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I guess I had it coming, Vox Day wants a fight!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 5, 2009

And I must oblige. It appears I have ruffled the feathers of one super-intelligent (at least according to him) Vox Day. Apparently my entry was lucky enough to attract his attention and not only that, but he felt like he had to reply and put me in my place. Well I can’t let a challenge go unanswered, now can I? What kind of run-of-the-mill atheist turns the other cheek? None that I know of. Se let the spanking begin.

First, Mr. Vox wants to take a shot at my challenge of his claim that they (religious) are more intelligent than us (atheists). While it is quite ridiculous to make that statement for any group in relation to any other group, nevertheless he clearly means to say that religious people are smarter than the atheists. Here is the original statement from his first entry (emphasis added):

This hasn’t yet made its way down to the run-of-the-mill internet atheists, whose primary form of “debate” still consists of calling people stupid despite the fact that all of the available evidence demonstrates rather conclusively that the objects of their ridicule are, as a point of fact, rather more intelligent than the atheist himself.

Which I immediately challenged, since we know well that there is no such evidence, thus he must be relying on some “unorthodox” (my exact word) definition of evidence. Mr. Vox took exception to that.

Logical and empirical evidence. Or, to be more specific, logical, documentary and statistical evidence. Let us consider the most readily available example: Since I am known to possess, at a bare minimum, a Mensa-required +2SD IQ, it is obvious that most of my atheist critics are statistically bound to fall well short of that not-terribly-impressive level.

Ok, ignoring the fact that, by the very same rules of statistics, so would most religious believers, it is quite ridiculously childish to argue that a sample of one constitutes evidence when one is comparing two groups as large as atheists and believers.  I am not American (although I have lived in this county for 10 years I learn new things about it every day) so I am not that familiar with IQ tests, nevertheless it is my understanding that regardless of your IQ score, stupid statements remain stupid statements, religious and atheists alike. A high IQ does not inoculate one from saying stupid stuff, now does it? And replying to a direct question of “where is the evidence you mention” by saying “sure there is evidence”  and leaving it at that without pointing to said evidence, does not do you much good on the stupid department.

Basically Vox thinks that “I think so” should be considered good evidence.  Well, personally I would expect something a little more firm such as say, at the very least, an article in a major wold newspaper, referring to some survey/study with a title of something like, oh I don’t know “Intelligent people ‘less likely to believe in God” perhaps? Or this one maybe? Now that is what I would  consider as evidence, but Vox’s word, unfortunately does not count. Sorry Vox but that’s just the way it is and it doesn’t matter how much you deny it, evidence will never be defined as one person’s word in any dictionary!

Now personally I must say that I consider this to be an exercise in futility because it is quite stupid to proclaim any group of people smarter than any other group of people, especially when the groups are not formed based on intelligence standards to begin with. There are very smart people that are atheists and there are very smart people that are religious, and then there are stupid people on both sides. Their level of intelligence is not at stake here though, even though Vox seems to want to make it about that. What is at stake is their behavior with respect to one issue and one issue only, belief in God. You could be an astrophysicist and still believe in God. I don’t know how you’d rationalize that, but whatever, it’s your choice. But I can’t help but call you stupid if you say something stupid in an attempt to defend your belief, solely because you happen to be quite smart when astrophysics is concerned. Smart people do stupid stuff all the time and guess what their stupid actions are called….stupid.

It is, of course, amusing to see an atheist suggest that I might elect to make use of an unorthodox definition of evidence, when almost every single atheist claim that “there is no evidence for God’s existence” requires ignoring the standard definitions of evidence provided by every English language dictionary from American Standard to Webster as well as the definitions used in the American legal system.

No Mr Day, having strict standards for evidence is not a shortcoming of skeptics and atheists as you would like to suggest, at the contrary it is a virtue. Some very intelligent men have said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and is there a more extraordinary claim than God? Vox uses the typical strategy of most anti-scientists, more specifically trying to use the everyday use definitions of certain words in an effort to minimize or avoid the more rigorous requirements that a scientific approach demands. Ever heard the “it’s just a theory” slogan? Vox is doing the same here with the word evidence. And why stop at the American legal system I wonder? Why not look at other legal systems? How about Sharia? How about evidence from a woman is half as good as evidence from a man. Maybe we should look into that?

The evidence that Vox has in mind is useless, for that same “evidence” can be applied to any God that ever lived (figure of speech of course). Does that make you a Muslim Vox? Does this mean you believe in Allah? Surely the evidence the Muslims present for him is no less than the evidence  you think you are presenting for your God, so which hypothesis does this evidence support? Which God? Evidence that supports no hypothesis or all hypotheses is not good evidence at all. Surely, you must know that.

Then Vox bravely takes on my hypocrisy charge. If you remember from my first entry I had said (apparently I misspelled the word hypocritical. Bummer!):

Bit hypocritital no? First he says that our primary form of “debate” is calling people stupid, which of course must be wrong, then he turns around and presents his argument/debate which basically amounts to nothing more than calling us fools. Now, I’m nothing but a mere run of the mill internet atheist, who is mentally inferior as demonstrated by all the available evidence, but this sort of reasoning sounds a little….well…..stupid foolish to me!

Vox obviously does not like that. Who likes to be called out on their hypocrisy? So he counters as such:

This is precisely the same sort of thing we have seen so often before. Call it the First Law Fandango. Because Skepdude possesses an above-average intelligence, he assumes that because he does not understand what an individual of superior intelligence has written, that individual and/or his reasoning must be stupid, foolish, hypocritical, etc. But there is a basic logical flaw in his errant attempt to find hypocrisy here, because it is eminently obvious – based on the readily available documentary evidence – that a single reference to a well-known Bible verse is neither a) an argument, nor b) my primary form of debate. So, no, not in the least bit hypocritical.

I posses an above-average intelligence? Thanks, that’s quite nice actually, but I guess this guy is quite trigger happy with compliments (he does refer to himself as an individual of superior intelligence after all), so I will take that with a grain of salt. Well thanks to my above-average intelligence I know that hypocrisy means preaching one thing and doing the opposite, such as for example complaining of one’s use of the word stupid while using the word fool yourself. That’s pretty straight forward, as far as I can tell and where you’re getting your words/ideas from (the Bible, the Quran, the Yellow Pages) makes no difference. See the hypocrisy lies in the conflict between what you say and what you do, not where what you say comes from. Come on, didn’t they have a section on hypocrisies on the IQ tests?

Even if I had been making an argument there in the second of those two sentences – which I was not, I was merely offering scriptural support for my assertion that atheism has been around for a very long time and will probably always exist so long as there is conceptual space for it – a single argument does not dictate any specific form of debate, much less define my primary form of debate.

He’s right that I was too generous to use the words argument and debate, it would have been more accurate to say his statement, so I guess I stand corrected on semantics there. Nevertheless, let us look at the specific sentence in his original post:

Atheism will always exist. As it is written, there have always been fools who have said in their hearts that there is no God.

So did he make an assertion that atheism has been around for a long time? Sure he did. But did he not also call all atheists fools? See it is right there, in the middle of the second sentence. He is paraphrasing the Bible, but it is clear, I think, that this is a statement that he agrees with. How do I know he accepts what the Bible says on the issue? Because he is using that paraphrased verse to support his statement, namely that “Atheism will always exist”. You don’t use an untrue statement to support your own claim now do you? So I don’t know why Vox is embarrassing himself implying that he doesn’t think we’re all fools over here. I don’t know what Vox is thinking. Pointing at claim/statement #1 does not negate that you made claim/statement #2.

So to recap, Vox Day did not address my specific challenge of where this evidence of his that shows the regligious to be more intelligent than us. Instead he gave us what I am going to call (and trademark) as the Argument From My Awesomeness. Then he proceeded to make a complete buffon out of himself by claiming that saying on his blog that we are fools somehow does not mean that he’s saying on his blog that we are fools (a stance he must take I think if he is to even try to not to look hypocritical). Instead, as usual with anti-scientists,  you get rhetoric, dancing around the questions and some failed attempts at humor. The fact remains that his original claim that “all of the available evidence demonstrates rather conclusively that the objects of their ridicule are, as a point of fact, rather more intelligent than the atheist himself” is as unsupported one entry later as it was when he first made it. I am still waiting for Mr. Day to be generous enough and point us to this evidence so we may evaluate it for ourselves.

Ball’s on your cort Vox.

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  1. Beelzebub said, on April 6, 2009 at 8:01 AM

    On a technical point I’d like to submit that perhaps both sides of this issue are incorrect or at least misguided, respectfully used. I don’t believe that who the psalm meant by “fool” can reasonably be translated to “atheist,” simply because, whether we’re talking BCE or BC, we are certainly talking about the ancient world here, and there simply were no atheists extant at that time, surely non that were making bald assertions about atheism. Religious belief was near universal; those non-religious were of decidedly short lifespan. What the psalm probably meant was that the fool says there is no (substitute your favorite Greek word for God here), which fits with the “my dad is stronger than your dad” God-contest that was prevalent in the day.
    Remember, in our modern age — and perhaps throughout the ages — the Bible has been used in a contemporary framework, and hardly ever fitting the contemporaneous framework in which it was composed. Vox Day’s ego is stroked by his supposition that an ancient text verifies what he himself believes, even erroneously. It’s vintage Vox Day.

    • Skepdude said, on April 6, 2009 at 9:30 AM

      Beelzebub,

      Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

      I think it is clearly meant to meant unbelievers, even though at the time the term atheist may have not existed. I don’t find it particularly significant that there may not have been atheists making bold assertions.

      Regardless of the historical context though, at least in our day and age this is almost universally interpreted to mean nonbelievers by most people.

      PS: I am having a hard time buying the whole Greek God versus christian God theory. Maybe there is some historical background that I miss here, but regardless it is clear in what context Vox is using it anyway and I am taking issue with what he’s saying not necessarily how we should interpret the Bible.

  2. Daniel said, on April 6, 2009 at 8:12 AM

    I don’t think he was saying the religious in general are more intelligent than the irreligious. I believe he’s talking specifically of atheists who attack religious commenters by calling them specifically stupid. At least that’s how I read this:

    This hasn’t yet made its way down to the run-of-the-mill internet atheists, whose primary form of “debate” still consists of calling people stupid despite the fact that all of the available evidence demonstrates rather conclusively that the objects of their ridicule are, as a point of fact, rather more intelligent than the atheist himself.

    See, he’s talking about “debate”, a specific tactic of “calling people stupid” and “objects of their ridicule.” All this suggests cases where someone is being singled out, rather than ridiculing the religious in general.

    This is also supported by the fact that he is using himself as an example, but NOT claiming he is representative of the religious in general.

    • Skepdude said, on April 6, 2009 at 9:38 AM

      Daniel,

      I see your point, nevertheless my main issue with Vox as my last paragraph states is this: What is this evidence he’s talking about?

      Furthermore, he’s not talking about a subset of atheists, he’s talking about what he calls “Run-of-the-mill” internet atheists, which is also me, so I take that as a personal attack. Now had he said something along the lines of “Those atheists that use this specific technique” sure, he would have had a probably unassailable point, there are stupid people on both sides.

      Also let us not discount someone’s arguments solely because he uses the word stupid. I submit the use of the word stupid is warranted and justified at times. If all one does is go around calling people stupid, sure there’s no merit in there, but if one makes a coherent case and calls out stupid actions/people for what they are, then I accept that without any problems.

      Most Christians would very quickly use the word stupid, or fool, to describe someone who was an honest Pastafarian.

      My point though remains, where is the evidence that Vox so confidently boasts supports his claim that “the objects of their ridicule are, as a point of fact, rather more intelligent than the atheist himself.”? Let’s not get sidetracked here, that is the main issue. Plus the hypocrisy charge which he would be hard pressed to discount, without looking…well kinda foolish.

    • Skepdude said, on April 6, 2009 at 9:43 AM

      PS: He is using himself as the representative of the religious in general, because he used himself as an example of said evidence about the “objects of their ridicule are, as a point of fact, rather more intelligent than the atheist himself.” Unless he has these self-agrandizing dreams of being one of the few that the run-of-the-mill internet atheists are after.

      Personally from what’ I’ve seen, atheist bloggers mainly go after specific behaviors rather than people. Of course we criticize people for holding those beliefs, but at least based on my experience, the act of believing is what is labeled “stupid” more often than the believer himself, unless of course the believer engages in stupid behavior.

      • Daniel said, on April 9, 2009 at 12:34 AM

        I don’t think he’s using himself as the representative of the religious in general. I think he’s pointing to specific incidents where atheists impugned his intelligence and/or that of some other theistic writers – theists with inarguably high intelligence. I don’t believe he thinks atheists are “after” him in general – rather I think he’s talking about actual verifiable events.

        Perhaps you and he have experience with two different subsets of atheists. I’ve read a fair amount of the comments at his blog, where atheists do sometimes drop in and, contrary to your experience, they very blatantly DO call him stupid – not his choice of belief, but him.

        Some of them can’t type in coherent sentences.

  3. Beelzebub said, on April 7, 2009 at 2:28 AM

    No, what I meant by that was that the NT, written originally in Greek, would say that the fool would disbelieve in the Christian God denoted by a Greek word. Sorry, not your fault, as I now realize that’s hopelessly obscure. They would probably be pitting their god against the Jewish God, Roman gods and sundry pagan gods. By then the Greek gods, I think, were dead or subsumed by the Roman gods.

    • Beelzebub said, on April 7, 2009 at 2:30 AM

      I should have made this a reply to Skepdude’s 9:30AM comment.

  4. [...] Posts I guess I had it coming, Vox Day wants a fight!We knew this was going to happenNew “Knowing” Film Based on Numerology and Bible Code [...]

  5. CrypticLife said, on April 8, 2009 at 7:20 PM

    As VD was, in the argument, specifically referencing people such as Dinesh D’Souza, I assumed he was talking about religious people of that caliber rather than religious people generally. While it may be true that some of those people have higher IQ’s than the average atheist, IQ is a complex subject that only the most inane use as evidence in an argument about anything other than IQ. Regardless, it’s unimportant: even if IQ were particularly useful, it serves no purpose to refrain from critiquing any argument just because of your opponent’s score on a test. And Vox of all people should realize that decrying your opponent as stupid is nothing more than rhetoric.

    My main beef with VD isn’t that he’s not smart, because he clearly is. He’s also slipshod, though. He employs specious statistical arguments liberally, mixing comparisons and making unwarranted leaps from one statistic to another, and then interpreting the results in the way he intended at the outset of his mathematical journey.

    My problem here, though, is with his definition of “evidence”. Sure, he uses the dictionary definition of evidence (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=evidence). But if you take a look at that definition, it’s hardly what most people actually mean when they refer to evidence. Technically, “evidence” could be anything anyone uses to make a determination on the truth of any matter, whether they’re right or not. Given that kind of definition, the fact that a jet of water doesn’t pass through us could be evidence that we’re made out of plastic. He then throws in the idea of “legal” evidence, which is slightly more strict: any fact which tends to (presumably objectively) favor one conclusion over another. He ignores, however, that there are strict rules for legal evidence — rules that would make the sources he desires legally inadmissible as evidence.

    I keep Vox in my feed reader because I sometimes find him amusing to read. I did like his “The Irrational Atheist” a bit better than I thought I might, particularly where he hypothesizes about life being essentially an MMPORPG and his explanation of omniderigence, which is about as nice an attempt at reconciling the concept of free will and omniscience as any I’ve heard.

  6. the bullcooker said, on April 9, 2009 at 1:49 AM

    Give it up, dude. Vox has played the only card he has in his hand, the “my opponents don’t even understand what I’ve written!” Literally every time anybody attacks him, he claims that they didn’t understand what he’s written.

    Now if it was just one or two people who didn’t understand what he’d written, fair enough. But it’s obviously never occurred to him that if every single one of your critics – and indeed, some of your supporters – consistently fails to understand your arguments, there are two possibilities in play:

    1. Your thinking is muddy and unclear.
    2. You are a really, really shitty writer.

    • CrypticLife said, on April 9, 2009 at 3:21 PM

      3. You are being deliberately misleading.


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