The next in our series of foundational falsehoods of creationism is a logical fallacy illustrative of the fundamental sophistry behind the creationism movement; the idea that really really believing something is the same thing as knowing it.
Every religion claims to believe as they do because of reason, education, or intelligence given by their god in revelation. But whether they admit it or not, all of them are assuming their preferred conclusions on faith, and this would still be true even if all of their gods exist. Believe as hard as you want to. But convincing yourself however firmly still can’t change the reality of things. Seeing is believing. But seeing isn’t knowing. Believing isn’t knowing. Subjective convictions are meaningless in science, and eyewitness testimony is the least reliable form of evidence.
For example, if I go into my front yard and I see a large sauropod walking down the middle of my street, I will of course be quite convinced of what I see. I may be even more satisfied when I follow the thing and find that I can touch it, maybe even ride it if I want to. When I gather sense enough to run back for my camcorder, I may not be able to find the beast again, because I don't know which way it went. But that doesn’t matter because I saw it, I heard it, felt it, smelt it and I remember all that clearly with a sober and rational mind. But somehow I'm the only one who ever noticed it, and of course no one believes me. Some other guy says he saw a dinosaur too, but his description was completely different, such that we can’t both be talking about the same thing. So it doesn't matter how convinced I am that it really happened. It might not have. When days go by and there are still no tracks, no excrement, no destruction, no sign of the beast at all, no other witnesses who’s testimony lends credence to mine, and no explanation for how a 20-meter long dinosaur could just disappear in the suburbs of a major metropolis, much less how it could have appeared there in the first place, -then it becomes much easier to explain how there could be only two witnesses who can’t agree on what they think they saw, than it is to explain all the impossibilities against that dinosaur ever really being there. Positive claims require positive evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that’s what I’d need –since what I propose isn’t just extraordinary; its impossible. But since there's not one fact I can show that anyone can measure or otherwise confirm, then my perspective is still subjective -and thus uncertain. Eventually, even I, the eyewitness, would have to admit that, although I did see it, I still don’t know if it was ever really there –regardless whether I still believe that it was.
I'm a geoscience major at the University of Texas. I’m a student of paleontology, which if you don't know, is the study of ancient life forms. We're always finding new things in the fossil record. That record is already much more rich than any layman would ever suspect, and some of the many things we've found were pretty weird. So all kinds of things might be there, including this: I call it Godzillasaurus dios. Is it possible that this once existed? Well, to be philosophically correct, I would have to say ‘yes’, it is technically 'possible' this form of Lepidosaur actually could have existed, and I concede that it is even conceivable that we could find it in the fossil record someday.
But let's forget what is possible, and concentrate on what is probable. Is there any reason to believe this particular gargantuan lizard actually did exist? No, nothing at all. I mean, there were several old folklorish movies about it, and there are a heckuva lot of Kaiju fans who would love it if this thing were really real once. But apart from some fanatic devotees and their beloved fiction, what evidence is there for Godzilla? Not one thing which could be verified by anyone. Consequently, there is every indication that the king of the monsters is just a made-up character.
If I found a five-toed footprint the size of a whole T-rex, that at least would be something. But it still wouldn't be enough to justify the illustration, would it? I would need volumes more evidence than that! I mean, how can I claim to know all these details about something I can't even show was ever real? Especially if I have no reason to imagine such a thing in the first place. Still, I live in a country where I have a Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to believe whatever I want, and I’d really like to believe that something like this existed once. No one can conclusively prove that no extinct reptile could have looked like this, right? We’ll never discover every species that ever lived, and absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. So don’t I still get to believe Godzilla was real, if I want to?
What if I then went on to list all sorts of other details I supposedly knew about Godzillasaurus? What color it was, or what its reproductive peculiarities were, or the unique way it would respond to certain stimuli, and I say all this as if I had the facts and test results necessary to prove each point, when I really don’t have any indication that anything like this ever even lived at all.
What if I still didn't stop there? What if I didn’t just say that Gojira could have existed? Given the utter lack of evidence, just that comment alone might have cost me my credibility as a scientist. If I even said he “probably” existed -my reputation would be ruined because I can’t substantiate that claim. But let's say I went several steps beyond too far, and stated flat-out that he did exist? Not that I "think" he existed, or that I "believe" that he did, but that I knew he did. What happens to my credibility then? Can one even say something like that and still be trusted anymore? If I have no positively-indicative evidence at all to back me up, and thus can't prove I’m right about anything I profess to know, then if I go ahead anyway and confidently posit that Godzillasaurus did in fact roam the Japanese islands two million years ago, would that be an honest claim?
Normally, anyone disreputable enough to flatly affirm such positive proclamations without adequate support would lose the respect of his peers and be accused of outright fraud; anyone but a religious advocate that is. When allegedly holy men do the exact same thing, then its not called fraud anymore. Its called “revealed truth” instead. That’s quite a double-standard, innit?
Like when some minister gets on stage at one of those stadium-sized churches -to state as fact who God is and what God is, and what he wants, hates, needs, won’t tolerate, or will do -for whom, how, and under what conditions; they don’t have any data to show they’re correct about any of it, yet they speak so matter-of-factly. Even when they contradict each other they’re all still completely confident in their own empty assertions!
So why do none of these tens of thousands of head-bobbing, mouth-breathing, glassy-eyed wanna-believers have the presence of mind to ask, “how do you know that?” Well, for all those who never asked the question, here’s the answer; they don’t know that! There’s no way anyone could know these things. They’re making it up as they go along. These sermons are the best possible example of blind speculation; asserted as though it were truth and sold for tithe. If anyone or everyone else would be called liars for claiming such things without any evidentiary basis then why make exceptions for evangelists? For these charlatans are obviously liars too! The clergy are in the same category of questionable credibility as are commissioned salesmen, politicians, and military recruiters.
You could raise a commnity of children to believe in Cthulhu if you always insist that he’s true. If you make them worship him regularly, and pray to him in fear begging for signs or impressions revealing his existence to them, then at least some of those children will eventually claim to have experienced that god despite the fact that he only ever existed in fiction.
Occultists, transcendentalists, and faith-healers of every religion know the auto-deceptive power of faith. It doesn’t matter which gods or spirits they pray to. No matter which devotion one practices, if the ambience of the ritual is right, then faith can prepare the mind and psyche the senses into perceiving or experiencing whatever the subjects want to believe. Seemingly miraculous feats and visions occur in every faith because faith itself is the cause of them, rather than whatever devotees may have faith “in”. That has to be the case, because faith is the only common bond between all religious beliefs.
Believers often say they “know for a fact” that their beliefs are the “truth”. They “testify” to things they don’t know anything about. They pretend to “witness” things they’ve never really seen, and they like to use other confident-sounding terms like “conclusively proven” when they’re really only talking about baseless assumptions, (and vice versa). They often claim “absolute truth” when they’re really talking about bald-faced lies, and all too often, they will continue to repeat and appeal to arguments they know have already been proven wrong. But if you believe in truth at all, then you should make sure that the things you say actually are true, that they are defensibly accurate, and academically correct. And if they’re not correct, you should correct them! You wouldn’t claim to know anything you couldn’t prove that you knew, and you wouldn’t talk about anything being “proven” at all, unless you’re clearly using that term in the sense that a court of law would use. Scientists must choose their words very carefully, because science is brutal in peer-review, and no scientist would ever get away with any of the wild raving propaganda which religious zealots or the news media use. That’s why they say the devil is in the details!
First of all, “truth” is more than just facts. It implies something that is completely true, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So every word of it better be accurate, or it isn’t truth at all; and depending on the topic, such a concept is likely beyond human comprehension anyway. Truth may be pursued but never possessed. That’s why we should trust those who seek the truth and doubt those who claim to have it! A fact is a unit of information that is verifiably true beyond dispute, and obviously beliefs based on the conflicting faiths of different religions cannot qualify as that. Belief may be either rational, or assumed on faith. But in either case, it doesn’t matter how convinced you are; belief does not equal knowledge. The difference is that knowledge can always be tested for accuracy where mere beliefs often can not be. No matter how positively you think you know it, if you can’t show it, then you don’t know it, and you shouldn’t say that you do. Nor would you if you really cared about the truth. Knowledge is demonstrable, measurable. But faith is often a matter of pretending to know what you know you really don't know, and that no one even can know, and which you merely believe -often for no good reason at all.