Communicator (communicator) wrote,

On not asking hard questions

My daughter is studying biomedical science at Manchester. There are a few elective modules and she has chosen one on evolution. She says there are students who are dropping out of the module, because they 'don't believe in evolution'. As she says, it's not like they didn't know what it was going to be about; the clue is in the title. My guess - and this is entirely a guess of course - is that they expected to go in and dismiss it, and found that was more difficult than they thought. They then had to either change their beliefs or drop the module.

I remember when I came back from university after my first year studying philosophy the local vicar told my mum he wanted to discuss faith with me, so I said sure, I'll give him some time. He came in all smiling and started on some spiel about how the eyes of faith let him see things that reason did not. So I said 'You are saying that you can perceive something, through faith, that I am not able to see? And you are telling me what you can perceive, to help me, like a sighted person helping a blind person?'

And he was nodding, smiling, looking relieved that I had got his meaning. So I lobbed him a very easy one, just to get the conversation started.

'But other people have a different faith from you. They tell me that they perceive something different with the eyes of faith. So, speaking as a metaphorically blind person, how can I tell which 'faith' perceives something real?'

And he was totally floored. He just gaped at me, as if the subject had never crossed his mind. He stood up, started to talk very rapidly about Our Lord Jesus Christ, and went away, and never came back. I have never seen him again to this day. I honestly didn't mean to upset him; it was the easiest next question I could think of.

(BTW I am not saying there are no good arguments he could have made - I was anticipating them - it was that he totally had not thought his position through in even the most superficial way)

Anyway, my point is that a lot of people act confident in their own intellect, but it's often that they have been protected from challenge all their lives. And of course we women are taught not to ask those difficult questions which will discomfit men. You are supposed to be twice as smart as he is - work out his argument as well as your own, spot where its weak points are, and then tactfully avoid them. I am just a naturally rude person, so I notice it quite a lot.
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