Asymmetrical Skepticism

Christians are skeptical.

Christians, and theists in general, are skeptical of life arising from non-life and the universe originating from quantum fluctuations they’ve never observed. They don’t feel inclined to believe that consciousness as deep and self-aware as ours can arise through random mutations that are built upon and guided by only selective pressure.

Don’t make fun of them for this.

They are right to be skeptical of these things. These are counter intuitive concepts with evidence that can’t be assessed directly by laymen and requires a large commitment to gain any competence.

If anything, make fun of them for believing in miracles.

That people who believe in parting seas have qualms with natural selection is a sitcom premise, but it’s all too real. Why does that critical instinct they apply to naturalism disappear when the topic turns to virgin birth, resurrections, and transubstantiation? We have just as many clear examples of living matter arising from unliving matter, which they don’t accept, as we do living matter arising from non-matter, which they do. At best, equal doubt is called for, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I think it’s about familiarity and community feedback. Whether they were indoctrinated from day one or simply grew up in a Christian dominated culture, the creation story of Genesis is a known entity while quantum fluctuations is almost certainly not. This is why the beliefs of Catholics don’t seem as strange as the beliefs of Scientologists. Thetans are less familiar and, by definition, foreign.

From here, likeminded folks gather and provide positive feedback for any thoughts that aline with the chosen narrative. Conversely, defectors are discouraged or punished. This community feedback isn’t a single act that changes hearts and minds, it’s a million small acts that condition the congregation. Skepticism about Christianity? Bad. Skepticism about any claims that stand in its way? Good.

That’s not to say we aren’t also conditioned into believing things that would be bizarre to an outsider. A slip of paper with a number on it is worth more than a week’s worth of food? Sure, if it’s the right number. We have to be vigilant that whatever tribe we’re getting our feedback from isn’t leading us down a strange path. If it is, it’s up to us to right the ship or get off it.

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