The Lunacy Scale

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 19, 2009 in Funny

creationistsThere are certain people so far off the deep end that I don’t waste time talking to them. Creationists, for example. Somebody else can take up that fight. I’m more interested to engage William Lane Craig or Richard Swinburne.

I think we all have a personal lunacy scale with regard to theism. My dad believes in an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, supernatural, Creator God who revealed himself in the resurrection of Jesus, continues to speak to humans, gives them “spiritual gifts” like speaking in tongues and magical healing powers, inspired all the writings in the Bible which are somehow not contradictory and absurd, will soon return to earth from the sky in glory and warfare… and so on. But he thinks Mormons are nutty.

I have a different lunacy scale. It looks something like this:

lunacy_scale

What is your lunacy scale?

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex G June 19, 2009 at 6:21 am

aww…I wouldn’t call sarah Palin barking mad. Just…quietly insane.

I’m around the rabid dog area, but for different reasons.

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CharlesP June 19, 2009 at 6:29 am

I think that dog is just the really ugly one, and not actually rabid, so you should probably move it up on the scale above Ken Ham to be fair.  I also (though I realize it’s the punchline to the joke) don’t know that I’d classify Palin that far on the “barking mad” scale as much as I’d put her on her own track of “would drive ME barking mad” scale (largely because I don’t know that I’d want to put a “lack of mental acuity” on the same scale as “willful ignorance”).  I’d be pretty happy to stop with Falwell.
 
One of my problems right now is how many of my family members (and friends) would fall on the wrong side of William Lane Craig on that list.  For that matter I grew up and went to SDA schools that fit your dad’s description pretty close (without as much of the spiritual gifts… unless you were EG White of course).

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mikespeir June 19, 2009 at 6:48 am

Alex G: aww…I wouldn’t call sarah Palin barking mad. Just…quietly insane.

If only she would keep quiet I might agree.

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Alex G June 19, 2009 at 7:13 am

mikespeir:
If only she would keep quiet I might agree.

True. All I meant was that at first glance you wouldn’t think she’s mad, just stupid. I did to until I saw the video of her getting blessed by a witch doctor. And saying she believed dinosaurs lived with humans. And saying that the soldiers in Irak were on a mission from God.

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William June 19, 2009 at 7:21 am

Oh! Ha ha. (yawn)

I have never met these people, but I am quite certain that neither William Lane Craig nor Sarah Palin would ever refer to you as a lunatic. I am also quite certain that they are just as “sane” as the rest of us, including you. They just hold to a different interpretation of the world that they see around them.

But while you are thinking about your next big funny, maybe you could stop to clarify what appears to be a complete contradiction in your opening statement.

“There are certain people so far off the deep end that I don’t waste time talking to them. Creationists, for example. Somebody else can take up that fight. I’m more interested to engage William Lane Craig or Richard Swinburne.”

Craig believes in progressive creationism and Swinburne believes that God created the first life and all of the natural laws that govern and direct evolution. These men do NOT believe in a completely naturalistic universe. They believe that God CREATED it. I don’t know where you draw the line, but in my book that makes them creationist.

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Chuck June 19, 2009 at 7:36 am

Except for the “problem aunt”, everyone in my family is a biblical literalist, a biblical inerrantist, and an evolution-doubter. You wouldn’t believe how often the Antichrist and the Sign of the Beast come up in normal dinner conversation…

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Lorkas June 19, 2009 at 8:14 am

Alex G: aww…I wouldn’t call sarah Palin barking mad. Just…quietly insane.

Hey, she’s the one that called herself a bulldog with lipstick.

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Haukur June 19, 2009 at 8:15 am

Most atheists aren’t really into arguing with ultra-liberal theists or the like, often because they find their positions too vague or too hard to understand for them to really sink their teeth into. And I don’t think Luke really thinks John Hick is more “worth talking to” than William Lane Craig considering that a Google search of this site gives 1 result for the former and 173 results for the latter :)

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Steven Carr June 19, 2009 at 8:21 am

‘I’m more interested to engage William Lane Craig or Richard Swinburne.’
 
I see. So you think somebody is higher than a Creationist if he claims that his god does not answer prayers about cancer because that would deprive people of the choice of whether or not to fund cancer research?

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Lorkas June 19, 2009 at 8:22 am

Mine would be similar, except the rabid dog would be above Jerry Falwell.
 
I usually talk to almost anyone to start off with, though. It’s easier to speak rationally with those near the top, but it’s more fun the more ridiculous the person’s belief’s are. It’s much easier to show Ken Ham why he’s a raving lunatic than it is to show Wes Morrison why I think he’s wrong.
 
Also, Ken Ham is totally a biblical literalist. Most who call themselves “creationist” instead of “ID proponent” are. I would’ve placed them down with literalists, myself.

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cartesian June 19, 2009 at 9:32 am

Just one piece of irony was your misspelling of “inerrantists” as “inNerrantists.”
 
Someone who writes a whole post about how smart he is and how stupid other people are should really take the time to run Spellcheck.

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Dave June 19, 2009 at 9:58 am

Seriously? A spelling flame?

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Chuck June 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

Now that’s just a low blow. What the matter, Cartesian? Can’t you at least try to engage his argument?

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Scott June 19, 2009 at 10:21 am

To critisize someone for spelling is hilarious.  I suggest reading Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Tongue-Bill-Bryson/dp/0380715430

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Democritus June 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

Wow, talk about a straw man, red herring, ad hominem argument.

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Democritus June 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

I’m referring to cartesian’s comment, btw. :-)

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Chris W June 19, 2009 at 11:22 am

Luke, delete this post asap! Or the Palin crowd might throw a ‘Fire Luke’ rally.

On second thought, Letterman’s ratings are up. Keep the post.

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cartesian June 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Chuck: Now that’s just a low blow. What the matter, Cartesian? Can’t you at least try to engage his argument?

There was no argument in that post, as far as I can tell.
 
If you disagree, please lay out the argument for me. I’d be happy to engage it.

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cartesian June 19, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Democritus: Wow, talk about a straw man, red herring, ad hominem argument.

I wasn’t giving an argument, nor was I responding to any argument Luke gave (since he gave none). So I couldn’t be committing any fallacy, as you claim.
 
I just pointed out the double-dipped irony of misspelling “inerrant” in a post about how stupid other people are. Do you guys really not see the irony? It’s good for a chuckle, that’s all. Let’s stop taking each other so seriously.

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cartesian June 19, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Scott: To critisize someone for spelling is hilarious. 

And yet you make an effort to obey our spelling conventions. Why is that?

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Lorkas June 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm

cartesian: There was no argument in that post, as far as I can tell.

I agree with you here, but he also didn’t claim that the people that were lower were “stupid”, as you originally claimed. He said that he considered them “crazy”, and it seemed clear to me that it was his subjective view (see in the first paragraph where he talks about his father’s opinion, and at the end when he asks for ours).
 
Obviously, he doesn’t think that Bill Craig is less intelligent than every atheist, which he’s made clear on many posts, as I’m sure you’re aware. Essentially this is a “how much do different beliefs have in common with me, Luke Muehlhauser” scale.

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Jeff H June 19, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Cartseian, why dont yuo pick on someoen yuor oan size!!! your just a big MEANNIE!

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Chuck June 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm

cartesian: There was no argument in that post, as far as I can tell.   If you disagree, please lay out the argument for me. I’d be happy to engage it.

 
1. Biblical literalists, creationists, ID advocates, dominionists, and Biblical literalists are irrational when it comes to the big questions of life.
2. Trying to engage irrational people is a waste of time.
3. Therefore, engaging Biblical literalists, creationists, domionists, ID advocates, and Biblical literalists on the big questions of life is a waste of time.

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Lorkas June 19, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Chuck: 1. Biblical literalists, creationists, ID advocates, dominionists, and Biblical literalists are irrational when it comes to the big questions of life.
2. Trying to engage irrational people is a waste of time.
3. Therefore, engaging Biblical literalists, creationists, domionists, ID advocates, and Biblical literalists on the big questions of life is a waste of time.

This argument is not set forth in the post, Chuck. Luke acknowledges that it’s important to address the claims of these groups, but makes the point that he doesn’t plan to do so himself. This post isn’t an argument, it’s obviously a lighthearted joke (how the fuck could you think that he means this as a serious argument when he puts a rabid dog in the scale… come on, man).

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Chuck June 19, 2009 at 5:41 pm

*shrugs*

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lukeprog June 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm

1. There is no argument in my post. It is clearly silly, with inclusions of a rabid dog and Sarah Palin.

2. Where someone sits on a silly lunacy scale is not the only determinant of how worthy they are to be engaged. One reason I engage Craig more than Hick is that he writes more arguments, and this is an argumentative blog.

3. Spelling fixed. Alas, PhotoShop CS3 has no spellchecker. But I didn’t see the irony, cartesian, since my post was about lunacy and typos have little to do with either lunacy or stupidity.

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Ryan June 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Sarah Palin looks cute in that pic!!

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vision June 20, 2009 at 3:16 am

This is perfect! Only one little detail is missing: pantheists, which I personally would put just behind deists.

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Derrida June 20, 2009 at 2:36 pm

It’s interesting that you put atheists and agnostics in the same place on your scale.
 
Of course, there are are different definitions of “atheism” and “agnosticism”, but “atheism” usually refers to disbelief in God, as in “God’s existence is unlikely”, and agnosticism to the suspension of judgement, as in “God’s existence is as likely as His nonexistence; there’s no way to choose between either position.”
 
Given these definitions, atheism seems that bit more reasonable to me. Should we be agnostic about the existence of pixies, invisible unicorns, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Surely the lack of evidence for these creatures gives us reason enough to doubt their existence.
 
Of course, you could mean something different by “atheism” or “agnosticism”, but it seems on the face of it silly to put them on a par.

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cartesian June 20, 2009 at 4:23 pm

lukeprog: I didn’t see the irony, cartesian, since my post was about lunacy and typos have little to do with either lunacy or stupidity.

Maybe I was misled by the picture at the top of your post, with creationists being below retarded on an IQ scale, but I thought you were using “lunacy” in the sense of extreme foolishness, or unsoundness of mind. The people at the bottom of the scale aren’t worth talking to because they’re foolish and unresponsive to evidence and argument, right? That sounds like stupidity to me.
 
Or do you think the grain of truth in this joke that these people really have a mental disorder? I don’t think that’s what makes this joke of yours funny.
 
And I know that smart people can be poor spellers (one of the smartest people I know types like a 12 year-old wearing mittens on AIM). But surely we’d grant that good spelling is correlated with intelligence, right? That’s one dip of what I called the “double-dipped irony”: you misspelled the name of a view you think is foolish. The other dip is that the misspelled word was “inerrant,” which of course means “without error.” It’s ironic to make an error in the spelling of a word that means “without error.”
 
I’m sorry I have to explain all this. My remark was meant to be lighthearted (like your post), but after this tedious explanation all the fun got sucked right out of it.

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Lorkas June 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm

cartesian: The people at the bottom of the scale aren’t worth talking to because they’re foolish and unresponsive to evidence and argument, right? That sounds like stupidity to me.

You can admit that someone is very intelligent while also holding the opinion that someone is unreasonable on a certain question. You probably don’t think that Einstein was stupid, but probably think he was misguided regarding his beliefs about God.

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Lorkas June 20, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Derrida: Of course, there are are different definitions of “atheism” and “agnosticism”, but “atheism” usually refers to disbelief in God, as in “God’s existence is unlikely”, and agnosticism to the suspension of judgement, as in “God’s existence is as likely as His nonexistence; there’s no way to choose between either position.”

The fact that someone is agnostic about the existence of God doesn’t mean that they think his existence is as likely as his nonexistence. Someone might claim to be 94% sure that God doesn’t exist based on their subjective assessment of the evidence, but still concede that she isn’t sure about whether or not God exists (and might, therefore, call herself agnostic, even though that would be incorrect according to your definitions).
 

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Derrida June 21, 2009 at 2:00 am

Lorkas: The fact that someone is agnostic about the existence of God doesn’t mean that they think his existence is as likely as his nonexistence. Someone might claim to be 94% sure that God doesn’t exist based on their subjective assessment of the evidence, but still concede that she isn’t sure about whether or not God exists (and might, therefore, call herself agnostic, even though that would be incorrect according to your definitions).

True, if agnosticism is taken to mean lack of knowledge of God’s existence or nonexistence, then your hypothetical atheist is an agnostic. However, under that definition, many theists could also qualify as agnostics. For example, Sarah Palin might not be 100% certain of God’s existence, so does she then count as an agnostic?Should she actually be at the top of the scale?

Perhaps agnosticism should be taken to mean lack of knowledge of the truth value of theism, so an agnostic doesn’t know whether God’s existence is likely or unlikely. This is what I’d think someone meant if they said that they were agnostic about the existence of aliens, or string theory.

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Lorkas June 21, 2009 at 7:46 am

Derrida: For example, Sarah Palin might not be 100% certain of God’s existence, so does she then count as an agnostic?

Possibly. Many religious people will claim to be 100% certain of the things they claim, and I think that religious people deserve credit for being more reasonably if they don’t claim absolute certainty.
 
If one person told me that they were absolutely certain God exists, and another said they weren’t sure, but they are religious anyway for some other reason, I would rather have a conversation with the latter.

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Dan June 22, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Where do you put pantheists and buddhists?

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lukeprog June 22, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Pantheists, maybe around materialist theists (Andrei Buckareff is actually a pantheist, too.)

Buddhists, it totally depends. If they are non-superstitious atheistic buddhists, fairly high up. If they are folk Mahayana Buddhists, then way down at the bottom.

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hawke123 December 5, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Luke, do you really think that ID advocates and biblical inerrantists are lunatics? Why do you consider those who view the world differently than you to be lunatics? Do you really get barking mad just talking to these people?

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lukeprog December 6, 2009 at 4:50 pm

hawke123,

As the inclusion of a rabid dog and Sarah Palin may have indicated, this is not one of my serious posts.

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