Another Stupid Atheist Meme

I’ve seen this one a bunch of times and it always irritates. First of all, it appears to be a fake quote. It’s attributed to the book Contact, but it does not appear in that book. Even if it did, it would be spoken by a character, not by Sagan. And I find it highly doubtful that he would say something this dumb:

atheistmeme3

And no matter who said it, it’s obviously false. The overwhelming majority of atheists used to be believers, so obviously they can be convinced. Not all of them, of course. Lots of believers are completely impervious to evidence or reason. But guess what? Lots of atheists are too. The kind of atheists who share bullshit like this thinking it’s profound or true.

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  • Reginald Selkirk

    … not by Sagan. And I find it highly doubtful that he would say something this dumb

    Before you come to a conclusion about the level of dumbness of which Sagan was capable, you should read The Amniotic Universe, which appears as a chapter in Broca’s Brain.

  • dugglebogey

    I’m an epistemologist, you can’t convince me of anything.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    I’m an epistemologist, you can’t convince me of anything.

    Yet you appear to be confident enough in your belief in the internet that you bothered to post.

  • Daryl Carpenter

    It’s like the quote that goes “you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.” It’s false, and obviously so.

  • wscott

    @ Daryl: I disagree on that quote. (Which I usually see attributed to Johnathan Swift in slightly different verbiage.) I think it’s a useful reminder, particularly to some atheists/rationalists I can think of, that sometimes people make decisions based on emotion and just throwing more facts at them is not always the best way to reach them. If it was claiming that such people are 100% never able to listen to reason – which is what the bogus Sagan quote does – then I’d agree it’s demonstrably false. But I never interpreted it that way, just that you must also be prepared to reach people on an emotional level.

  • abb3w

    Checking Google Books, the earliest published appearance that turns up is Do Science and the Bible Conflict? by Judson Poling — which appears to be a book of relatively liberal Christian apologetics put out by a religious publisher. The earliest version of the aphorism that a few quick pokes of Wikquote turns up seems to be from Jonathan Swift’s “Letter to a Young Clergyman” (January 9, 1720) saying that “Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired” — which, for further irony, is apparently with regard to persuading infidels to Christianity.

    Contrariwise, though false as stated, it’s a sloppy approximation to what seems a valid idea: it’s harder to use rational persuasion to change views when they were arrived by other means (such as motivated reasoning or pre-rational indoctrination).

    Nohow, it’s clear that atheists aren’t immune to the lure of cheap persuasion resistance via attitude bolstering, social validation, and source derogation — even via spurious attribution.

  • tfkreference

    The quote in the OP also brings to mind Dennet’s “belief in belief,” a more reasoned analysis of the propensity to believe.

  • davek23

    @Marcus #3, @dugglebogey #2:

    I’m an epistemologist, you can’t convince me of anything.

    Yet you appear to be confident enough in your belief in the internet that you bothered to post.

    He doesn’t. He has no idea. It merely pleases him to behave in a certain way to what appears to be an internet. What else do you do?

    (Expository details here, for those who don’t get the reference.)

  • martinc

    Call me a science nerd if you will, but I also think it’s a bit sad that the original image they photoshopped to portray this false quote is Sagan holding up one of the most interesting attempts at communication in human history: the Pioneer plaque.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_10#/media/File:Pioneer10-plaque_tilt.jpg

  • Johnny Vector

    Reginald Selkirk @1:

    Before you come to a conclusion about the level of dumbness of which Sagan was capable, you should read The Amniotic Universe, which appears as a chapter in Broca’s Brain.

    Also: Two words: “Butthead Astronomer”

    I’m a big fan of Sagan, so I never understood why he went nutso over Apple using his name as an unofficial (internal, but they always leaked) title for a software release. And then actually sued them when they changed it to “BHA”.

    No heroes!

  • dugglebogey

    I’m still completely unconvinced that any of you exist!

  • Kermit Sansoo

    dugglebogey says: I’m still completely unconvinced that any of you exist!

    .

    I’m not entirely convinced that I exist. At least, I don’t seem to be. But I wonder who it is that wonders so, if not I?

    .

    When Descartes said “Cogito, ergo sum”, he seemed awfully sure of himself. I would take heart in that if he hadn’t derived the entire Catholic Church from his supposed existence.

  • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    @#10, Johnny Vector:

    It wasn’t a software release, it was hardware — specifically, one of the original three PowerPC Macintoshes, the 7100. And it was not a complementary reference at all, because the other two models had the code names “cold fusion” (a scientific fraud) for the 8100 and “Piltdown man” (another scientific fraud) for the 6100.

  • Johnny Vector

    Right. Hardware. I forgot about that. I still think he was a dickhead for suing them. I’m surprised his lawyers didn’t tell him he had no chance of winning. Or maybe they did, but didn’t care since they get paid anyway.

  • Childermass

    Got another one for you:

    Jesus vs. Horus