Note to self: This bias may not be uniquely American. A 2016 study confirms that our political beliefs are the ones most resistant to change in spite of new information that refutes them. It's called Neural Correlates of maintaining one's political beliefs in the face of couterevidence.
WHAT MAKES US RESISTANT TO NEW IDEAS 2016
Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence
Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris
Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 39589 (2016)
23 December 2016
People often discount evidence that contradicts their firmly held beliefs. However, little is known about the neural mechanisms that govern this behavior. We used neuroimaging to investigate the neural systems involved in maintaining belief in the face of counterevidence, presenting 40 liberals with arguments that contradicted their strongly held political and non-political views. Challenges to political beliefs produced increased activity in the default mode network—a set of interconnected structures associated with self-representation and disengagement from the external world. Trials with greater belief resistance showed increased response in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and decreased activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. We also found that participants who changed their minds more showed less BOLD signal in the insula and the amygdala when evaluating counterevidence. These results highlight the role of emotion in belief-change resistance and offer insight into the neural systems involved in belief maintenance, motivated reasoning, and related phenomena.
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.
If 50% actually are above average, and 30% more think they are when they are not, then we are surrounded by blowhards, egotists, optimists of the ickiest kind. I guess the other 20% knows that they are below average or thinks that they are even if they are above average.
THE MISTRUST OF SCIENCE
By Atul Gawande , JUNE 10, 2016
The following was delivered as the commencement address at the California Institute of Technology, on Friday, June 10th.
Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public-health researcher, became a New Yorker staff writer in 1998.
Traumatic brain injuries are very common in athletes and soldiers, and many of them go unreported and untreated. Sure, there's a lot of media buzz these days about TBI because they've discovered that some football players and boxers have dramatically shrunken brains, and depression and tremors later in life, because of something they call CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Those words just mean longterm brain injury from being bashed around.
If you go to your doctor for a TBI, and it's a conventional doctor, he's likely to tell you rest will fix it. Specifically no reading or screens for a week or so, no work if you can get out of it. He's likely to tell you that it will pass on its own. Sometimes it does. That's when homeopathy "works", of course, when the condition it is supposed to treat would have passed on its own without treatment. But what about those cases that are more severe? What if rest and sugar pills aren't enough, and the brain really needs some help? Both the homeopath and the conventional physician fail in that case.
There are good treatments for TBI. There are doctors in the military who know them. At a bare minimum people who've bashed their brains need lots of omega 3 fats and a clean, veggie rich diet. There are herbs that have been shown to help a lot with brain recovery. It's concerning that conventional doctors are so anti-botanical medicine that they don't even study up on that. When are we going to get real about what works and what doesn't, instead of walking around parroting what we've been told?
His work has been far from satisfactory... he will not listen, but will insist on doing his work in his own way... I believe he has ideas about becoming a Scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous, if he can't learn simple Biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a Specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time on his part, and of those who have to teach him.
--a college professor, on the report card of Sir John B. Gurdon, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his revolutionary research on stem cells
The first step of DOING science is to ask a question about the world. The question doesn't have to be complicated, it just has to reach into the unknown. Once you have your question, it is a good idea to snoop around and see if anyone else has already answered it, or tried. Learn everything you can about the variables that might influence the answer. Once you've studied up on it, you're qualified to make a guess---a "theory" in science terms---as to what the answer might be, and why. A true scientist knows that a theory is just a theory--it has to be tested repeatedly by people who agree and by people who disagree. A true scientist is not heartbroken when the data shows that his theory was bunk. That is useful information. Time to come up with a new theory.
This testing is the experiment. There can be many different ways to test any one theory. The most useful experiments are often the simplest, changing only one variable between two groups of test subjects. Scientist use many different methods to approach the same question, and this diversity adds richness to the picture painted by the results. We might know that B follows A three quarters of the time, but until we know WHY they are correlated, and what other variables contribute to the correlation, we do not understand. A--->B at a rate of 75% is enough to know that there is a connection, but it is not enough to say that A causes B. We don't know that. Something else could be causing it. We take our results from that experiment, share them with the other scientific thinkers in the world, and update our theory if possible. Usually an experiment brings up new questions, which indicate new possible experiments that need to be done to understand.
So science does NOT discover causality. It discovers correlations. Correlations can have multiple contributing variables so more experiments are needed. Sometimes someone repeats the same experiment and gets the opposite result. This is evidence that there was something operating in the system that was not being measured. This is a sign that the original theory was based in deeper ignorance than perhaps we thought at first. This is hard to admit, even for scientists.
Just because an experiment gets peer reviewed and published in an journal does not make it the truth. There are many false conclusions that have been published. Egostists who call themselves scientists publish more books than all the real scientists put together. Real scientists tent to be intraverts who'd rather stay out of the limelight and just keep digging into these interesting questions. Every experient needs to be repeated from a variety of angles before a result is accepted as Truth.
So there is a basic primer on the scientific method. My area is mostly medicine, though I am fascinated by all science. Medical science is more than double blind placebo controlled studies. It includes the careful evaluation of population outcomes and biochemical mechanisms and every other factor that could influence the answer. Science is a process of asking questions and trying to figure out if our theories about the answers are right or not. A theory is just a theory.
Evolution, by the way, has been proven in so many ways by so many different experiments, that it is not a theory anymore.
--Matt Ridley in Evolution of Everything; How New Ideas Emerge, page 270
Reason Rally 2016: A Bloc Party that Counts
by Lyz Liddell
Reason Rally 2016
The latest polls show that the percentage of people who don’t care about a candidate's religion is increasing, and that “nones” are an ever-growing segment of the under-45 population — key voters! That’s great news for those who support separation of church and state, critical thinking, and just plain good sense. As the Pew Research report [http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/
“Meanwhile, the number of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased by roughly 19 million since 2007. There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group – sometimes called religious ‘nones’ – is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.”
We all have the opportunity to celebrate our increasing numbers — and build our power as a voting bloc — by attending Reason Rally 2016, June 4, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. You’ll hear great speakers and entertainers — Carolyn Porco, Bill Nye, Julia Sweeney and more — as well as comedians, lots of music, and a good time for all.
It’s a Voting Bloc Party for those who believe that public policy should be made based on scientific evidence, not religious beliefs. It’s also an opportunity to take the message of science-driven public policy directly to your own members of Congress on the lobbying days that precede Reason Rally 2016. The focus of the lobbying will be sex education and the wasted money devoted to abstinence-only curricula that have been shown to be counter-productive. IN fact, abstinence-only sex ed correlates with increased teen pregnancy!
So check out the speakers, hotel and travel deals, and sign up to lobby at our website, reasonrally.org. Bring your friends, then go home and vote in every election, from school board to president. Let’s Speak Up for Reason! Let’s make the media and politicians court us as much as they court the religious right.
He has written several books, including Disproving Christianity, which he wrote right out of undergrad school I believe. The Belief Book and the Book of God are intended for the education of children by parents who want to satisfy their natural curiousity with actual information instead of indoctrination. And he announced last night for the first time in public that he has signed a contract for his next book, No Sacred Cows, which will be a manual for teaching critical thinking to children and adults.
I am very excited that this young man has taken to writing, and based on his public speaking, I suspect he is a clear and concise writer. I look forward to reading some of his books, and I may start giving them as gifts too. =-]
His main point in this talk is that the reason that there is so much dogmatic religion in the US is the lack of religious studies education. People who do not know what religion is and what it has done in history are more likely to be religious, and more likely to be fundamentalist. He says that to protect your children from falling prey to fundamentalism, teach them about all relgions, and satisfy their curiousity with real information. Without this education there is in his words a "snowball effect" that leads to a widespread lack of critical thinking---which is exactly what we are seeing in today's political sphere. If there were a strong component of religious studies integrated into primary school history and philosophy classes, there would be more critical thinking nationwide.
He mentioned an organization called the OASIS network, which is jokingly called "atheist church" but really it "an alternative to faith based community" that provides among other things programs for kids. For freethinkers surrounded by religiousity, the name is really appropriate
Here's his blogpost on how to respond to door to door religion sellers:
**Created tag: freethinker
What provoked me to look this up is the fact that the organization known as Oregonians for Science and Reason has a newletter by that name. What exactly did they mean whean choosing that title? That they were admitting that we are going with a working understanding of things that is subject to challenge, perhaps?
Please correct me if I have the shades of meaning wrong. Gracias.
If you know what's good for you, if you know that they're leftists, you won't believe anything they say any time, anywhere, about anything … So we have now the Four Corners of Deceit, and the two universes in which we live. The Universe of Lies, the Universe of Reality, and The Four Corners of Deceit: Government, academia, science, and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit.
—Rush Limbaugh when discussing climate science
Does it mean, if you don’t understand something, and the community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God did it?... If that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on.
--Neil DeGrasse Tyson
( Great article here from the NY Times )
with a frog who lives in a well;
he is bounded by the space he inhabits.
You can't talk about ice
with an insect who was born in June;
he is bounded by a single season.
You can't talk about Tao
with a person who thinks he knows something;
he is bounded by his own beliefs
The Tao is vast and fathomless.
You can understand only by stepping
beyond the limits of yourself.
From the Chaung Tzu. 17
via Stephen Mitchell, The Second Book of the Tao.
Originally posted by bobby1933 at But I Don't Know The Frogs Language Or Mind, And Can't Know What The Frog Knows.
(New York Times, Opinion, “Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer,” Feb. 19, 2015)
( This from the FFRF blog: )
*Created tags for reason and humanism.