Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Cargo Cult of Religious Argument

The white man goes into the jungle to research the things that are there - the plants, the animals, the rocks, the people. He clears a little patch of woods for a small makeshift-runway so that planes can land there, even though most of the time the planes will only drop off supplies and turn back to home base. He builds a little radio-tower and a few barracks, and every two weeks he sits down at the radio, eager to hear the voices of his friends and colleagues as they fly by to supply him with another packet of foods and medication and books and so forth.

The aboriginal has watched the little process and at some point he thinks he has it all figured out: he goes and clears a little spot in the jungle, he builds a tower and a "radio" (out of bamboo - that's all he has for building material) and religiously every couple days he sits down speaking frantically into the "microphone" seriously expecting planes to show up and drop things on him.

We call this phenomenon a "cargo cult".

It comes about through a complete disregard of the savage for the immense processes behind those supply-planes, the effort that has to be expended to build them, to staff them, to supply them, to fly them.

Not to mention the whole motivation behind this endeavor - the fact that all the visible infrastructure is not there to coax planes into dropping goodies onto you, but that this is a setup to gain knowledge, and that the dropping of food is just a small part in the whole big enterprise.

Religious people that we can find all over the internet are firm adherents of the cargo-cult of argumentation. They think that if they only string words together that sound like the words that are used by me and other thinking beings, this will somehow magically turn their brainless dogma into an "argument".

This fallacy comes about from a complete disregard of these people of the work, effort, energy behind any actual argument: the careful examination of premises, the painstaking test of conclusions against observable phenomena, the years of studying the subject at hand into great detail.

Not to mention the whole motivation behind this endeavor - the fact that all the visible infrastructure of argumentation is not there to "win fights" or to "propagate my dogma" but is a setup to gain knowledge, and that the "arguing" and "convincing others" is just a small part in the whole big enterprise.

All this could be amusing: to watch these little clueless beings that would never drop their beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence play with something they made to look like the tools that those who are in pursuit of the actual Truth of matters have created to further exactly that goal.

The problem arises when the white man - in pity for these misguided creatures - talks to them in an attempt to show them that there's reasons behind all these things, that this is only a very small part of a big picture and that the whole big picture is the result of a lot of hard work on the parts of a lot of people -- and the savages walk up to the white man and claim steadfastly that what they're doing is just as good as what he's doing - after all they mimicked his actions very, very carefully.

Talk about insult.

By implying that the little facades that they slapped together in a couple days are just as good as the universe of energy, ingenuity, thought, resources and just plain hard work that the white men invested to make their operation work is an insult not just to the white man in the jungle, but to the thousands and thousands who invested their time and effort to conceive, invent, design, improve, discard, re-invent, maintain, repair and supply all the parts of the operation.

This is why religion is an insult to all thinking beings.


At 4:59 PM, Blogger Eternity said...

Very good explanation. While they are searching for other dumb asses to follow, science is clearing the path to knowledge .


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