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Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind - Comments

lol mahmood's Avatar Comment 1 by lol mahmood

You could invite them to count their ribs, and then count a manyone who believes itan's. The water thing is easy; just ask anyone who believes it where they think water that has been drunk goes.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 10:09:27 UTC | #889761

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 2 by Alan4discussion

Know-it-all ignorance, has long substituted for study, education and learning in religious groups, and in religious "schools", where historical mythological substitutes for knowledge are taught as facts. Ignorance of something as simple as the recycling of water in the modern age is incredible. It looks like the, "This is faith - doubt is wrong - I am your all-knowing infallible leader", message for sheeples!

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 10:16:27 UTC | #889762

BenS's Avatar Comment 3 by BenS

"Really? So if evolution was true, men and women would have the same number of ribs? Let's do some home science and count them, shall we? Well now, what do we have here?"

I find people tend to understand things better if you involve them in the discovery process (even if you're 'discovering' something that a five year old should know) rather than just telling them that they're wrong.

That said, I long ago lost patience in trying to correct dyed in the wool fundies. I once spend a massive thread, over 1000 posts, explaining radiometric dating to someone, correcting all his misconceptions, fielding his objections and countering his outright lies until at the end of it, finally, he absolutely knew and understood how it all worked and he agreed his arguments were flawed. Six months later, after he thought I'd left the forum, I saw him using the exact same arguments in a discussion with someone else. I did, of course, drop a screenshot of the original thread where he'd agreed the argument was flawed so he was caught red handed being utterly dishonest but I seriously doubt it would stop him using those arguments elsewhere.

Some people can't learn. Some people don't want to learn. Some people do learn but then go on to lie. With any of these, you're just wasting your time.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 10:42:55 UTC | #889765

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 4 by -TheCodeCrack-

Maybe RichardDawkins for reason and science should fund a study about why people believe things that are easily shown to be false?

Go for it Richard!

I've already heard Richard make a few point on this, e.g. child's brain gullible, strong selection pressure to follow anything an authority figure states. Can't differentiate between truthful and nonsense, that kind of thing.

4 year old's aren't skeptical. Maybe naturally selected to be the opposite of skeptical: gullible.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 12:38:38 UTC | #889783

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 5 by Schrodinger's Cat

I think that answer is this :-

Many people tend to believe a whole spectrum of things....from the demonstrably rational to the demonstrably absurd. There isn't simply a sharp division of rational beliefs on the one hand and absurd beliefs on the other. Because this scale is gradual, it has almost the effect of a 'slippery slope' type logic in their mind. Believing something that is a little bit implausible makes believing something a little more implausible easier......and so on. So the most implausible things end up being 'supported' ( in their minds ) by the weight of seemingly more plausible things that back up the whole arena of implausible beliefs.

That is also why simply attacking one particular issue has no effect. One has to attack not just what these people believe, but the way they believe. Part of that is showing people that there's really no connection between all their irrational beliefs......and that they thus cannot support or back up each other.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 12:51:43 UTC | #889787

78rpm's Avatar Comment 6 by 78rpm

I frequently counted my daughter's ribs when she was 6 years old, but that was only an excuse to tickle her.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 13:55:28 UTC | #889792

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 7 by -TheCodeCrack-

BTW, I don't understand the moderator's note. I think calling theists stupid is actually an effective campaign. Who wants to be called stupid? Who wants to be associated with the stupid side?

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 13:59:54 UTC | #889794

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 8 by Sean_W

I think the reason some people believe these things is because they have accepted the authority of "the elders" or some such nonsense. Our spiritual leaders are supposed to know things we cannot possibly know, so why would they be wrong about things we could know if we were interested enough to learn about them? And they certainly wouldn't lie to us.

I think a lot can be done to combat this in the media. Why is it that all of science is just a hopelessly speculative endeavor in the media, but theists know what's up without a doubt, or at least they are rarely questioned on matters of faith? Think about it, everybody and their dog will grill a scientist if they think she's said something remarkable, but a priest, rabbi, pastor -hell no, they can say whatever and if it's official doctrine we just move along.

The media has to stop treating all of science as hopelessly speculative and start engaging faith honestly, which is what any reasonable person would expect them to do given what faith heads are saying.

When was the last time you heard someone or heard about someone saying that science doesn't know anything because just last year they said eggs are bad for you, but now they say eggs are good? It happens all the time. But wait a minute, if it's a matter of who flip flops more religion wins that race hands down, plus it's all made up!

The media should do more to cement the image of science as a successful tool for discovery and work hard to elevate the well understood sciences to their proper place e.g. evolution and diet fads are not the same! If they have a problem with these things they should consider that it is a far greater problem to have the majority of your fellows knee-jerk trust go in the direction of religious leaders instead of people that actually know what they are talking about. Working to change peoples intuitions in this regard is the responsible thing to do.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 14:16:45 UTC | #889796

Zelig's Avatar Comment 9 by Zelig

Generally speaking, I think the best you can do is to make people aware that opinions other than theirs exist, in the hope that this may moderate their dogmatism and induce some honest self-reflection (it may, of course, have the opposite effect: it may inflame them considerably to realise others don't share their worldview). But generally I think such people are a lost cause and its usually incredibly difficult for an individual to actually change the views of others in any substantive manner (yes, there are striking exceptions to this rule).

I think most people acquire their opinions through much more concrete, sociological factors. i.e. through those sociological actors and bodies who have actual direct power and influence. I think truth, epistemic scruple and respect for the intellectual conscience have almost nothing to do with it in the vast majority of cases. Good arguments are usually useless without sociological clout. It's the relatively silent majority of ill-informed, conforming and largely apathetic segment that, in theory, one can reach by showing explicitly how easily their authorities can be undermined by other, better informed arguments. This is where the real power lies, ironically enough. This numerical foundation and scaffolding is what allows so much "nonsense on stilts" to continue.

What the atheist "movement" needs, in my view, is not better arguments and evidence (we already have more than enough of both), what it needs is better pragmatists and strategists. If we're really serious about change we need far less naive "idealism" and more "realists" and "materialists". But that, of course, is easier said than done . . .

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 15:50:23 UTC | #889806

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 10 by Red Dog

Comment 7 by -TheCodeCrack- :

BTW, I don't understand the moderator's note. I think calling theists stupid is actually an effective campaign. Who wants to be called stupid? Who wants to be associated with the stupid side?

Seriously? Can you honestly tell me that you have ever even once managed to change someone's mind just by calling them stupid? People who have strong emotional beliefs tend to think that the other side is stupid. Calling them stupid just reinforces their view that you are the stupid one.

In any case, people who believe in science and rationality don't need to resort to name calling. We have facts and reason on our side so we can use them. The other side has nothing but lies and misunderstanding so it natural that they will resort to name calling.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 16:15:35 UTC | #889814

educationsaves's Avatar Comment 11 by educationsaves

If the church really believed in god then the telling of a lie would be something to be avoided and stopped at all costs. Instead, knowing that it is a lie they spread it to the gullible. This is simply more evidence that the church administrations have come to the conclusion that there is no god and are just trying to keep the attendance numbers up any way they can to keep the $ flowing. My honest reply to this statement would be that it is a lie, check medical the texts for yourself, and to ask oneself what are the implications of discovering your church has been knowingly lying to you given the 9th commandment?

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 16:19:56 UTC | #889817

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 12 by Red Dog

I don't think there is any magic formula to change people's minds but for what its worth here is what I find from my experience.

First, don't call them names, don't get emotional.

Second, I like sticking at least at first to very simple arguments. For example, one thing that I often hear is "evolution is just a theory". I like to respond with "well that the earth revolves around the sun is also just a theory, you believe in that don't you?" When they say yes, I say "well there is just as much evidence to support evolution as to support the heliocentric theory. You are as likely to find a true scientist who is a biologist and doesn't believe in evolution as you are to find an astronomer who believes the Earth is the center of the solar system. Also, to remind them that the church for a long time reinforced (to the point of torturing people who believed otherwise) that the earth was the center.

Then when they start asking for the facts that support evolution you can go into more detail. I also find sites like the following helpful: Understanding Evolution 17 Misconceptions and their Responses.

I actually think it would be a great idea to have a few pages on this site, where someone could summarize a bunch of simple talking points about atheism, evolution, the universe, etc.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 16:24:05 UTC | #889818

canadian_right's Avatar Comment 13 by canadian_right

Calling someone stupid will just make them defensive, and think you are being rude. Insults are an ineffective way to change someone's mind about something they think is the key to their good life.

Calmly explaining the facts will give them something to think about, but don't expect them to admit they wrong immediately. One, people don't like to admit they are wrong, and two, closely held beliefs take a while to give up. They will need time to digest the new ideas and facts.

Courtesy is a virtue even when dealing with people you think are very wrong. Calmly explaining the facts is much more effective in the long run.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 16:27:53 UTC | #889819

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 14 by Red Dog

Comment 11 by educationsaves :

If the church really believed in god then the telling of a lie would be something to be avoided and stopped at all costs. Instead, knowing that it is a lie they spread it to the gullible. This is simply more evidence that the church administrations have come to the conclusion that there is no god and are just trying to keep the attendance numbers up any way they can to keep the $ flowing. My honest reply to this statement would be that it is a lie, check medical the texts for yourself, and to ask oneself what are the implications of discovering your church has been knowingly lying to you given the 9th commandment?

You are ignoring an essential fact about human nature. Humans have an amazing ability to rationalize and to believe what is in their own best interest (what helps them feel better, get status with peers, get money,...) I think virtually all these church people who say the earth is six thousand years old actually believe it.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 16:28:15 UTC | #889820

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 15 by ZenDruid

Comment 4 by -TheCodeCrack- :

... I've already heard Richard make a few point on this, e.g. child's brain gullible, strong selection pressure to follow anything an authority figure states. Can't differentiate between truthful and nonsense, that kind of thing.

4 year old's aren't skeptical. Maybe naturally selected to be the opposite of skeptical: gullible.

I beg to differ, though in refutation I only offer a personal anecdote: Once when I was 3, my mother took me to a store to buy me a picture book. I liked kittens, so I selected a book with a tabby on its cover. Mom read me the title, "Tiger", and that's where the fun started. "That's not a tiger," said I, "that's a kitty cat!" By Mickey Mouse, I knew the difference between a tiger and a house cat! Well, we went 'round and 'round on the issue for a good minute, until the clerk stepped in to explain that Tiger was the kitty cat's name.

Skepticism or just bone-headed stubbornness? In my case, I admit to a fair portion of the latter, but still... if a child has a BS-talking older brother, it's quite difficult to be anything but skeptical.

Oh, and the clerk.... His eyes told me he was easy-going and good humored. Good enough for me.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 16:39:23 UTC | #889826

educationsaves's Avatar Comment 16 by educationsaves

Comment 14 - Red Dog. Yes I do in fact think that they do actually believe. That does not stop me from pointing out reality and leaving it up to them to figure out the ramifications of that. I have an employee that told me the Earth was just 6000 years old. I just pointed up to the stars, said we know how far they are away and how fast light travels. You could not see them if the universe was created just 6000 years ago left him to figure it out. Polite , friendly open to discussion but blunt.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 22:49:02 UTC | #889902

AnthropicConstance's Avatar Comment 17 by AnthropicConstance

"If we are descended from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?"

A response to this might be, a boy and girl from a family named Smith look very much alike. They grow up and marry, the sister changing her name to Jones. The children of the Smiths now look less like those of the Jones family than do the original brother and sister, and generations down the road look entirely different. Yet there are still Smiths and Joneses.

Simple! This will work for the ignorant but open-minded, but not those who BenS described in comment 3:

Some people can't learn. Some people don't want to learn. Some people do learn but then go on to lie. With any of these, you're just wasting your time.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 23:01:43 UTC | #889905

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 18 by Red Dog

Comment 17 by AnthropicConstance :

"If we are descended from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?" A response to this might be,...

A better answer IMO would be:

1) We aren't descended from monkeys. We are descended from a common mammallian ancestor to chimps and us which is in fact now extinct. And also:

2) In fact even though in our case the common ancestor is extinct there is nothing in Darwin's theory that requires an animal A that is the ancestor to animal B to go extinct just because a mutation resulted in a new species. It often happens since chances are that they will fit the same environmental niche but its quite possible that the new species fits a different niche and both species can still continue.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 23:14:57 UTC | #889910

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 19 by Red Dog

Comment 16 by educationsaves :

Comment 14 - Red Dog. Yes I do in fact think that they do actually believe. That does not stop me from pointing out reality and leaving it up to them to figure out the ramifications of that. I have an employee that told me the Earth was just 6000 years old. I just pointed up to the stars, said we know how far they are away and how fast light travels. You could not see them if the universe was created just 6000 years ago left him to figure it out. Polite , friendly open to discussion but blunt.

I agree with all that. Perhaps I misunderstood your original comment but its seems to me that in that comment:

Comment 11 by educationsaves :

If the church really believed in god then the telling of a lie would be something to be avoided and stopped at all costs. Instead, knowing that it is a lie they spread it to the gullible. This is simply more evidence that the church administrations have come to the conclusion that there is no god and are just trying to keep the attendance numbers up any way they can to keep the $ flowing.

You implied that the church knew what they were saying was a lie and "knowing that it is a lie they spread it to the gullible" in order to keep money flowing into the collection plate. What I was saying (which I think now you agree with?) is that its more subtle, they believe this nonsense in part because believing it is so keeps the money flowing into the collection plate.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 23:23:49 UTC | #889912

The Truth, the light's Avatar Comment 20 by The Truth, the light

Comment 17 by AnthropicConstance :

"If we are descended from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?"

This is just one of the many misconceptions people have about evolution.

My response would be:

"We're not descended from monkeys. What makes you believe that?"

Much better to throw the question back at them and get them to try to explain why they have these misconceptions in the first place.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 23:24:50 UTC | #889913

AnthropicConstance's Avatar Comment 21 by AnthropicConstance

Comments 18 & 20

It's true we aren't descended from monkeys. That's just the way the question is usually framed.

Also, The truth the light, throwing the question back doesn't help someone who is merely seeking.

Sun, 13 Nov 2011 23:36:47 UTC | #889917

StephenH's Avatar Comment 22 by StephenH

The thing with calmly explaining the facts, as people already know, you are banging your head against a brick wall. Faith is blind. I'm talking about people that are impossible to educate.

Buy them a book about Evolution, they are more likely to burn it, than to read it

If they don't have the desire to open the door just an inch, you'll never get through to them, no matter what

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 00:56:38 UTC | #889928

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 23 by Red Dog

Comment 22 by StephenH :

The thing with calmly explaining the facts, as people already know, you are banging your head against a brick wall. Faith is blind. I'm talking about people that are impossible to educate.

Buy them a book about Evolution, they are more likely to burn it, than to read it

If they don't have the desire to open the door just an inch, you'll never get through to them, no matter what

That's the easy way out. Its the excuse all fundamentalists use to not reason with people that disagree with them. I'm not saying its easy to talk to religious people. Many times, most times you do feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall. But sometimes you can educate them and change their opinion. Even if its in small ways its progress and better than just insulting them and furthering the divide.

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 01:27:29 UTC | #889936

AnthropicConstance's Avatar Comment 24 by AnthropicConstance

I've always wondered what the reaction would be if I just say, "If it was God that made the universe, then it's science that will give you knowledge of God. No need to be afraid of it."

Also, "Since science really tells us the way God made the world, isn't it a sin to believe otherwise?"

After all, "The truth will set you free." :D

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 02:05:09 UTC | #889939

sanban's Avatar Comment 25 by sanban

I remember believing the rib thing for quite some time (even AFTER) I had recovered from that delusion that was fundamentalist Christianity. It makes me shake my head even now to think adults would tell such a blatant and easily exposed lie to kids, expecting (rightly, in my case) that they would never question it, much less check. And I was a kid who was very interested in science. I think discovering this lie was one of the things that turned me into a sceptic, not just an atheist.

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 04:31:54 UTC | #889950

Graxan's Avatar Comment 26 by Graxan

I would say that most people grow up with and go about their lives holding ideas that simply haven't been refuted by education. So when most people are shown a real ribcage on television for example, they will just say, 'Oh right! that's what we look like inside' and go about the rest of their day. I'm afraid the mother-in-law in the OP's post is one of an annoying class of overly active religious people who for whatever reason(1) has become a proselytiser. While growing up I think we take onboard a large number of unproven and false ideas but I don't think many of us actively believe in many of them and will easily drop them when faced with proper information.

(1). This could be fear of rejection by a church group, peer pressure from same group, fear of nihilism resulting from refutation of her religion, heavy indocrination and so on up to the old fashioned stupid.

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 10:32:08 UTC | #889996

DaveUK9xx's Avatar Comment 27 by DaveUK9xx

Comment 16 by educationsaves :

Comment 14 - Red Dog. Yes I do in fact think that they do actually believe. That does not stop me from pointing out reality and leaving it up to them to figure out the ramifications of that. I have an employee that told me the Earth was just 6000 years old. I just pointed up to the stars, said we know how far they are away and how fast light travels. You could not see them if the universe was created just 6000 years ago left him to figure it out. Polite , friendly open to discussion but blunt.

I'm afraid I tried that argument 20 years ago in a long series of debates with a fundamentalist friend and like every other scientific fact I threw at him he simply invoked magic. "God created the universe with the light already having travelled all but the last 6000 light years to earth so we can see stars further away than that but it doesn't mean they are more than 6000 years old." "Why the hell would he bother to do that just to trick scientists?" "It's just one of many things we pray he'll eventually tell us the reason for that we don't currently understand."

You can't easily fight this sort of blind refusal to learn science or believe it. The various churches have armies of people dedicated to refuting everything in science that disproves religious lore who produce books of poorly written drivel with ludicrous counter arguments trying to prove that everything from the Noah flood, 6000 years, creation etc etc are literally true. The arguments they raise are spurious but only have to be sufficiently plausible to fool people with little or no scientific knowledge and to give them talking points they can trot out such as the ones the OP mentions at the start of this. Lies such as men have one less rib than women will do just fine for people who don't even want to fact check a single thing.

The audience for these books and talking points haven't got the slightest interest in understanding science, logic or anything else that might upset their dogma. They just want some straws to cling to that can help them continue to believe in the great "scientific conspiracy" to undermine their faith.

The only thing that will shake them is when the church itself has to admit a truth such as the sun does not in fact go round the earth. Until then no atheist argument will shake them as they have no conception of how science is a vast interwoven tapestry of peer reviewed and fact checked data obtainied from multiple different sources and methods that correlate and reinforce itself until truths become self evident.

For instance we don't just think the universe is 13.7 billion years old from one bit of work or random guesses. Estimates from the original Hubble Constant first revealed in the late 1920s have been constantly refined by more accurate measurements from later telescopes and finally reinforced by the Wmap telescope that produced the CMBR map of the remnant radiation of the Big Bang. The red shift from nearly 1 million distant galaxies has now been measured to confirm that expansion is the same everywhere in the universe.

Those with little education and even less desire to obtain it have no inkling of the richness, complexity and beauty of the scientific quest to understand our universe and how we fit into it. Only such detailed education, and the instilling of it from an early age will help counter the voodoo in the books of drivel produced by fundamentalist theists. It's our schools and our science teachers that will eventually drive away the darkness and reveal the light if they are tasked with teaching more and better science to the young. By the time a person has left school it's too late in many cases to reverse the dogma that the hooks of theism have embedded into their flesh.

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 11:43:45 UTC | #890020

Valerie_'s Avatar Comment 28 by Valerie_

Comment 27 by DaveUK9xx :

Comment 16 by educationsaves :

You can't easily fight this sort of blind refusal to learn science or believe it. ... The arguments they raise are spurious but only have to be sufficiently plausible to fool people with little or no scientific knowledge and to give them talking points they can trot out such as the ones the OP mentions at the start of this. Lies such as men have one less rib than women will do just fine for people who don't even want to fact check a single thing.

The audience for these books and talking points haven't got the slightest interest in understanding science, logic or anything else that might upset their dogma. They just want some straws to cling to that can help them continue to believe in the great "scientific conspiracy" to undermine their faith.

This is exactly it. Someone who's really interested in knowing the truth will want to do things like question what she's been told, count her ribs and read things written by objective sources. When you're that kind of person, it's natural to present facts and think that people consider objective evidence. But many don't want to, and I don't know how you (one) can get through to them, or even if it's possible to get through to them in the majority of cases.

This sort of knowledge-blocking happens all over the place, not just in the overly-godly types. Examples: anti-vaccine kooks who think they know stuff when they really don't, parents who won't let twelve-year-olds walk a half-mile to school or play unsupervised at the park because they believe that there are molesters and kidnappers hiding behind every other bush, educators who believe that that "all children are gifted" (these last two are problems in the US; don't know about elsewhere), etc. etc.

I debate with anti-vaxers, and nothing seems to get through to them. It's all a gigantic "pharmacidal" conspiracy and anyone who tries to say something like, "No, really, measles can kill you and 'good hygiene' won't stop transmission of the virus" is automatically deemed to be a shill for the pharmacidal industry and its evil minions at the FDA. Either that or they claim to be "making an informed personal decision" and then provide false ideas in support of the decision.

But I continue the debates because someone else who's listening or reading might not know all the facts but might be interested in learning them.

Tue, 15 Nov 2011 16:48:02 UTC | #890432

Tim Hendrix's Avatar Comment 29 by Tim Hendrix

Comment 17 by AnthropicConstance :

"If we are descended from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?"

We aren't descended from monkeys, but you could answer it this way:

if Christians are descended from Jews, why are there still Jews?

It turns out that the common ancestor of humans and monkeys is extinct, in the same way that Latin,the common ancestor of French and Italian, is extinct.

Fri, 25 Nov 2011 02:41:23 UTC | #892948

Notabilis's Avatar Comment 30 by Notabilis

Don't get emotional- easier said than done! Especially when you are so passionate about science :p

I agree with everything you said, and that website is really useful, cheers :) I think the atheist movement needs to actually move now instead of being a 'stop-ment' or a 'stay-put-ment' :p

your idea about the pages summarizing atheism etc. is also a great idea

Comment 12 by Red Dog :

I don't think there is any magic formula to change people's minds but for what its worth here is what I find from my experience.

First, don't call them names, don't get emotional.

Second, I like sticking at least at first to very simple arguments. For example, one thing that I often hear is "evolution is just a theory". I like to respond with "well that the earth revolves around the sun is also just a theory, you believe in that don't you?" When they say yes, I say "well there is just as much evidence to support evolution as to support the heliocentric theory. You are as likely to find a true scientist who is a biologist and doesn't believe in evolution as you are to find an astronomer who believes the Earth is the center of the solar system. Also, to remind them that the church for a long time reinforced (to the point of torturing people who believed otherwise) that the earth was the center.

Then when they start asking for the facts that support evolution you can go into more detail. I also find sites like the following helpful: Understanding Evolution 17 Misconceptions and their Responses.

I actually think it would be a great idea to have a few pages on this site, where someone could summarize a bunch of simple talking points about atheism, evolution, the universe, etc.

Sun, 27 Nov 2011 22:06:59 UTC | #893708