Saturday, July 30, 2011

Disconfirmation Only Strengthens Their Belief

When the Founding Fathers (most of whom were Deists, and not specifically Christians) gave us the First Amendment, they intended to keep government out of the “religion” business, but they had to know at the time that there was little they could do to keep religion out of the government business. The “separation of church and state” as it’s commonly called really isn’t a true separation because it only legislates against cross contamination in a single direction, and in a curious way the debt and budget debacle in Washington this week is a byproduct of that situation. In a nutshell, the kind of fervent belief that causes a person to reject evolution and global warming can now also cause a person to reject rational principles of economics. “We don’t need to raise the debt ceiling because I don’t “believe” that we need to raise the debt ceiling.” It took 225 years, but eventually enough of these believers got elected to congress to actually have the power to take down the system. And it looks like that’s exactly what they intend to do. I wonder if the Founding Fathers saw this coming such a long time ago?

Three years ago I attended a neuroscience seminar titled “Hardwired to Believe.” (see my blog “Conference on World Affairs” 5/1/2008) The essence of the seminar was that people are hardwired differently, and some people just have neurological connections within their brains that make it easier for them to accept the idea of creation than to dig into the mountain of scientific evidence supporting evolution. And here’s the kicker. The more these people get their noses rubbed in evolution, the stronger becomes their belief in creation. The disconfirmation only strengthens their belief. Moreover, they’re not just being stubborn. They are following a neurologically based bias, and it’s this bias that we’ve all come to know as faith or religious belief. When this faith is applied to the question, “Where did man come from?” the answer isn’t immediately critical. If faith says that man was created by a creator, then, “So what?” It’s as harmless as believing in Santa Claus. But when these people band together to gain political power— and that’s exactly what happened with the Tea Party phenomenon— then their faith and belief systems are no longer inconsequential. Believing that the U.S. will still be okay if it defaults on its credit obligations is NOT as harmless as believing in Santa Claus.

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