confused monkey rejects evolution

Confusion is rife on the internet, especially on places like Twitter where people seem more interested in “beating” the last tweet in a discussion than maintaining a coherent thought process. Many of us atheists might think these contradictions might be limited to god claims, holy books, and fundamentalists but that is far from the case.

Recently I’ve had some conversations with people that whilst I might not agree with their individual statements they could be valid on their own, however, when you combine the things they say you’re left with a number of contradictions.

Example

In a conversation recently these 5 claims were all made/have been made by that person. (For example, we know many online atheists advocate for the lack of belief definition of atheism, as well as say atheism is the null hypothesis).

  1. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods.
  2. Atheism is the null hypothesis.
  3. The null hypothesis is gods do not exist.
  4. Rational people wouldn’t believe gods do not exist.
  5. Rational people would only not believe in gods.

This isn’t a limited case, just the one that inspired me to write the article.

Problems

a) 1 and 2 are incompatible as a lack of belief is not a hypothesis.
b) 2 and 3 are incompatible because it is not falsifiable.
c) 1, 2 and 3 are incompatible because they are stating different things.
d) 4 and 5 are talking about conclusions rather than reasoning.
e) When you actually understand what a hypothesis is, theism is not a hypothesis.
f) From e) the null hypothesis does not apply. 3 misunderstands what the null hypothesis is.
g) From e) and f) and 2 atheism either has nothing to do with theism or is not the null hypothesis.. but if it is the null hypothesis, what is it the null hypothesis of?
h) Accepting these things in conflict means you are holding contradictory beliefs.
i) Contradictory beliefs are irrational to hold.
j) From d), h), i), 4 and 5 show a lack of knowledge about rationality.
k) – from j, this person/people shouldn’t comment on rationality.

Details

a) 1 and 2 are incompatible as a lack of belief is not a hypothesis.

1. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods.
2. Atheism is the null hypothesis.

This one doesn’t really need much more detail but as you may remember from both the articles ‘Forming a Hypothesis‘ and ‘Misunderstanding The Null Hypothesis and Knowledge‘ a hypothesis is a falsifiable idea that proposes a tentative explanation about a phenomenon or a narrow set of phenomena observed in the natural world. Not only that, but this explanation can be operationalised so it isn’t mere conjecture. If something is not falsifiable it is not a hypothesis.

The null hypothesis is when there isn’t any significant statistical difference between variables. It gets falsified (or at least rejected) by another hypothesis being accepted if there is a significant statistical difference. H0 does not stand alone and belongs to H1-n. Without H1-n there is no H0 and it only belongs to the variables set out as measurable.

A lack of belief is describing an absent mental state of accepting something true. What is the Difference Between Does Not Believe and Lack of Belief?

b) 2 and 3 are incompatible because it is not falsifiable.

2. Atheism is the null hypothesis.
3. The null hypothesis is gods do not exist.

Whilst specific claims of gods might be falsifiable or at least shown to be highly unlikely, theism, in general, is not falsifiable and neither is the proposition gods do not exist.

c) 1, 2 and 3 are incompatible because they are stating different things.

1. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods.
2. Atheism is the null hypothesis.
3. The null hypothesis is gods do not exist.

If the null hypothesis is gods do not exist, and atheism is the null hypothesis, then atheism is the proposition gods do not exist. But if atheism is a lack of belief in gods it is not the proposition gods do not exist.

Both the lack of belief definition and the proposition definition are valid definitions of atheism, but they are not compatible with each other in this form, so when uttered by the same people in the same circles it shows an issue.

d) 4 and 5 are talking about conclusions rather than reasoning.

4. Rational people wouldn’t believe gods do not exist.
5. Rational people would only not believe in gods.

This seems to misunderstand rationality. Rationality is to do with the reasoning process rather than your conclusions. You can hold false beliefs rationally and true beliefs irrationally. Hammering Rationality – SciPhi.

e) When you actually understand what a hypothesis is, theism is not a hypothesis.

I’ll save repeating what a hypothesis is again as that was explained in the first point, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a basic overview on Forming a Hypothesis.

f) From e) the null hypothesis does not apply. 3 misunderstands what the null hypothesis is.

3. The null hypothesis is gods do not exist.

As above, but in case you’re unsure: Misunderstanding The Null Hypothesis and Knowledge.

g) From e) and f) and 2 atheism either has nothing to do with theism or is not the null hypothesis.. but if it is the null hypothesis, what is it the null hypothesis of?

e) When you actually understand what a hypothesis is, theism is not a hypothesis.
f) From e) the null hypothesis does not apply.
2. Atheism is the null hypothesis.

The point here is, that for atheism to be the null hypothesis it would have to not be related to theism. But if that is the case, what is atheism the null hypothesis of, it can’t be that gods do not exist or related to theism…

h) Accepting these things that are in conflict means you are holding contradictory beliefs.

As has been demonstrated so far, there are a number of contradictions with these claims. Some of them could be accepted individually without any, or at least these, issues.

i) Contradictory beliefs are irrational to hold.

Something cannot be true and false at the same time. A bridge will not both hold your weight and collapse on you at the same time. A light switch is not both on and off. The amber light at the traffic lights is not on and off. A wheel is not both moving and not moving. If you believe things like this then you’re holding contradictory beliefs which is irrational.

j) From d), h), i), 4 and 5 show a lack of knowledge about rationality

d) 4 and 5 are talking about conclusions rather than reasoning.
h) Accepting these things that are in conflict means you are holding contradictory beliefs.
i) Contradictory beliefs are irrational to hold.
4. Rational people wouldn’t believe gods do not exist.
5. Rational people would only not believe in gods.

I mean, it does seem that way to me… To Be or Not To Be (Rational)!? – SciPhi

l) – from j), this person/people shouldn’t comment on rationality

I am in no way trying to gatekeep the topic of rationality. I personally find discussion on the topic, or any topic, a great way for me to further my learning and understanding. My point here is that they are concluding someone is irrational without investigating their reasoning all the while they hold both contradictory beliefs and beliefs in the face of evidence.

Summary

I feel conversations online can too often be plagued by trying to prove the last tweet wrong or people not considering everything they are saying at once.

Many of those statements can work on their own, or even paired with others given some additional reasoning applied, but many of these are in conflict. This leads to contradiction meaning the person’s position is actually incoherent.

When this is pointed out it is often met with aggression. This could be due to the cognitive dissonance over the way they see themselves as someone correct, knowledgable, smart, intelligent and rational, and you pointing out that, at least in this circumstance, there is a flaw in their reasoning.

It could also just be the fight-like mentality many people discuss things on social media. There are far too many just defending positions and “winning points” than there are interested in fruitful discussion. It does happen, of course, I wouldn’t keep doing it if there wasn’t.

Perhaps we can conclude that this is Why We Should Choose Our Language Carefully?