• Those who will not be convinced

    I gave a talk last night to the Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub group on my Case Against God. It went down an absolute treat. Packed to the rafters to almost twice its small capacity (people sitting on the floor and all), there were some great questions and audience interaction. I really loved it and I gather so did the audience. Woo hoo! However, it was really interesting that there were a number of committed Christians in the audience, not least a woman in the front row. I used her as an example in one of my morality thought experiments. Speaking to her after the talk, I was surprised to learn that she as a fundamental Christian and her husband/partner was an atheist. How does that work in a relationship? They must live day to day next to each other with her thinking he will burn in hell.

    Anyway, I talked about the backfire effect whereby if you front up some rational evidence against someone’s position, it is more likely to entrench them in their original position. This is the frustration of philosophy: it supervenes on psychology. It is simply not good enough to merely present winning rational arguments, you have to overcome psychology and biases too.

    So this lady spoke to me at the end, and said something like, “You won’t change my mind. I am a fundamental Christian.” To which I explained the backfire effect which I had only just mentioned to someone else. She seemed proud to announce, implicitly, that there was no argument that would change her mind. Without realising it, she was some kind of presuppositionalist!

    And as a skeptical philosopher who makes a habit of challenging his own position and claims (hence having changed many of mine over the years), this annoyed the heck out of me. It’s a whole world of wrong, an ostrich with a buried head.

    Category: FeaturedPsychologySkepticism


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce