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Sublime Ignorance

Entry 537, on 2007-05-21 at 17:20:10 (Rating 4, Comments)

I was involved with two debates this weekend which both revealed the magnificent ignorance of the people I was debating with. I often debate with people and concede that they have a worthy point or that their argument has some merit, but in these two cases the determination my opponents had to remain ignorant was superb!

The first debate has been going on for a few days and involves global warming. Yes, we all know that one is bound to cause controversy! This person had just seen the movie "The Great Global Warming Swindle" and was convinced it proved that global warming was just a huge myth perpetrated by the scientific community to ensure continued funding, etc.

I found sources indicating major bias in this movie. The producer had a history of producing controversial programs by cherry picking the evidence, misquoting the scientists he interviewed, and introducing scientists with false credentials. It didn't necessarily mean that everything in the movie was wrong, but it did indicate the overall conclusions would be very suspect.

So the next evidence he quoted was from a "scientist" whose authority he thought was fairly impressive. He turned out to be a person who ran a garden center. OK, he had a geology degree, but only a BSc, and had done no published research. Wow, that was very under-whelming!

As I keep pointing out to global warming deniers: the question is complex, but there is no doubt amongst the vast majority of scientists that human activity has had a significant detrimental effect. Maybe new evidence will appear in the future to challenge those claims but it won't be from a sensational TV show or from someone who runs a garden center.

The second debate was about my old favourite topic: creationism. The person I was debating was a Christian who supported old-Earth creationism. In other words, he thought the Bible was literally true, but didn't accept the Biblical interpretation of the age of the Earth as 6 thousand years. He didn't accept evolution and thought the Bible was completely true and had never been proven wrong.

I didn't really think I would be able to change his mind immediately, and he had even said in the past that he would never accept evolution no matter what the evidence was. So I was really just debating (arguing) for the fun of it and to maybe introduce a little bit of doubt which might help him see the truth at a later date.

Its actually harder to debate with someone who is very ignorant and not worried about it. They just don't care about how stupid they look. For example I could ask which group of the following would know most about biology: physicists, politicians, church leaders, biologists. Even the most biased person would usually say biologists. Then I would ask: so why do 99% of biologists accept evolution? His answer: they're wrong. But how did he know that? Because the Bible is always right.

That's nice circular logic, isn't it? Of course, that doesn't matter to a creationist because their ignorance generally extents to logic as well. For example, this person didn't even know what a straw man fallacy was. Its almost embarrassing having to debate with a person like that. The weird thing is that when the subject is not religion this person is quite intelligent and thoughtful. Its like his brain is switched off as soon as god is mentioned. Maybe his church is telling him: don't think about it too much or you might see its wrong! Now that's sublime ignorance!


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