You know what we atheists like to do? We like to believe we are reasoning.

Remember, we evolved from cyanobacteria, aka pond scum.

We've come a long way but we have further to go, especially those of us who received years of religious indoctrination.

That indoctrination was why, in tenth grade in a Catholic high school I liked plane geometry so much, in twelfth grade I liked physics so much, and in college majored in mathematics. Those studies required me to reason and helped me to free myself intellectually. Freeing myself emotionally, giving up a dimly perceived need for a dogma, took longer.

Why this rant?

Because, in the views of scientists with more advanced degrees than mine, I often see what appear to be the droppings, the excrement, of religious indoctrination.

For instance, in the January 15 Journal of Experimental Biology (cited in the January 26 issue of Science News), a headline says, "Hand evolved partly for combat, researchers claim."

The article opens with "Ancient rumbles in the jungle might have left a lasting mark on the human hand. The hand's proportions [contrasted later in the article with the proportions of the chimpanzee hand] are such that clenching the fingers creates an effective bludgeon."

Am I missing something? Am I too much a literalist?

I would have reported the reverse: the proportions of the human hand resulted in an ability to clench the fingers, making it an effective bludgeon. The winners in those rumbles in the jungle sired offspring with similar hand proportions.

Emoting is faster than reasoning. The time required to reason to an adequate defense cost some of our ancestors their lives...before they reproduced.

Yeah, we atheists do like to believe we are reasoning.

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Heavy-handed religious indoctrination as a child can make people adopt beliefs by faith - without real evidence.  Even for atheists. 

I knew someone once who drove me up the wall with unreasoned attitudes and bias.  I was complaining to her once that my doctor was just treating my recurrent infections with antibiotics rather than helping me work on preventing them.

She goes, very sweetly "How about a homeopathic doctor?  They wouldn't just prescribe drugs".

I went "Oh FUCK!" in a loud disgusted voice.  (actually a homeopathic doctor probably would prescribe, probably useless homeopathic medicines) 

Generally she was one of those people who believe what they want to believe.

Later I found out she came from a fundamentalist religious background, which she had "rejected".  And I could see then why her thinking was so addled.  She'd moved away from fundamentalist religion only to adopt a New Agey religion involving past lives and weird medical beliefs. 

With her belief in reincarnation I doubt she would be called an atheist - but atheists sometimes have their own anti-religion religion; they may have grown up believing that religion is the source of all good, now they think it's the source of (almost) all evil. 

Yes, I too think math is good for one's mind.  It trains you to realize something isn't proved until it's PROVED.  Coming up with "poofs" has taught me that a lot of religious arguments are poofs.  I didn't grow up with religious indoctrination, and that plus my unwillingness to jump to conclusions has left me unconverted despite having christian friends who were full of conversion zeal.

Human being are meaning-seeking machines. We have a tendency towards false positives in this regard. We also, both mentally and linguistically, tend to favor descriptions which imply telos, the end towards which things are aimed. For example, did teeth evolve to help us chew? or was it simply that something randomly developed teeth, and then said teeth conferred the ability to chew, granting that individual with access to more resources and therefore an increased chance of passing on their traits? Which one is easier to say? Also, when sexual selection gets involved, who's to say the former is even incorrect? That is, lets say that those "rumbles in the jungles" were about fighting for a mate. What if hands made for punching were considered attractive? Then the selection kicks in, and the hand doesn't necessarily change because it confers an accidental adaptive advantage but rather is a form that was deliberately selected for.

I do tend to agree with the general premise of what you're suggesting. We Atheists like to think that we're rational. The reality is that we're still the same kind of irrational and emotional monkeys that all the rest are. We're still prone to the same biases, the same faults in our reasoning, the same emotional responses. We often like to think ourselves superior because we've shrugged off superstition. However, all that does is manage to give us a false sense of rationality. The trick is to be able to look inward enough to recognize and point out all the same logical fallacies, cognitive biases and emotional responses in ourselves that we point out in others.




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