It is impossible to make a man understand something if his livelihood depends on not understanding it. – Upton Sinclair
Unsettled ChristianityOne blog to rule them all, One blog to find them, One blog to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
This is an interesting story. It is based on a series of studies that indicate that a deconversion from a fundamentalist faith can cause some psychological damage that manifests itself in physical ways. This goes along with the theory of motivated reasoning…
Unfortunately, they use only one same, and that of a Mormon missionary.
Anyway, I’m cataloging this for future use:
He explained that conversion disorder is an unusual psychological malady with symptoms that resemble a neurological disorder or other medical condition. The onset is usually abrupt and typically begins with a mental conflict or emotional crisis, then “converts” to a physical problem that prevents the patient from engaging in the activity that was causing him stress.
In October 1861 Alfred Lewis Castleman, a surgeon in the Fifth Regiment of the Wisconsin Volunteers, described the first death in his regiment. It was not from battle. “The poor fellow died of Nostalgia (home-sickness), raving to the last breath about wife and children,” he wrote. “Deaths from this cause are very frequent in the army.”
While today “nostalgia” is used to describe the longing for a lost time, the word originally signified acute homesickness, a condition widely regarded as a dangerous and often deadly illness. Doctors maintained that it could kill, either by worsening existing maladies or by causing its own physical symptoms, which included heart palpitations, lesions, damage to internal organs, “hectic fever,” bowel problems and incontinence.
I know, I know… the title…
But, it is odd the way we have romanticized what is essentially a societal ill, even one that killed individuals. I have to write a paper soon for a class of mine. The paper will be focus on a personality disorder. I’m interested in the theory of motivated reasoning and this one. It seems that they fit well together.
Here… Here he points out that if someone would just give him sound correction, he’d listen, but since so many people have spent so much money on him, and he hasn’t heard any valid correction offered, then he must be right:
HT DM again on Facebook
- Michael Heiser on the ‘Jesus Discovery’ (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
Scott ‘I wish I was American’ Bailey shared this on facebook a bit ago -
In this talk, Dr Michael Shermer presents his comprehensive and provocative theory on how humans form beliefs about the world. He answers the questions of how and why we believe what we do in all aspects of our lives, from our suspicions and superstitions to our politics, economics and social beliefs.
He as book on this topic too.
In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world’s best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.
Interlaced with his theory of belief, Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. Ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not a belief matches reality.
See here as well.
- Michael Shermer Interview – Prominent People Project (martinspribble.com)
- The Colbert Report: Michael Shermer on The Believing Brain (metousiosis.com)
You need to examine four posts before we proceed.
- Jason’s first post.
- My First Response.
- Albeit not a response as it were, but nevertheless, Jason’s post from this morning.
- My introduction to this post.
I begin not with Jason, but with Rodney. Rodney and I disagree as far as the East is from the West on a good many things political, and while many times, it appears that we are uncivil to each other, Rodney and I speak telephonically frequently. When I post a challenge to his political naivete, and he responds to mine, it is not to attack one another. I say this, because while the tone on your screen may seem harsh towards Rodney, it generally is not meant to sound rude or as a method of attack. Neither his to me, I supposed. I now segway to Jason.
I’ve met Jason and have spoken with him numerous times, and will meet him again one day or Another. My tone here should not be taken as an attack on Jason. Instead, it is a polite disagreement and as such, I hope that it remains on friendly terms. I believe that both of us have a desire to seek the Truth and in the end, preserve the faith of many. With that said…
Jason postulates that in denying a non-literal Adam, that people may deny the Fall, human sinfulness, and our need for redemption. How is that so? What if Adam does in fact represent the fall of Israel in accepting an image of God instead of God himself, as kings were seen as in the Ancient Near East (ANE). Look at the connection of the language and thought behind both stories. If the Garden of Eden is God’s perfect will for humanity, where no Government exists, but is in fact fully reliant upon the shoulders of God, then the Fall can be taken as the displacement of God for an institution and thus the the moment sin entered the world because we then required a Law. The Fall, then, as expressed in Adam, is God’s shining example refusing their birthright of utopian anarchy in favor of being like the others nations, and in co-opting their knowledge and their systems as their own. This doesn’t remove the Fall, but the testimony to this can be found in Revelation wherein we read that in the return to the primal state, God once again walks with humanity and serves as King and Priest with no Law being required. Gone are the governments and institutions of humanity. Again presented is the communication between God and His creation with no interruption. What then sin? Sin is shown by the Law, but before the Law, sin was not counted as such (Romans 5.12-14). In fact, it was the Law which called sin Sin (Romans 7.7). We know and cannot deny the basic sinfulness of humanity, although we may wish to define it more than depravity, regardless of how we understand the myth of Adam, because Sin is not dependent upon Adam, but upon the Law. Further, I do not simply see the Incarnation as a mere solution, but like others, a part of the grand narrative. And to be forthright, I do not see Genesis 1 and 2 about origins in the scientific arena, but they do celebrate the theological origins of Israel.
What startles me with both Jason and Christianity Today, among others, is the use of ‘intellectual’ as if it is a code word meant to cast doubt about the faith of those who are speaking or writing. Perhaps this is not their intent; however, we must remember that the Scriptures were not anti-intellectual and neither for the most part, is Church History. Just the opposite, as a matter of fact. The issue we have today in American society is that when we wish to cast doubt upon either the motivations or the the intelligence of an opponent, we actually use the word ‘intellectual.’ In Jason’s comment, he writes regarding the emotions of those who “appear intellectual.” Appear? So then if their facts do not line up with your facts or opinions, then they merely appear intellectual? I hope that we can dispense with the use of the word as a pejorative, as after all, Jason in trying to examine this issue critically and analytically, is himself attaining to the level of intellectual.
He is concerned about the “radically re-engineer(ing of) the foundation of Christian doctrine.” I would disagree with Jason and everyone else who says that either Genesis 1 or Genesis 2, or the other Creation accounts in Text, is the foundation Christian Doctrine. I was only aware of Christ being the foundation of all things. Thus, to re-examine doctrines and theology is not re-engineering, but reforming what may have been previously held in error, but not eternal error. He then goes on suggest that we much look behind us and examine what the ancients had to say. The ancients didn’t coalesce around one particular viewpoint, but while we are at this station in the argument, let us examine briefly where this leads us. Would Jason then examine what the ancients said about baptismal (re)generation or the Eucharist? Or the Priesthood? The Saints, Mary or even Rome itself? Yes, examine the ancients. Examine our history, but if you must do so in one area, why are we afraid to do so in another? To be forthright, the ancients were more in harmony an any of the above given positions than they were on Creationism. Further, as the Reformation as proved, we take the ancient voices and add our own to them, but always we rest on Scripture. It is up to us, as it was up to the Ancients and to the Reformers, to understand more assuredly what Scripture meant, not what it merely means. We do so not by resting upon history of interpretation only, or the great Theologians of the past, but upon biblical scholarship. God is the ultimate source of Truth, and if Christianity is the way which God has ordained to bring His creation in line with Him, then it will withstand all forms of critique and reformation. We must be mindful that we are not inerrant or infallible, and neither are our interpretations of Scripture, therefore, if we must reform our understanding of Scripture which will then lead to a reformation of doctrine, let us do so with the words of Christ (John 16.13) upon our hearts, minds and hands.
We next approach the notion that Adam wasn’t “real” and the issue of Jesus and the origins of the world. We know of the argument of Mark 10.6, but that argument is only as potentially damning to Truth as the recipient allows it to be. We may ignore the fact that Christ had placed his own words within the context of marriage, but we cannot ignore the fact that if this verse points to a Young Earth Creationism, then Jesus was wrong. In Genesis 1, humanity wasn’t created first, but last. Instead, it is preferable to not ignore Jesus’ own context, but to understand that Jesus was speaking in his own time, to the issue presented before him, and that of marriage (Mark 10.1-10). My point with this post is not to argue Creationism, but the allowance for examining doctrines in light of biblical scholarship, and this doctrine, of course, which we examine is the reality of Adam. Then, I return to the thought of the “real Adam” and say that I believe that I have covered another possibility which preserves doctrines and allows for biblical scholarship which brings to light the original context and not how we wish to continue to read it.
In thinking about this issue, however, we must ask ourselves whether or not the science that has led to this decision to reject a literal Adam is truly scientific. We should ask, also, if the theology that leads to a rejection of Adam is truly biblical.
The issue here is simple. Jason begins with his notion of how it should end and then proceeds to work backwards from there, judging the facts by his own final destination. Further, he demands that we inquire as the consequences of a change of understanding and then decides that the “truthfulness of that matter” rests on those consequences. This is a logical fallacy, in both instances. Consequences have no bearing on Truth. Further, I have to question who is rejecting? Literal, as you may know, is etymologically connected with the word literary. I would counter, as I often do with Young Earth Creationists, that unless you take Adam as he was meant to be taken, as Scripture and the writers of Scripture intended, then you are simply not being literal, but instead, especially in this case, rejecting the “literal Adam.” If a theology is developed which is based in Scripture, due to a closer examination of the Text itself, and shows itself to be counter to a physical, identifiable Adam (versus a “literal” or “real” Adam) then which is more biblical? The same charges were leveled by the Reformers, which in the end, is why I find laughable the arguments between denominations and groups as to who is more ‘biblical.’ In the end, those who ‘reject’ an identifiable and physical Adam may in fact be the more ‘biblical.’
Finally, to this point, the consequences must never outweigh the drive for Truth – that the price of abandoning wrong doctrine, as the Reformation taught us, is never too high to pay. The issue which Jason then laments, that the abandoning “of Adam and Even will lead to a large scale reshaping of Christian theology” need not take place. His lament is misplaced because Adam and Eve are not being abandoned, but re-examined in light of scientific and biblical scholarship which must take place in order to reform our errors. Further, the charge of abandonment and reshaping has been leveled before, during the Reformation, but it proceeded without the complete reshaping prophesied by the laments of the day.
In a comment, noted above, Jason comments that the issue, for him, is about the infallibility of Scripture versus the “tenuous conclusions of fallible scientists.” I would urge Jason, then, to consider it as ‘infallibility of Scripture versus the “tenuous conclusions of fallible Theologians.”‘ It is not about Piltdown Man, which is a hoax and could be countered with the recent Lead Codices and the James Ossuary if we were to take objects for which fallible people have become convinced of their historical place. Instead, it is about error. Further, he considers a physical Adam and Eve as something which was a belief 2,000 years ago and proceeds to imply that Christian doctrine is the same today as it was in the beginning. Hardly so, on both accounts. When I read Christ, I read his words as Jason does, through our individual eyes and knowledge. Let us not pretend to be completely objective here. I read Christ and I have no need to ignore his words because I see him as saying what I believe he is saying. So does Jason. Or Paul for that matter. I do not believe that Paul was identifying a historical figure, physically identifiable. Jason does, because that is how he reads him. As much as Jason needs us to admit that scientists are fallible, so too he must admit that theologians are equally fallible, if not more so. He ends with a plea against watering down biblical authority, but again, I counter than when we must defend the Text against changes of interpretation which we feel may undermine it, we simply don’t allow it the authority which we think it has. Either the Text has Authority, or it does not. If it does, then it can be questioned without it becoming a house of cards, dependent upon one interpretation or another.
In the end, it is not the infallibility of the Scriptures which we are defending, but our own.
To recognize our emotional drives, to be aware of their force in directing or even methodizing our thought, to make allowance for them but on no account to deny that they exist or to be deceived as to their force and direction—this is to minimize, if not to cancel out, the famous dangers of emotional thinking. (Hoyt Hudson – Educating Liberally 1945, 63)
What does Hoyt say? First, he acknowledges that the ‘whole man operative’ (Donald C. Bryant, 1949) has a part of him which is emotional. This emotion drives our understanding of what is presented to us. Recently, we have been afford a name for this theory – a theory which allows that people will eschew the facts for their own opinions, especially if the presented facts will in some way damage the presentee’s psychological make-up. This of course is the theory of motivated reasoning. When examining ‘foundational truths’ such as theology or doctrine, we must understand that people have long held opinions, and that often times, their opinions will not change, but become more entrenched even against facts especially if they are not able to reconcile the new facts with held opinions. This is why it may be preferable to do theology in a community, or to have the theologian explore every facet on his or her own and punish them greatly, with great humiliation, if they cannot or will not question those who have gone before.
Bryant begins his essay by noting that Aristotle decries any other use, other than reason, to make decisions and yet spends two-thirds of his book studying the other processes which we use. We are indeed emotional and spiritual creatures and in that, we find defenses against reason, rationality, and facts because just as we would defend our physical selves against foreign sources, we find that we must defend our mental programmes equally, and if not more so. But, equally so, Bryant notes Johnson, who more loudly than Aristotle’s rants against non-rationality, decries rationality as the sole measurement of the domesticated day.
Bryant goes on to write,
Caution in the presence of emotion in oratory and of its primary vehicle, style, pervades the extended treatment of those topics even in Thonssen and Baird’s notable book. There the conclusion is that emotion is an ‘auxiliary fact supplementing our conception of the art of oratory,’ not a principle, but a datum of rhetoric; and style in oratory is the non-mysterious ‘costuming’ of truth,—which can be discussed without reference to Longinus. That is the cur-rent state of the case, and no doubt the desirable one. It is a perceptible departure, however, from our inherited tradition of rhetoric, where style and emotion are the factors which identify the noblest oratory.
So, while I acknowledge that the theory of motivated reasoning is indeed something to keep not in the back of our minds when dealing with various subjects, but at the very forefront, I must also conclude that the emotional ties to our opinions, our own conceived facts, is equally important in understanding rhetoric – in the interpretation of biblical passages which is part and parcel with building our own hermeneutic. The great orators of the past new enough not to pretend that we are emotionless, logic driven creatures - or else, I fear, rhetoric, poetry and the vastness of human literary devices would cease to work and we would be left with nothing more then a text book on arithmetic.
In total – as I proceed with looking at the mythical Adam and Jason’s response to it, as a abject rejection based not on facts but on what it does to doctrine, we should keep in mind that the great orators and rhetoricians of the past allowed that the theory of motivated reasoning was not always a terrible thing as it allowed rhetoric to flourish as the espousers thereof used emotion and mental attachments by their audience to words and thoughts to propel rhetoric to its rightful place and afford it the proper use. However, as Quintlilian reminded us, it is our duty to examine in fine detail those, and their words, who have gone before – and as people of faith, it is no less a duty to examine the authors, composers, redactors and unknowns who have given us the Sacred Text but more especially, to examine whether or not our faith is dependent upon our own understanding of the Text, or the ultimate Truth which it contains.
It is the true remark of an eminent man, who had made many observations on human nature, “If reason be against a man, a man will always be against reason.” This has been confirmed by the experience of all ages. Very many have been the instances of it in the Christian as well as the heathen world; yea, and that in the earliest times. Even then there were not wanting well-meaning men who, not having much reason themselves, imagined that reason was of no use in religion; yea, rather, that it was a hinderance to it. And there has not been wanting a succession of men who have believed and asserted the same thing. But never was there a greater number of these in the Christian Church, at least in Britain, than at this day. (here)
It’s those seminary types which are about the Reason!
Wesley is arguing that Reason and Faith (i.e., religion) can actually exist side by side. I sort of like his quote at the beginning. Think of the YEC or one who holds to this or that doctrine. If Reason (science, facts, etc..) is against the person, that person will stand against Reason.
The Theory of Motivated Reasoning… explained centuries earlier… by a theologian.
Here we see a real problem. Giberson and Collins did not say that only a dead and lifeless text can be factually accurate. Dr. Mohler added the word only to the statement and this addition distorts the emphasis of what Giberson and Collins actually write in this paragraph. They are claiming that the Bible is a living and powerful book. This powerful living character is not defined by factual accuracy. Doesn’t the paragraph seem to say that even a dead and lifeless text can be factually accurate rather than only a dead and lifeless text? Scripture contains a variety of genre including poetry and story(at least in the parables) and there is power in the form – even Dr. Mohler would agree with this I believe.
- An Analysis of Mohler’s Response to McLaren (frozenclocks.wordpress.com)
- Karl Giberson – Changing the Language of Science and Faith (thechurchofjesuschrist.us)
The old adage is: “a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.” Very true, regardless of how true the argument is, which is why those who ‘experience’ events (UFO’s, possession, etc…) are those the hardest to convince that they are in fact wrong. Mass hysteria is a wicked little thing, ain’t it? But, maybe there is scientific reason why people will not give up to logic and reason -
In the annals of denial, it doesn’t get much more extreme than the Seekers. They lost their jobs, the press mocked them, and there were efforts to keep them away from impressionable young minds. But while Martin’s space cult might lie at on the far end of the spectrum of human self-delusion, there’s plenty to go around. And since Festinger’s day, an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This tendency toward so-called “motivated reasoning” helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, “death panels,” the birthplace and religion of the president (PDF), and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.
Essentially, it is the ‘theory of motivated reasoning’ which allows us to ‘push threatening information away’ and to ‘pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.’
In other words, because we deem one group of facts and data as untouchable, we will actually fight anything that attempts to do some harm or damage to it because instinctively, when it does damage to that group, we feel that it will damage ourselves.
It is a fascinating article, actually, and helps to understand a wide range of human reactions to science – and faith, for that matter.
It think that it further explains our inability to see gray, as well…
- The Emotional Reasons Behind How We Reason (godlessgirl.com)
- The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science | Mother Jones (amusedartichoke.wordpress.com)
- ‘Motivated reasoning’ and our pre-existing beliefs (cogsciblog.wordpress.com)
- Not just a river [Thoughts from Kansas] (scienceblogs.com)