Fundie Brain Probe
I don’t have time for a real post today, so I thought I’d steal something from elsewhere. I was reading the comments to the Bad Astronomy article on the 50th anniversary of the Explorer 1 satellite. Phil battles purveyors of crackpot ideas all the time, but especially those about space (killer asteroids, moon hoaxers, etc.). A reader named Kate speculated on the similarity in thinking between space crackpots and fundies:
It seems that the groups mentioned above have a hard time understanding that science is a process and not a doctrine, belief or “text”. Science is a tool you use to find out about the world around you and it is an ongoing process.
Why is it so difficult to understand that refinements in technology and the greater knowledge we gather with these refinements will, over time, expand our understanding of the universe and that old theories may, at times, fall by the wayside, but that our understanding of the fundamental processes that define the basis of scientific knowledge are strengthened by this “weeding out” process?
What I found interesting was the reply of a reader named Pat. He believes that these people need a structured world, whether that is imposed by religion or aliens:
It is the only kind of worldview some people understand, particularly those with control issues. They need a firm etiology, and since science can’t provide one they either adopt one or create one. It’s the very fluidity of scientific explanation that makes it unpalatable. It is much more comforting to say “X knows” or “I know” rather than “we don’t know.”
Attributing purpose and cause is a normal human response: it’s how we learn correct social behavior through punishment and reward. Punishment is a dominance behavior, and because of this it is in our behavior to assume a punisher, or dominant individual, for events that are adverse.
Assuming an event is simply chance or accident is a behavior that is not very natural. Ignoring a “warning” from a dominant individual is antisocial. So, assuming an event is random and otherwise simply coincidence is an aberrant, antisocial behavior.
I’ve long maintained that fundies need a simplistic structure to their world, with God acting as father and punisher.
Pat followed up a bit later with this comment:
Okay : ) – I guess not everybody shares my genuine fascination with this phenomenon. I don’t attribute it to a weakness of character or a lack of intelligence. If anything, the reason it is so widespread is because it is a “normal” behavior, like hatred of the outsider, and it might be that the only way to counter it is to understand it in depth and where its source lies.
Education appears to be the only tonic that works to remedy this, so it would seem to be better to go after intolerance of education ahead of focusing on attacking logically weak accepted conventions. Currently, there is perceived nobility in lacking education, and this needs to be crushed rather deliberately. People once educated in critical thinking are much less vulnerable to fallacies of magical thinking.
I would love to attribute it to a weakness of character or a lack of intelligence, but I fear he may be right. This is how we’re wired. We can rise above it, but the normal or default state is to believe in monsters. That’s also why education is so important, and we can’t let it be corrupted by IDers.