I have been particularly bewildered by the nonsensical use of certain linguistic conventions on my Facebook wall recently. In layman’s terms, I can’t believe the illogical bullshit people speak! I’ll simply launch into a couple of classic examples of said fallacial weirdness.
Sample post: We have no reason to believe in a personal loving God. All the evidence suggests better and simpler natural causes for phenomena, like the way that evolution via natural selection explains species.
Crazy response 1: Evolution is just a theory! What a load of crap. We all come from monkeys? You’d have to be stupid to believe that.
Let’s look at this stunningly ignorant and smug response that ironically demonstrates just how close this person is to a monkey (his words)! Firstly evolution is not a theory at all in the way that this visitor is implying. Neither is Pythagoras’s theory a theory. Neither is germ theory a theory. For all intents and purposes these are practical facts. We may not know everything about these facts but they are undeniable and provable in a variety of ways and they all allow us the benefit of prediction. In scientific terms Evolution is as much a fact as electricity. When I flick the switch on my wall I understand (although only roughly) that it is electricity moving through a really thin wire that creates energy and therefore light. I don’t for one minute believe that God makes the bulb glow every time I flick the switch. God is the theory here (a really poor one) and electricity is the fact. Has this person ever read anything other than the Bible or Mills and Boon??
Secondly, highlighting his ignorance he demonstrates that he has no idea how evolution and common ancestry works. Who said we come from Monkeys? Modern monkeys and modern humans have a common ancestor somewhere in history. For that matter modern man and seaweed has a common ancestor too. But then again how can I expect people to know any better in a system of educational and ecclesiastical indoctrination such as the one most of us live in in the English colonies.
Finally, I don’t BELIEVE in Evolution at all in the way this gentlemen uses the word belief. I see the facts and come to a logical conclusion. This is not a faith position. So yes, I’d have to be stupid to ‘believe’ it – I’ll settle for simply thinking it through.
Crazy response 2: So where did everything come from then. Huh! Huh! You think you’re so smart. Can you create a rose???? Can you!!!?
I see men in white coats dragging this girl across a neat green lawn to a small white truck… Who the hell knows where everything came from? Science has some interesting and logically reasonable ideas based on available evidence. What does she have? An ancient myth that she accepted without half a peanut of evidence to support it. I go cold at the darkness of the human condition, if this is what it looks like.
Can I create a rose?? Uh… no. Nor can I create a watch or a car or a pencil – and your point is? Is she trying (nauseatingly) to infer that a rose is too complicated or beautiful to have come into existence by accident? She obviously doesn’t understand natural selection (or sexual selection) and its role in the evolution of species over millions of years. I’d suggest reading a book on the topic, but that might lead to her having to question her beliefs (gasp), so I won’t hold my breath.
Crazy response 3: Why do you have to hammer away at religion? What’s your problem? Why can’t we just all get along instead of forcing people to believe what you believe?
Ah, my all time favourite! The – ignore the proposition entirely and change the subject to something that will make everyone see what an evil monster bully this guy is – tactic. Is this a joke? I can say with full confidence that I have never ever gone onto a Christian’s Facebook wall and responded to a post like “Jesus is so cool, and his might and grace and everlasting love doth reign in mine heart like an oak planted beside still waters and lo! I behold his glory… (You get the point)… and then posted a response like, “you Christians are all backwards and stupid and why can’t we all just get along without God and manipulation and… (You get the point)! Why, because firstly, it’s their wall and they can post whatever they like on their own wall. Secondly, if there is no invitation for rational debate on the particular facts or logic of their post then I respect their unspoken rules. It’s very simple folk – you stick to the rules of the wall you’re visiting. On my particular wall the rules are simple:
- Stick to the facts of the proposition or initial statement/post. Talk about the topic I’ve put up for debate, not your personal offence at being subjected to my thoughts simply because you happen to disagree.
- If you have the temptation to change the subject completely, then feel free to take it offline or start a new thread on your own wall, or ask me if I’m interested in discussing your thread on my wall in a separate discussion.
- By all means disagree – in fact disagree with all your heart, but then tell me why you disagree. Present the evidence, or at the very least present a string of logic that calls my own into question. This is what makes debates interesting and how we all learn something new.
- Refrain from emotional observations like “you seem so angry”, or “why are you so scared of religion”, or “you’re clearly a very unhappy person” etc. These observations have nothing to do with the post and quite frankly I don’t give a continental what you may or may not think of my personality or my state of happiness. Worry about your own personality and your own happiness. I’m certainly not going to come to your wall and post, “You seem like such an insane individual… have you gone for a psychiatric analysis recently? J”
Crazy response 4: Dude, there is no evidence for evolution. They never found the missing link. Carbon dating doesn’t work.
Dude. Read a book! Almost anything from Richard Dawkins should set your facts straight. PS: Dawkins is an elderly gentle British biologist chap who has dedicated his life to researching and explaining the evidence, the links and the facts about evolution. A little research will also help you understand that although Carbon 14 dating is only accurate to about 5000 years, using Uranium-Lead and other dating techniques we can accurately date the earth at about 4.5 billion years old. I say it again; Evolution is as much a practical fact as the theory that stretching before playing football is a good idea.
The examples above are just a few of the many bewildering types of ‘argument’ that are regularly posted on my wall. I understand that many of us didn’t take Science even into the tenth grade, and certainly not as a college or university subject. Neither did I. I also understand that many of us go to church every week where we are preached a version of how the universe works as though it were scientific fact, by preachers who haven’t the faintest idea what the facts are except what they interpret from ancient scriptures that were written millennia before the facts were discovered. I can understand this too because I was just such a preacher. But for God’s sake people (figuratively speaking), we live in the year 2010! Are we seriously going to base our entire understanding of the universe on the facts presented by one book or one preacher or our parents?
I know that logic is not everything! I certainly have no visions of a Vulcan utopia on earth, but almost everyone uses logic and reason to live their daily lives at work and home. We use logic to use computers because we work more efficiently that way. We use logic to plan our holidays, job interviews and weekly schedules. We use logic to cook and all sorts of other things we may have convinced ourselves are all ‘creativity and imagination’. Without logic it is almost impossible to have a mutually enjoyable or beneficial conversation. I love imagination. I love creativity. I also understand the importance of logic, and when it comes to God and church and the doctrines of the church, logic tends to get set aside and replaced with dogma, defensiveness, fear and unwarranted emotional outbursts of anger.
So, next time you read a post somewhere that immediately triggers all your defensiveness and anger because at first glance it seems to be contradicting what you have been told to believe by church and holy books, stop and ask a few simple questions before responding:
- What is the post actually saying?
- Do I really understand the post and all the terms and ideas being put forward?
- What do I think/believe about the facts being presented?
- What do I agree with and what do I disagree with in this post?
- Do I need to clarify something before I can intelligently respond to this post?
- Do I understand the reasons why I disagree with certain facts in this post?
- Do I just want to voice my anger, or do I have something meaningful to contribute?
- Would I want someone to respond like I’m about to on my own wall?
- Do I have facts / evidence / information that will benefit the conversation?
I look forward to better, calmer, more interesting and thoughtful conversations going forward.