Friday, August 30, 2013

How to convert an atheist to Islam - Pt II

Last time, I was looking through some guy's discussion about how to convert an atheist to Islam. Here, I continue sifting through the arguments.

He starts in...

Theory of Probability

In mathematics there is a theory known as ‘Theory of Probability’. If you have two options, out of which one is right, and one is wrong, the chances that you will chose the right one is half, i.e. one out of the two will be correct. You have 50% chances of being correct. Similarly if you toss a coin the chances that your guess will be correct is 50% (1 out of 2) i.e. 1/2. If you toss a coin the second time, the chances that you will be correct in the second toss is again 50% i.e. half. But the chances that you will be correct in both the tosses is half multiplied by half (1/2 x 1/2) which is equal to 1/4 i.e. 50% of 50% which is equal to 25%. If you toss a coin the third time, chances that you will be correct all three times is (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2) that is 1/8 or 50% of 50% of 50% that is 12½%.
A dice has got six sides. If you throw a dice and guess any number between 1 to 6, the chances that your guess will be correct is 1/6. If you throw the dice the second time, the chances that your guess will be correct in both the throws is (1/6 x 1/6) which is equal to 1/36. If you throw the dice the third time, the chances that all your three guesses are correct is (1/6 x 1/6 x 1/6) is equal to 1/216 that is less than 0.5 %.
Sounds good to me. I don't find anything particularly wrong with this description.
Let us apply this theory of probability to the Qur’an, and assume that a person has guessed all the information that is mentioned in the Qur’an which was unknown at that time. Let us discuss the probability of all the guesses being simultaneously correct.
Why do they have to be guesses? Why can't they be ballpark reasoned conclusions? After all, humanity did learn all of modern science... so why couldn't we back then have gotten some of it right?

Also, are we assuming that the texts haven't been "loosely interpreted" to sound like scientific ideas, too? That's bridge the gap from the other side as well.

So, right off the bat, because the author is glossing over a few potential (and incredibly likely) attributes of this scenario, the changes just increased dramatically. This setup is astonishingly begging the question.
At the time when the Qur’an was revealed, people thought the world was flat, there are several other options for the shape of the earth. It could be triangular, it could be quadrangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, heptagonal, octagonal, spherical, etc. Lets assume there are about 30 different options for the shape of the earth. The Qur’an rightly says it is spherical, if it was a guess the chances of the guess being correct is 1/30.
This falls right in line with what I was saying before. People still think that the world is flat now, but not everyone did back a couple thousand years.

Look up Eratosthenes (Wiki link) - a greek guy, who while living in Egypt (incidentally, geographically near the birth is Islam), before the year 195BC, about 800 years before the Qu'ran (Wiki link), not only thought the Earth was spherical, but calculated the circumference, using math and a stick, that turned out to have an error of 1.6%.

It wasn't like this was an unknown concept. Columbus didn't set out to "prove the Earth was round" - it was already basically a conclusion, and they were trying to take advantage of it (and resulted in killing millions of native Americans in the process).

If the author of the Qu'ran was "guessing" the Earth was around, he was a moron. It'd be like saying that he "guessed" that the moon existed, and happened to get it right.

If you're wondering whether the Qu'ran actually states the Earth is round... that' a good question. Let's have a look at some verses.
He created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and He scattered through it beasts of all kinds. We send down rain from the sky, and produce on the earth every kind of noble creature, in pairs. (Chapter 31 Luqman سورة لقمان - Luqman: Verse 10)
Wherein the rising and setting of the sun are physical places one can go to...
One (such) way he followed,
Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: Near it he found a People: We said: "O Zul-qarnain! (thou hast authority,) either to punish them, or to treat them with kindness."
He said: "Whoever doth wrong, him shall we punish; then shall he be sent back to his Lord; and He will punish him with a punishment unheard-of (before).
"But whoever believes, and works righteousness,- he shall have a goodly reward, and easy will be his task as We order it by our Command."
Then followed he (another) way,
Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had provided no covering protection against the sun. 
(Chapter 18 The cave سورة الكهف - Al-Kahf: Verse 85 through Verse 90
 (Yea, the same that) has made for you the earth (like a carpet) spread out, and has made for you roads (and channels) therein, in order that ye may find guidance (on the way); (Chapter 43 Ornaments of Gold سورة الزخرف - Az-Zukhruf: Verse 10
There's a bunch of things like that. There's a bunch of spots where the Qu'ran disagrees with science generally... but those don't count, apparently.

So, just like Christian apologetics, we have begging the question, lies by omission, cherry picking, sharpshooter fallacies, citing already known concepts, and very very charitable translations - no wait... he didn't actually even cite the passage that states the Earth is round.

So, no. Not compelling.

He continues...

The light of the moon can be its own light or a reflected light. The Qur’an rightly says it is a reflected light. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/2 and the probability that both the guesses i.e the earth is spherical and the light of the moon is reflected light is 1/30 x 1/2 = 1/60.
Again, why would anyone even have to guess that? If anyone has ever handled a roughly spherical object, like a fruit, they'd notice the similarities between the light/shadow patterns on the fruit, and on the moon. A child could figure this out, if only the child is prompted with the question.

... so again, to "guess" this would be the idiotic route. Humans are capable of reasoning and extrapolating concepts. This one isn't exactly rocket surgery.
Further, the Qur’an also mentions every living thing is made of water. Every living thing can be made up of either wood, stone, copper, aluminum, steel, silver, gold, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, oil, water, cement, concrete, etc. The options are say about 10,000. The Qur’an rightly says that everything is made up of water. If it is a guess, the chances that it will be correct is 1/10,000 and the probability of all the three guesses i.e. the earth is spherical, light of moon is reflected light and everything is created from water being correct is 1/30 x 1/2 x 1/10,000 = 1/60,000 which is equal to about .0017%.
Again, it'd be nice if he cited a verse, so we can see how charitably he's interpretting passages. For example, to say that all life has water, versus being "made from water" are two different assertions. My truck has gasoline in it, but I wouldn't say it's "made from gasoline". Life is made of hydrogen, iron, oxygen, and a number of other things. It would have been nice if the Qu'ran bothered to be more specific over that.

I think this is what he's referring to:
Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before we clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?
(Chapter 21 The Prophets سورة الأنبياء - Al-Anbiya: Verse 30)
Sigh... again... simple observation. Divine revelation not required. All he had to do was talk to people in the educated world what they thought.

To say that we were made "from water" is nonsensical, anyway. Guess what distinguishes life from water? Hint: the not-water parts. It would have been more compelling if it said something along the lines of "organic compounds." One cannot create life from water... even if water is a needed component (for the type of life we're aware), the Qu'ran is still missing key ingredients, for being "scientifically accurate."
The Qur’an speaks about hundreds of things that were not known to men at the time of its revelation. Only in three options the result is .0017%. I leave it upto you, to work out the probability if all the hundreds of the unknown facts were guesses, the chances of all of them being correct guesses simultaneously and there being not a single wrong guess. It is beyond human capacity to make all correct guesses without a single mistake, which itself is sufficient to prove to a logical person that the origin of the Qur’an is Divine.
Setting aside that these were "known to men" at the time... so this is literally an Argument from Ignorance.

This argument fails on multiple levels.

First, as I've been pointed out, the author is distinctly missing multiple factors that modify the probability of getting it right, instead, manufacturing a ludicrous scenario where these assertions were completely chosen at random out of a intellectual vacuum.. instead of being based on reasonable observation by a reasonable person.

Second, it's engaging in a lot of Sharpshooter Fallacy and cherry-picking - making a ton of claims, circling the hits, and ignoring the misses. There's a lot of spots where it gets the science horribly wrong, but he's not going to bring that up, is he?

Thirdly, so what if the Qu'ran was the first to state these facts? What if the Qu'ran were to accurately describe the complete atomic theory, as we know it today? The only thing he's established is that the authors of the Qu'ran had access to that information. Whether it came from an unknown scientifically literate civilization, aliens or invisible sky wizards... he actually has to establish the source of the information.

Forthly, Christians make the same claims. Here, read Conservapedia's list of Biblical scientific knowledge, that, incidentally, predates the Qu'ran (the Bible, not Conservapedia), until your eyes bleed spiders (which will take surprisingly little time). Doesn't that make the Christian God true?

Fifthly, while it's not explicitly stated, I think this is supposed to be a dichotomy... one which is false. It's as though the author wants you to accept that there's only two possible explanations for "scientific" stuff in the Qu'ran:
  1. It's all just a wild-ass guess plucked completely at random out of thin air.
  2. God exists and is the source of the information
... although, as usual, the theist fails to actually make an argument... or provide any kind of thesis to tie it together. You're just supposed to figure out what the point is supposed to be.

This is why I kept harping on the possibility of "educated or informed assessments based on observation", combined with lenient interpretations of the text, that results in appearing to have had scientific insight. That's a lot less impressive, yes?

This person doesn't have a clue about epistemology.

This is just like apologists... they try to assail and confuse the audience with numbers so they have no rebuttals... but they never manage to make any arguments that don't blow over like a house of cards.

The key to understanding the insipid insidiousness of arguments like this, is to understand that humans utterly suck at assessing and understanding probabilities. If I hadn't made you aware of the additional factors that would drastically alter the probability that the Qu'ran would get these assertions correct, the author's argument may appear to be compelling.

It's all smoke and mirrors.

It's not like the Qu'ran was talking about anything particularly obscure, like atomic or quantum theory. It was talking about readily observable, and understandable blatant facts of reality. We know what we know about atomic theory because we painstakingly set up a wide variety of empirical experiments to suss out attributes one bit at a time. If the Qu'ran had any of that, it'd be interesting.

Christian apologists will sometimes claim that the Bible predicted "particles", from this verse:
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. (Hebrews 11:3)
Does "made of which do not appear" really mean "particles"? Why not spirits or ghosts? If you weren't primed (power of suggestion) to think of that as talking about particles, would you really come to that conclusion? Not all particles are "unseen" - dust, for example.

If the point was to educate humanity on the existence of atoms, why couldn't it pick a significantly less vague phrasing, and go with something like "things are made of small bits.. like grains of sand on a beach, except, they're so small, you can't see individual ones"? Why does the bible have to suck at explaining things?

It's more likely a case for Occam's Razor - the Bible wasn't talking about atoms, and you're interpreting it wrong.

Taking the loose interpretations to engage in postdiction on things that ancient people, who weren't Christian, were already thinking about... is why these arguments just fall flat on their faces.


Next up, the author says more things!

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