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It's All About Balance

Entry 1752, on 2015-11-23 at 12:14:39 (Rating 4, Religion)

Most people can understand the concept of opposing ideas: of positives and negatives, of good and bad, of inputs and outputs. For example, they wouldn't consider the idea of me giving them $100 good if they knew I was also going to take away $110.

But almost everybody fails to take this idea to its natural end point, because they don't look at both sides when they are considering a political, social, or philosophical point. They tend to only look at the side of the issue which suits some pre-conceived, intuitive idea of what the answer should be. And this applies to the political left and right, to old and young, even to intelligent and ignorant.

Let me give you an example. I met a reasonably intelligent person at the pub last night who turned out to be a young-Earth creationist. Yes, I have managed to avoid debates with creationists for a significant time, in fact it has been 16 months (a blog post titled "Not Even Wrong" from 2014-07-19) since I mentioned it as a major theme in this blog!

But all good things must come to an end. Actually, to be honest, I love debating creationists. It's just so entertaining to watch their convoluted maneuvers trying to defend something which is essentially indefensible!

But back to the main theme here: balance. Here's the sort of thing I hear from the more sophisticated defenders of unreality: they point out minor problems with opposing theories (for creationists this is just about everything: big bang, evolution, etc) without looking at the vast bulk of evidence which disagrees with their perspective.

So they will quote (often out of context or incompletely) a well known scientist and claim that indicates doubt about evolution, but they will ignore the hundreds of quotes supporting evolution. If quoting someone is sufficient to support your side (a doubtful proposition anyway) then surely quotes from a hundred people against your views should also be considered. But they're not.

Or they might find some small areas of doubt in a theory, or some aspect of a theory which was shown to be genuinely incorrect or inaccurate but later corrected, but they will ignore hundreds of times where the theory was shown to be accurate and where it predicted the real world precisely. Again, if a weakness in a theory can be assimilated into a person's opinion on science then it's only fair (and logical) to look at the strengths as well.

People who have irrational worldviews also seem to have a lot of problems (perhaps deliberately) with assessing probability. Here's an example: if we find that light has been travelling from distant galaxies for billions of years which is more likely: that the galaxy has been there for billions of years producing light or that it was created in some unspecified way with the light already travelling through space?

The "travelling light" theory is possible but surely it is extremely unlikely since we have zero evidence of it ever happening. But that's the sort of incredibly unlikely thought creationists will cling to while totally ignoring the far more likely possibility that the universe is simply billions of years old.

Finally, creationists often seem to have trouble appreciating the strength of multiple independent sources of evidence. There is overwhelming evidence from completely independent areas of knowledge: astronomy, physics, biology, geology, history, archaeology, and many others showing the universe is old. But they prefer to believe a single source of extremely doubtful accuracy instead. Where's the balance in that?

I know that by picking on (young Earth) creationists I have attacked the easiest target because their beliefs are simply absurd and many other groups have far more sophisticated, and difficult to refute, beliefs. But the process is the same, even if slightly less obvious: it's all about balance.

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Comment 1 (4451) by OJB on 2015-11-24 at 16:31:14:

I think this quote summarises my thoughts quite well...

You don't get to advertise all the good that your religion does without first scrupulously subtracting all the harm it does and considering seriously the question of whether some other religion, or no religion at all, does better. - Daniel Dennett.

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