My repeated failings with conversations about faith vs. anything.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored” Aldous Huxley.

I’ll bet you a “so there” to an “oh ya” that religious apologists have a diagnosable condition that sounds more scientific than “garbage in = garbage out”. There are times I just want to weep for these people. Holding primitive, simplistic, superstitious Bronze Age world views on the nature of our shared reality. It really bums me out. A buzz kill ain’t the half of it.

My working hypothesis was that when a reasoned, well sourced, totally logical, counter claim to any proposition should carry the day. Even the metaphorical dope slap has little persuasive impact. The afflicted are seemingly immune to the takedown and counter with vacuous go to retorts like “mysterious ways” or “Gods plan” and a personal favorite of mine “proof of God is all around us”. A powerful and effective inoculation to classical reasoning with remarkable resiliency. A very tuff nut to crack indeed. This, combined with my arrogant and unwarranted certainty regarding my own belief systems, has caused my bullshit detectors to loop back on themselves. I must be nuts on reason and evidence. A disconcerting exercise if there ever was one.

Apparently (and this is based solely on my own myopic approach at self criticism) I suffer from a severe case of “hyper incredulity”. I think it’s a thing. It manifests as a rapid, intense, knee-jerk responses to my perceived BULL SHIT with little if any regard to the targets sensibilities. I make no attempt to hide the “eye roll” and snort of derision. It makes me feel superior to be so rational. It’s a gift to be sure. That said, I recognize in myself a tendency for calling the kettle black.

What follows is my rejoinder to a theist bloggers claims to knowledge and what constitutes evidence.

“Then I apologize for my erroneous assumption. I hoped that, when confronted with evidence to the contrary, an intelligent, literate, introspective, analytically minded person would/can ignore/reject verifiable data in support of authority directed conclusions.

This is by definition “willful ignorance”. I sometimes use the word “deflection” or the pejorative expression “Teflon reasoning”. Not to mention your appeal to authority. But it’s all one.

For the most part we share the same paradigm and our realities are in-sink but for one not so itsy-bitsy problem with having continued discourse. This shared reality diverges at the junction of our natural world and a supernatural realm. Really, this is not reconcilable.

I’m making a “best guess assumption” that you are certain of the validity and veracity that your powers of perception are up to the job of making sense of the world and that I too have a similar skill set. It would seem to be an obvious conclusion but it would be wrong. You can take this to the bank because (drumroll please) being wrong is my secret access to my oscillating perpetual rightness. It is this routine that helps me sustain my inflated ego. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn something that corrects my mistaken position or understanding.

I enjoy TED Talks and in 2011 I watched “Wrongologest” Kathryn Schulz give her talk on the human propensity for unjustified correctness.

As it happens, I’m correct about whatever we’re taking about until I’m not. This is my favorite part of any conversation. My teaching moment! New, conflicting data, will improve my understanding. I feel compelled to be quite and have someone fill in the gaps to my knowledge. Once accomplished I will instantly revert to my proper station of correctness. Very satisfying. Totally non threatening.

I have a simple mnemonic method I use to become receptive to new information and it’s fun. My name is Ron and I create a visual image of the word wrong spelled RONG (the g’s silent) in my head to remind me that I’m as likely to be in error as I am to be correct about anything. It’s not hard to understand. It’s part of being human. We have to make do with what systems we’ve got. Right?

Our brains make cognitive processes possible by consolidating, categorizing and prioritizing an uninterrupted stream of sensory input provided by our bodies. It’s quite remarkable. Sensory signals arrive with varying time delays, level of intensity, conflicting patterns, chemical overrides, it’s equivalent to balancing tea cups on your nose while spinning plates on a pole as you walk on a tightrope in a gusting breeze. It’s an evolutionary adaptation of our marvelous malleable brains.

Conflicting data happens constantly and your brain makes conclusions based on prior assigned truths. A challenge to the validity of a individuals foundational belief will often trigger an array of amplified emotional defense response strategies. It’s reflexive and it’s learned.

There’s an irony here and I’m sure you’ll see it straight away. To you I’m guilty of blithely ignoring what to you seems obvious. Our lives are replete with examples of this. Here are a few of the more common ones; Days get longer in the winter and shorter in the summer, Jesus was not born on December 25th., fortune cookies originated from Japan and the suns color is white. People were sure of a earth centered universe theory and that the earth is flat, that human sacrifice can influence nature, etcetera. The more certain we are about our knowledge the more difficult it is to process conflicting data. This is why critical thinking and deductive reasoning skills are so important for assigning a confidence level to our conclusions. I think that recognizing our species sensory processes to be imperfect for processing information is a key for assessing your confidence level of any proposition or problem.

I have cribbed together definitions plus examples of the terms.

Willful ignorance is the state and practice of ignoring any sensory input that appears to contradict one’s inner model of reality. At heart, it is almost certainly driven by confirmation biases. Willful ignorance differs from ordinary “ignorance“ — when someone is simply unaware of something — in that willfully ignorant people are fully aware of facts, resources and sources, but refuse to acknowledge them. Indeed, calling someone “ignorant” shouldn’t really be a pejorative, but intentional and willful ignorance is an entirely different matter. In practice though, the word “ignorance” has often come to mean “willful ignorance”, and indeed, in many non-English languages, the word based on the same stem (“ignore”) actually carries that meaning.

Willful ignorance is sometimes referred to as tactical stupidity.

Depending on the nature and strength of an individual’s pre-existing beliefs, willful ignorance can manifest itself in different ways. The practice can entail completely disregarding established facts, evidence and/or reasonable conclusions options if they fail to meet one’s expectations. Often the willfully ignorant will make excuses, claiming that a source is unreliable, suggesting that an experiment was flawed or asserting that an opinion is too biased. More often than not this is simple circler reasoning : “I cannot agree with that source because it is untrustworthy because it disagrees with me”.

In other slightly more extreme cases, willful ignorance can involve outright refusal to read, hear or study, in any way, anything that does not conform to the willfully ignorant persons worldview.

With regard to oneself, this can even extend to fake locked-in syndrome with complete unresponsiveness. Or with regard to others, to outright censorship of the material from others.

source: RationalWiki

Like they say, you can lead a horse to water…..

just say’n, Nationofnope.

For your consideration;

“Why should anyone feel compelled to be subservient to a benevolent benefactor? Put another way, what kind of mind demands to be worshipped for doing what came naturally?” Nationofnope.


One thought on “My repeated failings with conversations about faith vs. anything.”

  1. Thank you. I do understand. Even though I was never religious in any dedicated way, I read Ark’s blog and Nan’s and found my way to others in that group. I learned things I had not known. I did not comment, I simply read and then checked a few things I was reading, which lead me to new and interesting histories I had never known. I did not change into an atheist reading these blogs, I discovered information that showed me the different ideas and the real facts of our reality. After reading and learning I began to comment and became a member of the community. I would take it as a huge compliment if someday someone comments on my blog that they also learned of how things really are, that reality made sense when they read what comments were left on my Toy Box. That is why I do it, why I try to stay as civil as I can and should. I do not mind calling out bullshit for what it is, but I want the conversation, the discussion that may spark a change of thoughts. I can only hope to have that kind of influence. Hugs


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