Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions. We could not live our lives without making them. Some are good, many are not. The trait that all assumptions share though is the necessity of us making them. For example:
Today when I came back to my car after visiting the Kroger’s pharmacy I found a small purple sticky note placed under my driver side windshield wiper. Of course my first thought was that someone had dinged my car (which would be hard to tell considering it is 10 years old and has over 130,000 miles on it and looks it) and was honest enough to leave a note with their name and phone number.
Unusual for me though, I was wrong. It was indeed a note to me, but instead of having a person’s phone number and apology it contained the following handwritten words:
Buy a $25.00 Bible…..
In looking at the writing I assume that the author was a woman instead of a man. The reason for this assumption is that the writing was nice and neat and looks more like the writing traditionally associated with a woman and not a man. However I know of no scientific studies about this and so am not wedded to this assumption.
Next I assume that this is related to my two bumper stickers. One of those bumper stickers is a Darwin fish and the other has the words “What schools need is a moment of science” printed on it. I assume that these are the cause of the note due to the following facts:
- No one else had a note under their windshield wiper, which makes the notion that someone was writing these and putting them on every car in the parking lot rather less likely
- One of my bumper stickers mentioned science.
- The other referenced Darwin, a truly outstanding scientist.
- Many religious conservatives who believe in an inerrant Bible do not believe Darwin a great scientist.
- The Darwin fish is often taken to be synonymous with atheism – hence the reference to me getting the Bible.
My final assumption is that the person who wrote the note was a Christian religious conservative who does not believe that evolution is true. My basis for this is:
- The fact that it appears that my bumper stickers were the cause of this person writing that note. My bumper stickers are most likely to offend or annoy religious conservatives.
- The statement urging me to buy a Bible
- Referring to Jesus as the author of all science.
We all make assumptions. However some assumptions have a greater validity to them than others. The ones that I listed above have some fairly good evidence to support my having made them, although I am willing to admit them mistaken if shown sufficient evidence or reasoning against those assumptions.
Now, for fun, let’s compare my assumptions with those made by the writer of this note.
- This writer assumes I do not have a Bible.
- This writer assumes that I am not a Christian.
In regards to the first assumption – that I do not have a Bible, the writer’s assumption is wrong. I not only have a Bible, but I have three different translations of the Bible – the Revised Standard Version, the New Oxford Annotated Bible, and the English Standard Version.
In regards to the second assumption, that I am not a Christian, the writer is correct. I am not, I am indeed an atheist.
I would imagine that the structure of this writer’s assumptions looked something like this.
Only an atheist would have a Darwin Fish on his bumper. Only atheists believe in evolution. Further the wording of the second bumper sticker, a moment of science, is clearly not only a plug for more science teaching in the public schools, but also a slam against having moments of silence in the schools for students to pray. Further, the writer assumes that if I owned and then read the Bible I would not have put such obviously wrong bumper stickers on my car. And yes, I note that I am indeed making more assumptions to create this framework. However based on my personal experience and from my readings, I believe that the basis for me doing so is sound.
However, how good are his assumed assumptions?
First off, the writer obviously made an incorrect assumption about me owning a Bible. The basis for the writer being mistaken here is twofold.
First, the assumption that had I owned and read the Bible I would not be so foolish at to place a Darwin fish on my bumper and to believe in evolution. And I would have a moment of silence bumper sticker in place of my moment of science.
The other assumption is that atheists and non-believers do not read the Bible. As an add on to this assumption would be that had I owned and read a Bible I would believe exactly as this person does.
In regards to the first assumption – I would point out that most people who acknowledge that the evidence fully supports evolution and that evolution provides an accurate accounting for life on earth are Christian. Further I would reference that many evolutionary scientists are also Christians.
It seems then that our writer’s definition of Christian and a Christian”s relationship to science is as flawed as his definition of science and evolution. To him, atheists support evolution and Christians support the Bible. Either/or but never both.
In regards to his assumption of my non-Christianity… that is a bit more complicated.
I imagine that part of the evidence for this assumption would be my Darwin fish. In that, this may indeed be a fairly reliable indicator of a non-belief in God. To tell the truth I had never really considered the matter having considered this more of a slam at Creationism than at Christianity as a whole. However I understand why it could be taken as such and so I wonder, are there any theists whose cars wear the Darwin fish? An interesting question for which I have no answer right now.
However I am also sure that another basis for this assumption is that evolution and Christianity do not mix as well as a belief that scientists are atheists. As I mentioned earlier this is a completely false belief and so this support for the writer’s assumption of my atheism does not hold up.
Now, extrapolating from what I know of religious conservatives, I do not think that pointing out the flaws in this person’s thinking about science and evolution and religion would make this writer change his mind in the least. Instead this person is likely to cling ever more strongly to their assumptions and try to rationalize away any contrary evidence; for example by claiming that those who say they are Christian but believe in evolution are not really Christian at all.
Assumptions are a necessity for us to live and function. Where they become a problem though is when people do not realize that they are making them and instead take what is an assumption and elevate it into a fact. Realizing the provisional nature of all assumptions and examining their underlying roots is also a necessity for those of us concerned with truth and reality, who desire to live fully in the world as it is instead of a world made fuzzy by the myths of our assumptions.