Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The geographical fallacy

Have you ever had somebody try to refute your religion by saying something like, "If you had been born somewhere else, you'd have a completely different religion"? Supposedly, your religious beliefs are not justified since it's just a product of geography.

By that reasoning, none of our beliefs are justified since they are all a product of our environment. If I had been born at another place at another time, I would probably believe the earth is flat. The only reason I believe the earth is round is because of when and where I grew up. Does that mean my belief in the roundness of the earth is unjustified? Of course not.

It isn't enough to point out that our beliefs are the result of our environment. We have to go a little deeper and find out what it is about our environment that caused our beliefs. In some cases, the reason people form their beliefs is because they have access to information that isn't as readily available to people living somewhere else.

If you think about it, this whole argument from geography is self-refuting. The premise is that since our beliefs are formed by geography, they're not justified. But would the person be making that argument say the same thing if they had been born somewhere else? Maybe not. By their own standard, then, their belief in the premise is not justified.


At 3/14/2005 2:21 AM , Blogger Safiyyah said...

I really appreciate the way you're able to put things in a very straight-forward way. Can you be my new "Philosophy and Religion" teacher?


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