Proof of God: Acknowledgements


In absolutely no order, I must give thanks to:

  • [names]
  • Brandie and Zane, for helping debug some of my thoughts.
  • Daniel Dennett, who’s book “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” tipped me off to Hume’s near-discovery of evolution.
  • Paul Buller, who accidentally helped me improve my section on the Cosmological proof.

How To Read This Book

Experienced readers may find themselves somewhat bored with this book. I’ve done my best to come up with novel arguments, but this territory is very well trafficked. If you find yourself nodding off or intimidated by the scope of this book, there’s no harm in skipping ahead. You can always come back later if need be.

If instead you find yourself short on time, or with no desire to wade through proofs you’ve heard multiple times before, here’s what I recommend:

  • Read at least the last chapter. It makes more sense if you read the Introduction first, but experienced readers should be able to puzzle out what they missed.
  • Hop around through the rest of the chapters as you fancy. Beyond the beginning and end, this book has a very non-linear structure and sometimes refers to previous or future chapters to support a point. Take advantage of that to graze along as you find the time and desire. I recommend skimming the chapters on Fine Tuning, Design, and Popularity, in particular.


Any writer that discusses science faces this dilemma: should I use scientific notation, or not?

As an example, I can write the speed of light as 299,792,458 metres per second, or as 3.00 • 108 metres per second. The little exponent piggybacking the 10 tells you how zeros to tack on to the right of the decimal place to get to the true value. If that exponent is negative you head left, unsurprisingly; our eyes are most sensitive to light that has a wave length of 0.000000555, or 555 • 10-9, metres.

Scientific notation is much shorter than the conventional way, which seems like a clear advantage, but it also tends to obscure the true scale of large numbers. The difference between 2.0 • 1010 and 6.0 • 1014  seems bigger than the difference between 7.0 • 1018 and 9.0 • 1018, until you do the maths: the first is a difference of 599,980,000,000,000, while the second is 2,000,000,000,000,000,000. Human beings are lousy with large numbers, and the exponent in scientific notation makes that an order of magnitude worse.

The sheer bulk of conventional numbers creates its own problem, however: all those extra digits make them look more accurate than they really are. For instance, the size of the visible universe is 880,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 metres across. That looks extremely precise, but in reality we’re only confident of the first three digits. All but the first zero is mere padding to get those digits into the right place, and yet there’s no good way to remove the excess fluff.

The same number in scientific notation is 8.80 • 1026. The precision is so easy to convey that it’s intuitive!

On the balance, I prefer to waste a little space to give you a better feel for how large some numbers are, so long as the zeros don’t get too crazy. Just be aware that the first two or three digits are usually the only accurate ones. [1]

My next problem is one of capitalization.

Christianity has decided that their god shall be called God, and can get rather snippy if you don’t fall into line. Yet God is but one of many gods that have existed through the ages, and in this book I’m aiming at a definition of god that encompasses them all. Given the choice of offending Christians by not capitalizing the word god, or offending other religions by implying their Gods are really just the Christian one, I’ve decided to go with the majority. Sorry, Christians, but I don’t mean offence by it, and if I do talk about your god in particular I’ll be sure to make liberal use of the Shift key.

There’s also the problem of pronouns. The Christian God is a “He,” which is both a generic pronoun and a male-specific one. Hindu gods have a definite gender, and some can also be considered a “she.” Deists roll their eyes at the suggestion of a physical shape to their god, let alone a gendered human-like one, so “it” is most appropriate. Satisfying everyone is impossible, so I’ve decided to satisfy no-one and freely interchange all of them.

While apologizing for my apologetics, I should also ask for forgiveness from polytheistic religions. To save my poor typing fingers, I’ll frequently refer to god in the singular. I’m fully aware of the possibility of multiple gods, and all my arguments should succeed or fail equally well in that framework, but it gets annoying to continually write “god or gods.” Again, no slight is intended.

Speaking of other religions, atheists are commonly criticized for focusing on one religion and ignoring all others. I’ve tried hard to avoid that.

[1] But not always. In 1983, the Comité International des Poids et Mesures decided to define the metre as exactly 1 / 299,792,458th of how far light travels through a vacuum in one second.

Proof of God: Table of Contents


Proof of God




How To Read This Book




Three Objections




Whither Proofs?

Gotta Catch Them All


Proof from First Cause, or the Cosmological Proof

Golden Oldies

Because I Said So


Hume’s Trip to the Pole


There Are No Stupid Questions

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World


Absolutely Nothing

So Bad It’s Not Even Wrong


Proof from Logical Necessity, or the Ontological Proof

No Really, It’s Quite Popular With Some People


Existence is not Great

The Triumph of Irrationality


Kant-er Arguments

Gödel’s Proof, and the Problem of Infinity

The Proof that God Does Not Exist


Proof from Intelligence



Divine Gift or Solvable Mystery?

Cogs in the Machine



Problem Solving

Mathematics and Logical Thinking


Visual Processing


Intrapersonal and Self-Awareness


Spatial Reasoning

Tool Use





Long-Range Planning



Cross-species Altruism




So What’s Left?


Proof from Logic and Dualism

The Connection to Reality

Confirming The Obvious


Elegant, According to Whom?




The Limits of Logic


You’ve Got to Have Soul!


Proof from Morality

Moral Quandaries


Two Big Objections


Social Animals

The First Game


The Golden Rule



Fuzzy Logic

The Monkey Wrench


Proof from Design, or the Teleological Proof

Cranes and Skyhooks


A Hat Tip to Mandelbrot

(30, 31, 32)

Evolution and Chaos

Baby Steps to a Light-Sensitive Patch…

Take A Chance


I Fought The Law

Death by a Thousand Cuts


Proof from Popularity

Bridge Jumping

Judgement Day

The Ascent of Religion


Over-active Pattern Matching



Social Attachment

Fear of Death

How Religion Started



Proof of God: Context

I used to own this little Palm device. The thing was a decade old when I got it, and the on-screen keyboard was scarred by the continual tap-tap-tap of a stylus. I had to find just the right pressure to register a letter; sometimes, it would register the wrong one and I’d be forced to stop, try to reposition the cursor with the stylus, delete the offending letter without adding more, and finally right that wrong. As the screen required manual calibration, typing the wrong letter was unfortunately common. It made writing tedious.

And yet, during rare moments of downtime, I would solemnly tap away at the thing. Some days I could manage a hundred words, and in the evenings I would pop out the SD card (the docking station was broken, if I recall) and copy those hundred words into their proper place in Proof of God.

If my timestamps are correct, I started writing that book on December 21st, 2009. I’m a bit surprised it was so recent, but maybe the Palm distorted my sense of time. Back then, I thought there was a hole in the atheist literature; while a decent number of books on apologetics existed, they struck me as shallow. No one seemed interested in gathering a comprehensive list of counter-proofs, and everyone assumed that Christianity was the only religion out there.

I think I was also trying to better understand religion. Weird fact: I didn’t believe in belief until well into my adulthood. Don’t get me wrong, I’d briefly see preachers on TV when flipping to cartoons, and I’d been in churches and read a few Bible stories. But the stories were too fantastic to be taken seriously, so I thought they persisted because people wanted to ground themselves in the past. If times were tough, remind yourself that you’ve survived a lot worse before and you’ll feel better. None of my circle expressed religious belief, so I thought society had long since shed those false beliefs and moved on.

It was only when I spent time with a true believer outside my bubble that I realised I’d been in one. Naturally that led to a desire to catch up on what I’d missed, and that led to the study of why people believed in their religion. And once my head had filled with arguments and counter-arguments, it made sense to start typing them out to clarify things.

While the date I started Proof of God is murky, the date I stopped is not: August 4th, 2013. I’d decided to leave the boring parts until last, which sapped my desire to write. The citation-heavy style I prefer created a maintainence headache. But above all, my answer for why people believed was leading me to an unsettling conclusion: people believed in religion to discriminate against others and get ahead in life, albeit unconsciously. The arguments for belief were just a conscious smokescreen for that discrimination, which made a book devoted to them seem useless.

In hindsight, I was also getting cynical about the atheist community. The odd beliefs of the devout seemed far less shocking when I started running into skeptics who doubted climate change and couldn’t wrap their heads around consent. Atheists could pick apart the finer details of the Watchmaker argument, yet struggle to understand feminism. Believing in nonsense seemed to be a fundamental part of being human, and wouldn’t go away if every religious person deconverted. The revelation took more wind out of my sails, and seeded a complex set of feelings about the skepto-atheist community.

If I seem somewhat dour, take heart. Proof of God also led me to some novel atheist apologetics, which I quietly continue to pursue. The introduction and conclusion we’re the first time I expressed those ideas in writing. I’m proud of other chapters too, and several years ago vowed to blog them should I wind up on FtB.

Well, here I am. And here it is, in small bits twice weekly. To make random access easier, my next post in the series will be a table of contents that’s updated as I go.

The Odds of Elvis Being an Identical Twin

This one demanded to be shared ASAP. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Identical or monozygotic twins occur in roughly four births per 1,000.
  2. Fraternal or dizygotic twins occur in roughly eight births per 1,000.
  3. Elvis Prestley had a twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, that was stillborn.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume sex is binary and split 50/50, despite the existence of intersex fraternal twins. What are the odds of Elvis being an identical twin? The answer’s below the fold.

[Read more…]

The Odds of Elvis Being an Identical Twin?

This one demanded to be shared ASAP. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Identical or monozygotic twins occur in roughly four births per 1,000.
  2. Fraternal or dizygotic twins occur in roughly eight births per 1,000.
  3. Elvis Prestley had a twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, that was stillborn.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume sex is binary and split 50/50, despite the existence of intersex fraternal twins. What are the odds of Elvis being an identical twin? The answer will pop up on my blog in two days.

Welcome to The Community

I’m a long-time lurker. I prefer to sit back and skim through comment sections, passively absorbing, and over the years I’ve seen a fair number. After a while, you start to get a feel for their dynamics. Typically, a blog post plays out something like this:

  1. Blog author posts something.
  2. Long-time commenters pop by with their two cents.
  3. Their chatter starts to wander off topic.
  4. Someone pops by with a strong opinion that’s vaguely off-topic.
  5. This kicks up an argument, which gets ugly and spirals away from what the original post discussed.

There are exceptions, of course; endless threads have no topic to wander off of, and if the thread is obscure and the topic well-defined the comments can stay topical indefinitely. The comment community plays a large role in this, too. A small band of thoughtful regulars are a blogger’s dream, while a large number of over-opinionated randos can (and often do) ruin any thread. If acrimony starts to trump argument, even a small community can turn dysfunctional.

It doesn’t help that our tools are few, blunt and prone to breaking. Voting systems can be gamed, while banning users or keywords is an all-or-nothing affair that barely works. Allowing comments for a limited window sounds great, but it doesn’t allow the regulars to build up much of a conversation. Banning all comments kills off the local community.

Aaaaand that’s about the extent of it. Maybe someday I’ll create a browser plugin that provides a personal ranking system, which automatically mutes or even hides users based on how you’ve rated their prior comments, but that’s low in my queue.

How am I going to encourage that small, thoughtful community to form? Here’s my current plan:

  • Regular blog posts don’t allow comments, unless justified by the contents. This prevents comment threads from spiraling away.
  • The “Community” post is an endless thread. Only one of them is active at a time.
  • To provide a little structure, links to the regular blog posts will get dropped into the Community post as they go public. These can be ignored.
  • The Community post will be linked somewhere along the side menu, but it won’t otherwise be advertised. This should keep the randos to a minimum, but without throwing out regulars too.
  • The top of the Community post will outline the moderation rules in play. Those rules stay consistent over the lifetime of the Community post. If I want a significant change, the current Community post is locked and a new one is created. The new will link to the old, and vice-versa.

The first Community post is the one you’re reading right now.

The initial mod rules are fairly ill-defined and flexible, to keep the rules lawyers at bay. My guiding principle is to maximize information; it takes time and energy to read a comment, so you should try to convey as much as possible, as clearly as possible, in the least space. Critiques beat opinions, evidence wins over assertion. Strict enforcement of that doesn’t work with endless threads, but it’s still the ideal you should keep in the back of your mind.

The corollary is another matter, though: quit it with the oppressive language. If you lack the creativity to think up an alternative to “crazy,” you shouldn’t be posting here. Violence in any form is a no-no, and both stalking and harassment are low-grade forms of violence.

Speaking of which, I’d like to swipe an idea from football. They have a carding system to handle misconduct, which I think works in this context too. If you’re handed a yellow card, that’s a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. A red card gets you banned from this thread, though not the entire blog. A black card is a permanent ban.

Got it? Then game on!

Sex, Donald Trump, and Videotape

Goddammit, I don’t have the time to write this. But if I don’t stop and put the analysis floating in my head to photons, I’ll itch about it for days.

First off, I need to lay down a trigger warning for sex, Donald Trump, and videotape. Because this happened:

The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump.

Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.

Second, there’s a chance these claims are false. I wouldn’t rate this scenario as likely, though…
The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm. His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.

The documents have circulated for months and acquired a kind of legendary status among journalists, lawmakers, and intelligence officials who have seen them. Mother Jones writer David Corn referred to the documents in a late October column. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not stood them up or knocked them down.

Reddit’s r/The_Donald users pointed to an anonymous 4chan post from Nov. 1, exactly one week before the election, that Redditors say proves “/pol/ really invented this rumor” involving Trump’s alleged business and personal ties to Russia. […]

[Rick] Wilson dismissed all of r/The_Donald and 4chan’s claims in a tweet on Tuesday night. “You’re wrong if you believe 1. What we had came from /pol 2. That I was Buzzfeed’s source. Try again, boys,” he wrote. “The information was out there looooong before the 4chan posts,” he replied to another user.

Reached by phone earlier in the evening, Wilson told The Daily Beast that the Russian allegations were “making the rounds before anyone talked about it publicly.” He said that they were being discussed as early as a year and a half ago.

… but stranger things have happened.
Third, what’s left out is as important as what’s left in. Trump’s called a sexual pervert, but there’s no mention of what acts he personally engaged in. Did he join in the fun? Or just sit back and watch? It’s not terribly relevant, though; fake news cuts both ways, and even the most charitable interpretation says Trump done wrong.
Fourth, there’s the question of how Trump’s followers will react. This one’s pretty easy: he’ll lose maybe five to ten approval points, but most of his fans will just brush this off as fake news. His transition may have the lowest approval rating of any in recent memory, but that’s when you average across the whole country. When you break down by party affiliation, though, Republicans rate him within a hair of George Bush Jr. A few may even like Trump more. Defiling a bed the Obamas slept on? Damn, that’s hardcore hate.
Fifth, we have Trump himself. He’s thought to be unshameable, but I don’t think that’s quite true. His vengeful nature is frequently treated as a show of dominance, but I think it’s really papering over weakness. He can’t stand to be criticized or ridiculed. So if the entirety of Twitter is mocking him, this has to be one of the worst moments of his life.

@realDonaldTrump (Donald J. Trump)

Retweets: 18,191; Likes: 50,597
7:19 PM – 10 Jan 2017

The Trump brand will take another hit, hurting him in what may be his weakest spot.

Sixth, there’s the media. The mainstream is actually in a bit of a bind; they have to maintain a PG rating to reach the masses, which means they can’t go into detail about the report, but without those details the full impact will be blunted. It’ll come across as just another contested fact, the “unverified” angle will dominate the coverage, and people will entrench instead of change their minds. Social media, however, can get as nasty as it wants. The allegations are nearly perfect for going viral, so this could ring across the internet for a very, very long time.

Seventh, and the main reason why I’m writing this, is that the President of the US is also the Commander-in-Chief of the military. They’re a rather proud and patriotic group of people, sworn to defend the US against a foreign enemy. So if any of them read this…

Speaking separately in June 2016, Source B (the former top level Russian intelligence officer) asserted that TRUMP’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities there with enough embarrassing material on the now Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.

… their definition of “foreign enemy” might expand a bit.

Eighth, Trump isn’t President yet. He can’t be impeached. He’s already been elected by the Electoral College. I’m not an expert here, I’ll admit, but the only way I know of to prevent Trump from becoming President is if he agrees to step down first. That would be an admission of guilt on his part, and ain’t likely. This leaves the US in an odd legal limbo, where nothing can happen… until Trump takes the oath of office, after which anything can happen.

Ninth, there’s the Kremlin. There was quite a bit of debate about whether or not they were trying to get Trump into office, hurt Clinton, or just throw a monkey wrench into US politics. Eichenwald claims that they stopped promoting Trump when it looked like that “grab’em” video would sink his campaign; if that’s true, and it’s also true they have kompromat on him, it might signal they’d intentionally leak said video to throw the US into further chaos. Currently, though, the sources most likely to be pushing Russian propaganda are taking the “fake news” and “4chan did it” angles.

Tenth, we have the Republican party. Their loyalties are currently tugged a million ways to Sunday. Most of them are at least tolerant of Trump, given how quickly many of them backtracked after denouncing Trump over the aforementioned video. But most of them are also suspicious of Russia. Most have similar views as the military. Some of them have read this report. At best, they’ll have to endure this humiliation and a wave of angry voters demanding an investigation. At worst, they have the choice of tossing Trump under the bus, alienating a large group of voters, or let this scandal spread like a cancer through their party.

So, what does all this add up to? Here’s what I figure: the next ten days are going to be some of the messiest politics we’ve seen in the US. There are going to be a lot of heated meetings behind closed doors, trying to figure out what do on or before Inauguration Day. Trump is going to stick with denials, and wait until he is sworn in; after which, a swift purge of the Republican party is his probable first move given his current actions. The Kremlin will probably continue saying there is no kompromat. The Democrats aren’t going to change course.

The real wild cards here are the military and the Republican party. The military seems to think Trump is unfit for command, overall, but also supported him over Clinton. It’s not clear how they’ll take this leak. Will the Republicans, afraid the military would take matters into their own hands or this scandal will drag them down, invoke Amendment 25 and put Pence in charge? Will they blow the report off, and join Trump in dismissing the findings of the USIC, risking even more leaks from disgruntled spooks? These two players are the ones who’ll determine how this scandal plays out.

Watch them carefully.

main = print(“Hello World”)

I’ve been wanting to blog here for years, but I always wound up being crushed by schoolwork or distracted by personal life. Eventually I got sick of perpetually putting it off, and forced myself to apply. I’d figure out a way to make it work.

And, as you can see, I’m now blogging here!

And up to my eyeballs in schoolwork.

And with more demands on my free time than ever before.

But! I have a plan.

See, the nice thing about being a slightly-paranoid Computer Scientist is that you tend to keep a low profile. My previous blogging isn’t well known, and the rest of my back catalog ranges from “seen by five people” to “never been shared publicly.” I can easily pad this space with old material until I can come up for air. This is especially perfect, because while my contemporary writing is all about the replication crisis and angrily shouting at fools, my older work was more about atheist apologetics. I have a decently-sized book that I gave up on writing, all about the subject, and it led me to a set of arguments that I haven’t seen anyone else develop. That is book-worthy, but there’s no harm in workshopping it until I can properly put fingers to keyboard.

In the meantime, I should also get cracking at a comment policy. Years of lurking in comment threads have left me with… opinions on the matter. That’s for a future post, though.

I suppose some of you are wondering about the name. Funny, despite the whole “wanting to blog” thing I’ve never been able to decide on a proper blog name. I’ve held on to a catchy subtitle for years (“/dev/random, unless I make a hash of it”), but a title? No clue, no idea, nothing ever came to mind. Forced to come up with one at long last, I did what came naturally.

> while :; do echo `egrep 'te$' /usr/share/dict/words | perl -e 'rand($.)<1 and ($line=$_)while<>;print$line'` \
     `perl -e 'rand($.)<1 and ($line=$_)while<>;print$line' /usr/share/dict/words` ; done | less

xanthosiderite koa
Brooklynite lull
adeste reclamatory
bipunctate abevacuation
disrelate seewee
Epirote Cobden
hemisaprophyte parcel-guilty
camote danda
catastate Westphalian
ingurgitate ephelis
sommite soilures
inseminate rabies
pianoforte stabbed
preconstitute tanistry
Bonaparte intermodification
decapitate philohellenian
Marette Sharona
swinecote prefictional
miaskite Egbert
subprofessorate eosphorite
protectorate soogan
portmanmote morosities
indicolite saiyids
Marguerite hoidening
repromulgate pandemoniacal
barytocelestite alloxy
umbraculate Post-devonian
desecate white-rumped
landgate twice-canvassed
killinite pyrogallate
cycadophyte Englishable
lautarite buffoons
bipunctate tar
merocerite pencels
echelette Borak
odorate overcultivated
Parbate Perrins
amphodelite lethalize
hesperidate Lemosi
zonociliate implosively
Jacquette reimbushment
tricussate Reisinger
alunite high-hatty
archeocyte unimpatiently
montroydite roband
orcanette panstereorama
julienite unorchestrated
fulminurate pro-Sweden
Bathinette Piraeus
cassate unfeigning
lowigite dolos
lyddite intersomnial
delate hepatised
alienigenate perscribe
emporte zoroastra
hemimorphite off-put
hypoantimonate ambrosia
nonconfederate hotfoot
exonerate nonfuturition
reprobate spreadsheet

The algorithm hath spoken!

Steven Pinker, Crank

At least he doesn’t start out that way.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in an isolated system (one that is not taking in energy), entropy never decreases. … Closed systems inexorably become less structured, less organized, less able to accomplish interesting and useful outcomes, until they slide into an equilibrium of gray, tepid, homogeneous monotony and stay there.

For a non-physicist, it’s a decent formulation. It needs more of a description of entropy, though. In computer science, we think of it as how much information is or could be packed into an space. If I have a typical six-sided die, I can send you a message by giving it to you in a specific configuration. If I just ask you to look at a specific side, there are only six unique states to send a message with; if I also ask you to look at the orientation of the other sides, I can bump that up to twenty-four. I can’t send any more information unless I increase the number of states, or get to send multiple die or the same die multiple times. Compression is just transforming a low-entropy encoding into a high-entropy one, saving some time or space.

The physics version is closely related: how many ways can I shuffle the microscopic details of a system while preserving the macroscopic ones? If you’re looking at something small like a computer circuit, the answer is “not many.” The finely-ordered detail can’t be tweaked very much, and still result in a functional circuit. In contrast, the air above the circuit can be mixed up quite a bit and yet still look and act the same. Should a microscopic fluctuation happen, it’ll be far more harmful to the circuit than the air, so when they do inevitably happen the result is a gradual breaking up of the circuit. Its molecules will be slowly stripped off and brought into equilibrium with the air surrounding it, which also changes but less so.

Still with me? Good, because Pinker starts to drift off..

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is acknowledged in everyday life, in sayings such as “Ashes to ashes,” “Things fall apart,” “Rust never sleeps,” “Shit happens,” You can’t unscramble an egg,” “What can go wrong will go wrong,” and (from the Texas lawmaker Sam Rayburn), “Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.”

That’s not really the Second Law, though. Pinker himself acknowledges that it only applies to closed systems, but anyone who’s looked up can attest that it isn’t. This comes up all the time in Creationist circles:

There is a mathematical correlation between entropy increase and an increase in disorder. The overall entropy of an isolated system can never decrease. However, the entropy of some parts of the system can spontaneously decrease at the expense of an even greater increase of other parts of the system. When heat flows spontaneously from a hot part of a system to a colder part of the system, the entropy of the hot area spontaneously decreases!

It’s bad enough that Pinker invokes a creationist-level understanding of physics, but he actually manages to make them look intelligent with:

To start with, the Second Law implies that misfortune may be no one’s fault. … Not only does the universe not care about our desires, but in the natural course of events it will appear to thwart them, because there are so many more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. Houses burn down, ships sink, battles are lost for the want of a horseshoe nail.

There is no “wrong” ordering of molecules in the air or a computer chip, only orderings that aren’t what human beings want. “Misfortune” is a human construct superimposed on the universe, to model the goal we strive for. It has no place in a physics classroom, and is completely unrelated to thermodynamics.

Poverty, too, needs no explanation. In a world governed by entropy and evolution, it is the default state of humankind. Matter does not just arrange itself into shelter or clothing, and living things do everything they can not to become our food. What needs to be explained is wealth. Yet most discussions of poverty consist of arguments about whom to blame for it.

Poverty is the inability to fulfill our basic needs. Is Pinker saying that, by default, human beings are incapable of meeting their basic needs, like food and shelter? Then he is effectively arguing we should have gone extinct and been replaced by a species which has no problems meeting its basic needs, like spiders or bacteria or ants. This of course ignores that economies are not closed systems, as the Sun helpfully dumps energy on us. Innovation increases efficiency and therefore entropy, which means that people who can’t gather their needs efficiently given what they have are living in a low entropic state.

But I thought entropy only increased over time, according to the Second Law? By Pinker’s own logic, poverty should not be the default but the past, a state that we evolved out of!

More generally, an underappreciation of the Second Law lures people into seeing every unsolved social problem as a sign that their country is being driven off a cliff.

Ooooh, I get it. This essay is just an excuse for Pinker to whine about progressives who want to improve other people’s lives. He thought he could hide his complaints behind science, to make them look more digestible to himself and others, but in reality just demonstrated he understands physics worse than most creationists.

What a crank. And sadly, that seems to be the norm in Evolutionary Psychology.

No, that is not a Sokal hoax; that is a legitimate paper published by two leading Evolutionary Psychologists! There must be something about the field that breeds smug ignorance…