View Single Post
Unread April 13th, 2006, 02:26 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Tom, Obviously I was correct in predicting the futility of appealing to Fred's sense of fairness and objectivity to stop enclosing his posts in personal attacks. At least, there is some value in having fresh evidence to support my premise - that people believe what feels good to them, and mostly use their brain to justify it.

This latest round prompts me to point out the extreme case of this hypothesis - what I call the ideological mind - that is so vividly on display here. As I previously stated, I believe that behavior choice is a process of emotional negotiation. Intellect can play a part when we emotionally choose to engage our intellect and then emotionally weight our intellectual conclusions so they can be considered along with instincts, emotions from past memories, emotions from our beliefs, etc.

I also stated previously my hypothesis that our beliefs are the primary source of our emotions in most voluntary behavior decisions. i.e. what we think of as reasoning is usually simply referencing the emotions from our existing beliefs about a particular topic.

For example, when considering something like Intelligent Design, creationists generally think it's a great idea. Almost none of the theists who are jumping on the ID bandwagon have any understanding of the intellectual / scientific argument being made on its behalf by Dembski, Behe, etc. They simply harbor a belief in God and understand that ID is a way to get God into the classrooom in public schools. So, it must be true. Whatever intellectual reasoning they apply to their conclusions will be applied in justification - not in examing the logical reasonableness of the argument - which they are largely incapable of in any case.

But, it would be wrong to say that this emotionally driven belief mechanism operates in everyone in the same way. There are large differences between people in how strongly their belief emotions influence their decision-making over the emotions that encourage them to engage their intellect and the weight they give to those conclusions. i.e. there's a characteristic difference between persons in where the emotions that most influence their voluntary behavior choices come from. Some persons are more willing to retest their beliefs for logical validity and are more willing to change them if necessary.

In some persons, especially those with very strong religious or philosophical beliefs, almost all of their mental energy in life can be focused on justifying and supporting their ideological beliefs. They can not have a conversation on any topic that does not end up supporting their beliefs. I am reminded of a seriously infected young Christian man I know who can't talk about the weather without ending each statement with a, "Thank you Jesus" or a "Praise Jesus". They see everyone in life as either allies who share their beliefs or enemies who must be despised. They have no interest in discussing any topic unless they percieve a way to use it to support their beliefs.

Another example, closer to home, is Fred's need to personally attack those who have opposed his most cherished beliefs. There is nothing I can say here that would not result in a personal attack from Fred, as these last few posts make abundantly clear.

If I didn't understand so well why he does this it might make me angry enough to retaliate in kind. As it is it just makes me weary. I love discussing these things but it just might not be possible to do it around persons whose minds are so heavily infected. It's like trying to reason with a drunk. If you've ever tried that then you know how hopeless I am feeling about remaining in this forum.

Strong ideology is an addiction. It is a chemical dependency. The only difference between ideologic belief and alcoholism for example, is the particular brain-affecting chemicals involved. Ideologues and their adreniline pumped relatives, zealots, are just as addicted to those brain chemicals as any alchoholic or any junkie. In fact, many people go through life simply trading one of those addictions for another. That's what AA is all about. Insulting immoral atheists is Fred's crack and he's not about to give that up for polite discussion.

Todd asked me previously if I thought there was a genetic basis for where somone lies on the psychological conservatism / liberalism spectrum. I replied possible but not probable - based on my suspicion that a cultural capacity for that determination would be more adaptive and more likely to have evolved through natural selection. I'm still not ready to categorically deny a direct hereditary component - but this study of children is interesting in that regard.

The relevance here is that I suspect that there is a connection between psychological conservatism and strong ideology. Strong ideological systems like evangelical Christianity and today's version of political conservatism have the message "Here are all the answers to life's questions". They also say that those who don't agree with those answers are bad people who must be publicly exposed as immoral and punished. JimB and Fred's angry responses to my posts here have caused me to suspect that evolutionary psychology is more a strong ideology than it is a scientific discipline - at least for them.

I suspect that that may be why it is so impossible to discuss EP here objectively. Ideologues resent even the implication that their belief system would be subject to such questions - and I have been called intellectually and / or morally blind by each of them - for bringing it up. The emotional need to punish heretics will always trump their desire for intellectual discussion of a topic. That's a testable prediction of my hypothesis that seems to be valid for the time I have spent here anyway. Will their response to this post close the case in my favor or show me to be wrong?

I think your explanation of "Equal opportunity, not necessarily equal outcome" is a very reasonable statement that deserves a thoughtful response. Yesterday, I composed one but then decided that reasonable responses feel so futile and impotent knowing they will just provoke another personal attack. I guess I'll wait a while to see if I feel better about posting it. I'll hang in there for a while Tom, but it's getting pretty dreary.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; April 13th, 2006 at 04:53 PM.
Reply With Quote