Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Insert tab A into slot B...

Before we talk today, I think you'll find it instructive to view the following video, which gives clear, easy to follow instructions for converting atheists from their false religion. More specifically, the lady below is going to answer the following question, "How do I communicate with someone, who is an atheist, about the reality of God?"

There are several things that should be pointed out here. First, it's interesting that her argument explicitly hangs on manipulating the target- I mean, everyone says that they're a "seeker of truth" and "open-minded," right? As such, she's not really trying to advance a positive argument for god as she is trying to undermine the atheist's confidence in his or her own beliefs.

Second, it's important to note that "open-minded" is not the same thing as "indecisive". I've covered this before, but in short- to be open-minded is to be willing to evaluate all evidence fairly in reaching a decision, but it is not the same as being unwilling to reach a decision. If it were, then an open-minded person would never reach a conclusion about anything. Obama versus McCain? I dunno, I'm open-minded. Join a gym or run outside? Gosh, I can't decide, I'm too open-minded. Chocolate versus vanilla? Damn, I don't know, I just have such an open mind! So, basically, it's perfectly consistent to say, "Yes, I have an open mind," and yet still to assert, "But, I've made a decision about this and it will require a considerable amount of evidence to change my mind".

Third, her whole "isn't it possible that" logic works just as well either way. For example:

Drek: So you're a seeker of truth?

Crazy Lady: Yes.

Drek: And you have an open mind, don't you?

Crazy Lady: Oh, yes.

Drek: Okay. Well, on this paper, why don't you draw a regular polygon that represents all human knowledge.

Crazy Lady: ...?

Drek: *sigh* A circle will be fine.

Crazy Lady: *draws circle*

Drek: Now, why don't you color in the portion of the circle that you, personally, understand.

Crazy Lady: *Shades a speck.*

Drek: Now, you think that god is in the shaded area, right?

Crazy Lady: Oh, I know he is!

Drek: Right, right. But, is it possible that you just think he is, but that really, there's something outside the circle that's making it seem that way?

Crazy Lady: Oh, no, I've felt god!

Drek: Oh, really? But I thought you had an open mind?

Crazy Lady: I do!

Drek: But you're not even willing to consider the possibility that what you think feels like god might be something else? A speck of mustard, perhaps?

Crazy Lady: You're going to hell. You know that, right?

Drek: It's come up before.

Fourth, why does the circle just contain all human knowledge? Why not all things that are known and ever can be known? Because it seems to me that the stronger case can be made by suggesting the staggering amount that we as humans have yet to understand, rather than playing up all the stuff we already do. But, hey, if I thought all wisdom came from one single book, I guess I might be afraid of the unknown too.

Fifth, it's interesting to me that using her admittedly half-assed logic she gets as far as "so you're really an agnostic, then" and is then unable to come up with any compelling way to get us from agnostic to theist. Sure, she has that whole, "shouldn't you find out why other people believe" thing, but that presupposes the atheist doesn't know already. Likewise, that's not an argument in favor of belief, it's an argument in favor of social science.

Last, and most critically, however, note how what should be a serious and heartfelt discussion with someone is reduced to a series of talking points. Because, really, when trying to discuss deeply important issues of personal philosophy, your strategy really should be something that reduces to "insert tab A into slot B".

People have occasionally claimed that as an atheist, I don't take arguments in favor of religion seriously. Me, I think I take them at least as seriously as the theists do.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, good sir, are being used in class tomorrow. Circle-drawing for all! BWAHAHAHHA!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 5:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Timo said...

Of course by that logic she should concede that anything is just as likely to exist outside her circle of knowledge. Allah, Zeus, Pixies, Vampires, Fairies and Talking Gnomes are all equally likely to exist as her God. After all she is open-minded about it, right?

Friday, November 12, 2010 4:06:00 PM  
Blogger Marf said...

Is it possible that outside of your knowledge there exists a square circle?

No? Why not? Because it is a contradiction of terms. I do not need to have absolute knowledge of the universe to say some things do not exist.

That's how I'd respond to the crazy lady. I'm sure I'd have a hard time convincing her that every description of God I've ever heard contradicts itself. But at that point she's no longer worth my time and I'll just smile and wish her a good day.

Friday, November 26, 2010 3:30:00 PM  

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