Atheist Son Writes… There’s a dragon in my garage too

Dear mum,

It’s been a busy couple of months for both of us which has resulted in a bit of a hiatus in writing. So I was really glad when you agreed over the phone that we should continue our discussion about life’s origins.

First of all thank you for honestly replying in your last email to my questions about what it is you believe. While I expected some of your answers I was honestly taken aback by others. I will address each of your answers in a later email, but for now I would only like to discuss your last answer which troubles me the most, by far:

 No amount of scientific evidence will ever change my belief in creationism.

Is there really no evidence that will make you question your literal interpretation of the creation story in the Bible? Really? If so, then the problem is not with the evidence I’m presenting, it’s with you.

I’ve known you all my life and so I know you are pretty rational when it comes to most things; You know a magicians tricks are just illusions. You don’t believe in new age nonsense like Reiki or acupuncture. You would laugh at someone who told you your horoscope. Why do you dismiss these things? Because you know that, despite the loud demands by believers, all the evidence shows that they are not real.

So now imagine my confusion when you wrote that no amount of evidence could make you question creationism! I was so shocked that my own mum is admitting to being so dogmatic when it comes to something with even less evidence than Reiki, acupuncture and astrology.

Okay, for a bit of fun lets turn the tables for a moment. What if I told you there was a fire-breathing dragon living in my garage? The astronomer, astrophysicist and writer Carl Sagan once made this hypothetical suggestion:

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle–but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floates in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”

And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

Obviously, I don’t think a dragon lives in my garage, but you can see how frustrating it would be trying to reason with a person who refuses to notice the evidence. This is how I feel discussing your worldview with you!

I suppose, ultimately, I just don’t want to believe that my own mother is so dogmatic that you openly admit you are immune to evidence. As I have explained in previous emails I remain willing to be convinced by any evidence for creationism so long as it stands up to scrutiny. And so my only question to you is are you really planning to ignore all the evidence I’m presenting to you? Or are you at least willing to take the search for the truth seriously and have your preconceptions challenged?

Love, reason and understanding,

Sam

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2 Responses to Atheist Son Writes… There’s a dragon in my garage too

  1. Max says:

    If she says she is going to ignore the evidence, you should still write the rest of your argument and post in on here. I like reading this.

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