Knowledge of basic science, philosophy, math, and statistics are not required in order to become a minister, pastor, or priest. Catholic priests do have some advanced education, but they don't necessarily have to learn anything from their secular education. Case in point is Fr. Alfonse Nazzaro of the St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas, Texas.
Photo: Archive Photos/Getty
Nazzaro has recent demonstrated that despite classes in philosophy and science, he still doesn't seem to know much about basic probability. As a consequence, he also fundamentally misunderstands reality itself. This is because ignorance of probability leads a person to misunderstand reality -- a serious problem that afflicts a lot of people, most of whom at least have the excuse of not having had any education on the subject.
I've often written that people should get more education about critical thinking and logic while in school. Most atheists and skeptics agree with this, but I also think that education about statistics and probability might be even more important. It might be the most important math subject that people can study and should probably be put before calculus in high schools.
Well, I for one am convinced that there is no such thing as a "free thinker", for most are slaves of their past.
Yes, we all fancy ourselves as thinking for ourselves and being "independent minded", but the truth of the matter is: we are creatures of habit, and we will easily follow something or someone for reasons other than "truth", "love" and "humility".
And if you still don't believe me, then take a look for a moment at another aspect of the free thinker's life. So many of them are diehard members or adherents to various organizations and movements, the only exception being the religious ones (They consider those to be full of zombies). But who are the brainwashed? Who are the confused?
Even atheists feel the need to gather together and to support one another. Even they need to be indoctrinated in seminars (seminaries). Even they still buy a lottery ticket, while at the same time denying any chance in heaven that God exists.
What chance is there of winning the Powerball or Mega millions lottery? One in a billion. What chance is there of God existing? Fifty-fifty. After all, either God exists or He doesn't. But if he does and I believe, then I just won the jackpot!
Maybe the reason why they live for today is the same reason why we go to Church. You never know.
Source: Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse
Anyone who has taken even a single class in statistics will immediately see how mistaken Alfonse Nazzaro is. In fact, people with even just basic math education should be able to recognize that there is something wrong, even if they can't tell exactly what the mistake is.
Just for the record, I'll spell out the basic error Alfonse Nazzaro made: the existence of two possible options does not mean that the probability of one of them being true and the other being false is 50-50. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. The reason for this is that probability is not determined solely by the number of possible options; that's only one factor that has to be taken into account.
The simplest example to look at to better understand this may be flipping a coin. What are the chances of one side coming up rather than the other? It's typically said to be 50-50 (we ignore the infinitesimal chance of a coin landing on its side). Why? Because we always assume that the coin is "fair," or unbiased. But what if it's weighted? That changes the odds, doesn't it?
Coins aren't typically or easily weighted, but dice may be and thus we have loaded dice. I'll bet Alfonse Nazzaro has heard of loaded dice, but for some reason he doesn't take weighted or biased options into account. Indeed, he clearly doesn't even think very hard about the examples he does use because if we applied his reasoning about statistics to his example of the lottery, we'd have to conclude that we all have a 50-50 chance of getting the jackpot!
After all, there are only two possibilities: either we will win the jackpot or we won't. That's 50-50, right, just like the existence of his god (and this is being overly-generous by ignoring the fact that there are more than two choices because humans have postulated far more than one god - a fact which Nazzaro knows)? When his error was pointed out to him in comments, did Alfonse Nazzaro respond with grace, humility, or anything even remotely positive? Not in the least. I wonder if this has something to do with why he turned off comments across his entire blog for a while and why those early critiques are now missing.
Not so fast Brian. I mentioned God. You mentioned multiple Gods. Therefore, the liklihood that God exists just increaed, not decreased. It seems like you only took logic in middle school. Try it in College. It helps...A LOT.
And by the way, just for your basic knowledge: a priest has to take Philosophy, which means he has to study logic, and not just one class of it either. Now, given the fact that I was an engineer and have a Master's degree of science, I would say that I probably took more logic and more science classes than you. I don't know, I might be wrong, but given your answer...I don't think so.
Source: Friendly Atheist
Basically, Alfonse Nazzaro's response boils down to: I took Philosophy, studied logic, and have an advanced degree, so I must be better informed than you. At no point does Nazzaro even try to address the critiques in any sort of substantive, serious manner. He doesn't attempt to explain how his statements are consistent with the principles of statistics and probability while his critics' statements are not.
If he actually did learn anything in any of his philosophy classes, he'd know that his response is little more than a fallacy. His education has no bearing on whether his arguments are valid or sound or not; ditto with the arguments of his critics. Trying to defend his position by pointing to his education is a fallacy of relevance; trying to undermine his critics' arguments by pointing to their education is an ad hominem fallacy.
But when you have no way to defend yourself substantively, fallacies are all that's left.