Darwinian Debating Device #11: “The Straw Man”
|October 17, 2014||Posted by Barry Arrington under Darwinian Debating Devices|
Update: We are republishing this post under the Darwinian Debating Devices series
The Straw Man tactic is especially reprehensible, because it is fundamentally dishonest. Wikipedia describes the tactic as follows
A straw man is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument. The so-called typical “attacking a straw man” argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e., “stand up a straw man”) and then to refute or defeat that false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the original proposition
In this post we took down a straw man argument by a self-described “biochemist.” Note how he misrepresents ID theory and knocks over his misrepresentation instead of the real thing.
I want to thank okfanriffic for participating here at UD, not because he has advanced the ID/Materialist debate one iota, but because his behavior is a classic example of a social pathology I have observed many times over the years and gives me an opportunity to comment on it.
Okfanriffic describes himself as a “biochemist.” I am willing to take him at his word. I assume one does not become a biochemist without a firm grounding in science in general and biology in particular. Great! Here’s someone who can challenge us I thought. Sadly, I was mistaken. Far from presenting the least challenge, okfanriffic’s posts have never risen above the “ID is religion in disguise” red herring, and he did not even advance that trope very well. His level of debate never rises above the condescending, mocking and sloganeering/talking point level, as these examples demonstrate:
all science is doing is uncovering how your god did its magic
If it is successful we will understand biochemistry at a fundamental level. If it isn’t then it is evidence for your gods
there is no thunder god and yahweh didn’t put the rainbow in the sky nor is it a bridge to valhalla
Either we are here because of natural processes or because of magic
you are all super special and yahweh/allah/krishna etc loves you
your god loves you and that is all that matters or do you have something to say on the chemical basis of life?
nothing you ####wits say supports belief in magic. is there anyone out there who thinks that “then the lord god formed a man from the dust of the ground” etc Is that the origin of life?
So is it magic or nature.? If it is magic which magician is it? Allah, brahma or jahweh (or maybe odin pr lugh?)
did a god form man from dust or can life be explained by natural processes? is anyone out there brave enough to defend the biblical account of creation
so what is it? natural processes or god magic?
i’m still waiting for someone to admit their belief in magic. . . . come on guys did your god form us from dust or is it chemistry and evolution?
Anybody willing to admit their belief in magic? Go on guys, defend the biblical story
you love jesus and you don’t want to live in a universe where you can’t go to heaven and see grandma and grandpa
Sigh. Okfanriffic, you might as well have said “neener neener neener you poopyheads!” The level of maturity is about the same. I expected more from a “biochemist.” Commentator Barb mirrored my own feelings when she wrote:
Here I was hoping you’d actually drop some science on me and show me where evolution comes into play. But instead you hide back under your bridge. Disappointing, really. I expected better from you.
This is all so disappointing, because all okfanriffic has to do to utterly destroy the ID movement in one fell swoop is demonstrate (or point us to someone who has demonstrated) how unguided natural forces could have generated the information systems and irreducibly complex nano-structures inside every cell. Go ahead OK — drop that science bomb on us. Put us out of our misguided blinkered misery.
Presumably, as a biochemist he, of all people, would know how to make (or point to) such a demonstration if it existed. You would think he would drop a science bomb on us, but you’d be wrong. All he seems capable of is mocking, scoffing and condescending. He apparently fails to realize that he is actually strengthening the ID case. It just occurred to me that perhaps he is a fundamentalist Christian shilling as a Darwinist in order to bring dispute on it.
Be that as it may, I will address his three most fundamental errors.
A. False Dichotomy/Straw Man 1
Okfanriffic’s first false dichotomy is represented by the following: “did a god form man from dust or can life be explained by natural processes? is anyone out there brave enough to defend the biblical account of creation.”
It should be obvious to anyone with the least grounding in ID theory that ID as such does not address scripture, much less attempt to defend a particular interpretation of Genesis. Accordingly, one of two things appears to be true: (1) okfanriffic does not have the least grounding in ID theory, and his false dichotomy is the result of ignorance; (2) okfanriffic does have a grounding in ID theory, and he had mendaciously misrepresented the theory and erected a straw man in its stead.
Nether (1) nor (2) reflects well on okfanriffic.
B. False Dichotomy/Straw Man 2
Over and over like a mantra (which often, as in this case, seems to substitute for critical thought) okfanriffic asks: “Which is it, God magic or natural forces?” Let me demonstrate how even okfanriffic should admit this is a false dichotomy through several statements he should agree with.
1. Materialists believe that unguided natural forces can account for the origin of life (OOL).
2. Therefore, no designer was necessary to initiate the information systems and irreducibly complex nano-structures inside every cell.
3. Life can be reduced to chemistry and physics.
4. No intelligent guidance, much less a miracle, is necessary to explain life.
5. In principle, sufficiently advanced technology can replicate the creation of life.
6. If sufficiently advanced technology were to replicate the creation of life, it would not involve God or magic.
Now if okfanriffic agrees with these six statements, it follows as a matter of simple logic that his “God/magic or natural forces” dichotomy – the underlying premise of which is that those are the only two choices – is a false dichotomy. There is a least one more choice – advanced technology. So his allusion to “magic” is exposed as a strawman caricature of ID.
C. Category Error
In his scornful mocking okfanriffic mentions the following: thunder god, Yahweh, allah, Krishna, brahma, odin, prlugh
He has made a glaring category error by lumping the God of the three great monotheistic faiths in with other “gods.” As David Bentley Hart explains in The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss
according to the classical metaphysical traditions of both the East and West, God is the unconditioned cause of reality – of absolutely everything that is – from the beginning to the end of time. Understood in this way, one can’t even say that God “exists” in the sense that my car or Mount Everest or electrons exist. God is what grounds the existence of every contingent thing, making it possible, sustaining it through time, unifying it, giving it actuality. God is the condition of the possibility of anything existing at all.
Properly understood, the God of the monotheistic faiths is not like the gods in the Greek, Norse or Indian pantheons – contingent creatures all. He is pure being that is the source of all being. To lump him in with Odin demonstrates that you understand neither God nor Odin. Let me leave you with some advice okfanriffic. Before you comment in a subject area you should make some effort to understand it; otherwise you run a great risk of looking like a buffoon (a risk that has, sadly, fallen in on you in the comments quoted above). All I’m asking you to do okfanriffic is read a book. Your displays of ignorance and bigotry are embarrassing.