Monday, September 14, 2009

Blinded By The Light

I'm probably stating something most people already know but Fundamentalist Christianity suffers from a cognitive bias known as framing, it's a form of selective interpretation which allows someone's bias to determine what one believes.

A cognitive bias works much the same in which a literal bias causes a lawn bowl to swing to one side. It is a pre-existing weight that determines how the outcome will be reached before the lawn bowl is even played. When it comes to Fundamentalist Christianity, the bias comes in the form of concepts like"The Bible is our only source for truth," or "What does the Word say?" (meaning, lets ignore everything else, particularly science).

Perhaps the most pointed example of being blinded by the light comes in the form of the so-called seven days of creation.

Science has meticulously compiled evidence that refutes the notion of creation occuring in six literal days and particularly if those six days only occured around 4000 BC.

But, the Fundamentalist Christian will proclaim, "What does the Word say?" Well, what does it say? How does the Word define these days? Does the Bible really describe six literal periods of twenty four hours? (Oh, and don't get me started on the seventh day, which is not recorded as ending at all!)

Genesis 1:20-25
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
And God created great whales [sea creatures], and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
Yes, the Bible says God created life, but lets not dumb down the Scriptures, they also say considerably more than just "God created..." The challenge to Fundamentalists is, read what is written and not just what the fundamentalist bias allows...

This section in Genesis describes "the waters" and not God, bringing forth abundantly. It also contains the command given to Nature, itself, to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters." Even the most ardent fundamentalist would have to admit that their vision is one of mass, simultaneous act of creation and not the natural act of procreation described in these verses. Procreation, the act of conception and the gestation of young in order to "multiply," as described in these verses, simply cannot occur within twenty four hours.

Rather than creation occuring like some scene out of Bambi, with all the forest creatures magically appearing all at once, the Bible is describing something that clearly took a process of time. It took time for the waters to bring forth abundantly. Science gives us some idea of the time as it can be measured in hundreds of millions of years.

Oh, for all you Hebrew fans out there, the term "bring forth" is the Hebrew sharats which means to breed. Breeding is the means by which God populated the Earth. Now, that's not so hard to understand, is it? Not even the most ardent creationist would dare suggest the Bible is describing accelerated breeding and the subsequent births as all occuring within 24 hours! Yet this is the means by which the Bible itself describes the Earth being populated. Clearly, the "day" described in Genesis is a general rather than a specific term.

Please, let's read what's written, not simply those affirmations that support our pre-existing bias :)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Why so much friction?

Why is there so much friction between people, cultures, races, nations?

In the words of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, a homicidal maniac bent on killing everyone in Gotham City... Why can't we just all get along? Oh, the irony in that statement is a thing of beauty.

The answer lies in the way our minds work.

The book of Proverbs declares, Every man is right in his own eyes. We all, inherently, consider ourselves infallible. Consider this, every problem in human relations, from a marriage on the rocks to rockets pounding the Gaza Strip, all stem from this one flaw in our perception of reality - we assume we're right. As Milton observed, evil is never so foul in our own eyes.

Henry Robinson's The Mind in the Making
We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship... we not only resent the imputation that our watch is wrong, or our car shabby, but... that our pronunciation of Epictetus... is subject to revision... We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to it. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.

Damn, that last statement says it all... most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.

So what should you do when you find yourself in an argument at work? Remember, truth is the first casualty in any war. What actually happened or what was actually said (unless recorded on tape) is irrelevant. It's not what was said that's important but the reaction to what was said. Passion in the heat of the moment will have more to do with offended pride and the need to save face than any kind of logic or reason.

Dale Carengie said the little word "my" carries the greatest impact in life. If it's "mine" it must be right, it must be the best, it couldn't be wrong, it is beyond dispute, it is divine.

Don't forget, it's easy to see this in others. It takes courage to see it in yourself :)