If you operate in an evidence-based world, the title of this post probably annoys/angers you. As well it should. Unfortunately, for increasing numbers of people, belief is more important than evidence. In fact, evidence contrary to their beliefs may make them fight harder than ever to hold on to their beliefs.
Some news items from the believers point of view:
1] Jerry Sandusky [or fill in blank with whichever child predator is in the news] cannot possibly be a child predator because he loves children and created a charity for children. Providing these believers with the facts and evidence of ‘grooming‘ just makes the believers angrier and more defensive of Sandusky [or whomever]. Vilification of the accusers occurs rather than analyzing the evidence.
2] How dare the state of Kentucky expect high school students to be taught and tested on evolution when it conflicts with the beliefs of Ricky Line, Superintendent of Hart County Board of Education! (Education?) “Stop requiring our teachers to teach, as fact, an evolution that would convince our children that they evolved from lower life forms and, therefore, have reason to discount the Bible and the faith beliefs that follow. This is not an improvement in our public education system.” [Written to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holiday on 11/21/2011.] Commissioner Holiday replied with a very well-reasoned statement of facts and evidence. I doubt it convinced Superintendent Line. Line’s beliefs will always trump facts and evidence.
3] The Florida Family Association, a Christian group, is crusading against TLC’s program All-American Muslim because ‘TLC’s “All-American Muslim” is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda.’ They are haranguing the show’s advertisers in an attempt to have TLC drop the show because it does not sufficiently cover the jihadist point of view. “The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.” How dare TLC show ordinary Muslims!
Clearly, the FFA crusade is ridiculous. And yet, Lowe’s succumbed. “Lowe’s has received a significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lighting rod for many of those views. As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.” So, Lowe’s, will you cease all advertising if enough people complain about the shows on which you advertise? Or do you just pick and choose based on belief systems rather than evidence and facts?
4] Only those who believe in God (or a god) are trustworthy. Atheists are less trustworthy (more evil?) than rapists; and atheists are despised more than are gays. This is according to recently-published research by Gervais et al. who conducted six different studies in order to clarify why those who are religious have problems with those who are atheists. The researchers concluded it came down to trust. Religious individuals simply cannot trust someone who doesn’t believe in a god because they hold the view that a belief in god provides the glue that holds society together. However, Gervais et al. point out that “the least religious countries are actually among the most cooperative and peaceful on the planet.” Belief that atheists are bad and untrustworthy trumps the facts and evidence that if we want a peaceful, cooperative society we would be better off with fewer individuals who are religious [See #3 above.] and more who are atheist.
One would hope that education would help eradicate erroneous beliefs. But if facts and evidence just make believers fight harder, education probably will not work. Then how can we solve this problem? I’d like to read your ideas on this.
Meanwhile, have a great holiday season in which we work to increase cooperation and peace in our society.
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