The failure of @JoeCienkowski: part one

Joe Cienkowski is a christian fundamentalist nutcase on twitter. He's written a book, which you can read for yourself at Google Books. I'm going to spend a few posts ridiculing this little self-published pamphlet, and this is the first installment. Page one.

If this was a high school essay...

OK. Let's just look at the first page of Joe's book.

First observation, holy crap, Joe didn't hire a typesetter or editor. Look at all the emphasis. Bold and italics, even underline. Joe just went mad with Microsoft Word's toolbar didn't he? And oh, wait! What's that in the middle? A smilie face? Seriously?

Let's just stop here for the first red mark of the day. If you rely on emphasis this much, then perhaps you're having trouble getting your point across.

Clear prose should be readable, and this is anything but. I haven't even read a word yet, and already Joe is failing the high school essay test. Let's start with the first paragraph.

Joe starts out confidently and strongly. Absolute truth never changes. Math problems always give the same result. Sure. This is colloquially kind of correct. Basic mathematics is deterministic, as long as the fundamental frame doesn't change. There are branches of mathematics which are a bit more complex than that, but let's not split hairs.

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President, yes. But again, technical nitpick. He was the 16th president after the ratification of the US constitution. Before that, there were Presidents of The Continental Congress. There were 16 of those. Again, colloquially correct, but sloppy and ambiguous.

History can never change that fact, though? We all know the phrase "history is written by the victors". The further back you go, the more scant the records, the less sure you can be. Joe is trying to talk absolutes here, and he's gone stright to one of the least absolute of all fields of study - history. You don't have to be reading 1984 to realise that history is subjective and can be manipulated.

OK, so second red mark. Let's move on.

Water is a solid below 32 degrees, is a liquid up to 212 degrees, and turns into a gas past that. These are absolute laws of science.

Absolutely not.

Fact is, the boiling point is very much variable, dependent on the atmospheric pressure around you. I learned this in primary school, from a kids book which introduced the topic with "why can't you make a good cup of tea at the top of a mountain?".

Joe seems unaware of this simple fact. The fact is that phase transitions in elements are variable. More information can be found here.

So, we're only halfway through the first paragraph and already Joe has three big red marks.

Next up

The absolute law of gravity will remind you every time

Again, Joe's inexactitude fails him. Gravity varies dependent on your distance from the gravitational source, obviously, but in addition, there's plenty of theoretical work going on around variable gravity. Here's a sample search.

Am I nitpicking? Maybe, but given that this is the opening paragraph of Joe's thesis, and given that he's trying to set up a fundamental layer of absolute laws here, we must be strict. He's talking absolutes. Only one of Joe's examples is in any way absolute, and then only if you restrict the domain of mathematics to stricly deterministic problems and ignore chaos and complexity. And only if you don't talk to smart logicians and mathematicians who can tell you exactly when 2 + 2 doesn't = 4.

Joe then goes on to say this:

These truths prove there is an absolute truth and a great truth that many can't seem to see any more: God created the world. Yes, this is an absolute truth.

OK. Given that the "truths" you started with aren't absolute, that's a long stretch, Joe. In fact, it's a non-sequitur, a bald assertion unattached to the initial premises. You might as well have said

All cats are black. This proves beyond a doubt that aliens exist

Not all cats are black and even if they were, the premise has no bearing whatsoever on the conclusion. So what if some laws are absolute? Why does this then require the addition of a god? It just doesn't.

And even if it did, there is nothing, nothing whatsoever in that conclusion that requires that the god in question should be Joe's specific, personal, interventionist, christian god. I'm sorry I had to resort to italics twice and bold once, but this is how utterly wrong this first paragraph is.

It just makes no sense.

Continuing on, this, apparently, means that there's no reason to doubt the bible.

Uh, Joe... there is. You haven't even made an attempt. You've spent an entire paragraph constructing an unlikely non-sequitur, and now you're grinning and pointing at it trying to get us to congratulate you on your achievement, like a toddler with his potty.

Joe then crashes headlong into the biblical idea of man created from dust, and somehow feels it's appropriate to end with the nonsensical

"Kids always ask "Where did I come from?"

Yes, and most sensible parents at that point explain that "when a mummy and a daddy love each other very much they can make a baby and that baby grows in mummy's tummy until it's ready to come out".

I have to wonder what Joe's parents told him when he asked that question.

So that's it. Page one of Joe Cienkowski's book. A car crash of epic proportions, and we haven't even got off the first page. We didn't even get past one lousy paragraph. If Joe really is right, and a god exists (which I doubt), he's failed to even begin proving it. He's failed to even build basic premises for it. The entire first page gets a big red strikethrough and a "see me after class, you're failing this subject" in the margin. F-.

Makes me wonder if I should go on, really.

Coming soon in this series: A baby always comes from a mother and father, therefore god (except in species with asexual reproduction). We use "AD" in our calendar system, therefore god (I personally use CE). No-one can explain where spines came from, therefore god (no-one say the word notochord, for pity's sake!) and just about every logical fallacy you can think of.

All this and more, coming up!

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