Friday, August 19, 2011

What If You’re Wrong?

I haven’t been asked this question for quite some time, but it is always worthwhile to think about. How would I know if I was wrong about something? It would depend on what the thing is, but generally if the evidence doesn’t fit with my idea, then it’s probably at least a little bit wrong.

When it comes to the question of being wrong about the existence of gods, it would depend heavily on what kind of god it is. If it is the kind of unfalsifiable, unverifiable god that most people these days tend to want to believe in, then it isn’t really possible to know if you’re wrong about its existence. If the god wanted to stay hidden, you wouldn’t ever be able to find out. However, some people assert that their god interferes with the natural world, performing miracles. In *theory* it would be possible to know if you were wrong about this kind of god by observing a verifiable miracle, but it wouldn’t be possible to know that it doesn’t exist. In this sense I am a hard agnostic. Although falsification isn’t possible, I would say that an absolute lack of evidence grants the meddling god a provisionally falsified status. In this sense, I am a hard atheist. I reject the existence of gods, but am open to the possibility of being wrong.

Completely unlike the situation regarding the existence of gods, scientific theories rise and fall on evidence. If I was wrong about something like evolution, the evidence would convince me of that. In this case though, instead of having a complete lack of evidence, we have an overwhelming mass of evidence. All of it supports evolution. This is why creationists frustrate me so much, especially when they accuse evolution of being a religion, or being based on faith. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

Here is something that I freely admit I do not know enough about. I am an openly left-wing, socialist liberal. However if sufficient reason and practical applications can be shown to me that right-wing, capitalist (or other), conservative political systems work better than my ideals, I am more than willing to change my mind.

With my terms and conditions (so to speak) of mind-changing laid out, I would like to flip the package onto theists, creationists and capitalists: What if you’re wrong? What would it take to change your mind?

From my experience the question is either not answered at all, deflected, or absurd standards of evidence are requested. For example, monkeys giving birth to humans, which would actually falsify evolution, not prove it (Creationists often don’t bother trying to understand evolution though, so they don’t see the idiocy of their demands).

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