07 December 2008

PZ Myers: the "chance and lack of purpose" problem

PZ Myers has a post up about the difficulties in marketing evolution. One of his main points is that it's really human evolution that really bothers people.
The second objection is to chance and the lack of purpose. People really, desperately want there to be a personal agency to causality — they become utterly irrational about it all if you try to imply that no, fate, destiny, and ultimate cosmic purpose guided them to their mate, for instance. It couldn't have been just chance. I suspect this is a consequence of the first contention: people want to believe that they are important agents in the universe, and one of the implications of evolution is that they aren't.

Holy crap that is accurate. One item of major importance to my wife is that God was answering her prayers/had a special plan when He brought the two of us together in a relationship, especially since she prayed for someone who had many traits that I have.

In fact, whenever we get into an argument about religion, she'll bring up how God answered her prayers miraculously in bringing me to her. Whenever I answer that (a) she has a higher chance of ending up with me because she's actively looking for someone with my traits, and (b) there's a lot of dumb luck involved and something has to happen so why not me? she get's very, very upset. Very.

I have no idea how to counter this argument and liberate people from this "personal agency" mindset. For now, I will steer any God vs. chance arguments away from our relationship and hope for the best.

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At December 08, 2008 9:01 a.m., Blogger Eamon Knight said...

I gather that one of the characteristics she didn't pray for was "...is a Christian". Which is odd because, back in my day, that was considered essential.

At December 08, 2008 10:57 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Ah, but she did. Sort of.

Turns out she prayed for someone who would "go to church with her" and assumed that that would mean the guy would be a Christian. She didn't figure that it would just mean that I'd go but not be a Christian. According to her mindset, God is sneaky that way.

At December 09, 2008 12:46 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

God the Great Genie. Seems like a belief that should be insulting to her god... but maybe this particular god's too much of a jerk to pick up on it.

At December 09, 2008 12:51 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was having a discussion the other day about the "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" mentality of some Christians who refuse to think about their faith, even for the purpose of better understanding it. I said something like, "it's a mindset that fixes God in stone. What a crappy way to treat God."

(Mind you, I don't believe in any gods, but that wasn't the subject under discussion.) Later I was thinking abut what I said, and realized I'd suggested that very fixed mindset turned God into a gargoyle.

I like the imagery.

At December 12, 2008 12:58 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

I would think it would be insulting, but apparently nothing is too petty for God to give you, unless it's evil, against God's wishes, etc. It's all really quite random.

Re: gargoyle, I guess some people just want their God but don't want to have to struggle with it. I guess that's why golden idols were so desirable during the OT; that God doesn't talk back.


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