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Religion, science

Religious Experience and Attribution

I think today I will take a short detour to talk a little bit more about attribution errors and religion.  I’ve been thinking (and researching) after reading GFelis’s comment on yesterday’s entry.  Here’s one of the salient points:

[T]here can’t be propositional attitudes (like belief or disbelief) in the absence of any concept defined and delineated well enough to call a proposition, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be other sorts of attitudes. A person doesn’t have to have a clear conception of God to have feelings in response to the word “God,” even if that word is literally meaningless when that person uses it because he or she doesn’t have any concept in particular attached to the word.

This concept got me thinking about “religious experiences” and how people feel about them.  In particular, I tried to remember religious experiences that I had when I was a Christian, and how they felt, emotionally and intellectually, to me at the time.  I remembered two experiences in particular.

The first was when I was a young teenager and became involved with a “charismatic” church that believed in things like speaking in tongues and casting out demons.  If you’re not familiar with speaking in tongues (Glossolalia, for you nerds), it’s an especially bizarre practice in some Christian denominations, where people speak in what amounts to gibberish.  Most charismatics believe “tongues” are a personal prayer language between the speaker and God.   The idea is that God knows how to pray to God better than you know how to pray, so why not let God do the praying through you in his own private language?  (Remember, these are the same people who believe God sacrificed himself to himself to allow himself to forgive himself for making us how he made us.  It’s not really that much of a stretch to believe he also prays to himself.)

Anyway, I was standing in the congregation while there was a prayer circle at the altar.  A bunch of men were laying hands on another young teenage boy, jabbering and “lafalaallamalla-ing” all over him, hoping he’d start jabbering in his own prayer language.  Music was playing, the whole congregation was swaying back and forth with their hands in the air.

And then it happened.  I went… somewhere.  Very suddenly, I felt very detached from myself.  It was as if I was watching myself sway unconsciously to the music.  I wasn’t in control anymore.  I was  part of the mass of humanity, hypnotized by the music and the atmosphere of the place.   Time and space didn’t seem quite right.  There was a warm, fuzzy “glow” in my chest that spread through my whole body.  It was almost orgasmic, except that it didn’t feel sexual in any way.  I was convinced that God’s spirit had entered my body and given me that experience.

The second experience happened in a very different kind of circumstance.  I was playing with a band — a secular band, mind you, with a bunch of non-believers — and we were about five minutes into a long instrumental section that had a very repetitive, hypnotic rhythm.  I was playing a solo, and suddenly, there I was again.  Everything that had happened to me in my church experience, only now, I was watching myself play a solo that was technically very difficult.  I wasn’t controlling my hands.  They were just moving, and the notes were coming out.  Even though the music was linear, I wasn’t moving in space and time.  I was moving in sound.  Only I wasn’t moving.  The music was moving, and I was just there… motionless.

Really.  It was very trippy in a Pink Floyd kind of way.

In remembering these two experiences, it’s clear that they were virtually identical neurologically.  What’s interesting is how I interpreted them.  When I was a Christian, I felt God.  There was no doubt in my mind.  I felt my spirit in my body.  I felt God’s spirit mingling with mine.  It was a real, physical experience.  But then, when I had the second euphoric episode, I did not feel God.  I didn’t even think of God.  It didn’t even cross my mind to think about God until days later when I remembered the experience at the church.

It turns out that there’s a scientific explanation for this.  In 2001, scientists in Germany used neuroimaging on a group of religious believers while they were having “religious experiences.”  Their goal was to determine whether or not these events were immediate, preconceptual, and affective, or whether they were cognitive processes.  In layman’s terms, they wanted to know if believers were unconsciously talking themselves into religious experiences.

The short answer is that religious experiences are cognitive processes.  Certain areas of the brain, notably a frontal-parietal circuit composed of the dorsolateral prefrontal, dorsomedial frontal and medial parietal cortex, are associated with representations of knowledge structured as cognitive schemas.  These are the areas of the brain that are consistently active during religious experiences.  In other words, these religious experiences are the brain’s cognitive interpretation of pre-existing beliefs about religion.  The believer is then literally creating God in his own image.

To put it another way (and get out of all this technical jargon), religious experiences are Attribution Errors at a very basic level.  The believer feels as if the experience is immediate and “triggered” from an external source — namely God — but in reality, the brain has already worked out the logic of the religious experience as part of an existing belief structure.

There is substantial evidence from the psychology of religion to suggest that people are ‘prepared’ for religious experiences.  This ‘readiness’ is probably mediated by the dorsomedial frontal cortex, leading to the commonly reported felt immediacy of religious experience.  The experience, however, becomes religious when the subject has consciously identified it as consistent with the subject’s own religious schema.  (Azari, et al.  2001)

What does it all mean?  It lets us figure out which is the chicken and which is the egg.  It gives us scientific evidence that the believer is literally talking himself into having a religious experience.  It’s not God.  It’s not magic.  It’s just the brain doing what brains do — trying to make sense of the world based on what it’s experienced.

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Azari, Nina P., et al.  Short Communication:  Neural correlates of religious experience.  European Journal of Neuroscience, Vol 13, pp. 1649-1652, (2001).

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Discussion

20 thoughts on “Religious Experience and Attribution

  1. Hamby I think there is confusion as to what FAE is.

    When I wrote about FAE in the Christian philosopher thread, I used the definition I learned is psychology class and after the comments, I consulted my text and found that I did indeed use the correct definition and some people were….. misattributing it.

    FAE is when we attribute things ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE, not ourselfs.

    What you are refering to is misattribution of arousal.

    Let me illustrate the difference.

    For FAE, if an atheist axe murders his wife, and Spiegel or whatever his name was will commit an error in attributing the cause of the murder as the atheist’s rebellion against God.

    A simple illustration of FAE is:

    It ignores the situation in which the person is in and emphasizes internal motives.

    The axe murder example illustrates this. The atheist did it because of his internal character of rebellion against God, not because he caught her sleeping with the milkman and killed her in rage.

    Or if I’m snarky on the RRS, it’s because I’m a bitch, not because I had a bad day.

    Misatrubtion of arousal is when we misatribute why we feel the way we feel.

    For example, have you ever been to a free sample booth?

    They will give out a sample of a product and “sweet talk you”, try to make you feel good. Why?

    Because you will misatribute your happiness to the quality of the product, not because the salesman is charasmatic and then you will associate the product with happiness. You’ll soon forget what the salesman said, and since you’re happy after testing the product, then the product must have made you happy, because it’s so good not because the salesman made you happy with his/her sweet talk.

    This is why they put pretty women in advertising.

    Posted by Alison | March 23, 2010, 5:08 pm
  2. LOL… Alison, if you check back on the comments, I actually corrected you on what I thought (and still think) was using the term FAE wrong. That is, if you were calling Faith an FAE. If not… I’m confused.

    Anyway, then I turned around and did it myself. Yes. Fundamental Attribution Error is most specifically used just in reference to other people and their character vs. their environment. I used the word “agent” to broaden the concept to things like god and pets, who can also be the target of FAEs.

    I’ve changed the wording to what it should have been… simply an attribution error, not a fundamental attribution error. That is, the religious attribute religious experiences to an external source when they’re internal and cognitive. This use of attribution is part of the “Attribution Theory of Psychology and Religion” (Look up Wayne Proudfoot) and does include FAEs directed at God. But this psychological phenomenon is not an FAE. Thanks for catching my mistake.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 23, 2010, 5:21 pm
  3. haha just to clear some things up:

    I have to go to work soon, so I’ll do a more thourogh double check when I get back but:

    What was confusing about the previous comments were my writing style and my equivocation of FAE with groupthink.

    In groupthink of course, we take the success of our ingroup members in a FAE and associate it to their internal character, not external circumstances because they’re in our group, which is FAE.

    If an outgroup members does a bad thing, we put it as there internal character, not external circumstances because they are in a rival group.

    What happened is that is that I equivocated the two. That is because groupthink can involve FAE, I interchanged groupthink with FAE.

    In fact groupthink can produce the opposite of FAE, that is if an ingroup memebers does something naughty, it’s due to external circumstances, not internal ones, and the same if an outgroup does a good thing.

    What I meant with my faith based belief and FAE is as follows:

    (hopefully I can get it right and clearly this time)

    Groupthink can cause us to hold certian Faith based beliefs. For example if a Christian holds some bias towards atheist, that atheists are immoral etc… it could be due to group think and said group think could be generating those beliefs.

    That is the we get associated with a group. We then get integrated into said group and groupthink starts up and then we get these faith based beliefs [no evidence in favour of and/or evidence against] about the outgroup.

    In this case, we didn’t get groupthink because of the faith based beliefs against the outgroup. We have the faith based against the outgroup because of groupthink.

    If we can cut off the groupthink, then we can get rid of the faith based beliefs against the other group due to the groupthink.

    This is why the “30 days” show reduced the wife’s prejudice against atheists. Being exposed to an atheist that didn’t conform to schemas broke the groupthink and hence the faith based belief against the atheist that was generated by the groupthink was eliminated.

    They got results by addressing the group think, not the faith based beliefs that were the result of the groupthink.

    Posted by Alison | March 23, 2010, 6:13 pm
  4. Groupthink can cause us to hold certian Faith based beliefs.

    Do you mean groupthink is a contributing factor in the acceptance of certain faith based beliefs by individuals? I hope that’s what you mean, because otherwise, I’m going to bust your balls about being so nitpicky with me about using the word “cause.”

    For example if a Christian holds some bias towards atheist, that atheists are immoral etc… it could be due to group think and said group think could be generating those beliefs.

    Well, yeah. That kind of falls under the “Duh” category. It’s just another way of saying precisely what I said. Atheists are the outgroup, and FAEs happen sometimes in group form. But to say that groupthink is “generating” those beliefs? What on earth does that mean? Are you suggesting that whenever a bunch of people get together to form a group, the meme “Atheists are immoral” magically becomes ingrained in their psyches? The belief, “Atheists are immoral” comes from someplace. Perhaps it comes from empiricism. After all, there are so many studies proving that atheists are immoral….

    Wait… that’s not it…

    No… the belief, “Atheists are immoral” comes from… what are those things called….

    PULPITS.

    The meme has been generated by the belief that Christians are more moral than everyone else because of their acceptance of Jesus as their lord and savior, which, if I’m not mistaken, is a Faith Based Belief. When lots of people get together in a group to celebrate and spread their Faith Based Belief that atheists are immoral, groupthink kicks in and lots of people who have no particular reason to believe it go ahead and accept it anyway.

    But no… groupthink didn’t create the meme. Faith did.

    In this case, we didn’t get groupthink because of the faith based beliefs against the outgroup. We have the faith based against the outgroup because of groupthink.

    No, Alison. We succumb to groupthink and go with the prevailing belief, which originated because of Faith Based Reasoning. The belief is separate from the mechanism which spreads the belief.

    If we can cut off the groupthink, then we can get rid of the faith based beliefs against the other group due to the groupthink.

    No. If we isolate Christians from the group, the power of groupthink diminishes, and they become susceptible to their new environmental influences, whether it’s a new group — atheists, for example — or brainwashing, or intensive education, or whatever. It’s a matter of which environmental factor is exerting itself most forcefully on the mind of the theist.

    This is why the “30 days” show reduced the wife’s prejudice against atheists. Being exposed to an atheist that didn’t conform to schemas broke the groupthink and hence the faith based belief against the atheist that was generated by the groupthink was eliminated.

    Well yes. She accepted a Faith Based Belief, probably largely due to groupthink. The belief itself did not magically appear in the group. It was the result of someone (or many someones) subscribing to a Faith Based Reasoning worldview, which may or may not have been accepted by them as the result of groupthink. It’s also probable that because Tracy accepts a faith based worldview, her belief in the “badness” of atheists was reinforced throughout her life whenever she saw non-Christian “evidence” that atheists are not bad. Since the information came from atheists, and atheists are bad, then this information is dangerous and bad as well. (This being in contrast to a naturalist who would evaluate the evidence on its own merits before making a decision.)

    Tracy, like all humans, has several mental mechanisms for consciously and unconsciously evaluating beliefs. One of those mechanisms is empathy. Another is reason. Another is experience. When she experienced a setting which triggered an empathetic reaction in her, the power of the group to sway her opinion diminished, and she began using reason to think about what she was being told. The combination of these (and probably other) changes in her environment changed her mental algorithm enough that she no longer believed what she did a few minutes before.

    Do you see how you’re guilty of doing the same thing you accuse me of? You’re saying, “Groupthink is the cause of the problem.” And you’re right to an extent. Groupthink is one of the environmental factors that contributes to widespread acceptance of memes, but the memes themselves are environmental factors that contribute to widespread acceptance of memes. And memes don’t just spontaneously burst into being. They come from somewhere. People think of them. And the people who think of them have worldviews. And one of those worldviews is Faith. And from faith comes memes that don’t line up with the evidence. Like… for instance… “Atheists are bad, mmmmkay?”

    They got results by addressing the group think, not the faith based beliefs that were the result of the groupthink.

    They challenged the faith based belief while removing her from her supportive group. They didn’t address group think. They sat there and told her, “Your beliefs about atheists aren’t correct. Listen to my story. Listen to his story. Listen to her story. See?” One of the dynamics in the social interaction was a lack of group support for her while she was hearing the evidence against her faith based belief.

    So you’re in the right ballpark, but you keep running to third base instead of first. Yes, it’s important to recognize the power of groupthink in the propagation of faith based memes. But the groupthink didn’t create the memes. It’s not the cause. It’s a facilitator.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 23, 2010, 6:45 pm
  5. From your about page:
    “If you like what you see here, please feel free to link . . .”
    —-
    Hamby, dammit,
    You’re one helluva deep thinker, and I enjoy reading your blog articles more than most.

    But when you get a chance, I’ld like you to meet me over at my new blog, Modern Atheist.org, and look over this post:
    An Atheist’s Essay on Civil Expedience

    http://modernatheist.org/2010/03/20/an-atheists-essay-on-civil-expedience/

    and help save me from obscurity 🙂 D R Hosie

    Posted by rushhumble | March 23, 2010, 11:22 pm
  6. But to say that groupthink is “generating” those beliefs? What on earth does that mean? Are you suggesting that whenever a bunch of people get together to form a group, the meme “Atheists are immoral” magically becomes ingrained in their psyches?

    Seeing as Atheists would be an outgroup, then yes it is part of the groupthink, but it doesn’t “magically appear”, downgrading the value of the outgroup IS a symptom of groupthink. So hence the groupthink caused them to devalue the outgroup, ergo the ‘Atheists are immoral” meme.

    The meme has been generated by the belief that Christians are more moral than everyone else because of their acceptance of Jesus as their lord and savior

    Believing your group to be morally superior is also a symptom of groupthink. To be in the group you have to accept Jebus. Well, if our group is morally superior [a symptom of groupthink], and you have to accept Jebus to be part of the group, then by golly those who don’t accept Jebus [and hence part of the outgroup] are immoral. Now guess what? The ingroup members are going to promote the moral superiority of their group in the meetings (i.e the puplits).

    Isn’t it amazing how I can derive these memes by using the known symptoms of groupthink?

    Hamby, do you remember the charts from the study I posted a while ago?

    Now isn’t it amazing, that when we control for coalition, the non-devoted group “magically” showed the same level of dogmatism and intolerance as the devoted group?

    How do you explain this? The explanation is simple: the more we feel attached to a group [that is the higher our coalition], the more likely we are to be intolerant to outgroups, and hence rationalize this intolerance by making shit up about them. It doesn’t matter if our group is religious or not. (To be fair, group cohesiveness by itself doesn’t increase groupthink, but if it’s coupled by other factors that lead to groupthink, than it can amplify it)

    Why is that so hard?

    You really, really , REALLY have to read

    “Mistakes were made…..but not by ME”

    http://www.amazon.ca/Mistakes-Were-Made-But-Not/dp/0151010986/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264206037&sr=1-2

    It shows how even “naturalists” who do rely on empirical evidence fall into groupthink and intolerance.

    Which is exactly what happened in the study I posted before.

    They challenged the faith based belief while removing her from her supportive group. They didn’t address group think. They sat there and told her, “Your beliefs about atheists aren’t correct. Listen to my story. Listen to his story. Listen to her story. See?” One of the dynamics in the social interaction was a lack of group support for her while she was hearing the evidence against her faith based belief.

    Yes they did remove groupthink.

    Think about this, faith is belief despite contrary evidence, so then why in the face of contrary evidence did she abandon her faith based belief? Removing her from the group influence was addressing the groupthink. Without the groupthink, her faith based belief fell on it’s face.

    Why do you think the contact hypothesis is so effective? Because it stops groupthink. In order for groupthink to work, you have to make sure that you don’t associate with the outgroup.

    Now to be fair, I do think that using empirical evidence is a good thing.

    I will say however, that saying that naturalists won’t have the problems to the same extent is nonsense, and why I posted those charts.

    I mean we both think we’re using empirical evidence and logic, and yet at least one of us is really caught up in cognitive bias.

    Posted by Alison | March 24, 2010, 12:39 am
  7. I would also like to add that you do have part of the picture, emphasis on empirical evidence can help reduce group think, however JUST doing that and not addressing the other factors, will not.

    So don’t take my posts as me saying that we shouldn’t be emphaising the use of empirical evidence. I think we should.

    Posted by Alison | March 24, 2010, 1:34 am
  8. I am really glad I read Jessica’s “Jesus Made Me Puke” from Rolling Stone Mag, before I read this blog entry – it is as apt as she claimed! It’s a great article, btw- totally moved me, in an almost religious way… I felt honest fear that had I done the experiment with the “charismatic” church weekend I would be driving the church bus and knocking on your door!

    Brain training – the brain having already worked out the logic – – doesn’t quite cover it.

    Indoctrination is insidious.

    Going to check out rushhumble’s blog – but anything with the word rush in it gives automatic rise to skepticism!

    Posted by PaigeB | March 24, 2010, 3:08 am
  9. Hello Hamby,
    I would like to send you a newly published, very unusual, atheistic book as a gift.
    Would you, please, supply me with the address where I can mail the book?
    Thank you. Mark Ofshtein – publisher.
    Phone : 305-395-7955
    Email : markofshtein@aol.com
    Website : http://www.ageoflogic.com
    P.S. Please, don’t let the title “You Will Be Forced To Become Wealthy” confuse you. This title fits like a glove, and after you read it, you will see why.

    Posted by Mark Ofshtein | March 24, 2010, 2:33 pm
  10. Seeing as Atheists would be an outgroup, then yes it is part of the groupthink, but it doesn’t “magically appear”, downgrading the value of the outgroup IS a symptom of groupthink. So hence the groupthink caused them to devalue the outgroup, ergo the ‘Atheists are immoral” meme.

    You’re suggesting that every ingroup has the meme: “Each group that is not us is evil and immoral”?

    Believing your group to be morally superior is also a symptom of groupthink. To be in the group you have to accept Jebus. Well, if our group is morally superior [a symptom of groupthink], and you have to accept Jebus to be part of the group, then by golly those who don’t accept Jebus [and hence part of the outgroup] are immoral. Now guess what? The ingroup members are going to promote the moral superiority of their group in the meetings (i.e the puplits).

    You’re suggesting that the San Fransisco 49ers (a group with substantial groupthink cohesion) believes that everyone who is not a San Fransisco 49er is morally inferior?

    Now isn’t it amazing, that when we control for coalition, the non-devoted group “magically” showed the same level of dogmatism and intolerance as the devoted group?

    How do you explain this? The explanation is simple: the more we feel attached to a group [that is the higher our coalition], the more likely we are to be intolerant to outgroups, and hence rationalize this intolerance by making shit up about them. It doesn’t matter if our group is religious or not. (To be fair, group cohesiveness by itself doesn’t increase groupthink, but if it’s coupled by other factors that lead to groupthink, than it can amplify it)

    So you’re suggesting that all ingroups have the meme: All groups that are not us are morally inferior to us?

    It shows how even “naturalists” who do rely on empirical evidence fall into groupthink and intolerance

    Are you suggesting that all groups of naturalists have the meme: “All groups that are not us are morally inferior to us”?

    Bleh. I think I’ve made my point. I hope I have.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 24, 2010, 5:03 pm
  11. So you’re suggesting that all ingroups have the meme: All groups that are not us are morally inferior to us?
    X4

    No.

    Hamby, not all groups fall into groupthink. What I am saying is that groupthink produces “groups that are not us are morally inferior”

    I could just as easily ask why doesn’t every Theist think all atheists are immoral?

    My asking that however won’t show anything.

    I even said that group cohesion alone will not cause groupthink.

    I am also suggesting, that humans view the outgroup less favourably than the ingroup regardless of what group it is or if they show groupthink.

    [Since you brought up sports, ever seen a soccer riot? Did those people attend weekly meetings saying it’s okay to throw beer bottles at the other team?]

    But you do have part of the picture, poor decision making procedures and percieved threats of the group could help induce group think.

    However those are just part of the picture, not the whole one. In order to actually get results, we need to get the whole picture.

    Also I doubled checked the symptoms of groupthink in my social psych text:

    1) illusion of invulnerability

    2) Belief in the moral correctness of the group (By golly, that IS a symptom!)

    3) Stereotyped views of out-group (sounds familar)

    4) Self censorship

    5) Direct pressure on dissenters to conform

    6) Illusion of unanimity

    7) Protecting the group from contrary viewpoints.

    These are universal symptoms regardless of whether the group is religious or not.

    Posted by Alison | March 24, 2010, 5:53 pm
  12. So Alison, what you’re saying is that not ALL groups engage in all 7 of the symptoms of Groupthink, right? I brought up sports for a very specific reason, and I’m glad you picked up on it. Sports allegiance produces some pretty severe irrationality in a lot of people. I actually love listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio because he regularly points out the kind of (chuckle…) “herd mentality” exhibited by die hard fans. I mean, for crying out loud, have you ever seen the kind of bar fight that can erupt if you’re stupid enough to say “Giants Suck” in the wrong part of town?

    But that’s not groupthink. It’s similar, but these folks don’t “really” believe they or their team are invulnerable. They don’t always believe in the moral superiority of their team, although that does come up sometimes, as in the example of anyone except the Yankees or Red Sox, who believes that those two teams are “evil” for spending more money than half the rest of the league combined. They certainly don’t participate in self censorship, and they certainly don’t want any converts. As far as “protecting the group from contrary viewpoints”? Nah. They REVEL in contrary viewpoints because arguing is part of being a sports fan.

    So Alison, every group doesn’t exhibit groupthink. But religion does. Something besides having a group is giving rise to groupthink, and it’s not groupthink giving rise to itself. You admit this: “I even said that group cohesion alone will not cause groupthink.” But you’re saying that faith based beliefs have nothing to do with the rise of groupthink in religion. That seems puzzling. What else do you think it is?

    Posted by hambydammit | March 24, 2010, 6:17 pm
  13. So Alison, what you’re saying is that not ALL groups engage in all 7 of the symptoms of Groupthink, right?

    Right. To be more clear, I’m saying not all groups fall for groupthink. You can have groups, religious or not, that don’t have ANY of the symptoms.

    What else do you think it is?

    Lots of things, personality type of the people in the group, lack of alternative groups (which, BTW I agree we should offer alternative groups) etc…

    And for the record I’m not saying a faith based worldview can’t or doesn’t contribute to groupthink. It’s part of it.

    But you can have groupthink even on empirical reasoned and logical ideas.

    For example, taking care of animals is rational. Preventing cruelity to animals is a rational and worthy worldview to have.

    However, if certain people get in a group with their fellow animal lovers such as PETA, then groupthink kicks in, digs it’s claws into this logical worldview and then these once logical emprical driven people are throwing moltov cocktails at animal research stations.

    Same with women’s rights. A rational, worthy, empirical (and to me self serving) worldview.

    But then they get together and form women’s rights groups, and once again groupthink sets in and then you get these irrational man-haters.

    Of course, not all PETA members will run around naked yelling fur is murder, and not all people in women’s rights groups want men to bow to the service of women. Not all local PETA or women’s rights groups will fall to groupthink

    Likewise, not all religious groups fall to groupthink and think atheists or non-Christians are immoral monsters.

    I mean, I’m a pro-life conservative and if you haven’t noticed neither pro-life nor conservative activist groups are getting positive press.

    So I prefer to stay out of pro-life/conservative groups so I don’t succumb to groupthink and minimize my probability of doing some nasty things.

    Posted by Alison | March 25, 2010, 4:26 pm
  14. “So I prefer to stay out of pro-life/conservative groups so I don’t succumb to groupthink and minimize my probability of doing some nasty things.”

    For crying out loud, Alison. So you agree with me. Being part of faith based groups who believe nasty things is bad for you.

    We could have just agreed on this two years ago and things would have been fine.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 25, 2010, 5:09 pm
  15. Hamby, I agree with you on more things than you think. Would you like a list?

    I do however disagree that if we endorse empirical reasoning and logic that this will somehow either reduce the likelyhood they fall to groupthink, or reduce it’s effects. Like I said groupthink can arise even when the people get together based on an logical empirical worldview.

    I also disagree with your proposed causes to certain problems and proposed solutions to said problems.

    Posted by Alison | March 25, 2010, 6:00 pm
  16. “I do however disagree that if we endorse empirical reasoning and logic that this will somehow either reduce the likelyhood they fall to groupthink, or reduce it’s effects. Like I said groupthink can arise even when the people get together based on an logical empirical worldview.”

    So you’d rather have people groupthinking that homosexuality is an abominable sin than groupthinking that it’s a normal part of nature?

    Ok. You run with that. I’m running with the idea that well educated, scientifically grounded groups of people are better than under-educated, superstitious, brainwashed groups of people.

    Let’s meet here in ten years and see whose groups have been nicer to each other.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 25, 2010, 6:32 pm
  17. So you’d rather have people groupthinking that homosexuality is an abominable sin than groupthinking that it’s a normal part of nature?

    Was that a serious question? Do you really think I want people going around hating gay people? I know you’re not an idiot so I’ll assume that this was a rehtorical question.

    In relation, I’ll say the reason that I want to get to the bottom of intolerance and groupthink is preciously because I DON’T want people to fall for groupthink. Because I DON’T want people to hate gay people.

    I’m running with the idea that well educated, scientifically grounded groups of people are better than under-educated, superstitious, brainwashed groups of people.

    Yes Hamby, atheist groups are morally superior to other groups, with atheist groups we will………………Hey wait a minute.

    But on a serious note, I do agree that being scientifically grounded and educated is better than not so.

    Don’t take my disagreement with your methods to get people to think scientifically to mean that I don’t want people educated or to think scientifically. Or that I disagree with your proposed causes of intolerance and groupthink as meaning that I want people to be intolerant or fall into groupthink.

    I just think you’re going about it in the wrong way.

    I’ll try to dig up the study, but I do recall one in which they made it so people educated in scientific fields were MORE likely to make an irrational, and even hurtful decision than those “under-educated, superstitious, brainwashed moops”

    You are SEVERELY underestimating the power of rationalization.

    Let’s meet here in ten years and see whose groups have been nicer to each other.

    Okay, but like I said, I have seen groups based on scientifically grounded views go apeshit (enviromentalists anyone? If an enviromentalist firebombs an oil rig, does that mean that I have to deny global warming or argue against it?)

    That said, I’ve seen alot of groupthink and herdmentality in the atheist movement, and the people who engage in such think that their groupthink views are grounded in science and are well educated.

    Not that I’m accussing you of this, but sometimes I wonder to be honest.

    Which brings me to a question which a non-rehtorical serious, non-snarky (though it might not come off as such):

    Do you think you can fall into groupthink? That is keeping your current mindset of using science etc…. Do you think you can fall into groupthink, disregard said mindset (because of groupthink) and go into intolerance?

    Posted by Alison | March 25, 2010, 7:33 pm
  18. Yes Hamby, atheist groups are morally superior to other groups, with atheist groups we will………………Hey wait a minute.

    I know you’re smart enough to know better than this, so I’ll assume you’re just being snarky. You should know that even though I’ve been frustrated enough with you in the past to want to put my eyeball out with a spoon, I’ve never been genuinely disappointed in you, but this comment makes me not want to talk to you anymore. Frustration is one thing, but don’t give the other side yet another fallacious argument to make against us. That’s just rude.

    For my readers who may not know why this isn’t a valid criticism, here’s why. There are two propositions on the table, or at least one proposition and one objection to the proposition:

    1) Groups of people who have been well educated in science and critical thinking (particularly the “human” sciences) will tend to “fall for” dysfunctional, unscientific, and fallacious groupthink memes less than those who have not been so educated. This is not a result of a reduction in their human propensity towards groupthink, but rather a redirection of that tendency.

    2) People will always groupthink. Groupthink causes moral superiority memes.

    I realize I’m being kind of reductionist with your point, but I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to prove, so I left it simple with things you’ve said explicitly.

    Now, the belief that science education reduces the number of erroneous memes people will subscribe to in groupthink mentality is NOT the equivalent of the group belief that “Atheists are more moral than theists.” It is a claim about the correctness of a scientific proposition. For you to equate it with a herd mentality groupthink is honestly pretty damn offensive, at least if you really did know better and were just being bitchy.

    To return to the proposed idea, I think we can prove it pretty easily. Get on google and find the names of all the top scientists in virology in the world. Cross match those names with all the people in the world who have put peanut butter on their penis to keep from getting AIDS while having sex with a Thai prostitute. Any matches? No? Now go to an impoverished village in Africa suffering from an AIDS epidemic. Count the number of men who practice bizarre rituals, some of which include the raping of virgins and the like, in an effort to avoid getting AIDS. Are any of them top virologists? No?

    At the risk of being snarky myself, it should be patently obvious that education reduces people’s propensity for believing and buying into wacky stuff. How many top astronomers in the world believe in alien abductions? Very few? I wonder why. How many evolutionary biologists believe the world is 6000 years old? Virtually none? How many of those top scientists were born and raised in environments that encouraged science and education? Nearly all?

    Gee Golly Whiz-Bang! Education helps to reduce harmful, wrong-headed, or just plain old wacky memes!

    Now, let’s look at some of the ritzy neighborhoods in the world. Do all the parents (or nearly all of them) send their children to ritzy private schools with state of the art facilities and only the best teachers available? Is there social pressure in the GROUP for parents to have over-achieving kids? How about this… do nearly all of the best Olympic athletes in the world come from rich countries where there are social groups who put enormous social value on achieving Olympic success? Can groupthink apply to positive memes? Why yes! It can.

    You might object. Take one of those world class virologists and throw him into a village in Africa and make him live there for a decade without access to any of his wacky science tools. In five years, he might go all groupthink and say, “to hell with it. I’ll put peanut butter on my dick and fuck the tailpipe of a broken down horsecart.” SEE?? Groupthink works on everybody!!

    Which is why, Alison, I want to EDUCATE EVERYBODY, so that the number of uneducated people is reduced to the point that any groups they do form are not powerful enough to exert their will on Congress. See how it works? I’m not claiming that knowing the reality of the universe reduces groupthink. I’m claiming that knowing the truth about the universe increases the number of true things about the universe that people believe IN GROUPS. I’m not claiming that knowing true things about the universe will end all human suffering and create utopia. I’m saying it will decrease the number of false things that people believe that also happen to create suffering and misery.

    And yes, Alison, I’m familiar with the data on educated people and irrationality. I even mentioned some of the studies in a blog last week. But I’d be glad to see if the studies you’re talking about have different conclusions than the ones I cited.

    Do you think you can fall into groupthink? That is keeping your current mindset of using science etc…. Do you think you can fall into groupthink, disregard said mindset (because of groupthink) and go into intolerance?

    (Hamby pinches himself… “Yeah, flesh.” Hamby checks his trousers. “Yep, still got the tools.” Hamby takes inventory of his four limbs, twenty digits, two eyes, cross references with Encyclopedia Britannica’s entry on Homo sapien.)

    Yes, Alison. It appears that I am human, and as such, I am subject to all of the psychological tendencies common to all humans.

    Posted by hambydammit | March 26, 2010, 4:06 pm
  19. I know you’re smart enough to know better than this, so I’ll assume you’re just being snarky.

    Assumption is correct, that was snarky.

    You do realize that we sometimes fight like a married couple right?

    You should know that even though I’ve been frustrated enough with you in the past to want to put my eyeball out with a spoon

    Here’s me:

    Since sharing feelings seem to reduce anger and frustration, DEAR, I might as well say our conversations seem to stem from anger more than reason.

    All I said is that the behaviour of some Christians is consistent with groupthik and that we should be addressing that rather than simply arguing with them, and, them being in groupthink, it would be difficult to get them to think rationality if the groupthink was still in effect.

    The simple premise is that humans are emotional creatures and when faced between a choice of being rational or being emotional, will typically disregard the former in favour of the latter. This isn’t saying that education is hopeless.

    Then all of a sudden that seemed to balloon to you thinking that I think we shouldn’t bother to educate and that I wanted people to be “un-educated and supersticious”

    I of course wish that I could just dump the blame all on you, but I don’t think I can, seeing as I don’t have the official wife manual with all the procedures.

    If you haven’t noticed, my mouth runs faster than my brain and I seem to get caught up in things.

    What’s leading to the mouthing moving faster than the brain is that I’m tired of the dumb arguments about cause and effect and fall to the Ultimate Attribution Error. (In fact that’ll make a nice topic for discussion on the RRS board. It’s rant time!)

    Now, the belief that science education reduces the number of erroneous memes people will subscribe to in groupthink mentality is NOT the equivalent of the group belief that “Atheists are more moral than theists.” It is a claim about the correctness of a scientific proposition. For you to equate it with a herd mentality groupthink is honestly pretty damn offensive, at least if you really did know better and were just being bitchy.

    I don’t think that spreading education is a herd mentality groupthink. I just think that some atheists are exhibiting herdmentality and groupthink and it’s not helping the atheist movement.

    How many of those top scientists were born and raised in environments that encouraged science and education? Nearly all?

    We should be very careful of how we encourage science and education.

    I’m glad you brought up pressure on Olymbic success. That of course can lead, ironically enough, to irrational behaviour of parents pushing their kids to play hockey 10 hours a day and if the kid doesn’t make it to the NHL out of the 20 million other kids that try out, than he’s just useless.

    The reason I think we should be careful is because of above.

    Go to an American classroom, put a complicated math question on the board and call a kid to solve it.

    What will happen if the kid makes mistakes and can’t solve it?

    Yeah the other kids, “haha dumbass” “what a retard”

    The reason I get pissed at the previously mention ultimate attribtution error and cause and effect thing, is that it’s preciously the attitude we DON’T want.

    I’m not saying that these people WANT to create this mindset, but they do.

    We want people to think that if they make a mistake that they aren’t evil, or immoral, or stupid, they’re just human. That way, they can avoid the rationalition to deny the mistake and actually admit they made one.

    I mean if a kid misses a goal in hockey and the parents yell “Now you’ll never make it to the Olympics!”, and there’s a high social pressure to be Olympic material will that help?

    And yes, Alison, I’m familiar with the data on educated people and irrationality. I even mentioned some of the studies in a blog last week. But I’d be glad to see if the studies you’re talking about have different conclusions than the ones I cited.

    I already touched on it. It’s called rationalization. Since you constantly mentioned cognitive dissonance in the past I’m surprised that you haven’t caught on yet.

    Read the book I recommended and you’ll see how even doctors, lawyers, and scientists fall for it.

    Basically it goes like this

    1) I am a rational, empirically driven person. I wouldn’t hold a view based on faith

    2) I hold this belief (that could have easily been planted by group mentality for example)

    3) Therefore this belief I hold is rational and empirically driven, because if it wasn’t than I wouldn’t be a rational empirically driven person now would I?

    This is why I say that we don’t want the attitude that falling for an irrational belief (seeing as we ALL do it) makes you stupid, or evil, or immoral it makes you human and that you should work to fix it, not rationalize it.

    Whatever, sorry about the longwinded rant, but I just had to get somethings out and you were the closest reciprical to dump this on.

    Posted by Alison | March 27, 2010, 4:28 am

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