However in talking about religion with other people I saw that others held onto their convictions, well, religiously and they could not be shaken in their belief the Earth was six thousand years old. I was a philistine spouting blasphemy. Today I refuse to debate such an issue as I know there is no way of logically working through this to arrive at an objective conclusion. You either believe or you don't believe. There is no argument, rationale, or scientific study which conclusively leads one to see the light of the Lord as opposed to the light of objective truth. There is only faith and with faith you don't debate, you believe. You just believe.
I started to closely follow American politics in the middle of 2011 when the GOP began their process of selecting a candidate to run against Obama in the 2012 election. While I had previously heard the oddball meanderings of the far right, I had not appreciated how much the Republican party had moved from their traditional Conservative "right" position further towards the far right of the political spectrum. As candidate after candidate presented their platforms I heard the most outlandish ideas, so outlandish I thought it was all great fodder for late night comedians. However as Mitt Romney captured the nomination and the GOP geared up to campaign against the Democrats, I began to realise this wasn't funny anymore. In fact, it was getting not just a little scary as those outlandish ideas had now coalesced into the Republican Party Platform. What if Romney did win the election? George W. Bush has been at times categorized as one of if not the worst president ever. Could the United States and could the world afford another Republican in the White House?
The following statements from the Republicans are either twisted truth or outright lies.
47% of Americans do not pay taxes.
(See my blog: Romney caught on video: 47% of Americans are Losers)
Obamacare will bankrupt the country.
(See my blog: Obamacare: Congratulations on doing the right thing, America!)
Cutting taxes for the wealthy creates jobs
(See my blog: Is the right answer counter-intuitive? (Part Deux))
Abstinence is the only solution
(See my blog: Abortion: Rick Perry and Sex Education: Abstinence works!)
The list goes on and on. Each one of these statements can be disproved with solid verifiable facts and yet the GOP and the far right persists in repeating these ideas over and over again while completely ignoring the counter-arguments and refusing to accept the facts as facts. Why?
I see the word defined as follows (Dictionary.Com):
1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.
2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation.
I have heard tell "belief", certainly with its association to religion, also means that a person can and will discount anything which does not support said belief. Is this the explanation for Republicans or the far right continually promoting ideas which do not seem to correspond to reality?
I had never heard of this gentleman until I ran across an article he penned for MotherJones (The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science ... with lots of reference links). Surprise, surprise, I discover this U.S. journalist and academic has spent considerable time and effort investigating this very phenomenon. With a focus on science in politics, Mr. Mooney has authored a number of books in which he explores how ideology and faith trumps fact and specifically how the Republican party in its pursuit of its ideological goals has and will systemically reject scientific fact if it does not support their worldview. His description of the situation and his many supporting examples made me wonder if somebody has drunk the Kool-Aid. Does the "collective" support itself in its own craziness? And does the "collective" help one another in putting on blinders to avoid seeing the objective?
Mr. Mooney lays out the premise of his work by starting with a study done in the 1950s by Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger of a doomsday cult who predicted the end of the world on December 21, 1954. Obviously this didn't turn out to be true and Festinger examined the adherents and their reaction to this failed prophecy. If they believed it to be true but it turned out not to be true, how did they rationalize the failure of their belief? (This reminds me of the predictions of Harold Camping, an 89 year old Christian radio broadcaster: the Rapture on May 21, 2011 and the end of the world on October 21, 2011. See my blog my blog: May 21: The End of the World (Afterword May 22))
Chris Mooney goes on to talk about "motivated reasoning" whereby our pre-existing beliefs can skew our thoughts so that even in the face of unequivocal evidence we can reject ideas of climate change, vaccines are not linked to autism, Obamacare does not include death panels, and the president was born in America and he is Christian. There seems to be a mixture of emotions and rational thought where emotions are visceral and immediate while rational thought comes later and more slowly. If someone believes in divine creation, they will reject anything which does not support their belief. They aren't reasoning; they are rationalizing. Consequently the perspective of the individual is biased; it is not objective. It is not scientific; it is subjective.
This rejection of fact extends to scientific expertise. Depending on your outlook on issues, you will accept or reject supposed experts. If you a pro-gun, you will reject anti-gun experts and anti-gun studies. Even if there is double blind testing with confirmed unbiased analysis, you will still interpret this as being wrong. You are not convinced. People rejected the validity of a scientific source because its conclusion contradicted their deeply held views. Mooney points out that trying to persuade people with evidence and argument can actually backfire and people can end up holding onto their views even more tenaciously.
We gravitate to what supports our views with media from newspapers, television, and social media like Facebook. Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam backing the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque called the Ground Zero mosque, was rumored to be a terrorist-sympathizer. A study showed that viewers of Fox News were more likely to believe this rumor than non-Fox viewers. Even though George Bush stated that America is not at war with Islam, the viewers of Fox News continue to associate terrorism with all Muslims. (As an aside, it is curious how these same viewers forget that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was Christian. This 1995 bombing remained the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until 9/11.)