Pharyngula

I get email

This peculiar little email is nothing special, but is actually rather representative. It’s interesting because most atheists will read it one way, where I suspect he actually means it another way.

Professor Myers,

My name is Jack Heidman and I am an F15 pilot and commercial airline pilot for American Airlines. I am not a biologist. I was too busy flirting with my cute lab partner to pay attention in high school biology class (by the way, I went to Wayzata High – I bet you know where that is).

I would seriously like your opinion on another stupid creationist question I have. I know that you know your origins view is correct and I am wrong. I also know that you know us creationists (especially young earth creationists) are incredibly misinformed and/or stupid. I am not trying to be sarcastic. You are obviously a very educated individual and I am quite certain you are much more intelligent than I am.

My stupid creationist question is simple: What if you’re wrong? Pascal once said “Are you willing to wager eternity?” Is it possible that where you go when you die might be as important as where you came from (in your case – primordial soup)? Don’t you think your eternity might be worth a little consideration? I’ve seen your picture on the internet and I notice a few grey hairs in your beard. Unfortunately I’m getting a few myself which reminds me every morning when I shave to consider my post-death living quarters (you might want to ask yourself…smoking or non?)

The walls of your Neo-Darwinian Jericho are crumbling around you. You know it. You’ve known it for a long, long time. The problem is, now other people are figuring it out as well. A lot of other people!

Sir, please think about my stupid creationist question. I eagerly await your reply.

Respectfully,

Lt Col Jack Heidman
F15 Pilot and…
A Colossally Stupid Bible Believing Creationist

Most of you are probably thinking that he was being extremely sarcastic, in spite of his disavowal — he starts off by telling me how smart I am and how stupid he is, and winds up asserting that I’m wrong about everything, and he knows it…and then he emphasizes how stupid he is. If you read it aloud, you’d probably adopt a mocking, sneering tone.

However, he probably is entirely sincere and not at all sarcastic (emphasis on “probably” — he could be trying to be obnoxious, but I’ve talked to enough creationists to suspect that he isn’t.) There’s a key to understanding his intent.

This is classic American anti-intellectualism. He honestly believes that intelligence is not a virtue, so in a weird twist of values, he is venting a bit by accusing me of being intelligent, and bragging about himself when he says he is stupid. Heidman is a prideful man with a huge ego; it’s why he starts off with the announcement that he is an accomplished pilot. That isn’t a contradiction with his anti-intellectualism, either: learning to fly an F15 is not an exercise of the brain to him, but a God-given talent. He didn’t believe in wasting time learning in high school, when he could instead make time with the girls. He’d probably also deny being egotistical, because it’s OK to gloat over one’s abilities if they are a gift from God.

He’s also entirely correct. He is Colossally Stupid, because he doesn’t think. He’s happy to toss around Pascal’s Wager even though it is a pathetic argument, because it feels good to his gut, and he’s already blindly confident that his particular faith is entirely true. You can tell him that he is stupid, and he will be unfazed, and will probably take considerable pride in the label — people who think, think, think get in the way of unreasoning acceptance of his blithe confidence. We could easily rip his ‘argument’ to shreds — it doesn’t address any of the issues of origins, it’s little more than a fallacious argument from consequence, and it is non-specific and can be used equally well to defend any random religious belief, from the Amish to Zoroastrianism — but that doesn’t matter. He’d smirk happily through any dissection, because he didn’t use his brain to come up with it, anyway.

It’s sad. There are a lot of people who believe this way, on feelings and gut impressions and simple, stupid confidence in what they already “know”, where “knowing” in their case is nothing but unquestioning acceptance of what they’ve been told.

Be aware. This attitude is more common than you can imagine.