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Beliefs Conform To Cultural Identities 629

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-know-what-I-know dept.
DallasMay writes "This article describes an experiment that demonstrates that people don't put as much weight on facts as they do their own belief about how the world is supposed to work. From the article: 'In one experiment, Braman queried subjects about something unfamiliar to them: nanotechnology — new research into tiny, molecule-sized objects that could lead to novel products. "These two groups start to polarize as soon as you start to describe some of the potential benefits and harms," Braman says. The individualists tended to like nanotechnology. The communitarians generally viewed it as dangerous. Both groups made their decisions based on the same information. "It doesn't matter whether you show them negative or positive information, they reject the information that is contrary to what they would like to believe, and they glom onto the positive information," Braman says.'"
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Beliefs Conform To Cultural Identities

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  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:08AM (#31268398) Homepage Journal
    The summary:

    "This article describes an experiment that demonstrates that people don't put as much weight on facts as they do their own belief about how the world is supposed to work.

    Which is why religion and all other straight-faced magical thinking should be abolished. That would reveal a big chunk of the world's assholes who can no longer point to the cross or to the Qur'an as justification for their actions.

    The articles wisely cite valid questions concerning real-life phenominae. That's healthy debate, and it's a sign that hummanity is capable of "moving on". But there still a large number of "my god is better than your god" nyah-nyahs whose idea of healthy debate is killing others who don't agree with them rather than thinking.

    Abolishment of religion won't solve all problems, but it has the highest ratio of simplicty-of-suggestion to worldwide-problems-solved.

  • Hurr. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:10AM (#31268408)

    >Both groups made their decisions based on the same information.

    No they didn't.

    They based their decisions on information gathered from outside the experiment - their own life experiences, and applied those experiences to their arguments.

    This is surprising?

    --
    BMO

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:16AM (#31268436)

    People thrive on information that reinforces their point of view and reject information that challenge it. How is this news?

    That's basically what newspapers and TV stations thrive on.

  • by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:16AM (#31268440)
    Worked out great for the Soviets.
  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:16AM (#31268442) Journal

    I don't think any of these individuals are a clean slate so it's not a surprise that they may have strong pre-conceptions that come into play. It's not that "It doesn't matter whether you show them negative or positive information, they reject the information that is contrary to what they would like to believe". Rather they already have some beliefs they consider true which they apply.

    It's also no surprise that people in groups do not behave rationally. Even scientists and medical researchers can be downright stupid about things. I was listening to an interesting podcast this morning: http://www.americanscientist.org/science/pub/everything-is-dangerous-a-controversy [americanscientist.org]

  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:17AM (#31268446)

    >Which is why religion and all other straight-faced magical thinking should be abolished

    As if religion is the only place this occurs or the only reason why people think what they think.

    I put it to you that some fringes of environmentalism are *exactly* like religions.

    --
    BMO

  • Oh well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:18AM (#31268452)

    Everyone knows facts have a liberal bias anyway.

  • Re:Hurr. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Romancer (19668) <romancer@deathsd ... 5926com minus pi> on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:21AM (#31268468) Journal

    Here here.

    Scientists see results in their studies that they are looking for. Not accounting for, sometimes painfully obvious, faults in their conclusions, or reasoning.

    Like the studies that link accidents and cellphones. Not accounting for the possibility that neglectful and distracted drivers that will get into accidents will probably now use cellphones as well as drink, eat, and read a book or put on makeup. It's outside their scope of the experiment so it isn't a possible contributing factor.

    This study is pretty bad though. They don't even try and take into account the reason that people would describe themselves as one group or another. Seems to me that they would have had some exposure to different ideas and evidence growing up to convince them that that way of thinking is correct. All cultures justify their own beliefs. These scientists ignore this part and just think of them as having brown or green eyes as they go into the tests.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:28AM (#31268510) Journal
    The fringes of any *ism are dogmatic, that's why they're on the fringes.
  • by bazald (886779) <bazald@zenipe[ ]om ['x.c' in gap]> on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:29AM (#31268518) Homepage

    Thanks for confirming confirmation bias [wikipedia.org] for me. It was pretty much what I expected anyway...

  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:30AM (#31268522)

    Newsflash: science works by subjecting everything to the scientific method. Including things that we think are obvious. Sometimes it confirms the obvious (like here), sometimes it throws everything into complete upheaval (like special relativity).

    Next time I hear someone say "Durrr! Everyone knows that!" I'm going to smack them.

  • The Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by physicsphairy (720718) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:36AM (#31268548) Homepage

    Not commenting on the debate, but I think it's interesting that in an article about cognitive biases (particularly group cognitive biases) that they don't ever bother to probe the question of how such biases affect things like "scientific consensus," they only view it from the perspective of how such biases affect the freshly germinated views of the uninitated. You would think scientists, being human beings as well, would be in some way subject the same effects, and as long as questions are being raised about the human proclivity for certain viewpoints, someone might stop to wonder "in what ratio do people who go into the environmental sciences tend to be individualist or communitarian, and how is this likely to affect their judgment of related information?"

  • by poopdeville (841677) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:46AM (#31268596)

    It's spelled "douche bag". And the answer to your question is any student of the Classics. Learn something.

  • by williamhb (758070) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:47AM (#31268606) Journal

    From TFA, one of the group is defined by:"Some embrace new technology, authority and free enterprise. They are labeled the 'individualistic' group."

    Shock horror, the people who embrace new technology were more likely to embrace a new piece of technology...

    This is almost a zero-information experiment. The definitions classified the results that were then analysed against the classifications. In other news, when we classified coin tosses into a "heads" group and a "tails" group, we found that the "heads" group contained 100% heads results, no matter how many times the coin was tossed ... we conclude therefore that randomness is an illusion.

    The participants were not presented with "facts", they were presented with "claimed facts" which they had to both interpret and assess. (A process called "reading" and "understanding".) That the participants were able ahead-of-time to describe the foibles of their assessment strategies (that one group was able to say it was more amenable to new technology) merely shows that the participants were pretty good at reflecting on their own decision strategies.

    Next...

  • by poopdeville (841677) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @12:50AM (#31268630)

    People who embrace authority are "individualistic"? Who came up with that definition?

  • by The Famous Brett Wat (12688) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:02AM (#31268694) Homepage Journal

    As if religion is the only place this occurs or the only reason why people think what they think.

    You start well, but you don't go far enough. It's not just "fringe environmentalism" and other fringes where this is a problem. It's a pervasive problem throughout human thinking generally, and it is just as likely to impact mainstream science as it is the fringes. To compound the problem, humans are notoriously blind to their own biases, tending to think that their evaluation of matters is rather objective and well-founded, and that any reasonable person should come to the same conclusions. This is why people are inclined to label those with radically different views as either mentally incompetent or maliciously deceptive. These two factors intertwine: most people want to believe they are right, and so selectively see the evidence supporting the hypothesis that they are.

    The grandparent post used the term "magical thinking" -- a term that I associate with Dr Wallace Breen from Half Life 2. I submit that "magical thinking" is just a rationalist pejorative applied to the thought processes of those with whom they disagree. In other words, "magical thinking" is what those people do: the people who hold fast to some ridiculous theory. After all, thinks the rationalist, I used evidence and reasoning and came to a totally different conclusion, so their methods must consist of woolly thinking at best.

    So long as everyone is just arrogant enough to assume that their own reasoning is pretty darn reliable, this problem will persist. Maybe we should all practice a little more recreational sophistry in the hope that it will teach us to take our own straight-faced in-earnest theories a little less seriously.

  • by JesseL (107722) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:09AM (#31268732) Homepage Journal

    That's what I've been trying to wrap my head around. The article says:

    Participants in these experiments are asked to describe their cultural beliefs. Some embrace new technology, authority and free enterprise. They are labeled the "individualistic" group. Others are suspicious of authority or of commerce and industry. Braman calls them "communitarians."

    So where does someone who embraces new technology and free enterprise, but is suspicious of authority fit in?

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:26AM (#31268822) Homepage Journal

    So long as everyone is just arrogant enough to assume that their own reasoning is pretty darn reliable, this problem will persist...

    I just added rightwingnutjob as a friend because the rest of his comments made sense to me, even if I don't always agree with him. Same with Moryath and a few others.

    Maybe we should all practice a little more recreational sophistry in the hope that it will teach us to take our own straight-faced in-earnest theories a little less seriously.

    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
    -- Aristotle

    It's all cute when we're on slashdot and we can mentally masturbate all night long. But while there are people knocking on my door tryng to get me to turn to Jesus, people in congress voting for stem-cell research bans, legislators in my country asking to give creationism and "intelligent" design* as much face-time as evolution in science as opposed to philosophy classes, then I can say with a straight face that religion is a problem more than it is a romantic set of ideas; even if its idealogues aren't bombing my busses.

    * My nipples, for example.

  • wrong description (Score:4, Insightful)

    by readin (838620) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:36AM (#31268868)
    This article describes an experiment that demonstrates that people don't put as much weight on facts as they do their own belief about how the world is supposed to work.

    No, the article describes an experiment that shows that people don't necessarily trust scientists to get things right, and the degree of the trust varies by culture. This is hardly surprising. Scientists are people, and one's opinions about people tends to be a result of your interactions with people around you, most of whom are generally from your own culture. Most of what culture is is the result of such interactions. How could your culture not affect what you expect to see from a group of people?
  • by c6gunner (950153) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:37AM (#31268878)

    My counter-proposition is that if religion is abolished, large tracts of population would disappear. Religion/dogma seems to be the only thing that keeps some people going.

    You know, I keep hearing that argument, and it's just mind-boggling to me that any intelligent individual could say something so stupid. It's like claiming that abolishing cocaine would cause large tracts of the population to disappear, since cocaine is the the only thing that keeps them going.

    Yeah, if you depend on a substance or an ideology, breaking with it is going to be hard. That doesn't mean that you need it to live, or to be happy. It just means you're an addict. If you ditch your addiction, things can only get better.

  • Re:The Irony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mathfeel (937008) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:40AM (#31268896)
    There is a different. Scientists can have all the opinion they want (and many hold quite wacky ones in their own expertise). They can even be very vocal about it. But their results cannot get accepted without reaching certain level of consensus by peer review. People argue that the whole system is bad because the community is conspiring to reject their idea. I call them sore losers. They claim they cannot get their idea published because it challenge the norm and that's a big no no for the community. Bullshit! Scientists thrive on and have their reputation greatly enhanced by making break through that challenges the norms, but ONLY when doing so with good experiment and data and/or well argued theory/hypothesis. I know all the paradigm-changing paper in the history of my fields are always first published in well established journal even though "the man" and "the process" is trying is keep people down. While I can see flaws in this system, I'd say it works out pretty well in average. Remember: an known patent clerk got published in Annalen der Physik when this guy can't even convince his professor to get him a university job. Good scientist don't make claim for the sake of making a claim. My favorite example is cold fusion where those guys held press conference way before they check their experiment and try to redo it at least once. Some people never accept the fact that they are just doing bad science (some probably deliberately) or their data are just not very valuable.
  • by pengin9 (1595865) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:42AM (#31268906)

    But while there are people knocking on my door tryng to get me to turn to Jesus, people in congress voting for stem-cell research bans, legislators in my country asking to give creationism and "intelligent" design* as much face-time as evolution in science as opposed to philosophy classes, then I can say with a straight face that religion is a problem more than it is a romantic set of ideas; even if its idealogues aren't bombing my busses.

    I'd say you've proven the point of this article, your religious beliefs prevent you from accepting alternate arguments based more on your beliefs than actual facts. remember the great song lyrics, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice. really I believe there is no way to be completely impartial towards an idea, but if we at least try to view both sides of the argument as fairly as we can, we can at least come to a better and firmer grasp of why we have beliefs in the first place, or hopefully admit our failures and change our beliefs.

  • Re:Hurr. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:47AM (#31268934) Homepage Journal

    What you say in your reply post is entirely reasonable. But casting it as a "restatement" is disingenuous at best. Your original post was a broadside against scientific practice; now that you've been called on it, you're retreating and saying "well, what I really meant was ..." when you're actually saying something quite different and much more limited.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:55AM (#31268972)

    but if we at least try to view both sides of the argument as fairly as we can

    Good, I'll behead your entire family, then I'll convince your kids that I shat the whole world out of my ass so they will grow up to behead somebody else's family. But you can understand, right? Just put yourself in my shoes, hombre. Physics is a tool of the devil. Rush sings the Satanic Verses. Rush, Rushdie, who cares. All tools of the devil.

  • by benjamindees (441808) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @02:10AM (#31269062) Homepage

    Those people go into the "terrorist" group. This was a gov't funded study. Those who fail to fit into the left-right pseudo-dichotomy are impossible to manipulate and placate with the trite bread-and-circus show that is modern US politics.

  • by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @02:36AM (#31269178)

    Good false compromise there buddy:

    An individual demonstrating the false compromise fallacy implies that the positions being considered represent extremes of a continuum of opinions, and that such extremes are always wrong, and the middle ground is always correct [1] . This is not always the case. Sometimes only X or Y is acceptable, with no middle ground possible. Additionally, the middle ground fallacy allows any position to be invalidated, even those that have been reached by previous applications of the same method; all one must do is present yet another, radically opposed position, and the middle-ground compromise will be forced closer to that position. In politics, this is part of the basis behind Overton Window Theory.

    I suppose you believe we should "consider" the anti-AGW nutjobs` ranting as legitimate, regardless of how unfounded and stupid it is?

  • by Bjecas (1753752) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @02:53AM (#31269280)

    So long as everyone is just arrogant enough to assume that their own reasoning is pretty darn reliable, this problem will persist.

    I enjoyed reading you post, and agree with what you say but for one aspect. One is not arrogant for believing one's reasoning is reliable, that is a necessity and a consequence of reasoning itself.

    The problem (if there is one...) lies in other areas, mostly in how much one weights each fact involved. That is where culture and beliefs come into play, and it's this differential value that allows for disparate, but valid, reasoning.

  • by bit9 (1702770) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:18AM (#31269396)

    You start well, but go too far.

    With regard to biased thinking being a pervasive problem, you are spot on. However, you throw the baby out with the bath water when you assert that all human thought is hopelessly biased, and that rationalism (and presumably, all other epistemological frameworks as well) is nothing more than a convenient way to disguise one's biases. If that's true, then science, philosophy, and all other human endeavors which involve the pursuit of truth and knowledge are merely various forms of bias masquerading as rational thought. I don't deny that we humans are all, by our very nature, incapable of 100% pure rational thought. However, most of us are, at least, capable of short spurts of mostly rational thought. Unless you believe that all of mankind's progress over the last few thousand years can be attributed to the "monkeys with typewriters" effect, I don't see how you can conclude that rationalism and biased thinking are merely two sides of the same coin.

    Furthermore, both you and the grandparent completely misused the term "magical thinking". Magical thinking [wikipedia.org] is not merely a synonym for bias, it is (in the words of the Wiki article) "causal reasoning that applies unwarranted weight to coincidence and often includes such ideas as the ability of the mind to affect the physical world (see the philosophical problem of mental causation), and correlation mistaken for causation."

  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3 AT justconnected DOT net> on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:32AM (#31269452)

    This is why logic should be a required part of high school. Perhaps not coincidentally, your sig fits what I'm about to say perfectly.

    Humans can, and do, come to conclusions without bias. We see this a lot in science (by no means always), and we see it in mathematics etc. In other words, there are some things to be 'right' about - but more importantly, our obviously flawed thought processes can come to them.

    A mathematical proof that sqrt(2) is not rational, or the infinitude of primes, is simply true - assuming you take as a given the rules of mathematics (a reasonable assumption). Our brains are therefore capable of devising such incontrovertible statements and reasons - but how?

    I submit that we can only improve our reasoning abilities by learning our mental weaknesses - that is, being able to go over a mental argument and methodically examine all sources of bias. This would be required by a logic class.

    Logic teaches you how to think. If everybody knew how to think, we wouldn't have any of the associated junk like PETA, fear of "death panels", or any of this Creationism crap.

    But so few people actually know how to think. It's really the only way we can rise above our capricious biology.

  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3 AT justconnected DOT net> on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:38AM (#31269482)

    I'm not so sure I care. I'm an atheist, but was raised Catholic. I didn't disappear - I just realized that we turn to dust when we die, there's no reason behind anything, and we should make the most of our lives. It might be depressing if I wasn't happy with my life and how I'm leading it.

    Going off heroin can kill you too. And I even concede that in a hypothetical world where religion disappeared one night, people might kill themselves. But the next generation would be raised with no ingrained religious misconceptions about the world, so the benefit would come fairly quickly.

    In any case, how many religious people kill themselves because their life sucks, and it occurs to them that their lifelong friend God couldn't possibly be on their side?

  • Re:The Irony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bunratty (545641) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:41AM (#31269498)

    "It doesn't matter whether you show them negative or positive information, they reject the information that is contrary to what they would like to believe, and they glom onto the positive information," Braman says.

    Does this sound like what you're doing? Ignoring the hundreds of papers on global warming, and focusing on a handful of emails that involve a few climatologists? There are outright frauds in science all the time, and people don't blow those out of all proportion. Why do you do it with AGW? Oh, I get it, it doesn't conform with what you would like to believe. Duh!

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:50AM (#31269546)

    You're right, we must crush the intolerant! If people aren't willing to open their minds to new ideas, we'll open their skulls for them, instead!

    </sarcasm>

    Curshing ignorance isn't the same as crushing ignorant people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 25, 2010 @03:52AM (#31269560)

    Never, because I've been right all along. Suck on that!

  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @04:05AM (#31269604)

    Generally if an argument includes a "global conspiracy" (like a "global conspiracy to destroy the American economy" or a "global conspiracy to destroy technological advance") we can safely dismiss it. Conspiracies are harder and harder to maintain the bigger the number of involved people becomes and involving 90% of the globe would be impossible. Besides, if the rest of the world wanted to destroy the American economy wouldn't a trade war work better than appealing to the ethics of politicians?

  • by dangitman (862676) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @04:06AM (#31269608)

    Which is why religion and all other straight-faced magical thinking should be abolished.

    I'm as big an atheist as anyone, but the way you phrased this sent shivers down my spine. I'd love it if religion and magical thinking went by the wayside because people decided of their own free will that it was bunk, but saying it "should be abolished" implies an active destruction that doesn't bode so well if you think about history.

    It's also scary because so many religious fundamentalists (who outnumber the atheists) believe in abolishing the atheists. And they don't intend to do it peacefully.

  • by bit9 (1702770) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @04:25AM (#31269680)

    I'd say you've proven the point of this article, your religious beliefs prevent you from accepting alternate arguments ...

    I'd say you missed the point of the article, which was not that all viewpoints are equally valid, and that therefore, the only mechanism by which Person A could possibly dismiss Person B's viewpoint is by being blinded by his own biases. The point of the article was that people will ignore facts that don't jive with their own biases. In the case of the grandparent dismissing Christianity, exactly what facts has he ignored? There are no facts that support religion. Religion is based purely on faith, and survives only through indoctrination, not by any preponderance of facts or evidence.

    Yet, you've managed to interpret TFA as meaning that anybody who dismisses another's ideas and/or beliefs, regardless of their rationale for doing so, is guilty of succumbing to their own biases. This implies that there is no such thing as a logical basis for dismissing an idea, which necessarily means that all ideas are equally valid. And since there are many conflicting ideas, this also implies, somewhat paradoxically, that all ideas are equally invalid. In other words, it's all relative, there is no such thing as truth, and basically, anything goes (except for dismissing someone else's idea, that is).

    I'm sure that this is not, in fact, the meaning you intended, but it is the logical conclusion of what you said. Yes, "try[ing] to view both sides of the argument as fairly as we can" is a good thing, indeed. But at some point, you have to allow for there to be disagreement, or else it just devolves into the morass of relativism I described above, which means, for instance, that ancient beliefs about volcanoes and earthquakes being caused by angry gods are just as "correct" as the modern science of plate-tectonics. That's a bunch of crap, if you ask me. But then, I suppose you could just conveniently counter that I'm only dismissing the "angry gods" theory because I'm blinded by my own biases regarding plate-tectonics.

    Further, you assert that the grandparent's views on religion are "based more on [his] beliefs than actual facts", which blindly assumes that you know what his line of reasoning was, even though he did not address that in his post. Calling someone out on their poor reasoning skills and their closed-mindedness, when you have in fact assumed (i.e., completely fabricated) what his line of reasoning was, and are apparently no more open to his religious beliefs than he is to yours? Really??? That just reeks of hypocrisy!

  • by GrubLord (1662041) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @04:40AM (#31269754)

    Well, yeah, when you systematically slaughter millions of priests, nuns and clergy and burn down all the churches, you tend to "solve" the problem of religion to some degree...

    You'd think an all-powerful God might have something to say about all that priest-killing...

    What's the church's stance on God's inaction there, anyway? They had it coming?

  • by Anci3nt of Days (1615945) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @05:14AM (#31269908)

    Teaching logic is vital to any form of critical reasoning or argument construction. It would have been an excellent idea except that it doesn't fit with the current 'teach you what we want you to believe' curriculum. Be it the current 'science is everything' position, or pastafarianism, the approach fails when it attempts to dictate what to think.

    Logic itself is insufficient as it can only confirm the logical validity of an opinion, never its accuracy. I'll illustrate by following your reasoning: you hypothesise that we can improve reasoning by examining bias; you assert that humans can come to conclusions without bias; you assume the rules of mathematics apply (reasonable I agree); you apply those rules to a mathematical problem to propose that a statement is 'simply true'; you extrapolate that we therefore can devise statements that are incontrovertible (that is, 'not false'); thus you prove your assertion; then extrapolate to prove your hypothesis for all statements made without bias.

    Logic demonstrates the validity of your reasoning, showing each progression. It does not demonstrate that the final position itself is correct, only that it is not incorrect. Logic may demonstrate that I am not incorrect in believing evolution, pastafarianism, or love, but not that the statement 'all should worship his noodleage' is correct.

    I think that if people knew how to think, you would have more of the PETA etc groups as everyone would have their own, logically valid positions on every issue. The issue isn't the logical process (although that weeds out some pseudo-scientific positions), but that logic requires a final position that is either true or false, and we have chosen to reject the idea that any source may dictate or define absolute truth. This requires us to 'prove' the absolute truth on any issue, which is only possible by testing every hypothesis - which is impossible.

    Improving logic skills would be excellent, but until there is proven absolute truth (currently only possible in maths), all logic can show is that you are validly uncertain.

  • by bit9 (1702770) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @05:25AM (#31269932)

    You know, I keep hearing that argument, and it's just mind-boggling to me that any intelligent individual could say something so stupid. It's like claiming that abolishing cocaine would cause large tracts of the population to disappear, since cocaine is the the only thing that keeps them going.

    I'm not saying I buy the GP's argument (at least not completely), but I think you vastly underestimate how important religion is to some people. The cocaine=religion analogy doesn't really stand up very well under scrutiny. And I'm not merely making the obvious observation that all analogies are flawed and fall apart if you examine them closely enough - I'm saying this one is worse than most.

    Yes, many people who are addicted to cocaine may actually feel that they cannot live without the drug. But religion is not merely a drug - it is intertwined with all of the most important unanswerable questions in life. Does life have purpose? Is there such a thing as The Truth? Is there life after death? Will I see my lost loved ones again someday? Is there justice in this world? Will good ultimately prevail over evil? Why must there be so much suffering?

    As an agnostic, I am used to having my religious friends and family members say that I'm just taking the easy way out. To them, no God means no responsibility, no sense of duty, no moral quandaries, no church on Sunday, etc, etc. However, as I'm sure many agnostics can tell you, being an agnostic is anything but easy. All of those Big Unanswerable Questions weigh heavily on you - much more so than for religious people who've found all of those questions conveniently answered by their religion of choice. Meanwhile, I've spent nearly my entire life being constantly tormented by those questions. Some mornings, I find it excruciatingly difficult to drag myself out of bed, because I'm desperately trying to figure out "What the fuck is the point of all this?" Don't confuse this with depression. I am not merely depressed. In fact, most days, I don't feel depressed at all. I enjoy life. But those questions are always there, always eating away at me, making it difficult to function at times.

    I'm not trying to sound "deep" or compare myself to philosophers like Tolstoy who were nearly driven mad by those questions. I'm merely observing that life is difficult enough already without the struggle to find meaning. With that struggle, life can be unbearable at times. And for a lot of people, religion is the only thing that can fill that void and make life worth living, or at least seem to be so. I get the whole "religion is just a crutch for weak minds" thing. I really do. I felt that way in my early 20's. But I'm in my late 30's now, and all those questions have been a heavy burden on me in the intervening years. So although I'm still as much of an agnostic as I ever was, much of my arrogance has been replaced with understanding. My agnosticism is no longer something that makes me feel superior. In many ways, I actually envy my religious friends, and if I could force myself to believe in God, I probably would. Don't think I haven't tried - numerous times. I'm just not wired for faith, it seems.

    Anyway, the point is, given how deeply intertwined religion is with those things which weigh most heavily on the human mind (or "soul", if you believe there is one), I don't think the cocaine analogy, nor the implied addiction model of religious belief, even come close to explaining why people adhere so steadfastly to religion. It's a LOT deeper and a LOT more complicated than you give it credit for.

  • Re:Oh well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @05:25AM (#31269936)

    "Depends on who's picking the facts ... "

    Atheist: "I'll believe it when I see it."

    Non-Atheist: "I'll see it when I believe it."

    Trying to explain to the ostrich that the hyena can still see him is a waste of time as it is pretty damn hard to hear anything with sand in your ears.

  • Re:Hurr. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrb (1083577) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @05:46AM (#31270014)

    Scientists see results in their studies that they are looking for.... This study is pretty bad

    Interesting. You came to this article with a preconceived belief that scientists are idiots and/or self-deceiving, and then you applied that belief to the scientists in question without properly evaluating their research - I assume you haven't bothered to read any of the peer-reviewed journal published papers from this research group, and are just relying on a few quotes from the media and a Slashdot summary to confirm your predetermined bias?

  • by imakemusic (1164993) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @06:44AM (#31270314)

    Have you ever been addicted to cocaine?

  • by Wain13001 (1119071) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @07:50AM (#31270584)

    did you just miss the 2 whole paragraphs where he talks about 'faith in the Party?'

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @07:53AM (#31270598) Homepage

    If you use both you realize quite quickly that quantum mechanics, aeronautical engineering and medicine are sciences,

    Uh, have you actually looked at the methods used in medicine? Medical research done on mice is science. Medicine as practiced on humans is well-informed artistry with lots of tradition acting as governance. That isn't meant as a condemnation - the ethical constraints practitioners operate under greatly inhibits their ability to do real science.

    Even the best clinical trials tend to show what would in most other fields be considered tenuous results. Based on their confidence limits we can already assume that 5% of the BEST trials reach completely incorrect conclusions. All doctors can do is make the most of the information that reaches them - science-based medicine is better than the alternative, but it is still limited which is why medicine progresses slower than say, electrical engineering.

    The problem with medicine is the same problem we have with environmentalism. In both cases we can't perform well-controlled experiments. In the former it is due to ethical issues, and in the latter it is due to having only a single test subject.

  • by martyros (588782) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @08:53AM (#31270938)

    Which is why religion and all other straight-faced magical thinking should be abolished.

    Statements like this are exactly the point of this experiment. You obviously have some beliefs about religion, and if I gave you a set of new facts, you would interpret them in light of your beliefs, and resist changing them.

    The point of these experiments isn't to look at everyone else and say, "Yeah, they're all screwed up." The point is to look at yourself and say, "Do I have beliefs for which I am discarding / reshaping evidence to fit them?" Every human on the face of this planet has the same exact tendency. And that means every atheist, every Liberal, every Republican, every religious person, every man, every woman. And most importantly, that means YOU.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @09:04AM (#31271028) Journal

    You'd think an all-powerful God might have something to say about all that priest-killing...

    Let's see what he said about killing priests:

    1 Kings 18:40: And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape . And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

    Seems he's fine with it, as long as they believe the all-powerful God has a different name.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @09:14AM (#31271086) Homepage Journal

    In fact, in most arguments neither side is fully right: if you notice, discussions where two people are discussing something with the intent of reaching a destination instead of winning points will often end with a conclusion which does not exact match the inital argument of any of them.

    Initial POV 1: God exists.
    Initial POV 2: God does not exist.
    [discussion]
    Conclusion: God exists on Mondays, Fridays and alternate Sundays.

  • by Mikkeles (698461) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @09:29AM (#31271208)

    Well, unless you count extreme political views as a religion.

    Not a religion, another ideology of which the proponents are just as unthinking.

  • Broken logic (Score:2, Insightful)

    by evanh (627108) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @09:44AM (#31271334)

    The problem with that particular subject matter - Global Warming - is that people have already been convinced through a smear campaign that the facts were politically motivated. Result is blinkered, heavy filtering of all input relating to global warming simply because they think it's all lies. Not because of any standing beliefs or "cultural identities".

    And part of that smear campaign has now convinced them that science in general is a political entity and should be treated as if it's just one little pesky politician that needs banished for good.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @10:11AM (#31271628)

    I suspect that most people in this world are very much unaware that they do belong to "tribes", how they have "authority figures" and how they influence one's behaviour.

    In fact, i reckon that most Slashdoters have never looked at Slashdot as the tribe it is.

    The problem with your argument is that it relies on the targets having the know-how and self awareness to understand it and recognize themselfs on it.

    Countless sessions of friendly discussions with the local Jehovah's Witnesses that pop-up at my door (when I have the time and the passience) have taught me that those that believe the strongest and the truest are usually the most ignorant of their own compulsions, motivations and sorrounding social pressures.

    In other words, your post was either like preaching to the converts or like pearls to pigs.

  • Re:The Irony (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stdarg (456557) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @10:21AM (#31271724)

    Why do you do it with AGW? Oh, I get it, it doesn't conform with what you would like to believe. Duh!

    And you're assuming that, ironically, because it's just what you would like to believe. There are good reasons for hyperfocusing on AGW errors -- AGW scientists have a decent chance of influencing legislation that will cost trillions and trillions of dollars, potentially ruin the economies of those who try to engage with it (if others don't play equally), and change the balance and distribution of wealth in the entire world (to the disadvantage of developed nations). Someone who hyperfocuses on problems in AGW isn't necessarily doing it because they are closed minded.

  • Cultural abuse? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tigre (178245) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @10:47AM (#31271980)

    By your argument, raising your children within a culture of any sort could be an "abuse of human nature and damages your free will to an extent that is [irreparable]". Religion is just a peculiar sort of culture which is entwined with, but not at all synonymous with, spirituality. As such, it generally does have a stronger impact than, say, what type of music you listen to, but it is still ultimately a culture issue. We all are influenced by our origins, and make choices as a result. Life in the long run is largely about progressing from that origin to a better place, often requiring that we recognize that our free will is not as "damaged" as we think, no matter what we have gone through. Granted, there are exceedingly many examples where religion is used as a cudgel to beat down free will, and it leads people to make horrible choices, and woe to those who wield such weapons. I do not mean in any way to excuse such actual abuse. But you overstate the case that "making" someone into a Christian or Muslim or Jew is in and of itself abusive.

    I for one view myself as a Christian (culturally) who pursues Jesus as a spiritual choice. I know plenty of people who share one of the two labels above but not both. I don't advocate abolishing all Christian or religious cultures, but I am totally on board with loosening the coupling between religious cultures and spiritual choices because in the end it will only be good for people.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday February 25, 2010 @11:55AM (#31272728) Homepage Journal

    One reason I love slashdot is I often learn things from people here, and very often find that what I knew has been superceded; facts change. I have had opinions changed by others' well thought out arguments.

    However, no argumant you can make, no facts you can trot out, will get me to believe that cats don't exist, because there are three of them in my house. You won;t get me to believe that there are no such things as elephants, because I've been to the zoo.

    I can say with a straight face that religion is a problem more than it is a romantic set of ideas

    It isn't the rligion that is the problem, but the people who violate your rights in its name ("knocking on my door tryng to get me to turn to Jesus") that are the problem. People who misunderstand their own religion are the problem, not the religion itself.

  • Re:The Irony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bunratty (545641) on Thursday February 25, 2010 @01:49PM (#31274586)

    I'm sure you can always find "problems" to hyperfocus on. If we delay acting while there are "problems", we'll never act. If AGW is happening, dealing with its effects will cost more trillions and trillions of dollars than avoiding it. If there are actual problems with the hypothesis of AGW, all someone needs to do is write a paper. Taking emailed comments out of context isn't the way to show AGW isn't happening. We need actual scientific evidence. You know, the actual facts.

    Surely if you're worried about wasting trillions and trillions of dollars you can write a well researched and well reasoned essay about why we should not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday February 25, 2010 @07:57PM (#31279718)

    I don't think it's reasonable to characterize the Bible as a suspicious. The Bible in it's present compiled form has been subject to rigorous literary criticism for sixteen hundred years(and the majority of the Bible has been subject to this treatment for significantly longer than that, with the law of Moses being some three thousand and five hundred years old). I've not heard challenge to it's credibility that would warrant the description you have provided here. I can't prove that those who wrote it were telling the truth, but there is good reason to believe it was written when it claims to have been written.

    Likewise, there is good reason to believe these have been used as holy texts for that whole time, and that the books which are presented in the new testament give an accurate account of the early christian movement and philosophy associated with it. Even if the books themselves were not written by the saints, they were definitely written by people associated with the movement, when it was first taking shape. Books which meet that description are generally considered to be a reliable source of historical information (most of the literature doccumenting antiquity is significantly less reliable than that).

    Apart from the claims of supernatural occurrences, do you have any reason to believe it is incredible? Whether or not someone will accept it as true has a lot to do with their life experiences when they learn of it, so someone else who has personally experienced some of the things the Bible speaks of will be convinced, while if you have not, you probably won't find it believable.

    The Bible is not like the book or Mormon, which makes claims to have been written thousands of years ago and have been recently translated, but offering no proof of the matter. All indications are that it has been continually in use since it's creation, and describes historical events which are supported by archeological investigations and other historical texts.

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