Bad Arguments For Atheism: The Dragon in My Garage and Naturalism


I'm the dragon that lives in your garage!

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage” by Carl Sagan

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you.  Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself.  There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,”  you say.  I lead you to my garage.  You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle — but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely.  “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”  And so on.  I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, 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.  Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.

Now there’s a glaring fallacy in this failed analogy. Mr. Sagan plainly states that “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?”. In other words, “If my dragon cannot be put in a test tube, it doesn’t exist.” ( i.e. naturalism is the only way to knowledge). That’s pretty much the whole point of the analogy.

My question for Mr. Sagan is this:
“Can the logic you’re using in your argument be put in a test tube?”

Obviously the answer is “no”. Then how is Sagan justified in saying that naturalism is the only true theory of knowledge? If logic is not a viable way of reasoning, then why should we trust Sagan’s logic? In fact, why trust anybody’s logic? If our brains are just recombinations of matter, why believe that our thoughts and ideas are accurate? Why trust your perception of the world? Why trust science? If our senses have no intrinsic truth value, then we can’t have confidence in anything about the natural world. From this we must conclude that naturalism leaves us in a hopeless vacuum of knowledge.  It’s a sad place when we can’t know anything for sure.

So, when Sagan says,”What’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?” simply say, “What’s the difference between a blind, nihilistic, epistemological belief that spits reasonless contradictions and no epistemological theory at all? There isn’t one!”.

Advertisements

, , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by NotAScientist on July 25, 2011 - 9:44 pm

    “My question for Mr. Sagan is this:
    “Can the logic you’re using in your argument be put in a test tube?””

    I of course cannot respond for Carl Sagan.

    That being said, I imagine he would respond in this way:

    ‘Logic is a concept. If you are implying that your god is the equivalent of a concept, I will most certainly agree with you.’

    • #2 by studentsforchristianity on July 26, 2011 - 5:29 am

      ‘Logic is a concept. If you are implying that your god is the equivalent of a concept, I will most certainly agree with you.’

      I’m not from the ontological (as you suggest), but the epistemological aspects of logic.

      Naturalism is wholly unwarrented due to the fact that it doesn’t explain anything.

  2. #3 by Oscar Rivera on July 26, 2011 - 12:06 am

    Students,

    This line of thinking, whether you are aware of it or not, is completely devoid of any actual philosophical inquiry. More importantly, this mode gives off the impression of critical thinking which lulls one into a false sense of superiority. These presuppositional apologetics that are frequently asserted by many theists is really annoying to have to deal with to people who have actually spent any amount of time in philosophical inquiry and is analogous to evolutionary biologists having to deal with Creationists.

    So, I would like to break my response into two parts: 1) Show why presuppositional apologetics does not, and cannot, account for logic and 2) why logic does not need to be accounted for, in the first place.

    If we were to, for the sake of argument, suppose a deity, and we furthermore suppose your presppositional claim that logic can only be explained through said deity, then you’re really not giving an account for logic at all. Rather, you’re merely giving an account as to why we have logic and not that there is logic. Let me explain, presuppositionalists usually claim (and if you say something different, please let me know) that humans have logic because God imparted said logic onto us. You would further claim that God has logic because it is simply part of His inherent Nature (or something to this effect). While this may explain why we have logic, it does nothing for logic’s existence. If you make “logic” simply a part of God’s nature, you are therefore forced to conclude that “logic” is completely arbitrary. Consider the following: You believe that God exists – without any inherent purpose or cause. You believe that God’s qualities are simply part of His inherent nature – without any real rhyme or reason. You believe that logic simply reflects the mind of said deity – without any authentic purpose. I ask you, does it seem to you that presuppositional apologetics accounts for anything?

    On the second part of my response, logic is simply a concept the mind uses to describe the ontological nature of manifest objects. Logic, therefore, is contingent on the existence of sentient beings. Without sentient beings, there would be no logic. Now, one must be careful not to conflate “logic” with the principles that “logic” describe. I’ll use an example to help illustrate, let us use the law of identity:

    The law of identity states that [a] = [a], a rock is a rock. Imagine a universe in which the only thing in existence was one singular rock. Even if there were no sentient beings around to perceive said rock, this does not negate the fact that the rock is still a rock, that [a] = [a]. This is an ontological principle. This principle states that, irrespective of people being around to perceive the rock, this rock would still be a rock. Logic is merely a tool that sentient beings use to help us describe these principles. That’s it. There’s no need to evoke a supernatural deity, as this concept of logic merely reflecting a perceived reality is rather intuitive.

    • #4 by Jules Marasciullo on September 26, 2016 - 4:13 am

      “Math is the language that God speaks! ”
      Galileo

  3. #5 by studentsforchristianity on July 26, 2011 - 5:21 am

    Oscar,
    You must forgive me for ‘lulling’ myself into a false sense of superiority. Nam infirmus sum.

    1.) Presuppositional apologetics? I’m more of a classical/evidentialist apologetics fan. Could you explain why you think I’m using presuppositional apologetics? Until then, your (1) is just a field of strawmen.

    2.) Logical methodology is not “a concept the mind uses to describe the ontological nature of manifest objects.”, but merely the study of the rules of correct reasoning. As you said above, the study of the rules of logic is completely dependent on sentient beings by definition, however, the rules themselves are independent of intelligence. That’s the ontological aspect of logic, now let’s go to the epistemological aspect as it relates to naturalism. On naturalism, logic, it seems, is unwarranted. There is no reason to believe that such methodologies are actually correct. As you said above, logic is intuitive to humans. However, if you make “logic” simply a part of human nature, you are therefore forced to conclude that “logic” is completely arbitrary. Consider the following: You believe that humans exist – without any inherent purpose or cause. You believe that human qualities are simply part of man’s inherent nature – without any real rhyme or reason. You believe that logic simply reflects the mind of said human – without any authentic purpose. I ask you, does it seem to you that naturalism accounts for anything?

  4. #6 by Emerson de Oliveira (@emeoliv) on November 3, 2011 - 1:50 pm

    Very good, Students.

  5. #7 by cpmkxjpm@gmail.com on December 9, 2015 - 9:35 am

    It is better to keep links in the body of the text or above the fold. These tools are web blogs, banner ads on various web sites and even using search engines. Certainly if you require some unusual functionality – some game, interactive content or widget, and you don’t have design or coding skills yourself, you should consider approaching an agency.
    Read %url_domain% http://to.ly/

  6. #8 by Jason King on September 29, 2016 - 5:14 pm

    “My question for Mr. Sagan is this:
    “Can the logic you’re using in your argument be put in a test tube?””

    So, by introducing a straw-man, that somehow falsifies his point?

Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: