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Apr 19 2012

Consistent self-contradiction

PZ Myers recounts a visit his blog had from a bunch of Hovind fanatics.

I can summarize their argument very briefly:

  • Your ability to reason comes from god.
  • Therefore, if you use reason, you prove the existence of god.
  • If you use reason to disprove god, you actually prove god.
  • If you claim any of their arguments are logically fallacious, you are using reason, which comes from god, therefore you prove them correct.

Maddening, isn’t it? But at least they’re being consistently self-contradictory. Let’s look at their argument and see what it tells us.

First of all, take that statement that our ability to reason comes from God. To make that statement, you must first assume that God exists. “God exists,” however, is the conclusion they’re trying to prove, so right off the bat they’re falling into the fallacy of assuming their conclusion.

This is a failure to respect the principles of reason, which—according to the Hovindites—are ordained by God. Thus, they’re not only guilty of logical error, they’re actually sinning against God, according to their own assumptions.

If reason comes from God, then those who apply the principles of reason correctly, and who abide by the conclusions reached by correct logic, are more holy and obedient than those who reject the principles of reason ordained by God.

If reason comes from God, and reason leads to the conclusion that there is no God, then Hovindites have a choice: either they must rebel against God’s reason, or they must accept the conclusion that God wants them to be reasonable atheists.

If reason is indeed ordained by God, then it is a sin to be superstitious, because superstition is illogical and fallacious.

When you see something complex and hard to understand, and seek to “explain” it by giving credit for it to some invisible supernatural power, without any verifiable connection between this power and the thing you’re trying to explain, that’s superstition. It is therefore superstitious to claim that our ability to reason comes from God, in the absence of any verifiable connection between God and reason.

If reason really came from God, then those who were most obedient to God would be the strongest champions of reason. By claiming that reason comes from God and then using that claim as an excuse to ignore reason, and to indulge in logical fallacies and superstitions, and to jump to conclusions that contradict both their assumptions and their other conclusions, the Hovindites are demonstrating an almost tangible lack of connection between their God and reason.

The one point in their favor is that they are consistent. In this particular context, they are manifestly hostile to reason, so it’s only to be expected that they would profess to revere it as ordained by God, since that’s the most irrational thing they could say, given their attitude. Mind you, they’re probably nice folk, and I’ll bet that on other topics they’re even reasonable and intelligent. It’s only their faith that makes them, in PZ’s words, “prideful buffoons.” But that’s what non-reality-based faith will do to you.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    grahammartinroyle

    Which god? Even if the Hovindites were correct with their assumptions, they haven’t proven which god they’re referring to.

    1. 1.1
      typecaster

      This whole “Reason comes from God” line of argument is a standard part of presuppositionalist rhetoric. The rest of the argument is that only Christianity offers a coherent (that is, non-contradictory) system of morals, and therefore this is the sorting test that produces the Christian god as the source of reason and the One True Big Kahuna.

      It’s utter bollocks, of course. Christian morality does in fact contradict itself, and so is just as incoherent as the other systems they criticize. But they believe the claims of presuppositionalism completely, and why not? Deacon Duncan just showed us what their concept of ‘reason’ is, and how they apply it.

      The guys over at Reasonable Doubts did a couple of podcasts on the presuppositionalists a few weeks ago, and it was fascinating stuff.

  2. 2
    a miasma of incandescent plasma

    If reason comes from God, and reason leads to the conclusion that there is no God, then Hovindites have a choice: either they must rebel against God’s reason, or they must accept the conclusion that God wants them to be reasonable atheists.

    This is a fantastic thought. Thanks!

    1. 2.1
      Shaun Cromwell

      One implication of this is, of course, that the bible–and other revealed scriptures–could possibly be litmus tests instituted by God to determine credulity. A sort of quality control mechanism, used to to determine which of his creations are achieving minimum cognitive standards. Of course, I sincerely doubt this, but it intuitively seems like a better narrative than the confused attempts at reconciling the discrepancies between the various religious beliefs and reality.

  3. 3
    tynk

    Thus, they’re not only guilty of logical error, they’re actually sinning against God, according to their own assumptions.

    Unfortunately, this argument does not stand, according to their belief, god made the devil, but following him is a sin.

    1. 3.1
      Deacon Duncan

      Interesting. So according to this approach, it’s not only necessary, but actually desirable, to be irrational and ignorant, in order to be a better Christian. I want to say that they couldn’t possibly really believe this, and yet something cautions me not to be too optimistic about what people will and will not do in order to maintain their faith.

  4. 4
    Ahkoond

    When you see something complex and hard to understand, and seek to “explain” it by giving credit for it to some invisible supernatural power, without any verifiable connection between this power and the thing you’re trying to explain, that’s superstition.

    Reminds me of the discussion going on at the site of someone who calls himself “The Veridican”. He doesn’t understand instincts, therefore god. http://www.veridican.com/2012/04/19/instincts-prove-gods-existence/

  5. 5
    Steerpike

    If reason is indeed ordained by God, then it is a sin to be superstitious, because superstition is illogical and fallacious.

    And with that, God disappeared in a puff of logic, like a fart in a fan factory…

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