Gawd! After a somewhat torturous discussion that traversed every aspect of “reality” (according to some creative definitions) except for the “reality of the matter in question”, my partner in discussion actually suggested to me that skeptics are lazy by virtue of their skepticism. More details were not forthcoming; he stood by his assertion. Sometimes, I find myself consumed with incredulity!
Imagine, if you will, that you are standing in the public square, there with everyone else in a great crowd listening to some hyperbolic, hysterical drivel, full as it often is with predictable condemnations, promises of free wealth, threats of some kind of final solution to be demanded of the government.
You are listening to some huckster prattle away – a preacher, a politician or spoon bender – and you watch and listen while some skeptic calls him out on a prickly fact or two. As though on cue, the con man feigns indignation and tries to change the subject: He takes a rhetorical journey across many tangents, down many irrelevant rabbit holes, down, down, down this diversion and that until, finally, at the bottom of the path, cornered, he resorts to spitting a petulant reply “well then, if I made the whole thing up, just you try to disprove me!”
It always comes down to that, doesn’t it? A cynical preacher makes some outrageous claim: Finding gold plates in the forest, seeing someone coming back from being dead, or witnessing a fellow flying on a horse. He does not bother producing at least some trivial evidence (forget proof!) which might satisfy any reasonable person who simply pays attention to the meaning of words, the arc of history, the experience of the natural world. His mark is, after all, the lazy and credulous man who is practically guaranteed to gobble it up and run to the town square to convince everyone of miracles! No evidence required.
What can you say to either the con or his mark? (How often one and the same person?) Can you appeal to his better qualities? Can you ask him to be reasonable for just a moment, to consider the way the world evidently seems to work? The success of your appeal depends upon a capacity in your audience for finding solutions outside of wish-thinking. It also depends on a certain dissatisfaction with naked assertions and holy magic tricks masquerading as miracles. For one addicted to assertions and miracles, you’ll find nothing outside of wish-thinking.
How lazy is the man who uses incredulity, in the guise of “wonder”, “awe” or “inspiration”, as the end of an investigation rather than the beginning?
How lazy is the man who reads a mythical text and just accepts it as fact while ignoring – through design or lack of interest – all of the work done to investigate and understand the real universe around him?
How lazy is the man, and how unbelievably arrogant, who assumes that the gods of his anemic imagination are not only real but on his side? That the gods of other people are, “well, naturally, of course”, false and foolish?
Stunningly, the lazy and credulous man never seems to notice that his gods are just as completely invisible and silent as the others! Just amazing.
There are many strange happenings in this world which far surpass the lazy and credulous man’s ability to understand. For him, sadly, these “strange happenings” will remain impossible to understand. Demonstrating the slight-of-hand magic trick may require some technical knowledge: Good magicians are made, not born; showing how the con takes advantage of his mark isn’t that difficult. Disproving the hideous fairy tales and underlying nonsense foundational to all religion is quite simple, as it turns out, but the hardest to hear.