“Do you believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”

This is the general form of a question which is ubiquitous: “Do you believe in …?” The issue with this question’s format is that it hardly does anything for both respondent and inquirer. An affirmative or negative response is a virtually unthinking response. A better question would go: “How good is the evidence for …?”

There are many reasons why this format is significantly more useful. In this format, the inquirer can obtain a variety of meaningful data about the level of educational attainment, background, and honesty the respondent has on the subject. Another benefit is that the respondent is compelled to think of a more complex answer than a simple negative or affirmative one.

Asking for how good the evidence is for something is particularly useful when one person meets another who believes in an extraordinary claim. Simply asking “Do you believe in unicorns?” to a person who believes in them will not force them to examine the evidence they think they have. Asking, “How good is the evidence for the existence of unicorns?” can trigger unintentionally laughable responses showing the sort of mental gymnastics people perform unwittingly (to notice this is to fail at it) in order to hold their belief in unicorns. Hopefully, the pressures of critical thinking and rational discussion will gradually erode their belief. The collision course with reason can prevent the substitution of one deeply-held irrational belief with another. No one needs to replace their belief in Santa Claus, say, with an equally satisfying belief. Eventually, people could walk away from their unjustifiable beliefs with a smile and a shrug.

This is what is so wonderful about asking good questions — the ones that compel others to see whether their beliefs scale with their evidence.


~ by jsacc001 on March 6, 2008.

2 Responses to ““Do you believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster?””

  1. “there is every difference between being a deist and a theist, science and reason cannot disprove the existence of a creator, we can only say that everything works without that assumption and there is no evidence on the other side of the case ;to the theistic argument of a god who is interest in answering prayers cares who you marry who you go to bed with what you eat with we say this is human propaganda.”- hitchens

  2. The other day I was strolling through UF campus and reached an area known for being ull of people passing time. I decided to stand by and listen to one of the several preachers that usually stand and profess. I found it interesting because this man was stating that he uses the bible very similarly to the way a horse would use blinders as to keep him from being distracted and “sinning.” I find this very interesting because I agree with that yet find it complexing that this man is aware of this yet continues to rely on this “sacred” text to determine his actions as opposed to using that thing called reason which we as humans are all born with.

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