No, I haven't gone completely mad.
I've been reading Dale Carnegie's seminal work, "How to convince your publisher that a really long title is a good idea, honestly"
OK, jokes aside - the summary is here on Wikipedia and makes for interesting reading:
Crucially, Carneigie (through his own, painful experience over a quote from Shakespeare wrongly attributed to the Bile) observes that you should never correct someone else's argument - even when they are painfully and obviously wrong.
Literal creationists (call them what we will) have suffered a terrible education - and a dishonest one, in our view. Yes, they are wrong, but telling them as much only actually strengthens their belief in their own error!
To make it doubly hard for us, if this obstacle wasn't enough, the truth is perhaps the most painful of all. They have been told that they will live forever, ya-de-ya and we're telling them:
a) They do not matter one iota in the grand scheme of things
b) No ethereal being gives a fuck - because the ethereal being is a figment of their imagination.
c) They are animals - little different from the apes in the zoo.
d) They are going to die - quite soon in real terms and for most of them, a in very short time, there will be nothing left save for the replicated strands of a complex chemical and perhaps a few memories.
So, the reason for this discussion is to find other ways - perhaps based on Carnegie's advice (it's good, but you should read the book) - of convincing these poor, terrified creatures that:
a) Life is actually worth something;
b) Science is like a fractal - the deeper you look, the more you see.
c) Death is part of a natural order and they have nothing to fear, save for the fear of death itself. The will live on in the memories of the people they touch (in a good way).
The thing with the fruit and the counting is meant as a demonstration to show them how we view their ideas.
We show them something which is demonstrably ludicrous and show how we use evidence to come to a conclusion; we are not allowed to invent bits that happen to be convenient.
It's a though experiment aimed to see how things look from our side of the fence and why their beliefs are only tenuous.
It doesn't matter WHERE they think that god resides (or what form it takes) the very fact that they are required to believe it is what makes the argument unsound and that is unarguable.
When I get really pissed off (which happens from time to time) I demand to know where their god is when atrocities are being committed in its name - the fact that most (so far ALL I've met) don't know that Muslims and Jews worship the self-same god as Christians scares the crap out of me. Their denial is an instant as it is blinkered.
Bizarre isn't it. Still, I guess we just have to keep chipping away at it.
My ex wife keeps banging at me to leave them be - which I understand, but my argument is that they are actually promoting the sort of blinkered ignorance that will drive our species from this planet. (Mind you, that might not be such a bad thing where the planet is concerned.)
Excellent point Marc. I think there are two points of attack: one is to suggest that religion is a cop-out - by blaming everything on God, you don't have to take responsibility for yourself, your fellow man and your world (people love a challenge); the other (and the most productive, I think) is to get people thinking about 'the truth'. This is what they're looking for after all, and the one they've found is the most convenient. But it needn't be your aim to instantaneously deconvert them - if you can plant a seed of interest in how religion works, what functions it fulfills, etc., you may have made a good start. The easiest way to do this is to focus on other religions. Why do peole believe in other religions, what functions do they fulfill in their lives. The more people think about this, the more likely they are to recognise parallels with their own beliefs. So, for instance, with Christians, use Islam, Hinuism and ancient religions, Greek, Norse, Egyptian, etc.
One brief example: Christians use the Bible as evidence of the existence of God, yet they will dismiss the validity of documents and institutions that assert the existence of other gods. They reject the application of scientific findings and logic to their own beliefs, but will use them against others...
I love it when missionaries come to my door and ask if I have heard the news, and do I read my Bible. My usual reply is that I am always reading it for a good old belly laugh that anyone can be so simple as to believe any of it, and for a window into the ludicrous, swiftly followed by the Koran. My day is made when, following the above failed evangelicals, a Liberal Democrat comes to the door to convince be that they are doing great things in the coalition!
Ridicule - yes
Argument - no, that's a one way ticket to brain damage.
Of course, it is their children we need to get at---by having well-prepared atheists teach at their schools.
But that's just a dream at present.
When I was young I thought that the population percentage of atheists would rise steadily as the years passed and religious inanities get increasingly exposed in the face of science with all its wonders and discoveries.
But I was wrong. Religious belief has a terrifyingly tenacious hold on certain sorts of people---christians and muslims alike. Their children are indoctrinated when young into the fear and lies of religion. The selected better parts of the 'holy' books get endlessly repeated, while the many horrifying bits (killings, retributions, genocides etc) are largely overlooked.
This is so awfully true. I watched from the sidelines yesterday, as a group of "evolutionists" (as the lame-brains call us) argued with Eric Hovind on the Dr Dino site.
Science geeks like us (for the most part) rely on evidence and specific example; Hovind and his supporters relied on fallacy and bluff - believing every word he said. In one exchange (which is still open) they discussed what creationist scientists have done for us.
The usual suspects were lined up including Issac Newton plus a number from current or recent science. Not one had anything to add to biology; and only one had any sort of qualification in a related topic: a PhD in paleontology under Stephen J Gould in fact. Gould will be spinning in his grave.
While several commentators did go to some pain to explain this and other fallacy, I felt that they were only preaching to the altar.
I've been asked to teach but refuse to on the grounds that if any student of mine claims they don't believe in evolution or that it's just a "theory" I fear they would be a physical exchange.
It may be worthwhile to examine our culture outside of religion too - exploding some of the vestigial teachings of recent times (clean your plate, etc.) might help to open the debate on what is relevant today; and religion is not.