Resistance is Futile

More Bruce Hood.

Religion and other forms of magical thinking continue to thrive — despite the lack of evidence and advance of science — because people are naturally biased to accept a role for the irrational, said Bruce Hood…This evolved credulity suggests that it would be impossible to root out belief in ideas such as creationism and paranormal phenomena, even though they have been countered by evidence and are held as a matter of faith alone.

No, it doesn’t suggest that. It may suggest it would be difficult, but it doesn’t suggest it would be impossible. Just for one thing, if it suggested that, then the existence of any skeptics would be ruled out.

People ultimately believe in these ideas for the same reasons that they attach sentimental value to inanimate objects such as wedding rings or Teddy bears…Similar beliefs, which are held even among the most sceptical scientists, explain why few people would agree to swap their wedding rings for replicas. The difference between attaching significance to sentimental objects and believing in religion, magic or the paranormal is only one of degree, Professor Hood said.

Well I think that’s quite wrong: I think the difference is one of kind, not of degree.

This innate tendency means it is futile to expect that such beliefs will die out even as our scientific understanding of the world improves, he said…“No amount of evidence is going to get people to take it on board and abandon these ideas.”

Well, that’s obviously not true of all people (unless one accepts his equation of sentiment about rings* with belief in the existence of a deity), so that statement is much too sweeping.

“I want to challenge recent claims by Richard Dawkins, among others, that supernaturalism is primarily attributable to religions spreading beliefs among the gullible minds of the young. Rather, religions may simply capitalise on a natural bias to assume the existence of supernatural forces.”

It’s both (and more). Why not just say it’s both? Why try to claim that it’s all one and that that one rules out any change of mind?

Compare Hood’s claim with this look at ‘Jesus Camp’.

Through Kids In Ministry International, she conducts conferences and operates a summer camp for children and teens designed to instill a deeper devotion to God and their brand of Evangelical Christianity, in addition to unleashing a call to activism. Scenes of children proselytizing and learning about creationism in addition to a host of conservative principles engendered some unease amongst the generally liberal New York audiences during the Tribeca Film Festival…

I’d love to think that that’s a futile endeavor and that those children don’t become one bit more evangelical-fundamentalist than they would have been without all this training, but I can’t quite manage it.

A particularly inflammatory scene that heightens the political overtones for viewers takes place at a revival meeting lead by Fischer and her associates, in front of well over 100 children. In the scene, Fischer takes a life-size standup photo of President George W. Bush to the stage, and with a large American flag in the background, asks the crowd to raise their hands towards him in prayer. “I didn’t realize how the secular world viewed what we were doing,” Fischer said…

That’s not particularly relevant; I just threw it in because it’s so grotesque. She didn’t realize how the ‘secular world’ viewed the activity of praying to a life-size picture of Bush. She didn’t realize how we funny secularists view the deification of George W Bush. That’s quite funny, in a terrifying way.

*What kind of evidence could there be that would falsify sentimental attachment to a ring or a Teddy Bear?

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