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God, Life, origins

Atheists on Twitter (again)

There’s a particular person I follow on Twitter because in general we’ve had some amiable conversations and she followed me.  I checked my feed and I noticed she shared a graphic about Noah’s Ark.  It had a profile of the ark next to other large ships noting that that the largest had an occupancy of about 4,300 people.  It then states that the ark was supposed to carry 20 million animals and is much smaller.  I pointed out that that graphic is a logical fallacy called a straw man argument.  That basically means you present a similar sounding but different argument as your opponent’s argument.  You debunk the similar sounding argument and pretend that you’ve debunked the opponent’s argument.  This fits that definition because no one claims the ark had 20 million animals on it.  Literally no one does (well atheists might but as they don’t believe the story I’ll leave them out).  I included some links from creationist web sites to demonstrate that they weren’t making a case for 20 million animals on the ark.

Well she responded that the articles were not science (I’m not sure I made the claim they were) and that Answers In Genesis (one of the articles was from AIG) isn’t a scientific organization.  Both of those claims are irrelevant.  My point was that the graphic was misrepresenting the creationist argument using a straw man fallacy.  She also tagged a handful of people in her response.  This is unfortunate as generally having a conversation with multiple people on Twitter (where the comments are limited to 144 characters) is profoundly difficult.  It’s fine if you just want to make sophomoric insults at people and pat like thinking people on the back but once you have 4 or 5 twitter handles in a response the number of characters you have to type in is severely limited and it is impossible to get a rational thought out (though rational thought doesn’t seem to be most people’s aim on twitter).

Try as I might I could not keep the half dozen people on topic.  Mostly they just wanted to hurl insults and snark (if your first response to someone who either misunderstands something, or doesn’t have knowledge you do is to hurl insults, I suspect your breadth of knowledge might not be as great as you pretend it to be).  Now this all happened while I was on a break at work. So after a several, “you’re an idiot,” and “you deserve to be mocked,” type posts my break was over.  So I let everyone know my break was over and had to go.  Well when I checked my twitter account that evening I had over 3 dozen notifications.  I have kids and other responsibilities so I didn’t immediately respond as I knew twitter wasn’t going to be a good place for it (how can I respond to multiple people quickly enough that they won’t start muddying up the water again before I can get my thoughts out (that’s why I post here). So I waited until the morning.

So now I’ll try to respond to each person in turn (rather than in a timeline manner).  I’ll ignore the insults and pettiness that the comments were rife with and just stick to actual points.  I’ll put a name (may not be their actual name) and discuss their tweets to me.  Sorry it took so long to post.  I noticed there were more notifications after I wrote this and wanted to make sure I responded to all substantive tweets.

HUMANIST

This guy asked for evidence so I asked him for a definition of evidence.  He gave me a very generic definition of evidence.  I asked if he was a person who believed that believed the Bible was written 1,000 years ago (this was mostly as a joke as there is plenty of evidence that it is older than that).  He responded with a series of images one of which talks about King James “creating” the Holy Bible.  Now I’m not sure what he thinks created means.  First of all, King James commissioned a translation of existing texts (the Textus Receptus).  It wasn’t the first English translation nor the last.  It was also rife with ad hominem attacks on James.  This isn’t entirely surprising as his first responses to me were either essentially or literally him calling me names (and it will become funny in a minute).  One of the images contained the claim that the Sinai Bible contains 14,800 differences with the KJV.  Well first of all, the Codex Sinaiticus is in Greek and the KJV is in English.  This may be minor but it does bear some pointing out that the person in question doesn’t know that the KJV is based on the Textus Recptus rather than the Codex Sinaiticus.  Most of the 14,800 differences are word order/spelling variation.  Most people are aware that different regions use the same language differently.  For example, in England the word is foetus and in the USA it’s fetus.  This would be a difference according to the person who compiled the differences.  Some are word order.  One says Jesus Christ, the other says Christ Jesus.  This again is irrelevant to the understanding of the text and can be attributed to regional speech patterns as well.  There are a number of verses that are in the TR that aren’t in the CS.  There are two schools of thought about which version is the correct manuscript.  I won’t get into textual criticism here other to say that I find compelling arguments in both camps.  Maybe that makes me wishy washy but it is also true that none of the differences actually change any Christian theology.

He also accused me of straw man argumentation for asking for facts.  I’m not sure he knows what a straw man argument is.

He then I was cherry picking posts to respond to when I responded to someone else that AIG knows what a species is.  Well, I probably didn’t respond to every post made.  However I had at least 5 people tweeting at me in rapid succession so it is possible I missed one or ignored one that I thought was of no real value.  Of course I suspect this is why the first person I tweeted made sure to tag friends (or twitter friends as I don’t know if she knows any of these people really).  It’s hard to have a real discussion with a handful of people on Twitter.  It becomes a multithreaded mess and is only conducive to insults and self-congratulatory tweets.

He also seems to believe the Bible is only 1,700 years old.  Well we have copies of the OT from before the time of Jesus so he can’t mean the whole Bible (though I am not sure he has that much knowledge about it).  So he must mean the NT.  However we have manuscript evidence as early as 100-150 AD.  That’s about 1,900 years ago.  He must mean the CS but then he’s begging the question.  He says it has to be all collected into one bound document to count as the NT but he’s making that rule himself to prove his own point.  He’s free to believe it but it’s not based in reality.

After this he mostly just posts “waiting” posts.  He may have all the time in the world to play on Twitter but I actually have a life outside of the internet.  I have a boss that wants me to accomplish stuff.  I have kids with homework that they need help with.  So if he wants substantive responses (he doesn’t), he will have to wait until I can accomplish the goal.

Xeno

This guy excuses the initial logical fallacy by calling creationists names.  So ad hominem excuses straw man arguments.  Good to know.  He also asserts that the PhDs in biology, developmental biology, genetics and a medical doctor don’t know the scientific definition of a species.  He wants to know if I can prove it.  Well using his own (past logic) proof is unnecessary because it’s normal for people with those degrees to know that.  He then agrees that I am cherry picking.  He can refer to my answer in the response to HUMANIST.

He then posts a screen grab of an article about space used to house animals.  This is actually, I think, one of the best posts he and his friends have made.  It’s an actual attempt to discuss something.  There are a few assumptions that are made though that I don’t think he should make.  Firstly, he assumes all the animals were full size representatives on the ark.  When bringing a large animal it makes the most sense to bring young specimens.  If the goal is to populate the earth after the flood it doesn’t make sense to bring older animals anyway.  I’m not sure what size estimate the article used for the internal volume of the ark either so it’s difficult to discuss these calculations fully.  He also discounts what every creationist believes about the story in that it is a supernatural event.  Even if the animals couldn’t survive in the ark as we understand animal care today, if the event is being managed by God all of that goes out the window.  This isn’t a god of the gaps argument.  A god of the gaps argument would be something like:

  • Why do things fall to the earth?
  • I don’t know.
  • God pulls them down.

That is a god of the gaps argument.  We are talking about a specific instance where God interfered with the natural order.  It’s like asking for a scientific method Jesus could have used to raise Lazarus from the dead.  The question misses the point.  So if God put them in the ark to keep them safe, He would be able to accomplish that.  Saying He can’t is an un-argued philosophical bias.  I do expect this explanation to be dismissed by Xeno.  It runs contrary to his materialistic world view, his a priori assumptions.  Again I do give him credit for presenting an argument (that actually was an argument) but the base of that argument is that God can’t do something we couldn’t accomplish ourselves.  That is not a logically cogent argument.  That’s not meant as a slight.  He’s arguing from his world view as I would expect so no disrespect meant there.

Sally

She seems to suffer from an ability to see things objectively.  Despite being told that species and kind are not the same (with examples like dog, wolf, coyote are all the same kind but different species) refuses to accept it.  She insists that the Bible says 2 of every species.  It’s hard to discuss things with people who won’t change their position based on contrary evidence.  For example when it was presented that creationists don’t believe that every species was on the ark (this is a fact that they believe this way not an opinion) she didn’t say ok, but here’s why a limited number of kinds can’t produce all the variety of life we see.  She just doubles down and says the Bible does say species (or at least means species).

She then throws some ad hominem the way of AIG.  Then when I point out her friend HUMANIST is kind of a jerk she said he has passion and irony and we can learn from him.  Well as he never once presented any facts relating to what she claimed was his specialty (zoology) and really only called people names I’m not sure.  There wasn’t even any irony in anything he said.  Passion, perhaps, but passion doesn’t necessarily mean he’s presenting anything useful.  If I was going to guess why he was included based solely on what he tweeted, it would be because she likes reading his insults to people who disagree with their worldview.

She claimed that AIG doesn’t care about facts and as such only deserves snark.  Yet I’m yet to see anything they wrote (or even the article I posted) actually refuted.  The response has just been, “that’s stupid” which really means “I don’t agree but I can’t tell you why.”

Sally did say something I agree with this morning.  She finds the fact that Catholics teach that the bread and wine actually become Christ’s body and blood “unpleasant.”  I think it’s more than unpleasant.  It’s also strange to think that it’s actually Him.  It’s clearly a metaphor (Jesus was sitting there all whole and everything when He instituted communion).  But I have a lot of issues with Catholic theology so this is just one of many.

As for the evidence that’s been asked for I’ll say a couple things.  First I will freely admit the circumstantial nature of the evidence for Christ.  That is not to say there is no evidence but if the person (be they Xeno, Sally, or HUMANIST) is looking for scientific proof they are setting themselves up to not believe.  You can’t scientifically prove a lot of people’s existence that everyone believes lived.  This is why I beat the “what type of evidence will you except” drum so hard.  We need to know where we want to get to before we start the trip (though I expect some don’t want to get to the destination).  So once I know what people will except as evidence I’d be happy to point you to some.

On a related note I’d like to stress again that everyone believes in things they can’t prove.  This idea that atheists don’t believe in God because there is no proof is untrue.  They choose what they will believe in without evidence based on what they want to be true.  There is no evidence for how the universe came into being yet every atheist believes the universe began at some point in time (at least I hope there is no one so deluded as to think time has no beginning).  However if the universe came into being at some point then something outside of the universe created it (be it God or some unknown force).  Because this thing is outside the universe it can’t be directly observed or tested so we can’t know how it happened.  The beginning of life is the same.  It’s not just chemical and we have no idea how life can come into being.  At least no way that we can demonstrate.  But every atheist believes in abiogenesis without proof (because otherwise they would have to believe in God).  Panspermia was developed as a theory.  Francis Crick knew that the problem of life was too big for random chance to solve.  So he developed an idea that aliens seeded life on earth.  The problem being is that this only pushes the problem back.  It’s not a solution it just feels like it.

Lastly this post is why this type of discussion is doomed to fail on twitter.  I wrote over 2,400 words to respond to mostly snark and insults.  I heard this analogy.  It takes only a moment to commit a murder but several hours (or days or weeks) to reconstruct that murder for trial.  To form a cogent response it takes longer than to post barbs and silly ad hominem attacks.  So while I’m happy to discuss actual points (like Xeno’s) I’m not even going to worry about most of the blatant “circle jerk” (for lack of a better term).  So I’ll respond to individual, one on one tweets (in general of course, there will be exceptions) but the group, just post snarky things tweets will be ignored.  Interpret that as you will.

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