Friday, March 21, 2014

Have you met "Mr. Enlightenment"?

It's another Friday in Lent, which means no meat and penance. To cheer you up a little, I thought a little humor might be in order. Anyone who's spent anytime as a Catholic online has met Mr. Enlightenment or, better yet, many Mr. Enlightenments. As you read the following, from C.S. Lewis' The Pilgrim's Regress, ask yourself, does this guy sound familiar? (note: "the Landlord" represents God and "Puritania" represents the faithful.)
   "But how do you know there is no Landlord?"
   "Christopher Columbus, Galileo, the earth is round. invention of printing, gunpowder!" exclaimed Mr. Enlightenment in such a loud voice that the pony shied.
   "I beg your pardon," said John.
   "Eh?" said Mr. Enlightenment.
   "I don't quite understand," said John.
   "Why, it's as plain as a pikestaff," said the other. "Your people in Puritania believe in the Landlord because they have not had the benefits of a scientific training. For example, now, I dare say it would be news to you to hear that the earth was round - round as an orange, my lad!"
   "Well, I don't know that it would," said John, feeling a little disappointed. "My father always said it was round."
   "No, no, my dear boy," said Mr. Enlightenment, 'You must have misunderstood him. It is well known that everyone in Puritania thinks the earth flat. It is not likely that I should be mistaken on such a point. Indeed, it is out of the question. Then again, there is the paleontological evidence."
   "What's that?"
   "Why, they tell you in Puritania that the Landlord made all these roads. But that is quite impossible, for old people can remember the time when the roads were not nearly so good as they are now, and what is more, scientists have found all over the country traces of old roads running in quite different directions. The inference is obvious."
   John said nothing.
   "I said," repeated Mr. Enlightenment, "that the inference was obvious."
   "Oh, yes, yes, of course, " said John hastily, turning a little red.

 Of course, there are any number of logical fallacies in Mr. Enlightenment's train of thinking. His whole argument against the existence of a "Landlord" is a series of non sequiturs, arguments that simply don't follow at all. Our theist asks, "how do you know there is no Landlord?" and Mr. Enlightenment responds, "Christopher Columbus!" That may be the most prominent fallacy, but it's hardly the only one Mr. Enlightenment commits. We see an ad verecundiam (appeal to shame - "I said that the inference was obvious."), slogans ("It's as plain as a pikestaff"), ad hominem ("your people in Puritania..."), among others. In the end, we just have to make sure to not give in to Mr. Enlightenment's overconfident assertion that his, illogical and fallacious, conclusions are "obvious."

1 comment:

  1. I like the gross assumptions Mr. Enlightenment makes about the beliefs of those in Puritania (an unfortunate name?). It's Mr. Enlightenment who's been told what to believe about those people - that they've been somehow brainwashed with incorrect teachings - when, in fact, it's him. However, today, there are such Christians who hold unscientific beliefs, like a literal 6-day creation, etc.