Paul Rubin has written an article in WSJ regarding Environmentalism as a type of religion which I find quite interesting. The factors he lists as similarities are pretty dead on:
• There is a holy day—Earth Day.
• There are food taboos.
• There is no prayer, but there are self-sacrificing rituals that are not particularly useful.
• Belief systems are embraced with no logical basis.
• There are sacred structures.
• Skeptics are not merely people unconvinced by the evidence: They are treated as evil sinners.
One could also add:
• Prophet - Al Gore.
• Scripture - The IPCC reports.
However, environmentalism is far from being alone in the specter of issues and causes that people become fundamental about, and many political opinions tend to get stuck because people refuse to change their them - even when faced with overwhelming contradictory evidence. This is not confined to the "right", and possibly afflicts more people on the "left". Scientists routinely refutes diverging opinions with ad hominem argumentation, freezing out those who disagree, withholding resources etc. Economists (sorta one myself) believe their social science is a hard science with evidence based facts proved by complex mathematics. Attempting to critcize a parenting is something I can absolutely forget about since I don't have children myself. Even our hero Einstein refused to accept quantum theory.
What are your opinions on this subject? Can these opinions-turned-fundamentalism be compared to religion?
Exactly my point. The best thing about the scientific method is that everything can end up being falsified if a better theory emerges. It's a paradigm shift, just as religion was replaced by scientific method.
Question is, can you accept a paradigm shift in one of your non-religious beliefs? If not, aren't they very similar to religion?
I wish I had written another OP to be perfectly honest...
I find religion to be part of a bigger problem - that many people end up leaving thinking to others and prefer being spoon fed opinions, be it from religion, party or cause. They therefore refuse to alter their opinion unless whomever is serving them does so, and play a game of blindly following the leader.
When I choose which party to vote for I do not look at which I agree with the most, but with which I disagree the least. That way I do not force myself to follow opinions of others unless I actually agree. I tend to find people who 100% support something to be no different than religious fundamentalists.
"...that many people end up leaving thinking to others and prefer being spoon fed opinions, be it from religion, party or cause."
To a certain degree, this is a requirement of modern living. I have a specialized job, and I pour much of my time into developing my knowledge in that specialty.
I have quite a bit of general knowledge surrounding the environment, science, politics, economy, human rights issues, etc., but I can devote neither the time nor the means that each subject demands in order to make truly informed decisions.
Like all people, I rely on experts to convey important information in layman's terms. When an issue has specific relevance to my life, or really piques my interest, I delve deeper. Problematically, we're living in an era with a low signal to noise ratio. There is an abundance of misinformation, and it is quite difficult for the average person to sort it all out. Marketers are the most likely party to push their message through the clamor.
I don't expect any individual to be perfectly informed or to make the right decision every time. I do think we need to increase people's level of engagement and connection to the issues that impact us all, as well as increase literacy in areas such as science, politics, and marketing. People need to be able to identify reliable sources of information. Who is a reliable expert and who is little more than a mouthpiece? What are the hallmarks of good research and data, and what is utter bullshit. Even if a person can't understand all of the technicalities of a given issue, if they can at least understand it at the abstract level and determine how reliable the information source is, they're already a step ahead. They are operation more on reason and less on bias and faith.
But no one is going to increase their literacy levels if they are uninvested in the cause. This is part of why I like things like energy efficient lightbulbs. They are accessible. Anyone can do it. Will they save the planet with that alone? No, but it does give people the sense that they have done something to help the issue. It does give them a sense of entitlement to tell corporations and politicians to do their part as well. It connects them to a massive issue that requires collective action to solve. Again, it isn't the solution to all our problems, but it is the doorway to getting people invested in environmental issues on a personal level. That must count for something.
Anyway, I feel like I've used too many words to say far too little. There are afterwork drinks to be had.
I'll take a sip of it too :)
But I would like to pose a hypothetical question: If one scans the brain of a religious person and finds out which parts of the brain is stimulated by religious thoughts, and find that the same areas are stimulated by a deep adherence to other beliefs, shouldn't these beliefs also carry the same categorization?
I don't know. I'm not a neurologist and I haven't read any studies on that level of thought categorization.
doone - A question I am left with.
If there are areas in the brain "specialized" to deal with religious thoughts, does that not lend creedence to the concept of religion? And if there isn't, then which parts of the brain deals with religion, and what other thoughts are dealt with in the same regions?
As a side note, I am really eager to check out those scans you were talking about, sounds very interesting. :)
No. Updating our beliefs on the basis of new evidence is a good thing. But being obstinate is not the same thing as being religious (which is devoting oneself to an unprovable premise).
an unprovable premise? An good example wood be man-made global warming.
Climate change theory has proved itself valid. In the 80's it predicted the current climate. That is a way of proofing a theory, that it does predict the future accurately.
Man-made global warming is not a fact. Climate change is a fact. Climate change has been a fact throughout human history. Climates have changed long before humans existed. So how am I wrong that man-made global warming is an unprovable premise? On another note, psychics predict the future not climate change theory. This theory from what I understand is based on evidence collected from our natural world. I must confess that I am skeptical that you know the difference between man-made global warming and climate change.
I think we need to seperate environmentalism and Environmentalism, as in those who attempt to reduce our impact on the environment vs those who treat the environment as a deity which humanity is sinning against.
Some examples of things which generally hurt the environment rather then help it, but is high on the Environmentalist list are:
Locally grown food - smaller production units decreases efficiency.
Recycling - remelting glass is no better than melting new sand. Paper should be burned and ashes sent to foresting areas (naturs way of solving it).
Solar panels- requires massive amounts of energy to produce vs gain from operation.
Hydroelectric - massive local habitat destruction.
Low energy bulbs - silly in areas where your house is heated for 9 months out of the year.
Hybrid cars - has a substantially higher environmetal impact in production and higway mileage is no better than a regular car.
But misunderstand me correctly, I have nothing against environmentalism; I am opposed to Environmentalism gone avry - when the focus is on the problem and not solutions. Personally, I do my utmost to reduce my impact, and I am a supporter of carbon taxation, pesticide reduction, heavy fines for pollution, I eat little meat etc.
Also, this was only part of the question I posed. We all know that a number of religious people are impervious to reason due to their strongly held conviction, I just find that a number of non-religious people are equally impervious to reason in non-religious matters for the very same reason.
Edit: To move the discussion a bit forward. In Europe many people believe the healthcare service should be wholly government run. In the US many believe the government should have nothing to do with the healthcare service at all. Both sides present the most horrid picture of what will happen if even parts of the opposite system is imposed, and blankly refuses to accept any evidence that there are positive and negative aspects of both.