A few days ago, I took a trip out to Martha’s Vineyard. We left Rhode Island on a ferry and arrived at the Vineyard about an hour and forty minutes later. It was a nice day.
On the ferry, there were all sorts of characters. I’m sure you can imagine the bunch. From the golfers to the strange lady with the Golden Retriever…they were all there. Needless to say, practically everyone on the boat was more wealthy than I. An eccentric group, if you will.
As I sat on the center deck, leaning over with my head in my hands, trying to grab some shuteye, a small group of semi-rowdy middle aged men were discussing the origins of the universe. I thought this was apropos because we were all getting a little loose by the thought of going somewhere so exciting.
As I sat there, listening, my ears perked up. I had my eyes closed as to not give them any indication I was in fact attuned to their conversation. Now, let me tell you, when anyone begins a conversation regarding the beginning of space’s great expanse, it’s difficult not to salivate over the soon-to-be learned theories. Unfortunately, the first few sentences is basically where the intelligence of this conversation began and ended.
The louder and more outgoing of the group gave his theory. He said that god made the universe. Not one god in particular, but any god would do. Okay. That’s one theory. Now, from what I have gathered throughout my life, there is only one other available theory about how the universe was born…”it was alway here.” This is where things got slippery.
As the conversation progressed and theories flew in from left field, the group of men became more subdued in their vocalism. They began to engage in “groupthink.” By this I mean they started to realize there were no real answers and they wanted to get back on the same playing field so they could move on with their day. Also, after a while, the conversation was pretty much beat.
Towards the end of the discussion, the leader of the group said something along the lines of, “Well, there is nothing that has always been in existence. Nothing can just be. A god had to have created the universe.” Of course, this is the point a small smile formed from my lips.
If you have ever heard the term, Self-Defeating Statement before, you will know that it means: A self-defeating (or self-refuting) statement is a statement that fails to meet its own standard. In other words, it kind of cancels itself out.
This is a very interesting tidbit of education because once you learn what self-defeating statements are, you begin to recognize them almost everywhere. You can poke holes in people’s logic and become a much more effective conversationalist and debater.
A famous example of a self defeating statement is: There is no truth. (Thank you Apologetic Junkie) As you can see, if there was no truth, the statement, “There is no truth” would be false. The statement cancelled itself out by what it said.
So, back to what was said on the boat – “Well, there is nothing that has always been in existence. Nothing can just be. A god had to have created the universe.”
Let’s take this statement apart. When this fella said, “Well, there is nothing that has always been in existence.” he may have been correct. We haven’t a clue if there is or isn’t anything that has existed forever. It’s a very debatable point (actually it’s not since we have no evidence). After that, he said, “Nothing can just be.” He may have been correct about that as well. While this is nothing more than a wild guess, I couldn’t offer anything that would have convinced him that he was wrong. He got into trouble when he said, “A god had to have created the universe.”
Now, the statement “A god had to have created the universe.” isn’t self-defeating by itself. It’s actually quite similar to this gentleman’s first two statements. It’s the connectedness of the statements that made the last one self-defeating. Does that make sense? If nothing has been in existence forever and if nothing can just be, where did these gods come from?
As a side note, this is what has always made me wonder about the big bang theory. If the universe was created by a chunk of mass exploding, where did that chunk of mass come from? The chain of questions goes on and on.
It’s a tough world out there. So many of us try to mix logic with faith with emotion with everyday life. It’s challenging to say the least. I think the safest thing to say is that we are all wrong a good percentage of the time. That’s okay, because we are nothing more than human and as we all know, “to err is human…”
I hope you enjoyed my post about self-defeating statements. If you are a philosophy buff and would like to add or correct anything, I surely would welcome your comment.