Pat Robertson: "simple, humble" foreigners get miracles because they aren't corrupted by education and science

Pat Robertson scores a "Christ, what an asshole" prize here, in which he explains that the reason that "simple, humble" Africans and other foreigners experience miracles is that they are free from the sin of over-education. As Charles Johnson has it, this is "the wingnut trifecta... anti-intellectual, anti-science and patronizingly racist."

Pat Robertson: Simple Africans More Likely to Experience Miracles Than Over-Educated Americans (via Skepchick)


    1. That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

      1 Corinthians 2:5

      1. Aha, it says the power of God, not the word of the Bible.
        Also, the wisdom of men includes whatever comes out of Robertson’s pie hole, not that any real wisdom has ever come out of it.

        1. Actually this is the first honest observation I’ve heard from Robertson.

          He basically admitted that if you intentionally remain ignorant, you’re more prone to believe that miracles can happen, then you will perceive them happening (which of course is due to an unstated corollary of Clarke’s third law that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” specifically that “any sufficiently unexplained and uninvestigated phenomenon is indistinguishable from a miracle to a person who believes miracles are possible.”). He basically said that you need to clap your hands and believe in fairies and fairies will thus exist.

          1.  Also, the likelihood of a ‘miracle’ occurring is inversely proportional to the number of cameras nearby. 

          2. This might be the most important true thing he ever said:
            Asked about Bush’s mistakes, the evangelist recalled: “I met with him down in Nashville before the Gulf war started. And he was the most self-assured man I ever met in my life.” Borrowing a line from Mark Twain, Robertson said Bush looked “like a contented Christian with four aces.””He was just sitting there, like, I’m on top of the world, and I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, ‘Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties,’ ” Robertson said.”Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties,” Robertson quoted Bush as saying. ” ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it’s the way it’s going to be. . . . The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy.’ “ I still think he’s not so smart, but maybe not the worst out there.  Damned by faint praise.

  1.  Those who avoid education are more likely to experience miracles?  Roberts can’t really tell his Post Hoc from his Propter Hoc, can he?

  2. If ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.

    Not sure this is an example of what Thomas Gray meant, though.

  3. If the opposite of miracles is science/education, then I think we should flip this around: he shouldn’t be allowed to receive the benefits of our modern, educated, fact-based society.  No science-based inventions for him, nosirree.  No medical improvements.  No books, music, or TV.  Instead, he can live happily by relying on his faith-in-ignorance….right?

          1. Then there’s those who wait for Nape Kissing Day.
            Wait a minute, it’s the same day but for the other half!

      1. I would argue that at 83 all it would take would be no more modern medical procedures or drugs….with the added benefit that no one has to break the law.

    1. He’s a televangelist, he quite literally makes his living on the back of modern science / technology.  He’s too smart not to realize he is hypocritical, he just knows his audience is ignorant and he exploits that fact.

      1. His audience is afraid of science and technology, and choose ignorance as a response.  Robertson makes a killing off meeting their emotional needs.

      2.  See, that’s exactly what I wonder about people like him: do they know they’re lying, or are they self-deluded?  I honestly don’t know.

  4. If there is a Heaven, Pat Robertson is going to be really disappointed when he gets there and learns that Jesus thinks he’s a dick. 

    1. I’m pretty sure that Mr. Robertson afterlife will involve dicks, but they’ll be barbed and sulfurous, and Jesus won’t be around.

      1. Given the tendency for these sanctimonious assholes (and Robertson in particular) to rail against homosexuality, then be caught with a rentboy (not that he’s ever been caught), I wouldn’t be half surprised to find out that giant barbed dicks are sort of “his thing” you know?

    1. I agree with @Cowicide:disqus , Robertson is a savvy and cynical snake-oil salesman, preying on little old ladies and their retirement funds.
      But he’s still in business and obscenely good at it, so it takes two to tango, I guess.

      1. Exactly. Which is why I wonder why it’s worth the time of anyone outside of his gullibles to listen to anything he has to say.

  5. You would think that a deity of unbounded power would be able to cut right through the interference of a few finite skeptics without the slightest difficulty…

    Maybe natural selection has been encouraging increasingly powerful anti-magic fields among the skeptic population, since the ones with less powerful miracle suppression tend to get hit by lightning or otherwise smitten with divine wrath.

    1. We should do several well controlled studies, and find out. If we get bad results there may be trouble with independent replication though.

      Actually, there probably is selective pressure against skepticism, as it can be harmful to group cohesion, since the majority of the population is very credulous and tends to think skeptics are jerks and outsiders

      1. Son of Ether here, usually with a lot of Correspondence points, kind of a Virtual Adept crossover.

  6. Oh yes, they get miracles all right, like being blessed with albinos whose body parts they can consume to gain magical powers. But the other side of the coin is that they are afflicted with witches whom they must burn alive. Tough audience.

          1. There’s no maybe about it. Theologians have spent centuries trying to pretty up the argument “God exists because God exists”

          2. Yup. Many of them learn, during and through their education, that there is no god, or at least not the one they minister for.

            Apart from the ones who come to identify as atheists, I think it’s arguable that once you’ve reduced god to an intellectual exercise of devising convoluted and obfuscatory proofs of existence, you’re basically an atheist already, just one with rather strange goals.

    1. Not really.  But there are different kinds of faith, and different kinds of education.

      I consider myself a religious person.  But I think of gods as an emergent property of my mental model of the universe — much like consciousness.  Hard science cannot prove I have a consciousness nor measure it, but I know it’s “real” in some sense anyway.

      Meanwhile I still get to believe evolution is as solid a theory as they come, the sun is a star instead of a chariot, weather events are not caused by gay people.  When I die I really don’t know what I will experience (if anything), but it’s unlikely to be related to what I think of abortion or who I might or might not have prayed to.

      I consider myself a sort of pantheistic, animistic pagan, but I’m sure some would consider me agnostic or possibly even atheist.  (That kind of runs counter to the icons and offerings and shamanic exploration and amulets, but whatever.)

      (FWIW, I have a BS in Management Information Systems and I enjoy reading books for laymen on cosmology in particular and other sciences in general.)

      None of this “if you’re honest with yourself” bullshit either.  This is me being honest with myself and whoever reads this.

      People and ideas are more complex than they’re often given credit for.  That includes religious people and ideas.

      1. Hard science cannot prove I have a consciousness nor measure it, but I know it’s “real” in some sense anyway.

        Neglecting the nitpick that “hard science” cannot “prove” anything at all, I wouldn’t state this so unequivocally.  “Consciousness” is a very vague and poorly-defined term that likely refers to a number of different faculties working together both synchronously and asynchronously.  For some definitions of “consciousness” I’d say science can absolutely prove it exists.

        Even if you’re talking about your brute viridical experience “hard science” can offer some interesting insights.  For example, “hard science” can determine that your viridical experience is different from that of a person with some form of colorblindness.  It can also determine whether someone actually has perfect pitch or not which is absolutely a measure of the person’s subjective experience — at least as far as I can tell.  Hard science has been used to confirm that color discrimination in birds (a function of consciousness if our own experiences can be trusted) is much better than it is in humans, consistent with the fact that birds have four color receptors instead of just three.

        Now we do have to make a few assumptions that are philosophically controversial but are actually equivalent to the “assumptions” our brain unconsciously makes just to allow us to have conversations with each other.  On the other hand, we need to make very similar assumptions to do any science at all.  When Galileo tried to show others the moons of Jupiter they simply insisted that his telescope was a trick or wasn’t showing what he thought was showing, or even insisted they saw something different from what Galileo described.  No one was justified in trusting the telescope until optics was refined over the course of the next few decades.  Scientific observations are always “theory laden”.

        This is a consequence of Munchausen’s Trilemma.  Literally every rationalist system of thought — including “hard science” — must be based on a foundation of axioms, circular arguments, or an infinite regress.

        Robert Anton Wilson was fond of saying something like: for any proposition there is a sense in which it is true, a sense in which it is false, and a sense in which it is meaningless.  In that spirit I will suggest that nothing is unknowable (even consciousness) even though knowledge is impossible.

        1. I pretty much agree with all of that.  But “consciousness” as I was using it referred less to sensory perception, and more to self-awareness — the “I” that emerges from one’s perceptions and mental models, the part that seems to experience stimuli (rather than just sensing it), have memories, have personality quirks, make decisions and so forth.  I was thinking along the lines of Douglas Hofstadter’s I Am A Strange Loop.
          I was reading something else recently that discussed how we have models of other people, including those we know well and those we don’t know well, hypothetical people, fictional characters, and gods or spirits.  We can predict their behavior (with varying degrees of accuracy).  That may be entirely how writers and religious people both operate.  Arguably, “I” is one of these models of a person as well, but it’s a model contained inside and made from itself.

          1. Anyway I’ve wandered pretty far away from Pat Robertson being an asshole here.  

            I’m just kind of annoyed at the knee-jerk “herp derp religious people are ignorant and simple-minded” that inevitably visits any thread about a prominent religious person being a complete waste of oxygen.

  7. He’s got a point. Unfortunately I don’t think its the point he wants. God is the placebo effect.

  8. Well, Robertson is just stupid.  The one that really gets my dander up is Jim Bakker. He’s out of jail now, and back on TV. Running a tax-free online shopping experience for doomsday preppers.  While doing his very best to scare the bejesus out of them.  He not stupid at all.  Just a totally objectionable piece of slime.

    1. “Demonic raisins, I buy you in bulk and store you in my underground bunker!”

  9. but Americans can make up for it by sending him their gobwads of cash and keeping their overeducation boxes tuned to CBN.

  10. I don’t see Robertson as newsworthy.  He comes up with one of these once a week.  He’s as regular as the tides, that you can’t explain.

      1. I feel the same way whenever the NRA perspective on anything is reported. We already know what their idiotic position will be, do we really need reminding every time someone says something sensible?

        Here in oz it’s the ACL (Australian Christian Lobby).. I just wish journalists would go “well, they said the same thing last time and have never evolved their position even a tiny bit so let’s just not pay attention to them any more”.

        1. Were it really the case that the “Man bites dog” model prevailed in journalism, newspapers would be near empty. But one must fill that space with something otherwise readers and hence advertisers will evaporate., Thus “‘this happened (well, duh)” is included in the definition of news, despite its being – technically – only olds.

    1. There is at least one good reason for treating Robertson as newsworthy: he has a large number of followers. Maybe I’m overestimating his influence (and I’d like to think I am) but there are enough people who take his lunacy seriously that he deserves scrutiny.

      The down side of that, though, is that when he’s treated as newsworthy, even when the intent is to point out how ridiculous he is, is that we’re just feeding the beast.

      1. That’s kind of the eternal problem of skepticism and, especially, atheism: by engaging with the enemy, no matter how absurd their claims, it seems to lend a veneer of legitimacy to their lunacy.

        I like to think that someone out there is hearing the argument for the first time, so it’s important to always refute them calmly and rationally. Even if it’s the billionth time.

  11. The exact same concept, worded differently:
    If people were generally less educated and more ignorant in the ways of reason, they’d more often mentally process statistically minuscule, random occurrences in a superstitious way.

  12. We do get miracles here.  How about heart transplants, landing a robot rover on Mars, etc.

    1. If heart transplantation and space exploration are miracles, then you should probably include sharpened sticks, retractable ballpoint pens, the x86 processor, and nuclear weaponry.

      Technology is manmade, heart transplants and mars landers are utterly unaffected by faith, as is any physical phenomenon.

      It must be so boring for you, looking at the universe as if some higher power doesn’t want you to figure it out.

      As for me, “god did it” means the same basic thing as “my dog ate my homework”, and is an absolutely unacceptable explanation for anything.

      1. The word miracle means something to be wondered at. The religious connotation was added afterward. It’s still good usage to refer to things as miracles without implying supernatural causes.

      2. Actually, most of us in the “Everything Is Amazing” camp find the universe pretty damn neat.

  13. Remember when Jesus made 2,000 pigs drown themselves so some dude would stop Bic-ing his wrists? Mk. 5:11.

    Christ, what an asshole.

  14. “they aren’t corrupted by education and science”

    Pat should be expecting a miracle shortly then.

  15. Interestingly, in the bible, significantly more miracles are performed to/on men, signifying that men are simple and humble, and women during the biblical times were over-educated and too personally powerful… wait…

  16. In a controlled experiment, and leveraging my status as both an atheist and a foreigner, I have tried praying to The Void for a miracle. I am happy to report that there have been no results.

  17. I like the light piquant dusting of that “don’t cheapen our miracles by trying to figure out whether they actually ever happen” thing.

    Simple tribesmen who’ve never heard of the scientific method walk on water and raise the dead all the time, don’t you know!

  18. Africa also has a high instance of people(children included) being attacked for being witches. Yeah, intelligence gets in the way of a lot of things

    1. If reincarnation weren’t bullshit, it would be lovely for Robertson to be re-born an albino in a “simple, humble” society where albino infants are killed as devils and/or have their organs harvested for various protective spells.

  19. According to Robertson the people of Haiti deserved the earthquake that devastated their nation because their ancestors had made a deal with the devil in exchange for independence.

    I guess being simple and humble (translation: poor and lacking a decent education system) wasn’t enough to help them.

  20. I actually find this sentiment fairly uncontroversial.  I haven’t listened to how it’s actually phrased but the scientific worldview is one way of ordering the world and there are others.  The scientific worldview generates more elaborate explanations for natural phenomena but eschews the use of teleology or agency to do so. 

    However, if someone is not raised within the scientific worldview it would not be immediately obvious to them that such a worldview is “superior” to their own.  Yes, we westerners can talk up a storm about falsifiability and repeatability and how they produce such good, worthwhile results but that’s not going to matter unless the person you’re trying to convince values that sort of explanation.  And if that person was raised in a culture in which they don’t value that sort of explanation but do value explanations in terms of the wills of various spirits then the person is probably going to witness miracles that a westerner would see as uncommon but perfectly explicable natural phenomena.

    You can even get together a whole bunch of westerners to harangue the poor guy about how they all agree — but then again, he can get together a bunch of his friends who all agree it’s a miracle or caused by spirits or whatever.  At that point it just becomes a numbers game.  The worldview that wins is the one that reproduces itself the best either by conversions or indoctrination of young.

    Pat Robertson understands that he’s on one side (or at least playing the part) in just such a struggle between Christian fundamentalism and the scientific/modernist worldview.  Fortunately his worldview is so boring and joyless that I have little doubt which will ultimately get the most conversions.

  21. My god, strange magicians could be visiting our cities and small towns today, stealing the penises of our virile males, but in our blind faith in science and foolish expectation of evidence, we would never notice. Anyone who reported such an event would be immediately ridiculed, if not involuntarily committed.

    I just checked, and thankfully my own member is still attached. But for how long? How long?

  22. The end result is the same, if you call it a sin or not. Uneducated superstitious people are more likely to attribute unlikely events to some supernatural event.

    So he isn’t exactly wrong, really (well sort of in the moral sense I suppose). It is pretty factual however, not sure how this really puts a positive light on religion… Other than to say, “hey if you are stupid and gullible, boy to I have a social group for you!”

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