Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wizard’s First Rule

You can make people believe anything if they either want it to be true, or they’re afraid of it being true.
Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind

The creationists and ID advocates are obviously familiar with the rule, if not Terry Goodkind’s book, since their talking heads totally rely on appeals to the audience’s fears about evolution and desires for their religious beliefs to be upheld. Their fundamentalist Christian fans want life to be too complicated to have evolved, because they want to be God’s special creations. At the same time, they fear that those evil Darwinists are just trying to lure kids down the road to Hell with this Evolution scam. Those are the claims that creationists push on their gullible constituency, and you almost have to be a fundie to buy into their lies.

Real scientists don’t want any particular answer, and they aren’t afraid of any particular result, so they’re largely immune to the effects of the First Rule. The requirement for falsifiable theories subject to repeated testing and peer review weeds out the exceptions: no matter how much a particular scientist wants or fears a particular observation or experimental result to be true, there will always be other scientists who want the opposite or -- better still -- don’t care. In a nutshell, the scientific method is designed to negate the First Rule.

So ask yourself, do you believe creationists because of their evidence or because you want their claims to be true? Do you reject evolution because you’re afraid that all the things creationists say about “Darwinists” are true? If so, you should probably try to stop letting charlatans manipulate you with carrots and sticks.


BigHeathenMike said...

Ahhh...man do I love Skeptic's Circles. That's a great post, LR, and as always I'm glad I popped by.

Jordan Glassman said...

Corollary to the First Rule:

The truth is scary, but it is always possible to imagine something scarier.

Thursday said...

I have to admit, I prefer the Immortal Mr. Lewis's rule:

What I tell you three times is true.

(From: The Hunting of the Snark)

Which invokes (so to speak) a modern version: invoke often.