Saturday, 29 November 2008

Logical Fallacies

Some theists are honest enough to admit that theism requires one to make logical errors (fallacy) in one's thinking in order to arrive at their god. Bravo. These theists, however, will inevitably also claim that atheism requires one to make logical errors as well. They claim that the atheist must assume that only matter and energy exist, which, they claim, is begging the question. I've also seen the claim that we have to assume that god doesn't exist, and we can't know that since we can't know everything unless we are god, which would self-defeat our claim. Both of these claims are incorrect, however.

Simply put, in a discussion between theism and atheism, the theist puts forth a positive truth claim, and thus bears the burden of proof. When the theist inevitably fails to provide the necessary evidence (especially since it will necessarily be based on a logical fallacy as per above) than the atheist be well within her rights to simply say, "You have not met your burden of proof, therefore I do not accept your claim and do not believe in your god." This does not entail a logical fallacy. It's not logically fallacious to deny unevidenced claims, no matter how much the theist wants to believe that their beliefs are on ground as solid as the atheist's.

But, don't we assume matter and energy are all there is? No, we don't. We provisionally hold that matter and energy are the only things we have evidence for and infer from there. There's nothing fallacious about that.

Don't we assume that god doesn't exist? Of course not. There's no need to assume that an unevidenced god (and in many cases a logically contradictory god) does not exist. It is up to the theist to show otherwise, and logically sound to disbelieve until that happens. If it were not logically sound, then one can claim that it is logically fallacious not to believe in Thor, Baal, invisible, pink unicorns, FSM, leprechauns, etc. This idea, however, is easily seen as the absurdity that it is. Far form catching us atheists making mistakes and putting theism on just as solid ground, the theist only ends up admitting their irrationality.


a1021 said...

its all a problem of objectivism. most theists and atheists claim that their believe is not only true for themselves but has to also be true for everyone else.
if you can get away from this sort of arrogant thinking, it becomes very easy to say that every religion and atheism are completely and logically true for the ones that believe in it. and that there is absolutely no need for any kind of missionary work.

GCT said...

What does it even mean to say that "every religion and atheism are completely and logically true for the ones that believe in it?" Theists are making a truth claim about the world, atheists reject that claim. This has nothing to do with subjectivity.

Will Errickson said...

It really is that simple, isn't it? Theists accuse atheists of having assumptions, but the way I see it, we have come to conclusions based on evidence. We do not outright say to the theist, "There is no god of any kind." We say instead, "I don't believe you." I'm shocked at how many people--even agnostic-y types--get this wrong.