Martian Ontology

Do you believe that the planet Mars exists? Of course you do.


Abundant good evidence for Mars' physical existence is to be found. So, even though you have not visited the planet or watched it rise behind Elephant Rock (below), you believe that it exists.

Belief simply signifies the mental state of holding something to be true. Stating belief demonstrates no more than the personal possession of a mental state. Even a passionate or long-held belief is not necessarily a realistic belief. It boggles the mind, but some people believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.

Do you believe that electrons exist? I can't show you a photo of an electron. With a rest mass of only 9.109 x 10 -31 kg, you could never see an electron. However, the activities of electrons are detectable as electricity, and you could not be reading this post without the benefit of electricity.

Do you believe that little green men live on Mars? Let's call them Martians. Here's a picture of one.


Do you think that you do not have enough evidence to rule Martians in or out? After all, human missions to Mars have not scoured every nook and cranny of the planet.

How could one disprove the postulated existence of something that does not exist?

It is not logically possible to categorically prove that something non-existent does not actually exist. The logical inability of disproof would not indicate that the claim for existence necessarily had any validity. To insist otherwise is illogical. Fallacious arguments from ignorance erroneously insist either that lack of proof must render a claim false, or that lack of disproof must render a claim true.

Lack of proof could result from practical difficulties in obtaining evidence for a true claim, just as lack of disproof could accompany a false claim. The point is that it is illogical to extrapolate from proveability to insistence.

Should atheists respond to demands for proof that deities don't exist? No. To do so is to submit to the theistic fallacy of shifting the burden of proof. The theists make the claim for existence, so it is their burden to provide proof.

Back to the little green fella.

I'll assume that there is no need to send any men in white coats to collect you, because you undoubtedly are not fooled by the picture of the Martian.

No doubt, you realize that someone before me invented the fantasy of Martians, and you further realize that I doctored the image. (Need proof? I admit to doctoring the image.)

Since it is known that Mars has no liquid water and almost no atmosphere, not to mention inhospitable surface temperatures, the physical data suggest that Mars could not support such life. Toss the physical data together with your recognition of the fantasy element, and you probably think that you can make a decision concerning Martian ontology.

Since it is logically impossible to prove non-existence, do you think that even though you don't believe, you must be a purist and declare yourself agnostic about Martians? If you have even a smidgen of belief, then you are a believer and not an agnostic. Even a smidgen of belief is equivalent to Faith in Martians, no matter the evidence. After all, faith is belief despite absence of evidence. Specifically, absence of evidence – or absence of correctly interpreted evidence.

Same thing expressed differently, right?

"I don't believe in the existence" is logically equivalent to "I believe in the nonexistence."

A strong conviction that we “know” something does not count as knowledge. The conviction is merely belief passed off as knowledge unless it coincides with reality. We require both logic and unbiased evidence, even that aquired by others, to make any claim to knowledge. Knowledge is defined as having a true belief – accurately holding something to be true, even if you have not personally encountered the reality.

Circular evidence is not unbiased evidence. The Bible tells us God exists. Why do people believe this? Because they also believe that the Bible is the Word of God. Why do people believe this? Because they are instructed to believe this under threat of eternal punishment or loss of eternal rewards. In face of religious repetitis, they cannot conceive of, or entertain, a more realistic explanation for the written recording of myths.

Back to Mars.

Given that conditions on Mars are inhospitable to life and that we know that human imagination is responsible for the concept of Martians, we are quite justified in saying that Martians do not exist. We don't have to never meet a Martian to know that there are no little green men running around Mars, no matter what Disney cartoonists or Hollywood producers would have us believe. The fantasy does sell tickets, though.

See the point?

agnosticism, atheism, logic,


BlackSun said...

Nicely done. Inescapable conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, considering the logic that you display on your blog, a compliment indeed.

PhillyChief said...

Yes, very nice. It's always fun to re-gift theist arguments, and they'll never notice it's their own gift being given back to them.

Anonymous said...

I would have said that its the opposite of a theist argument. Those arguments tend to run:

I believe in God because, for example,
a. the Bible tells me to believe, or
b. because I interpret all the evidence as goddidit, or
c. the universe is complex, or
d. the universe must have a purpose, or
e. atheists can't disprove God's existence, or
f. some other varieties of irrelevant argument, or
g. some or all of the above,
C Ta-raaa, therefore God exists

PhillyChief said...

Your martian analogy is exactly their god argument, and essentially your "e" from your list. We don't know absolutely that there aren't any Martians on Mars, so we have to at least be agnostic to the idea of their existence. Yes, we have no reason to believe there are any and therefore can effectively say there are none, but we can't with absolute certainty say there are none. This is the nonsense argument theists use for god existence. Of course they claim they have that "magic sense" where they "know" god exists. In most of the world, if you claimed a special sense to know that Martians exist, you'd have those guys in the white coats coming for you. Replace Martian with god, and you're now a very good person.

Theists regularly prey on limitations. If they can exploit a limitation of knowledge, then they've created a place for their god. If they can show there are limitations to our perception, then they've created a place for their god out there beyond perception for it to exist. Most existence of god arguments boil down to this. Even Plantinga uses the "magic sense" and limitations of perception ideas in his validations of god belief.

It's a lazy theist who cites a holy book as evidence. Someone with at least a little skill will go with c, d, or e, with e being their best bet.

Anonymous said...

Now I see what you meant.

Yes, theists use a fallacious argumentum ad ignorantiam to imply that if gods cannot be disproven then, by default, gods must exist. My little Martian tale was an expose of the illogic behind that line of reasoning.

It boggles the mind how many variant deity-conceptualizations, even of the Christian God, have been invented.

PhillyChief said...

I do not claim to have a proper education in logic and philosophy; therefore, fallacious argumentum ad ignorantiam means nothing to me. I can however recognize patterns pretty well, especially when they're repeated so frequently. So I appreciate the "official" label and I will one day remember all these damn labels, but for now when I see those arguments I just think, "oh THAT shit again". ;)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, "oh THAT shit again" pretty well sums it up!

You actually described the fallacious argument from ignorance in your last comment. It is simply the old "if you can't disprove it, then it must be proven" fallacy. They don't realize that the argument is fallacious because this is exactly how they see matters.

Theistic arguments are packed with fallacies of logic -- I think that it's fun to identify them. Sometimes they manage to toss several fallacies into a single statement.

Pelagius Abrasax said...

I am 'agnostic' at the limits of our knowledge. (eg. cause of the big bang)

Agnostics haven't abandoned probability. Probability suggests that there is no Martians or angels or demons or archons or aeons or gods or devils or ghosts or elfs or anything of that ilk, BECAUSE FACTORS EXIST THAT RULE OUT THE PROBABILITY OF THEIR EXISTENCE.

As for the probability of "god" being at the limits of our knowledge. I would say that based on previous trends that the supernatural is NOT at the limits of our knowledge, unexplained natural processes are. That is my BELIEF based on PROBABILITY.

So I DON'T KNOW what preceded the big bang but I DON'T BELIEVE it was a god/deity/consciousness/sentience. I am atheist in that i follow no theism, I am agnostic in that I profess no knowledge beyond the 'limits of our knowledge'.

So be it.

Anonymous said...

Pelagius Abrasax "Agnostics haven't abandoned probability"

Don't you mean agnostics haven't abandoned **possibility**?