large woman, and producing healthy full-sized twins stretched the limits of what my body could reasonably support.
    Then, while the NICU doctors and nurses work behind the scenes around the clock to salvage these badly damaged babies, the proud parents go on TV to thank god for bringing them these "miracles". And when these "miracles" die in infancy due to their undeveloped longs or brains or spinal cords, it's just that Jesus called them home to become angels. I think this is child abuse of the first order. (Sorry, another soap box.)

  18. When you start with a belief that can't be wrong, then that's how you inevitably have to answer everything which doesn't fit.

    I'm pissed by those who, without need for fertility treatments, think their uterus is a clown car. A friend of mine's parents were like that. Last I heard there was a dozen or so, plus foster kids of course (Irish Catholic). When my friend turned 18, he was shown the door. Gotta make room for the new ones, you know. I don't think he was given any money either. Praise Jesus!

  19. My son has been challenging me a bit lately and just the other day tossed out the "I just think it's a little too much of a coincidence that everything is so perfect to sustain life" argument from incredulity*.

    He has strenuously avoided arguments with me over the years and I'm glad to see him finally working his way through things. I have to admit that the constant (loud) discussions between his mother and me were probably somewhat traumatizing to a toddler, and he has always shied away from it all.

    Said it before, say it again: form partnerships with people who see the universe like you do.

    * awaiting "cl" of certification

  20. Just to clarify, my son (despite being raised by wifey as Christian fundamentalist, doesn't go in for that shit at all, nor does his sister). He's just trying to work his way to what he really does believe. If I had to guess, he'll end up as some sort of a deist which, as I told him, I have no problem with. We can have interesting debates, but no acrimony. Dogma sucks.

  21. Even if it's hard to believe, how does one get from that to a creator god? That's why I can't see how it's really a result of honest inquiry but rather a clearing of the way for allowing what you want to believe.

    Mrs. Chief doesn't quite see the universe the way I do, either. Any given day she'll claim to be either an atheist or some nebulous possibilitist*.

    possibilitist – someone who embraces the possibility that something might be out there

  22. My son says he is an atheist, but I'm suspicious of his atheism. I think he's just parroting his father, and someone that does that could still be very easily swayed into religion, given the right combination of circumstances (read: girlfriend). I'll be more comfortable when he's actually able to explain exactly why he's an atheist, without prompting. Of course, if he wants to be a theist, and comes to it on his own, that's OK too. It'll make our holiday conversations far more interesting.

  23. I'd like to say that "thumbs up / thumbs down" comment system is stupid. It's a way to give naive people the false impression that agreement is synonymous with veracity.

    Evo,

    ..form partnerships with people who see the universe like you do.

    Sure, but not everybody likes the whole "team approach to freethought" concept that you guys seem to have mastered so well.

    Philly,

    Even if it's hard to believe, how does one get from that to a creator god? That's why I can't see how it's really a result of honest inquiry but rather a clearing of the way for allowing what you want to believe.

    Honest inquiry would be, "Hmmm.. I'm an atheist and I constantly trot out Occam's in my arguments against theism, yet, here Occam's befalls my own argument so maybe I should either cede some ground or lower my standards?" I fully predict that you'll do neither.

    Applying Occam's faithfully – as opposed to cherry-picking to what we apply it like you do – would be "honest inquiry" in my book.

  24. With a gene-pool like that, it's amazing that poor, dumb baby found its way out.

    Because, Sagan said, a pattern always indicates intelligent design.

    WTF? Nature's full of patterns that don't indicate intelligence, and Proud New Papa is a perfect example of this. Wind making patterns in sand dunes, or the ebb and flow of tides are perfect examples of this.

    That has to be a misquote, either deliberate or badly researched. And even if pattern did indicate a designer, this guy'd still have to prove that his flavor of god was the one responsible for all the patterns that abound in nature. If we're talking intelligent designer, the last god I'd pick would be his.

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