Dogmatic Skepticism and Organized Atheism (2 of 2)

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Dogmatic Skepticism and Organized Atheism

Finding Mixed Nuts in James Randi’s Amazing Hat, and
Losing Michael Shermer in the Cave of Patternicity

Part 2 of 2

Edip Yuksel
July 2011

The leading American skeptic, Michael Shermer, after getting disoriented in an interview which he calls an “ambush”, engages in a pre-emptive strike. He responds with a criticism infected with logical fallacies such as poisoning the well, straw-man, red-herring, hasty generalization and a false innuendo about my prison term in Turkey. After analyzing his article, I propose two options.

“He produced a blog post and he wants to hide the only evidence that is related to the blog post. This placed him in a deep contradiction with his position as a skeptic.” Gazi Alankuş

 

Dear Michael: 

You have published an article reacting and commenting on our interview with you on June 17, 2011. You published the article entitled The Number 19: An attempted ambush interview turns into a lesson in patternicity and numerology, in three websites:

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/11-06-29

http://skepticblog.org/2011/06/28/number-19/

http://www.michaelshermer.com/2011/

Your article was an evasive reaction to the 19-based mathematical system in the Quran. Before sharing some examples of 19 in the Quran, you added a few silly words and then you hurled a few punches at a straw-man by quoting the unrelated and nonsensical remarks by a dogmatic clergyman with a 3.5 pound potato for a brain. Thereby, you wished to poison the well and create prejudice against the Quranic examples. After quoting some examples from my book, you continued employing logical fallacies by attempting to confuse them with unrelated, anecdotal, and arbitrary semi-silly examples about dozen of different numbers. Finishing your article, by referring to my prison experience in Turkey with an innuendo, was a clever and creative ad hominem attack. In fact, your article was filled with ad hominem. Instead of dealing with the philosophical debate on the evidences I provided, you indulged in describing me as “very fidgety” “feverishly taking notes and fiddling around with books.” “leaped up out of his chair like a WWF wrestler”, etc. Interestingly, you forgot to quote your own description of yourself during the cross-examination!

Let me concede. Indeed you are more fluent than me; English is chronologically my fifth language and I have a strong accent, which usually creates a low impression on Americans hooked on American idol or the Kardashian show. Despite your balding head you are more handsome than me. You generate better smiles on your face, at least during the first session with Matthew (not Alan!). You were not very fidgety. You did not feverishly take notes; in fact, you did not take any. You did not fiddle around with books; in fact, you treated them like a bibliophobe. But, towards the middle of my cross-examination, you looked disoriented, disturbed, confused, and utterly lost in your own office. You treated me like a “bad cop” while you sought clarification from my friend, whom you perceived as the “good cop.”

It seems that you panicked after you were ambushed intellectually. In front of five people and two recording cameras you confessed twice: “I look like an ***** here!” and you asked us not to release the second part of the interview. All have been recorded in high definition!

You lost debate because of your arrogance

No Michael, you are not an *****; you are a bright and educated man. Yet indeed on the afternoon of June 17, 2011 you looked like an *****because you acted like a bigot, demonstrating no interest in an intellectual debate on the topic of your expertise. Though my argument was philosophical and scientific, and my examples were verifiable and falsifiable, you noticed the compelling nature of my argument and you wished to avoid it by declaring your ignorance of the Quran and Islam. Ironically, you had just made the Quran and Islam the cover story of the Skeptic magazine, at which you are the chief-editor and publisher. Bad timing!

In brief:

    1. You lost philosophically through your reaction and evasive response to the prophetic mathematical evidence for God’s existence.
    2. You lost scientifically through your inability to account for the verses of the Quran on cosmology, embryology, physics, and other issues supported by modern science.
    3. You lost professionally when you pleaded the Fifth after publishing false information about the Quran through your magazine.
    4. You lost your integrity when you published an article mocking our evidences by mixing it with irrelevant remarks; the evidences that you could not handle during the Socratic grilling session, which you described as an “ambush”.

As I told you during my cross-examination, you did not need to respond to my statements on theology. Though months before the interview I had mailed to you the Quran: a Reformist Translation and later the NINETEEN: God’s Signature in Nature and Scripture. As it appears, you have interest in everything, including paranormal claims, religious mythologies, and scientific issues in the world, but you have not even looked at the pages of those books that equally challenge the religious establishment and modern atheism. Apparently, you did not even show interest in those books, especially the second one that refers to some of your books, even during the time you were editing articles about and against the Quran.

Then the day of reckoning came, which is much easier than the real day of reckoning in the hereafter. Here I was there at your office, challenging your atheistic dogmas and your claims about the Quran with philosophical arguments supported by verifiable/falsifiable evidences. As a prominent skeptic and atheist, what did you do? You acted like a religious bigot with no interest in philosophical debate. You acted as if you had seen a lion (or a WWF wrestler!) in the open. I was surprised when I provided some examples of numero-semantical system in the Quran, such as the frequency of the word Month being 12, and the frequency of the word Day, as you expected, being 365, even so you still did not demonstrate any interest in the subject matter. You acted as if you were sitting on a bunch of nails with sacks of potato chips on your shoulders. You knew that you were being subjected to a Socratic cross-examination and the person next to you was not a religious piñata, a believer of dogmas and contradictory stories whom you could easily punch to death and declare another cheap victory. It was too late when you realized that you made a remark that you regret making. Interestingly, you repeated that remark at least twice.

You lost the debate. No, it was not you who lost. It was your prejudices and arrogant claims about God and the Quran that lost. Instead of considering it as a victory for truth and for yourself, instead of asking me to meet you another time after you study our arguments more carefully, you acted like the prototype ingrate described in 74:16-25 and 7:146 and chose to stay in Saqar, which is described in 74:26-30.

A Hodgepodge of Logical Fallacies

Interestingly, you managed to squeeze in half-a-dozen major logical fallacies in a short article, which may be used as a good material in Logic classes to show examples of logical fallacies. Here is the list of fallacies crept in your article:

    1. Ad Homonym (WWF wrestler; false implication by referring to the Midnight Express film)
    2. Poisoning the Well (Louis Farrakhan, numerology; Three Dog Night)
    3. Straw-man (Lois Farrakhan; numerology)
    4. Red-herring (the entire article)
    5. Hasty Generalization and Mockery (the entire article, especially through the patternicity label)
    6. False Analogy (The paragraph which mentions the number of pages in my book; the mishmash list following that paragraph, which contains 8 different numbers and about 20 different concepts/facts as an analogy to the pattern in the Quran, which is about one number (19) in one book (Quran).

Fearing that the video recording of you with self-incriminating confessions of ****** may be released to the public, you calculated the risks and decided to pre-emptively react, by any means possible. The evasive, the “not-knowing-anything,” the “looking-like-an-*****” atheist against me in June 17th 2011 somehow turned into a skeptic hero who was “ambushed” by a lunatic man who had escaped from a Turkish prison! A nice Hollywood movie!

You have my book and you may learn from it that I was imprisoned by a martial court after the military coup in 1980 for two of my articles which were critical of the Turkish government. Many activists, academics, authors and political figures too were imprisoned by the military regime. Then, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the current Turkish Prime Minister, my former comrade, too was arrested for participating in a political rally led by me, and we spent a night in jail together with other 300 protesters. This story was publicized in a political biography by his former advisor, Mehmet Metiner, and recently became the focus of controversy in Turkish media. Though I was subjected to torture in prison, I did not experience the kinds of abuse you are implying. I invited you to play a physical game after the interview while the camera operator was packing up. This was to reduce your anxiety and to comfort you since you looked fazed after being grilled by an incarnated Socrates with funny accent and weird demeanor. Though I am uncompromising when it involves theological and philosophical debates, I have compassion even to my ardent enemies, which I do not consider you belonging to that category. Albeit, perhaps I was naïve not to think that it might take you to the Midnight Express and invoke some disturbing scenes. If you really got that impression, I do apologize for that. My friends knows about the game, which is an entertaining balancing and concentration challenge; we invented it when we were in a small military prison where we did not have room to exercise. So, I am still very good at that.

Michael, your critical article on 19 is juvenile. You cannot mock and distort the facts and get away with it forever. I advise you to get yourself out of the panic mode and deal with this challenge as an intellectual and honorable person, which I believe is your essence. As I told you, I support your work and enjoy many of your articles debunking religious lies and mythologies. But, when you were examined by a rational monotheist, you fell apart like the religious figures have done in your investigation.

Patternicty, or the pattern of ignoring examples of pattern and design that refute the atheistic dogmas

Dear Michael, the light of truth may initially hurt our eyes. Learning that that there is an intelligent creator might pose problems with your petty vested interest in leading an atheist organization, but it will save you from darkness of atheism and nihilism; it will open the gate of eternal life with God. I had similar experience myself in 1986; for several months, I insisted to stay in the darkness of Sunni religion.

At the end of your article, you have promised your readers to write a feature article and solicited the following:

“Patternicity Challenge to Readers: As a test—of sorts—I would like to hereby issue a challenge to all readers to employ their own patternicity skills at finding meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise with such numbers and numerical relationships, both serious and lighthearted, related to the number 19 or any other number that strikes your fancy. Post them in the comments section of this eSkeptic and we shall publish them in a later feature-length article I shall write on this topic.”

This is a good try. But, looking at the meaningless patterns you have listed in your article and the patterns your admirers posted in the comment section, I do not expect a serious response. Your readers will come up with arbitrary and silly lists of some numbers and events or inconsistent and anecdotal examples of the number 19 in a text of their choice, which they will pretend utilizing a similar pattern. I am still looking forward to your article, since it might be better than the current one.

If you look at the book I gave to you and autographed upon your request, you will see that I have several articles in the Appendices statistically analyzing the so-called patterns fabricated by the knee-jerk critics and innumerate numerologists. For instance, I recommend you reading the following articles:

    • Appendix 2, The Gullible, the Blind, and Boxes of Diamonds and Glass, pp. 388-391.
    • Appendix 3, Diluting the Miracle, pp. 394-399.
    • Appendix 5, Diamond vs. Glass, by Prof. Richard Voss, pp. 402-429.
    • Appendix 6, The Ingrates React, pp. 430-433.

As it seems, you failed again to study the subject of your critical article, which has been the common reaction of religious people. For instance, you wonder about whether Carl Sagan responded to my mail. If you had browsed the book, you would see the copy of his second mail on page 126 and my response in the following pages. You could learn a few things from my response, or at least, you could criticize my argument, rather than punching a straw man like Louis Farakhan, whose nonsensical remarks have nothing to do with the subject of the book.

Atheist Sam Harris: “We will continue to spill blood”

Perhaps, you will understand my point better if I treat you with your own medicine. No, I will not mock you as a person as you and your friend Randi have done (See: http://19.org/641/randi/). Trust me I can do a fine job in making a mockery of you; but it would be a disservice to such an important subject. Besides, you are a good-natured person and I have no personal vendetta against you. I will only respond to your straw-man argument, transforming into an educational boomerang. To mirror your twist, I will use a few sentences from your introductory paragraph about Louis Farakhan:

At this point I had a vague flashback memory of another famous atheist, Sam Harris, who justified the USA-Inc’s invasions and massacres around the world, killing more than a million in Iraq, and tens of thousands in Afghanistan. A little Internet search confirmed my flashback. Below is a quote from Sam Harris, a best-selling atheist author whose remarks comparing rape to religion in an interview with ABC Radio host Stephen Crittendon in 2006 made the headlines. Though Sam Harris did not condone rape, his statement that “there is nothing more natural than rape” stirred controversy. Here is the Sam’s argument to spill more blood of the “innocents abroad”:

“The link between belief and behaviour raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.” (Sam Harris, The End of Faith, pp. 52-53.)

The warmongering argument above justifies all the terror, atrocities and tortures committed by USA-Inc and Zionists against civilian population of poor countries. The prominent atheist sides with jingoism and imperialism against gang terrorism, which is ironically the byproduct of imperialism and its policy of invasions, covert operations, supporting tyrants and authoritarian regimes in countries with rich natural resources. When in power, atheists are ruthless. To promote their ideologies, atheists like Stalin and Pol Pot did not hesitate to kill millions of people.

Now, would you be happy if this were my response to any of your articles promoting atheism, especially, if you disagree with the warmongering position of Sam Harris or with the policy of Stalin and Pol Pot? Interestingly, your philosophical position is much closer to that of Sam Harris than is my philosophical and theological position of Louis Farrakhan. But, you did not care about that. In haste to poison the well and manipulate your readers, you just wanted to find a silly remark made by a “Muslim” clergyman. This would lead your readers to punch a straw man through a hasty generalization. This is not even “guilt by association,” since I do not consider Louis Farrakhan as a rational monotheist. I feel much closer to an atheist than to a professional religious leader who has no inhibition in peddling false stories about God. Louis is a Sunni demagogue, a clergyman who lives a lavish life through donations made by his poor congregation. Louis does not engage in critical thinking; to the contrary, like all religious preachers, he invites people to believe on faith and join his bandwagon!

Two options

I challenge you for a real face-to-face debate that will not make you feel as if you are being ambushed by a fidgety wrestler. In fact, you may ambush me at any time in any location you wish! I have no problem with truth. If you falsify my claims I am ready to change my position! You may even ask your magician friend, the so-called “Amazing Randi”, to join you for help. Though he is a hard nut to crack, he may produce rabbits out of his magician’s hat to distract or entertain the audience! He may even call me nuts, peanuts, coconuts, walnuts as much as he wishes. I am not offended by the insults of a moruk whose intellectual capacity is limited by a bowl of nuts.

So, here is my proposal:

    1. Let’s set up a date for a two-hour debate with me on the subject of NINTEEN in front of a public audience before the end of this coming October. We may pick a University in California or New York. OR
    2. Give permission to the producing company to release the video recordings of my cross-examination of you which you describe as an “ambush,” within their documentary film, so that people could see the nature of the ambush you are complaining about.

Why I prefer face-to-face debate? Well, I have debated this issue in writing for more than two decades. I have already published a book, Running Like Zebras, containing a lengthy debate between me and Abdurrahman Lomax. I have also extensive debate in writing with another critic who calls himself Ayman. For complicated and comprehensive issues like this, I prefer a face-to-face debate, since it is immediate, and allows follow-up questions and answers, thereby enabling parties to focus on a particular issue and expose contradictions, logical fallacies, and false assumptions in much efficient way.

So, it is no surprise that anyone who engaged in a face-to-face debate with me on this issue lost the debate. The former head of the Turkish Religious Affairs, Professor Suleyman Ateş, literally escaped from the TV studio during a live program watched by millions of Turkish audience. Twice! Each time he was brought back by the TV host who received concessions from me to be softer on him. In order not to disturb the chips on his shoulder, I did not even respond to him when he added two imaginary letters to the first statement of the Quran, increasing the numbers of its letters from 19 to 21! The third guest on the panel, Pofessor Haluk Oral, a mathematician at Bosporus University, could not understand the phobic reaction demonstrated by the prominent Sunni cleric.

By now, you should know that you cannot get help from your comrade, Randi. (See the first part of this article). I do not recommend David Silverman, the president of American Atheist Organization, either. I had an hour-and-half debate with him in the Atheist Organization’s New Jersey headquarter. Unlike you, he was more comfortable and even enthusiastic during the debate; yet he found himself in a foreign zone when I brought the issue of code 19. Instead of reacting reflexively like you did, he wanted to outsource me to Randi. Though I told him that a mathematician, not a magician, would be more appropriate for this issue, he insisted me to contact a magician who happened to be nut-caster.

You should also know that, before publishing the book NINETEEN, I had contacted 50 mathematicians who signed a paper rejecting the claims made by Drosnin in the Bible Code. None responded, except one from Israel. If you would like to contact him, I would be glad to put you in contact with him. There have been serious critics of code 19, whom I had the opportunity to debate via Internet. For instance, Abdurrahman Lomax, Abdullah Ayman are among them. Just a week before interviewing you, I contacted Dave Thomas of New Mexicans for Science and Reason. He had written a critical article against 19, and I was going to cross-examine him and expose the manifold problems with his criticism. Unfortunately, citing a family issue, Dave declined the interview. In brief, you could invite the two Muslim critics of the code, Abdurrahman Lomax and Adullah Ayman together with Dave Thomas to join you in that debate.

Peace,
Edip Yuksel

Note: The person who interviewed you before me was not Alan Shaikhin, who hardly speaks English and this was his first visit to the USA. The interviewer was Matthew Capiello, the spokesperson of Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress (MPJP). Matthew was not aware of my “ambush.” You may also be interested in knowing that Alan Shaikhin prefers Dr. Pepper, since back in Kazakhstan he had seen Tom Hanks drinking it in the film, Forrest Gump. (The last information is meant to provide you with an irrelevant material so that you might use in your next article! In case you might need an ingredient for distraction! J)

(For the first part of this article containing my communication with James Randi, see: http://19.org/641/randi/ )