The FBI and me

by Neil Rickert

Well, okay, the title of this post is misleading and I’m having a little fun in using that title.

Yesterday, I saw a blog post by William Dembski, where he used the acronym “FBI” as shorthand for a Fundamentalist Belief Inventory.  So no, in this case “FBI” does not stand for “Federal Bureau of Investigation”.

The inventory consists of 40 pairs of statements.  In each case you are supposed to pick the one that fits best.  And it is a forced choice — you are not allowed to select “none of the above”.  I suggest you follow the link above to Dembski’s post and read the questions.  It will give you an idea as to what fundamentalists believe.

Testing myself

Directly testing myself would not be much fun.  I would probably score a zero on the fundamentalist scale.  So, instead, I tried to answer them as I probably would have answered them back at age 20 — around 3 years before I left Christianity.

I’ll note that this is hard to do.  So my count may be slightly off.

According to my scoring, I count 3 as the number of fundamentalist positions that I would have agreed with at age 20.  If I go back to age 15, it is probably more like 6.

According to Dembski, fundamentalists will score in the high 20s to low 30s.  And liberal Christians will score in the single digits.  So I guess I always fell into the liberal Christian category.

Many of these answers just seem like common sense.  Of course the story of Jonah and the big fish is fiction.  Of course the story of Noah’s ark is fiction, though perhaps inspired by an actual local flood.  As a teenager, it was already clear that languages evolve and diversify naturally, so the Tower of Babel story could not have been anything other than fiction.

If somebody had questioned me about these beliefs back in my teenage years (when I was a practicing Christian), I would have said “God gave us brains and expected us to use them.”

So go take a look at the questions, and maybe estimate how you would have answered them at an earlier time in your life.

4 Comments to “The FBI and me”

  1. I think I can check three fundamentalist boxes even as an atheist physicalist:

    There is an ultimate truth and I have found it.
    Absolute moral truths exist.
    Humans are inherently more valuable than other animals.

    Although, like you, even when I was a Christian, I don’t think I would have checked many more. At best I would have leaned a bit more towards the “maybe” option, if there were one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is an ultimate truth and I have found it.

      My study of human cognition has persuaded me that there is no such thing as ultimate truth.

      If I look back to when I was age 20, I would have agreed that there was ultimate truth but I would not have claimed to have found it.

      Absolute moral truths exist.

      I don’t think I have ever believed that.

      Humans are inherently more valuable than other animals.

      I would have believed that back at age 20. But my current view is that humans value humans more than other animals. But other animals might have different ideas about what is most valuable.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, a lot will depend on how we define “ultimate truth.” I figure that having an understanding of the fundamental nature of the universe and our place in it qualifies if anything does. Otherwise there’s no sense in any truth being “ultimate.”

        I’m not surprised that you’re more of a relativist than I am. But just as I think we can know physical truths about our universe, I think we can also know moral truths. And I think that our knowing these things has value — a value that other animals don’t have. But that’s just a statement, not an argument, so I don’t expect you to agree.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. My retrospective 20 year old self scores about 25. Now I score a solid zero.
    Physicalist: How much moral phil (particularly metaethics) have you studied? I don’t think there are any values that are independent of human needs and desires. You might be able to show that some needs and desires are universal enough to yield moral precepts valid for all humans, but I don’t think that counts as “absolute” (which I take to mean as not relative to any context).

    Liked by 3 people

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