Click on things less

seriously I've had about enough
seriously I’ve had about enough

Look I get it, we’re all busy (busy scrolling through twitter and facebook but still busy). But is it too much to ask to at least have people pick between being someone who actually cares about ideas and someone who accepts substitutes and then can focus on other things?

Here is a tip. If it looks like you’re going to argue with someone about some controversial topic, start with a book. If someone challenges you with something pertaining to, say, feminism, why not say, “Oh that reminds me of The Bell Jar/Mrs. Dalloway/The Second Sex. What are your views on those?” If they’ve actually investigated the thing they’re getting so worked-up about and read something like those books, suddenly I think you’ll find that the conversation is on more stable ground. Not because those authors, or any author, is infallibly correct, but they have at least done some real work on the topic. That is one of the benefits of a common culture (or what is left of it, anyway); we are supposed to be able to reference the work of others so we don’t have to start at the beginning.

Now please remember that I am ranting about this in response to the endless stream of supposed intellectual content featured on social media, oftentimes in the form of “articles”. Clearly many of those articles are quite good, and the intelligent always use those good articles as either the first-fruits of further investigation or an interesting addition to an already substantial body of knowledge.

And I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this but will anyway: context is vitally important here. You don’t have to be well-read in a given topic to weigh-in. You still have a brain so when someone says “the patriarchy is responsible for all the world’s ills” you don’t have to feel inadequate to the task of disputing such a claim merely because you haven’t read on the topic (though whether you’d want to engage someone who made such a statement is another matter). This is especially true of a sincere intellectual. Wide-reading in other topics can oftentimes make you more qualified to deal with nearly any topic, provided you do so honestly admitting your own gaps in knowledge.

But for those of you tempted to click on an article with a picture of Hillary Clinton asking “Is modern feminism out of touch?” or one suggesting corporations be nicer or something, might I advise you to consider your other options if you are interested in such things? For instance, here is the beginning to the feminism article by Christine Emba in the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton’s post-election party took place in a room with a glass ceiling, the Javits Convention Center in New York. At a certain point in the expected celebrations, confetti mimicking glass shards was meant to fall from the sky, a symbol of the candidate reaching feminism’s peak — breaking the glass ceiling that held women back from achieving the highest position in the country.

Of course, things didn’t turn out exactly as planned. But even if they had, it’s up for debate whether Hillary Clinton and those like her adequately represent the needs and nuance of the feminist movement today.

There are a lot of people who are going to read something like that and think they’ve actually learned something. Certainly the insinuating prose gives the indication of belonging to a savvy in-group, one who is keeping up with the times. But now consider the opening few paragraphs of The Bell Jar[note]The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. Published by Harper Collins.[/note]:

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I’m stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers — goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me at every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.

I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.

New York was bad enough. By nine in the morning the fake, country-wet freshness that somehow seeped in overnight evaporated like the tail end of a sweet dream. Mirage-gray at the bottom of their granite canyons, the hot streets wavered in the sun, the car tops sizzled and glittered, and the dry, cindery dust blew into my eyes and down my throat.”

Look, I get that you don’t necessarily have to pick between the two, but is it too much to ask that at least you pick one first, and the other second?

It should be obvious that there will never be scientific evidence for the existence of God

There are so many good arguments for the nonexistence of God that I find it baffling to keep encountering the “I’ll believe in God when I find evidence for His existence” argument. I can’t think of why intelligent people continue to reference it in their unbelief other than a reliance on the supposed moral superiority that emanates from everyone who is on the side of “science”.

Of course, it is correct to say that there is no evidence for God’s existence if by “evidence” you mean scientific evidence. But the claims of scientific evidence are not exhaustive of all truth. Scientific evidence is a discrete thing and its veracity and usefulness is surrounded on all sides by some very important formalities. The evidence uncovered in science must be physically observable and people under similar circumstances must be able to re-create the same results to verify your claims.

But surely things can be evident without being reproducible in the scientific sense. Whether or not you believe it, you at least act as though you do. You act, for instance, as though it is a truth that your mother loves you[note] showing that love has a biological component – obviously – is not proof that what we mean by “love” is encapsulated entirely in chemicals in your brain [/note]. You act as though the past exists. It is sufficient for us to say that the evidence for these things doesn’t pass beyond the subject – the actual person(s) involved – and be completely satisfied that we’re speaking the truth.

However, my objections not withstanding, the most infuriating part of it all is that the skeptics here don’t even seem to know what scientific evidence means. When someone says to you: “I’ll believe in God when you show me the evidence” all you have to say is “Okay, like what for example? What would you need to see to believe?”

Think about it: what would scientific evidence for God even look like? Most people would offer that if God came before them in person and changed water into wine and shone with celestial light, well, that would be enough to convince them. But why? If you’re a person who prizes scientific knowledge above all other kinds, who regards it as the gold standard of all proof and evidence, then this hypothetical event shouldn’t convince you. You’d more reasonably assume that anything other than God Himself appearing before you was the cause of your experience. Perhaps someone slipped a potent hallucinogenic drug into your drink. Perhaps there is a powerful alien spaceship in orbit and they can cause you to have convincing experiences. Or maybe you’ve just gone insane. Any of these would be more rational to conclude than that you’ve been visited by the Almighty.

All of this is right and good, and just as it should be within the context of the fallen world. God treasures our freedom above all else and imposing Himself on us by saying “Look here I am! Worship me!” and appearing in the sky with all His angels would be a vulgar negation of human and divine dignity. Besides no one likes a lover who comes on too strong.

Of course none of this is to say that there isn’t evidence – in the most literal sense of the word, “to make evident”- of God’s existence. Far from it. It is just a certain kind of evidence, a certain kind of truth about our predicament, and the way we receive that message is co-mingled with the content of the message so as to be inseparable. In that way our knowledge of God is set apart from other kinds of knowledge.