Thursday, January 31, 2013

IDHEF - Chapter 5, Addendum #3: Selecting specific processes to "prove" an argument

This is part of my breakdown of the book "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist." Related posts can be found by clicking here.

   There is something I did not cover in my part II analysis that I was thinking could use more attention. This is in regards to the Rushmore and confetti arguments that the authors used. In my analysis, I noticed that the authors had contradicted themselves only paragraphs later, and I focused on this fact as well as presented counter-examples. What I did not do, though, is point out how their argument was flawed regardless of their contradiction and the existence of those counter-examples. (Also, they make a similarly flawed argument in Chapter 7 and Chapter 10 (maybe others I'm forgetting) so I'd have to address this eventually anyway!) First, let's recall what the arguments were:
Suppose we observe and repeat an experiment where we allow natural laws to work on rock for the next ten years. Will we ever get the faces on Mount Rushmore? Never. (p124)
Let's suppose you throw red, white, and blue confetti out of an airplane 1,000 feet above your house. What's the chance it's going to form the American flag on your front lawn? Very low. Why? Because natural laws will mix up or randomize the confetti. (p124)
   If you don't see the problem with these points, ask the question, "What natural laws?" More specifically, what natural laws are being applied? All of them?!? I think not! With the confetti, there are only about two processes at work — gravity to pull the confetti toward the ground and wind to blow it around. Similarly, with the rock, you'd be primarily looking at water and (again) wind. The flaw is that they are using only a few data points to back up their claim that "[nature] doesn't organize" (p124).

   I could make a similar argument about baseball players. Baseball players take performance enhancing drugs. Barry Bonds did. Mark McGuire did. Alex Rodriguez did. (OK, they allegedly did, but for the sake of argument, let's say they actually did.) Because a few baseball players take performance enhancing drugs, does that mean they all do?

   This would not have been a problem if the authors would have taken their own advice from Chapter 2.
Are you absolutely 100 percent certain that gravity makes all objects drop? No because you haven't observed all objects being dropped. Likewise, are you absolutely certain that all men are mortal? No, because you haven't observed all men die. (p64)
Likewise, are you absolutely certain that all natural processes do not order? I hope you can see the answer to this question.

   Worse, we have observed natural processes that do order/organize. That is why they ended up contradicting themselves shortly after providing those examples by saying, "[living things] grow and get more ordered" (p125). Is this not a natural process? Now, I have a suspicion that they may recognize the contradiction, so they do some handwaving about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But in spite of this, the main point to take away from all of this is that just because one can present a number of examples to support their case, it only takes one counter example to refute it.

No comments:

Post a Comment