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Chris Mooney - Accommodationism and the Psychology of Belief
Posted: 14 May 2011 06:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Mooney has a lot of good points, including the bit about the emotional responses having priority (both in terms of coming first and in terms of being more important) than working through the reasoning for a belief system.  However, I do think that the more of us who come forward and explain why we don’t accept anything on faith and specifically why we don’t accept a personal god, the more the most damaging ultra-religionists will be marginalized… to the benefit of society.

I think there is room for Mooney’s (and Niel DeGrasse Tyson’s) “accomodationist” approach and Dawkins’ et al’s more confrontational approach.  I don’t agree that Dawkins is all that confrontational except in the sense that he makes no bones about his beliefs and does not pretend that there is some merit in religious beliefs in order to placate the religionists.  I’m in the midst of reading “Unweaving the Rainbow” and find it to be a very warm, inspiring and friendly contribution to discussion of the arts vs science division within the intellectual community.  Also, his “God Delusion” was, IMHO, not nearly as “nasty” as some of the “hands over the mouth… you can’t say that!” ... critics suggested.

It would be interesting to bring Dan Barker into this debate… maybe have him as a guest or have Mooney as a guest on Free Thought Radio…or both… since in a sense Dan is in both camps.  As a former fundamentalist minister who is still on good terms with many (but by no means all) of his former colleagues and who still has a preacher’s style of speaking, Dan can be quite clear about exposing the nonsense that is christian religion while still in some sense being “one of them”....  just as escapees from other cults can help bring some of their friends who were still in thrall out of the cult.  The fact that Dan was able to bring his parents and one of his brothers out of the cult over time attests to this.

The thing is that for an awful lot of people, religion is a club and the price of membership is pretending to believe nonsense.  When belief in nonsense is the price of continued membership, some people are willing to pay.  Humans are social animals, after all.  Making membership in the club less attractive is a step in the right direction… regardless of how that is accomplished (as long as it doesn’t involve violence or coersion, of course).

Another bright star on the science horizon is the increasing interest in systematic study of the causes of (and maybe eventually cures for?) religious faith.  I like the theory that religion is a byproduct of our need to associate in groups for survival….  Kinda like sickle cell anemia persists because it confers partial immunity to malaria. smile

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Posted: 15 May 2011 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Takahashi - 14 May 2011 05:30 PM

The battle to atheize the planet is not going to be won anytime soon.

Wow, if that’s the goal (is that the goal?) we’ve got a lot of work to do.  Religion is as naturally occurring as language, music, and art.  Applying the scientific method is an unnatural act.  Changing either probably requires rewiring the brain from the amygdala on up.  If making certain that biology, geology, and astronomy is taught in the science classroom and Genesis is taught in comparative religion course are among our objectives, then there is hope…

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Posted: 15 May 2011 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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michaelb - 15 May 2011 06:31 AM
Takahashi - 14 May 2011 05:30 PM

The battle to atheize the planet is not going to be won anytime soon.

Wow, if that’s the goal (is that the goal?) we’ve got a lot of work to do.  Religion is as naturally occurring as language, music, and art.  Applying the scientific method is an unnatural act.  Changing either probably requires rewiring the brain from the amygdala on up.  If making certain that biology, geology, and astronomy is taught in the science classroom and Genesis is taught in comparative religion course are among our objectives, then there is hope…

Not always,rationality and critical thinking is very “natural"for some but not all.Teaching science is great,but not everyone actually cares about it.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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I found this interview to be OK,but it didnt seem like it went too far.Both gentlemen seemed a bit pompous to me,but I agree with some points from all sides.There is no field guide for the skeptical community and there never will be!Accommodationism should not be tolerated IMO,however the emotional basis of belief is probably more powerful in most humans.Gnu atheists can be obnoxious now and then but that comes with the territory and the religious are capable of plenty of that too.Lets just keep at it,there is a supply of skeptics in every dark corner,waiting to find like minded people.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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mid atlantic - 15 May 2011 07:35 AM

There is no field guide for the skeptical community and there never will be! Accommodationism should not be tolerated IMO

If there is no field guide for our enterprise why is “accommodationism” off the table?

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Posted: 15 May 2011 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Chris was arguing that the New Atheists were wrong in their approach while Lindsay was defending them.  I did not see it as Lindsay saying it was wrong for Chris himself to take an accomodationist approach, but rather wrong to criticize the more confrontational approach of the New Atheists.  (I’m leaving aside the Templeton issue, as that is really something different).

Chris was completely unable to defend his position.  His basic argument was that “believers” are not converted by the confrontational approach.  But this is a gross overgeneralization.  Chris’ position would make sense only in no believer were ever convinced by this approach.  As long as a confrontationalist approach would be persuasive to any believer, then Chris’ argument falls apart, and there is ample evidence that many believers are persuaded by such an approach even if the majority, or even the vast majority, are not.  At this point, the only thing Chris could do to save his position is to show that, counteracting this persuasive effect on believers, the confrontationalist approach causes more people to become believers, and he offered no evidence of that, nor am I aware of any.

My personal belief is that believers are persuaded by a continuum of approaches—from completely non-confrontational to completely confrontational, and the evidence as I understand it fully supports this.  If one is going to be critical of any approach, he has the burden of marshalling the evidence against it.  Chris has thrown the stone against the confrontationist approach but has presented no evidence that it does not advance the ball overall. 

If everyone could just agree that a unified approach is unnecessary, then this entire argument could be put to bed and we could move on to more constructive discussions.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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michaelb - 15 May 2011 08:20 AM
mid atlantic - 15 May 2011 07:35 AM

There is no field guide for the skeptical community and there never will be! Accommodationism should not be tolerated IMO

If there is no field guide for our enterprise why is “accommodationism” off the table?

Its not off the table,I just dont go for it.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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michaelb - 15 May 2011 08:20 AM
mid atlantic - 15 May 2011 07:35 AM

There is no field guide for the skeptical community and there never will be! Accommodationism should not be tolerated IMO

If there is no field guide for our enterprise why is “accommodationism” off the table?

Because it often seems to spend more time telling those of us who prefer a more direct approach that we are doing it “rong” with zero evidence to that effect, than dealing with supernatural claims.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Bruce Gorton - 15 May 2011 09:23 AM
michaelb - 15 May 2011 08:20 AM
mid atlantic - 15 May 2011 07:35 AM

There is no field guide for the skeptical community and there never will be! Accommodationism should not be tolerated IMO

If there is no field guide for our enterprise why is “accommodationism” off the table?

Because it often seems to spend more time telling those of us who prefer a more direct approach that we are doing it “rong” with zero evidence to that effect, than dealing with supernatural claims.

One way to look at choosing a less in your grill approach is that we need the support - or at least not the opposition - of the political majority of main stream nominally religious and apatheist nones to help get/keep the creationists out of the science classroom.  If we hack off the the folks with enough votes to help us carry the issue what good have we done?  Seems to me it will be a lot easier to atheize (neat word) the planet once we get a decent K-12 science curriculum between our kids’ ears.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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michaelb - 15 May 2011 10:18 AM

One way to look at choosing a less in your grill approach is that we need the support - or at least not the opposition - of the political majority of main stream nominally religious and apatheist nones to help get/keep the creationists out of the science classroom.  If we hack off the the folks with enough votes to help us carry the issue what good have we done?  Seems to me it will be a lot easier to atheize (neat word) the planet once we get a decent K-12 science curriculum between our kids’ ears.

As an “in your grill” atheist, I am all for having a strong science curriculum and keeping religion out of the class but I don’t think bruising their ego is gonna harm it. Same way I would say we shouldn’t be soft and gentle to anti-vaxxers.

I think people have this cartoon-like scenario in their head about a conversation between a new atheist and a religious person that always results in the religious person storming off to be close-minded forever and the next thing you know there is creationism in the classroom… While the other cartoon shows the religious person and the accomodationalist living happily ever after and no more will they attack science and maybe they might even give up their religious beliefs but who cares if they don’t.

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Posted: 15 May 2011 10:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Neither the accommodationist nor the confrontational approach should be off the table, IMHO.  One of the problems with those who decry the confrontational approach is that they fail to realize that for a sizable segment of true believers, any hint that you don’t believe the Bible is the Word Of God is taken as confrontational.  For those people, you might as well get as confrontational as you like and hope for the best.  I suspect that for a lot of religious people, any denial of the absolute unquestionable truth of their beliefs is a threat to their self-definition and to their membership in a group of supportive fellow believers.  Deep down, these people know that religions are BS, but they’re unwilling to think about that because of the social implications.

IMHO, the proposition “Give us 10% of your income and in return we’ll rape your kids and scare them half to death with tales of eternal torture” would have very few takers without the effects of social pressure and unrelenting propaganda to the effect that the essentially insane belief system that is christianity is absolute truth.  It is no co-incidence that the most devout among us are the least knowledgeable of the actual contents of the “scriptures”.

There is a sizable number of former and current preachers who have, through honest and diligent biblical study, come to the correct conclusion that all religion is BS.  By being confrontational, some people will be goaded into looking at the bible more diligently and will discover: “Holy s**t! Those damned atheists are right!”.  Note that I’m being accommodationist here by substituting the obvious letters in “s**t” with asterisks.  smile

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Posted: 15 May 2011 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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ullrich - 15 May 2011 10:55 AM

IMHO, the proposition “Give us 10% of your income and in return we’ll rape your kids and scare them half to death with tales of eternal torture” would have very few takers without the effects of social pressure and unrelenting propaganda to the effect that the essentially insane belief system that is christianity is absolute truth.

The Archdiocese called.  That job in marketing has been filled…  wink

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Posted: 15 May 2011 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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I know, with that blurb, sales would plummet!  smile

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Homeopaths don’t have brains, just skull water with the memory of brains - Robin Ince of The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast
The phrase “False Prophet” is redundant.  Cleanliness is next to… nothing.
I don’t have a God-shaped hole in my soul.  You have a Reason-shaped hole in your head!

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Posted: 15 May 2011 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Templeton is there to SUPPORT religion and protect it in the modern era of science. I doubt Chris Mooney even wants to convert anyone out of religion since he appears to do what he can to encourage some version of Oprah-like religion or spritiuality. In the words of P.Z. - it makes me want to puke.

You and PZ should have that tendency to puke inappropriately looked into.  It can cause throat cancer, you know.  tongue wink

I agree that Templeton’s aims were (now that he’s dead, I suspect he no longer has aims) basically pro-religion, but far from puking, my response is that there is nothing wrong with Mooney taking the money and using it to help refute religious belief… however accomodationist his approach.  That study about the usefulness of prayer actually showed the reverse of what I’m sure Templeton would have wanted it to show.  I certainly don’t begrudge whoever got the money for that study his due there.

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Homeopaths don’t have brains, just skull water with the memory of brains - Robin Ince of The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast
The phrase “False Prophet” is redundant.  Cleanliness is next to… nothing.
I don’t have a God-shaped hole in my soul.  You have a Reason-shaped hole in your head!

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Posted: 15 May 2011 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Jansob - 13 May 2011 05:24 AM

This is quite depressing. Like religions, the skeptical movement now has schisms, heretics, and factions. Skeptics who want to reach out to people who are our allies on 90% of the science issues are being insulted and called names because they are not pure enough. Those of you who are former Christians may recognize a strong whiff of Calvinism in the air.

I’ll continue to educate those around me on science and teach skeptical thinking (which I think in the long run is corrosive to faith)...but I won’t really stay connected with the “movement” if it becomes synonymous with evangelical atheism.

I believe that evangelical atheism is kinda needed to counter the so far overwhelming nature of christian and muslim evangelicalism.  Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening any time soon for the same underlying reason that religion develops in the first place.  The fact that we’re atheists means that we’re probably not “joiners” and tend to be relatively immune to social pressure… otherwise we would never have developed the courage to abandon the religions into which we were inducted as children.  One of the big problems for freethinkers is the apparent dearth of ability to form common fronts around issues that we all agree on (along with freedom-loving religious groups who also strongly support separation of church and state) instead of focusing on how stupid are the other atheists who don’t agree with our particular finer points of philosophy or who don’t even want to admit their atheism for fear of annoying anyone.

Laurie Anne Gaylor and Dan Barker have the right idea, IMHO, with their Freedom From Religion Foundation.  They focus on the pressing need to fight back the attack on separation of church and state in the US and make common cause with and accept help from all who support that focus regardless of what else they may believe.  They tend to have a mildly confrontational style, but it does seem to be working.  This is not to say that an accommodationist style like that espoused by Niel DeGrasse Tyson has no merit.  Raising the general level of scientific literacy is an essential component of the struggle.  It is, however, impossible to raise that level of scientific literacy while public (and private) schools are able to teach religious myths as science.

Regarding the qualm about being derided by fellow atheists for not being pure enough, that is just the nature of internet communication.  When you don’t see the emotional response your words are producing, you lose that self-correcting mirror-neuron mediated response to tone your comments down as appropriate.  There have been flame wars in probably every internet forum since the beginning of the internet when usenet was the only widely available public forum.  IMHO, it didn’t really cause any problems.  Participants quickly developed thick skins and the discussions proceeded apace as they do to this very day.

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Homeopaths don’t have brains, just skull water with the memory of brains - Robin Ince of The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast
The phrase “False Prophet” is redundant.  Cleanliness is next to… nothing.
I don’t have a God-shaped hole in my soul.  You have a Reason-shaped hole in your head!

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