Tag Archives: irrationality

Losing Their Shit

I could have predicted this, in fact I did, and as usual, it came true. I recently did a video about the fundamentalist religion of libertarianism, in which I predicted, accurately, that I’d have libertarians coming out and screaming at me because I’d somehow offended them by making a video all about them and how awful I was because I’d made them look bad.

No, they made themselves look bad and it’s really funny to watch them rant and rave about how bad *I* am that they are reacting the way that *THEY* are.  It’s more evidence of the abject emotional insecurity of humanity.

First off, I already said that I was only talking about a particular set of libertarians, I was very specific in my video, but the people who came back at me, one in particular, was screaming that he was not that way at all.  Then why is he responding? He already knows, if he watched the video, that I’m not talking about him, but just  by his very response, it’s painfully clear that I am and he knows it, he just doesn’t want to be honest about it.

There’s this really weird human reaction that if  you use a word that someone uses in relation to themselves, even if you’re clearly not talking about them, even if they clearly don’t fit into whatever you’re talking about, they have to get mad because somehow, your criticism of other people reflects  badly on them.  This is a very immature reaction.

And of course, it isn’t just the libertarians that do it, that’s just the most recent example.  Liberals.  Feminists. Conservatives. Christians. Muslims. All of them are equally guilty.  They are more concerned with the label they choose to wear than the content of the discussion going on.  They don’t even care if what you’re saying is completely accurate, if it makes them feel bad, they drop trou and spray feces on everyone and that’s a problem.

Seriously, shouldn’t the actual content be more important than how the discussion makes you feel?  This is why the religious have such a problem having a rational discussion about things like abortion and gay marriage.  The idea disgusts them on an emotional level and they are unable to rise above it.  The feelings are all that matters.  The same goes for libertarians and their claims about statism and natural law and all of that.  It doesn’t make any sense, they cannot demonstrate any of it, but if you criticize it, they freak out.  Or liberals who can’t talk about feminism or racism or gender politics without throwing around words like “misogyny” in an irrational attempt to smear their detractors.  It’s why so many important discussions these days are at a complete stand still, because you have two sides who can do no more than fling poo at each other.

So anyhow, here’s the video, you can go over to YouTube to see the comments if you really want, but I’m sure you’ve run into this plenty of times yourself.  It really is sad, isn’t it?  Can’t people just talk intellectually without losing their shit?

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2ieCCRPFbk’]

Admiral, there be Raelians here!

UFOlandI mentioned over on Atheist Revolution that I had been engaged in a discussion with a self-identified Raelian.  You know, those crazy people who think that life on Earth came from the stars and we’re going to go home to these “gods” one day?  Well, Iamanatheist, who does the excellent I Am an Atheist and This is Why blog, asked me to write a post about it so here goes.

It is surprising that there really isn’t much difference in tactics between the Raelian and almost any theist you might pick. They make the same kind of irrational claims, they lack any evidence whatsoever for their beliefs and they misuse science.  In fact, this guy was only too happy to provide Christian creationist sources as proof against evolution.  He provided a “reading list”, including creationist frauds Michael Behe and William Dembski, as follows:

Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,”Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Vol. 117(2):213-239 (2004) (HTML).

Michael J. Behe, “Experimental Evolution, Loss-of-Function Mutations, and ‘The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution,’”The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 85(4):1-27 (December 2010).

Douglas D. Axe, “Estimating the Prevalence of Protein Sequences Adopting Functional Enzyme Folds,”Journal of Molecular Biology, Vol. 341:1295–1315 (2004).

Michael Behe and David W. Snoke, “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues,”Protein Science, Vol. 13 (2004).

William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II, “The Search for a Search: Measuring the Information Cost of Higher Level Search,”Journal of Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics, Vol. 14 (5):475-486 (2010).

Ann K. Gauger and Douglas D. Axe, “The Evolutionary Accessibility of New Enzyme Functions: A Case Study from the Biotin Pathway,”BIO-Complexity, Vol. 2011(1) (2011).

Ann K. Gauger, Stephanie Ebnet, Pamela F. Fahey, and Ralph Seelke, “Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations from Taking Simple Adaptive Paths to High Fitness,”BIO-Complexity, Vol. 2010 (2) (2010).

Vladimir I. shCherbak and Maxim A. Makukov, “The ‘Wow! Signal’ of the terrestrial genetic code,”Icarus, Vol. 224 (1): 228-242 (May, 2013).

Joseph A. Kuhn, “Dissecting Darwinism,”Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, Vol. 25(1): 41-47 (2012).

Winston Ewert, William A. Dembski, and Robert J. Marks II, “Evolutionary Synthesis of Nand Logic: Dissecting a Digital Organism,”Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, pp. 3047-3053 (October, 2009).

Douglas D. Axe, Brendan W. Dixon, Philip Lu, Stylus: A System for Evolutionary Experimentation Based on a Protein/Proteome Model with Non-Arbitrary Functional Constraints,”PLoS One, Vol. 3(6):e2246 (June 2008).

Kirk K. Durston, David K. Y. Chiu, David L. Abel, Jack T. Trevors, “Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins,”Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, Vol. 4:47 (2007).

David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors, “Self-organization vs. self-ordering events in life-origin models,”Physics of Life Reviews, Vol. 3:211–228 (2006).

Frank J. Tipler, “Intelligent Life in Cosmology,”International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 2(2): 141-148 (2003).

Michael J. Denton, Craig J. Marshall, and Michael Legge, “The Protein Folds as Platonic Forms: New Support for the pre-Darwinian Conception of Evolution by Natural Law,”Journal of Theoretical Biology, Vol. 219: 325-342 (2002).

Stanley L. Jaki, “Teaching of Transcendence in Physics,”American Journal of Physics, Vol. 55(10):884-888 (October 1987).

Granville Sewell, “Postscript,” in Analysis of a Finite Element Method: PDE/PROTRAN (New York: Springer Verlag, 1985).

A.C. McIntosh, “Evidence of design in bird feathers and avian respiration,”International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, Vol. 4(2):154–169 (2009).

Richard v. Sternberg, “DNA Codes and Information: Formal Structures and Relational Causes,”Acta Biotheoretica, Vol. 56(3):205-232 (September, 2008).

Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig and Heinz Saedler, “Chromosome Rearrangement and Transposable Elements,”Annual Review of Genetics, Vol. 36:389–410 (2002).

Douglas D. Axe, “Extreme Functional Sensitivity to Conservative Amino Acid Changes on Enzyme Exteriors,”Journal of Molecular Biology, Vol. 301:585-595 (2000)

William A. Dembski, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

Now I’m pretty certain he just pulled that list off a creationist website, he clearly hasn’t actually read many, if any of these books, he hasn’t understood the content and it’s absolutely certain that he’s never verified anything in any of these articles.  As with creationists, finding anything that purports to poke holes in evolution becomes their go-to source.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if those sources find your beliefs absolutely absurd.

So why does this guy believe in aliens?  His very first post spells it out.

I am tired of looking for evidence of aliens to explain my lack of belief in God and evolution. I think there is enough biological information out there to promote some sort of intelligence speeding up the process so that we don’t have to waste all this time and it makes the earth more ecologically diverse that way. Proteins can even create other proteins. What do you guys think?

Yeah, after the smoke stops coming out of your ears and you stop shaking your head at the abject stupidity, then he goes into why he believes in Rael and all of that crap.  Logic.  He’s doing it wrong.  But seriously, he looks for evidence of aliens because he doesn’t believe in God and he doesn’t believe in evolution.  God I can understand, but evolution?  Yes, it’s idiocy galore, exactly like the creationists.  It all goes downhill from there.  People ask him questions, he has no real answers, he just makes up more crap, just like Christians. It went into the same kind of irrational spiral that any discussion with theists goes in, with most people just giving up on having any kind of intelligent debate because the theist simply isn’t capable.

I really didn’t identify as many differences between this Raelian and your run of the mill theist, just as I don’t know that there’s much different between a theist and a conspiracy theorist or any other irrational believer.  It isn’t the specific beliefs that are the problem, it’s the inane irrationality underpinning it all and there are only so many ways to do crazy, regardless of what you believe.  Honestly, that’s kind of disappointing.

 

History Isn’t Sexist

intolerant-liberal-hypocriteI recently had a kerfluffle with an Internet liberal feminist, although even though she self-identified as a feminist first and foremost, it could have been with any number of social justice warriors on the far left.  I responded to her demand that we as a society do more to recognize and celebrate the contributions that women have made to history and science.  I questioned her further and she also agreed that “people of color” and “homosexuals” ought to be equally lauded for what they’ve done for the world.  Hey, great, I have no problem with that, we ought to celebrate everyone who makes their mark in the world and helps the planet be a better place to live.

That was, until I asked her what skin color, gender and sexual orientation actually had to do with some of these discoveries. Take Alan Turing for example.  He was a brilliant mathematician who became the father of modern computer science. I probably couldn’t be writing this article if it weren’t for Turing.  There is no doubt that he was a genius and set the stage for significant improvements and innovations for mankind, but… what did his sexual orientation have to do with his work?  What is it about the work he did that couldn’t have been done had he been straight.  His homosexuality had absolutely no bearing on his historically significant work.  So why do these liberals spend so much time focusing on things that had no impact whatsoever on the ideas, inventions and innovations that we remember them for?

The same can be said of famous black scientists whose scientific accomplishments had fuck all to do with their being black.  Or female historical figures whose gender meant nothing to their feats.  These people are remembered fondly for their actions, not their genetic attributes.  The idea that we have a “Black History Month” or a “Woman’s History Month” or whatever to pay special attention to the skin color or gender of people whose actions had nothing whatsoever to do with their skin color or gender is really quite absurd.  When do we get to have a “Mustache History Month” to pay homage to those who were historically notable and just so happened to have a mustache?

Of course, this was right about when she started calling me a racist and a sexist and ran away to be comforted in some feminist “safe space” where she didn’t have to actually think about the absurdity of her belief system.  That doesn’t make my questions invalid though.  We don’t give special attention to people with blue eyes or big feet, why should we give special attention to people with dark skin or who are attracted to the same gender?  You know, for people who proclaim that they want equality for all (even though they clearly don’t), they sure want people on their side to feel special and get extra recognition.

The fact is, history is made by people.  Not black people, not white people, not males and not females.  It isn’t made by gays or straights.  It’s made by people who went out and did something worthwhile.  Marie Curie didn’t discover radium because she had a vagina.  George Washington Carver didn’t discover amazing things to do with peanuts because he was black.  His brilliance came from inside, not from his skin color.

I honestly have no idea why the liberal SJW crowd can’t get this through their tiny little heads.  To them, everything is race. Everything is gender.  Everything is sexuality.  They cannot imagine a world where people are not seen first and foremost for their physical characteristics instead of being acknowledged for their skill and intelligence and ingenuity.  That doesn’t matter to them, no matter how many times they pretend that it does.  They spend all of their time looking for excuses to blame racism and sexism, to proclaim that there must be discrimination against those who do not perform well instead of just acknowledging that when it comes to merit, you actually have to earn it.  These people don’t want to earn anything, they just want to be granted special rights and abilities and recognition because of how they look.

If you want to know the real racists and sexists and bigots, you have to look no further than the social justice warriors in the liberal camp.  History isn’t sexist or racist, you liberal morons, you are!

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Liberalism

hypocrisyOn a recent Atheist Experience, the last caller of the day asked about Islam and the validity of hating Islam and Russell and Lynnea both did exactly what I expected. Now given my ongoing disagreement with their philosophical position on a great number of things, this isn’t surprising, in fact, when they launched into an example, I could tell where it was going. They criticized who I am going to assume is Elliot Roger, the guy who shot up a college because he couldn’t get laid, leaving behind links to some MRA websites. Now certainly you can and should criticize the guy for what he did, but they argued that some unnamed people were pointing to this guy’s mental illness and not his imagined “men’s rights” ideology and presumably they thought those people were idiots.  Yet their side does the exact same thing when it comes to radical feminism!  It’s never the ideology, if anyone says something wrong or does something wrong, it can’t be the ideology to blame!  If anyone on their side does something idiotic, as they do so often, feminism could never have anything to do with it!

Of course, none of this is true, the website that Roger had been going to was called PUAHate and in the thread in question, it asked if you could come up with a virus that killed all the men, other than yourself, would you do it.  Presumably this was to give women no chance but to consort with you because you were literally the last man on Earth.  That has nothing to do with men’s rights whatsoever, in fact it’s the exact polar opposite of men’s rights, they’re talking about virtual male genocide.  But hey, tell that to the crazy radical feminist liberals that populate TAE.

Then Lynnea claims that there is an ongoing rash of sexual harassment at atheism conferences.  Really?  Produce one. Show that this is true.  It isn’t.  It never has been.  In fact, all of the classical cases that are claimed are just absurd over-reactions by feminists, starting with Elevatorgate and going onward.  There has never been a single case that I am aware of, and please correct me if I am wrong, where any woman has ever been demonstrably sexually harassed at any atheist conference.  Go ahead. Impress me.  I’m not holding my breath.  Unfortunately, these people consider anything they dislike to be harassment, but that’s liberalism for you.

I really can’t be surprised at this anymore, it happens pretty much any time anyone brings up any non-extreme-liberal position on TAE.  All of a sudden, the hosts start shouting over the caller, refusing to let them speak, threatening to put them on hold and often hanging up on them.  Clearly, they are uncomfortable with anyone who disagrees with their particular flavor of Kool Aid. Isn’t that exactly what theists do?  They just throw things at anyone who disagrees, faster than the other person can answer, they stifle their ability to speak and after they blow off their opponent, they insult them when they can’t be responded to.

You liberals are no better than the theists you pretend to be superior to, but it isn’t just the hosts of TAE, it’s a huge majority of liberals I see on a regular basis.  It’s their modus operandi.   It’s meaningless threats, Gish gallops, authoritarian nonsense and post-discussion grandstanding.  Welcome to the liberal playbook.  Wish I could say I was surprised.

When Crazies Attack

Crazy People EverywhereYou know what makes me really shake my head?  Watching theists sit around and argue over theology, especially when you get people with entirely different theological positions who are convinced that everyone but themselves are wrong.  It reminds me a lot of a bunch of 9/11 conspiracy nuts sitting around bitching about the minutia of their shared delusion.  Why?  Because it’s exactly the same thing.  Crazy people calling other people who believe other crazy things, crazy.  There is no way to talk sense into a room full of people who have no concept whatsoever of what being sensible means.  I keep seeing different sects of Christians arguing over the trinity and both of them are just declaring victory and because obviously, they are right, everyone who disagrees has to be an “antichrist”.  What does that even mean?  What can be done about the crazies?

It’s not just the lunatic groups who get together to hash out their lunacy, this happens on an individual basis too.  I’ve got one guy who is desperately trying to tell me that there is a plan for redemption and throwing me all kinds of Bible verses and links to prove it.  No, there is a CLAIM that there is a plan for redemption, I’m questioning whether it’s real or valid.  He simply assumes that it must be real and valid because he has blind and fanatical faith that it is, therefore just throwing around verses from the Bible is all the proof anyone should ever need.  No, try again.  That only works with people who already believe the Bible is true, those who question it are not going to be impressed by quoting it.

It is really pointless to try to have a productive intellectual discussion with people to whom intellectualism is meaningless, at least when it comes to their religious beliefs.  As has been wisely said, you cannot reason someone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place.  I think it’s the worst of all possible worlds when you have people who know their beliefs are irrational, they acknowledge their beliefs are irrational and they just don’t care.  Why should they have the slightest interest in thinking critically about what they believe? Why should it matter?  It makes them feel good, that’s all they care about, who gives a damn if it’s actually true.  And  yes, I have had theists tell me they couldn’t care less if there is really a god, they’re going to believe because it makes them happy to do so and nothing anyone could possibly say will ever make them reconsider their decision.  These people are insane.

But what can we really do about the insane?  They cannot be reasoned with, by definition.  They cannot be ignored, people like this vote their beliefs and that screws things up for everyone.  So what’s left?  Shoot them?  Most of them will never change their minds and the only way we will ever be rid of them is after their deaths.  Of course, that will never fly.  So what can we do?  That’s where I’m stuck.

Belief and Faith

tanya-lurmann
T.M. Lurmann

There was an article, written by T. M. Luhrmann, an anthropology professor, about belief and faith in Christianity, although I’m sure that you could apply her thoughts to just about any religion.  In it, she says that she’s approached by what she describes as “university-educated liberals”, and asked things like Why do people believe in God? What is our evidence that there is an invisible agent who has a real impact on our lives? How can those people be so confident?  She says that they’re deep and intellectual questions but she doesn’t seem to think that they’re important questions.  She’d rather focus on a believer’s emotional reaction to God than on evidence whether God actually exists.

This is where we part company entirely.  To be certain, I understand her views, coming from a more evangelical background myself, but I would argue that it is more important to believe demonstrably true things than it is to believe things just because they give us a good feeling.  I recently wrote an article about brain chemistry and how we’ve evolved to seek out positive confirmation of our actions through “happy chemicals” being released in our brains.  It’s very likely that religion is part of a primitive evolutionary system that helped build strong communities.  It’s no doubt in the same category of beliefs that gave us racism and sexism and other in-group/out-group biases that kept people with similar characteristics together and kept outsiders away.  That’s one of the most prevalent characteristics of religion, after all.  Wars have been continually fought over which imaginary sky friend people believe in.

Lurmann argues that different churches have different views, something that’s certainly true, but it doesn’t mean that any of those views are actually true or worthwhile.  I think that’s the most important thing that we need to address when it comes to belief and faith.  Imagine a wide variety of churches who worship the sun.  They bow down to it as it travels across the sky every day, each of them have different ideas about what the sun is.  Some think it’s a god riding a fiery chariot, some think a god is throwing a flaming ball for his god-dog to chase. There are a wide variety of beliefs to choose from, unfortunately, all of them are factually wrong.  It doesn’t matter how much emotional comfort adherents get from these beliefs, it doesn’t matter how safe and secure their faith makes them, it doesn’t matter how much community or social stability these churches provide, the fact remains that each and every single believer is factually incorrect in their beliefs.  Just like Christians.

In reality, as Lurmann says, many Christians (and other theists for that matter), simply wish to pretend that God is real, just because the thought makes them feel good and people often become religious, not because of their belief, but because of the accoutrements that surround that supposed belief.  You go to church, they talk about believing in God, that causes your God beliefs to be reinforced and that brings you back to church the next week. It’s little more than group-think and it seems that Lurmann agrees with that idea.  It isn’t about God being real, it’s about believers chasing that dose of feel-good brain chemistry over and over again.

But if we understand this, how can we continue to support the group delusion that is religion?  Lurmann says it helps believers get through their day, but is that something that is psychologically sound?  Is clinging to a falsehood, just because it pumps those “happy chemicals” into our brain, the best idea, or should we actually care about what we allow into our skulls?  American slave owners and white supremacists believed that they were superior to non-whites.  It gave them a good feeling.  It flooded their system with Serotonin, which gave them a natural high. The Germans, following WWI, needed someone to feel superior to, that someone was the Jews.  Much was made over the supposed Aryan superiority and this made the German people happy.  In both cases, this led to atrocious acts of evil and cruelty.  In both cases, the “superior” people were just wrong.  Had the people simply been willing to believe the best supported ideas, to reject absurdity and not care what made them happy, but to care about what was actually true, it is unlikely that the horrors of slavery and the Holocaust would ever have happened.

Religion isn’t any better.  Muslims, in the form of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban and other groups, are murdering innocent people just  because they worship the wrong version of their sky fairy.  Christian groups are no more innocent, the same goes for Buddhists and Hindus and virtually any other religion you can name.  If all of these theists would reject that chemical high and actually care if the things they believed were true, this violence would likely not happen.

Faith is not a virtue, belief in things not factually true is nothing to be proud of.  Whether or not we can simply stop people from feeding the brain chemistry machine, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t condemn these practices as irrational and not in keeping with critical thinking.  The theists won’t care, but they’re still wrong.

 

Why People Believe What They Believe Part 1

IRRATIONALI talk a lot about stupid and irrational beliefs, about people who believe things for bad reasons, who refuse to think critically or rationally about the things they allow into their heads, but it’s relatively rare that I look at the actual causes of these bad beliefs.  There are actually a lot of reasons why people give credence to these ideas and I thought it was high time I took an extended look at many of them.  There’s an article over on Business Insider, 57 Behavioral Biases that Make Us Think Irrationally.  There isn’t much detail there so I’m going to actually address all of them over a series of 6 posts, one for the next 6 Mondays, and try to spell out some of the problems and why it’s important that we, as rational human beings, need to be aware of them and know how to avoid falling into the trap.

Attention Bias – Attention bias refers to our tendency to continue to pay close attention to things that we already think are important.  This is true of everyone, myself included.  Just to use myself as an example, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about religious horrors, due to the Religious Horror Show, therefore I tend to pay closer attention to such things than someone who doesn’t find the subject matter interesting.  Now that doesn’t mean that religious horrors are somehow overblown, just because I pay attention to them, clearly they exist in great quantities

Availability Heuristic – This refers to the reliance on easily recalled examples, assuming that because we can remember something, it must be important.  This has the side effect of people placing more importance on recent events that are fresh in our minds, just because they are more easily recalled.  This changes a perceived view of statistical averages, what you can more easily recall becomes viewed as the norm, which simply may not be the case.

Backfire Effect – The Backfire Effect is a specific form of Confirmation Bias which is viewed especially strongly in the religious, although it applies to any strongly held belief, such as strong political beliefs.  The Backfire Effect takes place when a believer is presented with evidence that strongly refutes their beliefs, yet instead of adapting their beliefs to the new data, they will reject the new data and strengthen their resolve to continue believing their previous belief even stronger than before.

Bandwagon Effect – The Bandwagon Effect refers to the belief that a position is more likely to be true based on how many people already accept it.  It is a variation on the argumentum ad populum fallacy and comes from a desire to be socially acceptable by holding similar beliefs to your neighbors.  In fact, this is really why we have so many people claiming to be religious, they think it makes them look better to the people around them, whether or not they actually hold those beliefs.  I’ve labeled these people “social Christians” for that reason.  The Bandwagon Effect can come either from within or without, it can be imposed on people due to social pressure, or it can be individuals trying to fit in with the group.

Belief Bias – People are naturally biased to accept evidence, based on the conclusion being plausible or desirable.  I see this all the time in religion, where Christians, say, will accept claimed evidence of personal experiences with their God, while rejecting the exact same evidence of personal experiences with other gods, just because they want their belief in God to be true.  So long as the conclusion is either desirable or sounds reasonable, people tend not to pay much attention to the evidence that is claimed in support of it, they just want the conclusion to be true, whether it’s actually well supported or not.

Bias Blind Spots – This may be one  of the most important biases and one that most people suffer from unless they are very careful.  It refers to blind spots that many, perhaps most people suffer from because of their own inherent internal biases.  It requires one to be constantly introspective of what you believe and why you believe it and be willing to test all beliefs in light of new information.  It’s a never-ending process and one that I’ve spoken about before because it is so important.

Choice-Supportive Bias – Choice-Supportive Bias is the tendency to go back and assign positive characteristics to something that you’ve already selected, a choice that you’ve already made and now want to make look better to those around you.  It is a form of confirmation bias and cognitive bias.  For example, if a person buys an Apple iPhone instead of a comparable Android product, they are more likely to ignore or forgive any faults with the Apple product and instead, build up and overstate the positive aspects while ignoring or downplaying the positive aspects of the Android product.  How we remember the choices we make is influenced by our internal desire to have made the correct decision and we tend to remember, or invent, the best consequences from our choices and ignore the worst consequences.

Clustering Illusion – Humans inherently seek patterns, the Clustering Illusion is our tendency to give those patterns meaning, even if they are nothing more than a random set of data.  We may see patterns in a random string of numbers or points on a graph and we think that these patterns, which are almost always illusory, have some significance that they do not, in reality, have.  We already recognize such pattern-recognition errors as pareidolia and apophenia, this is an overall internal bias that is related.

Confirmation Bias – Confirmation bias is extremely common, it is the tendency for people to only accept information that confirms what they already believe and reject any other data out of hand because it doesn’t support their preconceived position.  The more strongly the belief is held, the more emotional the issue is, the more likely that Confirmation Bias will take place.  There are several reasons suggested for Confirmation Bias, including wishful thinking, the tendency for people to examine their beliefs only from a self-indulgent perspective and the consideration of the social and personal costs of being wrong in a belief.  Many people are so adverse to being open to public humiliation and embarrassment if their strongly held belief is shown to be wrong, that they’d rather continue to believe a false position than admit that they were ever wrong in the first place.

Conservatism Bias – This is the tendency of humans to over-emphasize the importance or relevance of past events and the status quo while under-estimating the importance of new events and ideas.  This has the effect of slowing the change of ideas and opinions based on new evidence, even when the new evidence is compelling.  There is a reverse of this bias, where people will vastly over-estimate the importance of new data, just because it is new. It doesn’t allow for people to judge the importance or effect of the new data, or the weight of the old data, they just leap from conclusion to conclusion because of the hottest new thing on the block.

Please come back in a week to see the next ten cognitive biases that we, as rational people, need to be aware of.  If we hope to be intellectual, rational and critical thinking, we cannot allow ourselves to fall victim to any of these problems.  Far too many people do, unfortunately, and maybe by making people aware that these biases do exist, they can help to override the problems that our brains may cause.

 

Obviously Not Clear on the Concept of Perfection

A few days ago, I had a theist tell me:

My belief in God is simple. I look around the world and the cosmos (what we can see of it) and the perfection of the system that governs this universe and I simply cannot believe that it wasn’t planned and made. That to me is more than enough evidence of God.

Okay, that seems straight forward enough so I challenged him to present just one thing in the universe that was perfect.  After all, if he can’t produce a single thing with which we can find no fault, his claim fails.  Just one thing, it should be a very simple way to prove his argument and thus, his faith, worthwhile.

He comes back with:

If you look at just one little thing you will of course see only flaws.

Now hold on a minute.  You’re saying that this perfect thing, of the many perfect things that make up a perfect universe, has flaws?  I point this out, thinking he had to be making a mistake, the flaw in this line of thinking is too absurd for anyone with half a clue to miss.

But no, that’s what I get instead.

Actually nope I’m not admitting that. Because what most people consider flaws really are not flaws in the long run and in the big picture. Like I said, “Look at the whole picture and it is entirely different.”

I’m sorry, did someone take a left turn at reality here?  Okay, you say the world, and indeed the universe, is perfect.  This leads you to believe that God must exist.  Yet you’re afraid that I will find flaws in your perfect universe?  News flash for you, Einstein, but if there are flaws, it’s not perfect!  If you’re claiming the whole is perfect, then by definition, the parts must also be perfect as the whole is simply the sum of it’s parts.  Flawed parts cannot result in a perfect whole, it’s logically impossible.

It’s no wonder why so many of these theist arguments just leave me shaking my head.