Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What the barmaid said

Here's the May 13, 2015 version of Jesus and Mo. The barmaid is correct. There are lots of studies showing that you can't dispel major misconceptions by simply describing the scientifically correct view. For example, if you are teaching evolution to creationists you can describe the science until you are blue in the face but it's likely to have little impact on changing their minds.

The only way to correct misconceptions is to address them directly and show why they are wrong. That means you have to teach the reasons why a 6000-year-old Earth is a misconception and explain why irreducible complexity and the Cambrian explosion do not refute evolution.



25 comments :

  1. I'm not familiar with the studies the barmaid cites, but she says that presentation of "strong counter-evidence" paradoxically strengthens false beliefs. That would suggest that even presenting the evidence that contradicts creationism will be ineffective. As I think you know from hard-won experience, Larry.

    The only solution, it seems to me, is to directly address the beliefs that motivate the holding of those false beliefs. In this case, that means addressing the religious faith that impels people to believe in creationism. I'm still not sure how best to do that.

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    1. What the studies show is that if you just present your strongest case for evolution then creationists are remarkably good at refuting it in their minds. Their beliefs are strengthened because they have successfully defended their views against your best attack.

      If you get students to engage in debate and discussion about creationism then the creationists are more likely to see the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.

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    2. That presumes the students possess the cognitive skills necessary to critically analyze the arguments, though. So teaching those skills must be priority #1.

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    3. A couple friends got tired of the usual results of teaching evolution -- students learned the facts you wanted them to learn, but didn't believe them. They tried a different approach.

      They taught the evolution part of their introductory class as student-led discussions. Students were assigned a general topic for each class, reported on aspects of it, and discussed. The profs said it was really hard sitting there and listening when students presented non-factual information. However, students with diverse views were prepared for the class, and discussions led to a majority view if not consensus that was well supported and logical. The profs talking was limited to a short summary at the end of each class.

      Presented information by peers and engaging in (or just watching) debates among peers got past those defenses better and actually changed opinions more than in previous lecture-based approaches.

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    4. Larry says: What the studies show is that if you just present your strongest case for evolution then creationists are remarkably good at refuting it in their minds. Their beliefs are strengthened because they have successfully defended their views against your best attack.

      But what is their mental defense? 90% of their defenses-- and this is true of the right wing in general-- are just the Appeal to Motive fallacy.

      The world is complicated. Science is complicated. Creationism simplifies the whole world and makes everything easier for lazy people by turning every discussion into a judgment of other people's psychology. And the right wingers believe they are great judges of other people's motivations.

      Scientist: Here is a lot of evidence for evolution.

      Creationist: He's just saying that because his religion is atheism.

      Scientist: Here are 2 dozen transitional fossils.

      Creationist: See? They're all in it together!

      That's why I apply the rule: zero tolerance for appeal to motive. You try that shit, one strike and you're out. You can't kill creationism without first killing the self-confidence that right-wingers have that they're great judges of people's motivations.

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  2. I disagree. I think the reason why contradictory factual information reinforces non-factual views is because the "true believer" sees the factual information as an attack, and thus strengthens the "defenses," i.e., the counter-factual belief system. Thus the more focused and pointed the attack (as in your second paragraph), the greater the forewarning and martialing of defenses.

    It will be impossible for many counter-factual believers to perceive science as anything but an attack, and as people who are led by factual evidence, we must accept that this will be so: not everyone will be reachable. But some people will be drawn in by curiosity about reality, by the beauty, by the wonder, by things that are "not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine." While they aren't being forewarned, while they think they are just being engaged and entertained, the truth will sneak in, start them sincerely and thoughtfully doubting as an attack never could, and set them free.

    At least IMO.

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  3. Would it make any impression if you said that denying a 4½ billion year age of the earth is scientifically in the same category as denying the Holocaust?

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    1. No. They'd think you're a big meanie for comparing them to Nazis and decide anyone who would say something so mean is not worth listening to.

      Plus a lot of them deny the Holocaust, anyway.

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    2. I agree that the strategy would backfire. But the idea that "deniers" are a general category is problematic. People who deny global warming don't necessarily deny evolution or the holocaust or vaccine effectiveness, etc. Climate denial is very strongly linked to free-market idealism. Evolution denial is linked to religious fundamentalism. However, there seems to be a general connection between "conspiratorial thinking" and denialism of various kinds. There is some literature on this topic, such as http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0075637 .

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    3. People who deny global warming don't necessarily deny evolution or the holocaust or vaccine effectiveness, etc.

      To the extent the same people *do* deny all these things, I believe the phenomenon is popularly known as "crank magnetism."

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    4. As jaded as I am, I'm often shocked at how many prominent, "respected" creationists and ID proponents are strongly anti-vaccination, especially for HPV. I'm starting to think the majority of IDers and creationists are anti-vaxxers.

      Among creationists and IDers, of course, global warming denial is almost universal and passionate; pollutionism us the general rule.

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  4. I think you should incorporate Anthony Flew into your argument. In case you never heard of him he was one of the worlds leading philosophers and an atheist. Finally, the shear weight of all the scientific evidence: the big bang, fine tuning, the ridiculous complexity of life forced him to change his mind. I have a similar background, except that I have no academic achievements of any note. Your generalization may be true much of the time, but not for people who truly care about the truth.

    From Wikipedia:

    "For much of his career Flew was known as a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticised the idea of life after death,[4] the free will defence to the problem of evil, and the meaningfulness of the concept of God.[5] In 2003 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[6] However, in 2004 he stated an allegiance to deism, more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God. He stated that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believed in the existence of a god."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Flew

    I wonder if anyone hear will really investigate his thinking until the point where it changes their minds, not likely eh.

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    1. That's called the Flew Gambit or the Argument from Senility.

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    2. Typical creationist credential inflation. Nobody heard of Flew until *after* he became a deist. His credentials are now falsely inflated by creationists *only because* he became a deist.

      he was one of the worlds leading philosophers and an atheist.he was one of the worlds leading philosophers and an atheist.

      Bullshit. If he were still an atheist, you'd call him a dummy, which is what creationists still call Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Sean Carroll, Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, Larry Moran... They'd all become the greatest scientists in human history according to you, if they believed in supernatural magic and God of the Gaps.

      So. If Flew is such a great intellect, he must have presented the best argument for God's existence. The pathetic fallacies behind his "arguments" (which might not have been authored by him, but by Roy Varghese) look bad for the theistic position. Fine tuning? If this is the best a "great intellect" can do for theism, you got nothing.

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    3. Diogenes, you may not have heard of Flew, and I never heard of him, but I have been informed that he was famous in the philosophy community. What you mean is that the wider world outside that community didn't notice him until his conversion.

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    4. "...he (Flew) was one of the worlds leading philosophers and an atheist."

      Like most people, I had never heard of this "world's leading philosophers" until the DI paraded his name around in triumph, with the usual unwarranted and wildly exaggerated accolades.

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    5. I don't think most atheists (outside philosophy) had heard of Flew before.

      I don't care if he's senile. His arguments for God's existence are terrible. One minute he says God exists because OOL can never be explained by science; then it might be explained by science, but God still exists anyway; then it can't be explained by science, therefore God did it. There seems to be a pattern here...

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    6. Would Flew's argument be formidable if it couldn't be attached to the fact he was once an atheist? That's the thing that disappoints me when I see it brought up. The argument itself is not very interesting, but the argument is always accompanied by the fact that Flew changed his mind. In its presentation, it's always an appeal to authority, and the argument that Flew made is secondary to the fact that Flew made it.

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  5. Creationists need only address the evidence and bring in better evidence.
    if it was about scientific evidence then the wrong side would of retreated more.
    Its not about science.
    Science requires a sharp attention to investigation about these complicated things.
    Evolutionists must make their case on science.
    We are still waiting for them to start. We don't have all day.

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    1. Byers: Evolutionists must make their case on science.
      We are still waiting for them to start.


      This is a bald-faced lie. Even Byers, daffy as he is, know he is lying here. We presented the fossil record, genetic comparisons, and biogeographic evidence expressed in non-technical ways that even non-scientists can understand. Creationists just lie.

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    2. Nope. The operative word is SCIENCE.
      Still waiting!!

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    3. Nope. The operative word is SCIENCE.

      Which as we all know, is something completely different from using evidence and "a line of reasoning". Right?

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    4. "Its not about science."

      You are right. YEC/ID aren't science, but religious beliefs with zero evidence to support them. When has a creationist ever proposed a scientifically testable hypothesis and done an experiment to test it? Still waiting!

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  6. This could very well be Darwin's MO. Just substitute Jesus with Darwin and Voilà.

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