Sunday, May 11, 2008

Doug Giles' Testament to Truthiness, or How to Assure Your Children Fall for all the Same BS You Did

For those of us battling the culture wars against ignorance, anti-science puffery, and fundamentalist indignation of all stripes, it can sometimes feel like we are an alien species. You would think after the scientists have explained the first 1,000 items that they would gain credibility with the creationists, but experience shows that "What about item #1,001?" is right around the corner.

Enter Doug Giles, Ann Coulter with a penis (insert trannie joke here), to clear it all up for us in this laugher of an article. In it, Giles reveals the fundamentalist mindset in all its truthiness and glory. Here are his three steps to spot BS:

1) Become a skeptic. Of course, to Giles this doesn't mean demanding evidence and logical coherence. It means "with their arms crossed and one eyebrow raised, look down their nose and say, “yeah, right” in a sarcastic tone". And people say Giles favors style over substance!

2) Trust your gut, which God has hardwired to alert us to danger and BS.

3) Hang out with mature, sharp and successful people like your parents, grandparents, and...wait for it... your pastors!

The next time you find yourself arguing with a creationist, or with someone who thinks a blastocyst is a person, or that abstinence-only sex ed works, and it seems no matter how much evidence you provide it has no effect, think of Giles' three rules above? Where is the evidence? Where is the logic? None to be found! To understand why, consider the rules in reverse order, and then it becomes clear.

After all, one cannot be skeptical of everything. There has to be a base of assumptions about the world to even get out of bed. Whence come those assumptions? Why, from our parents, grandparents and pastors according to Giles' rules. They help shape part of the gut, perhaps the part that hates fags, or thinks taxes have to be low no matter what. The gut will take it from there, rejecting evolution, quantum physics, modern statistics and economics, anything that it cannot immediately recognize. And when it rejects absurdities like the trinity, your pastors will be quick to tell you that believing anyway is the highest virtue.

That's why evidence doesn't work in these debates. Evidence effects the brain, not the gut. The only way to sway such minds is to do the one thing people like Giles fear: applying his first rule to the other two. Be skeptical of the gut. Be skeptical of authority figures. Giles and his ilk want you to be skeptical of everything except that, because their core beliefs cannot withstand it. Thus they reject Evolution as absurd, but accept a talking burning bush foretelling of a virgin giving birth to a guy who'll lay dead for three days and them come back to life raising all the dead saints and darkening the entire earth in the process, as reasonable.

This is why the approach of fundamentalists to science is so flawed at its core. It is also why they project as they do. To people like Giles, there is that part of the world your gut recognizes, and that part too complicated for your gut that you accept on faith from authorities. The concept of independent skeptical investigation, indeed, of objective reality at all, doesn't exist. Thus people like him, Ann Coulter, and most evolution-deniers, can't see scientific organizations as anything more than priests in different robes and different faiths.

Giles BS detector is nothing of the sort. It is a recipe for a mind closed to all but the simplest and most traditional of knowledge. Anything cutting edge or unintuitive will be rejected, and with no more substance than "Yeah right". For from being a way to help children avoid bullshit, it is the surest way to assure they fall for all the same bullshit their elders fell for.

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