My views on irrationality

Cpt_pineapple
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My views on irrationality

I found a quote online that pretty much sums up my position:

 

Quote:

Unfortunately, blaming war and tyranny on government is like blaming house fires on oxygen. Strictly speaking, it's true, but no fire marshal would ever get a good performance review if that's his answer to everything. To understand house fires, you'll have to look at wiring, storage, smoking, materials and cooking, and not just insist, "It's oxygen, I tell you! Oxygen is evil! Why won't anyone listen to me?"

 

Just replace "government" with "faith based beliefs" or "irrationality". As soon as I read this, it inspired this post. There seems to be a strawman of me that I think if the person who did bad thing X was more rational they still would have done it. That's not true and is like saying a building would still catch fire if there wasn't any oxygen in it.


However, imagine the fire marshall that just stamped "oxygen" as the cause of every fire.

I often get accused of posting studies or making points that are irrelevant. I was originally annoyed and frustrated everytime that happend, and I can't believe it took me this long to realize why.


IT'S BECAUSE THE POINTS ARE SO BROAD THE SPECIFICS CAN BE SEEN AS IRRELEVANT.

The faulty wiring in the TV is irrelevant as to whether or not the oxygen let the fire burn. But what piece of information is more useful?  Should I dismiss the faulty wiring because it doesn't address the oxygen?

For those of us with training in science, we know that broad terms that apply to everything and don't answer the specifics are useless. You have to get specific and make testable predictions.

Now to be fair, the only study I've seen Greg Paul's two studies being citied, but once again these are too broad. For example did non-faith come before or after the low social dysfunction? What other factors were taken into account?

The answers of course are "I dunno" and "no other factors". Too broad and doesn't seem to get specific enough.

Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to comment on human irrationality.

The fact of the matter is all building have oxygen and all humans have irrationality.Though it is not a perfect analogy. Buildings have more or less the same concentration of oxygen as other buildings, humans don't have the same concentration of irrationality as other humans. However just like all buildings have oxygen, all humans have irrationality.

For example I don't think it's a coincedence that New Age woo such as astrology are rising as religion is declining.

Europe is one the least faithful continents on Earth, however it isn't without it's irrationalities.

For example, 41% of Europeans think that astrology is science [1] and even in atheistic Denmark, 49% believe in a Life/Spirit force, in Sweden it's 53%  In total, only 23% of Swedes and 19% of Danes don't believe in either a God or life/spirit force.[2]


 This is why I want to focus on the underlaying issue of the bad things people do because all buildings have oxygen, and yet some won't burn down, and all humans are irrational, yet we don't all do really terrible things. I'd like to maintain focus rather than just shrugging my shoulders and saying it was irrationality or if they were more rational about it they wouldn't have done it. Like I said this is technically true, however it doesn't really answer anything in any meaningful sense.



I for one would rather get to the root of the fire rather than just let what actually causes fires keep going on without us knowing what to do about it.




[1] http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_224_report_en.pdf

 [2 ]http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_225_report_en.pdf

 

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:I often

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

I often get accused of posting studies or making points that are irrelevant. I was originally annoyed and frustrated everytime that happend, and I can't believe it took me this long to realize why.


IT'S BECAUSE THE POINTS ARE SO BROAD THE SPECIFICS CAN BE SEEN AS IRRELEVANT.

 

Dunno why it took so long... some ones said it to your face, about once a week for the past year (at least)

Does this mean your turning over a new leaf, Pineapple?

Narrow, concise, and straight to the fucking point (for once) ?

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 I'd like to suggest

 I'd like to suggest another line of thought for you, Alison.  Irrationality isn't the problem.   That's waaaaayyyy too broad a category, and is essentially meaningless in what seems to be your quest.

In your analogy, if Oxygen = Irrationality, then you need another causal agent that precedes oxygen... one that determines how much oxygen is present in any given environment.  As you say, oxygen is pretty much constant on earth, but irrationality in humans is not.  There are lots of things that elicit "irrational" behavior in humans.  Jealousy, love, hate, stress, depression, non-depression, brainwashing, loneliness, etc, etc, etc...

And there are different kinds of irrationality.  It's irrational for most people to have children, but they do, and it's a damn good thing, too, or we'd have a geriatric problem of epic proportions, as the younger generations became incapable of supporting the elderly and infirm.  It's also irrational to believe in God, but if you live in Iran, it's damn rational to act as if  you do, and as we all know, that lie that is repeated enough often becomes true.  It's also irrational to play slot machines in casinos, but millions of people do it, and they find self-actualization through the adrenaline rush they get, and show no signs of being worse for wear.

I offer these examples to illustrate further why your search for a "cause for irrationality" is misled.  The point that I, and Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, et al, are making is NOT that faith based belief is irrational, and therefore bad.  It is that faith based belief is (have we heard this before?) a unique catalyst for exacerbating, amplifying, and/or instigating beliefs and behaviors that are dysfunctional and harmful.  It's not about irrationality.  It's about harm.

So, let me summarize:

*Irrationality, in and of itself, is a broad category that depends largely on perspective.  A single action can be both rational and irrational, regardless of the consequences.

* Many behaviors are quantifiably harmful.  

* Faith based belief systems remove reality checks from people's worldviews, and facilitate decisions made with intuition, emotion, AND irrational reasoning.  Faith literally opposes truth.

* Decisions made without regard to truth are substantially more likely to cause harm.

 

So... I'm glad you're beginning to see the errors in your thinking.  You've still got a little ways to go.  Maybe we can get you off of this focus on irrationality.  That would be... rational.

 

 

 

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I think it's fair to say that

Cpt_pineapple wrote:


 This is why I want to focus on the underlaying issue of the bad things people do because all buildings have oxygen, and yet some won't burn down, and all humans are irrational, yet we don't all do really terrible things. I'd like to maintain focus rather than just shrugging my shoulders and saying it was irrationality or if they were more rational about it they wouldn't have done it. Like I said this is technically true, however it doesn't really answer anything in any meaningful sense.


 

Humans are only just out of the cave when it comes to religion. There's also so much conjecture it's difficult to come to a privately coherent position. I can address single issues one at a time but it doesn't give me a useful world view. I think most people just click on a shortcut to avoid having to address the difficulties. People are - people - I s'pose and are limited in their ability to comprehend. I know I am. Captain, are you saying you want to get to the heart of god-belief and address that rather than just run around putting out spot fires. If so that makes sense to me. If we find a god centre in the brain, maybe a pill can be developed that can turn it off...

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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I don't think I've written

I don't think I've written clearly seeing as you guys think I've changed my views, but I haven't.

 

And I know Harris and Hitchens and even Greta Christina have said "faith is irrational therefore it's harmful". As for you, I don't know anymore, considering you seem keep changing your view. In fact in our last exchange, you explicitly said that what I post doesn't address your point that rational thinking beats irrational thinking. You also said on several occasions that if X person were more rational they wouldn't have done Y. Which kinda sounds like what I was talking about in the OP.

 

Plus the fact you explicitly said that taking a belief on irrational thinking even if harmless lends credence to other irrational beliefs which may not be harmless.

 

In your example of the slot machine, the moderate slot machine player can lend credence to the compulsive gambler.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:
Captain, are you saying you want to get to the heart of god-belief and address that rather than just run around putting out spot fires. If so that makes sense to me. If we find a god centre in the brain, maybe a pill can be developed that can turn it off...

 

 

 

No, I don't think there is no God belief part of the brain. But even if there was and we could turn it off, I don't see how that would be worth the effort of making the pill.

 

 

 


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Actually, the temporal lobe

Actually, the temporal lobe is where religion appears to come from.

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Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Actually, the temporal lobe is where religion appears to come from.

 

I meant that religion/God belief is no real "God box" that has to shut down for people to stop believing , that is the temporal lobe doesn't shut down when somebody stops believing in God.

 

 

 


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Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

Actually, the temporal lobe is where religion appears to come from.

The theists will now tell us that God and the devil are continually sending EM pulses through our skulls.

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Hambydammit wrote: It is

Hambydammit wrote:

 It is that faith based belief is (have we heard this before?) a unique catalyst for exacerbating, amplifying, and/or instigating beliefs and behaviors that are dysfunctional and harmful.  It's not about irrationality.  It's about harm.

Sounds like a gateway drug to me.

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 Quote:As for you, I don't

 

Quote:
As for you, I don't know anymore, considering you seem keep changing your view.

Not substantially.  I had one significant change of perspective when I read an article on tolerance of cognitive dissonance.  That changed the way I thought of the consequences of living with cognitive dissonance.  I no longer assert that cognitive dissonance -- in and of itself -- is a stress inducer.

Beyond that, my views are essentially the same (unless I'm forgetting something) as they have always been.  I've refined and improved the way I express them, and thought of several new perspectives from which to present them, but I don't think they've changed much.  I think where you're getting confused is that you conflate my arguments frequently.  For instance, you still seem to think that I believe "Irrationality causes bad things."  That argument is so broad as to be useless.  I believe that a specific kind of irrationality -- basing decisions on faith, particularly when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- is significantly more likely to lead to completely wrong answers to questions of what people should do.  This is pretty basic stuff.  If we have a goal, then our path to that goal will be more accurate if we have true data in our arguments.  If we're trying to get from A to B, and our data is wrong, we're very likely to end up in the wrong place -- to not reach our goal, but rather, some other end.

Why you have such a hard time understanding this simple argument is still a puzzle to me.

 

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The reason I accuse you of

The reason I accuse you of being so broad is because I have a hard time understanding why every time I ask for a psych report of the mother who drowns her kids I get jumped on and called a bad girl.  Every time I point out possible other reasons for a religious terrorist I once again get jumped on.

 

It seems you want to avoid the specifics. Even if you do think the irrationality is too broad like the oxygen, you seem to replace it with "making decisions based on evidence is better than decision not based on evidence."  which is replacing oxygen as the cause of the fire to combustable materials as the cause fires which is still too broad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Is Irrationality the catalyst

I usually stay out of verbal wars, especially between a Canadian and a Southerner, both of you will probably join forces to eradicate me and then go back to your war so to speak.

Hambydammit wrote:

For instance, you still seem to think that I believe "Irrationality causes bad things."  That argument is so broad as to be useless.  I believe that a specific kind of irrationality -- basing decisions on faith, particularly when there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- is significantly more likely to lead to completely wrong answers to questions of what people should do.  This is pretty basic stuff.  If we have a goal, then our path to that goal will be more accurate if we have true data in our arguments.

Cpt_ pineapple wrote:

replace it with "making decisions based on evidence is better than decision not based on evidence."  which is replacing oxygen as the cause of the fire to combustible materials as the cause fires which is still too broad.

 

I look at it this way: Consider a human to be a computer (Paisley inspired). If the computer is programmed with errors in the OS it tends to blue screen and crash. Incorrect operations may result and incorrect answers may be forthcoming.

So as to the analogy, the human bases his decisions on a flawed OS, religious beliefs of any kind for example. When he considers anything he does so with the flawed OS and all of his decisions and processing may be affected. Whether or not the decisions or conclusions reached produce good or bad outcomes is not the issue as either may result. The problem is they are reached with a flawed process and many times for incorrect reasons. In a very similar situation a very different conclusion may occur. This produces instability in the overall system causing very strange outcomes. For example Christians shooting doctors, interfering in the lives of others (didn't Jesus tell his followers to knock the dust off their feet and walk away), justifying wealth accumulation such as several TV Evangelists do taking cash to better their life at the expense of the contributor (against the clear directives of their Jesus), forcing conversions, justifying crusades, killing witches and the like. This has been true since the beginning, Ambrose for one advocated torture if needed to bring about conversion.

When fantasy is substituted for reality in an equation the outcome is likely to be unstable and unpredictable. That's what I see when religious belief is used in decision making. Those doing so don't consider what they are doing to be irrational, and since their basis of understanding is flawed they can't.

So it's not just the belief that is the problem, it's how it's used. Oxygen alone does not cause a fire, nor do combustible materials, a catalyst of some kind is needed, but fires need it to continue. Their are so many ways a fire can occur, I  designed smoke alarms back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth back in the 1970s. So as Alison says, a belief does not cause bad things to occur, in and of itself, they always seem to be present when they happen however just like oxygen and combustible materials. Irrational thinking can and will produce unstable outcomes and results. As Alison says with her analogy of oxygen/fires to irrationality/bad things, there must be more to explain it. Fires can be started with any possible combustible. The catalyst is the cause, lightning, chemical, shorted wiring, the oxygen allows its progression and the combustible is what burns. So the real question is what are the catalysts that cause bad things to occur when irrational beliefs are held. Is this catalyst any different than bad things occurring from other sources. I think they are the same. Humans with flawed operating systems are just as likely to push the big red button over political ideology as over religious fanaticism. American generals during the Cuban missile crisis were ready to go to nuclear war for example though their win would have been a real disaster of a world, they would have done so. Very irrational and very fortunate we slipped past it.

History shows that irrationalities have produced unintended consequences whether it was Hitler, Tojo, George Bush or Pope Innocent II and the 1st Crusade. George Bush allowed irrational thinking to dominate his decision making thus producing years of war all for the wrong reasons with still untold consequences and outcomes. Pope Innocent was a very pious man who was sincere, but his fanning of the issue brought about the death of hundreds of thousands and wasn't even what the Byzantine Emperor had wanted. Instead of a few hundred knights he was confronted by thousands of fortune seekers and supposed religiously inspired pilgrims. And long before they made it there, thousands of Jews were murdered in Europe.

So for example in this case, the pope's message to aid their brother Christians resulted in the unintended murder of thousands. Which is my point, when incorrect data is utilized, unknown unpredictable results will occur.

So what is the catalyst in the case of the mother who kills her baby in Texas. Was it religion? Or was she mentally unbalanced and with an already flawed process used bad data and chopped off her kids arms, or drowned them or whatever to save them from Satan. What would she have done if religion didn't exist? Kill them anyway probably. Perhaps we do jump on the band wagon too soon and exclaim, "see what religious belief does". At the same time however we have calculating schemers that do similar acts for political reasons or because they think they can get away with it. And yes there are many believers who are very sincere and cause no harm, we have little to fear from them perhaps. But on the other hand there are also many militants who would just as soon bring back torture and burn non-believers at the stake if they could. Any ideology can be used in a very bad way as history has shown. Religious belief has the possibility of being misused as does fanatical nationalism and both cause our problems today. What can prevent this sort of thing is rational thinking based in reality not on fantasy and delusion. Though as humans, we will error at times that we are still here and not living in atomic rubble says that we may be learning.

 

 

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 Quote:The reason I accuse

 

Quote:
The reason I accuse you of being so broad is because I have a hard time understanding why every time I ask for a psych report of the mother who drowns her kids I get jumped on and called a bad girl.  Every time I point out possible other reasons for a religious terrorist I once again get jumped on.

That's because your response is irrelevant to mine.  There's a hidden agenda in your insistence that there are other causes of dysfunctional behavior.  I'm not even sure you mean to be doing it, but it goes something like this:

Me: lists many dysfunctional behaviors which give strong indications of being tied to faith-based thinking

You: These could all be caused by something else.  Hidden implication:  None of these are REALLY caused by faith-based thinking

Me: Yes, each one of them could be caused by something else.  That's hardly relevant.  Counter argument to hidden implication:  With the pervasive and persistent correlations between faith-based thinking and dysfunctional behavior, it's an extraordinary claim that NONE of these behaviors are caused by faith-based thinking.  Pointing out that there are other potential causes is a red herring.  Nobody's ever claimed that ALL dysfunction is caused by faith-based reasoning.

You: So prove that (BROAD CATEGORY X) is directly correlated to faith-based thinking.

Me: No.  Because that's not what I'm claiming.

You: YOU FLIP FLOPPED!!

 

I think, Alison, that you're being stubborn and disingenuous about this.  There are two powerful assertions I've made that you have not addressed in any meaningful way, and I know you've seen them both more than once.

1) I was a Christian, and I have first-hand knowledge of my own beliefs and motivations while I was a Christian, and my faith-based beliefs DID CAUSE me to behave in dysfunctional ways.

2) I do not claim that faith causes (X Specific Behavior).  I claim that faith, by the definitional virtue of being the opposite of reason, leads to unreasonable conclusions.  It should be self-evident without peer review that if you ask a hundred people to deduce the objectively true answer to a logical problem, and fifty people use scientific evidence, while fifty people use faith based evidence (Which is necessarily different from scientific evidence) then the fifty people using faith will come up with fewer or less objectively true answers.  

 

 

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pauljohntheskeptic wrote:So

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

So what is the catalyst in the case of the mother who kills her baby in Texas. Was it religion? Or was she mentally unbalanced and with an already flawed process used bad data and chopped off her kids arms, or drowned them or whatever to save them from Satan. What would she have done if religion didn't exist? Kill them anyway probably. Perhaps we do jump on the band wagon too soon and exclaim, "see what religious belief does". At the same time however we have calculating schemers that do similar acts for political reasons or because they think they can get away with it. And yes there are many believers who are very sincere and cause no harm, we have little to fear from them perhaps. But on the other hand there are also many militants who would just as soon bring back torture and burn non-believers at the stake if they could. Any ideology can be used in a very bad way as history has shown. Religious belief has the possibility of being misused as does fanatical nationalism and both cause our problems today. What can prevent this sort of thing is rational thinking based in reality not on fantasy and delusion. Though as humans, we will error at times that we are still here and not living in atomic rubble says that we may be learning.

 

 

 

Good points and I generally agree.

 

 

Hambydammit wrote:

That's because your response is irrelevant to mine.  There's a hidden agenda in your insistence that there are other causes of dysfunctional behavior.  I'm not even sure you mean to be doing it, but it goes something like this:

Me: lists many dysfunctional behaviors which give strong indications of being tied to faith-based thinking

You: These could all be caused by something else.  Hidden implication:  None of these are REALLY caused by faith-based thinking

Me: Yes, each one of them could be caused by something else.  That's hardly relevant.  Counter argument to hidden implication:  With the pervasive and persistent correlations between faith-based thinking and dysfunctional behavior, it's an extraordinary claim that NONE of these behaviors are caused by faith-based thinking.  Pointing out that there are other potential causes is a red herring.  Nobody's ever claimed that ALL dysfunction is caused by faith-based reasoning.

You: So prove that (BROAD CATEGORY X) is directly correlated to faith-based thinking.

Me: No.  Because that's not what I'm claiming.

You: YOU FLIP FLOPPED!!

 

 

This is a strawman and it's basically saying that the house burned down due to a gas leak and then when asked for proof yelling "What, so you don't think gas leaks cause fires?!!!"

 

What I'm trying to get at when I ask those kind of things isn't "NONE of these are caused by faith-based thinking" it's how much each factor contributed to the dysfunction and in order to do that you have to, by golly, ask about the other factors. You won't touch an actual study on the causes of dysfunction with a 10 foot stick.  In fact don't even bother doing studies.

 

This merely re-enforces my thinking that you refuse to get into the specifics and you refuse to be willing to be able to distinguish between other causes.

 

 

Quote:

1) I was a Christian, and I have first-hand knowledge of my own beliefs and motivations while I was a Christian, and my faith-based beliefs DID CAUSE me to behave in dysfunctional ways.

 

But my house caught on fire because of a gas leak!

 

Quote:

2) I do not claim that faith causes (X Specific Behavior).  I claim that faith, by the definitional virtue of being the opposite of reason, leads to unreasonable conclusions.  It should be self-evident without peer review that if you ask a hundred people to deduce the objectively true answer to a logical problem, and fifty people use scientific evidence, while fifty people use faith based evidence (Which is necessarily different from scientific evidence) then the fifty people using faith will come up with fewer or less objectively true answers. 

 

 

What you seem to be missing everytime is humanity's ability to make rational or irrational decisions.  It's like trying to get rid of unwanted pregnancy in America by getting Americians to not having sex. Theoretically it would work, but it ain't happening.

 

And to burn down a strawman before it's built, I'm not saying don't bother spreading reason/science. I'm saying even scientifically minded people can make irrational decisions and stick to them. [I wonder how many Doctors smoke?]