Believe

50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are TrueReview – 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True
by Guy P. Harrison
Prometheus Books, 2011
Review by Bob Lane, MA
Mar 20th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 12)

Guy Harrison is a journalist and author of an earlier book “50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God and Race and Reality . . . .” In the current book he looks with a skeptical eye at fifty currently popular beliefs about all sorts of strange but often strongly held beliefs about everything from ghosts, haunted houses, Area 51, reincarnation, creationism, astrology, vaccination is bad, etc. In other words, Harrison reviews and rebuts many of our current beliefs in various kinds of nonsense.

Beliefs come in three flavours: false, true, and untested. The interesting thing about beliefs is that one cannot hold a false belief. If you believe, e.g., that the New England Patriots won the last Super Bowl a check with the NFL score board will give you the correct final score. Once you see that score it would be absurd to continue to hold the belief that the Pats won! Now, obviously, it is not always that easy to verify a belief and some beliefs are difficult to verify as true or false. But everyone who is rational should it seems understand that belief without evidence is a very dangerous stance to take in matters of epistemology.

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A-debate a-brewing

Ludwig Wittgenstein in his youth.

Ludwig Wittgenstein in his youth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Wittgenstein put it in the “The Blue Book”:

Our craving for generality has [as one] source … our preoccupation with the method of science. I mean the method of reducing the explanation of natural phenomena to the smallest possible number of primitive natural laws; and, in mathematics, of unifying the treatment of different topics by using a generalization. Philosophers constantly see the method of science before their eyes, and are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer in the way science does. This tendency is the real source of metaphysics, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness. I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is “purely descriptive.

Part one of the debate here.

Part two is here.

Everyone (else) is a hypocrite

rkWe’re all hypocrites. Why? Hypocrisy is the natural state of the human mind.

Robert Kurzban shows us that the key to understanding our behavioral inconsistencies lies in understanding the mind’s design. The human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don’t always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves.

This modular, evolutionary psychological view of the mind undermines deeply held intuitions about ourselves, as well as a range of scientific theories that require a “self” with consistent beliefs and preferences. Modularity suggests that there is no “I.” Instead, each of us is a contentious “we”–a collection of discrete but interacting systems whose constant conflicts shape our interactions with one another and our experience of the world.

In clear language, full of wit and rich in examples, Kurzban explains the roots and implications of our inconsistent minds, and why it is perfectly natural to believe that everyone else is a hypocrite.

Watch a video here.

Read a New Yorker piece here.

Politics and Religion

Motivating Political Participation?

Does religion spur persons to engage in such nonviolent political activities as signing petitions, joining in boycotts, participating in demonstrations, taking part in unofficial strikes, occupying buildings and factories, or voting and membership in political parties?

A large cross-national study recently published in Religion, State, and Society examines the relationship between religion and political activity. Researchers at the University of Kansas examined data that covered over three decades in order to look at the influence that various religious factors had on political participation. The lead researcher, commenting on the new study, reckons from the data that “religious beliefs, by themselves, do not suffice to motivate individuals to act politically.” Thus: “it is incorrect to infer political behavior from religious beliefs alone.”

The study itself informs us that while religion may well influence individuals’ opinions on hot-button issues (take same-sex marriage, abortion as examples), personal religiosity doesn’t necessarily propel persons to political participation.  Rather, it interacts with secular configurations and pressures to encourage or deter individuals from engaging with the political world. The study abstract, in summarizing the research, indicates that individuals become more likely to engage in political activity of the types examined due to their affiliation with others, whether it be membership in religious organizations or belonging to other voluntary associations of a secular nature.

Read a summary and interpretation at:
https://phys.org/news/2017-10-religious-beliefs-dont-people-political.html