Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

And all I got was this stupid T shirt

Aug 31st, 2011 12:03 pm | By

Really, J C Penney? Really?


What the hell is that, skool for future “Sex and the City” airheads? A scheme to make all women as empty-headed as the “real” “housewives” of New York/New Jersey/Hollywood/Las Vegas/Miami/Topeka? Or just a calculated insult to women in general?

They’ve withdrawn the T shirt now, thank you for small favors, but why did they come up with it in the first place? What next? A funny-haha girls’ T shirt saying “I’m too stupid to do homework so I’ll just go to work at J C Penney when I grow up?”

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A better butterfly

Aug 31st, 2011 10:11 am | By

The wheels are in motion (or do I mean they’re turning, or grinding? I want to get my clichés right, here) and I’m just about ready to start posting at the Freethought B&W. Once the banner is in place I think that will do it.

Josh fixed up my avatar, so it’s more elegant now. Less sloppy and less sparkly, both.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Test Post

Aug 31st, 2011 9:29 am | By

This is a test post, the sole purpose of which is to see whether automatic cross-posting from Butterflies and Wheels at FreeThoughtBlogs to Butterflies & Wheels Prime works.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Purdah in Texas

Aug 30th, 2011 10:47 am | By

We’ve seen all this before. It’s the stay-at-home-daughters movement.

The stay-at-home-daughters movement, which is promoted by Vision Forum, encourages young girls and single women to forgo college and outside employment in favor of training as “keepers at home” until they marry. Young women pursuing their own ambitions and goals are viewed as selfish and antifamily; marriage is not a choice or one piece of a larger life plan, but the ultimate goal. Stay-at-home daughters spend their days learning “advanced homemaking” skills, such as cooking and sewing, and other skills that at one time were a necessity — knitting, crocheting, soap- and candle-making. A father is considered his daughter’s authority until he transfers control to her husband.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the CPM shares much of its philosophy with the Quiverfull movement, which holds that good Christians must eschew birth control — even natural family planning — in order to implement biblical principles and, in the process, outbreed unbelievers. Although the CPM has been around for the past several decades, with its roots in the founding of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the teachings of religious leaders like Bill Gothard and Rousas J. Rushdoony, the stay-at-home-daughters movement seems to have gained traction in the last decade…

Vision Forum, for its part, is fully dedicated to turning back the clock on gender equality. Its website offers a cornucopia of sex-segregated books and products designed to conform children to rigid gender stereotypes starting from an early age. The All-American Boy’s Adventure Catalog shills an extensive selection of toy weapons (bow-and-arrow sets, guns, swords, and tomahawks), survival gear, and books and DVDs on war, the outdoors, and science. The Beautiful Girlhood Collection features dolls, cooking and sewing play sets, and costumes.

It certainly does.

The Beautiful Girlhood Collection aspires, by the grace of God, to encourage the rebuilding of a culture of virtuous womanhood. In a world that frowns on femininity, that minimizes motherhood, and that belittles the beauty of being a true woman of God, we dare to believe that the biblical vision for girlhood is a glorious vision.

You bet. The biblical vision is and always has been one of little white girls with long hair in ribbons and long pastel dresses with lace and ribbons and poofy sleeves, crowding around a pretty suburban mommy in a blue shirt and a long navy skirt (or could those possibly be trousers? no of course not, stupid question). Biblical; totes biblical; nothing to do with Victorian illustrations or Little House on the Prairie or nostalgia or anything like that; it’s all right smack straight out of the biblical bible.

Some of them seem to have permission to blog though. Is that biblical?

At least I am not one of them

Aug 29th, 2011 5:49 pm | By

More fact-checking to do.

Harris’s “The End of Faith” launched the so-called “New Atheist” movement, a make-no-apologies ideology that maintains that religion is not just flawed, but evil, and must be rejected.

No, that’s wrong. “New Atheism” doesn’t necessarily claim that religion is flawed; it claims that theism is wrong – not true, mistaken, false; and that it’s permissible to say so in public discussions.

Within two years, Harris was joined on the best-seller list by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, who all took religion to task for most — if not all — of the world’s ills.

No, that’s wrong. As usual with these things, it’s off the mark about Dennett’s book. Lazy journalists who simply parrot what 40 thousand other journalists have already said should be sent back to journalism school. Kimberly Winston obviously never read a word of Dennett’s book.

“9/11 ushered in a big change, in that it put Islam squarely in the center of the discussion,” said Tom Flynn, director of The Center for Inquiry, and a supporter of the New Atheists. “Previous freethinkers would have said religion is horrible, look at the Crusades, look at the Inquisition. This opened up the possibility of directing strong arguments against religions other than Christianity.”

Flynn points out that atheists have long called for an end to religion. What’s “new” about the New Atheists is their stridency and refusal to compromise.

Since Tom Flynn is a supporter of the “New Atheists” he won’t have said it that way, but the reporter apparently summarized what he did say that way. Nice.

Ryan Cragun, a sociologist of religion at the University of Tampa, is more qualified in his assessment. In their extremism and intolerance, he likens the New Atheists to Fox News Channel — “so far to the right,” he said, that they opened up the middle.

“Now it is OK to be a moderate atheist because you can point to the stridency of the New Atheists and say, ‘At least I am not one of them,”‘ he said. “It opens up a bigger space for freethinkers to actually communicate.”

Overton window. You’re welcome.



God intended women

Aug 28th, 2011 5:52 pm | By

Some more crazy. From Mary Pride’s The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality (quoted in Quiverful, p 135):

Abortion is first of all a heart attitude: ‘Me first.’ ‘My career first.’ ‘My reputation first.’ ‘My convenience first.’ ‘My financial plans first.’ And these same choices are what family planning, which the churches have endorsed for three decades, is all about.

Yes…………and? Why not? Why not think about one’s own self and career and other plans first when deciding what to do with one’s life?

Well she explains why not.

God intended women to spend their lives serving other people.

Oh. So they don’t get to just decide to have some other kind of life, or to combine taking care of dependents with doing other things.

“Lean not on your own understanding,” Quiverful mo[ther] Tracy Moore tells me, describing the scriptural foundation she discovered for Quiverfull after following the advice of formerly Amish families in Kentucky. [p 154]

No, instead lean on an old book that includes some very harsh laws along with stories and poetry. Nope; I’ll go with the own understanding, thanks.

To impose the lifestyle of Manhattan and Hollywood

Aug 28th, 2011 3:18 pm | By

Meet the Population Research Institute. It sounds respectable, doesn’t it. But

Founded in 1989, the Population Research Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to objectively presenting the truth about population-related issues, and to reversing the trends brought about by the myth of overpopulation. Our growing, global network of pro-life groups spans over 30 countries.

It’s dedicated to objectively presenting its pronatalist antifeminist views as truth, so that’s an oxymoron, innit.

Its mission is to

Debunk the myth of overpopulation, which cheapens human life and paves the way for abusive population control programs

Expose the relentless promotion of abortion, abortifacient contraception, and chemical and surgical sterilization in misleadingly labeled “population stabilization,” “family planning,” and “reproductive health” programs.

Defund these programs by exposing the coercion, deception, and racism inherent in them.

And they did; they got the Bush administration to defund the UN Population Fund.

PRI’s so-called “investigation” of UNFPA’s activities in China (whose most spectacular finding was that there was a desk with a UNFPA sticker on it inside an official Chinese family planning office), was cited by members of Congress and the Bush Administration as rationale for reevaluating U.S. support for UNFPA in general. A subsequent U.S. State Department investigation found no evidence to support PRI’s claims of wrongdoing by UNFPA—in fact, it even commended their work in China. Nonetheless, the Bush Administration blocked all US funding of UNFPA in 2002 and has withheld more than $125 million from the agency through the end of 2005.

They don’t like feminism – which they call “radical feminism,” laughably.

“The pro-life pro-family movement should absolutely oppose the creation of a UN super-agency dedicated to radical feminist goals, which undermine marriage, weaken the family, and thus endanger children both born and unborn,” says Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute.  “What is being proposed is a very powerful agency with a global mandate to restructure relations between the sexes.  If the past is any indicator, it will be used to impose the lifestyle of Manhattan and Hollywood feminists on family-centered countries and cultures.  It is cultural imperialism at its worst.”

Oooooh Manhattan and Hollywood – you know what that means, Precious. [whispers] It means Jewish.

Patriarchy, when it’s done right

Aug 27th, 2011 3:29 pm | By

There was a large and interesting conflict between Doug Phillips of Vision Forum and Boerne Christian Assembly (a small San Antonio church where he was pastor) and a parishioner named Jennifer Epstein, a conflict that was all about submission and asymmetrical rules. The condensed version is that Jennifer Epstein’s husband Mark had problems with anger and Phillips simply kept telling her to be more and more and more submissive; she tried to argue her case, and Phillips ended up throwing both of them and their children out of the church.

Epstein met her husband when both were in the military.

She’d thrived under military discipline, memorizing long lists of rules and regulations, willing to submit to such authority, she says, as long as she understood the reasons for the rules. That this need to understand the rationale behind regulation indicates a desire for discussion and debate more than a readiness to submit seems evident in the wake of Jennifer’s experiences at BCA, where she attempted to grapple intellectually with the logic behind the rules as she had in the Army. [Quiverfull p 110]

That’s a key point, you see, because there isn’t any. That keeps cropping up throughout the book – it’s not about logic or reasons or fairness. People frame it that way at times but only as long as it works; the bottom line is always just “God said so”; Titus 2; Proverbs 31; it’s for Jesus. You can use reasons around the edges, while the sun is shining, but god-said-so always trumps them. Always. Joyce quotes Phillips saying exactly that early on, in that Vision Forum talk.

You are a helpmeet. The Bible says that man is not made for the woman but the woman is made for the man. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the Creator, not Phillips. I’m just quoting. [p 8]

Nothing he can do, you see? It’s out of his hands. So logic is ultimately beside the point, as is thinking, as is discussion.

And that’s why it’s so foul. Humans are a discussing, reasoning, thinking species. It’s a terrible contortion and stifling of our nature to block that by claiming it’s all been decided by an absent god and the boys are “just quoting.”

Epstein never does seem to grasp that, even though she got her face rubbed in it.

She argues that patriarchy, when it’s done right, in a heart-driven, grace-inspired way, makes women want to submit to their husbands because their husbands lead the way, by loving them as Christ does, not because it’s a system imposing a set of rules from without.

But then that’s not submission! If you’re doing it because you want to, it’s not submission. It’s sprinkling flower petals on a bucket of rotting garbage, to pretend that the really nice kind of patriarchy can make women want to submit.

“Christians can’t be egalitarians.”

Aug 27th, 2011 11:58 am | By

It’s helpful that they come right out and say it.

Narrated by Amy Gunn [wife of Colin, one of the brothers Gunn], Monstrous Regiment argues that “Christians can’t be egalitarians. We believe in hierarchy and inherent authority.”

Oh. Right. Thanks for spelling it out. That’s why we hate and fear you. We think that belief is evil.

The holy cinema

Aug 27th, 2011 11:30 am | By

Meet the Gunn brothers. They make exciting Christian documentary movies that win awards from organizations that give awards to Christian movies.

They made Shaky Town, which is about the persecution of Christians by the evil gayz in San Francisco.

You’ll hear testimonies from Christian Heroes involved in a front-line battle against immorality in the so-called“tolerant” city. You’ll also see real video footage of Christian churches in San Francisco being attacked by violent groups of homosexuals. So be warned, this movie is not for the faint-hearted!

And they made The Monstrous Regiment of Women, which you can guess what it’s about (hello John Knox!). The page is super super super scary though, so be warned – it includes a picture with three terrifying women with power in it omigod.

The Monstrous Regiment of Women, The Gunn Brother’s second documentary, goes all out to demolish the feminist worldview. From a consistently Christian perspective, they show how feminism has had a devastating impact on the church, state, and family.

Starting with the infamous 16th century essay written by the reformer John Knox against the reigning female monarch, the Gunn Brothers find plenty of application to America’s political landscape; where feminists vie for every possible office including the presidency.

Featuring an all star, all female cast, the Gunn Brothers prove that feminism has in fact restricted choices for all women, brought heartache to the lives of many, and perpetuated the largest holocaust since the beginning of time.

The largest holocaust! Well surely in that case all feminists should be rounded up and interned.

Never heard that before

Aug 27th, 2011 10:29 am | By

How exciting: a new fresh original unexpected take on theNewAtheism. (Illustrated, I have to add, by a staggeringly banal sculpture called “the Hand of God” which is…a big hand, with a Man perched on it. Wo!!!!!!! Mind-blowing, huh?)

It’s James Wood who has the excitingly new fresh original unexpected take. He breakes the mold in the very first sentence.

In the last 10 years or so, the rise of American evangelicalism and the menace of Islamist fundamentalism, along with developments in physics and in theories of evolution and cosmogony, have encouraged a certain style of aggressive, often strident atheistic critique.

And everything that follows is equally challenging and paradigm-exploding.

I can’t be the only reader who finds himself in broad agreement with the conclusions of the New Atheists, while disliking some of the ways they reach them.

No, you certainly can’t. Couldn’t you have checked? Google is your friend.

Along with this curious parochialism about the varieties of religious belief comes a simplistic reading of how people actually hold those beliefs. Terry Eagleton and others have rightly argued that, for millions of people, religious “belief” is not a matter of just totting up stable, creedal propositions…

The New Atheism is locked into a similar kind of literalism. It parasitically lives off its enemy. Just as evangelical Christianity is characterised by scriptural literalism and an uncomplicated belief in a “personal God”, so the New Atheism often seems engaged only in doing battle with scriptural literalism; but the only way to combat such literalism is with rival literalism. The God of the New Atheism and the God of religious fundamentalism turn out to be remarkably similar entities…Since militant atheism interprets religious faith, again on the evangelical or Islamist model, as blind – a blind leap of faith that hurls the believer into an infinite idiocy – so no understanding or even interest can be extended to why or how people believe the religious narratives they follow…

So let’s talk about literature instead. Ok, but why start with theNewAtheism?

Your guess is as good as mine. Possibly.

As a living sacrifice

Aug 26th, 2011 3:25 pm | By

A wives-submit type explained to Kathryn Joyce.

“Man is ultimately responsible, when he stands up before God in heaven, for how he ran and managed his family. We women are responsible for how we were as helpmeets. We’re not supposed to be wearing the pants to the elbows, like a lot of women do. We’re equally intelligent and capable of doing the things theat men do, but that doesn’t mean we have to or that we should.” This is a common rejoinder of biblical womanhood advocates…they acknowledge women’s equal capacity, but they suggest that women lay their abilities aside with their pride as a living sacrifice fit for their Savior. [Quiverfull p 71]

But why? That’s what I want to know. Why a sacrifice? What for, what is the reason, what is the point?

Why would their “Savior” want such a sacrifice?

It’s an incredibly primitive idea, frankly. “Lay aside” good useful things as a “sacrifice” for a hidden god. Why? To mollify it so that it doesn’t eat you? No, Jesus is supposed to be better than that, but if he wants women to stifle their own abilities as a “living sacrifice” (what a horrible notion) then he’s not better than that.

And why is it only women who are supposed to lay aside their abilities? Because it’s in the bible. Yes but why is it in the bible? Oh we’re not allowed to ask that.

It’s tragic when people so totally lose their grip on the real and the human and waste their only lives for the sake of an old story.

Christian taqqiya

Aug 26th, 2011 12:24 pm | By

Frank Schaeffer points out that Michele Bachmann is not telling the truth about whether or not she submits to her husband. He knows what he’s talking about, too: his father was one of the sources of the anti-feminist Dominionist movement.

Bachmann understands just how extreme her part of the evangelical movement is. She also understands that a certain amount of godly lying will be needed to mask that. She understood that the question she was asked the other day was about a biblical teaching that is misogynistic to the core and advocates total submission of a wife to a husband. It is teaching she’s signed on to long ago.

The people, churches and groups that shaped Bachmann’s thinking are far more anti-woman than most Americans fully comprehend.

Yes they are. We’ve been reading up on them in the last few days, and there’s a lot more where that came from.

The issue of wifely submission is at the heart of the entire anti-feminist agenda that shaped Bachmann. I should know. As I describe in my book Sex, Mom and God, the current crop of religious right leaders — including Michele Bachamnn — got their ideas and inspiration from my family’s work, books and film series.

Besides my father, Bachmann signed on as a follower of other leading “Reconstructionists” teaching “dominion.” And out of that movement came the big family, home-school movement that included a push to restore “traditional” roles of women…In fact, the whole conservative evangelical movement Bachmann is part of is distinguished by its hatred of the feminist movement top to bottom.

Just what this country needs.

Thanks to Salty Current for the link.


The bible specifically says we’re weaker

Aug 25th, 2011 5:15 pm | By

And here is Ladies Against Feminism. Yes really.

It too says submission is misunderstood and a wonderful thing if only you know how.

This post makes no attempt to argue the case for servanthood with those of you outside the Christian faith. However, for modern women who consider themselves a part of the Christian faith, this all too common reaction should be alarming. Are we really so prideful that the very suggestion that we take a humble and serving attitude towards our husbands instantly unbridles our tongues and sets our anger blazing?

“Prideful” – is that what it is? But aren’t we always being told that it was Christianity that introduced the idea of human equality to a brutal pagan world? If Christianity is big on equality, why is it supposed to be Christian to think women who have husbands should take a humble and serving attitude towards them? Why isn’t it Christian to take an egalitarian attitude towards them? Why is that called prideful?

I don’t know the answers.

Do we not realize that Sarah called Abraham “master?”  That Eve was created specifically as Adam’s “helper?” That man was not made for woman, but that woman was made for man? That the Bible specifically calls us the “weaker partner?”

If we don’t, then we are either not reading our Bibles, or we have let culture influence us to the point where we would rather explain away these “pesky woman passages” by casting aside Biblical inerrancy so we can maintain our pride and sense of entitlement.

So if you’re weaker you’re supposed to be submissive and obedient, is that it? So stronger people should always have the upper hand? So might makes right? So stronger people should just take whatever they want, and if weaker people can’t stop them, that’s how god meant things to be, is that it?

Nasty people they are.

Why are women hung up on “submission”?

Aug 25th, 2011 4:58 pm | By

Here’s another submitter, courtesy of pittigemaki.

I like the whole idea and practice of submission. I have heard far too many Christian women snicker, sneer, grumble, roll their eyes, or downright reject the “s word.” But why? Why are women hung up on “submission” when God asks us to do it?

Because women are human beings like other human beings, and there is no good reason to order* human beings of one type to submit to human beings of another type. It’s degrading; it’s an assumption of inferiority; it’s anti-egalitarian. That’s why. The fact that god is supposed to have commanded it doesn’t make it better; it makes god worse.

*The claim is not that god “asks” women to submit; the claim is that god tells them to.


Can you call your husband ‘Lord’?

Aug 25th, 2011 11:32 am | By

Doug Phillips, the founder of Vision Forum and a big noise in the Christian patriarchy movement, told the audience at a convention about watching his wife counsel young women who are thinking about marriage. She always asks them “Are you willing to call your husband ‘Lord’?” The answer tends to be shocked silence followed by No. He goes on:

We’re not talking about Lord as in the Creator, but your earthly head. And one that you have to follow, even when he makes bad judgments. Are you ready to do the most vulnerable thing that a woman ever can do and submit yourself to a man, who you are going to have to follow in his faith, who is incredibly imperfect and is going to make mistakes? Can you do that? Can you call your husband ‘Lord’? If the answer is no, you shouldn’t get married. [Quiverfull p 3]

Harsh, isn’t it. You have to follow him even when he’s wrong. It doesn’t matter that he’s wrong, it matters that you submit.

That’s not just harsh, it’s immoral. It’s wicked. Not just because of the arbitrariness and the official subordination of the woman, but because it mandates obedience no matter what is being obeyed. That’s anti-moral; it’s the opposite of moral. If someone tells you to gas this room full of people, it is immoral to obey.

The armies of god

Aug 25th, 2011 10:47 am | By

So now I know. Like most people, I didn’t realize the people behind Rick Perry’s prayer party are weirder than other prayer police.

With tens, even hundreds of millions of followers worldwide, the NAR’s stress on Godlike prophetic and apostolic powers, its revisions of end-time prophecies, its methodology of “spiritual warfare,” and its agenda of theocratic dominion over all aspects of society are not just threatening to modern secular democracy and the religious pluralism it protects, they have been sharply criticized by other conservative Christians as unbiblical, deviant teachings, even a form of the very demonic practices they obsessively declare war against.

They’re not just messing around.

The new prophets and apostles believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take “dominion” over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the “Seven Mountains” of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world. They believe they’re intended to lord over it all. As a first step, they’re leading an “army of God” to commandeer civilian government.

It’s working.

Sarah Palin’s church of over twenty years, Wasilla Assembly of God, is still part of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination.  However, the leadership embraced the ideology of the NAR years ago and and numerous national and international apostles have spoken there.Both Jim Garlow, head of Newt Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), and ReAL board member David Barton, have been working with the apostles for years.  As described in books by Apostles Cindy Jacobs and Alice Patterson, Barton has been working with Texas apostles for over a decade.  Barton’s Christian Nationalist histories, in which he portrays Democrats as the ongoing source of racism, play a significant role in outreach to African American pastors.

Oh well, the glaciers will melt so the rivers will dry up so the crops will fail so we’ll all die in the famines before they take over completely. That’s a relief.

Why wives are to submit to their husbands

Aug 24th, 2011 5:41 pm | By

Here’s another one, this time by a man, the pastor of a Reformed Baptist church in Aberystwyth, laying down the law for women.

So the sentiment of our text, that a wife is to submit to her husband, is found
throughout the Spirit-breathed New Testament. It is not a curious message found in just one place – like the phrase in the letter to the Corinthians of being baptized for the dead, whatever the correct meaning of that may be. So rejection of this word by those who claim to reverence the Lord Christ, is plain disobedience.

Except that it wasn’t the Lord Christ who is supposed to have said any of it, it was Paul; why does reverence for Jesus entail obedience to Paul? Because them’s the roolz of Christianity, but why else? Never mind; that’s theology; call a professional. Meanwhile -

A wife’s conduct toward her husband always says something about the church’s response to Christ, either right or wrong. If a woman does not honour her husband and is not loving toward him, if she is independent and defiant toward him, she proclaims this as the church’s response to Christ and thus attacks God’s Word.

Yikes. She’d better not be independent then.

…the reason why wives are to submit to their husbands is not because they are wonderful guys who deserve it. Sometimes husbands deserve very little from their wives. The reason why you submit is because your Lord Jesus Christ deserves it. Out of gratitude to him, for all that he has done for you, you submit. It is not because you love your husband that much, but it is because you love the Lord Jesus more.

But why is it so important to Jesus? And if it’s so important to him, why didn’t he say it himself instead of leaving it for Paul to tidy up?

More theology. I can never make sense of this stuff.

The cold war under the bed

Aug 24th, 2011 5:12 pm | By

Oh, Guardian, honestly. Really?

Conservative thinktanks are in a bit of a bind when it comes to responding to the rise of Islamophobia. On the one hand they want to condemn the BNP and the English Defence League for their racism and violence, but on the other they want to downplay the extent and existence of anti-Muslim racism because it might deflect attention from “Islamism” – the catch-all term for politically active Muslims, which they see as the main problem facing the UK.

“Islamism” is not the (or a) catch-all term for politically active Muslims; that is completely ridiculous. It’s a term for political Islam, which is a different thing.

The difficulty with their position is that they end up condemning the peaceful political activism of Muslim groups…

No; Islamist groups, which are a different thing.

The record of these thinktanks is that their publications at best exaggerate the threat posed by “Islamists” and the supposed Islamisation of public institutions. Their concern is not over the threat of terrorism or even of any illegality.

Right, because that’s not all there is to be concerned over. Theocracy is something to be concerned over even if it takes power without violence and within the law.

Reassuringly, the commenters understand that. It’s too bad the Guardian doesn’t.


Aug 24th, 2011 3:39 pm | By

I’ve been thinking about the Robber’s Cave experiment often lately. I hadn’t heard of the illusion of asymmetric insight though. It’s pretty dang interesting. We think other people are mostly on the surface and easy to understand, while we think we ourselves are mostly hidden and difficult to understand. Really – well that’s conceited. I’ll have to learn to stop thinking that right away.

The same researchers asked people to describe a time when they feel most like themselves. Most subjects, 78 percent, described something internal and unobservable like the feeling of seeing their child excel or the rush of applause after playing for an audience. When asked to describe when they believed friends or relatives were most illustrative of their personalities, they described internal feelings only 28 percent of the time. Instead, they tended to describe actions. Tom is most like Tom when he is telling a dirty joke. Jill is most like Jill when she is rock climbing. You can’t see internal states of others, so you generally don’t use those states to describe their personalities.

Hmm. I can’t see them, but I’m certainly aware of them. I wonder if I’m a little non-average here, not because I’m wiser or better but because I’m more nerdy – or because I’m just more interested in the difference between inner and outer than the average. I wonder, but I’m sure not going to claim it, because what could be more hopeless than to look at the findings of a psych experiment and say “yes but I’m not like that.” Only only only…it seems to me I do often have the iceberg thought about people. But maybe everybody does, yet still answers the questions that way.

Anyway – the point is, you can always be confident that you’re giving yourself and your friends a lot more credit than you’re giving the other team, and you should keep that at the front of your mind.