Monday, December 3, 2012

Using your opponents' arguments against themselves

When little children are arguing and calling each other names, one of the most common and stereotypical answers is the classical "no, you are!"

From an adult perspective this is, of course, pretty childish, although understandable. A small child can't be expected to be able to invent witty comebacks or actual refutations, so throwing back the exactly same insult or claim is often the only thing that a child can think of.

One would think that as a person grows older and gets more experienced and knowledgeable, such a childish response of using your opponents' arguments against themselves, with little to no modification, would become as ridiculous as it really is. One would think wrong.

It's a surprisingly common occurrence for an apologist or a creationist to use the exact same arguments as skeptics use, right back at the skeptics, just with reversed terminology, even when it makes absolutely no sense. The wording may be fancier, but in its core it's a simple and straightforward "no, you are!"

In some cases it can get astonishingly blatant. For example, this is a direct quote from a creationist video:

"And to explain all this they pile up just-so-story on top of just-so-story. And if you try to ignore the problems with evolution, your world view becomes just crazy, just untenable, inconsistent. If you want to believe in evolution and live in your world view that's completely inconsistent with everything that we observe in the universe, that's just fine. But don't make it your mission to brainwash our kids; you can't even teach them to read properly, and that's the first step. We need engineers that can build stuff and solve problems by examining both sides of an issue rather than attempting to suppress or censor all the evidence for a world view that they are uncomfortable with. [...] What you believe happened millions of years ago isn't science. It's just just a belief, it's faith. It's faith in a particular version of history that's part of your world view. You can't prove it to be true."
This text is just astonishing. It's like they took a typical skeptical text and just changed a few words here and there to reverse the direction of the criticism.

In fact, try to count how many words you need to change in the quote above in order to make it a relatively valid criticism of religion. I count two (change "evolution" to "religion", and "millions" with "thousands.")

Perhaps one of the most common (and blatant) "no, you are!" arguments that this video shows is that the science of the history of the Earth is "just a belief, faith based. You can't prove it." This is the exact same argument that many atheists present against religion (although in many cases it's more of a caricature of an atheist rather than a real, experienced skeptic.) Trying to throw the exact same claim right back is just purely childish. (Yet this video goes even further, and throws right back the claims of "brainwashing" and "inconsistent with everything that we observe in the universe." It couldn't get more blatant even if it tried.)

The sad thing? Many Christians swallow this kind of text without a second thought, with no questions and no criticism whatsoever. Not even a mild "hmm, isn't this a bit of an exaggeration?" crosses their minds.

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