Fearful bunnies

April 11, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More

I was walking the dog last night when Holly (the collie) spotted a couple bunnies in the nearby grass. The bunnies stood perfectly still as we walked past, even though Holly was pulling at the leash trying to run over to take a closer look.

This Good Friday anecdote illustrates a common phenomenon. When they sense that potential predators are nearby, many types of animals get as still as statues, thereby blending into the background to avoid confrontation. It’s not hard to see how such a behavior has been naturally selected.

image by sister72 at Flickr (creative commons)

image by sister72 at Flickr (creative commons)

For some reason, it occurred to me that many of the conservative religious folks who visit this site do something analogous when they feel threatened by freethinkers. They intellectually freeze. Instead of engaging on the topic, they pull out a pre-packaged arsenal that includes a handful of platitudes that they repeat ad nauseam in order to avoid intellectual confrontation. These platitudes are not invitations for meaningful discussion, but rather inert utterances such as the following:

  • The Bible is inerrant.
  • Science doesn’t know everything.
  • Humans are not “animals.”
  • Science can’t disprove God or supernatural occurrences.
  • People who question religion are arrogant.

For some conservative believers (and for all fundamentalists), these platitudes (which range from ambiguous to disproved) constitute their entire “intellectual” arsenal. When the predator freethinkers have moved on, these believers spring back to intellectual activity, even going so far as to vigorously question everything else in their lives. They aren’t fools, you see. They only fear taking a close look at their own cherished beliefs.

In other words, many religious conservatives are unwilling to make any meaningful intellectual moves when it comes to discussing their own religion. They’re unwilling to consider new evidence, even evidence that is overwhelming. They are unwilling to consider new proven-reliable ways of analyzing evidence. Hence, evolutionary biology is an anathema. Why? [Repeat the platitudes over and over].

In short, many people who are religiously conservative use a strategy of intellectually freezing in place, hoping that all of the scientist-predators simply move along. In their own minds, this is a strategy that has been proven to “work.”


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. TonyC says:

    Case in point: See Karl's 'contributions' on the Scandinathiest thread.

    Although he has only shown the fear response so we have no actual evidence of any other ability.

    His knee-jerk 'everything is religion' and 'ur doin it rong' perspective vis-a-vis atheists and his intrinsic 'fear of other' (moslem, agnostic, atheist, foreigner' …) definitely support your thesis regarding his 'frozen in fear' response behavior.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Uh oh. It looks like I'm the one who is stuck in a loop. I just recalled this earlier post. http://dangerousintersection.org/2009/01/25/diagr

    • Mindy Carney says:

      Nah, you're not stuck, you just used a different analogy. Personally, I like the bunny one best. The diagram has much wiggle-room – i.e., who the heck is Bart-whoever-he-is? My guess is that most of those stuck in that immovable loop wouldn't know.

      I really like the bunny-frozen-in-fear metaphor. I will henceforth use it at will. 🙂

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