20 April 2013

Arguing with brick walls

I admit that I occasionally check out Ray Comfort's Facebook page just for the rampant anti-intellectualism, fundamentalism, the incessant straw-manning of atheism (and evolution, which is apparently related or something – sorry, Francis Collins) and the spades of unintentional comedy. It's like a train wreck – it's hard to look away. I visit various religious blogs and websites out of the same idle curiosity.

There are lots and lots of atheists who comment on Ray's page; some civil, others just to mock and scorn (I don't support the scorn). Either way, I catch myself wondering why. I've never commented on Ray's page or blog, and I can't fathom any reason to do so. You can't force someone to think critically or to have a dialogue. If Ray wanted to understand atheism, he'd at least read Atheism for Dummies by Dale McGowan (seriously, it's a terrific book). But he doesn't. He wants to promote his brand of fundie reality-denial, and bash atheism and (for some reason) cosmology and evolution as well, usually just showing – proudly, it would seem – that he has a level of science knowledge that wouldn't pass a high school exam. That's why when he does his little "ask people if they understand evolution" ruse, he asks laypersons instead of, golly I dunno, biologists.

I just don't get it. I'd like to that that I welcome a civil dialogue on The A-Unicornist to those who are seeking it. As an evidentialist, my view of the world is contingent on evidence and while I'm familiar enough with theistic arguments that I think it's unlikely anyone's going to re-convert me, I'm at least in principle open to the possibility that I'm wrong. It's called epistemic humility – there may be evidence or arguments we haven't considered.

But when you have someone like Ray, or say William Lane Craig and his "internal witness of the Holy Spirit" that for some reason is immune to evidence and argument, you're dealing with people who cannot fathom being wrong. They're closed even to the possibility that evidence or argument might undermine their most cherished beliefs. What's the point, then, of trying to have a spirited debate with them?

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