A weak argument for Atheism

Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Quick Note | 8 comments

“The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” Delos Banning McKown

This quote has been appearing on Twitter from numerous accounts with the hashtags “#atheism #air” appended to the ending. This does one thing, and it’s not in favour of the intended or original meaning or context of the quote. What it illustrates is that atheists should be  very careful with the words they choose to try and illustrate their points. In this case, it is quite obvious that the theist who appended the “#air” hashtag to the tweet is pointing out the error in this quote as an ally of the atheist standpoint. Using a logical fallacy, the fact that air is invisible, and yet exists, therefore God could exist (or even “MUST exist”) because God too is invisible.

We know that many things that are not directly visible do exist, such as gravity, x-rays, and of course air, and the defence of the existence of these phenomena is testable and verifiable by experimentation, observation and testing. But this does nothing to add to the argument of disproof of a God, or gods.

We can then extend this flawed viewpoint to include any phenomenon such as “Russell’s Teapot“, or Carl Sagan’s “Invisible Dragon” from The-Demon Haunted World, and we can point out that just because something could exist, doesn’t mean it does exist. To quote Carl Sagan:

“…what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.”

Sagan’s words are much stronger than McKown’s, and much better illustrate the self-same point. And while McKown’s statement is a statement of truth, it is a weaker standpoint, and can be flipped over on it’s head to support a theist’s view, even if it is just to add enough doubt in the reader’s/listener’s mind to allow for the possibility.

While this logic from the theist/deist is flawed (i.e. “everything that is invisible could exist” by this standpoint) it does point out that if we as atheists want to be taken seriously, we must think out our points carefully, and think through exactly how this can be interpreted by our readers/listeners.

If we don’t make our points clear and without easy rebuttal, then our credibility as commentators can be damaged. Also, the audience will not be convinced by a weak argument, rather they might even be pushed farther away from a rational viewpoint.

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