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Is there hope? Even after religion? - Comments

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 1 by Schrodinger's Cat

Human beings are inherently irrational creatures. Remove one source of irrationality, and people will flock to another like moths are attracted to a flame.

I don't think one will ever remove that irrationality. Nor would one want to, as it is the source of some of our greatest art and literature. The goal of humanism should not be the complete erradication of all that is irrational, but the surpassing of it. Going beyond our feeble limitations is what puts the 'Sapiens' in our species.

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 19:02:15 UTC | #915092

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 2 by Alan4discussion

No amount of evidence or reasoning will convince a determined conspiracy theorist. The best that can usually be achieved is to refute their arguments or make them a laughing stock to a watching audience. The bigoted denier will be unconvinced, but the spread of the nonsense will be reduced or reversed.

Such people are frequently of limited intelligence or reasoning capability, so depend on being spoon-fed simplistic pre-digested twaddle from advertising, the media, or the internet.

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 19:36:40 UTC | #915108

zengardener's Avatar Comment 3 by zengardener

Irrational thought is the product of an impoverished mind. Nobody is perfect, but the goal of eliminating irrational thought is laudable.

This is separate from fantasy and emotions.

I am an avid Fantasy and sci-fi fan, and I detest the irrational. One can savor the emotions without losing sight of what emotions really are.

The way to fight irrationality in our societies is to expose it and ridicule it. Solid rational thought doesn't always come naturally, therefore I suggest that logic should be taught from primary school on up.

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 19:47:15 UTC | #915112

potteryshard's Avatar Comment 4 by potteryshard

Google continually rates and re-rates websites on a variety of metrics to judge how salesworthy and popular a site is, and how well it matches up to the reader's interests.

As a public service, and later as another revenue stream, Google could devise a similar algorithm to compare the ideas expressed on a web site with ideas expressed on more responsible, evidential, and plausible websites. Certainly, debunking websites exist, but those require specific actions to look at the suspect website, and to search out the results of that investigation.

Having a bullshit factor rating automatically associated with all idea-based websites wouldn't prohibit free expression, but it would certainly provide a clue for searchers to avoid wasting time or brain-sweat on the lunatic fringe.

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 19:47:56 UTC | #915113

cynicaloptimistrealist's Avatar Comment 5 by cynicaloptimistrealist

When partially ignorant on something many people have a tendency to resort to the irrational or emotional. I find the easiest way to deflate an irrational belief or conspiracy theory is to ask questions which subtly expose the gaps, if nothing else is achieved it will force the person to examine their mindset and they may end up discovering the flaws in their world view through a little research.

Homeopathy - Do you realise that the active ingredients are dilluted to miniscule proportions? If so, if you had a headache would you grind up an aspirin, sprinkle the dust into a lake and then drink a glass of water from the lake believing that would cure your headache?

African Witches/Witchcraft/Faith Healing - If you had a stomach ache and someone kicked you in the testicles, do you think you'd still be aware of your stomach ache? If you/a loved one suffered a serious injury and was losing blood would you seek out a witch doctor or a medical doctor?

Pyramid Conspiracies - First question has to be 10,000 years? Really? Then why do all the accepted scientific dating methods place them as being 5,000 years old at most? How then does this "American scientist" account for the graves of pyramid labourers which have been found?

Moon Landing - Why didn't the Soviets and the Chinese say this in 1969? They were diametrically opposed at that time, they had the resources to expose trickery and they had the motive to publicise it if they even had the slightest suspicion, so how come they never said or published anything denying the American version of events?

Freemason Media Domination - Then why are the programmes on such networks not politically motivating people towards a particular cause? Are they that inept? Have you heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? It was a fake document which accused the Jews and Freemasons of conspiring to dominate the world, don't you think this media theory is just the same idea with the anti-semitism removed?

9/11 False Flag - Do you really think so? Didn't you see the video of GW Bush looking like a chimp with alzheimer's when he was first informed about the event? Do you think the man had the intelligence to act so skillfully? If it was a false flag attack, don't you think they would have chosen a target where the economic impact would have been reduced?

I think there is hope. If you're dealing with people who are otherwise rational you can generally get them to at least question what they have been told or read on the internet. I think if you approach the issue with a little humour, questions that make them study the issue and some evidence they are more likely to come to their senses.

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 20:53:40 UTC | #915134

Spawny Rosary's Avatar Comment 6 by Spawny Rosary

The reaon people believe these things are largely covered in Michael Shermer's book, the Believing Brain, which I'm working my way through just now. Advice, however, on what to do, I'm not so strong on. Try to get critical thinking in the curriculum?

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 21:26:38 UTC | #915144

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert

Hell is other people...

Of course, the odd one or two friends in life, makes it all worthwhile.

Mon, 06 Feb 2012 23:54:23 UTC | #915179

Starcrash's Avatar Comment 8 by Starcrash

Comment 1 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Human beings are inherently irrational creatures. Remove one source of irrationality, and people will flock to another like moths are attracted to a flame.

I think this is just pessimistic. Irrationality is not a permanent condition. First you identify ways that you are irrational, and then you make a conscious effort to avoid those irrational behaviors when they manifest. Not everyone is willing to make improvements to himself or herself, but you can only help the people that you can help. The first step is education, and that's what websites like this one work on. Isn't that why we're here?

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 00:07:12 UTC | #915182

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 9 by Alan4discussion

Comment 5 by cynicaloptimistrealist

When partially ignorant on something many people have a tendency to resort to the irrational or emotional. I find the easiest way to deflate an irrational belief or conspiracy theory is to ask questions which subtly expose the gaps, if nothing else is achieved it will force the person to examine their mindset and they may end up discovering the flaws in their world view through a little research.

If you look at some of the earlier climate-change discussions, you will see me ask AGW deniers (who claim the climate scientists got their calculations wrong) to list the scientific subject areas which provide the input data for the calculations!

They can be seen to have no idea whatever of the subjects or the measuring techniques, let alone the methods of calculation using them, - but never-the-less are adamant that the calculations are wrong, so they remain "unconvinced"!

For rational observers it would be quite comical, if it was not such a serious subject!

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 00:08:40 UTC | #915183

Quetzalcoatlus's Avatar Comment 10 by Quetzalcoatlus

Comment 1 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Human beings are inherently irrational creatures. Remove one source of irrationality, and people will flock to another like moths are attracted to a flame.

I don't think one will ever remove that irrationality. Nor would one want to, as it is the source of some of our greatest art and literature. The goal of humanism should not be the complete erradication of all that is irrational, but the surpassing of it. Going beyond our feeble limitations is what puts the 'Sapiens' in our species.

Irrationality is okey if you know that it is fictional.

Lord of the Rings is a great book very well written and good fun to read from back to back. But better not to be deluded to start a quest to search the one ring:

"In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."

However the irrationality I am talking is the one that shapes the decisions and beliefs of millions. The people that believe truly (for example) that homeopathy is a viable alternative to medicine, and are even capable to exposing their children to avoidable suffering, because of their wicked beliefs. These beliefs need to be erradicated, but how? Even educated people seems to go along with irrational claims of pseudo sciences, and that is sad.

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 08:39:42 UTC | #915243

Quetzalcoatlus's Avatar Comment 11 by Quetzalcoatlus

Comment 2 by Alan4discussion :

No amount of evidence or reasoning will convince a determined conspiracy theorist. The best that can usually be achieved is to refute their arguments or make them a laughing stock to a watching audience. The bigoted denier will be unconvinced, but the spread of the nonsense will be reduced or reversed.

Such people are frequently of limited intelligence or reasoning capability, so depend on being spoon-fed simplistic pre-digested twaddle from advertising, the media, or the internet.

Yes indeed, seems a possibility. However they may not be willing to continue discussing with you about their beliefs. I still hope I can help some people to recognize the impossibility of their ideas. Bring them to a more rational perspective of life.

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 08:47:52 UTC | #915244

bigcat's Avatar Comment 12 by bigcat

I'm not sure I agree with some of the above comments. In my experience educated, intelligent people often go for conspiracy theories, astrology or homeopathy.

I think it's different from religion in that it's kind of based on evidence, just not very good evidence - critical thinking done badly if you like. I've found that it is possible to get people to look at better evidence, and to learn to reason better.

For example, with astrology, if you believe there is a force influencing your life, from the planets, what is it? How does it work? We know about gravity, and how that works, so come on, what's this force that means I'm going to get rich/fall in love, or whatever? Getting them to explain it to you can become the realization that actually they haven't really thought it through. I've seen it happen. It might not happen straight away - often people will come back later and say: "Hey, I was wrong about that!" It's important to give them to think about it.

So, yes there is hope. I think we have to keep trying anyway.

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 10:09:29 UTC | #915250

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

Comment 11 by Quetzalcoatlus

However they may not be willing to continue discussing with you about their beliefs.

That is true, but it can be a trade off if ignoring those who are a dead-loss and taking the message to more productive ground.

I still hope I can help some people to recognize the impossibility of their ideas. Bring them to a more rational perspective of life.

This comes down to judgement of the possible success or failure of the attempt. I live in an area where the majority are non-religious, so dismissing creationists claims is fairly easy. (I have been rebuked by ranting street preachers - for making comments which caused their audience to laugh at them - they are not amused at further laughter at the rebuke - failing to take "The Word" seriously) Comedy is a great tool in dealing with the posturing ridiculous, where reasoning is a waste of time!

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 10:09:58 UTC | #915251

crucialfictionofjesus's Avatar Comment 14 by crucialfictionofjesus

Pyramid Conspiracies

Bloody hell! The best a society that had developed interstellar travel could do is make a fucking pile of stones...

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 16:16:33 UTC | #915300

Helga Vieirch's Avatar Comment 15 by Helga Vieirch

Fantasy is fun. People love stories. We love to find, or, if not, to invent, causal connections. We love explanations. A good story gives us a hit of dopamine. A plausible explanation to a mystery does the same. And, since we like to give others pleasure, and this reinforces our own pleasure, we like to spread the "word" concerning these stories and explanations that gave us pleasure.

The next step, however, of testing the causal explanation by gathering more data, is one many do not take. That is much more work, and much less fun than simply repeating the tale to others.

It really is work. The brain's energy consumption goes up by 20-30 % when we are made to think hard about a problem.

I wonder if the idea of critical thinking might catch on as a weight-loss strategy?

Seriously, though, there must be hope. If children learn early what incredible fun it is to actually do research, (even if only to prove or disprove popular beliefs), a significant number might well get hooked on shifting their brains into high gear on a regular basis.

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 17:26:18 UTC | #915311

StephenH's Avatar Comment 16 by StephenH

I'll be honest, and admit, i fell for some of this, when i was in my early 20's

The study of lucid dreams, and umm (hides behind the sofa) ghosts Unidentified Flying Objects (i did see right away for myself, how poor many of the photographs were, but it's still fun, to find the true rational explanations)

I read some stuff about: the illumanti, and various world conspiracy theories

I don't hold much hope, even after religion... 'a sucker born every minute'

'teach the sucker some critical thinking skills, and they won't be a sucker for life'

Best i can do, right now

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 20:18:43 UTC | #915374

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 17 by rrh1306

At least Lucid Dreaming is a real thing. And quite fun too.

Comment 16 by StephenH :

I'll be honest, and admit, i fell for some of this, when i was in my early 20's

The study of lucid dreams, and umm (hides behind the sofa) ghosts Unidentified Flying Objects (i did see right away for myself, how poor many of the photographs were, but it's still fun, to find the true rational explanations)

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 20:24:09 UTC | #915377

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 18 by rrh1306

Superstition will all ways be popular with people because the stories are cut and dry and simple. How were the Pyramids built? Aliens. How did people get to the moon? They didn't. How did the universe we see around us get to be the way it is? God. Until humans invent a way to download information directly into the minds of all the people who refuse to do any in depth research into anything, I think these kind stories in some form or another will persist.

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 20:36:39 UTC | #915381

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 19 by rrh1306

Comment Removed by Author

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 20:37:51 UTC | #915383

LucyHarcarty's Avatar Comment 20 by LucyHarcarty

people commenting here know so much about everything it seems, without specifically citing how in many cases. it's very impressive

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 22:47:27 UTC | #915430

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 21 by the great teapot

homeopathy is very well named. It has a very holistic herbal medicine ring to it, for many years even though i knew what homeopathy was and what a crock of shite it was I would often confuse it momenteraly in my mind with a semi serious branch of medicine, by the time I had remebered what it was the moment for ridicule was lost. I have also met a freind of a freind in a pub who was "studying" homeopathy, i didn't have the heart to confront her. I suspect that most know it's bollocks but don't like to say, wrong i know, or don't know what it is. Having said that my local GP's practice does have a doctor who practices homeopathy on their books. Once again I bit my tounge and resisted the temptation to mock when asked if I wanted the gp who practised homeopathy.

Tue, 07 Feb 2012 23:57:02 UTC | #915455

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 22 by Richard Dawkins

G K Chesterton (a leading Catholic) said "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing — they believe in anything." I've always thought it rather a silly remark, sounding very quotable but unsubstantiated. I am rather discouraged by Quetzalcoatlus into thinking perhaps it wasn't all that silly after all. If the evidence is valid, it seems to suggest that people have given up religion for the wrong reasons.If you give up religion for rational reasons, exactly the same reasons should lead you to disbelieve homeopathy etc.

I was once honoured by CSICOP, the 'skeptical' organisations founded by Paul Kurtz, and I was scolded after my acceptance speech for saying that they should go after religion for exactly the same reasons as they go after homeopathy, crystal healing etc. I think the reason for my scolding was that some leading members of the 'skeptical' community, and, perhaps more significantly, donors, were devoted to religion: therefore, in my view, not real sceptics at all.

Richard

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 03:39:42 UTC | #915497

Akaei's Avatar Comment 23 by Akaei

Belief is the default position.

False and coincidental positives are more interesting than "no supporting evidence." And that which is interesting is more likely to be considered, remembered and repeated.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 03:50:19 UTC | #915498

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

I'd like to look at some of your article another way:

First, I am overwhelmed by the level of acceptance of homeopathy. I would say that around 50% of the people here believe there is some benefit in using homeopathy. When you ask them why they think is a benefit, either they answer: a) it is natural medicine made from herbs (so they confuse homeopathy with herbal medicine) or b) there are no side-effects (which is correct, as there are no effects at all). However, they do not seem to acknowledge the fact that the active product has been diluted to the maximum, and that homeopathy has been shown to have no more effect than a placebo.

Isn't it encouraging that 50% don't believe in homeopathy? And isn't it also rather good that some only believe in homeopathy because they have confused it with herbal medicine?

As for the beliefs in faked missions, and all sorts of other crazy ideas, it's worth remembering that the internet is a superconductor of stupidity - it can flow everywhere without resistance. It's easy to find stupidity, but that ease does not mean it's universal.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 04:01:57 UTC | #915500

lago's Avatar Comment 25 by lago

Carl Sagan covers exactly this very well in the first chapter of Demon Haunted World. He suggests that many people are interested in what they think is science, but do not have the knowledge to differentiate real science from pseudo-science. I highly recommend the book if you are interested in an easy to read overview of the subject. The story of the dragon in my garage is unforgettable.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 07:19:05 UTC | #915538

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 26 by Premiseless

Comment 22 by Richard Dawkins :

G K Chesterton (a leading Catholic) said "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing — they believe in anything." I've always thought it rather a silly remark, sounding very quotable but unsubstantiated. I am rather discouraged by Quetzalcoatlus into thinking perhaps it wasn't all that silly after all. If the evidence is valid, it seems to suggest that people have given up religion for the wrong reasons.If you give up religion for rational reasons, exactly the same reasons should lead you to disbelieve homeopathy etc.

I was once honoured by CSICOP, the 'skeptical' organisations founded by Paul Kurtz, and I was scolded after my acceptance speech for saying that they should go after religion for exactly the same reasons as they go after homeopathy, crystal healing etc. I think the reason for my scolding was that some leading members of the 'skeptical' community, and, perhaps more significantly, donors, were devoted to religion: therefore, in my view, not real sceptics at all.

Richard

The "believe in anything" classification is thought mutation away from a reason and evidence foundation. Personal emotional or personal subjectivism can become a 'religious mantra' and in some ways Darwin might predict this as a crude survival tool for unreasonable dominance in behalf of the individual. At this juncture I have a problem. Evolution, being so refined in behalf of each species for survival, usually suggests little room for error. I have myself in a position where I find evolution is a beautiful consciousness tool to explain the chaos but find that chaos replicating nonsense for reproduction of things I think valueless. You see my issues here? So ironical one has to laugh at ones own pain.

1) The lion deceives the wildebeest into a meal. Ok I see the motive.

2) The human is deceived and continues to deceive their bloodline/others into some form of thought adapted to the local situation BUT enabling them a pecking order position in relation to the entropy. No need for evidence based foundations! This kinda pisses me off, but at the same time I have to acknowledge the beauty of evolution even when its eating away at my flesh!! Reason for position rather than reason for evidence based assertions.

In respect to this we can easily see how biased consciousness is microcosmic as well as macrocosmic. People are as prone to develop personal delusions as they are to accede to the entropy. But the definitive model, for me, incorporates how some are able to leapfrog this - sort of knowing better than the whole - in respect to both, and play each to a personal advantage. Others though are likely to "believe" each or both even ( local religion plus personal superstition). Then there is my position of purist! Probably a weak position in respect to the alternatives? At least for now - in most of the 7 billion slots available. In relatively few it may be an advantage? We end up with various groups of functionality ALL vying for the moral high ground. Despicable!!! Surely evidence based reason deserves this position of authority EVERY time??? Those of us who see, or who have been lucky enough to survive the JAWS of alternative, how evidence based reason best informs humanitarian motives are frequently frustrated at these mutations, which is why 'moderate' seems to be a concession most have to acknowledge. I for my part have developed a deep distrust of them - these subjectively deceptive theists (macrocosm) or theists/atheists (macro-microcosm) whose subjective dominance absent respect of others seems their default agenda. There is NO common good to come of this - and none intended - from where I see things! But then who am I? Evolution cares not a jot. How beautiful! Though I have to understand why to appreciate this.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 08:35:00 UTC | #915545

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Comment 26 by Premiseless

2) The human is deceived and continues to deceive their bloodline/others into some form of thought adapted to the local situation BUT enabling them a pecking order position in relation to the entropy. No need for evidence based foundations! This kinda pisses me off, but at the same time I have to acknowledge the beauty of evolution even when its eating away at my flesh!! Reason for position rather than reason for evidence based assertions.

It is obvious in religious and political groups, that concentrating on a simplistic plausible position, is much easier and requires much less effort or energy, than dealing with, and explaining, the complexities of reality. This applies to both the speaker and the audience.

This is well illustrated in "troll" discussions, where the troll "answers" all questions and "refutes" all evidence, simply by spending a few seconds making up contradictions. Those researching their information or even linking or explaining, material they are already aware of, take much longer, - so the Gish Gallop can leave their valid points behind to be forgotten (in verbal discussions), while verbal twaddle freely flows taking the listeners with it.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 09:27:13 UTC | #915552

Kilian's Avatar Comment 28 by Kilian

I tend to feel like you. I was a bit optimistic about the future last year with all the social revolutions and the effect that had the social networks in it. Now, with the consecuences of such events, and watching all the ocean of memes that society still asimilates, maybe we are too much and too spread to even make a difference globally. I always found disgusting the idea of leaving people "behind" for the sake of progress, but now I don't know if that is even a possibility, I feel that we are the ones who are left behind, at least in Spain.

I don't know, I have a friend wich I tried to convince him about being more skeptic (people who believe in ghost, that we use the 10% of the brain, telepathy and UFO sightings.) And the only thing that I achieved was creating a monster that hates Islam and Catholics. And that was being respectful in the Phil Plait's way.

I know that this time is not the "end of line" but, trying to answer your question: hope? now sounds utopic to me.

Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert :

Hell is other people...

Of course, the odd one or two friends in life, makes it all worthwhile.

Sir, you made my day, that is so true.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 11:18:48 UTC | #915570

Quetzalcoatlus's Avatar Comment 29 by Quetzalcoatlus

Comment 5 by cynicaloptimistrealist :

Pyramid Conspiracies - First question has to be 10,000 years? Really? Then why do all the accepted scientific dating methods place them as being 5,000 years old at most? How then does this "American scientist" account for the graves of pyramid labourers which have been found?

I found on wikipedia the Orion - Pyramid theory:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_correlation_theory

After reading carefully, the theory is at the best clumsy, and at the worst irresponsible.

It is clumsy because it is based on the fact that three pyramids were aligned to three stars 10,000 years ago. I can find a huge number of group of three objects in our planet that were aligned to three different stars at different moments and that will demostrate nothing.

It is irresponsible, because the explanation is more complex than the problem. An advance civilization 10,000 years ago (perhaps the Atlantis) constructed the great pyramids, and aligned to the Orion constelation. How likely is that?

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 11:50:49 UTC | #915575

bigcat's Avatar Comment 30 by bigcat

People do want to be interested in, and excited by science, but sometimes they get diverted down the wrong track. They try to use critical thinking, but don't do it properly: conspiracy theorists just love presenting you with evidence to substantiate their claims. Alien abduction stories are full of eye-witness testimonies.

I think it's possible to point them back in the right direction though, perhaps by showing that what you're being asked to believe is much more far-fetched than, say, actually landing on the moon. Did all the top scientists at NASA forget to put stars in the sky in their fake moon landing movie, or did they think all the astronomers/cosmologists/astro-physicists in the world wouldn't notice? Or are all of the above in the pay of the US government? Then give them the real answer to the question too. I think you can change people's minds about this.

You can forgive people their ignorance (when Carl Sagan gave us his tools for critical thinking, he was trying to help, not tell us off), but what's less forgivable is when that ignorance is willful. For that you need religion!

You don't hear of many scientists doubting the moon landings or using Atlantean crystals. But there are, it seems, plenty who believe in god. Critical thinking is suddenly suspended. And there are many on the religious side who use science, right up to the big bang, to show people the glory of god's creation. How can people who understand science and its methods so well do this?

On the Chesterton quote, in most religions isn't anything possible, if it's origins are divine? Miracle cures, levitation, turning wafers into flesh and blood, or water into wine, making a picnic hamper feed a multitude, rising from the dead - doesn't this mean you already believe in anything?

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 12:06:57 UTC | #915577