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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8 Comments

  1. There is quite a concerted effort at the moment from theists to infiltrate atheism and make our arguments look weaker. Between this and my last post regarding who should provide proof, we can see the problems that are arising and need to be dealt with post haste. The atheist community is being divided by silly, unnecessary arguments.

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    • Very much agree with this: “The atheist community is being divided by silly, unnecessary arguments.”

      And, what I am guessing, is the sentiment that we are *not* the ones who have the burden of proof, as atheists–and I believe we should stop rising to that particular bait.

      I think bickering with theists is an unnecessary expenditure of energy, when we could be moving toward more concrete goals (such as true legal equality and an end to discrimination against atheists).

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  2. I have no interest in making people feel small about their beliefs. That’s their business. Go be happy, and try not to ruin it for the rest of us that might not see it your way. Is that too much to ask? I, personally, just find it impossible to believe in such a humanity-centric interpretation of cosmology, and that is what we’re talking about here. Are we really to believe that the creator of everything, just has a warm special place in his heart for this obscure little rock. Why should we believe that? Why should we believe that for a minute? Air being invisible does not a proof make. Sorry. Carbon Monoxide is invisible too.

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  3. I’ve always taken the “invisible” in this quote to mean “undetectable by the physical senses.”

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    • Yes so would I, but I am also rational and not trying to prove the unprovable. The problem arises when the believer uses this to further the ignorance in as though the statement is in their favour. The main reason I wrote this was because of the spamming on Twitter, and I could see the atheist weakness from their perspective.

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  4. The worse argument on the g0d thing is ‘you can’t prove g0d DOESN’T exist’!
    This is totally false except as a logical game. In the real world many things are ‘proven’ by the fact you can’t show good evidence for existence, such as the Sagan Dragon or g0d. If it is not detectable it is not in existence or real and any one who thinks otherwise has to supply the proof; the history of plate tectonics is a perfect example as it was not believed to exist until someone else provided evidence and mechanism for it to.
    So based on present evidence g0d is still BS!

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  5. Can you physically feel god….I feel the air on my skin.
    Can you see god….I see the wind as it blows through the trees and grasslands.
    I see dust particles floating in the air….
    And when hurricanes and tornadoes show up…..look out!

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  6. God bless ya’ll

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