Monday, January 12, 2009

Chimp or Not Chimp? (imported from Waiting on Seven)

I was cruising the Thinkeek website the other day at work, mostly because I wanted to check on the price of Miracle Fruit Berry Tablets (look it up!) and ran across one of their t-shirts that simply said "98% Chimp" across the front.

One of my work partners was sitting beside me and when she saw it, she immediately said "That's so wrong!"

I'm sure my head whipped around because she seemed to lean back away from me a bit when I looked at her. I said, "Well, it's true!" to which my other work partner chimed in, "It really is."

Her prompt reply? "I don't believe that."

I felt my eyebrows trying to climb into my hairline. I told her that I could show her the evidence that humans and chimpanzees share the bulk of their genetic heritage. That it was a fact, not just a belief. Her response was something along the lines of "So?"

I said, "Even though the evidence is right there, you still don't believe it?"

She said no and that she didn't want to talk about it anymore.

I have to admit that it was extremely hard to shut up about it at that moment. Mostly, I wanted to know just how she arranged her thoughts to accommodate her beliefs. I mean, the old saying does apply, right?

"Everyone's entitled to their own opinions, but not everyone is entitled to their own facts."

I do not understand how someone can look at hard data, especially someone with a science degree, and willfully, actively choose to deny it rather than accept its validity. It has to be an effort, doesn't it? I mean, math is math. Either something matches up numerically, or it doesn't.

I toyed with the idea that she could be trying to say something on a more philosophical level. I mean, I share half my genetic heritage with my mother, but that doesn't mean that I'm 50% Mom on a personal level. You can't split the Mom bits and Dad bits out with a hacksaw, after all. I am my own person, and humanity is, within the limits of the definition of the word, it's own species.

But I'm pretty sure that's not what she was saying, if only because she didn't want to discuss it with me. She knows my atheistic bent, and it seems that the only time she clams up is when her religious beliefs come into the conversation. She'll usually even discuss the implications of her religion with me (i.e. that Halloween is somehow associated with evil -- she never did really explain that one to me). But a simple t-shirt caused her to button her lip and not want to talk anymore.

Just as an example of what she WILL talk about with me, she later the same day related a rather embarassing tale of her high school years where a lesbian was hitting on her and she didn't realize it. When she did finally twig to what was going on, she reacted poorly. She was a teenager. Everyone's an idiot when they're a teenager, so it was understandable in hindsight, but still, she seemed at least a bit shamefaced about the incident.

So, you see my conundrum here. This is a woman who feels comfortable enough around me to discuss embarassing childhood mistakes, but won't justify a statement she freely makes about a currently held belief. That annoys me to no end. It's like someone saying, "I just heard a juicy secret!" and then refusing to tell you what it is.

It's the worst kind of taunting. And it's cruel. If you aren't willing to discuss it, don't bring it up in the first place. I'm all for everyone having an opinion, and by human nature, those opinions will differ. By discussing them and hashing them out, we as a species come closer to something approximating the truth, if not The Truth.

But if you're not willing to stand up for what you say, if you can't justify what you say, don't say it at all.



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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu