The irrational human mind
Very interesting questions.
|a) there is any behavioral patterns or psychological traits that are common to those people who have a strong belief in a religion or creationism, especially given the current era of readily available alternative information on ideologies (including science)|
The short answer is that the human brain is not wired to be rational by default.
The long answer is this: objective analysis and logical thought are not the default in human behavior. Our brains evolved to be successful in the world of predator and prey, not scientific research. Sure, our aware, conscious mind can be rational...but our subconscious mind, the part of us driven by instinct and which drives our "gut feelings," wouldn't know the first thing about objectivity.
We find that which we find most personally satisfying to be more plausible by default. Think about that for a moment. We're actually hardwired this way - it's a built-in instinct. We can counter it, but it takes effort, and we often don't realize that it's happening because it's all subconscious.
We find the dramatic and personally frightening to be more likely than everyday statistics, even if rationally the reverse should be true. Remember the often-referenced Stalin quote that "One death is a tragedy, a million a statistic?" It's even deeper than that. In the United States over the past 10 years we have had fewer than 10,000 deaths due to terrorism...yet we instinctually find terrorism to be a greater threat (as easily observed in our media, our government spending, politics, and the fact that we started two wars over the subject) than death by traffic accident. You are literally more likely to die every time you take your car out of the garage than to be killed by a terrorist - yet terrorism strikes us with a deep and automatic fear, while we don;t think twice about strapping ourselves into a car and hurtling along at over 60MPH.
We find the more "familiar" to be more likely than the unfamiliar, even if our personal perspective is flawed. Again the car example - we individually have not experienced death by a car accident, and we drive every day without incident. While our rational mind may acknowledge the statistics, our "gut" doesn't feel fear when we get behind the wheel.
We have difficulty (and this is a BIG one) differentiating fantasy from reality by default when it comes to memories. Quite literally, if you ask a group of test subjects to vividly imagine an event, wait a few weeks, and then ask them if that event actually happened, many of them will believe that the event was real rather than imagined. This is compounded by the fact that we automatically "fill in" unremembered details with our imaginations, often without realizing it. All we're doing is subconsciously pulling our own memories from similar circumstances and filling in the specifics that we don;t directly remember...but this is why eyewitness testimony in court is so unreliable, particularly when it comes to small details.
The subconscious mind is literally hardwired to work this way. It's part of the reason those "I have 10 million dollars from a Nigerian prince" scams work on occasion - the possible benefit if the claim is true causes the instinctual mind to give it more credence than the idea that it's a scam. The same mechanism works for the lottery and gambling. It's part of the reason conspiracy theories are so popular - emotionally satisfying and personally preferable (ie. "Bush caused 9/11 because he's evil, and because I personally feel like I have more control in such a scenario than believing in random attacks from international terrorists can come from anywhere") explanations, regardless of absurd complexity or a lack of evidence, are believed over rational and objective analysis.
If you ask someone "How likely is it, on a scale of 1 to 10, that event x will happen," the result will have little bearing on actual probability, but will instead be more dependent on how much the subject likes or fears with strong emotion the event in question.
You can see the results pretty easily - religion is just one of several. The thought of a reward for "good" people and a punishment for "bad" people in the end is dramatic and emotionally satisfying, so our "gut" tells us this is plausible regardless of whether any evidence has been brought forth.
We are walked through vividly imagining God's "presence," and our subconscious ind has difficulty differentiating that "feeling" from reality.
Religious adherents are typically surrounded by like-minded people reaffirming their "feelings," convincing their conscious ind to trust and believe their "gut feelings." This also serves to make the religious experience more familiar, and therefore more instinctually plausible as real.
Apologetics work so well despite its obvious flaws because people want the conclusions to be true, and so bending and cherry-picking evidence is overlooked, the "explanations" determined by the "gut" to be plausible and more likely even if they explain nothing or rape objectivity, logic, and evidence with a rusty tire iron.
It's not only common to religious people. It's common in all of us.
|b) whether (or not), by pointing out these behavioral patterns/psychological traits, they can be used to stimulate alternative thinking on their given indoctrinated state.|
Sometimes. Remember, human behavior is not be default rational. If an idea is sufficiently emotionally satisfying, and abandonment of that ideal causes sufficient fear, there is no amount of objective evidence or behavioral description that will break through.
As a de-converted Christian, I can truthfully say that only removing myself from being surrounded by other Christians and encouraged in faith by family and friends allowed the rationalist sources that eventually caused my unbelief to reach me.
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| ||Message 1 by killinghurts, posted 02-09-2010 10:24 PM|| ||killinghurts has not yet responded|