Monthly Archives: May 2015

Faith vs. Facts

First of all, they have noticed that the very language people use changes when they talk about religious beings, and the changes mean that they think about their realness differently. You do not say, “I believe that my dog is alive.” The fact is so obvious it is not worth stating. You simply talk in ways that presume the dog’s aliveness — you say she’s adorable or hungry or in need of a walk. But to say, “I believe that Jesus Christ is alive” signals that you know that other people might not think so. It also asserts reverence and piety. We seem to regard religious beliefs and factual beliefs with what the philosopher Neil Van Leeuwencalls different “cognitive attitudes.”

Second, these scholars have remarked that when people consider the truth of a religious belief, what the belief does for their lives matters more than, well, the facts. We evaluate factual beliefs often with perceptual evidence. If I believe that the dog is in the study but I find her in the kitchen, I change my belief. We evaluate religious beliefs more with our sense of destiny, purpose and the way we think the world should be. One study found that over 70 percent of people who left a religious cult did so because of a conflict of values. They did not complain that the leader’s views were mistaken. They believed that he was a bad person.

Read more at The New York Times

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Posted by on May 18, 2015 in cognitive science


The Enemy Control Ray

Thing of Things

Imagine your worst ideological enemy– the people whose blog posts you read and go “why are you WRONG about EVERYTHING.” For many transhumanists, it might be bioethicists; for a disability rights advocate, Peter Singer; for an effective altruist, a philanthrolocalist; for a feminist, a social conservative.

Now, imagine that a mad scientist has invented a device called the Enemy Control Ray. The Enemy Control Ray is a mind-control device: whatever rule you say into it, your enemy must follow.

(Let’s pretend for a moment that the moral problems of mind control don’t exist. This is a thought experiment.)

However, because of limitations of the technology, any rule you put in is translated into your enemy’s belief system.

So, let’s say you’re a trans rights activist, and you’re targeting transphobes. If you think trans women are women, you can’t say “call trans women by their correct pronouns”, because you believe…

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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in religion


Beheading Ishmael: Islamic Extremism and the Denial of History

The New Oxonian

The pathology of the religious movement called Islamic State (ISIS) is a flesh-wasting disease that erupts out of the attempts of conservative Islam to correct its recent record of failure.

Its iconic moment, September 11, 2001, is now more than a decade past. The leaders of al-Qaeda are aging, disorganized and easily upstaged by more robust and glamorous moments—beheadings, cultural brigandage, mass executions, rape, and Blitzkrieg raids on unsuspecting towns and villages. The Taliban have had a run of bad luck; franchise groups like Boko Haram or Al Shabab perform piratically, on the fringe, and at a distance. All of them are fueled by ignorance, demonic forms of enthusiasm, and a perverse idealism that appeals, strangely, to a world where the more ritualized forms of dualistic warfare have become unfashionable or relegated to science fiction. In a world that has become morally lazy and predictable, an evil cause that can…

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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in religion

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