August 7, 2012

Pat Robertson Could Be Right About Sikh Massacre

Pat RobertsonPat Robertson, a real Christian, believes that the Sikh temple massacre in Wisconsin happened because "atheists hate god." It made no difference to Pat whether the alleged murderer was actually an atheist. This was an opportunity for anti-atheist bigotry, and he took it. Pat has a long history of making inflammatory and insensitive statements, so it surprised no one that he decided to sound off about this tragedy.

Pat could be right. There is at least some possibility, however remote, of him being correct in his assessment of the latest mass murder. What do you suppose the probability of his being correct would be? Perhaps it is something like .00000000001%, maybe less. Maybe much less. It may require more zeros after the decimal that they would fill this entire page.

Another possibility would be that the alleged shooter was an angry right-wing White supremacist type. This competing explanation could be correct too. What do you suppose the probability of it being correct would be in this case? Something tells me it is quite a bit larger than the probability of Pat's theory being correct.

Probabilities are something that the rational person attends to, ideally before spouting off. This is one example of what we mean when we encourage someone to think before he or she speaks. It is a lesson that Pat Robertson has either not learned or willfully ignores when he communicates to his flock.

It may be helpful for atheists to remember probabilities when communicating with the religious. Sure, it is possible that you are correct about your god. There is at least some probability of you being right. But what does the evidence tell us about the probability of alternative explanations being correct?

For the record, I do NOT believe that Pat Robertson is correct about the Sikh tragedy or much of anything else (see here for one exception).

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