Hardwired: To Heck with Heck Part 3
Thank you for joining me for Part 3 of the Heck with Peter Heck series. In Part 2 Heck promised us some amazingly simple answers, so without too much ado let’s see how well Part 3 delivers.
The main thrust of Heck’s “evidence” in this video goes like this: Almost everybody in human history has believed in some form of the supernatural, therefore some form of the supernatural must exist. This is what is known as a Bandwagon Fallacy, the logical conundrum of believing in something just because a lot of other people also believe it. To Heck’s credit he recognizes he is using a bandwagon fallacy (because it is painfully obvious), but then asks his viewers to jump off the cliff with him anyways with the promise of more “fingerprints” later. My question is given what we know about the supernatural, should the fact that primitive human civilizations believed in it, and some of those traditions have carried on, bare any weight in whether or not we believe in the supernatural today?
Mythology exists to explain the unexplainable, everything from “what is lightning,” to “why do we hate the people who live over there?” Using mythology to explain geopolitical rivalries has its own problems to be sure, but the problem with using mythology to explain natural phenomena, like lightning, is eventually science can explain it. We know that lightning is caused by an imbalance of electrical charges which eventually results in a spark or a lightning bolt to neutralize the charge. We can scientifically prove and replicate this process. The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, of course believed that the Cyclops (the son of the sea god, Poseidon) crafted the lightning bolts for the sky god, Zeus to use as his weapons. This we cannot replicate. Some Native American cultures believed in Thunderbirds who caused the lightning. Can’t replicate this either. Across cultures there are countless thunder/lightning/storm gods, Yahweh included among them. Heck seems to be suggesting that because countless people have believed through the ages various supernatural storm gods are the source of thunderstorms and lightning, their belief should be counted as evidence to the existence of at least one of these storm gods and we should at very least be open to abandoning scientific explanations in favor of these lightning wielding deities.
If we allow for the possible existence of these storm gods, where do we draw the line? Do we have to consider Djinn? Fey? Unicorns, werewolves, or vampires as possible realities? Of course Heck wants us to draw the line specifically with his religion and his mythology, because while djinn, and vampires may be ridiculous, a talking snake is totally within the realm of possibility.
At the moment, Heck seems more focused on refuting atheism than actually proselytizing for Christianity (we still have four more videos in this series though), however I don’t think Heck would consider it a win if I converted to Hinduism in response to these videos. If Heck’s goal is ultimately conversion to Christianity (it may not be, I may be going out on a limb here) his bandwagon fallacy becomes more of a gambler’s fallacy. Say you are flipping a coin and nine consecutive times it lands on heads. It is natural to think that the next time it HAS to land on tails. Of course the previous nine flips have nothing to do with the probability of the tenth flip, but we still feel like we are overdue for a tails. So Heck is trying to use his bandwagon fallacy to convince his audience the supernatural has to be real, and then the next step for any Christian is to point out how all the other supernatural beliefs are wrong therefore Christianity HAS to be right. To me it seems rational that if 99.9 percent of other religions are false, than Christianity is most likely false too. But, even if we don’t go to that extreme, we can still use the bandwagon fallacy to look at religion another way. For instance, we could say that a near unanimity of humans through the entirety of human history have believe in polytheism therefore monotheism must be wrong. Of course just how many people believe in polytheism doesn’t make it true, but it just might be a fingerprint…
When Heck looks at the sheer unanimity of Humans believing in the beyond he hypothesizes that humans are most likely hardwired to believe in the beyond. I agree with this completely, but probably attribute this “hard-wiring” to a different force than Heck does. It is entirely plausible there is something about the ability to believe, or the susceptibility to believe in the supernatural that increased the likelihood of survival, which increases the chances of progeny which encourages the successful passing of that particular trait, via the process known as natural selection (Gasp! Evolution!).
Heck would most likely attribute this hard-wiring to God, which to me seems counter to the “free will” thing that Christians think their God is so particular about. Hard-wiring in this sense implies God has literally encoded into everyone’s DNA the belief in the supernatural. Theists like this concept because it fits their narrative that Atheists know the theist’s specific God exists but are for whatever reason angry with him and choose to reject him. Which I’ve mentioned in previous posts is a major pet peeve of mine.
My life experiences tell me ever since I was a young child I was taught that God and talking snakes were true, but as I became older and able to critically examine my beliefs and draw my own conclusions I began to realize the beliefs I was taught as a child didn’t make any sense to me, despite having a perfectly happy life (Sorry, not angry with any force in the universe that could remotely be considered God-like). Which makes me wonder, supposing that God does exist, and most people are hardwired to believe in the supernatural. Did I get skipped? After all I have no reason to be angry or otherwise not believe in God beyond it rationally not making any sense to me, and plenty of other people who I know are capable of accomplishing critical thinking seem to experience no cognitive dissonance when considering the supernatural. Does God want me to ignore my critical thinking? If so, why did he give me critical thinking? Is it just an extra hurdle I have to jump over, or did I never have any shot at heaven at all? And what kind of god would predestine someone to Hell, by not hard-wiring them to at least believe in the supernatural. If it is just an extra hurdle, what is up with the arbitrary disadvantage? It’s on a whole different scale even from having your entire village wiped out by a tsunami and pretending like it was “good.” To me, this divine hard-wiring brings more questions than answers.
In the end, I find Heck’s bandwagon evidence to be less than convincing. We will have to see what new evidence, and/or fallacies Heck brings to part 4.
I think being hardwired to believe in the supernatural is kind of like being hardwired to have an appendix. Now it is not fair to say that the appendix is a completely useless organ. Apparently the appendix is very good at repopulating the digestive track with good bacteria after a bout of dysentery or cholera and at one point in time that was very important (and can still be in various parts of the world). However in developed countries the appendix is better known for the fact that you can live without it, yet it occasionally likes to burst and potentially kill its owner. Religion, like the appendix may have been necessary at one point in time. Many people still find it beneficial whether through comfort and community. However it is unnecessary for life, and occasionally it likes to burst and kill a few (or a lot) of people.