Hamby requested that I write an abstract about my views with the evidence that led me to it etc...
I was told to keep it brief and concise, but I had to dig up the referenced studies.
It has long been observed and accepted that applying reason and critical thinking [Reason Based thinking or RB] is better and more likely to produce positive outcomes than non reason critical thinking [Faith Based of FB]. While people who use FB thinking can occasionaly stumble on positive outcomes and RB can have limited information and make a negative outcome, it is logical that the latter is more likely to produce positive outcomes than the former.
What experiences wider deviation is how do we deal with it? That is how do we make RB more frequent than FB? Simply acknowledging that driving sober is better than driving intoxicated, is a far cry from getting people to stop driving drunk.
Pointing out the cognitive mechanism that drive FB thinking isn't to say that it is impossible to overcome. For example Asians are less likely to fall to The Correspondence Bias or Fundamental Attribution Error [Choi et al 1999, Norenzayan et al 2000] Plus other difference in intuitive vs formal reasoning. [e.g Nisbett et al 2001, Norenzayan et al 2002]
However, I think it is clear that using FAE or CB to get people to stop people from using FAE or CB isn't going to help.
I propose that there is not a singular solution to FB just like there isn't a singular solution to drunk driving. We must approach the problem from multiple angles, being careful not to favour one more than another without empirical evidence to support it. For example, in dealing with FB thinking we mustn't underestimate the power and appeal of memes. Memes [religious or not] can most certiantly be a powerful source and if a negative meme gets it's hooks on then it can most certainly drive negative behaviour. However it says nothing on how to deal with memes and how and why they form in the first place [see Boyer 2001] and empirical research is required as to how best to combat them [see Atran 2008b and Ginges 2007]
Also, we need to make sure we are attacking the right memes and in fighting memes, we don't produce wrong memes about the negative memes. For example the "conventional wisdom" about terrorism is mostly wrong and don't hold up to empirical evaluation [see Atran 2008a and Sageman 2008].
But these critisisms don't mean we can toss out memes as a factor or that we should focus on other factors in favour of it. Nor does it mean that addressing the memes can't reduce them [Shariff 2008]. However the study doesn't have a solution of how to deal with the people who had lower religousity once they get back to their groups.
As to the role of religion and it's spreading of memes, I feel there is mounting evidence that religion isn't as big as a factor as either Theists or anti-Theists think it is. For example secular primes induced pro-social behaviour as frequently as religious ones [Shariff 2007] despite the claim of Theists that it is required to do [or at least increase the frequency of] pro-social behaviour. However there is also evidence against the claim of anti-Theists that it is required to do [or to at least increase the frequency of] anti-social behaviour as non-devoted people showed the same level of ills as devoted [Hansen 2006].
Hamby has brought up the objection that the study did not take into account the role of memes in creating and maintaning cohesion. However, a group need not be formed on a meme [compare a group formed from Conservatives or Liberals as opposed to randomly assigned by flipping a coin] in order for the negative outgroup memes to form [see the discussion in Bloom 2007]. Also cognitive dissonance can induce increased group cohesion [Aronson et al1959 see also Travis et al 2007]
Another point is that in regards to terrorism, memes have been tested against cohesion and cohesion was a better predictor [Ginges et al 2009]. This does not excuse memes, but it shows addressing cohesion will be more effective.
So the point is to not get caught chasing our tails. Trying to get rid of memes and ignoring how they are formed will not get us anywhere. Also merely focusing on group dynamics won't get us anywhere if we ignore the memes that keep it.
While [Shariff et al 2008] showed that religiousity can be reduced in wake of Dawkin's arguments, [Boyer et al 2001] shows that that religiousity is a result of cognitive mechanism and simply getting rid of the religious manifestation of them doesn't mean they won't pop up elsewhere.
If we merely focus on certain aspects of memes, we won't be prepared for when they pop up somewhere else.
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