Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Jesus Fallacy?

I'm reading Richard Dawkins' The Extended Phenotype. As far as I know it has nothing to do with atheism or religion, but a possible atheist insight hit me while reading it.

In arguing a particular point on genetic adaptation he brought up what he called the Concorde Fallacy, that sometimes a choice is made not on the results that may follow but on the effort put into the project so far. His biological example was of some sort of wasp that makes a burrow and collects katydids to feed the larvae. Sometimes two wasps will collect katydids in the same burrow and then fight over who keeps the burrow. Research bore out to his surprise that the wasps will fight with effort related to how many katydids they themselves collected rather than how many katydids in total are to be won which is the logical value of the burrow.

This brought into focus some thoughts I've had recently about Faithinate's atheism Facebook debates. It occurs to me that atheists in general--and certainly us three on this blog in particular--can and do question beliefs, value and even ourselves, and I sometimes wonder if that's why we're atheists: we question belief and come up with no compelling answers. The same arguments to be made for Christianity or other religions are no more compelling than things generally regarded as absurd such as alien abductions, UFO's, witchcraft, etc.

Sometimes I read accounts of Christians questioning their beliefs and then becoming rededicated. I don't see their compelling reasons, but I wonder if it's analogous to the Concorde Fallacy? Have they put so much time and effort into their beliefs that it's not worth dumping in the face of dubious evidence for and plenty against?

Faithinate recently brought up the question again of whether atheists are smarter in general than religious people. I don't want to believe that, and it's rather conceited, but then again we three seem to be relatively rare in the ability to objectively look at ourselves and fundamentally change if we deem necessary or desirable. Objectively the argument for Jesus over Horus or Ra or a secret government collaboration with space aliens are equally compelling--that is to say, hardly at all. Only personal testimony and dubious real evidence is available to show for them. That says a lot to me, but somehow the Christians we talk to can believe apparently unfailingly in God and Jesus while dismissing Wicca, Scientology, UFO's and hollow Earth "theory".

1 comment:

SurferJesus said...

Right-on brother!! I know we work hard over here to put ourselves under a microscope and behave like we expect others to. We're not always good at it, but we do pretty well at seeing the bad things in ourselves that we see in others. We don't spend a lot of time justifying why what we're doing is good when he think others should stop. Anyway, it's late and my words aren't flowing so I'll shut up.