Religious doubts and the analytical mind
Posted: 27 April 2012 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A study at UBC has how that no matter how deeply religious, or not, a person is that if they have an analytical mind their doubts come more often than those who think from their guts.  Though not a shrink, I have long felt the analytical mind would produce more doubts.  It simply sounded logical to me.

http://www.kansascity.com/2012/04/26/3578648/analytical-thinking-can-undermine.html

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Posted: 27 April 2012 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yep, it’s an interesting study, and one I’m sure will engender a lot of discussion.

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Posted: 27 April 2012 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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What they are talking about here is basically the two-system mind so eloquently described by Kahneman in his “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” (Although the topic of religion never came up in Kahneman’s book.) I have myself played with the idea of the two-system mind being responsible for the confusion in young children, but I am not so sure it tells us much about what happens in adults. Sure, an adult may initially feel the presence of God in his gut, but that is not exactly the same thing as with the bat and a ball example. In the bat and a ball example most people will come to the wrong conclusion because they are not very good at doing arithmetics. When it comes to God, most adults can easily see that there is zero evidence to support the existence of God, but (!) they choose no to see it. (Or does anyone here really think that Bryan believes in God because his mind is not capable of analytical thinking?)

I am skeptical this study will make much sense of what is really going on here.

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Posted: 27 April 2012 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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George - 27 April 2012 07:18 AM

Sure, an adult may initially feel the presence of God in his gut, but that is not exactly the same thing as with the bat and a ball example. In the bat and a ball example most people will come to the wrong conclusion because they are not very good at doing arithmetics. When it comes to God, most adults can easily see that there is zero evidence to support the existence of God, but (!) they choose no to see it.

That’s not the way I understand it at all. I think the bat and ball meme is not about a persons skill level at performing math. The point is that it’s actually about whether a person is more likely to tackle a problem using System 1 or System 2. You could be perfectly good a solving a 7th grade algebra problem but still intuitively jump to the wrong conclusion that the ball costs 10 cents rather than 5 because it “feels” like the right answer.  A person who resists the urge to jump at the intuitive solution and applies just a bit of analysis quickly sees that this is not the correct answer. Even someone who might be weak in math but more likely to give it careful consideration will quickly realize that 10 cents can’t be the right answer.

I think they are onto something very important. The main reason people believe in invisible entities and forces relates to system 1 thinking. It’s an evolutionary adaptation to living in a dangerous world where there are things out there that want to eat us. It takes effort to get past the instinctual response to attributing agency to things that go bump in the night.

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Posted: 27 April 2012 08:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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According to Kahneman we prefer to use System 1 whenever we may feel it’s sufficient enough. The reason why we are inclined to use System 1 in the bat and a ball example is because, once again, we are not very good at doing arithmetics and our brain decides to save the energy using the costly System 2 assuming the problem is simple enough to use the more efficient (although less accurate) System 1.

Since we have all had enough opportunity to speculate on the existence of God using our System 2 (if you are more than, say, six-years old), I don’t see why we should assume that those who are religious do so merely on the instinctive impulse of System 1. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

[ Edited: 27 April 2012 09:05 AM by George ]
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Posted: 27 April 2012 09:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I went back to read the article again, and I see they say it may explain why “some” people may be more or less religious. Well, if by “some people” they are referring to those with an IQ of 70, then fine. But most people, if not all, of an average intelligence (or indeed those with an above average intelligence like Bryan) have surely given it a deeper thought (i.e. using their System 2).

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Posted: 27 April 2012 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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George - 27 April 2012 08:55 AM

According to Kahneman we prefer to use System 1 whenever we may feel it’s sufficient enough. The reason why we are inclined to use System 1 in the bat and a ball example is because, once again, we are not very good at doing arithmetics and our brain decides to save the energy using the costly System 2 assuming the problem is simple enough to use the more efficient (although less accurate) System 1.

I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this, George. I still say it has nothing to do with math skills. It’s about preferring intuition to reason. And that tendency cuts across all levels of education.

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Posted: 27 April 2012 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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George - 27 April 2012 09:12 AM

I went back to read the article again, and I see they say it may explain why “some” people may be more or less religious. Well, if by “some people” they are referring to those with an IQ of 70, then fine. But most people, if not all, of an average intelligence (or indeed those with an above average intelligence like Bryan) have surely given it a deeper thought (i.e. using their System 2).

But… you are forgetting how we rationalize our beliefs. Once the belief is formed, having a higher IQ only serves to make us more adept at rationalizing our weak beliefs with sophisticated sophistry. Read anything ever written by C.S. Lewis, for example. A genius if ever there was one, but totally deluded. Yours truly, though not a genius by any stretch, also fell into that trap.

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Posted: 27 April 2012 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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George - 27 April 2012 09:12 AM

I went back to read the article again, and I see they say it may explain why “some” people may be more or less religious. Well, if by “some people” they are referring to those with an IQ of 70, then fine. But most people, if not all, of an average intelligence (or indeed those with an above average intelligence like Bryan) have surely given it a deeper thought (i.e. using their System 2).

Kahneman also referred to something he called “cognitive illusions”.  Anyone of any IQ could be subject to experiencing an illusion, unless they learned to guard against it. 

Also, individuals can experience delusions regardless of their IQ level, e.g., when taking certain psychoactive substances, or when in certain altered states of consciousness.

Then, too, there is the tendency of some highly intelligent persons, to construct a rationale for their belief system that makes it more impervious to change despite contrary evidence.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 27 April 2012 01:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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FreeInKy - 27 April 2012 09:27 AM

But… you are forgetting how we rationalize our beliefs.

Precisely. I am PUI (posting under the influence) so I am not sure how much sense I am going to make now, but how we rationalize our beliefs when it comes to religion is very different from how we do don’t (!) rationalize our beliefs when it comes to arithmetics. And that’s exactly my point. Religious beliefs have very little to do with the typical System 1/System 2 problem.

I really wish somebody like Bryan could be objective enough about this whole thing and tell us why he believes in God..

[ Edited: 27 April 2012 01:49 PM by George ]
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