The Power of Deconstruction

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Discussion by: QuestioningKat

I have come to the conclusion that we will never rid society of incorrect perceptions and magical thinking until the average person knows how to deconstruct/analyze a situation in order to find the source of a current state. Recently participating in several online topics, I've come across comments in which the person responding has jumped to an incorrect conclusion because of the inability or unwillingness to consider certain facts outside of the article or their understanding of a situation. It's as if they automatically assumed that their perception of the matter was correct without digging further into the matter to get a better understanding.

Recently a woman stepped aside letting a little old lady in line. Needless to say, the little old lady won a massive amount of money in the lottery. The news jumped onto the story stating that someone is kicking themselves for being nice to this little old lady. The woman who did the favor finally stepped forward to say that she has no regrets, "Sometimes it's better to be patient than rich." She considers this a teachable moment to her daughter. But was she really the cause of the other woman winning?

Many comments online express the opinion that the little old lady should give the woman some money for this favor and allowing her to win hundred of millions of dollars. Fewer have chimed in to mention "In the time it would take to push a little old lady out of line, thousands of people in other locations would step in front of you."  One person called a commenter who pointed out the odds of this kind favor resulting in this little old lady's win "smarty-pants" and defended her position that it was still possible, no matter how really really small, that the kind woman still could have won if she did not do this kind act. Sound familiar? Haven't we heard this argument for the existence of God? There is always a possibility no matter how minutely small and impossible, right?

By not fully seeing how thousands of acts happening around the US switched the odds of this woman winning, people settled for seeing the immediately obvious and incorrect cause which was physically closest to the winner – all thanks to the media. No mention of the numbers being automatically generated by computer either. It could have been the result of someone sneezing in another state among the thousands of other possibilities.

I've seen this mindset elsewhere when an intermediately skilled artist gave thanks to God who at times guided her to paint works of art that were beyond her level of skill.  Linking to her website, I could see that she still had much to learn and in no way rivaled artists with great skill. Several more proficient artists (many theists) pointed out that great skill is the result of lots of effort, knowledge, and practice and had nothing to do with the intervention of God. Of course, she disagreed. I don't think pointing out the Dunning Kruger effect on her limited ability to understand the art process would have helped her understand her flawed perception either.

Many people seem to forget how knowledge and skill is built upon previously learned information and abilities. At some point in our lives, depending on the complexity of the ability, we utilize so many skill sets that we forget the stages of the learning process that took years or decades to learn. Mastered skills become automatic, we no longer need to consider some of the minor detail to perform an action. Knowledge and abilities that transfered from one ability to more advanced learning may have simply been accepted and its source forgotten. In turn, some see an action coming from some magical place especially if they haven't experienced or deconstructed the massive amount of effort it took to get to a certain point of skill or ability.

 Another overlooked factor is the internal brain processes utilizing our senses (auditory, visual, tactile, etc.) and various modes of reasoning, analyzing, abstract thought, measuring… have on our learning process. IMO, people tend focus on external observable actions and not pursuing the understanding our physical brains. Admittedly, I never really think about how my brain is working. I simply focus on what needs to be done. The simple act of recognizing a pencil, picking it up and drawing a square involves many more steps that are unseen or long forgotten. With effort this vast and complex web of brain processes and can actually be traced back through its stages to better understand the details of what actually happens when a skill is performed. Perhaps someone here might elaborate on the actual process -from initial skills learned as an infant to brain processes- just to make a point. You can even consider how nutrition or neurological problems can aid or disrupt this act.  My point is a simple act really involves much more when you delve deeper down the rabbit hole. No wonder many attribute magical causes to consciousness, when the complexity and speed of our thoughts is off our radar.    

We seem to be better at accepting causes of how memorized and synthesized knowledge which is built upon over decades comes to be, while certain skills which have less to do with information and more about ability and practice (painting, music, singing, etc.) seem to be attributed to a vague wishy washy source.

Rarely if ever do we need to trace skill/ability/causes back to its source. It can be burdensome.  IMO we tend to generalize an action down to, more or less, the beginning, the middle and the end. On one hand, this is great because if we needed to think about every step we would have probably been eated by something lurking in the grasses. On the other hand, this can also be problematic. Consider someone who sees life on this planet and is unable to trace Evolution backwards over millions of years. They can barely relate to two hundred years – 400,000 might be too much of a stretch. They see an immediate, obvious and incorrect cause which was closest to the result or pie in the sky simply because they cannot ( or will not) relate or analyze what is or was actually going on. Consider people who think that their child's autism is a result from getting a vacinnation. These assumptions seem to partially result from the problem of people not fully "deconstructing" a situation and following a cause "backwards" like a row of dominos. …and maybe it's not dominos but a vast web coming to and leading from them in all directions.

The importance of deconstructing and analyzing can help lead us to fully seeing the bigger picture of what is going on. By delving into the details of a situation, we can come to a understand the bigger picture.

Ok enough of my rant and preaching to the choir. I know what I say may seem like common sence, but I have come to believe that all of us have this problem to a certain extent. We may even wrongly attribute a cause to a situation involving a personal relationship.  We know that this problem exists and is pervasive because we deal with it all the time here and outside of the internet in various situations. So, what's the solution? How can we encourage children to deconstruct and analyze? How can we get adults to do this as well? How can we prevent or stop people from accepting quick and easy answers and assumptions?  What clever, fun way can be utilized to make this point? What stories, movies, learning materials have you come across that may help?

:)

 

 

44 COMMENTS

  1. Magical thinking seems to abound, particularly in any area that involves winners and losers, ( I’m thinking of sports and gambling ). Participants happily renounce their critical faculties in place of lucky charms and talisman and no amount of evidence to the contrary appears to act as a deterrent. As for deconstruction and analysis…good luck!

  2. You’re fighting a losing battle there I fear. Not because it is a “wrong” battle, but because of how our brains work. According to what I’ve read and understand, we basically “think” in two ways: (1) logical reasoning and (2) heuristics.

    Heuristics is great for making decisions based on sparse information – and it is very quick. Just what you need when you want to figure out “is that a lion in the grass looking my way?”, “Should I run?”.

    Logical reasoning (as we know) works very well. But it takes effort and time. And a bigger brain which is costly. And dilligence. And (I suspect) a lot of training.

    It appears that evolution has generally favoured the heuristic thinking – after all it is quick. And apparantly “correct enough” a sufficient proportion of time to be a better tool for survival than mere logical reasoning. It definitly works for other species, e.g. birds will fly away from food simply based on a small amount of fear (or because other birds suddenly take to the air), without stopping to consider whether they are in actual danger. The delay caused by rational reasoning is simply too much of a cost on the occasions where they are in actual danger. Since rational reasoning requires training, an individual would be very “exposed” until fully trained if it was not for heuristics.

    Nowadays, when we (generally) do not have to worry about man-eating predators, the evolutionary pressures on humans are different than in the past. Basically human society has changed so quickly that evolution has not yet had time to catch up. Perhaps logic and reasoning will eventually prevail under the current conditions? Possibly. It’s difficult to beat well-working heuristics.

    PS: Heuristics may not be the entirely correct word to use here. Perhaps “instinct”, “reflex” or “intuition” is a better choice. They all cover the tendency-to-jump-to-conclusions that you mention. I hope it has not made my point unclear, as English is not my first language.

  3. Perhaps someone here might elaborate on the actual process -from initial skills learned as an infant to brain processes- just to make a point.

    I agree with your argument as to how strong the tendency is to magical thinking.

    As it happens, the following illuminating passage, by Andy Thompson, is from an article in the current Evolution newsletter on this website (‘Pardon me, Mr. President, might I have a word with you?’). Here, Thompson is suggesting an anatomical basis for beliefs that the mind is separate from the body:

    “Our cognition is also decoupled at an anatomical level. If you think of the area between your eyes and just behind them as you move into the brain, that is called the medial prefrontal cortex, the inside surface of the halves of your brain. That is where your brain processes your own thoughts, feelings, wishes and desires. It is also where you perceive and process other people’s thoughts, wishes, desire, and beliefs. Non-physical attributes of others and ourselves are gathered and comprehended there. If you imagine the area on the outside of your brain just above your ears, that is the part of your cortex that processes your body and physical sensations. That is also where you process what you perceive about others’ bodies and movements. The mind/body split is built into the anatomy of our brain. We process minds and bodies in separate circuits. The idea of a mind separate from a body is built into the motherboard. We automatically experience minds and bodies as discrete categories despite evidence to the contrary.”

    I’d add that ‘area on the outside of your brain just above your ears’ – anatomically termed the temporal cortex – has functions linked memory and smell – and wider connections to the limbic system, the latter in the base of the cerebrum, which includes the thalamus, (n the ‘basal ganglia’) concerned with pain and reward. The temporal cortex is also part of the system of structures linked to memory and some language functions. Thus, one can arguably say that the temporal region has a lot to do with ‘gut reactions’ and ‘instincts’ – and perhaps a factor in magical thinking. This link (http://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_05/d_05_cr/d_05_cr_her/d_05_cr_her.html) relates the above to evolutionary theory – in the same way the our skeleton is adapted from ancient structures (eg the skull from something like armoured fish bony plates), so too the human brain includes many adapted old structures and systems.

    Thompson was referring to the mind-body split being ‘built into’ our brains. Maybe one could argue that a tendency to magical thinking is also built in, since basic emotions – fear, pleasure – are separated from the more rational areas of the brain (pre-frontal cortex), but close to areas to do with memory and language.

    My thoughts above are of course a simplification (I’m not an expert in brain function), and it might be argued that despite anatomical separation brain regions are linked. However, I think it has been suggested that extreme religious experiences (visions, voices etc) might be linked to temporal lobe events e.g. temporal lobe epilepsy.

    If magical thinking is built in, can it be overcome? I’d say there is experiential evidence that it can, but with difficulty. One might say the anatomical separation could mean the pre-frontal cortex could operate more rationally, despite the temporal lobe and basal ganglia. It is speculation on my behalf, but it may or may not be coincidence that at times of great emotion, eg fear or ecstasy, reason is more difficult – ie, the times when the basal ganglia are very active, it is temporal rather than pre-frontal brain activity (thinking?) that can prevail. As others point out, survival is key and emotion, especially fear, are linked to ‘instincts’ that can override ‘higher’ processes.

    However, without reference to neurophysiology, various systems of thought have been develop a long time – mindfulness has bee long established in Buddhism, while of course the scientific project has had many successes. I think that politically, reason can be promoted and sometimes prevails (though rarely wins all).

    But I agree that the struggle for reason against magical ideas is also an individual affair, Sites like this can be a haven for reason and part of wider process. Maybe as in the way that Dawkins works against attempts to invoke Darwinism as an ethical source (the horrors of Social Darwinism) so too we need to conclude that, despite unreason being part of our brains, we can still use our brains – maybe the pre-forntal parts – to be more rational.

  4. Herd-apes can be clever but most are lazy thinkers. to many the chemical release provided by being accepted in the group seems so much more appealing than the one provided by making a discovery. The sad thing is it means to be “right” they just need to be agreed with.

    as a musician i get annoyed when i’m told i’m “lucky” for having a “talent”. bollocks, i’m impressive for having practiced, deal with it!

    I try to keep my opinions to myself outside of this forum, becasue there’s not one sacred cow of received wisdom I’m not prepared to clamp my teeth into but too often I’m shocked by the number of people who see every opinion they hold as something thet’ll cause them an emotional breakdown if tampered with.

    This along with the fact that “no one likes a smart arse” as pointed out in Unweaving The Rainbow (i’m re-reading so apologies if I reference it too much) where an audience of a medium turned on the sceptic who saw through their ruse and called them out on it. people love to bridge gaps quickly. there was a mail headline i saw yesterday about some murdererd and the european court of human rights (didn’t bother to look, i know it would be swivel-eyed lunicy) with the question “what about victims rights?” that simple jump from the fact that someone is victimised by a criminal is the same as them having officially had human rights removed.

    It may be to do with the comfort of familiarity, even atheists are happy to use the mantras of theism e.g my pet hate is “the importance of family”. I’ve no problem with peoples relatives being more important to them than non-relatives but why the need for legislation? aught and is are not the same so who would dare question the general role and rights of family when children are abused in the home? let’s face it most people can’t let go of the idea that religion does good dispite the abuse it’s caused.

    they need a security blanket, a thumb to suck and contant affirmation and deconstruction starts with questioning that need.

    lazy thinking is the opium of the masses.

    so as mentioned, Unweaving The Rainbow is a great place to start with helping people think critically. there is a wider cultural problem though of getting the message across that even though you could be discoraged, often agressively for asking awkward questions by people who you respect, it’s still ok to do it.

  5. As long as you keep trying to divide the world up into the Dumb People (the people who aren’t like you) and the Smart People (people who share your beliefs and values) you still haven’t gotten the most important point about critical thinking IMO. We are all biased in some way, even those who believe in reason and critical thinking.

    • In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

      As long as you keep trying to divide the world up into the Dumb People (the people who aren’t like you) and the Smart People (people who share your beliefs and values) you still haven’t gotten the most important point about critical thinking IMO. We are all biased in some way, even those who believe…

      The question is whether you take your own bias into account or not. It can be a challenge sometimes.

      • In reply to #6 by DHudson:

        The question is whether you take your own bias into account or not. It can be a challenge sometimes.

        You’re right. Our biases aren’t the real issue. The real issue is the acknowledgement and effort to eliminate our innate biases. Most people are ill-equipped to do this.

        • In reply to #8 by Skeptic:

          In reply to #6 by DHudson:

          The question is whether you take your own bias into account or not. It can be a challenge sometimes.

          You’re right. Our biases aren’t the real issue. The real issue is the acknowledgement and effort to eliminate our innate biases. Most people are ill-equipped to do thi…

          But can this be changed? I think in many cases it can be.

    • In reply to #5 by Red Dog:

      As long as you keep trying to divide the world up into the Dumb People (the people who aren’t like you) and the Smart People (people who share your beliefs and values) you still haven’t gotten the most important point about critical thinking IMO. We are all biased in some way

      I’m not sure “bias” is the best concept when discussing systemic personal error. When I see it applied, there are very often undertones of paranoid and purity-based thinking and false equivalence. It’s possible to worry so much about bias that one can’t form an opinion to subject to analysis.

    • To clarify some of the comments so far…”deconstruction” is really an imperfect choice for a word to describe the process, but I felt it was close to the point I wanted to make. It utilizes rational thinking, observation, knowledge, analyzing, critical thinking, and other thought processes to clearly look at a situation and understand the full process of the actions or dynamics that are occurring or have occurred. THE PROCESS OF BREAKING DOWN A SITUATION to objectively see the various stages of an occurrence (deconstruction)involves much detailed effort that usually is overlooked, forgotten, unacknowledged, or somehow out of the range of our awareness (because of a reliance on an automatic response.)

      As I commented in the OP, EVERYONE (myself included) has this problem in various situations. Several people here have astutely commented that we have a “heuristic” nature or intuitive aspect that makes a big jump in some way for us to quickly gain easy understanding. In no way was I attempting to divide people into “those who are smart” vs. “those who are dumb”. I am suggesting that we are ALL skilled and unskilled, aware and unaware depending on the situation. We all fall somewhere on a continuum for EACH AND EVERY ASPECT OF EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE MEASURED. EVERYTHING! The really profound thing is that there is an endless multitude of “aspects” that can be measured to the point of exhaustion in certain areas of consideration. At some point, we all cut corners.

      Yes, there are certainly roadblock that prevent “deconstruction” but I’d prefer looking at ways of getting around these obstacles. It may be fighting a losing battle, but I still think that many of the people who think that the little old lady swayed the lottery can change their opinion if they are better informed rather that relying on their automatic response to a situation. I still think that “pointers” can be given to help people understand situations a little better. I know that when I sit down and “deconstruct” a situation rather than expressing an abrupt perception, I can come to a better assessment of a situation and better deal with the issue at hand.

  6. Well, yes – it would be nice if more people got a better education that equipped them with the intellectual tools required to think clearly and rationally. It would be nice if more people were actually interested in thinking, but people are all quite different with varying skills and virtues, and interests. Education is something that can be improved, but when it comes to human nature we have to work with what we have, not what we wished was.

    Less importantly, if the lottery in question was a random drawing, eg a machine spat out 6 balls with numbers, then nothing that happened in the world before the drawing affected the drawings outcome.

    Hello World! This is a test. Canadian -Right didn’t actually say this — very sorry to hijack your comment but its for a good cause I think I’ve found a fairly serious flaw in the RD comment system and wanted to test it to be sure before I report it. It enables me to edit anyone’s comment! Yikes! Red Dog…

    • In reply to #7 by canadian_right:

      Well, yes – it would be nice if more people got a better education that equipped them with the intellectual tools required to think clearly and rationally. It would be nice if more people were actually interested in thinking, but people are all quite different with varying skills and virtues, and in…

      Sorry to have hacked your comment. I just wanted to double check that what I thought was happening was really happening and that was the only way to do it. I can of course edit my own comments so I could only be sure if I tried to edit someone else’s comment.

    • In reply to #7 by canadian_right:

      Less importantly, if the lottery in question was a random drawing, eg a machine spat out 6 balls with numbers, then nothing that happened in the world before the drawing affected the drawings outcome.

      I think the point is the numbers generated on the ticket is random. Even if the woman didn’t let the winner in front of her, the odds that her ticket would have generated the the same numbers is no different than the odds for anyone else.

  7. ” Deconstruction “

    Good article, loaded word. Critical thinking is the word I would have used and not the ” critical thinking ” taught in English 1A!

    ” Perhaps someone here might elaborate on the actual process -from initial skills learned as an infant to brain processes- just to make a point.”

    I am too lazy to do that but you could Google TD ( temporal displacement ) learning and get the latest in neuroscientific understanding of the brain and how it works.

  8. The human mind is designed to see patterns. It is designed to err on the side of seeing patterns that are not there. That is burned into our genes from our times as prey.

    Consider that Christians were all deliberately trained in faulty reasoning. They learned their lessons well. IIRC, some study found that any sort of training in reasoning tends to undermine religion. Perhaps we need to attack that faulty reasoning. It may not be as firmly guarded as the Christian postulates. Exposing fraud indirectly exposes Christian fraud.

  9. Hello ?kat,

    There is that point you make about “preaching to the choir”, well that may be true, but I appreciate your efforts. It’s inspiring to know that the members are just as enthusiastic about “reason” as our representatives, RD and all the rest of the folks.

    On the way back from school, sometimes I have that feeling that there may be no chance…and then I read a post like this, many of the posts, whether it’s rant, or a review of some of our core ideas, it has value – a reasonable value. I have been a busy participant on the internet since around 1998…many websites etc…now my times is spent here, because at least the lcd, is better than “delusion”, even with the odd troll or spy – wtf? you & the rest of the crew, on a bad day is 10 times better than the “sh*%te” i have to sift through on fakebork -thanks everyone!

    now if I can only get red dog to submit that bug report-hehehe!

    sparguelle

    p.s. and ultimately maybe we can have a few laughs together, right?

  10. I found the original post a fascinating and very coherent article. Thank you for posting it.

    It’s undeniable that we all do things without “thinking” because the learned behaviour is so ingrained that we forget we ever had to learn it. It’s also true that there is a temptation to take the easy solution that appears most obvious (or, perhaps finding the correct solution requires too much effort, including religious people who readily attribute things to God – or the devil – without adeqaute thought).

    I am (you would say regrettably) one of those people who struggles with the concept of the millions of years of evolution. This is not the topic to debate evolution itself (I’m just following the example used in the Post), but I would ask if it is actually humanly possible to reconstruct the steps that led to each change that resulted in new Kingdoms, Families or Orders (I have no problem with speciation). What I’m trying to illustrate is, a person may have the mental capability to deconstruct so their mind can accommodate the massive changes that may have occurred, but are those deconstructions based on actual, demonstrable fact; or are they simply the result of that person having the mental capacity to imagine differently from someone else? Have I made that clear? In other words, however intellectually a person may think about the past, it will never change what actually happened.

    Again, I am not wanting to start a debate on evolution, as it would be “off topic”, but just to put an alternative possible view ON the topic; in respect of belief in a creator God being a magical idea, it could be argued that the “unbeliever” is relying on the physical evidence of what they see (i.e. closest proximity to themselves, as in the Old Lady illustration). This would mean that discounting the possibility of a Creator is simply overlooking the possibility of there being a Cause for the universe that is outside of what we can see (i.e. the physical world). Looking at the thought process from this angle, it would then be the “believer” who has deconstructed back to a stage before any physical element existed.

    I use the terms Believer and Unbeliever in the widely accepted sense to identify two different worldviews, not in any judgmental way. I have not posted this alternative view to try to prove you wrong by any means, but just to say that the thought processes you have described need not necessarily lead to the conclusion that there is no God. I doubt if many would agree with me, but, as I say, this is simply an alternative to consider.

    • In reply to #14 by Lonevoice:

      … in respect of belief in a creator God being a magical idea, it could be argued that the “unbeliever” is relying on the physical evidence of what they see (i.e. closest proximity to themselves, as in the Old Lady illustration). This would mean that discounting the possibility of a Creator is simply overlooking the possibility of there being a Cause for the universe that is outside of what we can see (i.e. the physical world). Looking at the thought process from this angle, it would then be the “believer” who has deconstructed back to a stage before any physical element existed.

      I’m not sure I have followed this correctly, but is it being argued that deconstruction can be a process within supernatural belief?

      [though 'extra-natural - outside nature - or 'pre-natural' - before the universe - might be closer meanings here]

      If deconstruction is to be considered an aspect of, a process within rationalism, then I think there are problems in using it regarding faith. I think Jesuitical strands of Catholicism do emphasise rationalism and science – there is I think a Vatican astronomer observatory? – but I don’t know how one can really rationally move from observation of this world (from our own view of it, let alone through telescopes) to super-/extra-/pre-naturalism ie that there as a Creator of the universe but outside it.

      The capitalisation (of ‘Creator’) suggests an idea of something, in some way, being outside the universe in a more fundamental way than something physically located beyond the universe (if that makes sense) or something before it in a way to simply being a physical precursor of the Big Bang. Yet, for my money, wanting to step beyond the natural (theoretically observable) into the supernatural is not only to step beyond observation, but by that step also beyond the logical, rational connections one might make concerning the natural. In other words, the supernatural cannot be rationally connected to the natural. if it was, it would be another aspect of the natural.

      So – on that basis – belief in the supernatural eg a Creator cannot, by its own definition (of supernatural Creator) be established or confirmed by rationalism or deconstruction

  11. It can be tiresome to de-construct problems , experiences , etc. Many don’t have the aptitude for it , some brains fire in a random , eccentric fashion , some simply react and engage immediately. My brain works in a problem solving manner. So I do de-construct , I think all you can do is give children the facts , teach them responsibility , encourage rational discussion in debate,argument and expression. But thought processes are not just a learned phenomenon , they are also an expression of physiological and biological factors. Basically peoples brains work differently and this is essentially what makes the people in this world so diverse in character and talent and skill.

  12. As regards movies I quite enjoyed Memento. But how your going to sit adults down and say watch this movie because this will make you think better , I don’t know. To be honest I wouldn’t advise to do it as purely an educational exercise , you might come off a bit weird.
    But as an exercise , you could take a ‘book club’ approach and get people to discuss what they think the themes are , that way it could come across as more social. Unfortunately, this is an 18 cert movie so kids are ruled out.

    Anyway its got it all

    Deeply felt convictions based on emotion and lacking rational thought can make good people do bad things

    Irrational people can be manipulated to do other peoples bidding.

    And of course the lead character was probably a very rational man , the problem was that his inability to make new memories robbed him of this virtue.

    So its also cautionary to the most rational of people as well and offers an informed opinion on your point of view.

    • So its also cautionary to the most rational of people as well and offers an informed opinion on your point of view.

      Let me clarify the above. In many cases rationality is underpinned by psychiatric factors. For some people I think deconstruction can be harmful and can actually , paradoxically, enforce irrationality, eventually becoming self re-enforcing.

      For some people its good , for some people its bad. It’s definitely not for everyone.

      • In reply to #20 by Pauly01:

        So its also cautionary to the most rational of people as well and offers an informed opinion on your point of view.

        Let me clarify the above. In many cases rationality is underpinned by psychiatric factors. For some people I think deconstruction can be harmful and can actually , paradoxically, enf…

        I don’t think I agree with Pauly01 here, because I don’t think people can be categorised into the basis of suitability for rationality on this basis. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘psychiatric factors’ – or how ‘rationality is underpinned’ by them. But if ‘psychiatric factors’ means psychological flaws or some proneness to mental illness, well, the former surely includes everyone, while many people have periods of mental illness, or at least low mental well being. I may be misreading Pauly01 here, but I don’t think you can firmly distinguish people who have mental health issues from those who don’t, either at any one time or for the duration of their lives (ie, there may be times when the same person could find deconstruction helpful others less so).

        But, and this is my real point, there is good evidence that rational approaches – such as cognitive therapies – to treating mental health problems can be of help. Of course they don’t help everyone, or at all times, but cognitive therapies are widely used in anxiety and depression, and also in ‘psychoses’ eg persons with hallucinations and delusions that are causing distress.

        So, I’d say, far from deconstruction being harmful, if one is struggling with rationality (if that is what Pauly01 meant) – skilled empathic support, careful exploration and gentle challenge regarding irrational assumptions can at least reduce mental distress, and I’d say can be healing.

  13. Logical analysis is not the only type or part of critical thought. Logic requires something to act upon, and it can be readily applied to flawed perceptions of the world, even if it imposes some limits on how flawed when applied with at least moderate rigour.

  14. Interesting discussion and I only have anecdotal observation to offer.

    I have a number of friends and collegues who are very educated. And, are believers. I think because their brains were hijacked at a young age they use their intellectual skill to do what one of the other posters alluded to and that is maintain the status quo. They were taught to believe so they come up with ways to make it so. They have done the work so to speak and have deconstructed the thoughts and most are what I’d call deists although they follow a religion mainly out of culture and habit and a sense of community with that group of people. Most just simply can’t make the leap from something to nothing.

    I do believe it is a talent to be able to deconstruct to the point of “there’s no creator” and that somehow we just evolved from atoms combining and eventually become the complexity that is a human being and this is mindboggling to most people.

    There are two kinds of people in the world — educated and trained. I think the overwhelming majority of people are trained and then unfortunately see themselves as educated. There is a huge difference but most people don’t recognize it.

  15. Hi all, I just came back from my trip to London and Paris…of course my topic would post while I was away. (You Londoners live in a very lively and wonderful city. Yes, I checked out Gordon’s wine bar too.) I’ll get back to this in a day or two when I catch up on chores.

    • In reply to #22 by steve_hopker:

      Steve what I mean in a nutshell can be summarised by the following examples If someone with anxiety makes a decision , because when they are talking to people suffer pysical effects such as butterflies, palpatations and chest pain, that they are going to avoid social scenarios.

      Let’s talk about their decision , they look at the situation and they say to themselves , when I’m in a social situation , I actually have so much physical pain and discomfort , that this is not healthy. They deconstruct their problem they make what some would say is a rational decision to avoid physical pain and discomfort. Problem is that their is a near infinite regression in this type of thinking until a person becomes irrational.

      Does this make sense to you?

      I want to impress one thing though that everyone , absolutely everyone benifits from rational thinking. I make no distinctions their.
      Deconstruction I see as something different, Rationality is about making the right inferences and drawing the most sensible conclusions , Deconstruction can be meticuleous and narrow in its approach. I’m veering into philosophical waters here , something I really don’t have a head for.

  16. but I would ask if it is actually humanly possible to reconstruct the steps that led to each change that resulted in new Kingdoms, Families or Orders (I have no problem with speciation). What I’m trying to illustrate is, a person may have the mental capability to deconstruct so their mind can accommodate the massive changes that may have occurred, but are those deconstructions based on actual, demonstrable fact; or are they simply the result of that person having the mental capacity to imagine differently from someone else?

    I would say that any scientist that has acquired knowledge in this field could collaborate with countless others to set up a decent timeline with supporting facts and evidence that is detailed enough to adequately communicate Evolution. Many scientists for generations have dedicated entire lifetimes pursuing this area of study. Some scientists have micro-focused into one particular area while others have sought a more general view. Their studies were also interdependent on the research of many other scientists – geneticists, geologist, chemists, botanists, archeologists, and on and on. One should also consider that the development of technology (microscope, DNA testing, carbon dating, etc.) over several centuries has aided in the understanding of Evolution. As I type this, I realize that I can only “deconstruct” this issue at a very basic primary level. As you can see, it is a task too large for a single individual to take on alone in this post. Imagine the countless volumes and libraries of books and endless information that this task would create. Reconsider your question not from the point of view of one human reconstructing steps but teams of hundreds or thousands of scientists reconstructing steps.

  17. *In reply to #24

    You bring up an excellent point. Analyzing a situation to death is certainly not healthy and I am not suggesting that it is done for each and every aspect of your life and situation. To do so would be unreasonable and irrational. There are healthy reasons why we see things and react heuristically and this would be one of them. OCD is rarely a desirable trait. Being able to balance how much information and analyzing is necessary would be ideal. Unfortunately, many people skip all analyzing or reflection and jump to the first automatic conclusion.

    In situations regarding mental health, frequently a therapist uses talk therapy and other methods to get the individual to discover ways of acknowledging and dealing with a situation and seeing it with a new perspective. A therapist can assist a person in finding ways of identifying automatic, habitual and unhealthy responses to a situation and provide concrete ways of working through the issue in new ways. Perhaps this method offers a few answers to the question I posed in my OP. Hmm, I’ll think about this.

  18. In Reply to steve_hopker – in reply to Lonevoice

    (Sorry to fake this reply by posting it as a new comment, but the browser I’m working on shows an error when I click to Reply to a post.

    Behind any comments I made was the view that reason is great, but there comes a point when it can’t go any further to prove anything. It is finite, as we are finite.

    I think of the analogy that you come home and find a Victoria Sponge Cake on your kitchen table. You can logically explain to a child that there was a time when it wasn’t covered with Icing Sugar, and that the two halves were separated, but came together around the time they were smothered with jam and cream. You can say that the two halves were the result of ingredients being subjected to a period on intense heat. Prior to that, the ingredients were all separate, eggs, butter etc – then in a period of regular circular motion, they coalesced into a gloopy substance that was then subjected to the heat previously mentioned. This is all a logical explanation – but it doesn’t answer the question of how it got on your kitchen table. The answer, of course, would be that someone made it and put it there.

    Similarly, imagine a pathway of steps going up the side of a hill or a cliff. You can count the steps, 1,2,3 etc all the way to the top. However, when you get to the top, you find the pathway ends and there is a sheer drop to the sea. You cannot count the steps any longer, because you have come to the end. The next step, admittedly, is a bit of a leap in the preceding logic, but you wouldn’t deny the existence of the sea just because it doesn’t fit the pattern you followed in order to get there.

    I know all analogies are flawed in some way, but I hope these at least give some insight into the mind of faith. It’s not illogical or irrational: it just recognises that human rationality has its limitations.

    • I hope these at least give some insight into the mind of faith

      Some times something can be ‘unknowable’ or the basis for discovering knowledge about something is just no there.
      We either park it , until we have new rational insights or have the proper tools at our disposal to discover actual verifiable knowledge about something or we just forget about it. This does not require faith.

      The whole basis for religion is, that people looked at something that was completely ‘unknowable’ and basically invented stories to compensate for their lack of knowledge.

      In reply to #29 by Lonevoice:

      In Reply to steve_hopker – in reply to Lonevoice

      (Sorry to fake this reply by posting it as a new comment, but the browser I’m working on shows an error when I click to Reply to a post.

      Behind any comments I made was the view that reason is great, but there comes a point when it can’t go any furth…

  19. comment 29
    Yes, I’m glad to see that you acknowledge that your example is horrendous…asking how the cake got there was already answered by your description of the ingredients being baked. If someone said that they cake materialized from thin air, your description would have been good enough to show that it actually had a source that was physical in nature and not supernatural. Perhaps you should have taken an ingredient like salt and then explained where that came from. That certainly would be more challenging. Something less attractive and without a conscious mind tends to lack dynamic, interesting storytelling that draws in the masses.

    Your example also shows the need to have a full explanation whether or not you realize that that is what you are doing. When a situation in which the steps do not follow a particular course, the typical theist reaction is to bridge that step together with the explanation that “God” did it. An atheist (scientist) can follow a course and when it stops, typically will say “I (we) don’t know.” The limits of human understanding as you put it should be I DON’T KNOW instead it ends up being GOD DID IT. Deconstructing sometimes can and does lead to uncertainty and should not be filled in with a supernatural explanation. Unfortunately, most people are arrogant and think they can make up their own mind with their own knowledge and do not need to consult with experts who just may happen to know more than they do. Their deconstructing looks like this: “John is such and excellent artist. He paints so quickly. He is gifted from God.” (Notice how this story is way more interesting than salt?) Well, what if your perception is poor and John is really mediocre? What if John is hiding some garbage that he has never shared with you? Human rationality does have it’s limits – there is a reason why certain technology, machinery, and scientific methods should be regarded as more reliable than human views. Sometimes deconstructing is accomplished best with tools other than reason or at times consulting individuals or sources of information. You have also made an error to assume that deconstructing is linear; it could end up being a tangled web. If the steps end into a drop into the ocean then you need to adapt to the new situation.

    Religion does not realize that human rationality has its limitations. It says “We don’t know the answer – therefore…….God.” “We don’t fully understand why the airplane crashed and killed 100 people – therefore…….God.” “We don’t know why a thirty-something year old mother of young children got breast cancer and is facing her own death – therefore…….God.” Rationality says “We don’t know the answer – therefore…..we don’t know. “An airplane crashed killing 100 because of __.” “A young mother is facing death due to a disease…perhaps the causes are many…we can try this __ treatment and hope for the best. Hopefully in time research will develop better treatment and care for Cancer patients. There is no metaphysical reason for this illness. We might also feel some compassion and sadness for the situation… “

  20. Further comment regarding 29-

    Your post is a clear example of how people take the shorthand view of life. Notice how you completely ignore the vast amount of information regarding multitudes of issues, topics and areas of study surrounding life itself? (How the cake got there.) You did what was typical — jump to the beginning or end, and attribute a magical cause – as stated in the OP. You have also decided to take a vast topic (the origins of life) and tried to compare it to a simplistic, linear one. Actually, it probably would look like a multiple overlapping, expansive webs overlapping multiple overlapping expansive webs……. Deconstructing something complex can take you on a wild ride.

    If you review my OP, you’ll notice that the examples primarily focus on simple activities or views that can easily be broken down to “macro” causes. The study of all life, mankind, Evolution, etc. , I think you’d agree, is much much more involved and would involve study at the macro and micro level in a multitude of ways. Combining deconstructing all Time with deconstructing how one candle seemingly lit another candle next to it requires considerably greater effort.

    By looking at the details of the process and causes of say Evolution, you might have noticed issues like our flawed biology and the flawed biology of certain animals — say giraffes. Maybe you’d learn a bit about DNA, astronomy, neurobiology, etc. Again it would take generations of teams of people to explain (deconstruct) all the details of life today going all the way back though the maze of overlapping, diverting details. Most of us take the Cliff Notes view. Some take the set of Encyclopedia view. Others take the beginning and end view and make up the rest.

    Are you actually saying that amongst all that knowledge and information that you would still hold onto a man-God in the sky view? It seems as if you are. I feel that would be impossible. Most believers then say that they hold onto a deist and not religious view. I find this odd as well. Most people that have a deist view usually also hold onto many, if not most, traditional religious views, celebrate holidays, have views about an afterlife, sin, synchronicities, divine intervention, astrology, etc. If they actually did some digging into actual causes, these views would collapse into nothingness. (Don’t believe me…try it.) By the time they would dig all the way back and get rid of all the personifications and projection of human traits onto the universe…at a time long before conscious life…long before the primordial soup… long before the Big Bang…planets…or anything… when everything is distilled down to the simplest physics… God would look more like ——– impersonal…. unintentional….. emotionless….”mechanical”—–nothingness…. blackness—- I can believe in this “God”– a God that lacks in meaning and cause…no grand plan or design. I can envision and accept that perhaps certain subatomic particles and simple dynamics of physics has just always existed or say I don’t know. (Others here certainly can explain this much better than I can ever attempt to do so.) Why jump to the idea that some complex master being with intentions, plans, a special retreat as an afterlife for you and me (providing we use our genitals wisely) is at the cause of it all? Why choose such a complex explanation over a simpler, clearer explanation? Perhaps it is more exciting, personally fulfilling and easier to “make personal sense” than accepting something as emotionless as the Universe. We’d all like to dream about the origins of a beautiful cake brought by a magical force rather than contemplate salt. We’d like to think a creator started it all. The obvious question becomes …What created the creator?

    Sorry, I’m tired and not completely well. Hopefully, I made sense. It seems as if I never answered my goal for the original post. How can be better enable people to find the cause to a situation, analyze and think critically? This topic is close to being booted into the “other page land.” I’m sure my topic will resurface in the future in one form or another.

  21. In reply to posts 30 & 31.

    Thank you for taking so much time to explain and respond to my post 29, especially as you were tired at the time. I do appreciate it.

    I accept that you disagree with me, but I would like to point out that I didn’t acknowledge that my illustration was horrendous. That’s the word you used. I did, however, acknowledge that all analogies are flawed, which I felt was reasonable. I also stated that I wasn’t trying to prove anybody wrong. I did not aim to suggest that I think my view is the only view.

    What our two opinions show is that there is an ocean of difference in the way we each see the world. Does that make you right and me wrong (or vice versa?) I don’t think so. And is there room in the world for both of us?

    The reason I posted what I did was to give two illustrations that provide insight into the way people of faith see things. I stated that I wasn’t trying to prove anybody wrong – and I certainly wasn’t trying to insult the intelligence of people who see things differently from the way I do. I have noticed, however, that many people who post on this site, are totally dismissive and insulting of people who see things differently from them (your response was not written in this way and I thank you for that). I freely accept that my outlook on life is at variance with most people who have signed up to this website. But (to me, at least) that’s okay.

    On the cake thing – your comment (if I read it correctly) suggests that the description of the method was sufficient to explain its existence. That cannot be the case. All I did was explain what happened during the process. But in life, we both know that these actions are performed by the person who makes it – they don’t happen on their own. I sometimes think that trying to establish origins of the universe by looking solely at biological /geological processes and reconstructing the past from that is like trying to work how how the cake got there by analysing the ingredients alone. The fact is, the universe is here and it got here somehow: things that don’t exist can’t make themselves.

    I would like to clarify a couple of things that might have been inferred from my illustration, which I didn’t feel I had space to expand on:

    a) My illustration of the cake – even though I described the method and ended up asking how it got there, this does not mean that I believe God used evolution to form the universe. That is an inconsistent view that some Christians have tried to promote in order to bring together two opposing worldviews. But both you and I know that it doesn’t really work if you try to blend them.

    b) the leap from the cliff-top path to the sea does not mean that I only believe God explains the things we don’t understand. This is called the God of the gaps. If that theory were true, then God would get smaller and smaller over time as our knowledge expands. If that were to happen, then he’s not really God and therefore a figment of people’s imagination. This would be more consistent with the conclusion you have reached – atheism.

    What hasn’t yet been answered in any of the discussions on any of the topics I’ve read is why the idea of an external creator is so impossible as to be discounted at every turn. Why it should not even be considered as even the remotest possibility. And on the matter of saying “we don’t know” instead of thinking “God”; your suggestion is reasonable if you have already decided that you will not consider the possibility an external force/creator. Equally, however, it would be false for me to give the impression that believers think they know everything: there are many unknowns. Interestingly, a person of faith will often think it is the atheist who thinks they know everything – after all, if God is beyond unaided human reason, then the atheist must claim to know that there is nothing beyond unaided human reason. Again, this is another example of how different people see each other.

    I thought deconstruction was linear: logic often is. But there are areas where linear progressions from different directions cross and appear to merge that it becomes difficult to unravel and separate all the sources.

    I am not a deist.

    I enjoyed your post and I hope you don’t mind me chipping in with my thoughts – however much I may be out on a limb compared with the predominant view on this site.

    Have a great day.

  22. I thought deconstruction was linear: logic often is. But there are areas where linear progressions from different directions cross and appear to merge that it becomes difficult to unravel and separate all the sources.

    Keep in mind that the OP is my own view; there is no set definition because as far as I know its my idea/view using a word I “created” You can analyze/deconstruct linear, but at times you may need to take in a variety of information to sort through. It could be like following many threads outward on a spider web. The reasoning could also look like a tree branch with multiple reasons branching off. I could also resemble a pile of yarn several colors of yarn knotted together. Deconstructing may involve following a path (that is somewhat linear) but being as simple as A to B might not happen. Imagine being the pile of knotted up yarn as big as a room, most would give up or start cutting rather than be patient.

    What hasn’t yet been answered in any of the discussions on any of the topics I’ve read is why the idea of an external creator is so impossible as to be discounted at every turn. Why it should not even be considered as even the remotest possibility.

    Have you noticed how people credit God when a reasonable explanation can be found with a little effort? Surely you have heard this happen. Hopefully, my OP did not fall onto deaf ears. Have you heard about the story in India where a skeptic found that the reason for the miraculous statue dripping water was due to leaking plumbing? Rather than investigate his claim, they charged him with blasphemy. Here’s the thing. Outrageous claims attributing a cause to God are made daily. Why not chip away at these untruths so that you are closer to the actual truth? Are people lazy or frightened – perhaps both.

    The reason why an external creator is not considered is because there is no adequate proof that one exists. None. Since there is no proof and a positive claim is being made that a God exists, the burden of proof is with the person making the positive claim. For instance, if you said that you owned a dog and I came over your house and did not see any evidence of a dog – no dog, no hairs, no bowl, no poop in the yard, no photos, no confirmation from neighbors, etc. you would need to show proof. A typical problem that might occur is excuses or justifications arise – the dog is at a friends house…in a different state…or any other excuse. I could go on searching, but you could always move the goal post away with a multitude of excuses.If you say something exists, you need to show the proof because no matter what I would dig up, you could always give a convenient answer.

    God is also not considered because there would also be the challenge when considering which of the Gods to consider – as a former believer my God was not an external Abrahamic God. It was all, in all – panentheistic. Essentially We were all God. Again, there is no proof whatsoever that this God exists either.

    And on the matter of saying “we don’t know” instead of thinking “God”; your suggestion is reasonable if you have already decided that you will not consider the possibility an external force/creator. Equally, however, it would be false for me to give the impression that believers think they know everything: there are many unknowns. Interestingly, a person of faith will often think it is the atheist who thinks they know everything – after all, if God is beyond unaided human reason, then the atheist must claim to know that there is nothing beyond unaided human reason. Again, this is another example of how different people see each other.

    In general, atheists care about truth and spend a lot of time searching for the actual answer. Intellectual honesty and integrity is usually of great importance. When we see people jumping to a quick conclusion when the actual answer to a simple everyday cause is easily obtained, it’s like nails on a chalk board.

    b) the leap from the cliff-top path to the sea does not mean that I only believe God explains the things we don’t understand. This is called the God of the gaps. If that theory were true, then God would get smaller and smaller over time as our knowledge expands. If that were to happen, then he’s not really God and therefore a figment of people’s imagination. This would be more consistent with the conclusion you have reached – atheism.

    Very good, I think you should try this. It might lead to a couple of Hellish years of racking your brain but in the end anything untrue will fall away. Who knows maybe you will be left with a better definition of God. Regarding your cake definition… and comment about Christianity and Evolution, don’t be afraid to challenge your views. I absolutely know that there is some little aspect of your view that is making you itchy. Deep inside your saying “huh?” Take a closer look at it and start following the thread using knowledge, information, and reason the clarify the idea. Using the spiritual advice when I was a believer – Michelangelo believed that the sculpture/form existed inside of the marble. By chipping away at what is not part of the “vision” the true form would be revealed. By chipping away at what is untrue you will get closer to the truth rather than hold onto heavy weight. Go for it. It is safe.

    What our two opinions show is that there is an ocean of difference in the way we each see the world. Does that make you right and me wrong (or vice versa?) I don’t think so. And is there room in the world for both of us?

    Here is the thing about opinions. They are fine providing they are actually opinions. Opinions about chocolate vs. vanilla are legitimate. Opinions should not replace facts when facts are shown to be true.

    There is room for both of us, but it usually ends up that someone sends me junk email asking me to pray and forward an email or something bad will happen. Some other groups of religious would like for me to leave the workplace, cover my body from head to toe and be invisible. They’d also like to legislate this too. I also found out that some hospitals might not even give me the medical care I would want if I were raped. Some would value a one day old clump of cells over my fifty decades on this planet. Some people even decided back in the 50s that they would add God to the Pledge. I recall learning two versions as a kid. It always seems as if the religious intrudes or evangelizes their views without hesitation.

    I have heard your post, but think you need to open your eyes a bit more and start to bravely follow paths of information to where they actually lead. Yes they will chip away at your views, but you will be better off in the long run.

    • In reply to #33 by QuestioningKat:

      I thought deconstruction was linear: logic often is. But there are areas where linear progressions from different directions cross and appear to merge that it becomes difficult to unravel and separate all the sources.

      Keep in mind that the OP is my own view; there is no set definition because as fa…

      Thank you for your post a couple of weeks ago. I have been thinking, observing, as you suggested, hence the delay in my response, but I have not fogotten.

      I noticed your comment that atheists are honest and seek truth. However, I’m sorry to say that this has not been my experience. I’m not seeking to play the victim here by any means, as I know I have ventured into your “territory” by signing up to an atheist website. However, in the broad spread of comments in the discussions, and particularly in responses to anything I have posited, there is only anger, derision and often insult. Furthermore, they seem to want to lock down any debate or discuss alternative views on any reasonable level.

      We live in a world packed full of people who hold a different viewpoint from ourselves, but writing others off, or dismissing them doesn’t seem to be a balanced approach. I know you said there is no proof for God. I accept that: but the way people write on this website gives the impression that evolution has been proven beyond doubt – and that’s not actually true. It’s just that people with that view seem to be very forceful in the way they say it – and that’s not the same thing at all.

      The other thing that seems imbalanced (therefore not honest in the approach) is the general perception that atheists should never admit to any Christian ever having done anything well, good or right.It seems as if to acknowledge any goodness in a Christian is seen as weakening the atheist position – and is therefore roundly rejected as a possibility.

      As one who likes to think in terms on analogies to illustrate (not prove) a point, the difference of opinion is so stark as to be akin to speaking a different language. The only thing is, the tone of comments by the atheists on this site is like criticizing the grammatical structure of some foreign language, measuring it against English and then condemning it because it doesn’t work like English.

      The power of a worldview is incredible. I accept that you see things differently from me and that’s okay. But I have found that people on this site do not accept that I can see things differently from them. And instead of discussing sensibly, the insults pour out. Pity really.

      I also find many times that the Bible is misquoted or mis-applied as if this proves the atheist position – but some of the conclusions are so far from Christian teaching as to be ridiculous. The Bible is well attested for historicity but is dismissed by the atheist, and so are the people who accept it. There also seems to be a general view that Christians are out to spread the message of the gospel simply to subjugate people and stifle their freedom. This is untrue.

      So, I’ve enjoyed our much more courteous exchanges of views, but I’ve not found atheists to be honest, as you suggested, as the imbalanced outlook seems frequently to cause them to say things that are untrue and way out of balance. Please understand that my comments meant with the very best of intentions.

      Have a great day.

      • In reply to #35 by Lonevoice:

        However, in the broad spread of comments in the discussions, and particularly in responses to anything I have posited, there is only anger, derision and often insult. Furthermore, they seem to want to lock down any debate or discuss alternative views on any reasonable level.

        Well for what its worth there is at least one atheist who agrees with you. I get so tired of the endless jokes about theists on this site. I try to ignore them. Its pointless to keep pointing them out and to argue about it. One thing I would say though is that there is a general phenomenon about comments on the Internet. They bring out people who tend to be hostile and mean and they tend to bring out the hostility in people. I think it would be an interesting area for some cognitive science research actually. I think at least part of it is when you aren’t dealing with someone face to face its so much easier to interpret something they say in the most negative way and its also a lot easier to insult them without worrying about consequences.

        I also find many times that the Bible is misquoted or mis-applied as if this proves the atheist position – but some of the conclusions are so far from Christian teaching as to be ridiculous.

        Totally agree. Also, its interesting to watch the incredibly hypocrisy around biblical scholarship. When someone quotes Bart Ehrman talking about how the authors of the Gospels were not the actual apostles Ehrman is held up (as he should be) as a well respected scholar. When I bring up the fact that Ehrman wrote a book that presents convincing evidence that there was an actual historical figure named “Jesus” he is
        mocked and contrasted with other “experts” who IMO are at the level of 9/11 conspiracy theorists in the quality and integrity of their arguments.

        • In reply to #36 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #35 by Lonevoice:

          However, in the broad spread of comments in the discussions, and particularly in responses to anything I have posited, there is only anger, derision and often insult. Furthermore, they seem to want to lock down any debate or discuss alternative views on any reasonable…

          I realise that this is not much of a defense for a lack of civility, but bear in mind that ours is the minority opinion. Until fairly recently it was not a wise move to draw attention to our lack of belief in anything. My late father always advised us to keep our particular world view under wraps, even when filling out a census form because he used to say , “you never know”. If your position is there in writing……The absolute joy in finding a large body of people out there with a similar view is so liberating! For people of my generation our surprise in being the dominant view anywhere, probably outweighs our discretion.

          Though I consider myself to be fairly restrained in my comments, I’m often in awe of those with the temerity to express themselves with more gusto.

  23. Lonevoice, I understand your perception and realize that there is not much I could say to convince you otherwise, but I’d like to toss out a view for you to think about – if you’re still reading this thread. When I was still a theist I was an eavesdropper on an atheist site and would read arguments between theists and atheists. I started to notice that both sides belittled and insulted each other without realizing their own behavior. The general rule is to attack the fact, perception, or faulty view and not the person. It’s a matter of separating the behavior from the person or separating the concept or belief from the person. If a child were to have messed up food in the refrigerator, a parent could address the child by saying- it’s best to remember to put the lid back on the jar so that the food will not spoil.” Some parents will say – “Why didn’t you put the lid back on the jar? That was so stupid?” One comment seeks to educate and correct the action while the other is a personal slam. At times, the approach can be subtle when a some sort indirect value judgement is put onto the action or belief; it runs into a gray zone in which insults can be inferred as being personally directed. Someone might say “Zeus certainly did not exist. There is no outside source from historians, public records, or concrete evidence that corroborates the stories to hard evidence”. Someone else might say “Zeus certainly did not exist. How can anyone believe this nonsense when there is no evidence?” Notice how one is sticking to the “no personal slams” rule, while the other slightly infers something negative towards people who believe in Zeus? Most people are unable to consistently choose a more productive or positive way of wording their views, so they mess up without realizing it.

    I’ve noticed that nearly all people have a problem with they way they express themselves to some extent. There is also an added problem when people on the receiving end of the comment do not know how to respond in a way that is productive and snap back. They even personalize comments that are carefully worded as to not personally attack someone. Some will become highly upset at the
    “Zeus certainly did not exist. There is no outside source from historians, public records, or concrete evidence that corroborates the stories to hard evidence”. They will comment that the person was being cold, impersonal, and unwilling to look at their perspective. Then, they go on to make some very ugly ad hominem comment about the person.

    There also seems to be a lack of understanding on the part of theists as to what constitutes good and valid evidence and it frustrates many reason based atheists. Transitioning from theism, I learned that the standards for proof shot up significantly. Everything needed to be checked and double checked and more. I learned about circular reasoning and how the Bible cannot be used as a source to justify itself. Even some of the sites and historical “evidence” cannot be verified. So someone found some junk at the bottom of the Red Sea. How it got there is unknown. Just because it is there does not mean that a divine power parted the waters and some of the artifacts are now at the bottom of the sea. Perhaps it got there in some other unknown way. We human have faulty thinking, I needed to learn much about this – it took quite a while to learn what I now know.

    Back when there were more heavy hitters on this site, I was frequently criticized for using too much anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence is useless unless you could find hard evidence for the validity of the view. It’s tough going this route, but I understand the reasoning.

    Atheist also get really miffed, angered or belittling when some people blatantly misunderstand the science and fail to look into the concept further prior to making some commentary attacking a science based concept. You will get called out on this whether you are an atheist or theist – an error is an error. I recall a video in which theists were trying to prove that fossils can occur naturally in brief periods of time and not millions of years. The makers then went on to demonstrate concretization (if that is the correct word) Even I, little miss scientifically less literate would not confuse making concrete with the occurrence of fossils. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other ill informed comments that are expressed when the person really needed to look into things further before making any comment at all. Have you ever seen the video of the woman that thought that there was something wrong with our drinking water because her sprinkler made rainbows? I recall learning about rainbows, prisms, and ROYGBIV in early elementary school. Most people found it to be funny and I can understand why. To some this would be disrespectful, to others they wondered why she was so convinced of her rightness that she made a video about it.

    there is only anger, derision and often insult. Furthermore, they seem to want to lock down any debate or discuss alternative views on any reasonable level.

    Here is my personal opinion… At this point in time, atheist sites are dominated by men (sorry if this is offensive to anyone – it’s my opinion) and most atheist are men. Until more women are atheists, this will continue. By the time more women are atheists, it will become mainstream and arguing will lessen significantly. I know that as a woman, I found that I need to adapt my communication tremendously. I’m rarely ever confrontational in actual life. I am blunt and heady, but that is just the way I am. If you tell me about your belief in spacecraft and how you were abducted. I might pose a question intended on making you think, or maybe quietly observe saying nothing at all, but I will not make comments directed towards them. If they then say, atheists are so in the dark about realizing that God is immersed in each and every living cell – then they’re fair game. As you said… you are in atheist territory. Even though I try not to confront people, these anonymous comments are good practice for me when people make negative comments towards me in actual life. When you are in the minority, people get angry whether they are male or female. So yes, even I as a woman will get involved in an online argument.

    I know you said there is no proof for God. I accept that: but the way people write on this website gives the impression that evolution has been proven beyond doubt – and that’s not actually true.

    I haven’t read this thread in some time…I’m not sure if I said it here….but I am the least scientifically illiterate person at RD.net. I came here to pick up some bits and pieces of science and express rational views with other atheists. My deconversion had nothing to do with science nor any views regarding Evolution. I accepted Evolution even when I believed in the Christian God. Each year I try to get a flu shot knowing that the strain adapts; this is one little piece of evidence for Evolution that frequently gets overlooked. IMO, even if some of the details regarding Evolution are wrong…when you look at the whole overall view of Evolution – it makes “sense” and there is plenty of evidence to back it up.

    The other thing that seems imbalanced (therefore not honest in the approach) is the general perception that atheists should never admit to any Christian ever having done anything well, good or right.It seems as if to acknowledge any goodness in a Christian is seen as weakening the atheist position – and is therefore roundly rejected as a possibility.

    Not sure about this…I think you might be generalizing here.

    I often wonder why people post onto sites that hold views that are in opposition to their own. Is it a result from being raised to convert people into their own views. Many believers are raised to hold views that a nonbeliever is a sinner and therefore needs to be fixed and conform to their view. In essence, they are seeing someone else as lesser than to themselves. Frequently, theists overlook that they are being rude when they tell us that we are going to Hell. I used to get this comment even when I held the wrong view of theism.

    So yes, atheists can be rude, but frequently it is a two way street.

    • In reply to #38 by QuestioningKat:

      So yes, atheists can be rude, but frequently it is a two way street.

      I don’t find that at all a defensible response. “The other side is worse”. Sure they are, that’s always the case when you have people working to get more rights, the people working to stop them are always ruder, use lies, etc. That doesn’t justify the side with justice on their side abandoning their principles. That is one of the things that bothers me is the hypocrisy. Atheism is supposed to be about rationality and critical thinking not yelling at people and calling them names and mocking them. That is what people do who can’t make rational arguments do because that is all that they have we have reason on our side so we should be reasonable.

  24. In reply to #39 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #38 by QuestioningKat:

    So yes, atheists can be rude, but frequently it is a two way street.

    I don’t find that at all a defensible response. “The other side is worse”. Sure they are, that’s always the case when you have people working to get more rights, the people working to stop them…

    Hey RD, (Out of my entire post, that’s the line you picked. ?)I somewhat agree. I am not putting fault on one side or the other. What I am saying is that there are people on both sides that lack “social skills. Yes, atheists are supposed to be reasonable, but courtesy, emotional balance, empathy, interpersonal skills, social skills, and good communication is not necessarily in the realm of rational thought. Yes it is rational to choose wisely, but I don’t think it necessarily goes hand in hand. Being rational and making intelligent choices does not ensure that the person will make the best choices regarding their interactions with other people. Many may be “book smart” but not “people” smart. Many of the atheists posting may not be thinking about emotional consequences before they respond. Additionally, Most of us did not grow up in highly functional households with parents like some 1950′s TV shows who model ideal behavior. Most people have not been trained to improve their communication and people skills. As a result, we (theists and atheists) have bad habits. We even have difficulty recognizing unskilled behavior too. As long as atheists are against something or fighting for a cause, I don’t think behavior will improve much. As long as certain theists are against something or fighting for a cause, I don’t think their behavior will improve much either.

    • In reply to #40 by QuestioningKat:

      In reply to #38 by QuestioningKat:
      So yes, atheists can be rude, but frequently it is a two way street.I don’t find that at all a defensible response. “The other side is worse”. Sure they are, that’s always the case when you have people working to get more rights, the people working to stop them…Hey RD, (Out of my entire post, that’s the line you picked. ?)

      For a simple reason. I agreed with just about everything else you said. Its no fun to just agree with each other. Where we might talk about something interesting is when we disagree.

      Yes, atheists are supposed to be reasonable, but courtesy, emotional balance, empathy, interpersonal skills, social skills, and good communication is not necessarily in the realm of rational thought

      I disagree. My experience is exactly the opposite. I’ve been in a lot of academic and engineering discussions and people are almost always polite and focus on the content of the discussion rather than personal attacks. And also in my experience on the rare occasion when someone does loose their cool or have a reputation for blustering and posturing they inevitably are light weights in their field and not respected by most people.

      And I guess people might reply, well why should we try to behave the way people do in academic debates when the other side are idiots? Why shouldn’t we? Why should we descend to their level?

      And I would say the same applies to public figures. People like Chomsky and Dawkins and Dennet are always polite when they are in public. Its the Bill O’reilley’s and the Bill Donohue’s that are rude.

  25. Emotion is the primary source of errors of assumption. If you accept this, then you will likely be intrigued with the degree to which a formal means of acknowledging that one has an emotion and of seeking a verifiably emotionless state, equanimity, has on increasing the accuracy of one’s attempts to deconstruct a problematic situation accurately enough for a practically useful result, which happened also to be restorative of justice. An astonishingly successful example of the use of a such a formal means — the “I have X emotion now” form of I statement — is related in a narrative accessible at this URL: http//www.authentixcoaches.com/IHXENPayOff.html.

  26. Hi QK

    Recently I have become despondent over this; ALL my friends but one refuse to think rationally.

    Bear with me for 3 examples, to explain where I’m coming from-

    1. Ph.D qualified (and Leftist) man and his degree-holding wife.
      Their response to the Lee Rigby murder- ” You must consider the culprit comes from a disadvantaged background and may be
      unemployed… at this point I just lost it. My furious reply does not bear repeating. Neither is religious so that eliminates one cause.
      When challenged over their claim that ‘Thatcher destroyed the coal miners’ by statistical graphs showing the process began
      decades earlier, that Wilson’s gov’t got rid of more jobs than Thatcher’s, etc, etc they both cling obstinately to their provenly false claims.
      She merely parrots her husband’s views- so much for thinking for oneself.

    2. Another ex- university guy is a devoted CC denier , wind turbine hater who’s obsession is his electricity bill!
      To which world survival comes a distant second in importance. His pathetic defence is to retreat behind
      “so what if its true, were doomed anyway and nothing can be done”

    3. Most troubling of all is a woman I admire greatly who converted to Islam to marry her love. Now her defence is always the ” It’s nothing to do with religion” nonsense, in spite of pointing out such evidence as the overwhelming number of suicide attacks, murders, honor killings and all the rest of the warfare going on in Islamic countries.

    My question is— can anything be done to negate these ego defences? WHY is the (above)-average person incapable
    of being wrong and even less able to admit it?

    Despairing….and angry. Any help appreciated!

    • In reply to #44 by Billy Joe:

      Hi QK

      Recently I have become despondent over this; ALL my friends but one refuse to think rationally.

      Ph.D qualified (and Leftist) man and his degree-holding wife.

      Despairing….and angry. Any help appreciated!-

      Too easy to recommend new friends. QuestioningKat describes how we process information and arrive at conclusions using schemas instead of more rigorous methods which we’re aware of. I can’t relate to the Left Right dichotomy so popular here, but that’s another example of having suitable boxes to place things in. From where I stand our contempt for climate science seems to be the most damaging or hazardous feature of our species. I despair about this, as a grandparent, and not so much personally.

      People marrying anyone is fine by me, though I wouldn’t do it. It doesn’t provoke feelings about overwhelming waves of suicide bombers using my schemas. I don’t despair about this or about Thatcher’s reputation, perhaps because I can’t discern the mysterious (to me) barrier between Left and Right.

      Drugs could help too, or instead of replacing friends who have absorbed much investment already. No, that’s not permanent. Give your friends gift vouchers for counselling??

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