This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Trying to coin a catchphrase: "The Obi-Wan dodge"

What do people think of the following idea?

I'm trying to coin a catchphrase, along the lines of "teapot agnostic" or "NOMA", but a bit more lighthearted, along the lines of "Get in the fooking sack" - something short and simple to be a placeholder for a longer idea.

(This may seem like a digression into pop culture and having nothing to do with the subject matter of this site, but bear with me a moment. It is on-topic.)

The phrase is "The Obi-Wan dodge", and it refers to one of the more famous lines from the Star Wars trilogy.

The backstory of this line, for a reminder, is that Luke has just asked Obi-Wan why Obi-Wan told him such a cruel lie earlier by telling him that Darth Vader killed Luke's father when in fact Obi-Wan knew the whole time that Darth Vader actually is Luke's father:

Your father... was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view

  - Ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It's that line in boldface that I'm referring to as "The Obi-Wan Dodge"

Now, for reference, let's remember what the original line in the first movie that Luke is referring to here:

A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.

  - Obi-Wan Kenobi earlier, to Luke

It's pretty clear there was no metaphor in that statement. It's obvious that it was Obi-Wan's intent to make Luke believe this literally.

I am struck by how much similarity there is between Obi-Wan's twisted explanation there to the way that may religious accomodationists will twist things to try to save themselves from having to simply admit that a religious claim is just plain false. The Obi-Wan Dodge consists of this retroactive re-writing of the intent of a previous statement to pretend that the statement was originally spoken in a context that was meant to be understood by the audience as nonliteral, when if you look at the original statement, there is no such context at all in the original statement.

We can see instances of The Obi-Wan Dodge all over the place in the arguments of the apologists who try to pretend a religion's claims are less incorrect than they really are by pretending those claims were less literal than they really were.

  • The claim that the days of creation were meant to be on the magnitude of billions of years and not like earth-days, even though it says that nowhere in the text.
  • The claim that the new testament doesn't really mean it when it says that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven and that was just a metaphor and people from other religions can get in too, because of course most nice moderate modern Christians aren't that intolerant, therefore the ancient ones who wrote the books must not have been either.
  • The claim that the authors of the bible knew the world was round and knew it didn't really have four corners.
  • The claim that the authors of the Old Testament weren't really trying to glorify stealing land by rape and pillage when they made heroes out of their leaders for doing just that.
  • The claim that the New Testament's authors didn't really mean it when they wrote that Jesus was coming back again within the lifetimes of the people he was talking to.
  • The list goes on and on. Obi-Wan Dodges abound.


    MORE BY Steven Mading



    Comment RSS Feed

    Please sign in or register to comment