Friday, March 25, 2011

Rationality is apparently not a survivable trait--at least among Darwinists

Every week seems to have a theme on this blog. If the big debate in the comments section of my post on Ken Ham was any indication, the theme for this week was whether anyone who holds the belief that the world was created rather than simply having developed through random chance over time can be said to have practiced critical thinking in doing so.

Of course, what constitutes "critical thinking" can sometimes be in the eye of the beholder, but what I mean by it, and what most people seem to mean by it, is that you are logical.

Now I'll say again, as I have said many times before on this blog, that I do not take a position on the age of the earth, largely because I am not a scientist and not terribly familiar with the scientific issues involved. That I have made lots of fun of Darwinists who make philosophical assertions disguised as scientific statements has made the members of this blog's Peanut Gallery, made up exclusively of people who hold to the dogma of scientific materialism, seemingly irate that I don't hold a position. They desperately want me to be a creationist and it really ticks them off that they can't pin it on me.

They want to set up a false dichotomy under which you are either a young earth creationist or a Darwinist. And I have to remind them repeatedly that I am trained primarily in philosophy and I am a Thomist, and, consequently, the issue of the age of the earth does not concern me too terribly much. The only question that really matters to me (other than the fact that there was an initial creation of the world) is whether organic things in this world--and the world itself--have intrinsic natures and purposes--purposes that may or may not have worked themselves out over a long period of time.

But, still, the fact that I don't condemn creationists really gets their goat. They charge that no one who holds to a creationist position can possibly be a critical thinker, and to say that they might be is a mortal intellectual sin.

But the funny thing about it is that their attempts to prove this lack any merit as proofs. Their own attempts to substantiate their position that no believer in creation can be a critical thinker lack all the hallmarks of critical thinking.

Their attempts to prove their point are plagued by an inability to make simple distinctions (an ability, which, along with the ability to see resemblances, is an essential part of critical thinking), a failure to see beyond their own prejudices, and a penchant to view anyone who differs with them as automatically stupid.

Their views bear all the marks of intellectual inbreeding. They are the intellectual equivalent of the Hapsburgs.

I have asked repeatedly for reasons why someone who holds to creationism cannot be logical and I keep getting the same answer: they're wrong. They cannot make the simple distinction between someone who is wrong and someone who is illogical. Now this is pretty basic. It is entirely possible for someone to be both wrong and logical--or for that matter, to be right and illogical. Happens all the time. And anyone who doesn't see this has undermined his own claim to be logical.

Anyone who knows anything about logic knows that you can have a perfectly logical reason for believing in something and be completely wrong. The process of reasoning whereby you get to a conclusion may very well be flawless, but the conclusion can still be wrong. All it takes is a false premise.

This is why a lot of really smart, logical people, come down on different sides of the same issues. But people like Singring, One Brow, and Art seem to be having a hard time wrapping their minds around this simple concept--a concept which anyone with pretensions to rationality ought to be able to grasp fairly easily.

In fact, until Art, a science professor at the University of Kentucky, surprised me the other day and actually produced a logical syllogism, I had concluded that no one in the Peanut Gallery was even capable of it. And Singring can't even tell the difference between contrary statements and contradictory statements. I submit that the champions of scientific materialism in the comments section of this blog who claim to be so rational could not pass a basic, high school-level, first year logic exam. And if they think they can, I've got one for them. We can do it right now.

Step right up. See if you can pass a test that my high school home school students ace on a regular basis.

This inability (or refusal) to admit that the fact that you disagree with someone is insufficient reason to conclude that they are illogical does have one advantage: it dispenses with the trouble of actually having to engage in any kind of critical thinking yourself.

A strange thing for people who criticize other people for lacking critical thinking skills to do.

12 comments:

ozziejoe said...

To call those with whom you disagree "Peanut Gallery" and "intellectual equivalent of the (inbred) Hapsburgs" is a clear example of the ad hominem fallacy, which involves a personal attack on the person you disagree with. I don't think Martin means this in any hostile way (in fact, I think he is partly just poking fun), but it is still a logical mistake--and one that has little to do with the merit of whatever position someone holds.

Singring said...

Another deluge of misrepresentation of falsehoods so deep I have a hard time convincing myself Martin was even privy to his own discussion. For example:

'the theme for this week was whether anyone who holds the belief that the world was created rather than simply having developed through random chance over time can be said to have practiced critical thinking in doing so.'

Well no. The theme was whether one person - you - can call two people critical thinkers both if they strongly disagree on the age of the earth. This of course assumes that said person is using a consistent standard for adjudicating labels such as this.

'...but what I mean by it, and what most people seem to mean by it, is that you are logical.'

A-Ha! So you were simply being redundant or made a little typo when you called Dr Wile a 'practitioner of the arts [plural] of critical thinking, logical analysis and objective discussion...'

Turns out critical thinking = logical analysis. What a silly discussion we've been having then...shame cou neglected to clear up this little misunderstanding say...50 posts ago?

'They want to set up a false dichotomy under which you are either a young earth creationist or a Darwinist. '

Nope.

'And I have to remind them repeatedly that I am trained primarily in philosophy and I am a Thomist, and, consequently, the issue of the age of the earth does not concern me too terribly much.'

Flippedy-flop he goes again. Where previously the 'the earth seemed very old' and 'it isn't 6,000 years old' it now is of 'little concern'.

Moreover, Martin Cothran - a teacher - cites as his primary reason why he has no issue with the age being this or that age, is that he is a Thomist. Empirical evidence and scientific research apparently do not factor into his decisions on such questions about reality at all.

'They charge that no one who holds to a creationist position can possibly be a critical thinker, and to say that they might be is a mortal intellectual sin.'

I don't believe in God, so I don't believe in sin. It's really very simple.

'...and a penchant to view anyone who differs with them as automatically stupid.'

I explicitly called Dr Wile 'very intelligent'. But who cares about the facts?

'I have asked repeatedly for reasons why someone who holds to creationism cannot be logical and I keep getting the same answer: they're wrong.'

This was not the issue at hand. I outlined the issue above, you are misrepresenting it precisely to dodge the actual question.

'This is why a lot of really smart, logical people, come down on different sides of the same issues.'

So then we are agreed that you are reconcilin your statements by saying that critical thinkers can come to different conclusions based on the same data? How come this took so long? As I have said, whether the above statement is in fact accurate depends on the amount of data and its quality. I have a really hard time accepting that the data is so poor with regards to the age of the earth that two critical thinkers might end up at completely oppsite conclusions.

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Some of this (did you write it in a hurry?) I don't even understand, mostly the first part.

But did you really not understand that by critical thinking we were talking about logic, generally speaking? It is after all, the most fundamental thinking skill. If you weren't using it that way, pray tell us how you were using it.

And you keep saying I somehow flip-flopped on the age of the earth question, and you cite as your proof a previous post in which I said--after being asked repeatedly by one of the commenters who wouldn't take "I don't know" for an answer--that I thought the earth seemed rather old.

Are you intentionally ignoring the context of that post, in the whole point of the post in which I said that was that I did not take a position on the age of the earth--something I have repeated ad nauseum during the entire five years of this blog's existence?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Moreover, Martin Cothran - a teacher - cites as his primary reason why he has no issue with the age being this or that age, is that he is a Thomist. Empirical evidence and scientific research apparently do not factor into his decisions on such questions about reality at all.

You assume here that being a Thomist is somehow inconsistent with evidence and scientific research. Can I assume then (given this demonstrably false assumption), that you have not read Aquinas' Commentary on Aristotles' Posterior Analytics?

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

I explicitly called Dr Wile 'very intelligent'. But who cares about the facts?

I'm sorry for including you in a what I intended to be a broad generalization. You did indeed say this.

But I become further puzzled then with your use of the term "critical thinker" which you seem to deny attributing to Wile at the same time you call him "very intelligent."

One Brow said...

... people who hold to the dogma of scientific materialism...

So, not me.

They cannot make the simple distinction between someone who is wrong and someone who is illogical.

So, not me.

But people like Singring, One Brow, and Art ...

But there I am.

Since you offered an example for Art and Singring, I don't suppose you would care to offer one for me, where I either claimed scientific materialism is valid or confused being incorrect with being illiogical? Since you have attributed my words to other posters recently, I am particularly intent to see why you think this is so.

Singring said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singring said...

'You assume here that being a Thomist is somehow inconsistent with evidence and scientific research.'

Not at all, Martin. I am simply pointing out that the you refer exclusively to your Thomism when trying to justify your position on the age of the earth - not to the scientific research of the past 800 years. I assume this is just another reflection of your 'critical thinking' skills.

Now, if you can point out any detailed writings by Aquinas about the age of the earth that are based on empirical evidence and scientific research and that are in harmony with current scientific knowledge, there may be a smidgen of justification for you to referring to a philosopher of the early middle ages as your source of information.

Otherwise, I will maintain that anyone (let alone a teacher) who cites Aquinas when postulating positions about the age of the earth rather than the research of current geologists, physicists and biologists, has a serious credibility problem.

'But I become further puzzled then with your use of the term "critical thinker" which you seem to deny attributing to Wile at the same time you call him "very intelligent."'

1.) Intelligence implies the capacity for critical thinking, not necessarily the prectice thereof.

2.) I have stated before that I believe Dr Wile is misrepresenting, cherry-picking and distorting scientific research and is misleading his audience. Whether he is doing this consciously for some base motive (i.e. to evangelize, sell books etc.) or whether he is simply self-deluded and just can't help himself I have no possible way of knowing.

As incredibly as it is, he seems to be quite genuine and serious when he claims that one of his 'top five reasons' for believing in a young earth is the fact that dendrochronology only covers about 10,000-12,000 years.

One Brow said...

Oh, just to be clear, I take "peanut gallery" as a friendly tweak, and have no objection to being so labeled. However, I would like for Martin to either justify his claims on my opinions or acknowledge he erred in stating them.

One Brow said...

Martin,

As for passing the first-year logic test, I have not been trained to use classical terminology, and so would founder on those shoals. I acknowledge that.

Do you think you could pass a logic test using the terminology and sybolism that I was trained with?

Also, still waiting for you to back up your claims that I am a scientifric materialist or that I can't tell the difference between being wrong and being illogical.

mossinpursuit said...

Singring, I've never commented here before, but thought I would now.
You quote Cothran:
'You assume here that being a Thomist is somehow inconsistent with evidence and scientific research.'

And then say:
"Not at all, Martin. I am simply pointing out that the you refer exclusively to your Thomism when trying to justify your position on the age of the earth - not to the scientific research of the past 800 years. I assume this is just another reflection of your 'critical thinking' skills."

And you completely ignore the whole entire point of Cothran's origonal post; that one may be logically consistent and yet fundamentally wrong. Thomas' logic and reasoning skills were excellent, it does not mean he was right about the age of the earth. So far as I know, he didn't even address it.

By referring to Thomism as an explanation for his position on the age of the earth, I believe Cothran was saying that Aquinas' subjects and topics were what he is concerned with, rather than scientific data. If this is so, (and it may very well not be) than your progression from this meaning, to accusing Cothran of appealing to Thomas as his source of information on the earth's age is flawed.

Once again, I could be entirely wrong. I just fail to see (possibly because you left out an explination) how Cothran's statement reflects poorly on his critical thinking skills. In other words, his logical abilities. Seems as if we've been over this before, you can be completely logical (as it appears Cothran was in said statement) and still be wrong.

At 16 I have much to learn. Correct me or clarify if you would.

-Moss

Martin Cothran said...

Singring,

Not at all, Martin. I am simply pointing out that the you refer exclusively to your Thomism when trying to justify your position on the age of the earth - not to the scientific research of the past 800 years. I assume this is just another reflection of your 'critical thinking' skills.

Where was I "justifying my position on the age of the earth." In fact I said I did not have a position on the age of the earth. So how could I be justifying something I don't have?

There are those blasted distinctions again.