Links and Comments: Dan Dennett, Emotional Intelligence, Worst Predictions, Jeffrey Tayler

Via Morning Heresy, Dan Dennett is interviewed at Religion Dispatches about, among other things, why the edifice of religion seems to be cracking:

Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.

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Re a previous post from The Atlantic about The Science of Superstition, with an item about how autism, i.e. that entails diminished social skills, is correlated with nonbelief in God and other supernatural entities, here’s the latest “Study of Studies” from The Atlantic, When Emotional Intelligence Goes Wrong, which correlates high social skills with narcissism, manipulation of others, and gullibility to charlatans.

In a 2013 study, college students were shown news footage of people pleading for a missing family member’s return—half of whom were in fact responsible for the person’s disappearance. When the students rated the sincerity of these pleas, those with higher EI were more likely to be duped, perhaps due to overconfidence in their ability to read others [11].

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Also in this month’s Atlantic: What Was the Worst Prediction of All Time?.

Examples include abolishing war by 2000, how Apple would never come out with a cell phone, that nuclear power would be too cheap to bother measuring, and others. Every one of these is very interesting, and I fit these into the framework of my worldview at item 10, as among the failures of science fiction and/or futurism in trying to predict the future. SF isn’t about predicting the future, of course, but many others do try predicting the future, and often fail. Why would this be? Something about the volatility of human culture, in contrast to the relative certainties of science.

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Latest from Jeffrey Tayler (he should write a book) at Salon: Ted Cruz, our ayatollah: Fight back now, or welcome to the 2016 religious right hellstorm.

As usual at Salon, the subtitle is more on-target than the perhaps inflammatory title. This subtitle: “Way too many of us believe in a magic book negated by science and peppered with all manner of misanthropic myths”.

Much of this piece consists of Tayler’s responses to a critique of an earlier post by Tayler from Matt Barber, “a columnist for Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, and the founder of WND’s Christian fundamentalist site Barbwire.com“. Sample:

Barber then chooses to embarrass himself with a declaration that confirms he should stick to batting in the Little League of modern-day thinkers:

Every man, woman and child understands through both general revelation and human reason that this unfathomably intricate, staggeringly fine-tuned universe didn’t create and fine-tune itself. It’s a tiny minority of angry, self-deluded materialists like Jeffrey Tayler who deny this self-evident truth.

Many believers might indeed find such a boner-studded profession of ignorance credible (and surely Barber does, given that he earned all three of his degrees at religious institutions), but secularists who read grown-up books will immediately see how it contradicts what physics and biology tell us about the cosmos.  The universe, we now know, did create itself, arising out of a quantum event – a “singularity,” when time and space were wrapped into one — some 13.7 billion years ago, exploding from a tiny speck of unimaginably dense, hot matter to its present dimensions.  (And it’s still expanding.)  Some four billion years back, it is postulated that a still-unexplained chemical occurrence gave rise to the first self-replicating biological molecule from which began life on Earth and from which we evolved according to the (eminently comprehensible) process of Natural Selection.  This renders God, as Richard Dawkins put it, “an excrescence, a carbuncle on the face of science,” unnecessary for any phase of “creation.”  (For more information, Barber might wish to set aside his magic book and delve into the oeuvre of the theoretical physicists Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking, and, of course, Dawkins’ own “The God Delusion.”)

He does tie it back to the Salon editors’ title:

Barber’s blog is but a symptom of the seemingly incurable malady of faith. In fact there is a remedy — free speech, applied liberally to infected areas. Rationalists must resist all calls to show respect for religion, be it Christianity or Islam or any other faith with universalist pretensions. Recall the damage these stultifying ideologies of control and repression have done the cause of progress throughout history. And remember the stakes now, with so many of our presidential candidates flaunting their belief, and seats on the Supreme Court likely to free up, especially post-2016. We either fight back by speaking out now, or we may end up living in a Christian-theme-park version of Iran, with Ted Cruz as our ayatollah.

This is about my Provisional Conclusion #8: Resistance. But also about #9: a species “reset” could involve a religious revolution that cancels out the progress of our 21st century. Religious forces have held humanity in thrall for centuries in the past. (And there are SF works that describe such religious revolutions, thinking of works by Margaret Atwood off-hand. The alignment of my PvC framework with SF is where this blog is going.)

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