November 28th, 2002

A Pocket Full of Murder

(no subject)

My results from the Battleground God quiz, which claims to test solely for rational consistency:

Congratulations! You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground. The fact that you progressed through this activity being hit only once and biting only one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are well thought out and almost entirely internally consistent. The direct hit you suffered occurred because one set of your answers implied a logical contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a ways that required that you held views that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. ... Because you only suffered one direct hit and bit only one bullet, you qualify for our second highest award. A good achievement!

This was the "direct hit" I took:

Earlier you agreed that it is rational to believe that the Loch Ness monster does not exist if there is an absence of strong evidence or argument that it does. No strong evidence or argument was required to show that the monster does not exist - absence of evidence or argument was enough. But now you claim that the atheist needs to be able to provide strong arguments or evidence if their belief in the non-existence of God is to be rational rather than a matter of faith. The contradiction is that on the first ocassion (Loch Ness monster) you agreed that the absence of evidence or argument is enough to rationally justify belief in the non-existence of the Loch Ness monster, but on this occasion (God), you do not.

Of course, this doesn't take into account that the existence or non-existence of the Loch Ness Monster is a completely irrelevant issue, especially compared to the existence or non-existence of God. The philosophical, spiritual and personal significance of the latter question is enormous, while the former is purely a matter of scientific curiosity, so I simply don't think they deserve to be approached in the same way.

And a bit later:

You're under fire! You don't think that it is justifiable to base one's beliefs about the external world on a firm, inner conviction, paying no regard to the external evidence, or lack of it, for the truth or falsity of this conviction. But in the previous question you rejected evolutionary theory when the vast majority of scientists think both that the evidence points to its truth and that there is no evidence which falsifies it. Of course, many creationists claim that the evidential case for evolution is by no means conclusive. But in doing so, they go against scientific orthodoxy. So you've got to make a choice: (a) Bite the bullet and say there is evidence that evolution is not true, despite what the scientists say. (b) Take a direct hit and say that this is an area where your beliefs are just in contradiction.

I bit the bullet. But the use of "evolution" in this question is too broad to be useful. I believe in microevolution, but not in macroevolution: that is, I believe that change and diversification take place within species, but I do not believe that mammals all evolved from a common ancestor over millions or billions of years. And I've found that in evolutionary literature many of the arguments and evidence supposedly in favour of the latter are really arguments and evidence in favor of the former...

Ah, well, it was still a fun quiz.