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Framing Ann Coulter?

This thought just occurred to me while I was pondering the deeper mysteries of life and deciding what I wanted to eat for lunch. I was reading the following article about the possibile discovery of water on a exoplanet [astronomy picture of the day] when I had a revelation. I was imagining the following conversation with a religious-type (think Ann Coulter) who would say,

“How can you believe that life is not unique to our planet or that we’re not divinely created to exist in this one place, when we can’t even find water on another planet let alone bacteria or even explain how life got started on good old terra firma.”
Of course, if water is found then the obvious comeback “Actually we have found water now” or “I just read an article that reproduced the results of the Urey-Miller experiments under more realistic conditions on early Earth” but that doesn’t get to the underlying problem.

The ultimate problem is “Framing”, uh oh, another blog about Framing. The whole discussion is framed in the following context,

Frame: “A belief in something (Science with a capitol-S or Allah/God/Xenu) must have complete knowledge of everything or have an answer to any question, right now, to be a valid belief.”
  Question #1: How did life on Earth begin?
            Christian/Jew: Genesis (I think muslims have the same/similar story)
            Scientologist: Volcano-exploded human seeds (or something like that)
            Scientist: Dunno… yet
  Question #2: Why only life on Earth?
            Christan: Who knows how they justify that one, probably some obscure Old Testament reference. Jesus didn’t die for aliens? Because Jesus hates aliens … and fags?
            Scientologist: We’re not… let me tell you about Xenu.
            Scientist: We’re probably not because the mechanisms we believe started life here (but don’t have proof yet) are present everywhere but it just takes the right conditions (whatever they may be but we have some theories).

I may be oversimplifying the “Scientist’s position” here but the perception/effect is the same; there is no absolute answer… yet. I don’t think science could ever truly know 100% but it could build a mountain of evidence to support a given set of theories (think evolution). No matter how hard a scientific/skeptical mind works inside this Frame they will *never* have a satisfactory answer in this context.

What if we change the frame, of course, that’s easier said than done. And if Framing debate/discussions were that easy I’d probably be really smart and have a ScienceBlog 😉 How would we change the frame of the above. I know it’s hypothetical but if you read Ann Coulter’s Godless she uses this kind of reasoning throughout (I would recommend against reading the book because I lost part of my humanity reading it and I don’t want that to happen to you).

If the Frame of the discussion was “How can your belief contribute to the collective knowledge of humanity”, Science would have a leg up on this one. Now that’s an interesting thought experiment next time you get into a debate with a believer try changing the frame of the discussion to see how their particular belief/viewpoint contributes to the collective knowledge of humanity or makes life better for everybody on Earth.

mmmm… tofu sandwich and carrot sticks, time for lunch.

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Filed under: Religion, Science

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