|Creationist discussing science.|
I know that's a sweeping statement but it really is almost impossible to find an honest religious argument put forward by an honest religious person in the social media these days. It makes you wonder whether they know what intellectual honesty is. Maybe it's part and parcel of being religious in the first place; something to do with being able to delude yourself that your intuition is somehow the best measure of truth so your 'faith' must trump evidence, reason and logic.
One manifestation of this dishonesty can be seen in almost every question asked of proponents of rationalism and scientific methodology by Creationists and in their response to the answers. Almost all Creationists' questions are designed, usually naively in the extreme, to trap or catch out the opposition with no desire at all to actually learn anything new or to gain a deeper understanding.
A typical honest question designed to elicit information and increase understanding will be, for example, "Can you explain how the universe could have come from nothing, please?"
There may then follow an exchange of information, including links and references to books and videos such as A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss, or The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, maybe a discussion of 'quantum foam', the 'Anthropic Principle' and how lots of negative energy and lots of positive energy can add up to zero energy and yet provide more than enough energy to account for the universe.
The questioner may then decide to read the books and follow the links, or at least acknowledge that there are indeed scientific explanations for how the universe came from nothing. They may even disagree, just as scientists do, but at least they do so honestly.
An honest question is characterised by:
- Invitation to explain.
- Willingness to consider and think about the answer.
- Willingness to change one's mind.
By contrast, a typical Creationist, having probably asked someone else the same question a day or two ago, will ask, "If the is no God who created the universe?", or even more profoundly dishonest assertion rather than a question, "Science can't explain the origin of the universe."
The dishonesty in this question is in the way it begs the questions. There is an inbuilt assumption that the universe was created and created by someone which his opponent is obliged to accept in order to engage the question. There is no request for information, merely a challenge to escape from the trap. The bald assertion that "science can't explain..." is merely an expression of ignorance at best and a lie at worst. In all probability the Creationist has been told that explanations exist every time he has asked the question, but he has chosen to ignore the answers.
More often than not an attempt to explain, or to suggest that it might be useful to read some physics is met with dismissal. "So you think your grandfather was a monkey! LOL!".
And almost invariably lurking in the background is the dishonesty of the false dichotomy fallacy, where the assumption is that there are only two possible explanations - either the scientific one or it must have been the locally popular god - coupled with the god of the gaps fallacy where the unspoken assumption is that, if science can't explain it, it must have been the locally popular god.
Characteristics of dishonest questions are:
- False premise - the question is predicated on a fallacy or unproven assumption which the respondent must accept in order to answer it. This is designed to entrap and embarrass, not to elicit information.
- Repetition. The question will be asked repeatedly regardless of how well or recently it was last answered.
- Offence at the answer, often with feigned indignation, and very frequently with a change of subject or complaint that a different question wasn't answered (the shifting goal-post strategy).
- Use of tactics in any discussion rather than substantive arguments, with evidence of rehearsal and practice, showing the disingenuous nature of the question and that the questioner, having asked it many times before, is not interested in any answers.
Personally, I find it staggering that creationists and apologists who use these strategies seem to take a pride in dishonesty and deception. I really can't see how it is consistent with a belief in a god of truth and honesty. If they really do believe in a god, it is a small god, easily damaged by information, or an insecure, vindictive little god who admires and rewards dishonesty and is afraid of losing control through ignorance and superstition, rather like a petulant child who throws its toys out of the pram when it doesn't get its own way.
But I suspect there is something else going on here. In fact there are probably several things:
- The easy answer which Creationists feel puts them on an equal or superior footing to those people who go to all that trouble studying and learning things. Why bother when you have a 'faith' which tells you all the answers? The fact that 'all the answers' are the same one and it doesn't actually answer the question is besides the point. At least you can claim to be cleverer and may even impress a few equally ignorant people.
- The 'Creationists' and Apologists who don't believe a word of it but love the power it gives them and the adulation (and often a substantial income) they get from promulgating this simplistic nonsense. No worries there about what their god thinks of them showing it takes lies and dishonesty to promote it. The market for books, talks and appearances on radio and TV chat shows is a multi-billion one in the USA alone, as is the lucrative trade to be had from online scams, usually complete with a 'donate' facility to help spread the tax-free good news.
- The psychotically deluded individuals bordering on the insane, if not actually clinically insane, or at least morbidly paranoid theophobic. These unfortunate people have invested so much of themselves in their religiosity that it is part of, or even all of, their identity. To admit to the slightest doubt would shatter their delusion and destroy their whole persona. Their entire existence is devoted to reinforcing their delusion and handling the cognitive dissonance of an intrusive and troublesome reality. What better way to do that than to trap and abuse those idiots who don't agree with me? That's teach them!
It seems dishonesty is a frequent, if not invariable, component of religion and the more religious the person is the more dishonest they need to be to maintain it.