Ideology

A Trick of the Mind

Looking for patterns in life and then infusing them with meaning, from alien intervention to federal conspiracy.

|

The Believing Brain

Superstitions arise as the result of the spurious identification of patterns. Even pigeons are superstitious. In an experiment where food is delivered randomly, pigeons will note what they were doing when the pellet arrived, such as twirling to the left and then pecking a button, and perform the maneuver over and over until the next pellet arrives. A pigeon rain dance. The behavior is not much different than in the case of a baseball player who forgets to shave one morning, hits a home run a few hours later and then makes it a policy never to shave on game days.

Beliefs come first; reasons second. That's the insightful message of The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer, the founder of Skeptic magazine. In the book, he brilliantly lays out what modern cognitive research has to tell us about his subject—namely, that our brains are "belief engines" that naturally "look for and find patterns" and then infuse them with meaning. These meaningful patterns form beliefs that shape our understanding of reality. Our brains tend to seek out information that confirms our beliefs, ignoring information that contradicts them. Mr. Shermer calls this "belief-dependent reality." The well-worn phrase "seeing is believing" has it backward: Our believing dictates what we're seeing.

Mr. Shermer marshals an impressive array of evidence from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a lion? If he assumes it's the wind and the rustling turns out to be a lion, then he's not an ancestor anymore. Since early man had only a split second to make such decisions, Mr. Shermer says, we are descendants of ancestors whose "default position is to assume that all patterns are real; that is, assume that all rustles in the grass are dangerous predators and not the wind."

In addition, as evolved social creatures, we have brains that are attuned to trying to discern the intentions of others—and we look for patterns, there, too, and then try to infuse them with human intention and meaning, or what Mr. Shermer calls "agenticity." Patterns in life are variously ascribed to the work of ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers and federal conspirators. "Even belief that the government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity," the author says.

Mr. Shermer also delves into the neuroscience of "the believing brain." For example, he cites research suggesting that people with high levels of the feel-good neurochemical dopamine "are more likely to find significance in coincidences and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none." Even for folks with normal chemical levels, there's a neurological upside to pattern-finding: When we come across information that confirms what we already believe, we get a rewarding jolt of dopamine.

The Believing Brain perhaps inevitably turns to religion, but a sign of Mr. Shermer's all-purpose skepticism is his consigning of the chapter "Belief in God," along with "Belief in Aliens," to a section called "Belief in Things Unseen." He doesn't take religious faith seriously except as an object for explanatory debunking—God is simply the human explanation for pattern-making and agency on an epic scale.

"As a back-of-the-envelope calculation within an order-of-magnitude accuracy, we can safely say that over the past ten thousand years of history humans have created about ten thousand different religions and about one thousand gods," Mr. Shermer writes. He lists more than a dozen gods, from Amon Ra to Zeus, and wonders how one of them can be true and the rest false. "As skeptics like to say, everyone is an atheist about these gods; some of us just go one god further."

Readers who have enjoyed Mr. Shermer's earlier books, such as Why People Believe Weird Things,* will relish the pages devoted to puncturing many of the conspiratorial beliefs that lurk in our popular culture, from those about UFO cover-ups to the 9/11-was-an-inside-job lunacy. He also recounts, apparently not for the first time, his own supposed alien-abduction experience. In 1983, competing in the Race Across America bicycle challenge, he rode 1,259 miles in 83 hours without sleep and became delirious with exhaustion. When his support crew finally intervened to make him stop and get some rest, he became convinced that they were aliens forcing him into a mother craft—the interior of the UFO, it turned out, looked "remarkably like a GMC motor home." A good long nap cured him of his delusion.

One of the book's most enjoyable discussions concerns the politics of belief. Mr. Shermer takes an entertaining look at academic research claiming to prove that conservative beliefs largely result from psychopathologies. He drolly cites survey results showing that 80 percent of professors in the humanities and social sciences describe themselves as liberals. Could these findings about psychopathological conservative political beliefs possibly be the result of the researchers' confirmation bias?

As for his own political bias, Mr. Shermer says that he's "a fiscally conservative civil libertarian." He is a fan of old-style liberalism, as in liberality of outlook, and cites The Science of Liberty author Timothy Ferris's splendid formulation: "Liberalism and science are methods, not ideologies." The "scientific solution to the political problem of oppressive governments," Mr. Shermer says, "is the tried-and-true method of spreading liberal democracy and market capitalism through the open exchange of information, products, and services across porous economic borders."

But it is science itself that Mr. Shermer most heartily embraces. The Believing Brain ends with an engaging history of astronomy that illustrates how the scientific method developed as the only reliable way for us to discover true patterns and true agents at work. Seeing through a telescope, it seems, is believing of the best kind.

*Title corrected.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His most recent book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, is available from Prometheus Books. This article originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

NEXT: Science Proves People Are Happier on the Weekends

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Even belief that the government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of

    agenticity

    Keynesian progressivism ,” the author says.

    Why do liberals hate skeptics?

    1. HTML fail.

      Try again.

      “Even belief that the government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticityKeynesian liberal progressivism ,” the author says.

  2. In 1983, competing in the Race Across America bicycle challenge, he rode 1,259 miles in 83 hours without sleep and became delirious with exhaustion. When his support crew finally intervened to make him stop and get some rest, he became convinced that they were aliens forcing him into a mother craft?the interior of the UFO, it turned out, looked “remarkably like a GMC motor home.” A good long nap cured him of his delusion.

    This reminds me of a time in high school when I was home sick with a fairly significant fever. I woke up in the middle of the night, convinced that the sun was just about to expand and consume the earth. I paced back and forth, trying to figure out how I could stop this, for quite a few minutes before slowly realizing that I may have gone crazy. Pretty fun trip, though.

    1. Did you at least come up with some ideas for stopping it?

      1. I think I tried to think up ways to build myself a personal escape pod. It wasn’t terribly well-thought-through.

        1. With your stupid, stupid brain!?

    2. I woke up one morning at 5:30 AM, after reading Jurassic Park until 1 AM the night before, convinced that a giant creature was shaking the building. It turned out to be a rather significant earthquake instead.

  3. Sounds like another winner from Shermer. I still need to finish Mind of the Market though.

  4. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyn…..nt-4678754

    Okay, I’ve decided I can’t quit. These are hilarious!

    1. You have a high pain threshold. Are you that plucky Nip kid posting there?

    2. Should we start a beer fund for yonemoto? He deserves it for treading through that swamp.

    3. Posted by: mouthyb, ouvrier sur les connaissances | August 2, 2011 5:03 PM
      I’m sure someone has already said this, but the ideological position that abortion should be allowed does not help abortion to be accessible. That requires the gov and programs for the public. Which requires taxation and a government.
      Hence my dislike of libertarians. They’re ideological, but hardly practical, even on fairly easy to understand issues.

      Wha?

      STOP CAUSING ME TO READ THIS

          1. That shit is pure gold! It is like the movie Starship Troopers except instead of alien insects there are hordes of alien Leftards!

            Why can’t MNG/Tony be as funny?

      1. Fetus-Mom might feel slightly guilty if she has to pay for her scrape-job out of pocket. State-funding signifies society’s moral approval.

        1. They have sighns on the bus for some family planning clinic. They have pretty young couples on them who look like they should be romance greeting cards. The text reads, “We’re really in love, but we’re not ready for a baby just yet.”

          I think it would be funny to alter the text to read, “We’re really in love, but we’re scrapping out the baby.”

          1. “Our love got us through the fetal death rattle.”

          2. What kinda libertarian rides the bus?

            1. You drove when you lived in NYC?

              1. Only a fucking idiot would live in NYC!

    4. These are hilarious!

      That’s one man’s word for it. I got to the person who was bitching at Reason because of the “Free Minds and Free Markets” slogan.

      “Right, as if you can’t have the first without the last.”

      Sure, cunt. Anyone could think what they wanted in East Germany. They can think what they want in North Korea today.

      1. “Sure, cunt. Anyone could think what they wanted in East Germany. They can think what they want in North Korea today”

        Cunt: Can’t understand normal thinking.

    5. Someone should renew Myers’ Reason subscription just to watch him implode into a black hole of rage.

      Myers: the gift that keeps on giving.

    6. Oh god, it doesn’t stop:

      “I am perfectly willing to admit that there are crappy teachers out there who shouldn’t be in the profession, but as soon as you start talking about percentages, you’ve lost me. That is literally Stalinesque – during the purges, he would send lists around to district officials, telling them that a certain percentage of party members in their district were disloyal and should be eliminated. It’s just a barbaric way to think about a profession or professionals.”

      This hurts my head.

      1. “I am perfectly willing to admit that there are crappy teachers out there who shouldn’t be in the profession, but as soon as you start talking about percentages, you’ve lost me. That is literally Stalinesque – during the purges, he would send lists around to district officials, telling them that a certain percentage of party members in their district were disloyal and should be eliminated. It’s just a barbaric way to think about a profession or professionals.”

        Firing of large numbers of incompetent teachers [even if they should be fired] = Stalinesque.

        Glad we’ve got that cleared up.

        1. I’ve seen this line of reasoning by the trotskyite left before – basically, any decisions made based on quantifiable standards and measures = stalinism. In this way, capitalism = stalnism, in its pursuit of profits and “numbers”, man. It’s truly amazing.

          1. Were their mothers substance-abusing anything they shouldn’t be while pregnant by any chance?

            Brain-damage. It’s the only thing I can think of to explain the stupidity with.

  5. Science requires rigorous discipline. I heard someone once say about Darwin that he used to write down anything that seemed to go against evolution, so he could research it further.

    So how do people wind up changing their beliefs?

    1. crap – insert 2nd pp: “And if humans are so gullible, So…”

    2. As someone who has done a complete turn-around on a couple of topics, I can tell you.

      First, you find some phenomenon that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you in your current belief system, that keeps repeating itself in various guises, to the extent that it becomes difficult for you to continue to believe you know everything you could about the topic. You wonder what that means, and start educating yourself. If you’re smart, you might start finding information that make you uncomfortable, but you don’t let that steer you off the topic, you track it down, and definitely confirm or dismiss it. If the phenomenon seems confirmed by the new information, you change your mind.

      The trick is to be willing to do the research on a topic you don’t believe in. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me things and I ask how they know that, and they say “everyone knows”. Mostly, “everyone” is an idiot. The standards to qualify as a human being are remarkably low. If you want to know something, do your own research–don’t rely on “everyone”.

      The nice thing about the internet is that there is a cornucopia of info out there waiting to be harvested–all you have to do is search for it. That should certainly take the load off of “everyone”.

      There’s only one difficult part in the process, and that’s to convince yourself that you don’t know everything already. That’s impossible for a lot of people. . . you can see it in many of the responses in this thread, can’t you?

      1. It is like the Princess and the Pea. Most people can ignore the pea under the mattress. For some reason I can’t. If I think I believe something but some little thing keeps popping up that invalidates my belief it is easier for me to look into it, than ignore it. I think I’m lucky to have that as part of my personality. But, I don’t see people being able to change their minds too easily without this character trait.

        The other way though is a person might wish to join a new group. A group with better perks. I’ve seen people wholesale drop their beliefs and adopt an entirely new set overnight to be part of the new group. I find that weird.

      2. It is like the Princess and the Pea. Most people can ignore the pea under the mattress. For some reason I can’t. If I think I believe something but some little thing keeps popping up that invalidates my belief it is easier for me to look into it, than ignore it. I think I’m lucky to have that as part of my personality. But, I don’t see people being able to change their minds too easily without this character trait.

        The other way though is a person might wish to join a new group. A group with better perks. I’ve seen people wholesale drop their beliefs and adopt an entirely new set overnight to be part of the new group. I find that weird.

        1. Like socialist er, “social” conservatives who, in a financial calamity, decide they are now fiscal conservatives since that’s the path to more power (and, since they are now fiscal cons, they can spend even more than before and have it come out all right).

  6. Mr. Shermer marshals an impressive array of evidence from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology.

    Shermer isn’t much of a skeptic if he relies on evidence from evolutionary psychology and phrenology”neuroscience”

    1. It was a typo. He meant “numerology.”

    2. Help me here… I’m dumb: What’s bad about these disciplines?

      1. Nothin’. Although evolutionary psychology, like psychology in general, is a soft sort of science.

        Neuroscience is a respectable field a sa hard science, though.

        1. No, “neuroscience” is a broad category that includes all sorts of phrenology-inspired quackery.

  7. Just because I’m a paranoid conspiracy theorist doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me, nor that my conspiracy theories are incorrect.

  8. The Believing Brain ends with an engaging history of astronomy that illustrates how the scientific method developed as the only reliable way for us to discover true patterns and true agents at work. Seeing through a telescope, it seems, is believing of the best kind.

    The scientific method is the best there is to discover and describe patterns, which is why it SUCKS BIG TIME to describe economics.

  9. Could these findings about psychopathological conservative political beliefs possibly be the result of the researchers’ confirmation bias?

    Or maybe the fact that liberal political beliefs are the ones truly psychopathological. Otherwise, how could one explain the liberals’ penchant for advocating for wholesale thievery and property rights violations? Those are the same type of pathologies harbored by robbers and violators.

    1. But it’s for the poor and the children and the oppressed and the disabled, you heartless monster!!!!

  10. “Even belief that the government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity,” the author says.

    Hmmmm. I thought he said “Even belief that the ‘Invisible Hand’ can make the economy function flawlessly is a form of agenticity.”

    Ever see an invisible hand, Ron? Maybe it was just the wind. You sound like a dude who just got a rewarding jolt of dopamine.

    1. Nice strawman.

    2. Re: Alan Vanneman,

      I thought he said “Even belief that the ‘Invisible Hand’ can make the economy function flawlessly is a form of agenticity.”

      You thought wrong.

      And the ‘invisible hand’ is just a metaphor. The economy is not a machine, it is a network of acting individuals, which include you and me. No government official or bureaucrat can even dream of being clever enough to *know* each of our needs and wants and then coordinate efforts to supply each of us. The fact that this has been tried by conceited bureaucrats with dismal results seems not to resonate in your single brain cell that populates your skull.

      1. Milton Friedman, libertarian dude, claimed that the Great Depression could have been prevented by, guess what, top-down government action–increasing the money supply. During Japan’s own “Great Recession,” he made a similar suggestion. (Brad DeLong has featured about ten million posts on the subject.)

        Greg Mankiw, semi-libertarian dude, said that FDR’s top-down decision to take the US off the gold standard helped bring the US out of the Great Depression, a top-down decision that was furiously condemned by every major economist of the time, except, guess who, JM Keynes.

        There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, OM.

        1. Milton Friedman and Greg Mankiw are wrong. The application of their advice in Japan seems to have…wait for it…not fucking worked. The Japanese economy is still in the doldrums, after a decade of massive public spending. The fact that there is a real-world example of how misguided and ignorant this policy prescription is glaring right at us, and yet these esteemed men (along with Krugnuts) continue to ignore it and prescribe more of the same, baffles the mind.

          1. The Japanese economy is actually doing quite well for the average Japanese person. Its not doing so well for the usurious bankers who fund Libertarian think tanks nor who own the periodicals of International Finance.

            Years of deflation has resulted in many high technology products becoming increasingly more affordable over time. Things like restaurants are booming in Tokyo, especially for young people. It’s a stark comparison with New York City where the young are relegated to Brooklyn and can scarcely afford two beers and a meal even one or two nights a week.

            And of course, let us not forget the greatest benefit of ignoring Libertarians. Japan is still Japanese. Their cities are safe. Their people are smart. To the typical Japanese person, there is a future to behold.

            You need to travel.

            1. What fantasy land are you living in? Freeters? Ever heard of them? An entire cadre of Japanese young people forced to work menial part-time jobs because their economy is so sluggish and calcified that there are hardly any professional positions for them to land.

              Or how about the legions of homeless day laborers who reside in Ueno, most of them having been structurally unemployed since the bubble economy collapsed OVER TWENTY YEARS AGO.

              But most laughable is this:

              ‘To the typical Japanese person, there is a future to behold.’

              Japan has the lowest birth rate and highest suicide rate of the developed world! You know what the ‘future they behold’ looks like? Bleak!

              I think you’re the one who needs travel, or at least take the blinders off. You have no idea what you are talking about.

              …and another thing, too. I *am* one of those young people ‘relegated’ (gasp!) to Brooklyn, and I think you’ll find that even in the trendy neighborhood of Williamsburg, you have youngsters of every strata and social background. The cost of two beers and a meal depends entirely on where you’re going and what you’re drinking… just as it does in Tokyo.

          2. Jim….Keyenesianism might have worked when economies were self-contained. It can’t work now that they aren’t. Give a table maker $100 in 1930, and he builds a few tables buying wood from the wood-cutter, who in turn buys a saw from the blacksmith and so on. Now, give a family $100 and they buy a new Blu-Ray made in Korea.

            But, the other thing is, you seem to think capitalism is all about freedom of intention and hard work and all the rest. It is that, but way more than that it is about money supply. Be as creative and hard working as you like and if the money supply is screwed up you’ll be lucky to keep your head above water. If the money supply is well organized you might do very well.

            Libertarianism is basically tending towards correctness, but it isn’t an absolute any more than anything else is. Money supply is not an individual thing that can be controlled. In a complex economy one doesn’t function except within the framework of the currency. And, currency can’t be not controlled.

        2. Vanneman is wrong, wrong, wrong? Who would have guessed.

          Since government was in absolute control of the money supply, advocating a different action from that absolute monopoly, isn’t the same as being in favor of the same monopoly, you idiot.

          Semi-libertarian is just that.

          Science H Logic how can you be so ignorant? The combined knowledge of the average people, the market, is much greater than any combination of the knowledge of Top. Men. For the Top. Men to impose their ideas is the imposition of ignorance upon knowledge.

        3. Re: Alan Vanneman,

          Milton Friedman, libertarian dude

          Liar.

          claimed that the Great Depression could have been prevented by, guess what, top-down government action–increasing the money supply.

          The fact that a) he may have been wrong and b) appeals to autority are invalid seem not to resonate within the single-cell brain you have in your head.

          Greg Mankiw, semi-libertarian dude, said that FDR’s top-down decision to take the US off the gold standard helped bring the US out of the Great Depression, a top-down decision that was furiously condemned by every major economist of the time, except, guess who, JM Keynes.

          AND????

          There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, OM.

          What the FUCK are you talking about?

          1. What you never came across the obscure document Hamlet when you were getting the education you claim has bestowed you with a complete understanding of the entirety of economics?

    3. Not sure if you are playing stupid or are really stupid, but just in case, the “invisible hand” is a metaphor.

      No mystical agents there, just the laws of supply of demand.

    4. “Even belief that the ‘Invisible Hand’ can make the economy function flawlessly is a form of agenticity.”

      Who said anything about flawlessly? Just much, much better than government control / central planning.

      In 1955, Japan and Cuba had the same GDP per capita.

      1. And I believe that around 1959, Cuba had the highest GDP per capita of all of Central and South America. Now it has the lowest.

    5. Hmmmm. I thought he said “Even belief that the ‘Invisible Hand’ can make the economy function flawlessly is a form of agenticity.”

      Hey dumbass.

      The concept that Adam Smith was describing with that phrase is emergent order, the way that complex systems self generate from a multiplicity of simple interactions.

      That is the same phenomena that drives biological evolution.

      The idea was revolutionary in Adam Smith’s day, so you used a semi supernatural metaphor to describe it.

      It amazes me that people that laugh at the concept of intelligent design as an explanation for biological complexity are often the same dumb asses that believe human society and-or economic activity require an intelligent designer.

  11. An ad for ChristianMingle.com showed up in the top right when I viewed this article. An unfortunate title trigger, though to answer their question, I am indeed “ready for love.”

  12. I would just like to remind everyone that this author is a firm believer in the phony “climate change” issue, see his interview with reason last year. Some skeptic….

    1. OR… this smart, skeptical man is able to look at a body of scientific research and draw a conclusion that disagrees with you.

      1. He is smart & skeptical but what got to me is that Shermer, in an interview or web posting (sorry, can’t remember which) asserted that is was “An Inconvenient Truth” that convinced him of AGW b/c of its rigorous science. That seems an odd place for a scientific skeptic to find convincing evidence.

        1. He’s relying on untestable faith-based quackery like “evolutionary psychology” and “neuroscience”.

          1. “Skeptic” loves him some pseudoscience.

            1. The stupid is strong with “Skeptic”.

          2. So I’m clueless on this: I assume neuroscience doesn’t bear any real resemblance to things like neurology?

            1. I think neurology and neuroscience are hand in glove.

          3. How is your libertarianism not faith-based? You think it will work. You don’t know. But, everyone here seems to be arguing anyone is an idiot who isn’t full on libertarian.

      2. Or…this smart, skeptical man is human also and fell victim to the very psychological phenomena that he wrote about. What I gather from this article is that Shermer’s new book is a rehash of ‘Faces in the clouds’ by Stewart Guthrie.
        What I have not seen discussed is the penchant for the human mind to not only imagine patterns and infuse them with meaning, but to see itself as the center of and reason for all those patterns. (thus AGW)
        Ever notice that in almost all religions, man is the reason for creation, the center of God’s attention etc etc.? The earths climate is not a steady state, but in a constant flux; however this time, because we are here, its all about us. Shermer and everyone over at Skeptic need a trip to the woodshed for buying into and peddling that crap.

    2. Yes, it broke my heart to quit reading Skeptic magazine when I saw they were on board with the AGW tripe, but I could no longer stomach so-called skeptics who signed on to the notion of ‘gaia’. The mother earth spirit crap is lurking around in all the environmentalist arguments. Ugh, I shudder just typing ‘mother earth spirit’.

      1. Perhaps you’re simply confused. You think the most rigorous skeptics just happened to fail on this issue? Isn’t it possible that climate change skepticism is the faith-based position? It certainly shares many attributes with evolution skepticism. If you value scientific thinking in the least you would be open to the idea that science has it right and you could be wrong.

        1. “If you value scientific thinking in the least you would be open to the idea that science has it right and you could be wrong.” Nah, you’re just full of shit! Not all people of science are convinced of AGW. You must have the same science degree as Bailey.

          1. No only 97% of the “people of science.”

            1. Did Algore, the brilliant scientist, tell you that???

              1. Scientific opinion on climate change.

                An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system… There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.[1]

                No scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion; the last was the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, which in 2007 updated its 1999 statement rejecting the likelihood of human influence on recent climate with its current non-committal position.[2][3] Some other organizations, primarily those focusing on geology, also hold non-committal positions.

        2. Science has it right. Scientist and skeptics alike can be swayed by confirmation bias, political ideology etc.. Science is right. Scientists often get many things wrong. In the case of skeptic magazine, all I saw was the usual tripe amounting to ‘scientific concensus’, ‘the debate is over’, ‘the sky is falling’, blah blah blah. They didnt debate anything, present any actual evidence or address the issue in a meaningful way. They jumped right to the predetermined conclusion.
          The reason I dont sign on with them is because I am a skeptic…..see…thats a person who doesnt just sign onto something cuz some guy in a lab coat says I should. Thats your argument isnt it? I should just stop asking questions and beleive what the authority tells me to?

          1. You’re not a skeptic, you’re just ignorant. Do you know anything about climate science, or have you gotten all of your wisdom from political sources?

            1. I probably know jack-shit about climate science Tony. I only took 18 hrs in earth sciences plus the labs. Stupid, ignorant me.

            2. I love it…everytime a AGW advocate encounters resistance the old “your stupid!” argument pops out. How old are you Tony? 6? 8?

              1. Next you are going to yell “Shut up!”

            3. Tony…help me out here. I have a problem with AGW. I started following it in the early 1980s. I had no reason to disbelieve it at the time. The reason I followed it was because I owned a hotel in a ski resort and the weather had been iffy for a few years. A ski hill only functions within about a 2 degree window. I was concerned. This was about 1983. I followed all the predictions. NONE OF THEM CAME TRUE! By 1995 I noticed a change. By then, a lot of people with different agendas began to sign on. I started having my doubts. By the early 00s it had gone from being an error, to being something that seemed to be approaching a hoax.

              So, here is my question: If every prediction fails does this not suggest the models they are using are wrong? And, if the modelling is incorrect, does this not mean they are in error and I should probably not believe them?

      2. Same here and I know he lost lots of subscribers.

  13. If evolution leads to improvements in our collective survivability, then why this psychological holdover? Why are scientists like Shermer constantly confounded by humans’ seemingly unquenchable desire for dreams or illusions of a better life? The answer, I believe, is that we are evolved enough now to know there is creator behind this whole messy catastrophe we call the universe. And yet we still can’t quite touch it/him/her.
    Read: Ian Stevenson.

    1. People susceptible to dreams and illusions are more likely to have children than those who aren’t.

      1. Papaya for the win.

        1. Seconded.

          Did Diogenes even have kids?

      2. That statement is ridiculous.

        What does it mean ‘susceptible to dreams’? And, what is the connection between susceptible to dreams and susceptible to illusions? And, these are more likely to have children?

    2. “Why are scientists like Shermer constantly confounded by humans’ seemingly unquenchable desire for dreams or illusions of a better life?”

      As a bleever, I’ll bet you actually think that sentence means something.
      It doesn’t.
      Nobody is ‘confounded’ by the fact that people want more than they have.

      1. Yes, they are, dumbshit. Entire sections of bookstores are devoted to the topic. If the answer were so fucking simple, then why did Shermer write a book about it? Ever read “The Denial of Death,” or “The God Part of the Brain”?
        I’m sure you haven’t, you cunt-simple fuckwart.

        1. Jamie Kelly|8.2.11 @ 9:06PM|#
          “Yes, they are, dumbshit.”

          No, they’re not, cocksucking fuckwad, brain-dead shit-for-brains.
          Just to make it clear.
          BTW, are you superstitious? I thought so….

    3. “we are evolved enough now to know there is creator behind this whole messy catastrophe we call the universe”

      That makes no sense dude. Sorry.

      1. If the idea of god were so deleterious to our survival — if it were false, or hindered our growth, or its very idea didn’t give birth to an eternal wondering — then why did it survive? Of course humans have used it for the trampling and suffering of their own species. But so have blunt tools, and sharp tools, and guns. You libertarians love “Guns don’t kill people; only humans do.” Now simply apply that principle to religion.

        1. Jamie Kelly|8.2.11 @ 9:15PM|#
          “If the idea of god were so deleterious to our survival — if it were false, or hindered our growth, or its very idea didn’t give birth to an eternal wondering…”

          Hey, cocksucking fuckwad, brain-dead shit-for-brains, ever hear of the term “strawman”?
          You should look it up.

          1. I did. But it only listed “straw-woman,” and a picture of your fat wife with smegma-encrusted hay coming out of her red-rubbed pussy lips. Tell your mother to lay off the poor woman.

            1. Jamie Kelly|8.2.11 @ 9:31PM|#
              “I did. But it only listed “straw-woman,”…

              Stupid cocksucking fuckwad, brain-dead shit-for-brains, presumes this is a response.
              Go away, cocksucking fuckwad, brain-dead shit-for-brains, bleever.

            2. Do you kiss Jesus with that mouth?

        2. If the idea of god were so deleterious to our survival — if it were false, or hindered our growth, or its very idea didn’t give birth to an eternal wondering — then why did it survive?

          You misunderstand the argument.

          Which is that behavioral traits that led to homo sapiens success as a species also gave rise to the God meme.

        3. Because that’s not how the process of evolution works, dingleberry-brain.

  14. Old Mexican|8.2.11 @ 5:13PM|#
    …”The scientific method is the best there is to discover and describe patterns, which is why it SUCKS BIG TIME to describe economics.”

    Yep, certainly we should abandon any scientific investigation of human behavior and turn to psychics!
    Sorry, OM, I’m calling bullshit. You may claim the science of econ is not well advanced, but unless you have a more reliable method of inquiry, you’re, well, spouting bullshit.

    1. Re: Sevo,

      Yep, certainly we should abandon any scientific investigation of human behavior and turn to psychics!

      You totally missed the point, sevo.

      You may claim the science of econ is not well advanced,

      It is WELL advanced. What is NOT is empirical.

      but unless you have a more reliable method of inquiry, you’re, well, spouting bullshit.

      For patterns of unknown cause, inductive science. For human action (where purpose is the cause,) the deductive-aprioristic approach is best.

      1. “It is WELL advanced. What is NOT is empirical.”
        Happy to hear an opinion; please define “well avanced”

        “For patterns of unknown cause, inductive science. For human action (where purpose is the cause,) the deductive-aprioristic approach is best.”
        And this is not science?

        1. Re: sevo,

          Happy to hear an opinion; please define “well avanced”

          I don’t know what “avanced” means, but economic science is advanced enough to explain all economic phenomema, sevo. Of course, I am talking about Austrian economics, not neo-classical.

          And this is not science?

          I don’t understand the point of the question. I did not argue against science, I argued against the applying empirical scientific methodology [a.k.a. the scientific method] to economic phenomena:

          “The scientific method is the best there is to discover and describe patterns, which is why it SUCKS BIG TIME to describe economics.”

          1. No science is ever complete, least of all any science of economics, and it certainly wasn’t completed in the 19th century. You’re betraying a religious devotion to a fringe economic school, not a scientific approach to the subject.

            1. “No science is ever complete,….”
              So those that say the science is settled in relation to AGW are full of shit???

              1. The work is ongoing, the basic findings that skeptics reject are pretty universally accepted.

  15. Alan Vanneman|8.2.11 @ 6:12PM|#
    “Milton Friedman, libertarian dude, claimed that the Great Depression could have been prevented by, guess what, top-down government action–increasing the money supply.”

    Fail. Try reading ‘Monetary History…’ again; you missed the point.
    It was the contraction of the money supply by the Fed that re-enforced what was likely a recession, making it into a depression.
    Friedman’s gripe was that, given a Fed, the Fed should have then corrected the mistake of contracting the supply.

  16. I like Shermer. I think he’s an interesting read. But I think the whole “evolutionary psychology” crap is a flea circus that mostly draws from it’s own brand of confirmation bias. Start with a premise that already has your conclusion baked into it, go through a logical sequence and viola, you’ve “proved” your case. We’ll never be able to prove any of these ideas about how our thought processes evolved. Unless of course we can go back in time unobserved and document a hundred thousand years of cognitive development and associated behaviour. It’s a fun game to play, but it’s mostly a waste of time, and it’s not really science.

    1. AlmightyJB|8.2.11 @ 9:06PM|#
      “I like Shermer. I think he’s an interesting read. But I think the whole “evolutionary psychology” crap is a flea circus…”

      Dunno, since it’s new enough that there’s a ton of crap flying about for what I hope is an ounce of reason.
      Regardless of those tons, I’m pretty sure that psychology is:
      1) A result of matter/energy as expressed in human action.
      2) Like every other human condition, it was and is affected by evolution.

    2. AlmightyJB…no kidding.

      Most evolutionary thinking is more faith-based than anything. EvoPsych is more or less ridiculous.

      Unless you can explain how we think, not what we think, but how does a thought form, then thinking you can tell how this thing you don’t even understand evolved is not reasonable. But, why should I ever think anyone should be reasonable.

  17. It seems more blatantly obvious that the real God who created our brains wired us to believe; the fact that some people are nuts and believe stupid stuff (aliens, crop circles, Cubs winning the World Series) doesn’t discredit all who believe in where the factual evidence sound-mindedly takes them. The author hasn’t admitted to the fact that he first comes to evidence with HIS pre-conceived belief in no god/rebellion to the Living God, and ignores “information that contradicts” the reality of a Creator. i.e., One heck of big, intricate, well-designed creation. Oh yes!, back to the ever-expanding fairy-tale for adults called “Macro-evolution.” It was that 3-part cell (or was it a 4-part cell that Darwin saw) that made all this happen! That’s one damn smart cell!! No, I know! It could’ve been aliens who planted the seeds for life here, like the esteemed “scientist” Dawkins says. There is nothing new under the sun: “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” A house demands a builder, a creation demands a Creator.

    1. I love this silly “a creation demands a Creator” argument. For the sake of argument, let’s say this is true. Who made God? So all creations BUT GOD demand a creator? Which is greater an inanimate Universe or a being that could create an inanimate Universe? But the lesser is absurd and the latter obvious? And of course, when you say “God” you mean Jesus, not Allah or Buddha, right?

      And that whole part about Darwin, you have convinced me with your razor like intellect. Evolution is simply to fantastic to believe. God magic, on the other hand, isn’t. I mean, complete scientific primitives claimed to actually see miracles and speak with the creator of the Universe, so it MUST have really happened.

      It is simply mind boggling that a person can’t believe that nothing created the Universe but do believe that nothing created the Creator of the Universe.

      1. God has always existed. You’ve existed for a few decades and think you know it all. Again, just b/c you can’t see it or doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist … i.e. “Show” me the wind. No, don’t show me it’s effects, or any particles it moves, but show me the wind.
        The fact that you find evolution exciting and God not-exciting … how does that prove any argument you are trying to put forth?? You critical-thinkers always say something that completely contradicts what you say you are. It’s very cute.
        No — it’s still a very easy and very powerful argument, whether you like it or not, mock it or not: you wouldn’t look at a building and say it just “came together over the years,” … you would be insulting everyone’s intelligence. But you look at creation, at the human body, at the EYE, at how this planet is perfectly fit for human beings — and mock the idea of a Creator.
        “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” (Read that again, it’s called the ‘good news’ for a reason. Don’t make Jesus into a bad-news guy; He came to save the world, not to judge it).
        … and, yes, I mean Jesus. He is Lord over you even if you don’t believe. That thought may drive you mad, I presume, but it’s true. You’ll mock it and say something like, “You’re an idiot,” or “No, Allah is in control over you,” but, whatever you say, whatever you believe right now, the truth is still in control of the universe, and you ARE NOT. Welcome to some reality, sorry you are currently rebelling against it. But arguing against, mocking me or other believers or God will NEVER change reality.

        Suthenboy: I’m doing both. Since evolution brought forth the wonderful gifts of intellect, creativity, and snarkiness, I presume, you being highly-evolved, will be able to detect when I am serious and when I am partying.

      2. Fail. If the Universe can materialize out of nothing, then God should be granted the same courtesy.

        If we replace “God” with “physical laws of the Universe” atheists suddenly stop griping. Well what are those physical laws? Since life was the inevitable result of those laws, isn’t if fair to say they “created” us? And since all those laws function within the same sphere of reality, is it so ridiculous to speculate they have a common source? Just because atheists have no imagination doesn’t mean everyone else is delusional.

        1. Oops. This reply was actually meant for the atheist cultists.

        2. Matt R., I have to agree wit’ chu overall.

          Also, I love this recent high-jacking of the word “reason,” as if you believe in God or a Creator, then you are a superstitious idiot, who cannot reason or think critically.

          You’re correct, actual reason wouldn’t at ALL ignore the definite, strong possibility/reality of Creator/Law-maker/God. Ignoring those realities/fighting voraciously against them shows there are more issues going on with that person (like they hate God, hate the thought of God). In fact, unbiased reason would lead to the exact opposite, again, that “a house demands a builder, a creation demands a creator.” Poof!, didn’t design the eye, and certainly doesn’t still hold the universe together. “Poof!” has no intelligence, sorry, unless something intelligent gave the elements of poof intelligence.

          This issue is nothing new. “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.'”

        3. In our experience, we are born, we live a life, and we die. Everything we see in our lives comes into being and then goes away….i.e. has a lifespan. We conceive of all things this way; entities that have a beginning and and end. It is natural for us to think this way.
          In fact, most of those things dont really exist as separate entities, they are simply matter in a constant state of change. The concepts of ‘a beginning’ and ‘an end’ dont really exist either. They help us make sense of the world, and it works well for us, but that doesnt mean they actually exist outside of our heads.
          When asking questions about where the universe ‘came from’ or how it was ‘created’ we are thinking in terms of our own personal experience. Conjuring up a creator helps answer that question consistent with our conceptual system.
          Stepping back a bit, with that in mind, it is perfectly acceptable to me that the universe has always been and has no beginning in the sense that we usually consider. It is simply in a constant state of change.

        4. The most glaring problem with your position is that, by replacing your “god” (who is a supernatural agent, in that he transcends physical laws) with “the laws of physics” (which are merely postulations based on observed phenomena, not “laws” as would be given by a “law giver”) you are obviating the need for your god. In fact, you come close to defining your “god” out of existence.

          You are also pleading a special case for your god: if your argument for creation hinges on the notion that everything must have a beginning, then your god cannot be an exception. Likewise, if everything that exists was created, your god cannot be an exception. Either your god had a beginning/was created or you must abandon that argument. If he was created, he had a creator. If he had a beginning, then by your logic he must again have had a creator. If your reply is that he has “always” existed, you are breaking the rules set forth by your own argument (i.e. that everything had a beginning or that if something exists it must have been created).

          And no, it’s not “fair” to say that laws “created” us. Again, you are redefining terms to suit your position. The notion of “creation” implies a conscious creator, which is the opposite of life or the universe having arisen as a result of impersonal laws.

          Creation is a very specific claim, and it speaks to the weakness of your position that you find it necessary to redefine the terms in mid-debate.

    2. Sound mind, are you serious or parodying?

      1. Serious mind, I began writing a serious reply to your post but then I asked myself, which is dumber, your post, or me for replying to it?
        So, I highlighted what I had written and hit ‘delete’.

    3. on the off chance you are serious…

      occam’s razor (original variant): assume no more than necessary

      Since a world view that assumes the existence of a god/God offers no greater predictive power than one which does not (and often offers less predictive power. only a very specific variant on the creator theme is on par) it would be foolish to adopt the world view that utilizes such an assumption.

      World views that lack any variant of macro evolution find themselves severely handicapped vs those that do not, however. And those with lamarckian variants find themselves inferior to darwinian ones. (although new findings concerning epigenetics have evened the score in specific areas)

      1. Okay, I’m glad you can quote out of a textbook. But why do you want to trust the machinations of a human being over trusting the God who created you, who loves you, and doesn’t want you to die, so much so that he gave His one and only Son (Jesus) to die for your stupidity and selfishness? (And for mine, too).

        Why would you want to trust your own reasoning powers, or those of another human being? Human beings are SHEEP! Find me the smartest guy on earth, and he’ll be the dumbest in some other category! We ALL know this about people – that the smartest can also be the dumbest, so why do we trust a smart guy who’s dumb in another area of life/reasoning?

        All atheists believe; they just believe in other humans, or arguments (like the laughable, fairy-tale, macro-evolution story), or in their own pieced-together version of what atheism is or isn’t, (and/or they just constantly adjust what they believe when they are confronted).

        So, why believe in what leads to certain death? B/c …. evolution is a fact?!? No, it’s NOT! … it’s b/c you are under the control, right now, of the evil one. The evil one wants you to die. God doesn’t. I’d choose God.

      2. Please. The entire progressive movement is predicated on the “world view of macro evolution.” How’s that working out for you? Cold reason in and of itself is every bit as dangerous as superstition. That’s because reason itself is largely subjective. Every observable truth is subject to human interpretation.

  18. It was the contraction of the money supply by the Fed that re-enforced what was likely a recession, making it into a depression.

  19. Evan Longoria Jersey
    Welcome to MLBEdge.com – The Ultimate MLB Jersey Shop featuring an endless assortment of MLB Jerseys ! We have a huge selection of Authentic,Premier and Replica MLB Jerseys for Men,Women,Youth and Kids. Find your favorite MLB Jerseys and Get Free Shipping and 60 Days Returns Only At MLBEdge.com !

  20. Didn’t Margaret Thatcher prove Milton Friedman was wrong?

  21. Could these findings about psychopathological conservative political beliefs possibly be the result of the researchers’ confirmation bias?

    Could conservatives’ neverending persecution complex be a symptom of these psychopathologies?

  22. “Even pigeons are superstitious. In an experiment where food is delivered randomly, pigeons will note what they were doing when the pellet arrived, such as twirling to the left and then pecking a button, and perform the maneuver over and over until the next pellet arrives.”
    Are you saying pigeons are as stupid as people???

  23. Shermer likes skeptics, except the ones who do not fall for his AGW bullshit…..just like Bailey!

    1. Trusting crank right-wing websites over science is not the definition of skepticism.

      1. I have a degree in science…do you? I am sure as hell not a reader of right-wing anything. I am a capitalist atheist…..very rare.

        1. So where is the credible scientific support for climate change skepticism?

          1. Seek and you shall find.

          2. There is plenty of it. As realist says, seek and you shall find but I think it is supposed to be ‘ye shall find.’
            The reason we are skeptical Tony, is that the whole AGW thing has the feel, smell, taste, and sound of a con job. Every ‘solution’ offered so far does nothing to fix the problem, only to redistribute wealth. It quacks, so we are calling it a duck.

            1. You need to stop feeling and start thinking. Take any legitimate scientific publication–something you’d trust on ANY other topic–and see what it has to say on climate change.

              To make an exception for this one (politically charged) field is to assert a conspiracy so vast it fails the laugh test, let alone Occam’s Razor.

              1. I am not interested in a pissing match with you. There is nothing I could say or post that would change your religious belief.
                Old Mexican is better at pissing on you than I am….and he enjoys it!

              2. I look at publications as sources of information, which I weigh skeptically. I dont ‘trust’ any of them.
                You AGW alarmists are never going to convince anyone with your appeals to authority, yet you persist and persist and persist ad nauseum.

            2. But I am a atheist.

        2. Rare maybe, but you are not alone……..

  24. A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a lion? If he assumes it’s the wind and the rustling turns out to be a lion, then he’s not an ancestor anymore.”
    Huh??? What kind of dumb fuck logic is that? Why would the fact that the rustling is a lion change someones ancestor status???
    That’s like carbon dioxide is increasing and the temperature is increasing therefore: AGW!!!!

    1. Realist: think it through.

      It would change his ancestor status because if it were a lion it would FUCKING EAT HIM. That would have a profound impact on his ancestor status, because it’s hard to reproduce when you’re a fleshy blob of mush in a lion’s belly.

      Get it?

      1. Gilbert, you read it through!!!
        It states he IS an ancestor and then states that if the rustling is a lion, he is now NOT an ancestor
        GET IT!!!!

        1. That’s the lamest back-pedal I’ve seen in a while.

          Please don’t pretend now that you were trying to make some nuanced semantic point. It’s painfully obvious you weren’t.

          1. It’s painfully obvious he was.

  25. That’s like carbon dioxide is increasing and the temperature is increasing therefore: AGW!!!!

  26. I think Shermer’s earlier book is called “Why People Believe Weird Things” and not “People Who Believe Weird Things”.

    Also, Mr. Bailey, a better treatment of his latest book would have told me why, as a reader of the aforementioned “Weird Things”, I should think that this book covers new territory…if indeed it does. It sounds quite similar.

    But what the fuck; I’m a huge Shermer fan and will read it anyway.

    1. “But what the fuck; I’m a huge Shermer fan and will read it anyway.”
      Some how with your display of logic above…that is not a surprise!

      1. That’s the lamest back-pedal I’ve seen in a while.

        Please don’t pretend now that you were trying to make some nuanced semantic point. It’s painfully obvious you weren’t.

  27. Imagining we have the power to reach beyond nature to create global warming is the natural evolution of Abrahamic religions. It’s all about being special in our own eyes. Whatever the earth may be doing, humans are still natural and just a part of it all with or without our opinions of who isn’t acting according to the book – different books, same beliefs.

    1. Jim:

      I think you’re wrong. The more people there are on the planet, the greater our potential effect. There must logically be a point where we start having a global impact: the argument can only be about where that point is.

      Also: I don’t know why you singled out Abrahamic religions, but aren’t all religions a way of feeling like we have some power over the universe (if only through a slave-master relationship with its supposed creator?). If so, it seems like the religion-global warming relationship would be quite the opposite of what you posit: we might be more likely to ignore our impact if we think the ancient tribal war god of the Hebrews is the one who is really pulling the strings. Why worry when the world is a gift to mankind, a temporary waypoint on the road to the Rapture?

      I think it bolsters my point somewhat that most of the vocal global warming deniers are Christian.

      1. I should retract that last sentence. It’s not supportable.

        Withdrawn.

        1. I agree, we and our habits are changing the planet but so much of the focus of the debate is whether it is natural or man-made. My point is it takes a lot of moxie to think we are anything other than natural creatures (maybe with an extra dollop of hubris) and debating it serves little purpose other than to delay necessary changes. I am more than willing to be incorrect but it seems much of the argument about the cause is generated by people of the Abrahamic tradition who have kept the same underlying beliefs and bookish habits but jettisoned the additional requirement for an invisible (and let’s face it, annoying) external authority.

          1. If we are natural creatures, can we not still have a global negative effect? What is a “non-natural” creature, anyway? Most creatures are in some way destructive of their natural habitat: but they either move on to a new one or face natural limiting factors (disease, starvation, predators). We humans have transcended most of these, so we’re free to destroy to our heart’s content. The only thing that can save us from ourselves is our own intelligence.

            It does seem that most of the global-warming naysayers are of a conservative bent, but I can’t find anything to confirm that they are particularly religious (which is why I withdrew my closing comment last time).

            However, most conservatives these days define themselves as religious, so it does make religion as a cause for GW-denial worth some attention.

            I hope the cause is more cultural than religious, however, because talking sense in the face of religious certitude is like trying to lick the mortar out of a brick wall.

            1. Most religious people in Canada are lefties. You’re talking from an American viewpoint.

              1. And, they’re big into humans being the bad guys and destroying Mother Earth.

  28. Mr. Shermer’s book is itself a product of a believing brain. He should have added “game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology” to his list of “agenticity” factors.

  29. And the libertarians prove their ignorance of human nature once again as they blindly kneel at the alter of the great god of Tabula Rasa!

    1. Ben: Shermer’s point is that our tendency to believe IS ingrained by evolution, not that it is learned.

      I think the only people who “blindly kneel” within this context are the people who claim universality of either nature or nurture, when the reality quite obviously incorporates some degree of both.

      To display true ignorance, one must speak in absolutes. Sadly this, too, is human nature.

  30. I think writer of this essay forget to count God of Hindu.We Hindu have more that 33000000 God and we Hindu every day creating 1000 new God.Counting total God of Hindu is impossible.After every ten year Indian Government campaigning census of population but never campaigning census of Hindu GOD.

  31. “faith is a fine invention for gentlemen who see, but microscopes are prudent in an emergency.”

  32. Skeptic/believer. Aren’t they just flip sides of the same coin? Neither is open to alternate data, because they both already know all they need to know, and anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot.

    I hope the real scientists are in the middle, ready to be swayed in any direction by real data rather than their predetermined ideas.

    1. “Skeptic/believer. Aren’t they just flip sides of the same coin? Neither is open to alternate data, because they both already know all they need to know, and anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot.”
      I only ever hear this “we’re equal” argument from believers. Skepticism does not inherently require dogma or presuppositions, no matter what you claim. The same cannot be said for people who believe in a religion.

      1. Agreed. The idea that skepticism and religion are epistemological equals can be dispelled by a glance at Websters Dictionary. One requires faith, the other methodology. Guess where “real scientists” come down on the matter?

        This false equivalency notion is complete doggerel.

  33. These sorts of things appear clever, until you apply basic philosophical questions that are over a century old. Specifically, has Shermer applied his own beliefs to his own beliefs? He conflates his skepticism with reason and even “science” more generally, but with what validity?

    Logically, if there are some people “out there” who believe things for which there is no empirical support, they can also be “in here”, can’t they?

    For example, the evidence for UFO’s is overwhelming. We have hundreds of videos of them. We have multiple astronauts coming forward–like Buzz Aldrin, Edgar Mitchell (Ph.D, Rocket Science) and Gordon Cooper–saying they have seen them personally, and are more generally familiar with the state of research.

    You cannot refute empirical evidence–and plainly the plural of anecdote IS the scientific method, since we take the word for it of scientists that they have in fact replicated things–by appealing to a priori cognitive schemes.

    You cannot refute non-locality–which is the final nail in the coffin of General Relativity as a final explanation of how reality works, as Einstein himself implied by putting his name in the EPR paradox–without referencing both the math and data in support of it.

    Both atheism and the materialism which gives rise to it are irrational. I wrote a hasty, short piece on this topic, linked on my name. To my mind, this point is irrefutable.

    As I have often said, skepticism is not standing back and saying “prove it”. It is equidistance from both belief and rejection. It is constituted by a willingness to evaluate all forms of evidence, and all understandings of reality to which that evidence may lead, without preconception, and without caring emotionally about the outcome.

    Would that we had more scientists and less self-defined “skeptics”. Our state of knowledge would be much further along.

    1. Against my better judgment, I read your entire 6-page treatise.

      You are suffering from a monumental case of confirmation bias, beginning with your faulty understanding of what atheism actually is (and is not).

      The biggest problem with your “sketch” is that when one defines the primary terms properly (i.e. atheism, religion, doctrine etc.) your entire argument evaporates.

      1. Enlighten me. Please define them properly.

        Then please help me understand how my argument evaporates. In particular, please help me understand why you would view materialism as being consistent with the present state of scientific knowledge.

        1. Okay, here’s your enlightenment, should you decide to accept it.

          Your premise is that atheism is “irrational”, but to prove this you define “atheism” as a doctrine, and you attack it as such. But it’s not a “doctrine” or a religion.

          Atheism, it turns out, is merely a negative position, usually voiced as something along the lines of “I don’t believe gods exist”. How is that a “doctrine”? There are no claims made.

          Yet you have attributed a whole range of characteristics to atheists as if all atheists “believe” exactly the same thing, which of course they do not.

          One of many examples: you say “Atheists believe that consciousness and the brain are one and the same, and that when the neural
          activity of the brain ceases, so too does consciousness.”

          Brilliant-sounding; but no, Barry, “they” do not.

          There are fat atheists, skinny atheists, kooky atheists, coldly rational atheists, Swedish atheists, Chilean atheists, straight atheists, hot lesbian atheists etc. When you make a broad generalization about any group like that and cram it into your premise, your argument becomes worthless.

          How can you write six pages on a subject without any apparent effort to understand or properly define that subject? You don’t even really try to define atheism until you’re halfway through, which is a telltale sign that you assume everyone already knows and agrees with your definition. But your definition is weak and incorrect. Therefore: the rest of what you intend to convey is weakened as well. Your argument evaporates.

          You’re obviously an intelligent guy, but you might want to spend less time thinking about who secretly engineered 9/11 and spend it reviewing some basic logic and critical thinking. Based on this treatise, you should probably start with hasty generalization and straw man.

          Perhaps you’ve heard it said before, but it obviously bears repeating: “atheism” is a religion just like “bald” is a hair color.

          1. OK, let’s talk about you, since we can’t talk about any other atheists: tell me what you believe and why, and specifically explain to me to what extent you would disagree with the statement “the brain and consciousness are inseparable”.

            1. Thanks, but I don’t think this is the arena for an extended debate of any sort.

              If you want to have a conversation with an atheist, whether it’s me or someone else, I suggest you go to freeratio.org. I am there a lot, and will be happy to participate in any thread you start.

              Theists and non-theists are equally welcome there; but I suggest you avoid poorly constructed arguments like the one in your sketch if you want to be taken seriously.

              Again, you seem like a smart guy, but you need to work out some kinks, if you don’t mind my saying.

              Hope to see you around.

              1. Been there, done that. To be perfectly honest, I have better conversations with my dogs–to be clear, they say fewer silly things–than with dogmatic atheists.

                Here, you ignored the entirety of my argument to focus on a pedantic detail, and you managed to miscontrue even that. From that shaky foundation, you accuse me of being a poor thinking. Mine is the only actual thinking on display.

                From such a beginning, what useful dialogue could follow? I’ve done this “debate” many times, but find that Christians are far more open to the idea of atheism, than atheists to the idea of God, heaven, and eternal life.

                1. I’m not sure having a straw man as your premise qualifies as a “pedantic detail”.

                  In any case, this is not the proper forum to get into it. You did seem to want to discuss the matter, which is why I recommended freeratio. If you have another forum, I’m happy to oblige you. If not, I wish you a happy weekend and a great life.

                  1. I define an atheist as an a-theist: someone who does not believe in God. In dozens of debates I have yet to meet a committed one who was not also at root a materialist, nor is there any reason here to assume otherwise where you are concerned.

                    There is no straw man. It is a sound argument, 98% of which you have ignored.

                    1. I’m glad to find out you define atheism as lack of a belief in gods. If you had based your entire argument on that definition, it may have been more lucid.

                      In your “sketch” you define atheism as a “doctrine”, a “faith” and a “de facto religion”, and you paint a very detailed picture of what atheists must surely believe, based on, among other things, your personal experience.

                      The rest of our “sound” argument is equally specious, including the notion of the world’s physicists cowering in the corner lest we find out that Einstein was “wrong”, and that General Relativity is in reality just a “materialistic doctrine”.

                      Dude: any physicist in the WORLD would drool at the idea of being the one who proved Einstein wrong. And they wouldn’t care one bit that it didn’t fit into your elaborate conspiracy theory.

                      So much else is wrong with your sketch, which I won’t go into here. But please don’t act as if I’m “ignoring” it. Like I said, I’d be happy to indulge you in a less clunky, more appropriate forum.

                    2. Einstein WAS proved wrong, 50 years ago, in Bell’s response to the EPR Paradox he coauthored. Why don’t you know that?

                      As far as atheism, the belief that there is no God is a belief like any other. I see these silly semantic arguments arguing the contrary from time to time, and which normally amount to the contention that since you are right, the burden of proof is on everyone else. That is a statement of opinion, not fact. Since it is not fact, it is subjective, and as a subjectively held idea, it is a belief, and hence an article of faith. This point is both obvious and irrefutable.

                      The question, in the end, is what is true. Empiricists study the data. Lazy people study their ideas. I place myself in the first category, and will note that you ignored the data I provided.

                      Be all that as it may, I applied to freeratio.org , under my name. I have received no reply. I submit all my ideas to scrutiny and criticism, knowing full well that most such critiques–and I am being generous saying most–will be as superficial as what you are offering here.

                      I do find it useful to defend my views on hostile environments, though, and will be more than happy to do so in the forum, which appears quite hostile in general to anything approaching a Theistic hypothesis.

                    3. They must be scared. I received no reply. You are used to dealing with stupid people. I’m not stupid, and I don’t quit. This had led to me being banned from a number of sites, despite having adopted much more congenial and less combative tones than what I am showing here.

                      There are some people who take great pleasure in the sense of their smartness, but who when shown in a mirror their actual intellectual complacency react not with learning but frustration and attack.

                      And eventually, they find themselves forced to banish the intruder, an outcome I have seen often. The alternative, qualitative disruption of a comfortable universe, is simply too much to contemplate.

  34. My bad. Now the piece on Atheism is linked on my name. I was hammering someone else on the tax thing.

    9/11: there’s another good one. My treatment is here: http://moderatesunited.blogspo…..ughts.html

    People who call “truthers” lunatics never, in my experience, actually grasp the entirety of available facts. This is in part because many truthers ARE nuts.

    This is also in part because despite the supposed “information age” we live in, that very few journalists or others do an acceptable, much less good, job of collating and contextualizing facts.

    In general, if I want to understand something, I write my own treatments of it. That is the case with the 9/11 conspiracy, linked here.

    Anonymous is enabled, and I get emails when people post things. Not one of you will be able to fault either my presentation of facts, or logical treatment of them. If you do, kudos. It has likely happened at some point, but I can’t remember when. Usually, if there is a weakness, I think of it first, and correct it.

    But have at it. Please use reason in the process.

  35. sounds like something david hume did a few hundred years ago without “data”

  36. the information come from author is special,aspire me a lot.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.