Watch out for the "Argument from Authority"
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02-12-2015, 07:26 AM
Watch out for the "Argument from Authority"
Some of you might relate, especially if you're on Facebook or Twitter. One of your theist friends will feel the need to post a quote from a renowned scientist saying something for the existence of God. Oooh, a scientist!

Yesterday this happened:

Theist Friend - “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” - Werner Heisenberg
Other Reply 1 - I'm stealing this
Other Reply 2 - I love this!
Me - Sounds like "god of the gaps".
Theist Friend - Funny, it sounded like a quote from Werner Heisenberg to me.


Alright so right off the bat, just boldly making the "argument from authority" fallacy. Like I'm supposed to be like, "Oh, fuck me! No way, Heisenberg!?"

Moving on.

Me When I say "god of the gaps" I'm referring to a fallacy. (On a sidenote if I'm just going to go "Ooh, Heisenberg said that!? It's gotta be good." That would be "argument from authority". So the best method here is, acknowledgement that Heisenberg said it, and feel free to still call bullshit no matter who Heisenberg is). "God of the gaps" is basically coming to the conclusion that when someone eventually gets to the limit of what science currently knows, that someone inserts God as the explanation. It's a fallacy because using God as an explanation has proven problematic in the past. History is filled with us believing God is the reason for something happening until science discovers a more detectable reason for it. I like to use the example of the Odin and a couple of other gods taking a being named Ymir and creating the earth from Ymir's flesh and bones. Ymir's brains were used to make the clouds. We now know that the clouds are not supernatural brain matter, but masses of water and other chemicals. Or maybe that's what supernatural brains are made of. See, I can't dismiss the Norse myth story, but science has found an explanation that allows me to not bother believing in the myth. I can't deny God exists. Maybe God is at the bottom of the glass of natural sciences. But it's a very big glass, and there's plenty more to drink, and until I get to the bottom I'm gonna just say that I really don't know WHAT I'm going to find there.

Theist FriendI know what "god of the gaps' is. It is a fallacious argument used by atheist in which a belief in God is poor science because they believe that everything can be described through science, eventually. Of course, invoking "god of the gaps" is itself poor science. It can never be tested. There will always be unknown and thus atheists can always say, "We just don't know how that happened, yet."

As far as the argument from authority, Heisenberg is well respected/revered in scientific circles. Those same circles openly ridicule my faith as stupid and backwards. So quoting these scientists creates a tough choice for those individuals. Either they acknowledge that I'm not as stupid and backwards as they assume based on my faith, or the famous scientist is stupid and backwards based on his faith.

Also, you assume that I invoke God to explain what I don't understand. Isn't it possible, and even likely in the case of these famous scientists, that it is what I understand that leads me to know that a creator exists?

Me - Actually I talk about "god of the gaps", considering that there are a lot of things that our use of science may NEVER have an explanation for. Atheists choose to say "I don't know how that happened yet" in a world where there's a laundry list of explanations for things science doesn't have the answer for yet (how many creation stories are there?).

Your using quotations from the intellectual big wigs is still problematic. Because eventually it will backfire when someone points out you're using "argument from authority." I can agree that Pasteur, Heisenberg, Darwin, Einstein, Newton, etc. are awesome pioneers in science, while still coming to the conclusion that what they say about God is stupid and backwards. And to be fair and possibly adding fuel for you, here's a list of scientists with quotes: Quotes About God to Consider... If You Think Science Leads to Atheism. And by the end of that list, I'm still an atheist. I can look at that list and go, "wow, look at all the scientists" and then go "wow, look at all the bullshit they just said." And yes, it's very possible that there exists someone in this world that has hardcore proof that God exists. They could be in a one-on-one communication with Him. The problem is whether or not I as an atheist can accept that person's evidence as enough to sway my atheism. I have yet to see that.

If your understanding of science leads you to know that a creator exists, good for you. And I really can't judge you. I can say that I'd like to know how, but then if I still reject your explanation, that for me just says more about my way of thinking that it does about yours. So, I'll still hold back any temptation to call you "stupid and backwards".

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02-12-2015, 07:45 AM
RE: Watch out for the "Argument from Authority"
Well Heisenberg was a theist..........so what does that quotation prove? That Heisenberg was a theist..........nothing more.

You are also right in saying it is an argument from authority. As such it doesn't provide anything meaningful.
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02-12-2015, 07:53 AM
RE: Watch out for the "Argument from Authority"
The flipside is also annoying.

"I like kittens."
"One time Hitler petted a kitten, you fascist kitten loving bastard."

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