Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Reality Test 1–How has my thinking gone wrong?

Posted by Ann on June 26, 2010

Promised Robert a while back I’d write a post about human cognition and how it goes awry. Started thinking this could be one huge undertaking. So, in favor of less writing now, and a shorter, probably less boring and time consuming to read post, I’ll make this a series. Credit to John Loftus’ Reality Check series for the idea and saving me time now. Honestly, I’m also writing this out for myself too, as a reminder of how my mind works and why critical thinking is important to me. I’ll start out with some stuff from Michael Shermer’s book, “Why People Believe Weird Things”, but then maybe move on to some other stuff that humans have learned from the study of human psychology. Whereas Michael Shermer is not specifically focused on the Christian belief system, I’ll be focused more on how Christian thought is fraught with irrationality.

Most people who believe in stuff like miracles and mysteries and Jesus are not con-artists, or insane people, or people intentionally trying to fool others. Most of these people are average people, maybe even highly intelligent average people, whose thinking has somehow gone wrong. A good, when-all-else-fails, litmus test of our thinking is the method philosopher David Hume developed and called “consequent skepticism”. Hume’s Maxim: “…no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish…I weigh one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.”

1) Our theories about the world will influence what we see

Everything we observe is nature filtered through our way of questioning, not exactly nature itself. Our theories partly construct reality. In other words, our perceptions of reality are influenced by our theories, why science is called “theory laden” by philosophers. Our theories frame reality, so reality, although it does exist independent of us, is still not exactly reality. However, as any scientist can tell you, science and the scientific method produces knowledge more closely aligned with reality than any individual thinker can ever get.


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