Do you believe in math?

I found this cartoon over at Scottie’s Toy Box, he has an excellent regular cartoon roundup.

Obviously, Calvin and Hobbes is just hilarious and anyone that doesn’t like this series should check in to a humor hospital for emergency rectaltwigectomy. But this particular cartoon speaks precisely to why I started this blog in the first place.

Feel free to check out my origin story, but here is the cliff notes version: Religion is destroying this country. It makes people stupid. And since I like this country, I wish to spread the good news that reality and science are the best options. And in this cartoon, we see one of those ways that religion makes people stupid. I’ve had religious people tell me that accepting science is EXACTLY the same as religious belief. It is not. That is stupid. Belief in things that are demonstrable, repeatable, testable, and verifiable is NOT the same as believing something that is indistinguishable from made-up. We all KNOW this. And I can prove it with a thought experiment.

Laying on a table are two objects. One is a hammer. The second is a cardboard box with the word “cat” written on the side. I tell you one object is a hammer, and inside the box is a live cat. Either of these propositions may be true, but you have to pick one of them. If you are wrong, I get to beat you with the hammer.

How many people will pick number 2? Nobody, of course. Unless the cat inside is meowing and scratching inside the box, we don’t have any way to verify that there is a cat inside. And depending on how long the box has been sealed, it’s possible it isn’t alive anymore anyway. But the HAMMER is clearly visible. You can see it, touch it, hold it, swing it, you can use ALL FIVE SENSES to determine that the hammer is real. You can ask someone that doesn’t know about the question to just name the object, just to double check your work. This is NOT faith, this is repeatable, demonstrable, testable, and verifiable. You are risking being beaten over the head with a hammer for a guess, and no sane person would do that. You choose the obviously correct answer. Let’s talk about math.

Same challenge. There are two hammers, or the open box contains a live cat, but you can’t see it because it is invisible. Pick one statement, and if you pick an incorrect statement, I get to beat you with one of the hammers. SAME RESULT. Nobody is going to pick the box again. The cat hypothesis is far less likely now that we’ve added some additional incredulous statements, but one hammer plus one hammer is most definitely two hammers.

I think everyone can see the point here. “Belief” in something that is verifiable and testable and repeatable is not the same as belief in something which requires a leap of faith. This is obvious in math, because math is such a pure science, but the fact remains the same. Using the word “belief” to mean these two very different things is merely a trick of apologetics, and it’s also a logical fallacy. That means it is wrong. The conclusions are wrong.

Many a scientist or atheist now use the terminology “accept the fact of” or “accept the prevailing science of” a proposition, lest some fucking asshat apologist is just waiting to pounce on the speaker the instant the word “belief” is used. But it doesn’t matter. What really matters is, YOUR beliefs are so unsupported, so illogical, so untenable, and so without merit that you are reduced to trying to play “gotcha” with colloquial vernacular.

Yeah, I believe in math. I believe in evolution. I believe in global warming. I believe being LGBTQ+ is not a choice. But I believe these things grounded in touchable, testable, repeatable, verifiable science and experience. Don’t ever conflate your gullibility with my belief.

The Spartan Atheist

2 thoughts on “Do you believe in math?

  1. Great hammer/box examples! Are they yours?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, and power point is my means. Lol!

      Liked by 3 people

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