Tag Archives: Jimmy Carter

Compartmentalizing Delusion

CompartmentsReligious people hold a lot of beliefs that nonbelievers conclude are delusional (see here). Many of these believers also hold important positions of responsibility in the government, in the media, and business. Some of them even sit on our Congressional Science Committee. Their decisions deeply impact public policy and the very existence of us and of our planet.

Those most fervent in their beliefs proudly tout the fact that their deeply held religious beliefs guide and influence all of their decisions as a lawmaker. But when someone points out that those deeply held religious beliefs are in direct conflict and contradiction to basic reason and accepted public policy, they then typically claim compartmentalization.

Essentially the contradictory claim they make is that while they affirm that they are deeply influenced by nonsensical ideas, those nonsensical ideas do not influence their thinking in rational matters. They insist that they can wail over rapture on Sunday and make prudent, long-term budget decisions on Monday. They can enumerate why evolution is a hoax cooked up by scientists at Wednesday evening Bible study, then properly assess the advise of climate change scientists in their Thursday morning advisory board meeting. They can affirm that the Bible is the only source of truth on Saturday morning, then go home and work on educational text book selections all afternoon. They assert that one is not affected by the other in the least – except when they want to tout the fact that it is.

Their amazingly selective isolation of thinking, they claim, is all thanks to the magic of compartmentalization. It lets them espouse crazy beliefs and claim to be perfectly sane and rational too. This claim is made so often and with such matter-of-fact certainty, that most people just tend to accept it as true.

But let’s examine this claim of compartmentalization more closely.

All of us compartmentalize somewhat. In fact, such compartmentalization is critical to our functioning. We mentally separate work and home, parent and spouse, private and public. When we think of scientific models, we hold two seemingly different views at the same time (see here). Compartmentalization is an essential rational and emotional adaptation. Maybe that’s partly why we accept their claim of exceptional compartmentalization so easily.

But all normal and highly functional behaviors can become abnormal and dysfunctional at some point. At the extreme, we see people with multiple personalities that are split so completely that they are not even aware of each other. And although some extremely rare individuals can apparently completely isolate their thinking, most of us cannot. For most of us, any irrational, dysfunctional thinking does spill over and taints our rational thinking.

We humans can do hand-stands too. When I was in high school, there were a couple of guys on my gymnastic team who could literally walk up and down stairs between classes, in a crowd at full speed, on their hands with perfect form. But because those rare individuals could do it doesn’t mean we can all claim it. Just because Jimmy Carter seemed to isolate his religious belief from his rational thinking in a healthy way, doesn’t mean that many of us can do that. Jimmy Carter was more like the gymnast who could walk up and down stairs on his hands. Most others who believe they can isolate belief from rationality will invariably plummet down the stairs, taking innumerable others crashing down with them.

As I point out in my book, Belief in Science and the Science of Belief (see here), religious belief is the pot smoking of rational thought. Every pot smoker or alcoholic is convinced that they can handle it. That their rational thinking is not affected. They think what they are expounding while high is really profound, but it’s really just nonsensical gibberish. Religious people can’t see how ridiculous they sound while they’re high on the Bible and only listening to others who are just as stoned.

We don’t easily accept this same claim of compartmentalization in any area other than religion. We don’t fully accept that ones stressful job as a homicide cop has no affect on their home life. We would not accept the assertion by a racist that while he may attend Klan meetings on Friday nights, this has no impact on his professional behavior as a hiring manager. Most of us would be at least skeptical in accepting any opinion expressed by a Wiccan who claimed to have supernatural powers, despite any claim of compartmentalization.

Even religious people don’t accept any compartmentalization except the one they claim. If I ran for public office as an atheist, I don’t have any illusions that my claim that I can compartmentalize my atheism would be sufficient to convince any religious people to trust that my judgement has not been tainted by my atheism.

Religious thinkers claim compartmentalization to avoid legitimate skepticism regarding their compromised rationality. Sadly, we accept this claim for the most part. We should stop giving them this free pass. Not only can such fervent “deeply held” delusions not be sufficiently compartmentalized, but believers don’t really want or intend to compartmentalize away their beliefs in any case.

Religious people want and need to propagate their beliefs and weave them inextricably into public policy. Our polite acceptance of their dubious claim of compartmentalization only helps enable them to do that.

 

Advertisements

Dear Future Time-Traveler

If you are reading this it is probably the year 2416, give or take, you are undoubtedly one of the few technologists remaining alive in the last enclave of a largely uninhabitable future Earth decimated by the ravages of corporate planetary exploitation resulting in resource wars fueled by religious extremism. Your search algorithm undoubtedly pulled this ancient blog article off of molecular storage because you have just completed a prototype time-travel machine, you have only enough energy left on the planet to send one person back one time, and you are researching what a single lone agent could do to avert your catastrophic timeline.

ReaganHere is what you must do. It is your best chance for survival. You have to stop Ronald Reagan.

I know that time travel theory requires that you make only the most subtle possible alteration at a key intersection in the timelines, so just killing Reagan is ill-advised. Besides being ethically unacceptable, even to save the planet and billions of future lives, his death could result in wildly unpredictable repercussions. Therefore, you must send your agent back to April 22nd, 1980 just two days before the fateful Operation Eagle Claw failed famously to rescue American hostages held in Iran. Your agent must gain access to Col. Charles A. Beckwith and convince him to inspect the helicopter rotors and hydraulics and avoid flying though regions with sandy particulates.

If your agent can assure that these minor problems are avoided, he or she can thwart Reagan’s alleged conspiracy with Iran to hold the hostages until after the election in order to discredit Jimmy Carter. In any event, this will likely prevent Reagan from gaining the White House, which will keep the solar panels on the roof and ensure that the nascent enculturation of Carter’s responsible, science-based energy and social policies are not aborted by Reagan.

By thwarting the Reagan Presidency, we avoid the critically pivotal fork when we chose self-interest over social good; unrestrained consumerism over sustainability; religious extremism over humanist ethics; voodoo trickle-down economics over sound economic policies; superstition over science; beliefs over facts; hatred for the government over pride in government; rabid partisanism over political cooperation; and unrestrained militarism over a thriving peace-time economy.

If Carter had retained the Presidency, there would have been a chance at least that science and fact-based thinking would have prevailed; that the religious community would have followed his humble example of restraint and separation from government affairs; that rampant consumerism and self-interest would not have completely corrupted corporate leaders into elevating next-quarter’s profits and personal bonuses above all social considerations; that subsequent generations of government leaders would not be hell-bent to destroy government and the people that support them would not be convinced that government is their enemy. In the alternate timeline, John McCain would never have considered nominating Sarah Palin and Donald Trump would never have become the orange-haired Frankenstein’s Monster of our own creation that he is. The existential threat of Global Climate Change and all of its resultant horrors would have been managed responsibly with a long-term and forward-looking sense of responsibility for the planet and for future generations.

So, future time-traveler, this is your only hope, our final hope. You must ensure that Operation Eagle Claw does not fail. If you succeed in that mission, this whole tragically cascading timeline will never have occurred. Hopefully moments after I click Publish on this blog article, my timeline will shift because you will have read it in the future and sent your agent back in time and he or she has succeeded in averting the failure of Operation Eagle Claw which has prevented the Reagan Presidency and the ascendency of the crazy religious anti-government Right. Your future world and mine will transform into a sane, rational, humane planet, unpolluted and unthreatened by climate change, with an America that is truly the light of the world rather than the single greatest threat to its survival.

If we fail to rise to our challenge of building a sane and sustainable planet, you future time-traveler are our last hope!