Lies, damned lies, and authority figures.

There are scenarios where a point you have made in a debate has been proven to be not just incorrect, but wildly so; moreover you may come to realize that the argument you used has been known to be incorrect for a very, very long time.

If this argument was given to you by an authority figure of any sort who claims to be a knowledgeable character in their field of inquiry, there are two options:

1) This authority figure is wildly misinformed. And yet they gave you this particular argument with as much confidence, certainty and authority as they present other ones in their field. So the question arises as to how much they really know of their field of expertise, and how much weight to give to their other opinions, when their confidence seems so misplaced.  Or,

2) This authority figure is knowingly lying to you. And potentially doing so to rile you up and offend your sensibilities through the presentation of false cases against the opposing side of the debate, so that you may rise to the defense of his side.

In either case, how much confidence do you place in that person’s authority in the future?

If your authority figures have been giving you incorrect, misinformed, outrageously outdated arguments against (let’s use a couple of recent examples) evolution or same-sex marriage, and you suddenly realize this… you have to reach the conclusion as to whether they are wrong  (and not JUST wrong but egregiously, willfully ignorant), or they are knowingly misleading you.

Either way, it should lead you to significant pause as to whether you take their opinion in other matters to be of value or not.

Two recent real examples:

– “If evolution is real, where is the fossil record? Where are the transitional fossils?”

I see you as a grown-up person, and I see pictures of a baby, and you expect me to believe that these two people are one and the same? Of course they cannot be, they are completely different. They’re not even the same size!

Oh, sure you can show me a picture of someone you claim is you when you were slightly older that this child. But why are there no pictures of “you” in between this baby form and this slightly older child form? There are still two many differences in between the two for me to believe that they are the same one. Oh, here is yet another picture you claim to be intermediate between these forms, but where are the pictures IN BETWEEN these two? How can you expect me to believe that these are the same person?

No matter how many pictures you show me, there will always be a missing “transitional photograph”.

If your authority or leader is using the “no transitional fossil record” argument, then they are willfully ignorant of biology and its history, or at the very least are demonstrating unwillingness to learn even the most rudimentary facts of the position they oppose. Is that an attitude of learning and openness? Or does it demonstrate only dogmatic and slavish dedication to a “truth” that rejects any and all opposition, regardless of mountains of proof?

– “If we don’t legislate against same-sex marriage, then the government can force us to marry gay people in our church!”

No. And the person who gave you that argument is either ignorant or taking advantage of your naivete to rile you up with an argument they know you will find offensive. And let me point out that if the government were taking a position to force you to perform ceremonies in your church that are against your beliefs and that harm no one else, I would be standing with you demanding that they stop: that’s why I believe in Separation of Church and State in the first place.  But you have to understand that in this case, you are being manipulated to advance a political cause: you are being lied to in order to secure your support.  And in doing so, you are also being placed in a position, through intentional or accidental lies, to demonize, reject and oppose a group that intends you no harm.

These are positions and arguments that “authority” figures are giving today.  These are positions that I have had used against me in debate in recent months, by well-meaning people who are being lied to.  Positions that, if you knew better, you would find ridiculous in their simplicity, but you are not being encouraged to know better by the people who gave them to you.  Arguments that you are expected to use because you must believe them, since they came from a person in authority, and you are expected to never question.  Arguments that are so easy to dismiss, precisely because it takes only a minimum amount of effort to discredit as uninformed, using easily accessible and available information.

And yet, given to you nonetheless. So which is it?  Did your authority figure give you these arguments because they were so disinterested in learning anything new that they are themselves unquestioningly parroting positions they were given as gospel?  Or do they already know the arguments are invalid, but decided that you probably weren’t smart or curious enough to find out whether they were true or not?

Which do you think it is?  Which would you prefer it to be?  And in either case, how do you intend to respond to their other claims of authority now that you know?

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