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This Topic Isn't Going to Convince You
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Usagi Miyamoto



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2011 11:25 am    Post subject: This Topic Isn't Going to Convince You Reply with quote

Here's an interesting article I read in Mother Jones, following a link from Google News:

The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science
How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.

Chris Mooney wrote:
"A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point." So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger, in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial—the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. But it was too early for that—this was the 1950s—and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study in psychology.
...
And since Festinger's day, an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This tendency toward so-called "motivated reasoning" helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, "death panels," the birthplace and religion of the president , and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.

The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience: Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call "affect"). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds—fast enough to detect with an EEG device, but long before we're aware of it. That shouldn't be surprising: Evolution required us to react very quickly to stimuli in our environment. It's a "basic human survival skill," explains political scientist Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan. We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.


Go read the whole thing, it's fascinating, especially chasing down some of the references. I'm familiar with the effect, but this article neatly tied it all up in a convenient package.

Seems to sum up some of the arguments we have regularly, too. Now you know why. It's interesting how the evidence that changes the minds of the hierarchical individualists (think social conservative) comes from insider authority figures who couch their arguments in terms of values. There was an interesting example of this recently in Utah, where the Mormon church lobbied for a nuanced and humane approach to illegal immigration which made it into law, as opposed to the heavy handed Arizona approach. There was much cognitive dissonance amongst the faithful, who tend toward the Arizona viewpoint, and things remain unsettled.
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Dogen



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2011 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nifty. This is similar to the research I've been doing for the last two years: the effects of cognitive biases on explaining the turning points in national elections. We see a lot of these effects. In the 2008 presidential election Democrats explained Obama's win as a result of things Obama did - he's charismatic, he's intelligent, he's a great speaker - while Republicans explained McCain's loss in terms of neutral, external reasons that could be explained as being beyond his control - Bush, the economy, the Iraq war, etc.

Both sides were using motivated reasoning: the Democrats tended toward what's called the egocentric bias, while Republicans tended toward a self-serving bias (you could claim Dems used self-service, too, and it's a fine line). If McCain had won, we would expect to see the reverse - Dems using the self-serving bias and Reps using the egocentric.

The interesting thing is what this means in terms of political (and scientific) conversations. Republicans and Democrats had views that were utterly foreign to one another. How do you reconcile political differences when you can't even agree on how you arrived at the current location, or what the important points were in getting there? How do you discuss climate change when both sides view the others' sources as suspect, and they can't agree on what constitutes proof?

P.S. anyone who finds psychology the least bit interesting should scour the internet for descriptions of cognitive biases. They're incredibly fascinating.
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mouse



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PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

interesting. as it happens, the ny times "room for debate" today is on the birther thing, and a couple of the columnists give this (or similar) explanations.

who was it who said "it's hard to make a man understand something when his job depends on his not understanding it"? (or something like that). so much of what drives political discourse today seems to be what's in it for someone (i feel that strongly in the case of global warming - if you start going through the advantages of alternate energy sources, it becomes clear that the primary disadvantage is that oil companies won't rake in as much money). the notion that people come to their beliefs from emotion and that therefore reason does little good is discouraging - unless you start looking at the reason for the emotion. maybe if you can come up with ways to assuage the emotional fears, then reason can come into play again.

so i guess i should go read the article...
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nathan



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Which is why it's so important to indoctrinate children at an early age to respect the primacy of logical justification. Otherwise, later in life, it's merely one factor amid myriad motivating forces.

Illogical justifications should gnaw at people from the bottom of their guts.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Except that even very logical people can be very illogical about certain things. Physicists can think Obama is a Muslim. Physicians that climate change is a hoax. That's the rub. Your logic is slower than the, quite literally, visceral response of emotion. They can measure it on an EEG.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cognitive dissonance is heady stuff. I have my own particular case study to watch it happen on a pretty much constant basis with: a hardcore zionist muslim-hating lesbian objectivist fundamentalist orthodox jew who wants to abolish intellectual property rights and taxes and pretty much always thinks Ron Paul is going to totally come from behind and win the next election. Her worldview cannot make sense unless she specifically cognitively avoids confronting the fatal conflicts, such as between lesbianism and orthodox judiasm, or orthodox judaism and objectivism, or objectivism with zionism, or .. well, take your pick.
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Thy Brilliance



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:38 am    Post subject: a simple point Reply with quote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_Debat
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Thy Brilliance



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 12:54 pm    Post subject: I begin a golfclap at this work of art Reply with quote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Mooney_(journalist)
hm wrote:
In February 2010, Chris Mooney became a Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow at the Templeton Foundation.


hmm wrote:
On February 7, 2011, the John Templeton Foundation announced its new executive leadership team[50], which includes Barnaby Marsh, executive vice president, strategic initiatives; Michael Murray, executive vice president, programs; Dawn Bryant, executive counsel; and Douglas W. Scott, executive vice president, chief administrative officer. The current President of the Templeton Foundation is John M. Templeton, Jr., the son of Sir John Templeton. Templeton, Jr. is an evangelical Christian and is an independently wealthy person who is active in philanthropy outside of the mandate of the Templeton Foundation itself. This includes support for various groups that raise funds for conservative causes.[51]

Templeton Jr has always maintained that his own personal religious beliefs do not affect his ability to administer the Foundation in accordance with the wishes of his father. The Templeton Foundation has also gone to great lengths to stress that it is non-political with no bias towards any one faith.[52]
[edit]
Controversies

Broadly, controversial aspects of the Templeton Foundation fall into two categories. Firstly, the Foundation is seen by some as having a conservative bias and secondly, it also receives criticism from some members in the scientific community who are concerned with its linking of scientific and religious questions.
[edit]
Accusations of conservative orientation

Like all 501(c)(3) organizations, the Templeton Foundation is prohibited from engaging directly in political activity. However, a number of journalists have highlighted connections with conservative causes. A 1997 article in Slate Magazine said the Templeton Foundation had given a significant amount of financial support to groups, causes and individuals considered conservative, including gifts to Gertrude Himmelfarb, Milton Friedman, Walter E. Williams, Julian Lincoln Simon and Mary Lefkowitz, and referred to John Templeton, Jr., as a "conservative sugar daddy".[53] The Foundation also has a history of supporting the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, as well as projects at major research centers and universities that explore themes related to free market economics, such as Hernando de Soto's Instituto Libertad Y Democracia and the X Prize Foundation.

In a 2007 article in The Nation, Barbara Ehrenreich drew attention to the Foundation's president Dr. John M. Templeton Jr. funding of the conservative group Freedom's Watch, and referred to the Foundation as a "right wing venture".[54] Pamela Thompson of the Templeton Foundation, responding to Ehrenreich's allegations, asserted that "the Foundation is, and always has been, run in accordance with the wishes of Sir John Templeton Sr, who laid very strict criteria for its mission and approach", that it is "a non-political entity with no religious bias" and it "is totally independent of any other organisation and therefore neither endorses, nor contributes to political candidates, campaigns, or movements of any kind".[55]
[edit]
Intelligent design

There have been questions over whether the foundation supports Intelligent Design because its grants can cover projects of a scientific and religious nature. The foundation has always strenuously denied supporting the movement.[56]

In 2005, the foundation disputed suggestions that it promotes intelligent design saying that, while it had supported unrelated projects by individuals who identify with intelligent design, it was one of the ‘principal critics’ of the intelligent design movement and funded projects that challenged it.[57]

The same year the New York Times reported that the foundation asked intelligent design proponents to submit proposals for actual research and quoted Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, as saying "They never came in" and that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned. "From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review", he said.[58]

In 2007 in the LA Times, the Templeton Foundation, wrote "we do not believe that the science underpinning the intelligent-design movement is sound, we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and the foundation is a nonpolitical entity and does not engage in or support political movements".[59]

In March 2009, the Discovery Institute, a supporter of Intelligent Design, accused the Templeton Foundation of blocking its involvement in a Vatican-backed, Templeton-funded conference in Rome on evolution. On the lack of involvement of any speakers supporting Intelligent Design, the conference director Rev. Marc Leclerc said, “We think that it’s not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one…This make a dialogue difficult, maybe impossible.”[60] At the conference, Francisco Ayala, an evolutionary biologist, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and long time advisor to the foundation, said ID and Creationism were "blasphemous" to both Christians and scientists.[61]
[edit]
Debate within the scientific community

The Foundation's views on the connections between religious and scientific inquiry and their ability to provide significant grants for scientific research has led to quite polarising debate within the scientific community.

Sean M. Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, wrote, in describing his self-recusal from a conference he discovered was funded by the Foundation, that "the entire purpose of the Templeton Foundation is to blur the line between straightforward science and explicitly religious activity, making it seem like the two enterprises are part of one big undertaking. It's all about appearances." But he also said, "I appreciate that the Templeton Foundation is actually, in its own way, quite pro-science, and is not nearly as objectionable as the anti-scientific crackpots at the Discovery Institute."[62]

In 2006, John Horgan, a science journalist and the author of several books, wrote in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (reprinted in Edge) of his "misgivings about the foundation's agenda of reconciling religion and science". He said that a conference he attended favored scientists who "offered a perspective clearly skewed in favor of religion and Christianity", and says that a Templeton official "told us that the meeting cost more than $1-million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion".[63]

In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist) repeatedly criticizes the Templeton Foundation, referring to the Templeton Prize as "a very large sum of money given...usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion." Concerning the conference that he and John Horgan attended, and to John Horgan's resulting article, Dawkins comments, "If I understand Horgan's point, it is that Templeton's money corrupts science."[64]

Peter Woit, a mathematical physicist at Columbia University occasionally writes about his misgivings with the foundation on his blog (which is hosted by Columbia University). Woit feels it is unfortunate that Templeton's money is used to influence scientific research towards a convergence between science and religion.

In June 2005, Woit wrote:

Look not at what the Templeton people say (which is relatively innocuous), but at what they do. They explicitly refuse to support serious science, and instead fund an incredible array of attempts to inject religion into scientific practice. ... Instead they are heavily funding the one part of the field that most people consider dangerous pseudo-science and a serious threat to the whole concept of what it means to do science.[65]

In October 2007, he gave this more qualified, but still largely critical, assessment of the Foundation following attendance at a Templeton sponsored seminar:

The symposium I attended had not a trace of involvement of religion in it, and it seems that Templeton is careful to keep this out of some of the things that it funds as pure science…They appear to have a serious commitment to the idea of funding things in physics that can be considered “foundational”. People working in some such areas often are considered out of the physics mainstream and so find it hard to get their research funded. For them, Templeton is in many ways a uniquely promising funding source”.
[66]

"However, they unambiguously are devoted to trying to bring science and religion together, and that’s my main problem with them. ... I remain concerned though about the significance for physics of this large new source of funding, out of scale with other such private sources, and with an agenda that seems to me to have a dangerous component to it."[66]

Nonetheless, Woit's impression is that the Foundation is careful to keep conservative politics out of its activities and he does state that “their encouragement of religion seems to be of a very ecumenical nature".[66]

Professor Paul Davies, British-born physicist and member of the Foundation's Board of Trustees, gave a defense of the Foundation's role in the scientific community in the Times Higher Education Supplement in March 2005. Responding to concerns about the funding of such research by religious organisations that might have a hidden agenda and in particular the Templeton Foundation, Davies said:

If the foundation were indeed a religious organisation with its own specific doctrine, [the] objections would have substance. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. The benefactor, Sir John Templeton, bemoans the way that religious leaders often claim to have all the answers. Imagine, he says, consulting a doctor about an ailment, only to find him reaching for a volume of Hippocrates. Yet priests rely on ancient scriptures to deliver spiritual guidance. Sir John wants to address the big questions of existence with humility and open-mindedness, adopting the model of scientific research in place of religious dogma. "How little we know!" is his favourite aphorism. It is a radical message, as far from religious fundamentalism as it is possible to get.

...recurring research themes supported by the foundation are the search for extra-solar planets, the properties of liquid water, the evolution of primate behaviour, emergent properties of complex systems, the foundations of quantum mechanics and the biological and social bases for forgiveness in areas of human conflict. In none of these projects is anything like a preferred religious position encouraged or an obligation imposed to support any religious group.

Britain is a post-religious society. Yet ordinary men and women still yearn for some sort of deeper meaning to their lives. Can science point the way? Science has traditionally been regarded as dehumanising and alienating, trivialising the significance of humans and celebrating the pointlessness of existence. But many scientists, atheists included, see it differently. They experience what Einstein called "a cosmic religious feeling" when reflecting on the majesty of the cosmos and the extraordinary elegance and ingenuity of its mathematical laws.

Science cannot and should not be a substitute for religion. But I see nothing sinister or unprofessional about scientists working with open-minded theologians to explore how science might be a source of inspiration rather than demoralisation.[67]


In 2010, journalist Nathan Schneider published a lengthy investigative profile[68] of the Templeton Foundation in The Nation, a leading magazine of the left. In it, he aired familiar complaints about the Foundation, but observed that many of its critics and grantees alike fail to appreciate “the breadth of the foundation's activities, much less the quixotic vision of its founder, John Templeton.” Schneider observed:

At worst, Templeton could be called heterodox and naïve; at best, his was a mind more open than most, reflective of the most inventive and combinatorial strains of American religious thought, eager to radically reinterpret ancient wisdom and bring it up to speed with some version from the present.

Schneider wrote that to call the Foundation “conservative” is to misunderstand it:

The founder's relationship to the notion was especially paradoxical; in The Humble Approach, Templeton writes, "Rarely does a conservative become a hero of history." Although Templeton could be nostalgic, harking back to time-tested values and homespun sayings, he wanted above all to move the world forward, not hold it back.

Though the Foundation, in Schneider’s view, “has associated itself with political and religious forces that cause it to be perceived as threatening the integrity of science and protecting the religious status quo,” these alliances mean the Foundation “is also better positioned than most to foster a conservatism—and a culture generally—that holds the old habits of religions and business responsible to good evidence, while helping scientists better speak to people's deepest concerns.”

Prominent science journalist Chris Mooney, an atheist and author of The Republican War on Science, received a 2010 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship, enabling him to join other journalists for a three-week lecture program on science and religion at Cambridge University. In a June 7, 2010, post[69] on his Discover magazine blog, Mooney wrote, “I can honestly say that I have found the lectures and presentations that we’ve heard here to be serious and stimulating. The same goes for the discussions that have followed them.” In 2006, freelance science journalist John Horgan, a 2005 Templeton-Cambridge fellow, wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education (April 7, 2006) that he had enjoyed his fellowship, but felt guilty that by taking money from the Templeton Foundation, he had contributed to the mingling of science with religion. In a June 10, 2010, post on his blog[70], Mooney took issue with Horgan’s point, calling the idea that the fellowship was a “Trojan horse” for religion “pretty untenable.” Prominent Templeton critics Richard Dawkins, A.C. Grayling, and Daniel Dennett declined to answer[71] a Templeton-Cambridge fellow’s interview requests, saying that they did not want to lend credibility to the science and religion journalism program. Mooney rejected this approach, writing, “You can’t both denounce the fellowship for being intellectually tilted and also boycott it, thereby refusing to help lend it more of the balance you claim it needs.”

In 2011, the science journal Nature took note of the ongoing controversy[72] among scientists over working with Templeton. University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, a fierce Templeton critic, told Nature writer Mitchell Waldrop that the Foundation’s purpose is to eliminate the wall between religion and science, and to use science’s prestige to validate religion. But other scientists, including Foundation grantees like University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and Anthony Aguirre, a University of California—Santa Cruz astrophysicist, told Nature that they have never felt pressured by Templeton to spin their research toward religion-friendly conclusions.


Quote:
The John Templeton Foundation spends a major part of its resources in the support of research and teaching in the field of science and religion. Science and religion is a new academic discipline still in the process of defining itself. Its practitioners may be theologians, philosophers, psychologists, medical doctors, biologists, or physicists. They engage in a great variety of studies with diverse methods and purposes. His purpose is to rejuvenate the ancient discipline of theology by bringing into it people and ideas from the new disciplines of science. His dream is to see experts in science and religion making new discoveries in religion, as revolutionary as the discoveries that have been made during the last century in science.

– famed-physicist Freeman Dyson, A Many-Colored Glass:Reflections on the place of Life in the Universe (University of Virginia Press, 2007), page 133, Chapter 7 "The Varieties of Human Experience"



hmmmm playboy magazine wrote:
The Born-Again Scientist: Spirituality Comes to the Lab
Peter Doherty may seem like an odd choice for a speaker at the 2009 Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion, a giant interfaith conference held every five or so years. After all, the 1996 Nobel laureate in medicine isn’t religious per se. He attended a Methodist church growing up , but he now describes himself as an agnostic. Nor has Doherty’s career in immunology—capped by the discovery of how our immune system recognizes cells infested with viruses—left much time for sustained interactions with religious believers. Nevertheless, Doherty describes himself as “spiritual.” In fact , Doherty is among a growing number of nonreligious researchers who view scientific inquiry itself as a spiritual quest—a trend that has the potential to dramatically upend the idea that science and religion must be in conflict. Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund recently surveyed nearly 1,700 scientists at top U.S. universities about their beliefs. Her most surprising finding was a prevalence of spirituality detached from traditional religion—20 percent of the scientists fit this category. These researchers would appear to be surfing the same “spirituality revolution” sweeping society more generally: In an April survey of 1,200 Americans ages 18 to 29—the so-called millennials—72 percent said they were “really more spiritual than religious.” To be sure spirituality can be a slippery term. We usually define it on an individual level and outside any formal religious context. For instance, spiritual scientists tend to view the world differently than most Americans who embrace the label and who are often interested in angels, demons and mix-and-match religious eclecticism. When scientists feel spiritual it often has more to do with a glorious feeling that comes with contemplating the natural world or the universe—a feeling made all the more intense by scientists’ capacity to peer beneath the surface of things and achieve a deeper understanding, Spiritual physicists feel mystical, even spooked, that their equations can describe verifiable occurrences on the quantum scale; spiritual biologists, meanwhile, marvel at the intricate interconnectedness of nature. Says Doherty, “Spiritual experience for a religious person can manifest as the infinite wonder of God. In a scientist it can manifest as the infinite wonder of the creation and the world around us—and how this has come about and how extraordinary it is.” But can scientists who say they are awestruck by nature and moved by their research really relate to more traditional religious spiritual experiences, a la those reported by saints? Aren’t “awe” and “wonder” nondescript notions that add emotional embroidery to the brute facts of the universe? Perhaps not. Feelings of awe, wonder and mystery recur in the context of human quests for deeper understanding or revelation. In his 1917 work The Idea of the Holy German theologian Rudolf Otto singled out a sense of awe as a key characteristic of our encounters with what he termed the “numinous”—an overwhelming power or presence beyond ourselves. Science can unleash this feeling too. Just sit in a darkened room and look at nebula pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, as University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank describes doing in his book The Constant Fire: Beyond the Science vs. Religion Debate. “Scientists are not the only ones who catch their collective breath before these pictures,” he writes. “The momentary hush and the gasp that follows are involuntary.” Today’s spiritual scientists even have a patron saint: Albert Einstein, who spoke of his “cosmic religious feeling” and his “feeling of awe at the scheme that is manifested in the material universe.” Einstein saw no reason to believe in a personal God or the supernatural. But he called himself a “deeply religious nonbeliever” because of the reverence he felt when contemplating the intricacy and mystery of the universe and trying to understand it. Knowledge, in the Einsteinian worldview, thus becomes the new sacred. It is the dearest thing we have. You may argue that Charles Darwin was another spiritual leader of modern science. While he ultimately concluded he would have to remain an agnostic with respect to God, Darwin expressed great wonder at the diversity and interconnectedness of nature. Take this passage from The Voyage of the Beagle: “Among the sciences which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests undefaced by the hand of man; whether those of Brazil, where the powers of life are predominant, or those of Tierra del Fuego, where death and decay prevail. Both are temples filled with the varied productions of the God of Nature: No one can stand in these solitudes unmoved and not feel that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body.” As Darwin biographer James Moore has put it, Darwin’s scientific creed was that “great things are caused by little things.” Or as Darwin opined, “We are all netted together.” He finished The Origin of Species on a powerfully spiritual note: “There is grandeur in this view of life with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” So you could say that today Einstein and Darwin serve as scientific and spiritual exemplars speaking to successive generations of researchers not only intellectually through their most famous theories but also emotionally through their writings. Therefore, rather than vanquishing religion, modern science might have helped to unleash the human spirit and free it from traditional religious constraints. The result? At least for some, the need for spiritual fulfillment can now be satisfied outside the context of supernatural creeds. And the sacred, which is the object of the spiritual quest, can now be found in nature and in a search for an understanding of it. Indeed, scientists now demonstrate that the spiritual experience itself likely emerges from our biology. According to researchers who are studying the human brain during meditation and those contemplating our evolutionary origins, it looks as though spirituality may be hardwired into our bodies, physically proving that the spiritual experience is universal and shared. Science is also the core basis for helping to preserve the conditions in which such spiritual experiences can occur. The scientific spirituality of people such as Peter Doherty today engenders a new quest—to save the planet. (The title of his panel at the Parliament of the World’s Religions: “Science and Spirituality: Building New Partnership to Heal the Earth.”) And on this count Doherty has impressive company. In his book The Creation, celebrated Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson makes a spiritual appeal to religious believers for help in preserving the diversity of species on Earth. Similarly, other scientists have reached out to religious audiences to find allies in the fight against climate change and for environmental protections. There is, after all, a common interest between scientists and believers: Secular or otherwise, we cannot have spiritual experiences without an Earth to have them on. “Whether you believe all life reflects the operation of evolution or God’s good grace, our responsibility to future generations is to ensure that the creation is preserved in all its magnificence,” says Doherty. “That will happen only if those who live by science and/or by faith can work together in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respect.” Chris Mooney is author of The Republican War on Science and Unscientific America.



hmmmmmmm wrote:
by Chris Mooney

As noted earlier, I’ve recently done a Playboy article that advances the case for an atheistic, scientific spirituality devoid of supernatural belief but not devoid of feeling.

To my surprise, the piece is now being attacked for being pro-religion. But if you read it, it’s clearly about liberating us from religion, and says many of the same things that leading atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris say about non-religious spirituality!

On Al Jazeera, you may recall, Dawkins discussed the “frisson in the breast” that he feels when contemplating “the beauty of the universe, the complexity of life, the magnitude of space, the magnitude of geological time.” He says this feeling could be called “spirituality”–but “I would be very concerned that it shouldn’t be confused with supernaturalism.”

My article perpetrates no such confusion. It is clear throughout that we’re talking about spirituality without religion, e.g., “a growing number of nonreligious researchers,” “a prevalence of spirituality detached from traditional religion,” “Einstein saw no reason to believe in a personal God or the supernatural,” “[Darwin] ultimately concluded he would have to remain an agnostic with respect to God,” etc. And most of all, this passage:

Therefore, rather than vanquishing religion, modern science might have helped to unleash the human spirit and free it from traditional religious constraints. The result? At least for some, the need for spiritual fulfillment can now be satisfied outside the context of supernatural creeds. And the sacred, which is the object of the spiritual quest, can now be found in nature and in a search for an understanding of it.

Thankfully there are some atheists who do see what I was saying–and its resonance: See here. Reading my article correctly, Camels with Hammers notes that it “effectively shows that atheistic spirituality and religiosity are possible without any need for the baggage of ungrounded belief.”

But as one e-correspondent pointed out, the coolest thing of all is…I’ve apparently gotten some people to read Playboy for the articles!!!

January 6th, 2011 7:54 AM





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Dogen



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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sam wrote:
Cognitive dissonance is heady stuff. I have my own particular case study to watch it happen on a pretty much constant basis with: a hardcore zionist muslim-hating lesbian objectivist fundamentalist orthodox jew who wants to abolish intellectual property rights and taxes and pretty much always thinks Ron Paul is going to totally come from behind and win the next election. Her worldview cannot make sense unless she specifically cognitively avoids confronting the fatal conflicts, such as between lesbianism and orthodox judiasm, or orthodox judaism and objectivism, or objectivism with zionism, or .. well, take your pick.

This is a little bigger than cognitive dissonance, though. I mean, you might say that rationalization is an attempt to assuage dissonance, but that assumes the individual in question believed the new information to begin with (in order for there to be dissonance). In this case, we're talking about people whose established mental states (and, likely, social pressures) make it incapable for them to even entertain contrary positions. It's a small but important distinction because cognitive dissonance can go either way - you can either say you hate turning cogs by hand for an hour and you lied for a low price, or you can say you love turning cogs and $1 was a nice bonus to share cog-turning with other people. External situational influences nudge you one way or the other. Not so much with confirmation biases, self-serving biases, fundamental attribution errors, egocentric biases, heuristics, etc. Those are more "default" frames of reference which limit the types of external information that will be considered, or how it will be considered.

Which is actually more difficult, because it means you can say something totally rational and be heard as totally irrational, simply because what you said doesn't match the frame of the receiver.
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Arc Tempest



Joined: 28 Jan 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dogen wrote:
Which is actually more difficult, because it means you can say something totally rational and be heard as totally irrational, simply because what you said doesn't match the frame of the receiver.


This issue actually comes up in forestry a lot, you can show decades of scientific evidence that certain ecosystems require fire or mechanical thinning to remain in their natural range of variability. But if you propose actually doing either of them with the explicit purpose of creating a healthier forest, all the environmentalists raised on Smokey the bear (damn his hide) start making Nazi comparisons. The idea of human "interference" being a positive thing is simply too far outside their frame of thought.

Of course you see the same thing with die-hard timber beasts too. Talk to them about converting marginal timber land into a recreation area to earn public goodwill and they'll try to get you one of those coats with the long sleeves.
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WheelsOfConfusion



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arc Tempest wrote:
Dogen wrote:
Which is actually more difficult, because it means you can say something totally rational and be heard as totally irrational, simply because what you said doesn't match the frame of the receiver.


This issue actually comes up in forestry a lot, you can show decades of scientific evidence that certain ecosystems require fire or mechanical thinning to remain in their natural range of variability. But if you propose actually doing either of them with the explicit purpose of creating a healthier forest, all the environmentalists raised on Smokey the bear (damn his hide) start making Nazi comparisons.

Wow, I thought that was common knowledge. I remember seeing it on some afternoon documentary nature show and learning about it in grade school.
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Arc Tempest



Joined: 28 Jan 2007
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Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It varies a great deal geographically. In areas where fires had/have a return interval of 5-10 years like some forests in the Carolinas or the chaparral in California people tend to be more familiar with the idea.

But in places where the MFRI is 15 years or more (such as eastern Oregon), places where fire suppression has been highly "successful" (such as eastern Oregon), and places where a significant portion or even a majority of the people there have only lived there for less than twenty years (such as eastern Oregon)... things get messy quick.

There seems to be this pervasive school of thought in Youessian culture that nature is static, disturbance is a bad thing, and that the best thing we can do is leave things alone so that they'll never ever change. The reality of landscapes defined by continual natural disturbance and change doesn't sit well with this mindset.

As a professor of mine once put it, "people don't like it when I tell them that all that old growth they set aside for spotted owls IS GOING TO BURN DOWN. I'm lucky if they don't call the cops."
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Thy Brilliance



Joined: 09 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2011 9:06 pm    Post subject: Fuzzy logic is a solution to cognitive dissonance. Reply with quote

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?reload=true&arnumber=5422839

http://www.icaen.uiowa.edu/~comp/Public/Swarm_Optimization.pdf

http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1418688&preflayout=flat

http://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/fichero_articulo?codigo=2724027&orden=0

http://www.leonid-perlovsky.com/new-materials/9,%20NN,%20Emotional%20SWH.pdf
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nathan



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dogen wrote:
Except that even very logical people can be very illogical about certain things. Physicists can think Obama is a Muslim. Physicians that climate change is a hoax. That's the rub. Your logic is slower than the, quite literally, visceral response of emotion. They can measure it on an EEG.

That's precisely my point. Their logical instinct is restricted in scope. They aren't disturbed by logical inconsistencies in and of themselves, but only within the specific contexts in which they've been specially trained at some later point in life.

I understand that your logic is slower that the visceral response of emotion. But, if established early enough, logic can be the basis for visceral emotional responses... anything can, if it's socially reinforced. In the same way that Arkansas natives react viscerally to Communists, good citizens should recoil at logically inconsistent statements.
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Unnamed?



Joined: 14 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nathan wrote:
Dogen wrote:
Except that even very logical people can be very illogical about certain things. Physicists can think Obama is a Muslim. Physicians that climate change is a hoax. That's the rub. Your logic is slower than the, quite literally, visceral response of emotion. They can measure it on an EEG.

That's precisely my point. Their logical instinct is restricted in scope. They aren't disturbed by logical inconsistencies in and of themselves, but only within the specific contexts in which they've been specially trained at some later point in life.

I understand that your logic is slower that the visceral response of emotion. But, if established early enough, logic can be the basis for visceral emotional responses... anything can, if it's socially reinforced. In the same way that Arkansas natives react viscerally to Communists, good citizens should recoil at logically inconsistent statements.


If by nature, the logical response is always slower than the visceral response, it doesn't make sense that the visceral response can ever be grounded first in logic.
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