Friday, July 31, 2009

Obama Was Born in Kenya and Other Masterpeices of Irrational Thought

Many of you have probably heard of the "birthers". If you haven't, I suggest this blog as it seems to be an excellent example of the standard delusion that these people live in. These people, despite all evidence to the contrary, argue that Barak Obama is ineligible to be President because (a) he wasn't born in the US, (b) his father wasn't an American citizen, and/or (c) he lived in Indonesia as a child. The US Constitution, Article II, Section 1 states:
"No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President..."
The birthers argue that Obama doesn't meet the definition of a natural born citizen for one of the three reasons I listed above.

These people are determined to prove their point despite the fact that they don't seem to have a logical leg to stand on. The state of Hawaii has validated Barak Obama's original birth certificate and there is no legal definition of a "natural born citizen" as that term is not used anywhere else in US legal codes. Barak Obama has been shown to be a citizen just as well as George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or any other president has been. In fact, John McCain was born on a US army base in Panama and nobody made a fuss about that, so one has to suspect some motive other than a desire to interpret the Constitution as narrowly as possible for these people. Despite the large amount of evidence that their claims are totally unprovable, these people keep insisting that Obama should be thrown out of office.

This reminds me of a little exercise that I did in 10th grade biology class. One day our teacher started class by explaining her theory that light bulbs worked because they had magical elves inside of them that made light with tiny hammers. She then challenged us to disprove her claim. Our little sophomore brains began spitting out how light bulbs really work. She countered that elves had magically made it look like that's how light bulbs worked to fool us. We countered that we could control the light bulbs with a switch. She claimed that the switch was simply part of the elves trick - they magically knew when we flipped the switch and stopped making light at exactly the same instant. She countered every attempt we made to logically disprove her claim with appeals to conspiracies and magic. After about 15 minutes, we became very frustrated and told her she was being irrational. In fact, that was the point of the lesson - if someone is determined to believe something no amount of logic, reason, or argument can force them to change their minds.

The small but vocal group of birthers are exactly the group of people my teacher was trying to warn us about. There is no way to reason with them. They have made up their minds for whatever reason and only they can ultimately choose to change their minds.


  1. Really great post Nick. I think you hit the nail on the head. I think the scary thing is "58 percent of GOP not sure/doubt Obama born in US":

    Now I wasn't bring that up to slam Republicans I promise. I was more pointing out how widespread it is. (Although, in fairness the poll was conducted by the Daily Kos, but in theory they tried to do it in an unbiased way.)

    But your point on irrationality with the light bulb story is good in its own right. In general, you can always find a "elves explanation" to all sorts of things. However, rationality usually rules such theories out.

  2. As does the need for a theory to be predictive and falsifiable. This rules out a lot as well and you would probably say was part of being a rational theory.

  3. Something about Obama scares some conservatives into these sorts of illogical claims. I'm not sure if it is Obama's race, the "change" that he embodies, or something totally different, but it really freaks people out.

    That being said, there were a lot of irrational, conspiracy-type theories about Bush/Cheney/Blackwater/Haliburton trying to take over the world, so I suppose it goes both ways.

  4. Ah yes, except Cheney really is Darth Vader.


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