Saturday, December 27, 2014

It doesn't convince you either!

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with a Christian apologist who was working on a series of videos that would provide evidence for the existence of God. During the conversation, I asked him if he would no longer believe if he would change his mind if I could conclusively show that each of his bits of "evidence" were, in fact, not evidence. (I've done this rodeo before. They don't have "evidence" so much as "arguments", and there isn't one that I know of that doesn't rely on some sort of a logical fallacy.) He told me that even if I was able to convince him that his arguments were bad, he wouldn't become an apostate.

I found this to be pretty curious. If those are supposedly the reasons why one should believe in God, then why would you keep believing if all of those reasons were shown to be false? Obviously, the bits of "evidence" that he was going to give weren't the reasons why he believes at all then. That's fine, but why even bring it up if it's not what convinces you?

I try and make the case for all sorts of things that some people don't believe: evolution, climate change, the safety of GMOs, etc. However, all of the reasons that I give are the reasons why I accept these things to be true. If somebody showed me that all of my reasons for believing in climate change, for instance, were actually false, then I would have no choice but to change my mind.

Likewise, if I found that all of my objections for not believing in a God were shown to be faulty, then I would have to become a pure agnostic at the very least if not a full-on believer. I don't just say things like that there is no evidence for God's existence just because it sounds convincing. I genuinely believe that to be true! And when I say that the arguments for God's existence rely on logical fallacies, I'm not just giving a sweeping dismissal of the other side's arguments. I genuinely think that this is the case, and I think that I can effectively point out where the fallacy is in each instance. If somebody can show me just one instance where I'm wrong on that score, then I'll have to take at least a step closer toward belief.

I don't think that this phenomenon is so unique to religion either. People like to pick a side and stick to their side in various debates and disputes. If they think that they have a talking point that will "win" the argument, then they'll use it, even if the truth of that point is in serious question. For instance, I don't think that anybody who says that "The United States is the greatest country on the face of the Earth" is genuinely interested in finding out what might disprove that. Even if they give reasons why (like all of that freedom, ya know) they're not going to change their minds if you show those reasons to be fallacious.

If you genuinely care whether your beliefs are true or not, it's important to understand and question why you believe what you believe. Are the reasons you're giving the actual reasons? Or do you just think that they will sound convincing to others?

2 comments:

Richard Neel said...

The more I come into contact with this type of person, the more I want to see studies done on genetics or brain chemistry to determine if there are physiological factors determining the ability to shift opinions, beliefs and attitudes. It certainly seems to me that there are large numbers of human beings that have great difficultly, or are unable completely, to change philosophical or other deeply held beliefs or ideas even in the light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Lance Johnson said...

I wonder that as well. Some people certainly seem more willing to consider that they're wrong and seek new answers anyway.