Just the other day, someone sent me an e-mail, trying to prove to me that the Bible was the word of God. She engaged in three arguments. Here's the first:
This first reason to believe in the Bible's status as the word of God travels in logical circles; it's a fallacy to assume the thing you're trying to prove in order to prove it. In this case, you can't quote the Bible as a source of inerrant truth to demonstrate that the Bible is the word of God, because the Bible is only a good source for truth if you already believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
The contributor quickly moved on to another tactic:
In a way, she's really got me there. No, I must admit, I cannot prove that the Bible is NOT the Word of God. I also can't prove that the side of a Wheaties box is NOT the Word of God. Or the Satanic Bible. Or the contents of the local phone book. Or Why I am Not a Christian (which we all BELIEVE was written by Bertrand Russell - hah!). And on and on and on.
Why can't I disprove these things? Because eliminating verifying these documents as the Word of God requires divine certification, and unfortunately I just don't have access to the divine (again, assuming the divine even exists). This problem extends to all kinds of conjectures I can't disprove: that Carl Sagan is really alive but just hiding so that nobody can see him, that right behind the moon at this moment a bunch of Saturnians are playing Space Polo, that someone has implanted a microchip in my brain that cannot be detected by available methods. They all require observing the unobservable (all places on the Globe, the far side of the Moon, an undetectable chip) in order for disproof to be achieved.
The contributor's point is related to the UFO slogan, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!" This may be true, but it certainly isn't evidence of presence either. The thing is, do we wan't to live our lives by standards simply because their basis can't be disproven? Do I want to go about my daily business doing things because I think maybe Carl Sagan could be alive, that maybe those Saturnians are getting bored with Space Polo and are planning an invasion, that maybe Bill Gates is downloading my dreams with that undetectable chip? Or, to get back to the contributor's point, that maybe the Bible is the Word of God? Maybe you do; I certainly don't.
At this point in her post, the contributor pulled out her trump card:
This is argument by threat. First (again), assume you're right, and then threaten me with some punishment for disagreeing with you (sorry, I mean "God"). When I was a kid, this would have been the point in an argument where someone got all huffy and frustrated and said something like "Oh yeah? Well, just wait 'til my big brother comes along -- boy is he gonna get you!" Just like I don't choose how to live my life according to a standard that maybe sorta could be right, I don't choose my life path as a reaction to threats.
All this Bible-thumping posturing by the contributor was getting me bothered for a bit. But then I realized that there really was an important opportunity here. For those who do live their lives based on prior assumptions, the possibility that maybe things could be true and the threat of future punishment, I could build a whole new religion!
So here we go with a new Gospel: The Word of God According to Kenny. Don't worry, it's really short and to the point, unlike the Bible (ANOTHER reason to join my new religious club). Here we go:
THE WORD OF GOD ACCORDING TO KENNY
Lo, this is the word of God, and it really is, and it's the truth, and it's no lie.
Lo, you can't prove it isn't.
Lo, if you don't follow the Word of God According to Kenny, God's gonna beat you up real good.
Lo, so here's God's word: live your entire life hopping on your left foot.
Lo, go to it, O followers of the True Word of Kenny!
Enjoy your new religion.
Irregular Times require backtalk.
Send us an Irregular Retort!