“My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
A few weeks ago I was in Austin, Texas hanging with a couple people and we were talking about underwear. Specifically ExOfficio boxer-briefs, which are popular amongst the traveler crowd because they dry fast, feel good, and are anti-bacterial.
“How do you know they’re anti-bacterial?” asked Lindsay.
“Uhh, wow. I like to say I question things, but I have absolutely no proof of this, except what the company’s website says. Thank you.”
Maybe they are anti-bacterial, but the Aegis® Microbe Shield used in the product sounds very pseudoscience-y. Quote from the Aegis website:
The active ingredient in the AEGIS Microbe Shield products forms a colorless, odorless, positively charged polymer that molecularly bonds to the treated surface. You could think of it as a layer of electrically charged swords. When a microorganism comes in contact with the treated surface, the C-18 molecular sword punctures the cell membrane and the electrical charge shocks the cell. Since nothing is transferred to the now dead cell, the antimicrobial doesn’t lose strength and the sword is ready for the next cell to contact it.
If you read that and thought, “uhh, that sounds like bullshit,” then congratulations for having your critical thinking cap on!
Does this mean that it doesn’t work? No, not at all. But it does mean we need a little more evidence than it’s a “positively charged polymer that molecularly bonds to the treated surface.”
Now, I still like ExOfficio underwear. They do feel great and dry quickly so they’re perfect if you’re traveling light. But I’m no longer in the anti-bacterial camp until I can see some proof. Because I was open to questioning my beliefs my mind has been changed until further notice.
And therein lies the key.
You can’t change someone’s mind unless they’re open to having their mind changed.
If someone claims to definitely know something that can’t be currently known you’re not often going to convince them otherwise. Especially if they’ve spent a lifetime, lots of personal free time, and lots of money being indoctrinated. (See: religion.)
I’ve tested a lot of different strategies when trying to influence people over the years.
For example, I’ve tried to get people to “see the light” as far as a plant-based (or mostly plant-based) diet in the following ways:
1. appealing to their compassion: “Watch this factory farm video, look at how horribly the animals you eat are treated. Why do you support that?”
2. being an asshole: “You pretend to love animals and yet you support the rape and torture of animals every night for dinner. How does that make sense?”
3. using facts: “Eating mostly plants is proven to be healthier than your current diet.” (Assuming that diet is mostly meat and junk food, of course.) Source (one of many)
4. using pseudoscience: “Eating a plant-based diet is no-doubt the best diet ever and can cure and reverse disease!” (Note: can be true, but not to the degree that it’s usually touted. Plants ain’t curing cancer at this point in time, my fellow dudes & dudettes.)
I’d like to apologize for the times I used approach #4 because it can be dangerous and I am anti-pseudoscience. I don’t want to be associated with or a promoter of the likes of Oprah, Dr Oz, Jenny McCarthy, et al., so I know I need to be more careful about allowing pseudoscience into my life.
All of these approaches worked although certain approaches turned people off completely. (Mostly being an asshole.)
Maybe the most important thing I’ve learned is that different approaches work for different people and there isn’t any one right way. Which is why I used multiple approaches.
I’ve influenced enough people to at least try veg meals that I can say this has been a successful endeavor. I know most people won’t go all-out veg*n and that’s cool. But I also know that some people just need a little nudge or support or “aha!” and they will go all-out veg*n. And that’s cool too.
I’m finding the same approaches work when it comes to religion, but to a different degree. It’s far more difficult to get someone to think rationally about something that’s so irrational. (You can state that it’s rational, but just because you state it’s rational doesn’t make it so.)
Before you get your panties in an uproar, note that I don’t care if you believe something silly. But it’d be great if you embraced the “magic” of reality and simply showed some proof for your claims.
As the saying goes, “If you can hate the sin, but not the sinner then I can hate the belief, but not the believer.”
Atheism is, at its base, the lack of a claim. Unless, “show me the evidence,” counts as a claim. (It doesn’t, though you might have been brainwashed to think it does.)
It’s not too much to ask to back up your ideas, is it?
Any idea worth a damn should be able to stand up to at least the most basic questioning.
If somebody said they had a stock market strategy that offers 50% returns per year you’d ask for proof before handing over your life savings, wouldn’t you?
If somebody told you they had the cure for cancer you’d want to see some empirical evidence, no?
If somebody claimed to be able to dunk a basketball on a 5 meter (~16 foot) rim, you’d want to see it with your own two eyes before you believed it, am I right?
My question to you is, why isn’t the truth that important when it comes to your belief system?
A note on comments: You’ll notice that not a single defender-of-the-faith provided any evidence or so much as answered questions about their “knowing” of god. This is typical. And a problem. If you want to defend your ideas please do. But as I stated above those ideas should be able to stand up to at least the most basic line of questioning.