Veneer Proofs

December 4, 2011

A decade ago a friend wanted to convince me that evolution was false. She told me that Darwin Himself had said that if we ever found one species selflessly helping another, the entire theory would have to be thrown out. And, sure enough, we’ve found a species of ants where the mother ant sacrifices herself for her children. Q.E.D.

I waited a few moments, then pointed out that a mother and her children are not two different species. She said, “Oh, you’re right,” and that was the end of that proof. I’m guessing that she had been told this proof in church. I was flabbergasted that she had spent so little time thinking critically about it that she hadn’t even wondered what the two species were.

I call these veneer proofs. They’re wafer-thin, but it doesn’t matter because the purpose is to help people reinforce beliefs they already have. The proof gave her belief legitimacy, as proofs do.