Mankind, in general, is not even capable of thinking logically when such thoughts are in conflict with his basic loyalties. Mankind is a social animal, which, like a herd animal, has adapted itself to working in larger groups for increasing the chance of the group’s common survival.
On the surface, if we didn’t have wars, our chances of individual and even group survival would increase dramatically. But, time after time, we have been persuaded to overlook our own welfare and engage in petty and destructive acts of conquest and brutality in response to some self-aggrandizing concept or other. Ideas of “Divine Crusade,” “Manifest Destiny,” “Stopping the Communist Menace,” or “Making the World Safe for Democracy” or “Make America Great Again” have taken us on destructive and self-destructive paths. The single royal family and its “highborn” colleagues used this ploy to rule Europe for many centuries, taking far more than they needed, using their subjects like pawns on a chessboard, and treating even themselves and their children savagely for the sake of vanity, ego, and the illusion of power and control.
Page 2, Section II, first paragraph:
“The object of reasoning is to find out, from the consideration of what we already know, something which we do not know.”
While this may be true, I think the major obstacle to logical reasoning is that what we think we already know is often false. Things embedded in language or scripture or taken as fact from infancy are often the bedrock of our reasoning and belonging but have often failed us in the long run.
We used to know Mars and Jupiter were gods and built societies around such beliefs.
We used to know the world was created 4004 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
We used to know the moon would never be reached by mankind.
We used to know there were canals on Mars.
Many still know Jesus was the Messiah, Christ, sent to save us from original sin even though most of what we think we know was created out of fantasy and imagination and might have been intended for entertainment, amusement, or self-aggrandizement.
The major problem isn’t things we don’t know. The major problem is “knowing” things we really don’t know. And this difficulty exists for “scientists” and “logicians” as much as much as anyone else.
I disagree with Peirce when he says, “It is true that we do generally reason correctly by nature.” I think that love and loyalty disable the logical parts of the human brain when challenged by new information which threatens our membership in a group. Anyone with half a wit should know that you’re not going to win the hearts and minds of the people of Fallujah, Iraq by force of arms, intimidation, and automatic weaponry yet most of us are sure our mission in the Middle East is “fighting for freedom” and state this assumed information over and over again. Anyone with half a working logical brain should know by now, 40 years later, that what we believed about the civil war in Vietnam was mostly bullshit, yet we don’t. This is only possible with our logic fully disabled!
Many times, we literally cannot think a thought that threatens our belonging, that puts us in conflict with our loyalty to our group or our family!
Darwin published an unpopular idea: evolution. Yet the basic idea of breeding had been around for millennia. Any eighth grader can see that this is the same thing except with mankind rather than survival making the choices which line to continue. Hell, today’s dairy cattle couldn’t survive on their own and would be in agony if not milked twice daily, unequipped to deter predators from picking them off and unable to run away. Today, we take antibiotics for the full course because nature has evolved resistance to mankind’s medicines. We see ancient deposits of fossils on every continent which portray a long history preceding the human species, yet there are still vast numbers of us clinging desperately to the “good book.” These people are often normal, otherwise rational humans. The facts surround them. And they – and the many generations preceding them – think they’re thinking logically and rationally.
Many people are still buying books like Origin By Design, a lengthy tome which attempts to disprove Darwin using what he calls “science” and despite the extensive validation of evolution by physicists, geologists, paleontologists, geneticists, anthropologists, and astronomers.
Psychology is still teaching Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” as a guide to understanding human behavior when even a cursory glance at human activity clearly shows that we often act against the predicted “logical” pattern of needs driving behavior.
Please note that physiological needs ( water, food, etc.) and safety are on the bottom and esteem is near the top and yet mobs of people flock to a war despite this, despite any other needs and, once hooked into a squad, will charge a machine gun to try and save their unit.
Page 3: “Our beliefs guide our desires and shape actions.” I agree, but this doesn’t go far enough. Our beliefs also shape what we see, hear, and remember – the “facts” as we see, hear, feel, and remember them. This leads us to the concept of a personal “reality,” which I would rephrase as a personal perception. Perception does not equal reality and yet we desperately want to believe that we didn’t make a mistake in what we remember happening. Modern jurisprudence is finally coming to the realization that trace evidence is far more reliable that eyewitness testimony.
In the third paragraph of Section III on Page 3, Dr. Peirce states (in underlined red) “Doubt is an uneasy and dissatisfied state from which we struggle to free ourselves and pass into the state of belief; while the latter is a calm and satisfactory state which we do not wish to avoid, or to change to a belief in anything else. We cling tenaciously, not merely to believing, but to believing just what we do believe. Doubt doesn’t drive curiosity, it drives this uneasy and dissatisfied state, which all too frequently drives denial, fear, or anger when hearing new ideas that shake those beliefs.”
I agree that the major obstacle to learning is not doubt but the absence of doubt in the face of overwhelming data which contradicts us. But our problem isn’t ignorance but erroneous “facts.” In church I never saw doubt occur but for a second or two, almost immediately overwhelmed by fear – even terror! I think the motivation for the behavior we both see isn’t an uneasiness with doubt as much as an uneasiness with conflict in our loyalties, in threats to our social bonding.
Let’s do an exercise to test this.
How many of us studied the Declaration of Independence in school? And what is the lie that many of these learned men signed in solemn affirmation?
How about Honest Abe’s Gettysburg Address? What’s the lie in it?
Got your answers to these two questions?
I didn’t until a couple of years ago … and I knew the Gettysburg Address by heart!
Thomas Jefferson, the major author of the Declaration, owned 600 people and only freed a few of them (his own children as well as being his own slaves) in his will. If the Creator endowed these people with the right to liberty, why did Jefferson deny this right to them – even when they were his own children, conceived with his slave, Sally Hemings, who was also his sister-in-law, his deceased wife’s half-sister?
If “all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” and if, “among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and if Jefferson and his colleagues created a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” as intended in the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and stated in the Gettysburg Address of 1863, why were there slaves up until January 1, 1863 and why did half the population have no vote, no participation, and no representation until 1920? Furthermore, why were the Equal Rights Amendments of the 1960s necessary for the “equality” touted in both of these documents? And why are gay people, along with quite a few blacks still not considered equal by many people even today?
When did YOU recognize the lie?? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Clear facts. Clear lie.
How did I miss it for years?? How could I foolishly memorize the words to “Honest Abe’s” speech and not see the lie? I knew that the Emancipation Proclamation happened during the Civil War. I knew Jefferson had slaves. And I knew most women couldn’t vote until the Twentieth Century. I pride myself on my logical mind and I didn’t even get a glimmer of this dishonesty in myself and my heroes until two years ago!
2 thoughts on “Review: The Fixation of Belief”
A thoughtfully crafted and very engaging post that leaves a person on the highway to a destination of sober reflections. Great thanks for sharing.
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Thanks! The trick is to be most loyal to all of our progeny in the distant future — which (I hope) enables us to be more aware and more sympathetic to others. Sober reflections, indeed!