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Friday, August 8, 2008

DisComforting Logic: Straw Man

I have proposed a new Raytractors project over at our blog. The goal of this series is to educate people on various logical fallacies using some argument or statement by Ray Comfort as the example. I have chosen this one as it is, yet another, one listed in Ray's new Atheist Starter Kit.

Logical Fallacy: Straw Man
Type: Informal
Source: WDAY Interview
Straw man is a very common logical fallacy where you make a version of your opponent's argument which superficially resembles it -- often as an overstatement or a caricature -- and then attribute it to your opponent. You then refute the created straw man argument in place of your opponent's argument.
Ray's Statement/Argument
Click on the Source above to listen to the clip of this transcript.
Everything has to start with something. Evolutionists say there was nothing that created everything. Well that can't be. That's scientifically ludicrous. In the beginning there had to be something, and I say that something was the spirit of God who was immaterial. HE created material. He created this creation.
Summary of Statement/Argument
Evolution states that nothing created everything.
Nothing which is now in existence which wasn't in existence at one point could not have come into existence by itself.
Therefore, evolution is false.
This is an extreme caricature of evolution. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with evolution. Evolution, as it relates to the history of life, states that all organisms are descended from a common ancestor/gene pool. While the origin of life is, obviously, a necessary precursor for evolution, evolutionary theory deals with how the organisms which appeared developed over time. Origin of life is abiogenesis.

Ray's argument seems a more straw for the big bang model; however, here he has attributed it to evolution. If he truly is speaking of the evolution of the universe (which, since the topic was intelligent design, it is unlikely), this is also a straw man. The big bang does not describe anything "before" the big bang. It is a well supported cosmological model of the universe which describes the "evolution" of the universe from an initial condition of infinite density and temperature. It does not state that something was created from nothing, nor "in the beginning, there was nothing, and then it exploded."

Example of Similar Straw Man
Ray argues that first there was nothing, and then God created himself so that he could create creation. But that's ludicrous! You can't have nothing and then have something -- namely an infinite something. That's scientifically impossible.

While this satisfies a straw man argument, I will elaborate even further on this, though, just to make it more interesting (a modified excerpt of The Theist Test). This is about as big of a caricature of creationism as Ray's "nothing created everything" is a caricature of evolutionary theory.

Ray argues that:
Six to ten thousand years ago a human named Jesus popped into existence from nothing and opened a human being factory. The skin and internal meaty parts, including the organs, were made in a laboratory in the back where giant vats were filled to the brim with dust. On the first part of the manufacturing line, a plastic torso mold was lined with skin and filled with the meaty parts for the abdomen and torso. Once that solidified, it passed down to where the legs were bolted to my torso as well as the arms. The head was then fastened to the neck and the head meaty parts were filled in. Once it all solidified, my personality software was loaded in and out I came.

That's ludicrous! I was born over two decades ago after my parents had sexual intercourse which resulted in my biologically growing in my mother's womb for nine months.
Summary of Similar Logical Fallacy
Creationism states that God created himself.
Nothing which is now in existence which wasn't in existence at one point could not have come into existence by itself.
Therefore, creationism is false.

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