While some folks are not happy that Obama was elected President, there are people who claim that he should not be in office because he is not really a natural born American citizen (which is a requirement for being eligible for the office). These folks are often referred to as “birthers“, which sounds a bit like some sort of horror movie/game monster. Despite the rather unfortunate name, these folks have launched a serious enough campaign that Obama and his people have taken the effort to respond to these allegation.
The facts in the case seem rather clear: Obama’s mother was an American citizen and he was born in Hawaii. As such, he is a natural born American citizen. Not surprisingly, most conservatives accept that Obama is legally the President, although they would prefer that he was not in office.
Naturally, I wonder a bit about the birtherphenomenon. On one hand, it is tempting to simply dismiss them as yet another wacko group. On the other hand, they do present an interesting subject for study and speculation. After all, the birthers seem to seriously believe a claim that all availabe evidence shows to be false.
Of course, it might be the case that some of the birthers do not believe their own claim. Perhaps they are merely using it as a political tool to annoy the Obama administration and to motivate some of the more fringe elements of the base. While the birthers do not pose a serious challenge to Obama, his administration has had to waste time in dealing with this challenge. Also, even people who do not believe this claim can me made to feel more suspicious of him through this sort of tactic.
As far as those who actually believe it, this might be do to the fact that belief tends to be based on how a person feels as opposed to being based on rational evidence. Those who feel negatively towards Obama would tend to suspend their reason and accept negative claims against him, even when the evidence does not warrant doing so. Of course, some people might believe that there is a legitimate basis for their belief. They could be, after all, skeptics. Since there are always grounds for doubting empircial claims (just use the skeptical argument of your choice, ranging from the anicent Greek skeptics to Descartes and beyond), a birther can always call any evidence into doubt. Of course, they do not seem to be consistent in their skepticism since they do not seem to be skeptics across the board.