Weekly Update: to

Here’s your Canadian Atheist Weekly Update for to .

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5 thoughts on “Weekly Update: to

  1. Regarding free speech, I think the TL;DR on that is this line: “a free marketplace of ideas, while necessary, is not sufficient”

    We know from “studies” that it’s not just having the facts, but also having the right delivery. Getting that right can be as hard as discovering the facts.

    • While it’s true that delivery matters, the point the article is making is that *even with* the correct delivery, large numbers of people are just predisposed to believe certain kinds of facts. For example, they are particularly predisposed to believe “demographic delusions”, to use the article’s term.

      This would imply that merely responding to these lies in the “free marketplace of ideas” isn’t going to work – *regardless* of your delivery. Or at the very least, you will be at a disadvantage and fighting an uphill battle.

      And *that* would imply that if we want to win the fight against bullshit, we can’t simply “play fair” while assuming we’re on equal footing with the bullshit. We probably have to get ahead of it, somehow – for example, by specifically teaching in early critical thinking courses that “misrepresenting demographics is a standard tactic of hatemongers” while giving real examples that look a lot like what are being used in politics today… effectively poisoning the well against that tactic, making sure people are on guard against it.

      • “Predisposed to believe…”
        Their background ‘thought world’ is too feeble.

        Our education system is there to give us a rational basis to work from. It is easily learned that Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are all fallacious. This, however, is not taught in our schools. Vested interests in tribal belief systems have been left mostly unopposed in all forms of our public media. Evangelists are free to promote their fictions for profit.

        We now live in a society where religious thugs have been convinced that they will be honoured for what is essentially criminal behaviour. Hopefully the tide has turned and education will become less fettered. This is taking place largely as a result of private citizens in groups like The Canadian Atheists. Future politicians will benefit greatly from living in a more rational society; even if they provided scant support towards producing it.

        • This is not a phenomenon specific to religion (though, as always, when religion is involved it manages to make everything worse). It’s also not something that can be solved simply by appealing to reason. Most people who believe the kind of bullshit being talked about in the article are people who *think* they’re being studiously rational – they believe what they believe because of what they think the facts of the world are, and they think those facts are true because they don’t see any evidence that challenges them.

          This is a cognitive bias problem, which means it’s a problem with *ALL* of us – *EVERYONE* has basically the same cognitive biases. It’s not just “them”, it’s “us”, too. And if we’re not prepared to admit that, we’re only setting ourselves up to become victims of those cognitive biases.

          We can’t solve this problem with mere education either. You can’t beat cognitive biases just by throwing more facts at people. That’s not how cognitive biases work; they’re not problems of “not knowing enough”, they’re failures in how we process what we know.

          To beat cognitive biases you have 1) get people to recognize them; and 2) create a culture where people are on the lookout for those biases, and ready to pounce on them. That’s how we’ve been so successful at pushing back against racism, for example: we taught people to recognize thought patterns that are racist, and call them out. Now people are *very* careful not to sound racist when they speak, and that has had the effect of pushing racism into the “inappropriate in public” category, which has broadly made for less racism in society (at least, less *open* racism… subtler, systemic racism is, of course still a problem). The same thing is being done for homophobia, sexism, and so on.

          You just don’t hear intelligent people lip off on things like “the problem with black people is…” or “the problem with Jews is…” anymore… at least not without being *very* careful about what they’re saying, as they should be. Yet it’s still quite acceptable for people to rant all over the place and even write books on “the problem with refugees is…” or “the problem with Muslims is…”, without bothering to actually carefully check their facts. That needs to change; we don’t want to *ban* people from speaking about those topics… but we do want them to be *damn* careful when they do.

          What we would need to do to solve this problem is create a culture where people are *careful* about their “demographic assumptions”, and cautiously check their facts before saying anything that might be interpreted as “demographic delusions” and associated ignorance and bigotry. For example, before spouting off about how there’s some threat of sharia law in Canada, one would *either* do the research first to see whether that’s sensible *or* tone down one’s ranting to the point where it loses most of its biting effect. (Or, option three, go ahead and spout off, and be broadly recognized as ignorant.)

          • You’re right about our perception psychologies stemming from our diverse backgrounds.

            Sharing an appreciation for origins may be useful:

            The first monotheism was developed out of polytheism for military defence purposes.

            The second monotheism was developed to oppose the first monotheism’s objections to polytheism. This is, admittedly, a little counterintuitive.

            The third monotheism grew out of the original monotheism and was also developed for military defence and conquest.

            More recent American monotheistic innovations are probably highly profit motivated. Mormonism may even be considered a return to polytheism!

            Modern studies about the historic inventions of religions are not very well explained within our public school curriculum. A recent Kindle publication ‘Creating Christ’ will probably never be included in the high school experience. The book is the product of thirty years research by two collaborative authors. You would think that recent scholarship like this would be very popular with progressive educators. As a contrast, the latest discoveries at the Large Hadron Collider will be related to students in the physics classes without any worry about repercussions of any kind.

            New insights into the origin of religions remains comparatively off limits to rational inquiry.

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