Watching Jimmy Kimmel last night, I witnessed a clip of actor Matt Damon, who displayed a near rage at the idea of Sarah Palin holding a high position of power in our country. His disdain for her expresses itself, of all things, concerning giant lizards.
"I mean, I want to know if she believes dinosaurs existed 4,000 years ago. I mean, that's an important issue to me," said Damon with a villifying tone, revealing a seething anger at the prospect of someone like Palin holding the populace of our Republic in her "ignorant" hands. The implication here of course, is whether Palin, who openly affirms her Christian worldview, has the gall to believe that the book of Genesis has a trustworthy bearing on natural history. Of course, Christians who believe in the young earth no more than thousands of years old, which was created in six, twenty-four hour periods are in a minority among broader Christendom in the West. This makes them the ultimate object of scorn therefore, among academic elite, scientists, media pundits, and apparently, Hollywood actors who hold no interest in a Christian worldview other than to dismiss it as irrational and foolish.
One may argue that Damon indeed does hold a Christian worldview. However, if he does, he should treat Mrs. Palin with much more respect, for that is what Christians are called to do. His concern about her judgment concerning ultimate matters of origins should be handled in a more diplomatic manner, like a British butler kindly pontificating upon Mrs. Smithington's wart with the utmost respect--not saying too much, mind you--and not saying too little either. Mrs. Smithington is a fine disposition to behold regarding her gentleness, efficient prowess in handling her children and home, and very wise in advising her aristocratic husband. To wit, says the Butler, "Might'n we not regard small blemishes under the broader auspices of a grander scheme of inherent qualities of character, including love, decency, wisdom and self-control, such as we behold in her?" Well said, Jeeves. Don't upset the apple cart by joining in the laughter.
Nevertheless, Damon's vehemence castigates not merely the idea of someone ignorant enough to reject the scientific establishment's status quo concerning carbon dating, geological columns, and other data used to support an old universe. Rather, Damon is purporting the idea that such people are who hold to a "literal" hermeneutic of the Bible are indeed dangerous.
This danger which Damon wants us to comprehend is that people like Palin are apparently driven by blind, emotional apprehension to unwarranted presuppositions and because of this desparate clinging to irrational thought, such a person cannot be trusted to manage a country in a world facing issues that deal with evidence, evidence and more evidence.
Is the economy in trouble? We must examine the evidence, and the evidential solutions at our disposal. Is health care in dire straights? Let us discover solutions based upon numbers, reason and inquiry. All issues therefore, whether global warming, war & terrorism, education reform, agriculture, social welfare, mass media entertainment and "censorship" fall under the rubric of rational, intelligent thought based upon sound reason and evidence as the basis of beneficial solutions for the American public and the world abroad. And, it is reasoned, how can such a person who believes in a hermeneutic as silly as that which is the basis of young earth creationism be rational, reasonable, intelligent, and capable of waying opposing options in such lofty and truly thorny matters as those described above? After all, if someone like Palin holds office, it is argued, we may just end up with a Bible-quoting, theocratic president who offers only black and white scenarios regarding foreign policy, social issues, environmental action, and economic stragety, in a world where it is clear and obvious that not all matters are solved simply, and that answers are found not in either the black or the white, but in the gray.
At first glance, Damon's lividity against Palin's conservative Christian worldview seems extreme and silly. Dinosaurs? Dude. What is your deal? Nonetheless, if we pry a little and get at Damon's real concers, we see a grander picture concerning Palin and others who believe the things she does about the Bible and ultimate matters.
On the other hand, we should notice that Damon commits a logical fallacy of the most popular kind, an ad hominem argument (argument against the man). This argument presents irrelevant information about an opponent in order to dismiss the opponent and her position as unacceptable. Damon's rheticoral statement implies that Palin is unworthy of holding public office because of her cosmogeny--her beliefs about the origin of the universe. One wonders if Damon would have the same misgivings about a Hindu candidate who believed in millions of gods, and propounded the idea that evil is maya--mere illusion, and that there are no distinctions between good and evil?
Damon's implied logic may form a "sound argument":
1) those who hold irrational beliefs are untrustworthy and dangerous--especially regarding public office holding;
2) Palin holds irrational beliefs;
3) Palin is untrustworthy and dangerous--especially regarding public office holding.
However, just because an argument flows logically from its premises and is "sound," does not mean it is valid. Just because someone holds a belief that is irrational (Damon has to prove that Palin's alleged beliefs are actually irrational), does not mean that the person holding those beliefs are necessarily untrustworhty and dangerous--especially regarding public office holding. One may believe that it is rational to seek terrorists where they dwell and destroy them where they live. Let us grant that this view is indeed irrational. That has no bearing whatever on one's ability to produce a sound, economic policy. The former idea is entirely irrelevant to one's ability to understand complex economic issues, and implement new laws and tax reforms in order to boost the economy of a nation.
Lastly, his is an abusive ad hominem fallacy, which attacks the character of a person in order to offer evidence against her. Just because someone believes in a young earth (1o,ooo years old, let us say), does not mean that the person is entirely irrational, incapable of using reason, or undesirous of using reason, evidence, compassion, courage, or integrity in making important decisions.
And anyway, who is Matt Damon? Where was he educated? In Hollywood? He's just an actor. Therefore, his argument against Palin is irrelevant and Damon himself is unworthy of debate in the public forum. I mean, I want to know if Damon thinks that all of life came from one, single-celled organism. I mean, that's really important to me if I am going to accept Damon as a pundit regarding national elections.