FreeThought Fort Wayne

        Be Reasonable

Newsweek Science Article Discusses the Biology of Belief

Posted by dystressed on November 2, 2008

There’s something to be said for the workhorse journalistic methods of print media. This in-depth article fascinated me because it really puts the science in very accessible terms, which is something that the masses need. I try to read Pharyngula and other science blogs, but there is only so much I can take before I just sort of give up.

The Newsweek story had me wanting more, which I think is really good for readers on the cusp of skepticism and rationality. It’s not perfect, of course and there are some things I don’t understand, particularly why a doctor would believe in reincarnation.

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4 Responses to “Newsweek Science Article Discusses the Biology of Belief”

  1. mightymjolnir said

    Thank you for posting this article. MSN linked to it, but I didn’t have a chance to read it until you linked here.

    There was one passage toward the end of the piece that I found a little troubling:

    “It takes effort to resist the allure of belief, with its promise of fellowship, community and comfort in the face of mortality and a pointless, uncaring universe. There must be compensating rewards.

    One such compensation, it is fair to say, is a feeling of intellectual superiority. It is rewarding to look at the vast hordes of believers, conclude that they are idiots and delight in the fact that you aren’t.”

    Um, yuck. No, it is not “fair to say” that we are motivated by a feeling of intellectual superiority. I’m more than a little sick of this straw man argument. The same could be said of believers – that it is “rewarding to look at the vast hordes of infidels, conclude that they are damned and delight in the fact that you aren’t.”

    I love to argue, and I definitely love to win arguments. However, I do so because I’m tired of the lies and willful ignorance. As a matter of probability, there are and have been believers vastly more intelligent than I will ever be. John Loftus put it best when he suggested that apologetics are far from stupid – rather, it takes a measure of brilliance to produce some of the arguments they put forth. “Wrong” and “stupid” are two very different categories, regardless of what this article suggests in its closing.

  2. Ned said

    Excellent article, but…

    I don’t think that’s fair, but I do view most ardent believers as irrational. I didn’t grow up an atheist, it was something I’ve achieved and it required great deal of effort. To me, it’s an accomplishment rather than intellectual superiority. But I’d wager many believers do think they are intellectually superior, more so than non-believers who believe the same.

  3. Ned said

    Meh, I need to learn XHTML, I blockquoted my own message above 🙂

  4. dystressed said

    I agree on the intellectual superiority thing. I just really liked that they were discussing the biological impulse for irrationality. I wasn’t sure what they were trying to say with the intellectual superiority thing, but it was still a good article.

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