quote: There are some members of the skeptics’ groups who clearly believe they know the right answer prior to inquiry. They appear not to be interested in weighing alternatives, investigating strange claims, or trying out psychic experiences or altered states for themselves (heaven forbid!), but only in promoting their own particular belief structure and cohesion . . .
Now do you, or do you not, agree that the behavior highlighted in color is consistent with cognitive dissonance and that this can and does define a subclass of skeptics (rather than individuals, and who is or isn't one)?
If you agree then that is all that is needed here, and all I am concerned with at this time.
No. Cognitive dissonance applies to people who have conflicting cognitions and feel discomfort because of this. It is a product of inconsistency.
You've given the definition elsewhere, but don't seem to fully grasp it. It doesn't apply to people who have beliefs that are inconsistent with yours.
So long as they don't have any paranormal or supernatural beliefs, there's no reason why the group you describe above should be suffering from it.
A YEC wouldn't necessarily experience it unless he or she started to find some of the evidence for an old earth convincing, which could certainly trigger discomfort. Once in that situation, cognitive dissonance theory argues that the person will try to resolve the dissonance. This could be done by rejecting one or other of the conflicting viewpoints, or adding a new one (some of them come up with omphalist type views to make the two compatible, for example).
Here's one we should all be familiar with: The sports fan:
Every year is convinced that "this year .... " (fill in the blank sports team) " ... will win ... (fill in top award in sport in question).
Then invests lots of time watching TV ... talking and sometimes bizarre behavior ... as if their support will make a difference.
and more often than not, it is just another year in a string of years where it just doesn't happen.
The problem with this is that there's nothing in the description that tells us that the individual would be experiencing cognitive dissonance. His unjustified optimism and general behaviour isn't rational, but you haven't described any other belief of his that contradicts it. If there was, and he recognised or sensed the contradiction, that's when he's likely to experience the discomfort associated with cognitive dissonance.
It's easy to think of good examples to illustrate CD.
If a proposition about reality can't be proved or disproved, it is rational to be completely uncommitted on the likelihood of the truth of that proposition.
It is irrational to describe a proposition that cannot be proved or disproved as "very unlikely to be true" unless one can do the necessary mathematical calculations to determine its probability.
Mary disagrees, and thinks that these views of John's will contradict other views that he has, and also the way he behaves, so she attempts to stimulate cognitive dissonance in John in order to encourage a change of mind. She suggests to John:
"Don't you think it's very unlikely that there's a treasure worth more than one million dollars buried under the middle of your backyard?.".
John considers the question, and replies: "no, I don't know how likely it is, so I'm completely uncommitted on the question".
Mary then asks John why he doesn't dig a hole in the centre of his backyard, as that would seem worth doing for anyone who didn't think the proposition very unlikely. After all, she points out, even at a one in ten chance, the effort would surely be worth it.
John expresses annoyance, and leaves the room.
It's quite likely that Mary has successfully stimulated some dissonance in John. Assuming he knows that holes are dug frequently for a variety of reasons, and that a random hole can be reasonably regarded as very unlikely to uncover a million dollar treasure because these turn up very rarely, he would actually consider the treasure proposition to be very unlikely. But because of his expressed views on the irrationality of such an estimate, he finds himself with conflicting cognitions.
John is a geologist, and Mary knows that he strongly disagrees with creationists who declare the planet to be less than 10,000 years old. So, on their next meeting, she asks him about omphalism, pointing out that the proposition cannot be conclusively proved or disproved. John sticks to his guns, and declares himself completely uncommitted on whether omphalism is true or false. Mary then points out that he must then be completely uncommitted on the age of the earth.
John expresses annoyance, and storms out of the room.
You appear to have missed that the topic is NOT about individuals, but about groups of individuals. The sports fan is a member of a group of sport fans, they can seek confirmation of their beliefs in their teams success with other sports fans, and thus reduce dissonance.
A number of individuals have been used as examples in the thread, and they will all be members of groups. Bolder-dash and Mick Huckabee and your sports fan, for example.
I'm sure the character I described (John) is not alone in the world in having the beliefs described.
Some people have shared their own personal experiences with CD on the thread, but I don't see how these are necessarily off topic unless they're so specific as to be unique.
Your examples, while CD, are not groups of people, hence off topic.
One of the mistakes that can be made in diagnosis of cognitive dissonance is looking at a list of symptoms, and then running with it. It's easy to make this type of error: Spots are a symptom of measles; I see spots: therefore, measles.
Here's a list of symptoms:
surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment.
Of those, I think that guilt is the only one that would almost always indicate internal conflict. Embarrassment will often be caused by it, but I think there are plenty of exceptions. The other three seem to be on the spots and measles level.
But that's if we're taking CD to mean anything significant. If we put it on this level:
Joe believes "x" is unlikely to happen, then this causes conflict with his perception that "x" has just happened, therefore he experiences mild surprise, it could end up being reduced to a meaningless phrase. Joe, of course, according to CD theory, in accepting that "x" has happened, and rejecting his belief that it wouldn't, has shown the human drive for consistency.
So I think it's only useful to describe situations which cause a significant level of discomfort. Joe is hardly likely to be discomforted by the fact that his best friend Mike has just turned up at his door in Chicago when he thought that Mike was on vacation in Florida.
So with groups. Are most YECs really feeling discomfort because of their beliefs? Are they sensing a conflict with what they observe and know about the world? Do they feel guilty? Or are they more likely to think that the rest of us should be feeling guilty because we don't hold the true belief?