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The Hammer Maxim


There is a phrase I picked up from somewhere, and I don’t remember who I stole it from, but it goes something like this: “When you are a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

I love that saying, because it reminds me to stop looking at every issue like a philosopher would. The SSA is largely made up of students (both undergrad and grad) who bring the baggage of their academic discipline with them to the public sphere when they encounter and engage evangelists from a variety of faiths. This baggage is not necessarily a bad thing, but it limits all of us and can leave many well intended SSA members vulnerable to apologetic tricks.

When I talk of religious apologists, I’m speaking of people who study defenses of their religion (like Islam or Christianity) for the purpose of publicly engaging non-believers with the intent of making the non-believer’s worldview look incomplete, faulty, and incompetent. The best way for an apologist to achieve that is to exploit ignorance.

Keeping the hammer maxim in mind can help ensure that one doesn’t overstep their bounds and avoid handing enough rope to the religious apologist to be tied up with. Using myself as an example, I simply do not know enough about the natural sciences like geology and biology to deal with creationist claims about evolution or the age of the earth. Ontological and Cosmological arguments I can deal with, but I have no way of dealing with purported evidence of a global flood and have no business doing so in a public spectacle. Any good student of “Answers in Genesis” would simply exploit my ignorance of geology and leave the impression to onlookers (who might be on the fence) that I have no good justification for my worldview.

The theme of my posts will be centered on reducing ignorance, by trying to explain important concepts without a great deal of technical jargon or unnecessary walls of text. The more you start to learn, the more to start to become fully aware of your limits, and the less likely you are to be exploited by an apologist looking to make an example out of you.

So, over the next day, please consider donating money, or at least sharing our blog and hashtag  #SSAWeek. For more info please visit http://www.secularstudents.org/ssaweek or to donate Visit here. Thanks for your support, and see you soon!

This is post 5/24 by SSA@SCSU for the SSA blogathon in support of the Secular Student Alliance! Go donate to them!

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-Patrick Mefford

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