2016-05-04

Do You Understand What You Argue Against?

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by Neil Godfrey

I’ve talked to creationists one-on-one about this before, and they can’t tell me what I’m thinking at all accurately — it’s usually some nonsense about hating God or loving Satan, and it’s not at all true. But at the same time, I’m able to explain to them why they’re promoting creationism in a way they can agree with. — PZ Myers

politicalanimalsPZ’s quandary reminds me of my own attempts to discuss political topics (terrorism, Islam, Israel and Palestine) and “religious” ones (methods used by Christian origins scholars, mythicism) with both academics and lay folk. Yesterday I read Jerry Coyne’s complete failure to explain the meaning of Zionism. Coyne has very strong views about Israel but he does not know what Zionism is or why some people oppose it. I have found the same ignorance when it comes to Islamist terrorism and Islam itself in a number of discussions here on this blog. Ironically that ignorance sometimes expresses itself in response to posts where I have cited or directly quoted serious research into the questions. Some people appear to ignore the explanations of the ideas they are supposedly responding to.

I once spent many, many exchanges with a Butler university then associate professor comparing the evidence for Socrates and Jesus. I could not understand why he appeared to keep repeating arguments that I thought I had so clearly demonstrated were false so I asked him to tell me what he understood my argument to be. It took quite a while but eventually he did respond and he stymied me by responding with a nonsensical idea that completely missed my point. I can only assume he was sincere and he really was not registering what I was writing in my exchanges with him. We have seen the same travesty with his inability to explain the most fundamental arguments of Earl Doherty and Richard Carrier even after supposedly reading sections of their books. But that’s no surprise because we saw the same distortions in Ehrman’s and Casey’s claims to have read and responded to mythicist arguments.

They — people like Coyne and McGrath — are not really engaging with the arguments of their opponents. They really do not know what their opponents are arguing.

But then I have to confess that I sometimes have rushed to conclusions about political and religious claims and other situations on some sort of instinct, or certainly with knee-jerk reactions. I do know that there was a time when I was like PZ Myer’s creationists. I was confident that I knew the fallacies at the heart of evolution and the thinking of scientists who wrote about it. And I know I have a tendency to form instant judgments when I listen to certain politicians speak.

So it was with interest that I read Rick Shenkman’s discussion of two types of thinking in Political Animals: How Our Stone Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics.

[E]volution teaches us to think quickly. In the life-and-death setting common in the world of hunter-gatherers, speed was of the essence in sizing up both people and situations. We couldn’t let anything get in the way of our making up our minds, not even an absence of facts. In circumstances where we lacked facts— a common occurrence in the real world— we found other bases upon which to make a decision. The point was to act. Dillydallying could kill you.

The legacy of this evolutionary inheritance is that today we leap to make decisions even when we don’t need to. Instead of waiting for facts we rush to judgment. Though in the modern world we are seldom called on to render a lightning-fast, life-or-death judgment involving a politician, that’s what we do. We can’t help ourselves. We are hardwired to think fast rather than to reflect at length.

Kahneman
(From Wikipedia)

Fast thinking (also known as System 1), as the pioneering psychologist Daniel Kahneman points out, is easy. It doesn’t require us to dwell. It really doesn’t require us to think at all, at least as most people define thinking. That’s because it mostly happens in the unconscious, where most of our brain functioning actually takes place. As psychologist Michael Gazzaniga informs us, “98 percent of what the brain does is outside of conscious awareness.” When Michael Jordan dunks a ball he doesn’t think through all the steps he needs to take to gain lift, angle his arms, and provide thrust. He performs these tasks automatically. If he suddenly tried to think about what he’s doing when dunking a ball he’d probably stumble. Reflection gets in the way of the performance of tasks that are usually left to the unconscious. Why is that? Reflection takes time. It’s slow thinking (System 2). Literally slow. Operations in the brain involving the unconscious are five times faster than those involving consciousness.

How do we arrive at a quick decision? We use shortcuts, what social scientists refer to as heuristics. Quick— which of these capital cities in Africa has the most people?

1. Libreville

2. Asmara

3. Cape Town

The answer is Cape Town. How do you know this? Because you have heard of Cape Town (pop. 3.74 million), and you probably haven’t heard of Libreville (pop. 797,000) or Asmara (pop. 649,000). Your brain concluded that since you haven’t heard of either city, chances are they aren’t very big. This is an example of the recognition heuristic. If we recognize something, our brain automatically assumes it must be because it’s important. Why do we vote for people whose names we recognize on the ballot even if we know nothing about them? It’s because we recognize their names. Our mere recognition of them must mean that they are known for something, and in the absence of a strong negative cue, we naturally believe it must be something positive. In fact, social scientists have discovered that familiarity seems to have the same effect on us as happiness. We get a charge in the reward center of our brain when we experience the familiar. And when do we become less analytical? When we are engaged in System 1 thinking.

Shenkman, Rick (2016-01-05). Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics (pp. 53-54). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

My System 1 thinking is telling me that that is “so true”! But will that snap judgment stand up to the test of System 2 thought?

Viewers reacted to these stories with anger. That was the right reaction. In this case, it’s self-evident, we could trust our instincts. We didn’t actually have to witness a beheading in person to feel the horror of it. The act of chopping off someone’s head is so appalling we could almost feel it as if we were present. We could live the news even as we experienced it vicariously (especially since we could watch a video showing what happened, even if the networks cut away before the final fatal blow was struck). That was our Pleistocene brain working the way it should under modern circumstances.

But what should we do when it doesn’t? One solution is to switch from System 1 to System 2. System 1, as you’ll recall, is our automatic system. It’s the system we use when our thinking is guided primarily by our emotions and instincts out of conscious awareness. System 2 is higher-order cognitive thinking, and it happens in conscious awareness. When we can’t rely on System 1 we have to switch to System 2. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem. System 2 is designed for just such situations. When System 1 isn’t giving us the results we need, System 2 is supposed to kick in automatically. The eminent psychologist Jeffrey Alan Gray proposed that the reason we as a species developed consciousness in the first place was to allow us to adapt when we encounter situations where our emotions and our instincts don’t work. Consciousness, he explained, is an adaptive mechanism that allows humans to detect errors and make corrections. When System 1 isn’t performing sufficiently well, our conscious system— System 2— is supposed to take over, giving us the ability to respond creatively to problems we encounter.

The trouble is that our signaling network often doesn’t switch us over to System 2 when it should. Our brain’s surveillance system should detect the fact that in politics the context is usually wrong and that we need to be switching to System 2 as a result. But it doesn’t. This is why our Pleistocene brain, in the modern world, often seems to misfire.

In retrospect, when I was defending Nixon as a seventeen-year-old, I should have switched to System 2 thinking. As the evidence against him piled up I needed to question my assumptions and reevaluate my commitment. But my surveillance system didn’t sound an alarm. So I stayed on autopilot, reacting to the news rather than thinking hard about it. If you had asked me, I would have told you I was thinking hard about Watergate. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about the scandal and was following the story’s complicated twists and turns. But I didn’t realize that System 1 instincts were guiding my reactions. That’s because System 1 operates behind the scenes, in hiding places we seldom think to examine. I’d heard of cognitive dissonance. It was on the agenda of my Psych 101 class. But I didn’t spot it in myself. It didn’t occur to me to think that the more effort I put into my defense of Nixon the more I was likely to keep on defending him. I was using System 1 thinking but didn’t realize it. I was confident I was thinking, not just reacting.

This suggests that one of our most urgent tasks is to study ourselves. This is hardly a revelation we needed science to tell us. Plato told us two thousand years ago to examine our lives. But it is not obvious that if we want to understand the modern world and make good political choices we have to start by understanding the 98 percent of our brain that is inaccessible to conscious awareness. Plato didn’t mention that. What science teaches us is that as we look outward, we need to look inward simultaneously. We have to question our intuitions, which is counterintuitive.

In effect, we have to serve as our own watchdogs, ever on the lookout for System 1 thinking. We have to be our own “gotcha” cops. In the game of gotcha the media play, politicians are singled out when they commit a faux pas. Our job is to try to call ourselves out whenever we can when we catch ourselves operating on automatic pilot, particularly when serious issues are at stake. That’s the only way we can be sure our Pleistocene brain is helping us react the way we should be. Sometimes, as we’ve seen in our reaction to the ISIS beheadings, our System 1 reaction is the right reaction. But the only way to know if we are reacting properly is to put our political reactions under a microscope. In effect, we have to keep ourselves under glass as if we were our own science experiment. Now it’s not realistic to believe that we are going to be able to do this consistently. It would be too tiring to subject ourselves to this kind of self-scrutiny constantly.

Shenkman, Rick (2016-01-05). Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics (pp. 217-218). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

I guess if I can be thankful for anything that came out of my own past cult experience it was that it came to traumatic end. It was a traumatic experience to realize I had been so completely wrong about the most fundamental things of life and that I was left hanging for a time with no idea what to believe anymore, feeling adrift without sky above or ground beneath, totally lost and adrift for a time. Tim has also learned the lesson of humility from a similar experience:

The one thing that all ex-fundamentalists live with is the sure knowledge of how wrong we can be. I was absolutely certain that the world was created in six days just a few thousand years ago. I was wrong. I stood my ground and argued with people about the craziest ideas and I was absolutely, unshakably sure that I had the Truth. I did not have the truth. I wasn’t just misinformed about some trivial matter. I was dead wrong on almost everything.

There’s nothing like humiliation to make you humble.

(How I Escaped Fundamentalism)

I had to rethink everything. Beginning with life itself: what is it? Plants have life, so do lizards. and fungus. I began to rethink everything in System 2 mode. My views on life, social and political issues, people, all sorts of people, began to undergo serious System 2 review. It’s one more classic Damascus Road story but I try not to let the things I learned then become my new System 1 impulses. Paul and reformed smokers can be such jerks. So from that perspective I guess those of us who have been through this sort of experience can learn to accept and find some good out of that wasted fundamentalist life that left so much hurt in its wake.

It is common sense to think that emotion should be divorced from reason and can be. But that is not what science is finding. Common sense is wrong. The way the brain works, neuroscientists tell us, is that emotion and reason work together. You cannot separate them. The problem with those voters who waited eleven long months before finally deciding that Nixon had abused his office and violated their trust was not that they had been too emotional, but not emotional enough. They had left their reaction to Nixon on autopilot. Woodward and Bernstein had been breaking stories that should have made voters’ hair stand on end. Instead, they barely took notice.

What was missing? Anxiety— one of our key emotions. Voters weren’t anxious enough. Science has established that we digest information about the world in two ways, using System 1 or System 2.

System 1 Thinking

Because, as we learned earlier, most of what happens in the world is predictable, our brain mostly has to deal with challenges that are familiar. For this, System 1 is perfectly adequate. The way System 1 works is simple. It matches everything it encounters to a familiar pattern. In effect, our brain faces the same challenge as the contestants on the 1960s television game show Concentration, who had to guess what they were seeing by matching the fragments on the screen with the images already in their head. As with those contestants, our brain has to figure out if what it’s seeing is a dog, a cat, a tree, or something else, using as a reference point its databank of memories. Success comes when it makes a match. The match doesn’t have to be perfect. We don’t need to match up a phantom “parti poodle” that we happen upon with a memory of one in our brain to know it’s a poodle. Even if we have never before seen a poodle of that type (it’s rare) we can still figure out it’s a poodle. The brain performs this task so seamlessly, we aren’t even aware of what it’s doing. It just does it.

The brain uses the same system when performing motor functions. When you drink a cup of coffee you don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to consciously think about every step in the process as your fingers reach for the cup, grasp the handle, and bring it to your lips. Your unconscious brain, using a process known as the habit execution system, handles all of these actions seamlessly by matching what you want to do with a pattern of behavior you previously executed. It does this by using System 1, the system that Michael Jordan uses when he dunks a basketball. He does not consciously order his hands to reach for the ball while telling his legs to speed up as he makes his way down the court. He just automatically does these things. This is what athletes do. They practice like crazy so that when the ball is thrown to them they know what to do with it automatically. This is why practice makes perfect. The more we practice, the less we have to think consciously about what we’re doing. We can just let our unconscious brain (System 1) take over. And because our unconscious brain works at a phenomenally faster speed than our conscious brain, we can perform at a level that seems superhuman. This is the miracle of System 1 thinking.

System 2 Thinking

But the world isn’t always predictable. That’s why our brain is designed to pick out what’s novel. A surveillance system in our brain is constantly searching the environment for anything that seems strikingly different from what it has encountered before. It’s your surveillance system that goes into action when you see something you can’t believe and your eyes widen to take in more of the scene, or you smell something that’s a bit disturbing and your nostrils flare to give you a better sniff. Threats get particular attention. And when the surveillance system cannot find a match in its memory for what it has come across, it sends up a flare from the amygdala to our conscious brain to take notice, using System 2 to make sense of it. The emotion you feel when this happens is anxiety.

The reason those pro-Nixon voters took so long to come around to the obvious truth that Nixon was engaged in a cover-up of astonishing proportions was because for eleven months they did not feel anxious enough to revisit the assumptions they had made when deciding initially to vote for him. Flares went up. They were ignored. Not until the Watergate story snowballed with the resignations of Haldeman and Ehrlichman in the spring of 1973 did the avalanche of bad news finally trigger an amygdala reaction of sufficient force that it got voters to do what we humans hate to do: make the decision to change our minds. When exactly does this happen? George Marcus has discovered that it happens when the burden of hanging on to a belief becomes greater than the cost of changing it. That’s one of the key findings of what’s come to be known as the Theory of Affective Intelligence, the theory Marcus and his colleagues developed when they began studying emotion. Anxiety is particularly important because it’s like acid. It eats through the rusting metal of our preconceptions.

Shenkman, Rick (2016-01-05). Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics (pp. 131-132). Basic Books. Kindle Edition. (My bolding, formatting and headings)

Living in large well-to-do societies can make us lazy so that we pay less attention to those anomalous signals. Group loyalty/identity and defence of our personal status keep us operating on System 1 way too often.

 

 

 

 

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Neil Godfrey

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32 Comments

  • Mark Erickson
    2016-05-04 23:39:13 GMT+0000 - 23:39 | Permalink

    I just read Jerry’s post and had the same reaction to his definition of Zionism: “Zionism is simply the view that Jews should have a homeland in the Middle East.”

    How many -isms is it even possible to say “X is simply…”? Even though I’m banned over there, I had to comment just in case there was a slight chance that Jerry would see it in a filter. His commenters are very curated to agree with him; he really needs to get his cage shaken more often. Maybe someone else can give it a shot.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-05-05 00:21:24 GMT+0000 - 00:21 | Permalink

      Likewise. I wanted to email Jerry to point him to sources where he can learn what Zionism really is but my head hurts when it tells me that would be a waste of time. What concord hath System 2 with System 1?

      • 2016-05-05 02:17:27 GMT+0000 - 02:17 | Permalink

        I always thought Zionism was support for the establishment and maintenance of a Jewish state. What’s wrong with that or that definition?

        • Neil Godfrey
          2016-05-05 02:42:25 GMT+0000 - 02:42 | Permalink

          Why not try a System 2 investigation?

        • David Ashton
          2016-05-05 11:00:36 GMT+0000 - 11:00 | Permalink

          There were Territorialist movements among Jews which did not require Arab-occupied Palestine as the future exclusive homeland or imperial core. There were anti-Zionist Jews, both religious and secularist.

          The claims to Judea and Samaria are solely of Biblical origin, but many Israelis and even would-be olim are not religious.

          The problem since Balfour has been that “a Jewish state” was to be put in an area long peopled by Gentiles, and the problem since Hitler has been that the State of Israel has not reduced or ended, as ostensibly expected, the phenomenon of “antisemitism”.

          Certainly the Jews presently living in Israel need and deserve protection against destruction, but the self-righteous political autism of many Zionists does their cause no favors in the modern world.

    • Lowen Gartner
      2016-05-05 01:00:30 GMT+0000 - 01:00 | Permalink

      Do you use the definition of Zionism here https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/zionism.html ?

      What else would you include? I am merely curious.

      • Tim Widowfield
        2016-05-05 02:06:29 GMT+0000 - 02:06 | Permalink

        Even if all you knew was that it can be political movement or a religious movement, Coyne’s statement would strike you as hopelessly naive.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2016-05-05 02:40:00 GMT+0000 - 02:40 | Permalink

        Zionism is the nationalist belief that the biblical land of Israel belongs by natural right to the Jewish people. The Zionist movement was founded on that belief and continues among Israeli political and religious figures and much of the Israeli population today. The boundaries of that biblical land remain somewhat vague depending on the source you read but all include at a minimum Jerusalem and the West Bank. Other racial groups within the biblical borders are by definition at the mercy or otherwise of the “rightful” Jewish rulers when it comes to their presence within those borders and to the laws and rights they are subject to.

        Zionism is a nationalistic ideology like other biological-racial, tribal and spiritual nationalist sentiments that were in large part swept from history in the wake of two world wars. For some it is also a religious ideology.

        • Lowen Gartner
          2016-05-05 02:51:28 GMT+0000 - 02:51 | Permalink

          All I would add is that Zionism as mostly practiced for the last 60 years is that Israel must have 1) original Biblical land in the most expansive definition, 2) democracy, and 3) Jewish state; and that all means required to achieve this including ethnic cleansing are totally in play to achieve those goals. #notallzionists…..just like #notallmuslims…. apply.

          I have thought this since I was 16 years old living through the war in Beirut (and read Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem). Is my perspective the result of System 1 thinking?

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-05-05 03:11:56 GMT+0000 - 03:11 | Permalink

            I’m not a mind-reader! 😉

            System 1 thinking is sometimes (often) right.

            Shenkman’s point (he is simply collating the research) is that from the perspective of evolutionary psychology our ways of thinking that served us best when living in small groups can easily misdirect us when we operate within larger complex societies and with all that comes with technological advances in communications.

            So when it comes to making judgments about other persons and groups based on information that is filtered through complex systems and technologies research findings demonstrate that it is also often wrong.

            It’s all about contexts. But we can kid ourselves like crazy.

            I sometimes ask commenters here if they have actually spoken with and gotten to know first hand the stories of individuals belonging to groups they despise. The response is usually silence or a change of topic.

        • Bob de Jong
          2016-05-06 13:31:11 GMT+0000 - 13:31 | Permalink

          To paraphrase Tim’s comment above, Zionism can be a political movement or a religious movement. You might say there are a number of streams of Zionism, through history and at this moment.

          So I made an attempt at System 2 thinking on Neil’s definition. The religious stream came first (with Rabbi’s in the 18th century). Some Jews settled in Ottoman Palestine, but this stream didn’t make much headway. It is the belief that Jews should live in the Biblical land of Israel. Note the absence of a political component, there is no ‘sovereignty’, or ‘Nation building’ aspect to it.

          The political stream of Zionism emerged in the 19th century ( Leon Pinsker et al), and in this variant the land of Israel is not a necessity. In fact, Jewish settlements were founded in Argentina and elsewhere.

          The political stream gained strength under the leadership of Herzl. His position (cf. The Jewish State, 1896; Altneuland, 1902) is that Jews form a nation, and – like other nations – should live in a sovereign state. But note that this state was not necessarily located in the biblical Israel. Herzl actively pursued options in East Africa, Uganda and elsewhere.
          All these efforts to form a state came to nought, and then ‘Palestine’ became the most likely option.

          Mixing in a little System 1 thinking, I suppose the Palestine option was advocated by the British in order to vex the Ottoman empire (prior to WW1), and they were stuck with it when Britain ‘inherited’ Palestine after WWII.

          What is Zionism today? Even more streams have evolved; I would say that Zionism is now seen as equivalent to Jewish nationalism, and – of course – other options than the land of Israel are no longer relevant.

          In that sense, Israel has become a country like any other: nationalism intends to justify the use of the land where a nation resides. And political and religious aspects are both employed. Would the US hand their land back to the native Americans (“God bless America”), the New-Zealanders their country to the Maori, the Aussies to the Aboriginals etc. etc.?

          Perhaps this background helps to put Israel’s ‘Zionism’ into perspective.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2016-05-06 15:51:01 GMT+0000 - 15:51 | Permalink

            My definition? You must have wondered what I was getting at when I was including discussion about anxiety and what the point was of my PZ Myers quotation. And what any of this had to do with evolutionary development and scenarios.

            Your penultimate paragraph makes it evident that you have no more idea what Zionism is than does Jerry Coyne and could no more explain the views of the critics of Zionism than could creationists explain the evolution views of PZ Myers.

            Your narrative is highly imaginative but lacking in any source documentation and certainly absent any evidence of an “anxiety” moment — which necessarily exists regardless of whether System 2 thinking eventually confirms or disconfirms the System 1 thought. Your narrative fits perfectly Shenkman’s own experience with convincing himself that he was doing diligent objective research re Nixon as described briefly in the post.

            • Bob de Jong
              2016-05-07 08:52:52 GMT+0000 - 08:52 | Permalink

              I was referring to the definition you gave on 2016-05-05 02:40:00 UTC:
              “Zionism is the nationalist belief that the biblical land of Israel belongs by natural right to the Jewish people.”

              And I like your description of System 1 and System 2 thinking, and tried to apply it. So why such a negative response?

              I actually gave references to the source for the definition of Zionism (Herzl’s books), which, btw, is more than you did for your definition.

              You seem to posit that my opinion must be wrong because I don’t demonstrate an anxiety moment ? I admit I didn’t have your traumatic experiences of leaving a cult (because I never joined one), losing confidence in Nixon etc.

              But how would we know that we experience a true anxiety moment? Perhaps our System 1 thinking is just telling us that because we expect or desire such an experience (to justify our opinion)?

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-05-07 22:04:41 GMT+0000 - 22:04 | Permalink

                I was referring to what I attempted (with very limited success, clearly) to explain was why there is such a serious failure to understand what it is that many of us find ourselves opposing.

                But I also said System 1 thinking can turn out to be correct. So you have misread me there. The “anxiety” moment is indeed essential; as is our ability to arrive at a true understanding of the other point of view — cf the creationists and PZ Myers, and Gingerbaker’s comment here. That ability is plainly lacking in both Coyne’s and your statements. Both PZ’s creationists and Coyne (and our Gingerbaker here) impute evil character to their opponents to explain what they do not and cannot explain or understand in their thinking. What PZ would like to hear is a statement from the creationists that demonstrates they do indeed understand and know what his alternative argument is, what the view really is that they are arguing against.

                But one of the things that keeps us from an ability to recognize when we are truly thinking System 2 is our partisan loyalties.

                My own anxiety moment that I alluded to was in relation to re-thinking the cult I had joined. It was not related to Zionism or politics. Again, I see I should do further posts to explain more clearly what I think are the key issues here.

                Perhaps making an all-out effort to truly understand and repeat the opposing argument would create an anxiety moment for many creationists.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2016-05-13 23:57:52 GMT+0000 - 23:57 | Permalink

                Two comments deleted for their inability to engage with the point of the post and refrain from System 1 reactions to their pet political peeves.

          • David Ashton
            2016-05-07 11:31:51 GMT+0000 - 11:31 | Permalink

            Unfortunately, not quite “like any other” – even in the foreseeable future.

            According to The Jewish Chronicle, May 6, 2016, Ayalet Shaked, the (fortuitously beautiful – no Golda Meir, she) Justice Minister of Israel, “wants part of the West Bank to become sovereign Israeli territory” and “every law passed in the Knesset” applied “to Judea and Samaria”, while shadow opposition spokesman, Tzipi Livni, warned that the process could collapse “the two-state idea” and “force Israel to give Knesset votes to 2.5 million Palestinians” (p.30).

            According to the former UK Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee “can – and does – buy politicians, or send them into oblivion… It has helped to ensure that Israel has been the largest single recipient of US foreign aid since the war, both in cash and military hardware” (Last Man Standing [2013] p.446).

            • Neil Godfrey
              2016-05-07 22:13:26 GMT+0000 - 22:13 | Permalink

              Let’s leave aside these arguments and focus on the point of the post.

    • Al
      2016-10-21 07:17:19 GMT+0000 - 07:17 | Permalink

      Well, this is news to me but I learned today that UNESCO are apparently anti-Semites.

      https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/the-anti-semitism-of-unesco/

  • Tim Widowfield
    2016-05-04 23:45:13 GMT+0000 - 23:45 | Permalink

    One of the blogs I like to read from time to time is called The Daily Howler by Bob Somerby. Often he takes liberals to task for imagining what Tea Party people think about such and such an issue. He usually says in response, “Well, you could ask them.”

    Unfortunately, it’s easier for the sake of argument to conjure up what the other side thinks or believes than it is to engage in a real conversation. Our System 1 brain cuts in with incomplete observations and constructs make-believe systems out of whole cloth. In the end, our conclusions are often as dimwitted as George W. Bush’s: “The hate us fer our freedom!”

    It is a bit vexing, though, to think that trained scientists are just as guilty as politicians, Christorians, or even (in my case) rank amateurs.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-05-05 00:24:31 GMT+0000 - 00:24 | Permalink

      Vexing and scandalous. An abuse of their status as public intellectuals. Malignant influences on society.

    • Mark Erickson
      2016-05-05 03:26:22 GMT+0000 - 03:26 | Permalink

      Love the Howler! Haven’t read much in years however. Not the same at all, other than a very worthwhile, relatively obscure blogspot, check out Arthur Silber’s blog. To start, pick a major essay to read or randomly go back into the archives. Don’t be put off by his health and money issues.

  • 2016-05-05 03:46:44 GMT+0000 - 03:46 | Permalink

    My System 1 said:
    Nixon could not be that stupid to allow a Watergate Break-In on his watch.
    After all he was running against George McGovern…

    My System 2 said: Well hang in their until the Election and then fess up to the American People
    and they will probably forgive you and you won’t be impeached.

    My System 1 said: Don’t buy a used car from Ted Cruz.
    My System 2 said: It is either him or Trump…..?!?

    My System 1 said: Hillary just wants to be President she does not care about me.
    My System 2 said: It seems it will either be Hillary or Trump – can I move to…
    Hang in their Bernie !!!

    I remain surprised by those who believe or refuse to believe despite rather decisive evidence.

    What is wrong with just saying: Well Maybe…

    • Damon
      2016-05-05 07:26:39 GMT+0000 - 07:26 | Permalink

      Trump himself sounds like a 100% System1 thinker. “Punch them in the nose,” etc.. The “fight or flight” response.

  • Steven C Watson
    2016-05-05 10:05:10 GMT+0000 - 10:05 | Permalink

    I had a look at Coyne’s post and skimmed the comments. System 1 said ‘Brain-dead numptie in an Echo Chamber’. I won’t be passing it upstairs for further cogitation. Except to say if you live in countries stolen from their inhabitants and formed on routine genocides and cultural suppression this sort of cognitive dissonance might be expected. It is a rare bird that can tolerate this kind of self-examination. When done and put in the public domain, rarer still is the bird that won’t react defensively as though you were getting at them personally.

    I stated reading here because the writing largely agreed with my thinking on Christian/Judaic origins. I stayed a reader for the breadth and depth of the writing on those topics. I am glad other stuff like this is being aired in the same place and not spun off to dedicated pages. I wouldn’t have read passed the headlines. Even now my reptile brain is regularly muttering ‘Muslim Apologetic Rubbish’ tm. It is very difficult to overcome unconscious and ingrained prejudices; more so when they are a commonplace and widely shared.

  • Gingerbaker
    2016-05-05 12:55:48 GMT+0000 - 12:55 | Permalink

    ” Except to say if you live in countries stolen from their inhabitants ”

    You all realize that Jews have always lived there? That the term Palestinian Jew is NOT a non sequitor?

    That all Jews were expelled from Trans-Jordan? That the charter of Trans-Jordan was to be the homeland for Palestinian Arabs? That the charter for Israel was to be a homeland for Palestinian and international Jews?

    “formed on routine genocides and cultural suppression this sort of cognitive dissonance might be expected. ”

    Now, “routine genocide” – that IS a non sequitor, unless you accept the U.N. definition of genocide which was conjured by pro-Arab panels to subvert the word itself. But, keep charging Israel with “routine genocide” if you want. Just ask yourself if you ever use the term in the same way to apply to any other situation in the world. I’ll bet you don’t consider yourself an antisemite. Cognitive dissonance indeed.

    • David Ashton
      2016-05-05 13:22:03 GMT+0000 - 13:22 | Permalink

      Germans always lived in Poland and the USSR.

      But then if you accept the expandable EUMC “definition” of antisemitism which was conjured by pro-Zionists to incriminate the Gentile world, to make such a comparison is ipso facto to be “an antisemite” if not a veritable “Holocaust Denier” or worse still “Another Holocaust Advocate”.

      Collective paranoia. Understandable, but sad and counter-productive.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-05-05 19:36:36 GMT+0000 - 19:36 | Permalink

      Gingerbaker, I suggest you return to the quotation by PZ Myers with which I opened this post and ask if you can repeat the arguments you are opposing to demonstrate that you truly do understand them, or whether, like the creationists PZ Myers is engaging, you must resort to accusations of hostile character flaws for their failing to agree with your point of view.

      (By the way, yes indeed, i do hear the UN definition of the word “genocide” applied far more frequently to contemporary situations other than that in Palestine/Israel. Don’t you?)

  • 2016-05-05 13:05:06 GMT+0000 - 13:05 | Permalink

    It’s not enough to say “use system 2”. The majority of the time, when defending a position intellectually, we *are* using system 2. It’s just that we’re using it to defend a position that we arrived at via system 1.

    Speaking of things like “Zionism is just wanting a homeland for Jewish people”, I’d like to introduce you to the concept of the motte and bailey doctrine. It happens to almost always occur when people are using system 2 to defend system 1 conclusions.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2016-05-05 13:26:47 GMT+0000 - 13:26 | Permalink

      Certainly just saying “use system 2” (as I did say above, I know) is never going to change anything. What generally happens is that we think we are using “system 2” when in fact our mind is already made up. We are burying any hint of anxiety over contradictory evidence before it arises. In other words, we are merely rationalising our gut feelings. The more work we put into doing this by seeking out “every argument” as if we are doing genuine research and truly informing ourselves the more confident we can feel that we have all bases covered and our initial “intuition” was correct all along.

      Shenkman describes his own experience of defending Nixon for years through such an exercise. It was how I managed to stay for so long in the cult even while doing post-grad studies in psychology and propaganda. It wasn’t really system 2 thinking — it was exhaustive rationalisation to defend my feelings about my beliefs.

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