Friday, February 26, 2016

125 Rebuttals, 2 and 3

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This is part three of my series of rebuttals to this website. Picking up where I last left off, let's dive in right away with argument two.

2: The Argument of the Origin of Life 

Well, this sounds like it could be an interesting thing.  Just as a sidebar, I will point out that I'm not reading these arguments ahead of time.  I don't want to spoil my appetite.  I'm literally just reading it as I go.
1. A strand of RNA can make one simple chemical reaction occur, but that’s not all what is needed. If there is no quality control, no inspections, no checks and balances, no feedback, no networks in the system of the cell, what will happen? Only entropy.
So, we have only three points for this 'argument.' Well, let's break down this 'premise.'  A strand of RNA an indeed make at least one simple chemical reaction occur, although I'd say the wording there is tenuous.  It doesn't force anything to happen: It's a natural process.  I'm not sure what's meant by the second part, "but that's not all what is needed."  This implies that, somehow, RNA 'needs' to do something, as though it has preordained purpose.  It doesn't.  There's nothing qualifying what RNA 'needs' to do.  Again, this is a false analogy.  You might pick up bananas when you go to the store because you need them for a recipe, but DNA/RNA don't have any such presuppositions.  They simply do what they do.  
Even a most primitive cell needs essential molecules of life to replicate and thus to continue to exist. 
This is still part of that first premise.  The author of these arguments clearly has no understanding of how premises and conclusions work.  Yes, in this definition, 'need' now has a qualifier. This statement on its own is absolutely correct: we haven't ever seen a cell that consists of no atoms.  In fact, if someone had seen that, they'd probably have won a Nobel prize by now, multiple times.

See this empty space? It's a picture of a cell that contains absolutely no molecules, at standard zooms.
This picture is, by far, the hardest I've ever had to work on putting a picture in my blog. Obviously.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to find pictures of things that don't exist?
If there is no quality control, no inspections, no checks and balances, no feedback, no networks in the system of the cell, what will happen? Only entropy. 
Fallacies of presupposition.  Also, he hasn't shown that "only entropy" isn't the actual reason.  This is a fallacy by appeal to emotion, I think. "Oh, don't you see, I simply hate the idea that maybe we're not special in the universe, don't you?  Therefore I must be right, because otherwise I might feel a bit upset."

That's a fundamental misunderstanding of science, too.  It's safe to say Einstein was probably upset when he realized the cosmological constant wasn't correct.  It's safe to say that Tesla was probably upset that the universe wasn't a steady state, and that the aether doesn't exist.  It really has no bearing on the argument how someone feels.

Clearing that up, it's not entirely true that there aren't quality controls, so to speak, or checks and balances.  I mean, RNA isn't holding court over what's a good course of action.  It does, however, work within the laws of physics.  It also has some error correcting functions, as we discussed previously.  Again, I'm not going to go deep into the science here, and if you're viewing my blog you clearly have access to google.  You're free to learn about these things at your leisure: they're much more complex than I can teach you in a few paragraphs where I'm rebutting logical flaws.

Similarly, I do encourage you to check out the science.  It's equally possible that I'm fleecing you exactly as that other guy is.  Due diligence is everyone's responsibility.

2. In order for life to begin there is need of an irreducible complex system even within the simplest cell.
Well, that's a false corollary, as well as a false premise.  He has yet to demonstrate that life requires anything other than the laws of physics to come about.  Similarly, it's not been shown that cells are irreducibly complex, as we discussed previously.  The various parts of the cell can exist absent the cell, and the various parts of the cell are simpler and more complex other places in nature.  Again, I don't want to keep you here reading forever, and I don't want you to simply take my word for it.  Visit a library, use your preferred search engine. Talk to some college professors or whatever. Your local high-school science teachers can probably explain these concepts very well also, they're not rocket surgery after all.
3. God the supreme designer of an irreducible complex system must exist. 
Apart from the grammatical pitfalls, and a few garbled words, I think the conclusion he's attempting to convey is as follows:
God must exist, and must have made life irreducibly complex.
Again, we can give a simple rebuttal.  Cows and dogs are a simple, striking example.  We can actually breed certain traits out of breeds. What this means is that the complexity of a given organism's progeny can be reduced over time.  It's exactly the same as saying something like this:
Saint Bernard dogs are the smallest possible dog. Any dog smaller than a Saint Bernard cannot exist because dogs can't live unless they are that large. They are irreducibly complex, and have therefore existed forever.
It's important to note that the statement is logically consistent with the author's premises.  

3: The Argument of Demonstration by Information Theory that Life Cannot Arise from Matter

That's an amazing assertion, and I'm not sure how the author arrived at it.  Life can't arise from matter, somehow, even though life is literally composed entirely of matter.  It seems to be a clear-cut case of fallacy from special pleading.  I can't wait to see what points we're given.
1. The laws of physics for matter have low information content because they consist of a few simple mathematical formulas.
I think it was Benjamin Franklin who is typically attributed with saying "it is better to be thought a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." This is one of those cases.  For example, the first six words show a clear misunderstanding of physics.  The laws of physics don't change when we go from matter to energy.  Sure, the equations we use to describe various interactions are different based on our context, that doesn't cause E=MCto stop being true.  Also, most of those formulas are 'simple' due to the facts that:

  1. They consistently describe reality.
  2. The people who discovered them worked a very long time to make them as simple as they are.
  3. They don't need unnecessary operators.
The fact that the author doesn't understand these basic things is troubling, to say the least.

2. Living organisms have high information content because they consist of DNA, cells, etc

This is directly contrary to his first premise.  I'm not even going to address the 'information' bit anymore, because it's not exactly pertinent.  Also, he's using it as a means of talking about the energy something contains, whether he knows it or not.  Ergo, when you see 'information' in this context, think 'energy.'  Because the author is a complete lout.

Basically, the reason it's completely contrary is that each atom in the various combinations of atoms contains the same information (more or less) as all other atoms.  Each Carbon-12 atom contains the same amount of 'information.'  That is to say, equal amounts of protons, neutrons, electrons, energy levels, valence shells, and so on.  Literally every thing in the universe is comprised of 'information' in this way (although we usually discuss things in finer detail sometimes, but let's keep this simple).  It's not so different from saying something like this:
Records have higher numbers of atoms than individual molecules of vinyl.
It doesn't really tell us anything useful, and it's a completely illogical statement given his first premise here.

3. According to information theory, the information of any system that has evolved from an older system must be contained in the older system.
Actually, information theory (IT) doesn't really argue that.  In fact, IT argues here for the kind of entropy he argues can't possibly exist and explain the previous argument, back toward the top of this page (argument 2, point 1).  Literally, this argument is arguing that a god exists for exactly the opposite reason of the previous argument.

  • Argument 2: entropy can't possibly explain life
  • Argument 3 point 3: entropy is required to explain life
I shudder to move on any further in this argument, but logic demands it, so let's go deeper into the abyss.
4. Therefore, according to information theory, no system of high information content can evolve from a system of low information content by random changes.
5. Therefore material science has failed to prove that life has originated from matter.
6. Therefore life comes from life. Every life form can only originate from another life form which must have higher information content.
7. There cannot be an infinite chain of cause and effect as a mouse cannot climb a sand dune or a person cannot proceed on a marshy land. There must be a first ground of being.
8. Therefore the original source has the highest information content.
Let's run quickly with the most egregious errors here

  • 4: misunderstanding of information theory again.
  • 5: material science typically deals with materials, like textiles or ceramics or stuff. Conflation of terms or purposeful ambiguity, or simple intellectual dishonesty
  • 6: Conclusion based on no actual evidence, as well as no actual premise stated in the argument.
  • 7: Why can't there be? Is it entropy or isn't it?  Also, false analogy with the mouse, and this shows that our intrepid fool doesn't understand infinities.
  • 8: That's actually logically valid, but doesn't actually contribute anything to the argument.  Although, that would violate thermodynamics, if we're losing 'information' in the form of energy within the closed system of our overall universe.  Remember, evolution on earth is an open system, whereby the sun feeds energy in.  It's a false analogy again, it seems.

Well, that was fun.  I hope it was less painful to read than it was to type.  Let's address the last couple points, just to be thorough.
9. This must be a Supreme Living Being.
Actually, it must not be, but it could be.  It could also be the singularity that existed before the big bang.  It could also be Supreme Unicorn Farts.  It might have been Douglas Adams cracking an interstellar hand towel.   The 'simple math' he brought up to defend his earlier point, however, supports only the big bang model, and nothing more.  Special pleading fallacy there, to allow the math to defend one point but not the other.

I'm having entirely too much fun.  If you're still sticking with me, congratulations and thanks!  You are very dedicated indeed.
10. God exists.
I'm beginning to think he doesn't understand how premises and conclusions work.  The list just abruptly ends.  I'm not sure if this is asserted as premise, where the argument is the conclusion, or whether this is the conclusion, and the argument is like some queer postulate/hypothesis.  I mean, it's clearly not based on observation, otherwise the logic would be a bit more consistent.


I will say that I'm not doing this series simply because I don't believe in a god.  That's merely incidental.  I'm doing this series of rebuttals because I really don't like bad logic.  I like to think that, were I still a theist, I would not want arguments this terrible being thrown around in the name of something I hold dear.  For deeply held beliefs, the lack of respect for the arguments in favor of them here is startling, but also completely expected.

I can remember the first time I actually felt this way, also.  My aunt, who was something of a fundamentalist in a way, gave my grandmother these VHS cassettes of Kent Hovind doing his now-famous speeches on intelligent design/creationism/etc.  I remember being rather young, probably around third or fourth grade.  I was religious at that time, and I had even thought later of attending seminary.  Oddly, that never happened.

Anyway, back to the tapes.  I remember he was trying to make some terrible argument about how we can't know things in the past, and he used the (horrible and false) analogy of a coffee cup.  Basically, he was telling one of his strawman illustrations of someone warning someone else that the cup of coffee was hot.  This fellow didn't want the other fellow to burn his lips or whatever.  So the fellow who was about to drink the coffee asked the onlooker how he knew it was hot, and he said something along the lines of 'well, it was hot millions of years ago, so be careful.'  Just utter tripe.  Even at around perhaps eight years old, I knew how terrible this argument was.  Even though I believed in the same god as him at that time, I knew he was incapable of making a sound argument.  It made me embarrassed, in a way, that people who believed in the same thing I did could possibly resort to such terrible arguments to defend it.

Although, I suppose it's entirely possible I was the odd one, because I always thought a strong faith was one that could tolerate questions, yet still arrive back at the same premise.  I didn't like complacency, and I still don't.  Then again, it's exactly what led me to ultimately become atheist, so I can see why some religious people don't care for skepticism of beliefs.  In fact, it's not just religious people, but rather most people with any sort of belief in general, who don't like skepticism of a given ideal.  I still contend, to this day, that a strong faith is one that can tolerate being analyzed and questioned, and still retained in the face of logic.  It's why most of my beliefs now are in the other sense of belief, the idea that evidence guides reality, and past performance can predict future performance, etc.

See you space cowboys.