"My Side" Bias and Distortion

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"My Side" Bias and Distortion

Postby mitchellmckain on May 2nd, 2018, 2:29 am 

In every group there is a spectrum between two kinds of people. There are those who look at the group they are in with a critical eye and those who don't. You can even say that these two kinds of people represent opposing traditions. So take the USA, for example. There is a critical liberal tradition of looking at the country with a great deal of criticism and condemnation, but there is also a patriotic tradition of loyalty and praise. Right? The same goes for any group, but this certainly true of Christianity as well. I find it hard to understand when people cannot see the rather prominent critical tradition in Christianity to the point where it seems that Christians spend a considerable amount of time condemning other Christians. But perhaps the reason it is hard for some to see is that they personally have more contact with the opposing tradition which does practically the opposite.

But then, there is another cause for this kind of blindness. You see those in the patriotic tradition tend to see things in simplistic terms -- one-dimensional, black and white, us and them. Not only do they see their own group through rose colored glasses, seeing only the good and whitewashing or discounting the bad, but they tend to see other groups with any kind of opposition to them through poison glasses, seeing only the bad and discounting the good. This pattern of thought and behavior has the well known name of "my-side bias." It is a consequence of looking at the world as a battleground in which they are a crusader for what is good and right fighting against the bad guys. So the other reason it can be hard for people to see the critical side of a group is they belong to the uncritical portion of an opposing group.

So to summarize we have two kinds of people who are blind to the critical element of a group:
1. There are those who have been so immersed and surrounded by the uncritical whitewashing patriotic types than they have never seen and have difficulty even believing in the existence of the critical element.
2. There are those who are part of the uncritical whitewashing patriotic portion of an opposing group, and thus the tend to see only the bad in the other group. And let me remind you that these only represent an extreme end of a spectrum.

So where do I fit in all this?

Well I am a Christian: a 1.5 theist on the Dawkins scale, a Trinitarian and not universalist. But I am certainly not in the uncritical portion of that religion. In fact, I was not raised Christian at all, but just the opposite, by people who were highly critical of the Christian establishment -- perhaps some of the most liberal people you can imagine. The result is that I can frankly criticize the Christian religion better than most atheists. I know exactly what is wrong with a great deal in Christianity. This confuses a lot of atheists and according to the above analysis, I think it points to there being some "my-side" bias in their own thinking.

But to explain more, I do not buy any theological packages sold by any group but make my own decisions on each and every one. So while the above may make me seem a bit orthodox, it is because it is not the whole story. On the non-traditional side of things, I am open-theist. And while it can be argued that my positions on atonement, original sin and the purpose of creation has roots in the greater orthodoxy of the Eastern Orthodox, here in the west, where Roman Catholicism and Protestantism hold sway, I would not be considered orthodox on these issues at all. And while I do believe in an eternal hell, I believe this is a creation of human beings not a creation of God. Now that is something has brought tirade of condemnation from Christians on a few occasions.

I should also explain that my first philosophical loyalty is to science, where I give that epistemological superiority/priority. I read the Bible with science as my filter and only consider whether any of what is said has value in that light. The result of this is that I say things like "Evolution is more logically compatible with Christianity than Creationism." And while I am on the topic, let me say that the one of things which is so great about the scientific community is that things like religion and philosophical frameworks do not matter at all. Science is a methodology NOT a system of beliefs. ANYONE can do science! There are great Muslim scientists, great Hindu scientists, great Buddhist scientists and great scientists who have been Christian or atheist. None of the of differences in such things matter at all when doing science. Science has thus been the greatest unifier of human thought in all of history.

If these things weren't enough, there is the path of thinking that brought me to Christianity. It goes straight through existentialism and the writings of Albert Camus which were so critical of Christianity. So my Christianity not only has science underneath it but existentialism too. It seems that some find this completely incomprehensible. How is it possible? Well perhaps this may help you to understand. The anti-religious elements I see in Christianity and the Bible is one of the things which enables me to find value there. The irony is that in much of Christianity, "religion" is practically a dirty word -- a word for something to be avoided. It is another word for "legalism" which both Jesus and Paul spend so much time attacking in the Bible.

More recently I have come to realize that it would probably explain a lot to many people if told them I can be considered an agnostic with respect to the objective knowledge of the existence of God, because I don't think objective knowledge of God is possible. To remind people, this means that even though I have excellent reasons for personally believing that God exists, I do not have any expectation whatsoever that others should agree with me. In other words, I haven't one shred of proof that God exists, and I don't think such proof is even possible. As a result, I defend both theism and atheism as perfectly rational alternatives. But this does not mean that all theists or all atheists are perfectly rational in their thinking -- far from it.

So, in a later post of this thread, I plan on pointing out some of the more irrational doosies I have encountered in Christianity and then do the same for atheism. The point is to encourage a greater realistic awareness on both side and help tear down some of the delusions of my side bias for both of these groups. Both sides have people with irrational beliefs. You can argue that Christianity has more -- and I would agree. But I would argue that this is only because there are more of them and as the numbers of atheists increase, so does the proportion of those with irrational beliefs.
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Re: "My Side" Bias and Distortion

Postby mitchellmckain on June 6th, 2018, 6:22 pm 

Christian irrational beliefs:

First a caution. There is no claim or implication here that Christianity necessitates any of these irrational beliefs or even that most Christains have one or more of these beliefs. The only claim here is that I have talked to Christians making such statements or something very similar.

1. Scientists are all God hating atheists. Yeah, I really have heard this one. And yes, I know, it is not even logically coherent. So let's break this one down into parts:
a) Atheists hate God. Atheist do not believe God exists therefore it is irrational to claim that atheists hate God. Many atheists hate theistic religion. Some athests even hate theists. The implication, frankly, is that the Christian is equating themselves and their religion with God Himself -- and frankly it is not a great leap from there to wonder if they really believe in God themselves, if they cannot even make that distinction.
b) Scientists are all atheists. This is demonstrably incorrect.

2. Everyone knows God exists, some are just rebelling against him. This is demonstrably incorrect. The majority of atheists are people without even a beef against religion. They are simply not interested, seeing no reason to believe in such things. They are not the most vocal atheists because the subject does not even interest them. This is not that strange because it really is no different from the way most of us know things which we lack even the interest to explore.

3. Morality requires a belief in God -- atheists cannot be moral people. It is fairly easy to demonstrate this is wrong. I built my own system of morality when I was in junior high school largely from the ideas of psychology I learned from my parents, an thus based on what makes for a healthy psychological life. It doesn't take a great deal of genius to do this, so the idea that a belief in God is prerequisite to morality just will not fly.

4. An innocent person can really pay for the crime of a guilty person. It is one thing to say that Jesus paid for our sins it is quite another to insist on this literally as if any rational person would accept that the guilty party should go free if an innocent peron was already convicted and punished for his crime. What we can do is observe that quite often when the innocent are harmed by a persons mistakes it makes him try to change his ways -- AA and other help groups are full of such people. BUT, the point here is that there really are Christians who insist on the literal version even though it is completely crazy.

Be welcome to mention any of the doosies you have encountered as well... Just the Christians for now though, we will get to the atheists later.
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Re: "My Side" Bias and Distortion

Postby mitchellmckain on June 13th, 2018, 6:15 pm 

Atheist irrational beliefs

And again I begin with the same disclaimer. There is no claim or implication here that atheism necessitates any of these irrational beliefs or even that most atheists have one or more of these beliefs. The only claim here is that I have talked to atheists making such statements or something very similar.

One of the ironies is that the top of list is almost identical to the one on the top of the list for Christians.

1. There are no religious people who are scientists -- or religious people cannot be good scientists. I have heard this one quite a few times, even by people who are otherwise rather intelligent. And the silliness of this claim blows me away every time. The claim is demonstrably incorrect in both the present and historically and thus we have an example of atheists believing something contrary to the objective evidence -- which shows some amazing willful ignorance on their parts. I think this is a evidence of people turning science into a belief system rather than a methodological difference for answering questions about the natural world -- and it makes one wonder if they can be good scientists themselves when they clearly do not understand the nature of scientific inquiry. What makes science so different than other human activities is that the only thing which matters is doing the science correctly and your beliefs about things unrelated to science is completely irrelevant.
a) Now what IS true is that there are theists claiming to be scientists with the educational credentials but what they are doing is not science but pseudoscience (the so called creation scientists). I could say that there are atheists who fit the bill on this too, but the fact is that so many more are theists and so much worse, that this would effectively be a distortion. It is like saying we are in just as much danger of a stampede by one asian elephant as by herd of a hundred (common) hippos.
2. All religious people are religious because they were raised that way. This isn't even logically coherent for the simple reason that it does not account for the existence of religion and its membership in the first place. New religions start up all the time and people constantly convert to religions also. Furthermore, although some claims by theists that they used to be atheist is rather bogus, there are well documented cases of atheists converting to religion in general and theistic religion in particular.
a) Now what IS true is that MOST religious people are religious because they were raised that way, or because they live in an enviroment where most people are religious. A goodly number of people just follow the crowd. This is accentuated in authoritarian religions because of the snapback phenomenon where young adults discard their religion based morality and without any rational basis for morality get into trouble causing them to snap-back to the religion of their childhood. Another thing which may accentuate this is that many new parents fall back on religion as the only way they know of raising their children because that is the example they have from their own parents.
3. Atheists are more intelligent that theists. On average this may hold some water mostly because atheists are a little bit more often a result of going against the tide and thinking things through, while there are many theists who have simply gone along with what they are told. But this is largely because the majority are theists and so this changes as the relative numbers of atheists versus theists changes. But the real irrationality here is that averages have no bearing on individual cases. It is the same problem with comparisons based on sex and race. You have distribution curves which are very close to one another, so that at a distance they look the same and it only when you look at them up close that you see slight difference between them. The point is that such tiny differences in the distribution curve tells you nothing about the difference between two particular individuals. Stick to the actually truth and the brag sounds absurd, something like... because a person is atheist knowing nothing more about them, then the athiest is .500001% likely to be more intelligent than the theist.
Some of the corollaries this irrational belief are even more irrational.
a) The more intelligent people choose atheism. Intelligence has very little to do with it. To be sure, intelligent people can discard the unsound arguments for religion but more intelligent people can also come up with more sound arguments for religion. The fact is that there are unsound arguments on both sides and buying into them does not reflect well on their intelligence whether it is for theism or atheism.
b) Theism actually makes people stupid. This doesn't jibe with the facts either in the present or historically. Religion has been a strong motivator for dedication to education. This is not to say this is a dominant factor but only one factor among a legion of them. The biggest factors are probably personality and aptitude, while the next is family value and encouragement quite apart from religion. This is also not to say that religion is always a motivator for education. Irrational fundamentalist religion can also be hostile to education.
4. Babies are born atheist. This is derived from a biased definition of atheism as an absence of a belief in God (or gods), and is part of a suite of canned rhetoric to make atheism correct by default and put all the burden of proof on the opposing position. It is the essence of the logical fallacy known as special pleading. Atheism is defined by a position in a spectrum of belief and is no more special than any other position on that spectrum. I will defend the rationality of this position (atheism) on the spectrum but I will utterly condemn the dishonesty of this kind of special pleading.
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Re: "My Side" Bias and Distortion

Postby mitchellmckain on June 14th, 2018, 1:01 am 

Typo
mitchellmckain » June 13th, 2018, 5:15 pm wrote: .500001% likely to be more intelligent than the theist.

This should be 50.0001% likely to be more intelligent than the theist

...and I just made it up. The number isn't really important. When I tried looking up, I could find a number, but it was confirmed there was a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity in general, but a positive correlation between education and particular religions (Judaism being on the top of the list). The biggest difficulty in all such statistical studies is isolating this one connection from other socio-economic factors.
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