NBC's Dateline: "What Were You Thinking?"

We human beings are woefully inadequate at rational thinking, as this excellent program shows starring one of my skeptical heroes, Michael Shermer. This report offers overwhelming evidence for my Outsider Test for Faith, since it shows we are gullible social creatures who conform our actions and beliefs to our social grouping. Enjoy.

24 comments:

Cole said...

I know my rational faculties don't always function properly. There are times when fear can cause them to malfunction as well as times where fear can cause them to function properly. I've been through Non-Denominational teachings to Pentacostal to Baptist to A.A. to Calvinism. Now I'm not sure what I am. I know I love Christ in the beauty of His humility and teachings that say to love God above all else and love my neighbor as myself. That pretty much seems to sum it up for me. I also love things from the TAO TE CHING as well as A.A. like Let Go And Let God. One Day At A Time. Easy Does It. They all seem to make sense to me.

Hendy said...

Quite interesting. I was at a prayer meeting with a Catholic charismatic community of which I am a lifelong committed member (which may change at some point). What struck me at one point (keep in mind that I was well in the midst of my current doubting) is that the theme of the prayer meeting radically shifted to a very 'power, battle, claim-the-land-for-the-lord' type of a theme as a result of some 'words from the lord' that were shared.

The prayer meeting erupted into battle songs from the music team, dancing around the room (which is very uncommon), similar 'words', etc.

After reflection, I was near certain that I could conjure up these types of feelings and themes myself simply by getting in front of the microphone in a 'convicted' manner and powerfully proclaiming what I thought god was telling me.

Indeed, there are gentleman designated to receive the various 'words' and filter them, make sense of them, etc. The hearers of these words tell them to the 'filter-ers' to then ask certain ones of them to come up in a particular order to state their prophecies, senses, etc.

At the end of the day, what always gets me is that they could be true for anyone. Any given word will always provide 'upbuilding' for some and a 'non-hit' for others. The words are always things like, "I feel that the Lord would say:"
- I love you my children, why do you turn from me?
- Despite hard times, know that I am with you
- My children, do you not know my love?
- My child, return to me despite your sins and be forgiven

and on and on.

These are simply human feelings of those in religious communities. Everyone will feel something of a resonating effect with one of these. In other words, may will feel a need to be reassured of god's love in hardship, acknowledge their sins and repent, to simply 'rest in the lord' and be recharged etc.

It strikes me that this is similar to the themes of this video. Presuppositions and instincts are [unintentionally] used to continue persistence in those presuppositions, despite them being fallacious or even harmful.

I could be wrong, but just some thoughts and an little personal experience which connects to it!

Hendy said...

Sorry, one other anecdote to relate. Last night at a men's group I'm in, a member related that they had decided to order granite counter tops for their home. He said that his wife prayed for the lord to send the money in the mail.

Soon after (not sure what the time frame was), their state tax refund came, and then gave 'that look' which I took to mean as, 'isn't that incredible? The lord answered the prayer and therefore says it's okay for us to order granite counter tops.'

I found this very interesting, as without the same presuppositions or prior imprinted theories, two individuals reach radically different conclusions.

Conclusions:
A) We prayed about granite since we may not have a lot of money and want to see if the lord is okay with blessing us with granite. Money came. The lord is okay with us getting granite.

B) You prayed about granite. Your refund not only came when one would expect (in April) but also is not really any kind of supplemental provision from god since it was money you were already rightfully owed and could have collected all year round. The receipt of the money and prayer are in no way connected or surprising. Also, the amount of the money for counter tops correlates with the price of a counter top fairly well, whereas a prayer to buy a new family BMW and a state refund of $60k would have been far more improbable and therefore serve as a more convincing answer.

I guess that's a bit off topic as the videos present more of a 'mammalian instinct' and how it translates to actions, but I think any 'ingrained' belief is a good analogy. In this particular case it's not absurd to use an analogy that when told one has psychic powers they may pay money to develop them and when one receives supposed answers from prayer about monetary decisions, they will make a decision that actually may not follow logically from the evidence due to implanted ideas about how the evidence came about.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

John wrote, "since it shows we are gullible social creatures who conform our actions and beliefs to our social grouping."

Yes, Jesus acknowledged this as our nature as well, along with the tendency to view and interact to fellow humanity in territorial and oftentimes, condemning ways. So, you notice the same things God does. Now what????

Cole said...

Good points Hendy. I would also say that any world view that denies physical reality is just plain rediculous. I also think that science and faith (faith being a confident assurance) go together. My God isn't against using medicine for diseases or mental disorders.

Hendy said...

Re. MMM/Cole:

Regarding 'now what'? I think the take home message is that we should doubt or at least look into that which we hold to be true without prior investigation. I think these types of things fall into the 'learned during childhood', 'during emotional weakness', etc. categories. This is not an ad hominem attach or genetic fallacy; it just means that our scientifically proven gullibility justifies a skeptic stance to some degree.

Jesus is reported to have said: 'Blessed are those who believe and who have not seen.'

How does this encourage such an approach? This is commonly cited as a reason to have faith even in times of doubt and lack of evidence. It actually, to some degree, makes gullibility a virtue. The story is touching, but at the end of the day does not recreate the evidence provided to Thomas.

I would gladly trade whatever a portion of eternity feels like in purgatory in order to be 'less blessed' and touch the wounds.

I mean this sincerely. Attempting a quest of inquiry and meeting dead-ends that are inevitably unsatisfying as proof for theism but emotionally not wanting to walk away because of some shred of hope that it's somehow true... is miserable.

Clare said...

-Hendy,
Some charistmatic catholic groups are actually listed as cults. Do not give them any money! That is mainly what they are after, and more recruits of course. What you describe, the repetition etc. is a classic hypnosis technique, to make you more suggestible to what is said next -usually "give me money". I know as I have taken training in hypnosis.
Get out now!

Brother OMi said...

thanks for this... hilarious... and tragic at the same time

Cole said...

Hey Hendy,

I think that we should look into some things and investigate before we believe. Some things we don't have to look into like the existence of the physical realm for example. I personaly believe in a Creator because of the overwhelming scientific evidence for the beginning of all of physical reality. I can't believe that the whole thing is just a mass of electrons that came from nothing by nothing, meaning nothing, whirling onto a destiny of nothingness. I also believe because I have had experiences where God becomes a reality to me. It's where everything balances itself out and I can see clearly.

Hendy said...

Fair enough, Cole. I like that paraphrase from the big book, by the way :)

I agree that cosmology is perplexing. Not that hiding behind big names is exactly tenable... but I do find it interesting that Stephen Hawking seems not to be [verbally/outspokenly] convinced that his research leads to an conclusive case for a creator. He hints at various things, but I believe the overwhelming consensus is that he is a deist at best if not an atheist/agnostic.

Anyway. I wonder more and more if Pascal's phrase, 'the heart has reasons that reason cannot understand' is at the basis for a lot of belief. He used it for theism, but I believe it cuts both ways.

I have encountered more and more believers in this journey who counsel me by saying that I will never 'prove' anything; it comes down to choice. That's a frustrating prospect. Due to the ambiguity of evidence, it seems that both sides will always have their various arguments lined up for defense. The premises and evidence for these arguments, however, typically resides outside of immediate observation, in the intellectual abyss of 'possible worlds', etc.

All that one is left for, then, may very well be a 'heart-centered' choice that then seeks a defense to satisfy the intellect.

I believe this theory is quite plausible, as it may be why debate after debate continues... without vast sweeping mind-changing results.

In other words: would anyone even sign up for a flat vs. round earth debate? Religious varieties of debates occur exactly because the answer is unresolved and remains that way. At the end of the day, I think either side can point to some incredible intellectual giants as their reasons.

What I ponder more and more is whether those giants inform the mind in order to sustain belief or if tendencies in belief inform the mind of which giant to support...

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hendy wrote, "I think these types of things fall into the 'learned during childhood', 'during emotional weakness', etc. categories."

exactly! Ergo, Jesus' invitation to be born again into a new family ----there are those who have handed over their pride to embrace faith.

What I was attempting to say in my earlier comment was this -- so we are able to notice the same things Jesus acknowledged - what next? With pride, we are inclined to judge with a bent towards forming aliances based on themes of survival, enmity, and condemnation, etc. but God notices our vulnerabilities, territorialism, etc. and desires to save. Two different perspectives.

Cole said, "I think that we should look into some things and investigate before we believe"
I agree - it's wise to acknowledge that it is not uncommon for ppl to manipulate and corrupt power, especially religious power in the name of the divine.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hendy also wrote, "These are simply human feelings of those in religious communities."

If faith were a mere matter of feelings, then we have of course succeeded in creating many gods to gratify emotional neediness. But building trust and being conformed towards God's grace is a different matter, not one of peacefulness upon initial contact, nor without pain or suffering, but in the end, there is no condemnation. Truly.

Cole said...

Hendy,

I agree and I do think that Pascal's "The heart has reasons which reason cannot know" is the basis for alot of belief in God. It is for me anyway. I also go along with Alvin Plantinga's assesment of the arguments for and against God's existence. When the arguments and TOTAL evidence are all taken together it seems to me that Theism is SOMEWHAT more likely than not to be true. This of course doesn't include the evidence for a singular beginning to space, time, matter, and energy. I find that evidence to be very powerful for a Creator of somesort. I guess others would believe otherwise.

I also agree that it comes down to choice. But believing THAT a Creator exists through evidence isn't the same as making a decision to turn your life over to this Being. I come to believe and then make a decision to turn my will and life over to this Divine Being.

Lynn said...

I think when something happens to us now, our minds connect it to things that happened in childhood or concepts taught to us then.

We were taught to pray, that God answers prayer, so we naturally connect circumstances with that.

We automatically connect things because we are intelligent. But we can connect things that aren't connected. I guess it's because we're always looking for cause and effect and trying to make sense of the world.

The Christians I was around found all that kind of thing very exciting. I found it very confusing.

A therapist once told me something when I was discussing marital problems. She said you need to be careful when you assign meanings. Like if my husband did something, I would think I knew why he did that and what it meant. It could all make sense in my mind, yet be totally incorrect in reality.

That's why it amazes me when people are so sur that something is from God. How do they know that??

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Lynn wrote, "That's why it amazes me when people are so sur that something is from God. How do they know that??"

The Holy Spirit shows the difference between what we project or assign meaning towards the divine and what is actually divine. Just like your therapist said to be careful about assigning 'meaning' towards others, we ought to do the same with God. Jesus had many false accusations and images projected upon Him and yet He never allowed the frustration and cruelty of that practice to erode His purpose of showing ppl how much God loved them even in their hate-infected ways.

Hendy said...

Cole/MMM: thanks for the continued comments.

Yeah, this whole search is pretty darned rough. I have a very hard time anymore believing in the 'predictive' power of the Holy Spirit as MMM affirms. I have wondered if I just sat in my 'prayer chair' and pondered things if I would discern, on my own, what is of worth, etc.

What is different between, say, conducting a thought experiment towards 'what would I do today if I were to die tonight' each morning vs. 'what is really of value in the world?'

The problem I have is that I don't think various faiths have demonstrated any predictive powers in the areas we should see (answered prayers, protection/enlightenment of one group over another, etc.) and therefore cannot be trusted in areas we cannot see (guidance by the Holy Spirit, 'senses', etc.).

Does that make sense?

Also, Cole, I agree. I'm dubious about the origins of the universe. On one hand, nothing comes from nothing and blah blah blah. On the other hand, I tend to think that most cause/effect relationships we experience/know on earth fall apart to some degree when we talk about 'outside of time/space/this dimension.'

One day I had an interesting though... God is 'outside' of our dimension(s), correct? Well, we are in a way 'outside' of the 1st and 2nd dimensions. Yet, can you 'create' in those dimensions? No one can actually bring into existence a true point, or line, or shape... we're trapped! All we have is a concept and representations. Even if a being exists 'outside' of our dimension(s), does it guarantee that he can even live/act/intercede in it?

I can see some definite flaws in the analogy, but it was an interesting pondering session!

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Hendy ---thanks to you too for the exchanges here.

You wrote this, "I have a very hard time anymore believing in the 'predictive' power of the Holy Spirit as MMM affirms."

It's interesting to me that you assigned the adjective "predictive" to the Holy Spirit - I think of human nature as being more predictive. My experience with the Holy Spirit is one more of "enlightenment" "discernment" and "recognition/acknowledgement" between divine and human nature.

Hendy you also wrote, "Even if a being exists 'outside' of our dimension(s), does it guarantee that he can even live/act/intercede in it?"

Hendy, for me, that is the main essence of Jesus' gospel -- emmanuel - God is with us.

Thx! Take care!

Hendy said...

MMM: "I think of human nature as being more predictive. My experience with the Holy Spirit is one more of "enlightenment" "discernment" and "recognition/acknowledgement" between divine and human nature."

I believe I understand this (as a present/former/who knows Catholic with a personal relationship with Jesus).

As a believer, I would say that what you described could be had in meditation, scriptural reflection, etc. I have had these 'enlightenments', too. Say, for example, wanting to quit smoking, having just had a cigarette which made me very thirsty and then thinking of John 4 and realizing that seeking satisfaction in smoking would always lead me to 'thirst again'. Therefore, to quit would be to seek fulfillment in god alone, which would cause me not to thirst.

Is this anywhere close to the mark as an example of the holy spirit speaking?

On the flip side, other faiths and philosophies allow for this type of reflection. I have not embarked on this experiment, yet, but it has intrigued me to see what would happen if I just sat in a chair every morning and thought about my life. Would I have insights? Would they be more/less than when I asked god for these insights?

Lastly, what additional 'meat' do these insights add to life? What more do you gain from, say, thinking of Jesus being whipped as a motivating factor for serving humanity (I'm not being insulting here, I really do mean that recollecting the suffering servant can be an inspiration to serve when there is no other motivation) than if you meditated every day on the fact that all humans are in a common existence together than that no one has more intrinsic worth that another and that therefore you should serve your fellow man at every opportunity?

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Hendy -- you wrote,

"Lastly, what additional 'meat' do these insights add to life? What more do you gain from, say, thinking of Jesus being whipped as a motivating factor for serving humanity (I'm not being insulting here, I really do mean that recollecting the suffering servant can be an inspiration to serve when there is no other motivation) "

Handy there is a scripture that talks about people trying to be godly without the connection with God. Kind of like "being good for goodness sake" -- really pitiful actually. But it is the connection that keeps me hopeful and from perishing in unfriendly circumstances that I once helped perpetuate. Throughout our lives, we are allowed the liberty to shape and conform towards a heartfelt preference for grace or.....ungraciousness.

kilo papa said...

Whenever I read a blog post from MMM I'm reminded of one of my favorite Mark Twain quotes--"When it comes to politics and religion a mans power of reason does not rise above a monkeys."
That apparently goes for women,too.

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi Kilo -- you wrote, "When it comes to politics and religion a mans power of reason does not rise above a monkeys."

I think monkeys and apes are pretty intelligent creatures. I'll bet you would agree, especially if you believe in evolution - those would be our ancestors.....

pink_monkey said...

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...


I think monkeys and apes are pretty intelligent creatures. I'll bet you would agree, especially if you believe in evolution - those would be our ancestors.....


those would not be our ancestors although we do share a common ancestor w/ modern primates. how do you suppose we descended from something that has changed as much as us since the split?

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Hi PM - you wrote, "those would not be our ancestors although we do share a common ancestor w/ modern primates. how do you suppose we descended from something that has changed as much as us since the split?"

It looks like you are questioning
my response to kilo papa as though I intended it to be serious. I was not.

If we did indeed evolve from primates, I suspect that entire process would be pretty amazing. I once heard a pastor speak about the odds for macroevolution to occur and it was phenomenal - so either way, evolution or no, creation seems miraculous to me.

bye,
3M

Gandolf said...

MMM said..."Yes, Jesus acknowledged this as our nature as well, along with the tendency to view and interact to fellow humanity in territorial and oftentimes, condemning ways. So, you notice the same things God does. Now what????"

Hi MMM, now what what???.

Were you waiting for John to try and suggest maybe he`s the son of some god,or just saying we should not really be so very surprised Jesus happened to experience and notice some of the very same things as John.....As both John and Jesus happened to be "both human" beings, experiencing some of lifes "very same experiences", here on the "very same planet".

How rational are your thoughts MMM....Are you purposly looking to try and always read something more into matters, than really need be??...What ever faith belief you still happen to hold onto now, "complete honesty" is still always a very very important factor to you right?....Im sure you are not the type to want to become involved in spreading shonky suggestions, that might also lead many other unsuspecting folks up a gum tree...Specially when you are "very well aware" of just how very dangerous this type of thing can be,and have knowledge that humans shonky suggestions from the past,have even been the cause of such gobble-dee-gook as human sacrifices....Which some nasty thoughtless uncaring humans "suggested" might be helpful in curing such things as droughts and famines or maybe for preventing such things as earthquakes or sickness etc etc.

I understand and respect you believe in salvation.....Tell me do you feel salvation will also be available for those who helped spread some of the harmful spiritual rumors?



Hey Hendy, funny about the granite counter tops .Guess its much the same as i could pray that the sun rises again tomorrow,and then feel yep! the gods answered my prayers when it happened.

Personally i`d need much better evidence than that before i`d feel it was such a good idea to go suggesting it really honestly happened through prayer.As usual we need to accept being responsible for our actions specially when it has an effect on others.

We are responsible for doubts also of course,but personally i still feel more comfortable being responsible for doubt, because of me feeling i saw a lack of real good evidence.Than i feel so comfortable in promotion of what without availbility of good evidence,might only be continued promotion of false suggestions.