Belief and acceptance are different attitudes. Some humans say that “they don’t believe in the Theory of Evolution” because they feel their personal beliefs are of consequence to the Theory – they aren’t. The sentiment seems to be that denying something strongly enough will make it false – it doesn’t.
Religious pronouncements consistently tell adherents to reject anything that contradicts the doctrine form which they stem.
You either accept or deny truth, belief is meaningless in this conversation. Similarly, some humans “don’t believe” in COVID-19 and its variants. They don’t want to accept the truth of the virus as it contradicts their accepted version of reality. Especially when that truth makes them uncomfortable.
The problem isn’t lack of evidence for the virus, but that humans are emotional, irrational beings. Feelings and beliefs are more important to them than anything else.
Again, the issue is religious, it’s ideological. But as much as I’d like to chalk it up to ignorance or that insidious human characteristic, stupidity, the problem has cognitive roots.
“We find that people will take a flight from facts to protect all kinds of belief including their religious belief, their political beliefs, and even simple personal beliefs such as whether they are good at choosing a web browser,” says Troy Campbell of the University of Oregon.
“People treat facts as relevant more when the facts tend to support their opinions,” says Campbell. “When the facts are against their opinions, they don’t necessarily deny the facts, but they say the facts are less relevant.”
This denialsism or rejection of established truths is the result of what psychology knows as cognitive biases. In their entry in The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, The evolution of cognitive bias, Haselton MG, Nettle D, Andrews explain that a cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgement.
Yes, these biases can appear abhorrent to those of you whose thinking is governed by logic and reason, but “evolutionarilly” they helped humans navigate simple decisions in a simpler world. It’s the more complex ideas of modern science that these biases cannot handle.
The problems of natural flaws in the human psyche are exacerbated by poor science communication and the control political and religious leaders are given over social structures. Politics and religion directly attack the emotional part of the human mind by appealing to their innate fear of the unknown.
All eschatologies, and I submit theology in general, attempt to explain what happens after death by offering comforting fictions. Science, in the other hand, admits that it doesn’t know what happens in the hereafter. Ignorance of what happens after they die is perfectly scary for humans. To not know where their dearly departed go is a significant cause for sadness and tension, to relieve this tension humans are willing to accept religious possibilities, even when the conditions of those possibilities are contrived.
Similarly, conspiracy theorists and political pundits appeal to the fear of complex medical science, and invoke a more comfortable possibility in the name of personal choice without responsibility.
That these biases are naturally-occurring doesn’t preclude the need to fix them. Life is continually correcting for natural errors. Most humans can learn to think better via exposure to proper education with an emphasis on logic and critical thinking.
However, it is the minority the world should worry about. Society should focus on fighting those who willingly misrepresent science to push their agendas all the way to their bank accounts. Those assholes for whom I regret not having a hell.
The punishment these crooks deserve is severe.
They don’t care about causing immeasurable pain and suffering by steering other humans away from life-saving medicine, or leading people to elect morally deficient leaders.
Belief and acceptance are vastly different attitudes, and the wrong set of beliefs inevitably leads to acceptance of the wrong and invariably harmful ideas.
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— The Devil Unbound