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Jun 18 2012

3rd degree gullibility

There are three degrees of gullibility. First degree gullibility is when you believe something because you don’t know any better, like a very young child believing in Santa. Second degree gullibility is when you become aware of conflicts and inconsistencies in what you believe, but you do not admit that they are genuine conflicts and inconsistencies, like when a creationist suggests that the speed of light was higher in the past and therefore the existence of visible stars more than 6K to 10K light years away does not contradict Genesis. And third degree gullibility is when you admit that there are conflicts and inconsistencies in what you believe, and yet you sincerely argue that people ought to believe it anyway. I haven’t got a one-line example of that last one, but “bobby” at news24.com has a longer one. And he even got an Editor’s Choice award for it.

Bobby’s main argument is that, where there is more than one possible explanation for something, the existence of the other explanations doesn’t mean that your explanation is necessarily false.

The atheist may start by saying that creation did not start with GOD because it is possible that it could have started in another way. When asked for proof, the atheist will start by looking for “imperfections” in creation and then start arguing against the character and credibility of GOD.

So the problems with creationism are twofold: one, the cosmos has “imperfections” (in scare quotes no less) that are inconsistent with God’s alleged character as a perfect Creator, and two, there are other explanations that don’t have nearly the problems that creationism has. Bobby addresses this challenge by looking for something he can claim is true even though other explanations are possible. Not necessarily better, mind you, but possible. Ironically, the example he chooses is love.

Well let’s take love now. If an atheist tells me that he/ she love their mother or father or spouse, I will have to ask for evidence. Some of the evidence offered would be:

1.       I enjoy making them feel special.

2.       I put their needs above mine.

3.       I am prepared to die for them.

Then the question emerges – can someone who does not love a person do the above. The answer is yes.

He goes on to list ways you might produce evidence of love without actually loving someone. Maybe you’re being nice to people for purely selfish motives, like earning yourself a really good seat in heaven, or proving how righteous and holy and humble you are, in order to win the admiration and adulation of others. Or maybe you spontaneously sacrifice your life to save a total stranger, in a crisis of some kind. Bobby’s point is that your love for Mom and Dad is still real even though there might be other, non-loving reasons that would explain your behavior—and therefore we should believe in creationism even though science has found better, more consistent explanations for the origin of the universe.

The problem is that he’s trying to use this argument to justify believing in superstitious beliefs despite the conflicts and inconsistencies in those beliefs. His argument isn’t sufficient to justify that. If there are multiple possible explanations for what you see, that doesn’t mean that all the explanations are equally good and you can just pick whichever one you like. There may be many possible explanations, but the truest explanation is going to be the one that is most consistent with the facts.

That makes bobby’s choice of examples a very unfortunate selection, at least for his own case. The way to tell whether or not love is real is to consider how consistently the person behaves in a loving way. You can be kind to a stranger in a one-off, polite sort of way, but do you do more? Do you respect them, and get to know them, and show up for them when they need you, and treat them in a loving way even when you don’t feel like it, over the long term, consistently and reliably?

In God’s case, the answer is no. We have stories that men tell about a God who allegedly loves us, but if He ever showed up to spend any time with us people would literally call it a miracle. We have believers practicing the same relationship with God that one can have with any other imaginary friend, but again, that’s stories men tell about God, not a God who loves us enough to show up and spend any time with us in person. We have arguments made by people like bobby, who want us to believe God is real and God loves us, no matter what inconsistencies and contradictions we can see in their stories and their “evidence” and their arguments, but we don’t have God Himself showing up to render those arguments unnecessary.

Third degree gullibility. It’s as far as you can go in depriving yourself of the ability to distinguish between truth and untruth. And for some people, that’s what “faith” is. You can even win awards for it.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    nedchamplain

    This is where the ponzie scheme comes into play. God says the first born of your cattle is mine, so you must give it to the church. Times change, so now we will call it tithing. The promise is that for every dollar you give you will be repaid ten times, if not here then in heaven. What we end up is a few extremely wealthy preachers with no oversight except their god.

  2. 2
    Nick

    I always found the love argument to just be a bunch of handwaving and obfuscation. Well I can’t prove my point, but you can’t prove you love your (spouse/parents/kids/neighbor/dog/chia pet) so you’re position is wrong/we both have faith/insert counter argument here. I still find it amazing anyone could take this argument seriously, but most theistic arguments are just PRATT anyway (previously refuted a thousand times).

    I always found chrisitanity to be more like a mafia protection racket than a Ponzi scheme. Christianity tells you you’re going to be tortured forever because of some original sin, then sells you the solution in the form of religion. It’s like breaking your leg and selling you crutches.

  3. 3
    neleabels

    But there is an age old christian adage which sums up 3rd degree gullibility very nicely:

    “Credo quia absurdum” – “I believe BECAUSE it is absurd”

    Wrongly attributed to Tertullian, this little bonmot has been used as a oneline guidebook for christian belief for centuries.

  4. 4
    Peter N

    Once again, “love” is trotted out as an example of something that even an atheist would concede is real, but that can’t be “proven” by materialistic means. I think this fails from the get-go, because love is a brain state – it exists only as the function of my own, subjective perceptions, plus the stories I make up about them. All the proof I need of the love I have for my wife, my cat, and my collection of human anatomy books, is this: I feel it, and I say it. My love, real though it is, could quickly become unreal if I simply changed my mind about it.

    So GOD (love the all caps) is as real as love, huh?

  5. 5
    Joel Wheeler

    Bobby should look up ‘parsimony’.

  6. 6
    busterggi

    Okay, Bobby has addressed love but has he addressed infatuation?

    You know, the emotion that feels like love & makes one act like they are in love but is only temporary (though with a wide variation on length of time).

    Does god die every time love dies?

  7. 7
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    bobby:

    Which god?

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