Common Misconceptions of "religion name goes here"

For those who aren't familiar with the legal concept of the "fruit of the poisonous tree" in regard to evidence; I'll summarize. If information is gathered through any means that is not legal then any conclusions made from that information or additional information, regardless of the validity, is also not legal and can not be used as argument. That is a very quick paraphrase of a much more complex ideal. 

It does, however, apply to dogma. I regularly read discussions here on points that are moot. To illustrate: a theist and an agnostic are vehemently arguing whether Perseus held the Gorgan's head in his right hand or his left hand when he defeated the Kraken.

It doesn't matter. 

A Christian and an Atheist arguing whether "the great flood" was worldwide or local. Same thing, it doesn't matter. 

Back to the fruit of the poisonous tree concept — in the entire human existence there has not been one "proof" of a god. Not one. Not any. Certainly there are legions of stories, could be's, what ifs, simply poor logic and the ubiquitous "mysterious ways" but no actual evidence. Therefore it doesn't matter what the Koran, Bible or Harry Potter novel says and a discussion of the finer points is valueless. 

I can offer no conclusion as to any god since there is nothing to lead me to believe that any exist and therefore a discussion that dissects the leaf on the end of a branch of the poisonous tree is also poisoned or more simply not valid.

Views: 162

Comment by John Kelly on July 9, 2012 at 3:06pm

 tend to overcomplicate my explanations.  Maybe a simpler way to say that is that no wrong belief is really valid because it is from bad reasoning somewhere along the way, and you seem to be picking up on that.  But there is a difference between valuing something that is not real, and telling someone that they shouldn't value something because it can't be real.  A courtroom and convincing people are not the same.

Comment by Jeff Parsons on July 9, 2012 at 11:28pm
My comparison was intended as a figurative concept. The principle point was - a discussion about a minor detail is a waste of time if the origin of the premise is invalid. I don't have the ability (or intent) to modify value decisions of other people. My comment was intended for those that have already cast aside magical thinking and was meant as a gentle reminder about arguing with those that haven't. Hope that was more clear.
Comment by John Kelly on July 10, 2012 at 12:22am

Yeah I got your main point.  But saying "don't argue against the validity of false premises" won't work.  We change minds all the time by arguing the validity of things.  Other times we don't.  That can make it seem like minds never change, but in reality they change often.  

But with the minor details part of your point, which may be your main point, saying "don't argue the little things that don't matter" certain things may seem like minor details from the outside, but for an insider they can make or break a premise. When we are trying to convince, no matter how minor something is in our eyes, what matters is how major it is in the other person's eyes.  It is better to argue against something major in the opponents eyes, than what is major in your own.

Comment by Jeff Parsons on July 10, 2012 at 2:06am

Struggling to find your actual point. Are you saying that "arguing the validity of false premises" is a valuable use of time? If then, I must heartily disagree. If you are arguing a minor point that presumes the basic false premise then it is a pointless exercise. As an example:

A: Fish on the Moon wouldn't need gills.

B: Yes they would, how else would they breath?

A: There is no air on the Moon.

B: True but fish still need to receive oxygen somehow so maybe they have some sort of converter - and that would be like gills. 

And on and on - my point here is that there are no fish on the Moon. The argument as to gills is a waste of time since the basic premise is false. An argument of whether there are fish on the Moon is something else entirely (and may be worth the effort but whether or not whether they have gills which infers that there are fish on the Moon).

I didn't say "don't argue the little things that don't matter." I said, "… discussion about a minor detail is a waste of time if the origin of the premise is invalid." A discussion/argument on a minor point can be very valuable but if (as in my original post), the discussion is about what hand Perseus held the Gorgon's head would only matter from a literary perspective. The event never actually happened and the argument (both sides) is a waste of energy.

There is no proof of any god so a discussion between an Atheist and a Christian on how long it took god to create Adam and Eve is a waste of time. A discussion of the existence of a god or even Adam and Eve could have merit but the amount of time it took "him" doesn't since the very concept presupposes the existence of a god and that has not been established. 

Comment by John Kelly on July 10, 2012 at 3:42am

Well I can see how you are confused.  I made two different points in order to eliminate another potentiality that you may have also been arguing.  Okay now that is clear, disputing the validity of false premises is a valuable use of time.  Like I said in the original argument "

"What you are seeing, is a functional principle that only works when everyone is hyper-rational." What I'm saying is that I contest this claim you are valuing, because if it were true, then it applies to everything that is ever wrong, because all wrong ideas are based out of some false premises at some point.  This theory obviously appears right to you, but I am saying it gives off that appearance because you are looking at it from a hyper-rational perspective, and not accounting for a normal one.

Since hardly anyone is hyper-rational, most people are wrong on a regular basis about a number of things.  That is why if someone believes there is fish on the moon, and that is part of a normative belief structure, it isn't as odd as it would seem from an outsider's glance.  It all depends on the person's reasons for believing it.

If you don't address error, well you have a lot of problems.  This is why humans value persuasion.  Persuading is part of normal human behavior.  It is valid and valuable and necessary, because people make errors all the time.  You say it is futile, I counter with the argument that people change each others minds all the time.  There are plenty of other times when we don't succeed when trying to convince someone of something, and you are seeing those times and ignoring the successes and then are saying "we can't change people's minds when they have false premises".  The obvious answer is yes, of course you can't if you don't step into their perspective, see the limitations that are created by that perspective, and lead the person to the realization that the perspective was wrong.  That is what arguing internal consistency does.  Like I said before, what is of no value to one person is of high value to another.  What you have to do when someone has assigned high value to something that appropriately has no value is show them why the value is inappropriate. 

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on July 10, 2012 at 9:51am

I hear you, Jeff.  We don't waste our time with the schizophrenic down the street, trying to prove to him that the Mongolian Thought-Lords aren't really stealing his good ideas.  So why do we bother with theists?

Well, schizophrenia is not pathogenic.  Theism is, in fact, infectious.  It is a disease that spreads and because it is not a physical pathogen, but rather a cognitive virus, standard vaccines and antibiotics don't work.

To date we don't have effective rhetorical antibiotics to cure theism.  We know that critical thinking strengthens the immune system, but we can't inject people with critical thinking.  All we have left is to engage the delusions of the theist in the hopes that we can instill some critical thinking skills and perhaps one day they'll bump into the switch that turns on those skills.

Have you a better strategy?

Comment by Jeff Parsons on July 10, 2012 at 10:26am
"Rhetorical antibiotics" - brilliant! My only strategy is to focus on the core issues. Perhaps if that first logic dominoe falls ...
Honestly I don't generally try to persuade others regarding their values or beliefs - the old saying, "never teach a pig to sing as it wastes your time and annoys the pig" comes to mind.
Comment by Heather Spoonheim on July 10, 2012 at 10:49am

Yes, well I think the core issue in theism is 'why do you believe what you believe'.  Of course, most theists will claim that they have taken the time to deeply ponder that issue and 'logically' worked through to exactly the religion to which they were indoctrinated, lol.

I do occasionally attack values as I find there are some very flimsy ones.  The concept that a creator being would hate homosexuals, for instance.  Ask a theist what is wrong with homosexuality and typically all they can come up with are their own personal sexual preferences (or claimed preferences) in defense.

Comment by John Kelly on July 10, 2012 at 1:34pm

Jeff, I think there is a lot of wisdom to "never teach a pig to sing".  Some people are just so stuck in their beliefs and don't have the ability to figure that out.  I think you have to go by feel.   If you start to feel you can't get anywhere with someone, then you give up.  Most people have their point where they do that.

I rarely give up on reasoning with people, because I believe that most people give up on a debate too soon.  I also think that our primary goal ought to be to learn how to convince people better.  If we can learn this, we can improve conflicts in individual relationships, and among larger groups.  There seems to be a veil of disregard for opposing points of view, and I like to stick in and see how it interferes with communication, and try to figure a way to penetrate it. 

Comment by Rob the Ridiculous on July 10, 2012 at 2:00pm

By voicing our beliefs as humans we claim our own little piece of society. Whatever your political or philosophical inclinations might be, if you don't express them they will not be represented in the greater society. If you don't let yourself be heard, other people will define your supposed values for you, as some of you baby eating atheists probably already know.

In debates I think that honesty is more important than politeness. There is nothing wrong with explaining that you feel that someone is uttering complete and utter hogwash. If people want to be treated as adults, they better act as adults as well. I don't believe the bible to have any special significance and disregard it almost entirely as a historical source, to me arguing from the bible is as useless as a cockflavored lolly-pop, it doesn't work at all. There is no real reason to continue a train of thought if you don't even consider the argument valid and there is nothing wrong with pointing hat out.

What bugs me is that people take away other people their humanity because of differences of opinion, not differences of (moral) behavior. Whatever hocus pocus fairy-tale you might believe it, if it does not influence your behavior towards others in a negative manner I have no quarrel with you.


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