I found what has to be the one of the dumbest articles I have read in awhile titled: Religion’s Smart People Problem: The Shaky Foundations of Absolute Faith.
It does not take too long to grasp the author’s bias. It is in the title of the article, the subtitle and in the first sentence. The bias excuses the continual run of error that start on the first sentence and run to the end of the article.
The article starts out with a question: Should you (general reader) believe in a God?
Not according to most academic philosophers.
But that was not the question the academics were asked. They were not asked whether other people should believe in a god, but whether they themselves believed in a god. That may sound like a minor distinction and a trivial one since what one believes one also wants others to believe. At least that is what we believe is the general goal of anyone who believes in anything.
I disagree with this. I can firmly state that when I was an atheist, I did not hold that therefore others should be also. And it was not a charitable stance on my part, I sincerely thought that some people needed such a crutch for their weakness, whatever that may have been. Another part of it was charitable. Atheism is grim, correction, serious atheism is grim. There is the modern eat drink and party on dude, there is no god and if your liver gives out at 50, fuck it, who cares, atheism. Brain dead atheism, libertine atheism (the atheism that serves the purpose of libertinism).
Atheism is grim for the philosophically minded, the sort of person who thinks in wide abstractions. Such a thing is for the abnormal.
And on that note, back to the academic philosophers. Why should one care what an academic philosopher thinks about the existence of a god (switching now to God)? The article presents the naked fact that, out of a survey of 931 academic philosophers 72.8% of them responded atheist. Why did they respond atheist? That is an end position, what are the premises? Simply stating that they do means as much as saying 72.8% of them prefer Jif to Skippy, and the only thing that would mean is 72.8% of academic philosophers are choosy mothers.
So? In the answer to the existence of Zombies (yes, Zombies) 23.3 affirmed as metaphysically possible. Were these of the atheist group? 25.1% responded Other to the question. Other? Other what?
12% also denied Free Will in the survey. I am willing to bet those were all atheists. If you ask me the denial of free will is, and always has been, bat-shit crazy next the most frenzied believe in miracles.
Only half of those surveyed responded positive the Correspondence Theory of Truth.
Note also the insult to the entire rest of the population. Religion’s populace has a smart-people problem because “we asked those guys (the smart people) and they said they don’t believe what you do.” How ridiculous is that? I used to flip burgers (pretty far down the brain train one would guess) does that make me non-smart people? What about computer programmers, chess champions, writers, poets. No, scientists and academic philosophers.
I’m actually surprised academic philosophers were asked anything.
The article’s writer asks: why is the lack of belief in our superiors so high? And the writer promptly steps out of his comfort zone.
Genes and environment explain human beliefs and behaviors—people do things because they are genomes in environments.
Think for a second. What is wrong with the statement above? People behave according to their beliefs, beliefs, as this statement says, are the products of genes and environment (and come to think of it, is this person from 1970?) beliefs are byproducts of two forces. What then differentiates man from any other organism? You explain something by establishing a thing’s identity and its causal role within an environment. The writer has just established his belief that man possesses no free will. If you can explain his beliefs and his behavior by genes and environment, you do not need concepts such as choice.
Bugs do things because they are genomes in environments.
To understand this writer’s perspective, one has to be a little familiar with the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins – these are the “authorities” that inform the writer’s worldview.
There is a scientific consensus that our brains have been subject to natural selection.
Our brains? You mean there is evidence that the brain of homo sapiens has been subject to natural selection or that fore-runners of ours (habilis, erectus, etc) suggest the subjection to natural selection. If someone is aware of new, established findings that our brains, in the category homo sapiens has been subject to natural selection, I’d like to know about it. I have heard nothing that establishes that we have further evolved since our inception.
And nothing excuses this leap:
So what survival and reproductive roles might religious beliefs and practices have played in our evolutionary history?
Look at the deep faith of the modern mind.
What mechanisms caused the mind to evolve toward religious beliefs and practices?
What caused the mind? No free will. No thought. I suppose the question is about specification as the two “mechanisms” were already mentioned by the author previously – genes and environment. You can dispense with the mind and merely make up a story.
Let’s look at some other examples of the exclusion of Mind.
Besides cultural influences there is the family; the best predictor of people’s religious beliefs in individuals is the religiosity of their parents.
Or not. My sister has been a member of 5 or so different religions. Two other siblings might have a belief in a god that has no real world consequences. And I, arch-atheist since 20 have been flirting with the Magisterium for the last two years. And we can find many, many, many instances that flout the author’s statement. In fact as historical progression the statement is laughable.
It has more to do with enforcement and ubiquitousness socially than family.
Religion may be a coping mechanism for the stress caused by the lack of a good social safety net—hence the vast disparity between religious belief in Western Europe and the United States.
Again, or not. It could also be that we came up with rock and roll and they did not. The statement of the author’s above is pure horse crap. Again note the unstated current that flows through all of these explanations. What ties them all together? The evasion, or plain disbelief, of autonomous minds with free will about to grasp truths (or falsehoods) and make free willed decisions.
Lack of social net. How about Europe’s two world wars? The whole of the twentieth century for that matter. How about the influence of its philosophers? Would we use the same explanation of the author to account for why Europe jumped into the arms of dictators and fornicated with socialism?
This whole article is the employment of one pet idea and its ludicrous application to incommensurable concretes.
While no causal relationship has been established, a United Nations list of the 20 best countries to live in shows the least religious nations generally at the top. Only in the United States, which was ranked as the 13th best country to live in, is religious belief strong relative to other countries.
If this person knew more than merely posting links to statistics they would see there is a giant question mark in there and not merely just a data glitch. It is at least something to investigate. Also might want to wait awhile and see how some of these countries fair living in dhimmitude, and see if that was the result of their lesser religiousness.
As my joke goes:
Where does the secular, relativist society end up?
On a prayer mat.
ba boom bap bo crash!
And then we go on to this:
There are good reasons to doubt that religious belief makes people’s lives go better, and good reasons to believe that they make their lives go worse.
The author doesn’t name them. Were the lists of countries with the percentage of atheists supposed to tell me a story?
It depends on more factors than this author is willing to consider.
After this bloviating about absolutely nothing, the author, comfortable that their case has been made proceeds to psychologize why even some seeming smart people can have these superstitions. And, as always, the boogeyman of creation “scientists” are brought in.
First, smart persons are good at defending ideas that they originally believed for non-smart reasons.
They want to believe something, say for emotional reasons, and they then become adept at defending those beliefs.
No doubt some people become adept at defending their beliefs. Meaning they think them over and learn to think about them. Such concepts the author cannot allow.
How else to explain the hubris of the philosopher or theologian who knows little of biology or physics yet denies the findings of those sciences?
Hold it, I thought I was supposed to be listening to the philosopher? Am I only supposed to listen to him, accept his authority, when it conforms to a prescribed set of accepted beliefs? Otherwise it is hubris?
Speaking of acceptable set of beliefs…
It is arrogant of those with no scientific credentials and no experience in the field or laboratory, to reject the hard-earned knowledge of the science. Still they do it. (I knew a professional philosopher who doubted both evolution and climate science…
ACCEPT OUR AUTHORITY! Again, am I to listen to the philosopher or not? Use the profession for evidence or get rid of half your article’s so-called evidence.
Doubting evolution is one thing. There is a mountain of evidence to doubt the UN rigged conclusions of so-called climate science. Climategate anyone?
The rest of the article devolves into a typical New Atheist rant where a good portion of the human race is insulted while a few are exalted. But here are some choice cuts.
By contrast, it is almost unheard of to find disbelievers in youth who came to belief as their education progressed. This asymmetry is significant; advancing education is detrimental to religious belief. This suggest another part of the explanation for religious belief—scientific illiteracy.
Education is not synonymous with a growth in scientific literacy. Some go to learn of other things. Some go to be accountants, some poets, musicians. Scientific illiteracy? Tell that to the Vatican Observatory. Look here and here.
Then the author gets a little petulant. Because you know, da, these stupid religious people, gawl! Why can’t they just get with the program? The ending to this article is a telltale sign of one thing (and I know because I have been there). The author had conflicting goals for this article. He wanted to convey the so-called data, and he wanted to convince people to give up their stupid notion of god. The second is probably an overriding concern that is always there and he probably wasn’t aware of it. But none of the data spoke to that point, none of the data said what he wanted it to say, and so, in the end had to resort to this dribble. Cuz’ we gotta make the world better ya know?
You have to know the goal of your piece before you write it, or, best, before you submit it. And it helps not to accuse people (falsely) of a category of illiteracy after demonstrating your own galling category of illiteracy (in his case – history, and a few others).
Besides, faith without reason doesn’t satisfy most of us, hence our willingness to seek reasons to believe. If those reasons are not convincing, if you conclude that religious beliefs are untrue, then religious answers to life’s questions are worthless. You might comfort yourself by believing that little green dogs in the sky care for you but this is just nonsense, as are any answers attached to such nonsense. Religion may help us in the way that whisky helps a drunk, but we don’t want to go through life drunk. If religious beliefs are just vulgar superstitions, then we are basing our lives on delusions. And who would want to do that?
Why is all this important? Because human beings need their childhood to end; they need to face life with all its bleakness and beauty, its lust and its love, its war and its peace. They need to make the world better. No one else will.
In the end the person with a religious belief is the puker in the gutter, the pants-shitting drunk. I shrink even further from the atheist camp.