Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scalia believes in the devil and ad hoc reasoning.

Justice Scalia believes in the devil according to an interview published in New York Magazine. Some people, including the interviewer, seemed surprised by this fact. I was actually more surprised by the interviewers surprise. Didn’t the interviewer know anything about Scalia before doing the interview. The man is a 77 year old conservative catholic, it would be far more surprising to me if he didn’t believe in the devil, and why exactly is this belief so much more shocking than his belief in god? They are both beliefs in a supernatural entity for which good evidence is practically non-existent, and quite frankly Scalia is right when he tells the interviewer that most Americans believe in both of these beings.

What I found really interesting is after he admitted to believing in the bible the interviewer asked a fairly good question about this.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?

Scalia gives a rather interesting answer.

You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

So Scalia acknowledges that there is a clear difference between how we see our modern observations of reality and all of the supernatural activities described in the bible. So how does he resolve this contradiction?

What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

So he believes that the reason the devil doesn’t engage in obviously supernatural actions is because sometime between two thousand years ago and the development of modern scientific standards during the renascence he figured out that convincing people he isn’t real would suit his purposes better.  His argument would actually make sense if you start out by assuming the bible’s description of these events is mostly accurate. However, without that unfounded assumption we are free to believe that the stories were simply made up or exaggerated, which seems like a much more reasonable explanation. 

It’s ad hoc reasoning to start with a conclusion and interpret all of the facts to suit your preconceived position, but what really irks me with is argument is that his evidence for supernatural actions in the past, the bible, is essentially hearsay. It bothers me that a judge thinks that hearsay is a valid bases for a belief. I hope that he is doesn’t use this kind of reasoning while ruling on cases, but I’m not exactly convinced he understands this distinction.

Of course he also tries to deny that his argument would suggest that atheists are doing the work of the devil even though that seems to be exactly what his argument would suggest, I’d be offended but I have long since stopped being offended by Scalia’s thoughts on religion. I will say I won’t be sad when he finally steps down from the bench.

No comments:

Post a Comment