Tag: religious

Connection between certain religious beliefs and the willingness to torture

May 6, 2009 | By | Reply More
Connection between certain religious beliefs and the willingness to torture

There appears to be a correlation between some types of religious beliefs and the willingness to torture, according to a recent PEW study.

Skeptico looks at these results and asks some well-considered questions. He concludes:

Even so, significant or not, these results hardly support the view that religion (specifically Christianity) provides a moral compass, or that reading the Bible or going to church is necessary for one to be moral or good.

Skeptico also recommends a visit to the page where the Skeptics Annotated Bible collects Bible passages concerning torture. And no, not all of these passages promoting torture are from the Old Testament.

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How undependable are the experts?

March 26, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
How undependable are the experts?

We are in the middle of a huge economic crisis. Should we listen to the experts? Of course we should, because the economy and the financial sector are horrifically complicated.

What happens when the experts disagree, however? To which experts should we listen? I took a stab at that question recently, but I remain unconvinced that any of the economics experts can be trusted. Yes, there are people like George Soros who have made a phenomenal amount of money during the crisis, but this makes me wonder whether he (and all of the other recent success stories) are smart or whether they are lucky.

Today, Nicholas Kristof (in the NYT) reminds us that many experts (at least political experts) have a terrible track record. His opening sentence: “Ever wonder how financial experts could lead the world over the economic cliff?” He warns us of the “Dr. Fox effect,” named for a “pioneering series of psychology experiments in which an actor was paid to give a meaningless presentation to professional educators.” Despite the fact that the lectures consisted of gibberish, they were well received. He mentions a study showing that “clinical psychologists did no better than their secretaries in their diagnoses.” He also mentions a study by Philip Tetlock which determined that “The [82,000] predictions of [284] experts were, on average, only a tiny bit better than random guesses — the equivalent of a chimpanzee throwing darts at a board.” Those experts who were the most impressive to most people “provided strong, coherent points of view, who saw things in blacks and whites.”

I’m reminded of Alan Sokal’s intentionally nonsensical article that he submitted to the postmodern journal, Social Text. See here for more of the details. BTW, if you want to generate your own postmodern bullshit, use this postmodernist bullshit generator (every time you hit the link, more impressive-sounding bullshit will be assembled automatically into an article).

How far astray are we led by “experts”? Consider investment “experts.” There are none worse. Entire industries are built on the thoroughly disproved notion that a stock-picker can consistently beat the market. Dan Smolin has made a career of proving that stock-picker experts are thoroughly and demonstrably terrible at what they claim to be. But many of us still run to these financial “experts” to help us pick the “right” stocks.

Just think of the hundreds of political military experts who were similarly awful at their recommendations and predictions regarding the invasion of Iraq. They appeared hundreds of time on network TV during the few weeks prior to the invasion, all of them confident in their assessments and advice. Consider, also that fewer than 1% of them took anti-war stances. Consider, also, that many of these “experts” were secretly in positions to financially benefit from an invasion of Iraq.

Consider the thousands of religious experts, from coast to coast, who loudly and confidently tell their religious followers that there is a heaven and that they will go there, without the tiniest big of evidence in support. The followers of fundamentalist preachers continue to listen to these guys even when they attack evolutionary biologists, even though these religious leaders have no training in science and no basic understanding of the principles of evolutionary biology.

Everyone loves weather forecasters, right? These guys are wrong so incredibly often that no station dares to post their track records for those five-day forecasts they confidently present night after night.

The list goes on and on. We insist on listening to the experts, medical experts, beauty experts, psychologists, their track records be damned. That’s because they are the best that we’ve got, no matter how wrong they are how often.

The bottom line is that we crave experts because we crave certainty, even where there isn’t any. The confirmation bias causes us to rely heavily on experts hawking our own opinions, even when there is no evidence in support, as long as the expert dishes out those opinions with a loud confident voice. And a fancy business suit doesn’t hurt either.

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All that talk about life after death . . .

March 18, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
All that talk about life after death . . .

Highly religious people should be more willing to say goodbye to the material world, right? It turns out that devout believers cling ferociously to Earthly life. That’s the finding of a new study reported by the Center for Inquiry:

[T]erminal cancer patients who reported drawing comfort from religion were significantly more likely to demand heroic care during their final week of life than those less attached to faith. Strong believers were also significantly less likely to engage in advance-care planning activities like making a living will, signing a do-not-resuscitate order, or naming a health-care proxy.

The difference between religious and non-religious was not trivial:

Only 3.6 percent of the least religious received mechanical ventilation during the final week of life, compared to 11.3 percent of the most religious.

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“Thanks, but no thanks for that bridge to nowhere” Palin keeps saying.

September 10, 2008 | By | 6 Replies More
“Thanks, but no thanks for that bridge to nowhere” Palin keeps saying.

Chris Matthews is now driving the point home:  Sarah Palin is a pathological liar.   She fully supported the bridge to nowhere, but here she is, seven times, claiming she didn’t support it. BTW, Sarah Palin claims to be quite religious. See her performance at her church here.  She believes in the Bible as a literal […]

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Religious rituals as creative play for adults?

June 23, 2008 | By | Reply More
Religious rituals as creative play for adults?

I’m currently reading a new book by Susan Linn, The Case for Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World (2008). The main point of the book is that modern parents tend to over-schedule their children and otherwise deprive them of time for creative play.  For instance, many parents are letting their children get addicted to […]

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