On the Ontological Argument

Oh, for fuck's sake...

Ontological Argument

When you say that no evidence is offered by this argument, you seem to be ruling out immediately the possibility of an a priori argument for the existence of God. As a methodological conclusion, a bit more is required.

In any event, I agree that there is something wrong with this argument. Then again, there may be forms of the argument that get past your objection that it also proves the existence of any imaginary kind of thing. Consider this simple form:

1. God is, by definition, the most powerful person.

2. Persons that exist are more powerful than persons that do not exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

The argument goes through for the most powerful person, but not for just any most powerful thing. For example, the following does not work:

1.1 Uni is, by definition, the most powerful unicorn.

1.2 Unicorns that exist are more powerful than unicorns that do not exist.

1.3 Therefore, Uni exists.

This second argument fails to introduce existing unicorns because there is a hidden third premise to the effect that at least one unicorn exists. Whereas, it is possible that all unicorns do not exist. Conversely, because God is introduced as the most powerful person that exists, and there are existing persons, God must therefore exist in order to be more powerful than them.

Even if that is not granted, it will become important for my position on 2 of the other argument forms for you to say where it is that this argument actually goes wrong. Suppose for a moment that I would actually be willing to contemplate the existence of the perfect unicorn on the basis of an ontological argument for such a unicorn (cracks about what Christians are capable of believing aside). What would you then say to counter the ontological argument?

David, David... you disappoint me. you also make me sad, because now I'm going to have to rip you into tiny shreds, and it's going to take me ages because you are fractally wrong. You are wrong on so many levels that it's actually difficult to separate out the individual problems from each other

You've come to my house, and you've done a great big pseudo-intellectual shit right in the middle of the rug, and now you're sitting next to it hoping I'll give you a fucking biscuit.

You do not deserve a biscuit.

By the way, David, I fully expect you'll be unmoved by the actual counter-arguments interspersed among the abuse here. After all, you're a christian. However, you will certainly not get to whine, BAAAAAW or claim some sort of default victory just because I upset you. You were warned before you came that this is not the kiddie pool. If you want polite discourse, fuck off to SydneyAtheists.org and they'll deal with you gently. They're nice people, and they have mercy. I am not, and I do not.

David footbullets himself with false equivalence and unwarranted conditions

First of all, the low hanging fruit. By using the Uni The Unicorn argument as a counter argument, you've blasted off your own foot. For several reasons. This has multiple problems, but I'll try and wrap them up together.

You've introduced an extra, invalid contingency by over-defining the properties of the subject being examined

To be more specific, you've added assumptive properties to the second statement, that being the assumption that the Christian god is a 'person'.


Am I misunderstanding the christian position, David? Surely God is a transcendent being? Surely, subject to whichever wacky sect you belong to, he's omnipotent, omnipresent, all that fucking jazz? So, like, you know, not a person. AT ALL.

Your illogic is showing, David, cover it up before the children see it.

Now, according to you, when the argument is pointed at unicorns, the hidden assumption is that unicorns must exist, as some fucking weird standard of comparison from which to judge the posited perfect Unicorn.

But god gets a free pass and gets to be redefined as something we already know to exist. So while you're accusing the poor unicorn of having a hidden assumption of existence, you've left a great big glaring obvious assumption right in the middle of the god version. FAIL. Here's a version which would line your unicorn argument up with your god argument:

1 A Unicorn is, by definition, the most perfect form of horse.

2 Horses that exist are more perfect than horses that do not exist. (especially when they have a fucking big horn)

3 Therefore, at least one Unicorn exists.

 Nonsense, isn't it? Now let me re-write the actual ontological argument to match with your Unicorn version

 1. The christian god is, by definition, the most powerful god.

2. Gods that exist are more powerful than gods that do not exist.

3. Therefore, the christian god exists.

Again, fucking nonsense. Take it away and do something with it.

I'm pretty sure you're whining even as we speak, going "well, obviously god is a person, BAAAAAW. He made us in his image. BAAAAW"

A replica, or image, is not the same as the original. Your god does not have the same posited set of properties as a person. Don't even try that one.

Or you may be whining "WAAAAAAH, BUT UNICORNS AREN'T HORSES!". I don't even want to address that idiocy.

You could even be stretching the definition of the word "person" to include god or gods, just as U.S. Corporate law bestows honorary personhood on corporations. Sorry, no deal. Defining traits of existent persons include such qualities as not being eternal creator gods.

There is some discussion over the use of the term "person" in theology. I would consider this to be a specialised usage which has nothing to do with the common definition of person as "individual human". Actually, I would consider it to be undiluted bullshit, but there you go.

Incidentally, you can also play this came with Phoenixes

1. The phoenix is the most perfect form of bird

2. Birds that exist obviously fulfill the definition of 'perfect' better than birds that don't

3. Phoenixes exist

What else? Oh, yeah, you can use this to prove my favourite analogy, Sherlock Holmes, existed

1. Sherlock Holmes, as described, was the greatest detective ever

2. Detectives who exist are greater than detectives who don't

3. Sherlock Holmes existed

You might notice after reading that, that it's varied a little tiny teeny bit. That's right. I used the term 'existed'. The original ontological argument contains another hidden assumption - that of current existence. There is a possibility that the subject being discussed in the argument existed, but no longer exists. There's a possiblity, also, that the subject may exist in the future and not necessarily exist now. And lastly, there is also a possibility of total non-existence, but that's cleverly written out of the final version, just like this missing verse from Mark 10.

We'll now move on to a more canonical version of the ontological argument, courtesy of IronChariots.org, and illustrate why your interpolation of the word "person" is logically invalid. Note this still also contains problems, but we'll deal with them shortly, never fear.

  1. God is the greatest imaginable being.
  2. All else being equal, a being or entity that exists is greater than one that doesn't.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

See, you can go with 'being'. Being is an indefinite term, so doesn't introduce your vaunted 'obviously persons/unicorns exist' bullshit. You could also use 'entity'. That would also be valid. Neither of those add in the extra assumption. You can only remove the assumption at that state by using an indefinite term. You could also say "thing", but then you'd probably say "but obviously things exist; Ha!"

You know, you can also flip the whole argument round ass-backwards

1. Charles Manson is the worst person imaginable

2. All things  being equal, things that exist are greater than things which don't

3. Therefore Charles Manson doesn't exist

That was fun. By the way if you don't think Charles Manson is evil enough, substitute your own asshole.

A priori assumptions invalidate the discussion

OK, now onwards and upwards

When you say that no evidence is offered by this argument, you seem to be ruling out immediately the possibility of an a priori argument for the existence of God....

 Yes. That's how we do things here in Logic Land. A priori arguments are not valid, otherwise you end up with this fucktardery:

  1. God exists. Obviously
  2. God is, like perfect
  3. Perfect things better than imperfect things, obviously. Duh.
  4. God exists

 Which is fucking stupid, because 2 & 3 are extraneous, leaving this:

  1. God exists, therefore
  2. God exists

You don't get to start from an assumption of existence, then try and prove existence based on assumption. You're failing at logic, David.

So get rid of a-priori assumptions if you want to talk about ontological proof. If you want a-priori arguments, let's talk about them, but the ontological argument is then entirely extraneous.

Honestly, I'm having trouble holding it together with the stink coming off your comment.

OK, so onwards. Where else does the ontological argument fail?

Well, at point #1, obviously. "God is the greatest imaginable being".

Fail. I actually think the christian god is a bit of a prick, what with the genocide and all. Therefore I (and a great number of my friends) can imagine a greater being, i.e. a god who never actually, you know, advocated genocide. Better than that, I can imagine a god that got things right the first time round and didn't have to, you know, drown the entire world apart from one boat. Oh, and the fish, and the ducks, and pretty much everything that can swim. And albatrosses.

That was easy, think I'll have another beer.

Mmmm.... delicious beer. Perhaps soon I can get this post finished, and have some caek.

Right, second line. "All else being equal, a being or entity that exists is greater than one that doesn't. "

Well, actually, no. A god who doesn't exist, but still does all that god stuff has overcome a greater impediment, therefore is greater, more perfect, and all that jazz. Therefore, god does not exist, because he's the greatest thing EVAR. I win.

See? You can do anything with logic. Isn't this fun? Incidentally, that's a paraphrase of "Gasking's Proof", and it's kinda funny.

Also, why is there an assumption that existence automatically confers greater perfection? I don't get it. Surely existing gets you all dirty and stuff, you know, what with the sins of the world and all that shit. No matter, this is a relatively unimportant detail since we have so many other problems.

OK, so far we've just been warming up. We've addressed David's own fail in justifying the ontological argument itself, how else can we beat it down?

Oh, I know! How about the fact that Ontological argument is JUST RAW LOGIC WITH NO ATTENDANT EVIDENCE? Yeah, that's a good one. You know what the real world calls claims of existence free of accompanying evidence?

Here's a hint: It starts with 'B', ends in 'T' and has 'ULLSHI' in the middle.

In addition, even if the ontological argument could prove the existence of a god or gods, there is absolutely no way to get to the conclusion "and that god is the christian one" without taking a really long run up and leaping to it without any intervening support. It could be one of over 9000 other possible gods, none of whom impregnated some Jewish chick 2000 years ago so that he could kill himself in a sacrifice to himself which wasn't really a sacrifice because he hasn't really died.

OK, let's just address some arcane logical elements, and look, I'm just going to directly lift the wording from IronChariots.org, because as I draft this it's getting really, really late.

In this argument, existence is given as one of God's attributes as part of the definition: if X is God, then X has the property of existence. This is logically equivalent to "if X does not exist, then X is not God." It does not prove that there are any entities that actually match the definition.
Existence can hardly ever be considered an attribute, as something nonexistent cannot have attributes. Therefore, making conclusions about existence of an entity based on its properties is not logically sound. In short, this argument boils down to "show me a god, and I'll show you an existing god." It is a form of circular reasoning because the existence is built into the assumptions.

This is what I was punting when I originally called this self-supporting, i.e. the entire thing rests upon itself, in a circular manner. While it may be possible to make the argument logically sound, as per Gödel's interpretation and expansion, there is no actual link to the real world. 

Look, at the end of the day, the ontological argument is just masturbation with logic. It has nothing to say about the real world, which is why we prefer, you know, actual evidence. Of which there is none backing up the existence of a god or gods. Ultimately, you cannot truly prove the existence of ANYTHING with raw logic. You need evidence, you have none.

I'm pretty sure that you weren't even serious about the ontological argument being any good. Because it's not.

So take your ontological argument and shove it, and tomorrow, or the day after, or whenever I get some time, I shall move on to your second steaming pile, the Cosmological Argument.

p.s.  I've toned this post down considerably from the original. Don't whine, think yourself lucky that some other people suggested I should maybe be more civil.

 Now that I've finished with you, you may go.

post published at like 3am. No responsibility assumed for typos at this late hour

There is no scientific controversy over evolution...

... but there is a political controversy, and a religious controversy.

What brought this on? Well, as a couple of previous posts have intimated, Sydney Atheists popped on up to Toongabbie Anglican Church over the weekend. During the discussion afterwards, I was chatting with a member of the congregation, I believe one of the pastors. Sorry dude, forgot your name, but you'll soon know who you are.

The conversation, paraphrased, went something like this. I'm 'J', Mr Christian is 'X'

X: But evolution is just a theory, right?
J: You're misunderstanding the word "theory". It does not mean the same as "hypothesis".
X: But there is a scientific controversy, right?
J: No, there is no controversy in the scientific community
X: But there are reputable, non-religious scientists who publicly doubt evolution.
J: Yes. There are about two.
X: Obviously you're biased. Anybody with your bias would see it that way
J: [Facepalm]

And so on it went, careening off the sanity highway and into the underbrush of nutbaggery. I hadn't really expected to run into such clear creationist talking points in Toongabbie, though with hindsight perhaps that was excessive optimism.

Let me expand on my responses, because while they may sound flippant, they are actually pretty much factual, allowing for a litle conversational latitude.

The conflation of 'theory' with 'hypothesis' is a well-known gambit among creationists, and it exploits one of the common-usage definitions of the word 'theory'. Trouble is, when a scientist uses the word theory, he/she actually means a well-supported framework of explanations for observed phenomena. The theory of evolution, or more accurately, the modern evolutionary synthesis, is as close to a fact as the theory of gravity and the theory of plate tectonics.  It's been very very well tested and has not yet fallen over. I don't expect it to fall over, though I expect details to be refined.

So is there a scientific controversy?

Frankly no. As I mentioned earier, there's a political and religious controversy. The vast, overwhelming majority of scientists working in biological sciences accept the modern evolutionary synthesis. They simply would not be able to produce useful work without it, as it underpins so much of modern biology, especially in microbiology, where evolution by selection can be directly observed, and in molecular biology, where some of the most exciting advances in genetics are being made.

In other sciences, where evolution is less relevant, there is a higher proportion of dissenting scientists, notably among engineering disciplines, where design is at the forefront. This is not surprising give that these are design-oriented people, but the proportion that question evolution is still not a high proportion. It's vanishingly small, perhaps in the order of a percentage point at most. This is generally where the "reputable non-religious scientists" referred to above are drawn from. Think tanks such as the Discovery Institute salivate openly over these scientists, because they are a source of scientific credibility and authority, while at the same time being entirely clueless over the actual facts of the modern biological synthesis.

Bias? Sure. I'm biased towards the scientific explanations, and I will absolutely hold up my hand and say it.

Thing is, reality also has a notable pro-evolution bias. Honest, rigorous observation shows that evolution is a fact.

So don't deliberately tell me that there's a scientific controversy about evolution. Because I will take your talking points apart, piece by piece, until you look even more stupid than you already do.

Now, I don't expect you to just believe me outright. I also don't expect to be able to convince you with hyperlinks, which you'll notice are quite thin on the ground in this post. This is a choice I've made deliberately, because I don't expect you to trust a hyperlink handed to you on a plate by an avowed darwinist such as myself.

The deal is this: Lie about evolution in my presence again and you will be taken to fucking tiny pieces, either verbally or in hypertext. Do some research, and not at the Discovery Institute's website. Try science, because science is the best authority on the subject of science. Do not be taken in by the warmed-over creationism called "intelligent design". Do not trust what ministers tell you on the subject of biology, do not trust what engineers or neurosurgeons tell you on biology, and especially don't trust Casey Luskin. On anything.

That is all.

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