2008-08-10

Regarding: Non-scepticism, scepticism, & brain function

Michael Shermer writes in Scientific American this month in "Wheatgrass Juice and Folk Medicine/Why subjective anecdotes often trump objective data(italics mine): ...The reason for this cognitive disconnect is that we have evolved brains that pay attention to anecdotes because false positives (believing there is a connection between A and B when there is not) are usually harmless, whereas false negatives (believing there is no connection between A and B when there is) may take you out of the gene pool. ...Superstition and belief in magic are millions of years old, whereas science, with its methods of controlling for intervening variables to circumvent false positives, is only a few hundred years old. So it is that any medical huckster promising that A will cure B has only to advertise a handful of successful anecdotes in the form of testimonials. This was an interesting piece. I enjoyed his personal anecdote about wheatgrass and concur with the impression given by the photgraph about it's palatability. I did find a couple of things to question: Scientific Method a few hundred years old? Ok, I guess technically. But, critical thinking and the application of the principles of science have been around much longer. Perhaps, and, maybe I'm grasping, we'll find them in sacred Scripture("Test all things and hold fast to that which is good" 1 Thessalonians 5:21). On what evidence does he conclude brain "cognitive disconnect" is biologic? What evidence this has been around "millions of years"? And, more to the point, to what effect in his piece? Is this to dismiss superstition & magic, and, perhaps, by inference religious belief as "something in our genes"? To infer it no longer has relevance? I question lumping "belief" behaviors together. I'd definitely not attribute spiritual faith to biology. One might say, "But, it's anecdotal!" Well, are all anecdotes equal? Assuming they bear up to rules and tests for internal evidence, external evidence, and biographical textual agreement -- some anecdotes eventually are referred to as history. Examples worth pursuing: veracity of Scripture and accounts of Jesus Christ life, death, & resurrection(cf. Chapter 4 "More than a Carpenter", by Josh McDowell). Other helpful resources: 10 reasons to believe...

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