I Love That Idea

by Ben Albahari 1. December 2009 10:14

Visiting some friends of mine the other night, I found myself rudely cornering them into justifying their belief in God, upon which they brought up a well known argument: if God didn't exist there'd be nothing when you die and it would all be meaningless therefore there must be a God.

I explained to them that their reasoning was an example of an argument fallacy called the Appeal to Consequences.

They blinked as if their brains temporarily short-circuited with a "Does not Compute" error so we moved on to more polite topics. (Needless to say the part of my brain managing the long term project The Internalization of How to Win Friends and Influence People was also dealing with a short-circuit.)

An argument fallacy on one side is rallying rhetoric to the other. We often turn a blind eye to flawed logic and the origins of facts when we agree with the message. Here is a quote from Bill Maher:

Yes, we are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder.

We love rhetoric when we agree with it, and hate it when we don't. Guess what the missing X is in the following quote:

Denial of the existence of [X] seems to be increasingly the refuge of those who are simply not willing to look at the evidence with an open (but still critical) mind.

1) Global warming
2) Psychic powers
3) Statistical studies discrediting astrology
4) Iraq's weapons of mass destruction

The answer doesn't even matter. We're loyal to ideas that are "in the family" and the more we love them the more we forgive their shortcomings.