A friend of mine believes that a man who died thousands of years ago is actually still alive. This man is no longer visible, oddly enough, but apparently he’s somehow still around. And he occasionally speaks inside my friend’s head.
I’ve tried to tell my friend how outrageously preposterous this claim sounds, and he came back with a rather strange response. He said “I’ve got evidence that it’s true, so if you want to convince me I’m wrong, you’ll have to disprove my claim.”
And I almost fell into his trap. His trap was to get me to take his belief in the dead-alive man seriously, without him having to put in any effort. Instead of investing his time showing me why his belief was true, he wanted me to do all the work.
But I won’t fall into that trap: his idea is not one worth taking seriously.
To begin with, it contradicts many things we’ve come to understand about the world. For his belief to be true, the laws of nature would need to be suspended. This is reason enough to treat his belief with suspicion.
But there’s another reason not to take his belief seriously, a reason he can blame on his fellow supernaturalists.
The reason is that there are so many beliefs out there that are just as preposterous as his. For instance, I started* watching an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap in which Ted Haggard and Gary Busey exchanged spouses. The Buseys believe that they are reincarnated. In fact, Gary believes he’s lived exactly 31 lives, if I remember correctly. Not 32 or 30 or 35, but exactly 31.
If Mr. Busey proclaimed that “I’ve got evidence that I’ve been reincarnated 30 times**, so if you want to convince me I’m wrong, you’ll have to disprove my claim”, I think most people would simply laugh and move on. Why? Because wacky ideas like these are a dime a dozen. To spend the time debunking them all would take many lifetimes (presumably not reincarnated ones).
In other words, with all these off-the-wall ideas floating around, the well of credulity has truly been poisoned. People are just too good at making things up, and too easily fooled into believing them.
At the end of the day, then, there is an enormous market place of ideas out there, and if someone wants her particular idea to be taken seriously, she needs to do a whole lot more than challenge people to knock it down.
People have better things to do.
* I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
** Technically, if you’ve lived 31 lives, you’ve only undergone the process of reincarnation 30 times :-).