If there was a topic you knew next to nothing about and perhaps felt negatively about, would you be confident enough to write a newspaper article based solely upon your own specific ignorance of the topic and end up making yourself the target of much well deserved mockery? I think many, if not most, regardless of belief or non-belief, would be inclined to at least google a bit and so verify things … but you know that for some, the desire to pontificate on some topic from a position of complete and utter ignorance is indeed an indulgence that is embraced with considerable relish by many. It is as if there is some implicit belief that committing the words to print will magically make the argument right.
So let’s take a look at a few examples.
Case 1 – The Faith of those that do not believe
The Rev. Steve Robert argues in the Northfield News as follows … (in the very first paragraph) …
My Faith of course is Biblical Faith, but did you know that even an atheist has Faith? He or she has Faith that there is no God.
So there you go then, if you don’t believe something, then you have “faith”. If for example you do not believe that invisible pink unicorns are real, or that dragons are real, then you has a strong “faith” …. right?
Then again, if the Rev Robert actually took about five seconds to google the word atheist, or perhaps discussed it with somebody who does not believe, he would then discover this (it actually took me 3 seconds to find) …
Atheist – a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
In other words, until there is some actual evidence for the claim, the claim is simply dismissed – no “faith” required. Alas no, there appears to be a complete non-understanding here, a thought that for every position, even the rational ones, some degree of religious “faith” is involved.
Case 2 – How to bolster your faith when faced with unbelief
ChristianNewsWire, a press release conduit for the religious, is promoting a book by Craig Biehl (its a press release), in which the author of the book (Craig), argues that faith is wholly reasonable and that non-belief is utter unreasonable. So how does that work then?
- One must know everything about the universe and beyond to justly claim that God does not exist. Atheists unwittingly presume for themselves the omniscience of the God they deny.
- Human experience and knowledge can’t be the final authority of what God can be or do in His universe.
Most folks have never been to the other side of the universe or beyond the three or four dimensions of their existence.
- Miracles are reasonable and logical.
One who can create and sustain the universe can part the Red Sea.
- One must first prove that the God of infinite power does not exist before one can prove that the miracles of Scripture are impossible.
And that is impossible.
The rather obvious flaw here is that this is just daft, because not only do most atheists not assert a no-god claim, and instead dismiss the god claims due to a lack of evidence, but this is also a very dishonest and completely irrational attempt to shift the burden of proof.
Try this …
I assert that off on a distant star there are some aliens who are communicating with me via telepathy, and I also can communicate with them. I do not have to provide you any evidence, instead you most prove this assertion to be false, and if you can’t then I will simply declare it to be true. So what is wrong here is that if I truly did assert that then it is my responsibility provide evidence for such a claim, and if I do not, then everybody can quite rightly dismiss my claim.
How about this …
A brutal murder occurs and you are accused of this crime, as a result you will be sent to jail for the rest of your life … oh wait, the legal process decrees innocent until proven guilty, it is not the other way around. You would be quite rightly angry if the burden was on you to prove you were innocent.
It is like this in law, science or for that matter any claim about anything in any context. You really do not get to claim “true” on the basis of no evidence for it being proven wrong. This applies to any claim, religious assertions are not some magical exception to this very basic principle.
Yet here we have a guy who has taken the time to write and publish an entire book that rests upon this utterly absurd shifting of the burden of proof.
Why is it like this?
Case 3 – The MRSA expert Dr Chris Malyszewicz
Roughly about ten years ago there was a health scare in the UK where we had the tabloid newspapers screaming headlines all about the mop of death. This concerned the detection of MRSA in hospitals by an “expert”, Dr Chris Malyszewicz, who had a PhD so it just must be true.
One slight ever so subtle flaw, it was all complete nonsense. Only Dr Chris Malyszewicz gave the newspapers the evidence of positive results from the samples sent to his laboratory for analysis, and since everybody else had negative results which was non-news, all the papers used Dr Chris Malyszewicz as their go-to expert.
The inevitable happened, somebody looked into it all and discovered the following
- The credentials that Dr Chris Malyszewicz had were purchased from a degree mill in the US, his actual understanding was more or less zero.
- The Chemsol laboratory that he ran was in reality his garden shed
I’m really not making this up.
So was he a con man?
Actually no, for Chris Malyszewicz and also for the other religious examples there is a rather common theme, tempting as it might be to label it all as stupid people or deliberate fraud, it is neither stupidity nor deception, something else is going on here.
Humans can quite often fool themselves into believing in themselves to an unjustifiable extent and so deem themselves to be a deeply knowledgable expert. In the religious cases, if everybody around you acknowledges you as a leader or pastor and grants you the mantel of a knowledgable and wise man, then many will often believe if everybody is telling them this. In the case of Chris Malyszewicz, he was in many ways the victim of the press, he gave them what they wanted for their tabloid stories and as a result they lauded his as an expert in print and he believed it all, he truly did not grasp how utterly incompetent he was and was quite sincere.
It is part of the human condition that the incompetent can be blind to their own incompetence, and this will be especially true if you live in a bubble where everybody around you deems your every word to be liquid gold.
When faced with things that are clearly silly we can often be tempted to lash out and deploy labels such a “fraudster” or “idiot”, and while examples of both of those are quite real, it may in reality be far more probable that it is incompetence that has been fuelled by a false sense of ill founded confidence foolishly bolstered up by many others – in other words, they really do not grasp the degree of their incompetence, and so such individuals are candidates for our empathy and sympathy, not our wrath.