Wednesday, December 22, 2004

worst theistic argument ever

On the plane to Philly, I heard the worst argument for theism ever. When I think about all the geometric and logical incompetence displayed in it, I feel like Brian Leiter does when he is blogging.

The argument is as follows: if you slice the earth in half at the equator and flatten the Northern Hemisphere, Israel will be at the center of that flattened Hemisphere. Given the religious significance of Israel, this shows that God exists.

This may also be the worst argument ever, although I'm less certain of that. The person who offered it was unconvinced by my claim that only a really weird and arbitrary method of flattening would put Israel at the center. Eventually he stopped defending it when I pointed out that a similar flattening of the Southern Hemisphere would probably put some random spot in the ocean at the center, and that he would be committed to according that spot great religious significance.

8 comments:

David Killoren said...

Neil, this person's argument obviously works. In every area of life, from basketball to cooking, we normally accord great significance to whatever would be the center of anything round if that round thing were cut in half and then flattened.

Suppose you cut your friend's head in half and then flattened it. Obviously, if that happened, the first thing you'd ask is: Where's the center? The second thing is: Why did I never pay that region of her scalp the respect it deserved?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Indeed, I would be interested in slicing my own head in half and flattening it to find out where the most important part is. But after the slicing, I might have some difficulty determining the center.

Brandon said...

This is the kind of stuff that makes me think voting tests are not such a bad idea.

Bellicose Woman said...

I have to agree with YMSP82 on that one.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on, when did God ever give a damn about the southern hemisphere?

Anonymous said...

What about the North pole? That seems to me to be the obvious center of the northern hemisphere?

Map projection is a bit of a hobby of mine. Or, at least, an interest. If anyone's reading this and is interested in a source, I recommend John Parr Snyder's Flattening the Earth. Anyway, Muslims of the 7th century evidently believed Mecca to be the center of a disc-shaped Earth. Now, since we all know the Earth is an oblate ellipsoid, there's some debate as to whether Muslims praying toward Mecca should face a great circle arc toward Mecca (i.e. the shortest distance to Mecca over the Earth) or a rhumb line toward mecca (i.e. a constant bearing from the prayer location to Mecca). The former implies that a Muslim in, say, New York should pray northeast, her prayers going near the north pole and then descending southeast through Europe before going to Mecca, while the latter implies that the prayer will follow a longer rout, southeast across the atlantic and medditerranean. For Muslims who prefer the former interpretation, a number of retroazimuthal projections have been developed, which show great circle direction to Mecca for any location. These maps tend to double over each themselves, though, with the opposite side of the Earth from the center being in the same place as the center.

Julian Elson

Neil Sinhababu said...

In fact, I argued for the 'North Pole as center' position. Strangely, the guy didn't see that the North Pole made the natural center.

Anonymous said...

Mecca actually exists as the true North Pole, which makes sense because it has an opposite Polarity to the South pole. Bottom line is, the North Pole and the South Pole can't both be the same charge. Don't be fooled folks