Thursday, July 28, 2016

Belief in God explained by Genetics?

(Adapted almost wholesale from John C Wrights blog)

...A friend argues that all religious belief and non belief could be explained and had to be explained through genetics. He stated that some people just had that religious inkling ingrained in them purely through genetics and others did not.

Any glaring or subtle flaws can be found in his process of reasoning?

Ironically, in asking his question this points out the very flaws in the argument that genetic predispositions, not facts, evidence, experience or reasoning, explains why men come to the conclusions they reach.

Listed in order logical links involved. The genetic fallacy is a specific type of ad hominem, where an assertion is made that a man’s origins, genes, astrological influences, upbringing, culture determine his conclusions and therefore the conclusion may be dismissed without being addressed.

All postmodern, leftwing... logic is an attempt to evade, elude, flee and cower from any arguments without addressing any points actually raised.

The utility of the genetic fallacy is that it makes no sense whatsoever, hence it can be used for all circumstances. One can say, ‘You are a man, and men commit most violent crimes, and therefore cannot be objective about the question of capital punishment’ with just as much ease one can say, ‘you are a women, and women commit few violent crimes, and therefore you cannot be objective about the question of capital punishment.’ It does not matter what term is substituted for ‘man’ or ‘woman’ or what topic is substituted for ‘capital punishment.’

In this case, there is just as much evidence, namely zero, and it would be just as irrelevant if any evidence did exist, which it does not, to say that theism is explained by genetics as to say belief in capital punishment is explained by genetics.

Here are the problems.

1) First, if your friend has a genetic predisposition to disbelieve in God, then  his disbelief is not based on reality, not based on evidence, it is merely a  chemical in his bloodstream effecting his thought. By that logic, no evidence  on this topic or any other is trustworthy.
He saws off the branch on which he is sitting. If beliefs are genetic, no  belief is based on evidence, not even the belief that beliefs are genetic. If  your friend truly believed beliefs were genetic, he would never argue about  it. You cannot argue a man into changing his genes.

2) Second, believers lose their faith and atheists convert every day of every  week of the year. Hence, the genetic predisposition for faith does not  actually control anything.
This is a classic example of a simple logical  fallacy of irrelevance. If you say the sunrise causes the rooster crow, or you say the  rooster crow causes the sunrise, both arguments are made nonsense once you see  sunrises without roosters calls and hear rooster calls without sunsets.

3) Third, Darwinian evolution presupposes that there is a variation with the  species, and that the trait is carried on genetically. In this case, there is  no variation: there is no race of man that lacks religious belief.

And, if the most successful race of man is the one with the religious belief,  then Darwinian logic says your friend is lowering his survival chances and the  survival chance of his posterity by embracing any other belief. If belief in  God is a genetic survival trait, disbelief is anti-survival.

4) Fourth, if belief were genetic, then whatever race of man had the trait, let  us say the Jews, would be entirely immune to religious belief, and another  race, let us say the Chinese, would be entirely vulnerable to religious  belief. Does this fit any observed facts?
Likewise, if belief were genetic, it should run in certain families and be  absent in others. Does this match with even a casual observation of the world  around him?

5) Fifth, you can tell him that the belief that Darwinian genetics can explain  human thought is a belief caused by a defective gene he inherited from his  ancestor, like colorblindness.

Tell him that, due to an unfortunate combination of genes, he is unable to  perceive the spiritual reality and moral reality all healthy minded humans  from the dawn of time have felt. Ask him to propose an argument against this position. Then, whatever argument  he uses, adopt it yourself to show that belief in God is not genetic.

6) Sixth, ask him whether or not real scientific theories can be disproved? For  example, Relativity would be disproved if light was measured to travel at  different speeds based on the speed of the observer. Newton would be disproved  if two objects dropping in a vacuum were pulled by gravity at different rates  of acceleration. Whereas a witchdoctor who does a rain dance, when the rain  does not come, merely assumes that more dancing in a better spirit is needed,  and he keeps dancing until eventually it rains. His theory of causes and  effects cannot be disproved, hence it is witchdoctory, not science.

Ask your friend to provide you with an experiment or observation that would  disprove his theory of the genetic basis of religious belief.

7) Seventh, if religion were proved to have a genetic basis, it has no bearing on  whether the issue is true or false. Colorbindness is genetic. Just because  some people can see colors and others cannot does not mean that all visible  light is of the same wavelength. The genes controlling the function of the eye  do not make light exist or cease to exist. Likewise, here. If some people are  genetically predisposed to see ghosts, or see whales, it does not mean that  one is real and the other is not real. There is no logical connection between  the assumption and the conclusion at all.

8) Eighth, if the genetic predisposition for religion did exist, how would it be  different from, for example, a genetic predisposition for a skill at math, or  an ear for music? Some people think more clearly than others about  metaphysical matters, and some people are better at math or composing operas  than others. Sometimes musical skill seems to run in a family, like the Bach  family. Other times it does not. Again, even if it were proved that an ability  to perceive spiritual reality were genetic, it would say nothing about the  reality of what was being perceived. It would not prove the perception were  accurate, nor would it prove the perception were inaccurate.

9) Ninth, ask him how precisely his belief that some men are prone to religion  due to genetics differs from the belief in astrology? I have heard that Libras  are all religious, due to being born in October. Is there even one observation  or experiment your friend can name which makes his theory more sound than the  theory of an astrologer?

See original at

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"The Powerful's" need for "the marginalized"

A snippet from R.R.Reno at First Things:

"To motivate their voter base, liberals have invested a great deal in identifying ever-new patterns of discrimination. Notions such as “microaggression” and “intersectionality” reflect second-wave (or is it third-wave?) liberation politics. They gain currency because of the law of political supply and demand. The twenty-first-century Democratic solidarity-in-marginality coalition is held together by anxieties about exclusion and domination by the “other,” which is to say by Republican voters. This ­creates a strong political demand for narratives of oppression, which liberal intellectuals are happy to supply. 

This dynamic operates most visibly at our universities, where well-off, mostly white liberals—the post-Protestant WASPs—rule. The legitimacy of this elite depends upon its commitment to “include” the “excluded.” It goes without saying that an Ivy League administrator must manage the optics very carefully to sustain “marginality” among the talented students who have gained admission. “Microaggression” and other key terms in the ever-­evolving scholasticism of discrimination thus play very useful roles. They renew the threats of discrimination and exclusion, and this reinforces the power of liberal elites. Their institutional ascendancy is necessary to protect and provide patronage to the “excluded.” I’m quite certain that if political correctness succeeds in suppressing “microaggressions,” we’ll soon hear about “nano-­aggressions.” The logic of solidarity in marginality requires oppression, and solidarity in marginality is necessary in order to sustain liberal power. 

Outside our universities, life is less theoretical and the rhetoric more demotic. The standard approach has been to renew solidarity in marginality by demonizing conservatives as racists, xenophobes, and “haters.” To maintain loyalty, the Democratic party incites anxiety about discrimination and exclusion. A form of reverse race-baiting, perhaps best thought of as bigot-baiting, has become crucial for sustaining the Democratic coalition, which is why we hear so much about “hate” these days. At the recent gay pride parade in New York, a few weeks after the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, marchers held aloft an avenue-wide banner that read, “Republican Hate Kills!” 

It’s important to remember a first law of politics for solidarity in marginality: Political success makes it harder and harder to sustain solidarity in marginality, and this leads to bigot-baiting. We’ve seen an increase of harsh denunciations, not in spite of progressive victories on issues like gay marriage, but because of them. When Obama became president, a superficial observer might have con­cluded that the election of a black man to the nation’s highest office would diminish the political currency of anti-­racist rhetoric. But this ignores the symbolic needs of the Democratic party. Black Lives Matter and redoubled attacks on discrimination are demanded by racial pro­gress. Solidarity in marginality needs to be renewed, especially when the marginal gain access to power. 

This pattern of rhetorical escalation because of pro­gress in the fight against discrimination is also evident in characterizations of Trump voters as racists and bigots. Leon Wieseltier says of them, “They kindle, in the myopia of their pain, to racism and nativism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia and anti-Semitism.” No mainstream figure talked this way when I was young—and when these descriptions were much more plausible. Incendiary, denunciatory rhetoric was characteristic of a marginal figure like George Wallace, who spoke of “sissy-britches welfare people” and called civil-rights protesters “anarchists.” 

It’s commonplace now for liberals to talk this way. This is not because America has become more racially, ethnically, religiously, or sexually divided. All the indicators suggest otherwise. It’s because the Democratic party depends on a constant bombardment of denunciation to gin up fear. That someone as intelligent as Wieseltier participates in bigot-baiting in such blatant ways indicates how indispensable it has become for maintaining liberal power.
It’s in this context that transgender bathroom access becomes an issue of national import for the Obama administration. Progressives need “haters,” and flushing them out so they can be politically useful targets of denunciation requires advancing the front lines of the culture wars. The ideology of transgenderism provides a near perfect combination. It so completely contradicts common sense and any worldview tethered to reality that resistance is guaranteed. Moreover, the cause of transgender “rights” focuses on confused and troubled children and adults, individuals whose condition makes them by definition marginal. The disordered nature of their emotional lives makes them vulnerable as well. They’re ready-made victims of an oppressive conservatism, an ideal focus for another round of bigot-baiting. Denouncing the “haters” who resist transgender ideology plays to fears of exclusion and discrimination that keep the rainbow coalition together. 

The Republican party establishment recognizes this dynamic, which is why many conservative leaders have been urging retreat from the culture war. In their view, religious conservatives should reposition themselves as victims of a progressive dogmatism that threatens religious liberty. This strategy makes some sense, drawing as it does on liberalism’s own rhetoric of oppression and victimhood. But it misjudges the political realities of our time. Today’s rich-oriented liberalism can only maintain power through the support of voters united in fear of discrimination and marginality—black Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, single women, gays and lesbians, and others who worry they don’t fit into what they imagine to be the “mainstream” (which hardly exists anymore). As a consequence, every retreat on the cultural front will be followed by renewed progressive attacks designed to generate politically useful “hate.” Religious liberty is redescribed as the “right to discriminate.” Here again the LGBT movement plays an especially important role. Its agenda collides with traditional religious convictions about God, creation, nature, and morality, guaranteeing the ongoing culture war that has become so essential for post-Protestant WASPs to maintain power. 

Bigot-baiting. It’s not going to end soon, no matter what we say or do. The ever-shriller denunciations directed our way stem from the rhetorical needs of the Democratic party. The present crusade for transgender bathroom privileges in high schools, like so much of the progressive agenda in recent years, is not about civil rights. It’s about renewing the symbolism of oppression and finding the “haters” that rich, mostly white liberals need to sustain their political power."

Read the whole piece at

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Summa of all internet "discussions"

Socrates: You agree, Thermippos, that all men are mortal?

Thermippos: I do.

Socrates: And you agree furthermore that I am a man?

Thermippos. I have no reason to doubt it, Socrates.

Socrates: Surely then you agree that I am mortal?

Thermippos: I didn’t say that. You did. Don’t put words in my mouth!

Socrates: I beg your pardon, Thermippos, but I have simply drawn what follows.

Thermippos: Strawman.

Socrates: But no true reasoner could fail —

Thermippos: Ah, the "no-true-Macedonian" fallacy.

Socrates: But, Thermippos, given the logical form . . .

Thermippos: Define “logical form”.

Socrates: . . . . you must either accept the conclusion or reject at least one of the premises.

Thermippos: False dichotomy.

Socrates: I see, Thermippos. You’re an idiot.

Thermippos: Aaaaand that’s an ad hominem.

So Socrates then ad-hominems Thermippos with a brick....