Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Cognitive stasis

May 13, 2015 • 7:00 am

The new Jesus and Mo strip, called “Ditto,” reprises some recent research, which I reported about but can’t be arsed to look up. But can their beliefs be any more solid than they are already?

2015-05-13I wonder how many devout Christians—or, for that matter, Muslims—could tell you what observations or incidents would make them give up their faith.


36 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Cognitive stasis

  1. “I wonder how many devout Christians—or, for that matter, Muslims—could tell you what observations or incidents would make them give up their faith.”

    In my experience, the Christopher Hitchens approach is best. That is: tell the religious that their offer is not worth having. If christianity – or any other religion – were true, it would be very bad news indeed. The promise of eternal bliss doesn’t cheer me up.

    I had a lot of discussions with christians from the pentacostal church and this is the argument that most hit home. Heaven just doesn’t appeal to me. So, that’s how you undermine their faith: tell them that even if christianity – or islam – is correct, that would be a horrible outcome.

    1. In a book written by a pastor of the church I used to attend, he said that heaven would be like a “mutual sexual orgasm” (his words). In other words (even ignoring the fact that I *seriously* doubt that he got this “idea” from the bible), he thinks that eternity will be spent as a wirehead. I guess the magic sky fairy will also magic it so that that part of the brain will not burn out, too.

      I suppose that’s at least a slight improvement over the usual picture of heaven as an eternal church service…

  2. I wonder how many devout evolutionists could tell you what observations or incidents would make them give up their faith? Like all creatures just ‘dropping into’ the fossil record, from the so-called Cambrian Period onwards, fully-formed, and with no antecedents giving any clues as to their supposed evolutionary ancestry – and a complete absence of evidence of gradual transition from one species to another. And that’s just for starters

    1. It is not faith, but acceptance based on the mountain of evidence that holds me to evolution. There is nothing in your statement that is aligned with known facts, including the sudden appearance of animals in the Cambrian.
      A great many observations would dissuade me of my acceptance of evolution. One would be “fossil rabbits in the Precambran”, to paraphrase a famous answer by J.B.S. Haldane

    2. “…and a complete absence of evidence of gradual transition from one species to

      Are you serious? You need to read our host’s book, WEIT. Also try Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth. L

    3. WAIT, everyone. Like me, I think you are totally misreading this. Anthony is simply being tongue in cheek and ironic; explaining what it would take for evolutionists to give up their faith (as in no longer accepting evolution). I was fooled too!
      Sorry, Anthony.

      1. I think you’re right.

        He’s saying that “evolutionists” draw their conclusions from evidence, and if the evidence isn’t there or contradicts a given conclusion, then they don’t draw it; a pre-Cambrian rabbit or a complete absence of transitional forms could do the trick.

        The point being a comparison with creationists, who aren’t concerned with falsifiability.

        1. As was shown in 50-foot high, burning letters on a mountainside during the Ham-Nye debate.

          For the three people who haven’t already run across the reference, when scientist Bill Nye was asked what would make him change his mind, he said “evidence”. When creataionist Ken Ham was asked the same question, he said “nothing”.

    4. Finding all creatures in the fossil record fully formed in the Cambrian period certainly would cause a lot of confusion to devout evolutionists. Unfortunately we haven’t found this, all we see is cute little sea creatures, not even a decent backbone or something fluffy.

  3. “I wonder how many devout evolutionists could tell you what observations or incidents would make them give up their faith?”
    Free medical care?

    1. Great article; includes the line: “When confronted by information that runs counter to beliefs, people often become more entrenched in those ideas, not less.”

  4. I think the answer to your question was given in the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. When asked at the end of the debate what would cause them to change their minds about their positions, Bill Nye gave an answer that evidence would be needed, such as finding human and dinosaur fossils together. Ken Ham’s reply was one word: “Nothing.”

  5. IMO, Neil dGT asks the relevant question: We know that most people will cling to their beliefs. However, there are a few that will not, but will begin to follow the evidence. What is the difference between those people?

    If we can identify the traits or conditions which cause a beginning of questioning, how do we nurture those? L

  6. I am currently liking the view that people hold their wrong beliefs against overwhelming contrary evidence when they place greater stock in aligning their beliefs with their close associates like their family and members of their chosen community (their church, closest friends, etc.). This is based on conclusions from a study I read about recently (wish I could find the url). The views of ones’ immediate community are viewed as more important than those of outsiders, so if an outsider says something different, then they are seen with suspicion.
    In lieu of that, this posting from msnbc discusses other reasons about why so many people refuse to vaccinate their children.

    1. Needing to be a part of the tribe is probably a major cause for people clinging to their beliefs. But why do you think they double down when confronted with contrary evidence? Perhaps they sense subconsciously that the evidence is sound and the only way to stop their minds from lingering in doubt is to build a mental callus against introspection. It says a lot about “ignore” and “ignorance” having the same root.

      1. Why so many people refuse to vaccinate their children?

        Vaccination is actually a Prisoner’s Dilemma (PD). The PD describes the strategic structure of many types of social interactions. If I’m a player in this game, then my best strategy is that all other players cooperate (in this case: get the vaccination) while I don’t cooperate (i.e., don’t get the vaccination). From my selfish perspective the best thing is to free ride on the efforts of others. Getting vaccinated involves, to me, a very small risk of getting the disease or some other negative side effect. So if others get vaccinated, while I don’t, I will profit from the herd immunity that widespread vaccination creates and, at the same time, I avoid the very small chance of getting hurt from the vaccination. The solution out of this is a legal mandate for everybody to get vaccinated. If you replace vaccination with paying taxes you will see why taxation is not optional.

        See also here:
        What is good for the individual is not always best for society

      2. “But why do you think they double down when confronted with contrary evidence?”

        Perhaps because they don’t want to be expelled from their tribe. The “other” has almost convinced you that your tribe is wrong… you can cross on over and leave your tribe behind… or be expelled… that’s very scary… or you can double down and stay with your tribe… much less psychologically scary.

        I expect that a lot of the people who manage a cross-over do so because they have dural tribe loyalties, so that it’s possible for them to cut off one tribe and embrace another they already are a part of (e.g. the Christian who becomes a scientist and then leaves the faith).

  7. To the extent that our beliefs are part of our self-concept, in the sense that they make us “who we are,” they only act as a filter through which we view the world. Filters can be cognitive, cultural, and maybe other things as well. But if we want to grow as thinkers, we first need to be aware that this filtering process is happening, and learn how to override it.

    1. The correspondence between belief and identity is highlighted in the approbation we hold out for political “flip-floppers”. Changing your mind in politics is very tricky because most people see “what you believe” not as a set of conclusions you have come to based on reason and evidence, but as a window into your soul. Changing your beliefs is equated with being un-trustworthy. We constantly monitor the beliefs of the people around us in order to suss out whether those people can be trusted as members of our tribe… to identify potential defectors early. In fact, I think that the vast bulk of the talking people do to each other has as it’s purpose tribal bonding and/or sussing out tribal defectors. It is exceedingly rare for any natural human communication to have, as it’s main goal, coming to a clear understanding of a topic.

      1. Precisely. And I consider that to be one of the greatest impediments to our advancement toward a peaceful world society. Good thinking is not innate. It has to be learned.

        1. Exactly.

          There is no more reason to imagine that people can think logically without having worked at it than to imagine that they can play the piano, repair a car engine, solve an equation, or climb a mountain without having worked at it.

  8. Religionist at the extreme and those of every other shade of god fearing individuals have stopped growing, which I suppose is understandable since they have the answer they are seeking.
    From here on it is just padding it out so it all makes sense. Rituals, praying, fellowship, etc are all part of the process.
    It is going to require energy and certainly an uncomfortable moment(oh hell I’m being conned) to kick start further inquiry if they are to move on.
    That may come in the form of WEIT say (the prof has given us examples of this) as a catalyst or, to finishing the job off.. total rejection of religion.
    I would say we all have little break though moments with individuals but may never know, or, are ongoing discussions.
    We can only show by example, i.e. our morals have not gone down the sink hole, we value freedom of speech, we value our families and the lives of others not near. I doubt this has to be spelt out to those that are here at WEIT and support Prof Coyne.
    With all due respect, the secret is to know when to move on yourself and after stating your position I might add, we are not here to be walked over and keep the momentum going.

  9. I wonder if there is a difference between being confronted with the evidence and discovering the evidence. Quite a lot of people left religion due to its irrationality, but I wonder what the percentage is for people who found the controversial evidence as opposed to having it given to them.

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