It’s Camp, All Right

Ashby Camp, that is, who has written a new “study”, Answering The New Atheism (pdf). It is a predictable mix of quote-mining, special pleading, misrepresentation of science, false dichotomy, and more…

Camp does have a difficult task, though–he has to apply two completely different standards simultaneously. Science must be criticized even if one must misrepresent it to do so, and religion is assumed to be the only logical alternative if science falls short. This is a Gish Gallop of a piece, with all the surgical precision of a sawed-off shotgun.

My favorite part is “Evidence for the existence of God”. Camp argues against virtual particles, because it is essential to his first premise, that “everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence; it is brought into existence by something.” This, of course, is in support of “It is more reasonable to believe that a timeless, immaterial, spaceless, and immensely powerful personal being caused the universe to come into existence than to believe it came into existence uncaused from nothing.”

The fact that many (the majority, I believe, but it’s not my area) physicists completely comfortable with virtual particles is irrelevant; what is important is that there are quotes Camp can mine that show that science is not 100% behind the idea. And that’s good enough to cast doubt on the idea. It’s enough to say that the beginning of the universe must have had a beginning, and thus a cause, and a supernatural causal entity outside of time and space itself (though, in a bit of special pleading, apparently able to interact with time and space).

The next sentence is my favorite: “Now I don’t believe the Big Bang story is true because I’m convinced that many aspects of it are inconsistent with Scripture.”

Now, equal standards would maybe require Camp to examine whether other religious authorities are in 100% agreement about the infallibility of Scripture, whether religions have changed their interpretations over the years, whether historians are in agreement that the scriptures are divinely inspired.

But of course, equal standards would be a handicap–double standards are the rule.

Anyway, there’s some 61 pages of this, with fallacies and misrepresentations throughout. Big bang cosmology, evolution, objective morality, and nothing at all you have not seen before. But. It’s conveniently located in one big steaming pile, and as good an opportunity as any to practice your responses to Gish Gallop types of arguments. (plus, the odd numbering of paragraphs makes it easy to slice off a bit to address.)

I am leaving in a day or so, for a location where the extended family are proud of their lack of internet access. So take your time, chop off a piece, and wrestle it to the ground. There are any number of sites listing logical fallacies you can use for reference, and most of you are familiar enough with the names and theories involved.

Have fun!

I’ve examined evolution, and I think I understand
Though the evidence is shaky, still I think the theory’s grand
But it’s only just a theory, so it’s only just a start
And an open-minded person should try picking it apart.
No belief without a reason! Give me proof of what you claim!
And the more I look, the more I see the evidence is lame!
When considering a tangled bank, I choose to see God’s Laws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

Charles Darwin drew a picture of an ever-branching tree
From the earliest of creatures all the way to you and me
Other limbs produced the fishes, beetles, lizards, monkeys, ants,
Paramecia, bacteria, creationists and plants;
He supported it with evidence of every kind he could
Which I’ve critically examined, as a thinking person should;
Now I know that he’s mistaken in the picture that he draws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If you analyze it critically, as science says we must
You’ll find laws of physics broken, so the theory is a bust:
The second thermo-something law is busted into pieces
By the fact that evolution means that entropy decreases!
And random changes couldn’t make the creatures that we find,
So the evidence is clear, that we cannot be un-designed!
With castles out of playing-cards and armies made of straws
There’s the reason I believe it: Just because.

Now, with Darwin and his evolution clearly in the tank
There is only one alternative, if I am to be frank;
That’s the theory found in Genesis, the Holy Word of God,
And with natural selection out, creation gets the nod.
But we can’t be disrespectful to our deeply held belief,
So our critical examination, this time, must be brief
There’s no clothing on this emperor, not even filmy gauze—
But the reason I believe it? Just because.

Sure, the logic may be iffy, and the evidence is slim—
Who created the creator? And then, who created him?
Why the Genesis creation? Why not something else instead?
Can we guarantee the story is exactly what God said?
Is it literal or metaphor, or maybe outright fiction?
What’s the proper course of action when we find a contradiction?
I’m ignoring any nagging doubt within me where it gnaws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If I’m right, I go to heaven, which I’d really like to do
But I’ll go to hell for sure if I suspect that it’s untrue
It’s a simple little wager, there’s no reason to think twice:
You get punished if you’re naughty, you get presents if you’re nice
From the guy who watches all of us, from there behind his beard
(And who cares if it’s millennia since last time he appeared?)
And so, even if it’s really just a grown-up’s Santa Claus
Well, the reason I believe it? Just because.


  1. David Hart says

    “Creationists” are on an “other limb” from “you and me”.

    Feel the burn:-)

  2. Robert B. says

    In fact, according to the Standard Model, all four forces are mediated by virtual particles. For example, a “real” or non-virtual photon is a light wave, but a virtual photon is electromagnetic force. In other words, virtual particles literally bind the universe together. (The Standard Model, btw, is a theory in the same sense that evolution and relativity are, though the SM is probably incomplete. In other words, we’re on pretty solid ground here, scientifically speaking.)

    On the other hand, it’s also ridiculous to say that virtual particles come into being without a cause. They come into being because of the state and properties of the universal wave function, just like everything else. We plains apes may find this particular bit of causality hard to understand, but that’s not the universe’s fault. If the fundamental nature of the universe isn’t normal, than what is? It’s we who are strange.

  3. says

    Let me second what Robert says. My guess is that 99.9% of physicists are comfortable with virtual particles, and the other 0.1% are working on some way-out there theory that would make Camp even less comfortable.

  4. Randomfactor says

    And I must believe in heaven, must affirm my faith in hell
    for unfairness and true randomness the daily papers tell
    How the chance of someone dying in a senseless hail of lead
    All too often leaves the innocent unalterably dead.
    The Plan Divine’s so hard to grasp, though sure it must be lauded
    Though the vile are oft rewarded while their victims are defrauded.
    Seems no earthly fine is counted when the wealthy write the laws
    And the reason I believe it just? “Because.”

  5. says

    The existence of virtual particles is a direct consequence of the uncertainty principle. The uncertainty in the time of a measurement multiplied by the uncertainty in the energy is aways more than a very small constant.

    So, if empty space has exactly zero energy, the uncertainty is zero and we measure that energy over a short period the two uncertainties multiplied together are zero. Whoops, that’s not allowed.

    If we measure the energy of empty space over an infinite time, we are allowed to get exactly zero, but for shorter times, the uncertainty must be non-zero, which means the energy itself must be non-zero (but we don’t know by how much) and the shorter the time we measure over, the larger the uncertainty in energy until for very very short times the uncertainty in energy is more than the mass of a particle, so that particles exist for very short periods of time just to keep the books straight.

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