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The 'Backdoor Technique'

Getting a Jehovah's Witness to see it your way - the 'Backdoor Technique'

I was reading an earlier discussion about typical discussions with jehovah's witnesses etc: Fun at the Front Door

I had my first encounter only a weeks ago (I'm 20 years old). I invited them in and we had 4 seperate discussions (about 2 hours) over a one month period. All the discussions consisted of me trying to convince them of the theory of evolution, with the aid of Richard Dawkins 'The Greatest Show on Earth.

I failed, of course, and I think I know why. At the outset, I tried to ascertain their understanding of the theory. They said: "We have had this argument many times, we are very familiar with the theory." I thought "Great! They understand the theory, so all they need to hear is the evidence to back it up. This will be easy." (I know, a little naive, but I'd never met anyone like this before, I'd only seen nutters interviewed by Dawkins - I didn't think people like that really existed here in Britain... ok, very naive.)

Anyway, to cut 4 long discussions short, they tried to come across as 'science lovers' (once they saw that I was 'sciency'). I explained the evidence and answered their so called counter arguments (I was amazed that they were exactly the same as you hear Dawkins encounter in so many interviews with creationists). The counter arguments went from stupid to 'I didn't think they existed over here' stupid - Why are there still chimps? shouldn't we have beaten them by now? Clearly, this was ignorant but praticed Vs. knowledgable but naive. With hindsight, I would have played it more like the following, which I call the 'back door technique':

Explain to them what science is. I usually think about it like a thought experiment. Forget everything you think you know - even your religion. Now, what are left with? well, something is going on - something exists because you're thinking (Descartes). Then it's just a case of applying the scientific method (Theory building, hypothesis testing using evidence, theory refutaion or modification and repeat) thereby building a body of knowledge about this existence. Some theories we will be very confident about - as a function of evidence. If there's not a good theory for a problem (like the origin of life or the universe or of dark matter etc.) then we stay with our initial 'we know nothing or very little' attitude untill a better theory, supported by evidence, is devised. If God or your religion is correct, then science will bring it out. If not, it won't.

That is an idealised version of what our current body of knowledge, as delivered by science, is at the moment. Finally, I would point out that God or their religion has yet to be vindicated by science, so there's no point in believing it anymore than anything else that hasn't - like unicorns or the flying spaghetti monster.

Who thinks this might work better than saying "you don't think evolution is true, whereas I do." and then have the usual 'stupid arguments and poor logic Vs. overwhelming evidence and good logic' debate - at the end of which, they don't change their minds?



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