On Googling Before You Speak

Are you smart enough to be an atheist?

Probably not. At least, that should be your conclusion after you watch this clip:


What lesson are we to take from this video? Well, according to Katrina Fernandez at The Crescat, the lesson is that:

“every smug high school boy, college hipster, liberal secularist, and twenty something who thinks they have all the answers… [need to] [work] on [their] humility and [prevent] [themselves] from looking profoundly, pathetically stupid.”

Why are these groups singled out? Not sure. But I think Ms. Fernandez needs a bit of looking at herself in the mirror.

Let’s explore…

The Video

The video is an excerpt from episode 1 of John Safran vs. God: an 8 episode documentary released in 2004 that looked at religion and religious practices from around the world. John Safran is an Australian documentary film maker who uses humor and exaggeration as a means of tackling potentially touchy subjects.

The Segment

At the end of each episode, Safran rants about a topic. The rants provide commentary, but they are not meant to be damning critiques. So, for example, the video above is basically ranting about (presumably) people who know little about science but will reference science in arguments against the existence of God. It is a rant that applies to anyone speaking under the false pretense of attained knowledge. At the end of episode 2, Safran suggests that Catholic places of worship look like bloody, gory, horror films. The rant in episode 3 compares the Buddha to bratty, rich Westerners.

The Lesson Learners

As touched on above, Ms. Fernandez suggests that the lesson of the video needs to be learned by “every smug high school boy, college hipster, liberal secularist, and twenty something who thinks they have all the answers.” Why is she singling out these groups? I’m really not sure. My best guess is that this is how she views atheists, especially those who might critique the religious on issues of science.

Why? Glancing through her blog reveals that she tends to give dismissive pet names to groups with whom she disagrees (e.g., calling pro-choice feminists riotgrrrls or describing the Democratic National Convention as Abortionpalooza). Moreover, Ms. Fernandez does not think science and religion are incompatible. For example, she points out the person who proposed the Big Bang was a Catholic Father.

…Oh, Wait…

You’ll note, her post on the compatibility of science and religion does not offer any real evidence. It does not display any analysis of science, religion, or their compatibility. Instead she only points out that a religious person made a scientific discovery. This is no more evidence in support of the compatibility of science and religion than an atheist making a scientific discovery is evidence against it. This begs the question: is Ms. Fernandez smart enough to be a science/religion compatiblist?

The Lesson I Learned

The truth of the matter is, in any realm of knowledge, a person can have different levels of understanding. One can explore a topic shallowly or gain a level of deep expertise. However, one needn’t be of the latter group to comment on the subject at hand. The risk of commenting on a topic from a place of shallow knowledge is that you’re more likely to overstate your point. And if you continue to overstate your point after your errors have been noted, you certainly deserve any criticism that comes your way.

For example, despite her lack of expertise, Ms. Fernandez is perfectly fine counterpointing the idea that science and religion are incompatible by drawing attention to religious scientists. But when she takes a sketch out of its context and uses it to moralize and criticize people who do something she does herself, the only point she succeeds in making is that she is a hypocrite.


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