Thursday, March 15, 2018

How the religious conservative propaganda undermines reality

Lake Ingle
Indiana University of Pennsylvania student, Lake Ingle (Fox News)
Lake Ingle, a senior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, was expelled from “Christianity 481: Self, Sin and Salvation.” According to Ingle, this occurred after he insisted that there are only two genders. According to the authoritative and principled Fox News:
After showing a 15-minute TED Talk by transgender ex-pastor Paula Stone Williams … He told the class that the official view of biologists is that there are only two genders.
[…]
“You can’t say that anecdotal evidence is fact,” Ingle said. “My professor pretty much just tried to shut me up because she was just letting women speak. I brought up the fact that biologists don’t agree that there’s more than two genders…”
There is almost certainly more to this controversy which is presented only from the student's perspective. For our purposes it is less relevant than the student's point of view. Whether or not Mr. Ingle was appropriately removed from a class is less important than his formation of beliefs. I would point out, in passing, that anecdotal evidence is superior to no evidence at all and that the concept of gender is supported by more than anecdotal evidence.

I have not spoken with Mr. Ingle (I wish that I could). His reaction to a transgender person seems to be according to the script written by Ryan T. Anderson and widely distributed to the faithful. Ingle is wrong in several ways. Above all, he is confusing sex with gender. It is a form of selective observation because science unequivocally recognizes gender as a separate construct from natal sex.

With respect to natal sex, Ingle is also incorrect because there are intersex people and some of those (not many but a few) have ambiguous chromosomes. With that exception, we all agree that biologically we are male or female. Where did Mr. Ingle get the notion that anyone has argued otherwise?

Ryan T. Anderson and others have indulged in an intellectually dishonest form of rhetoric and it is contagious. Anderson presumes to argue successfully because there is no opposing point of view. He then asserts that he has argued successfully against a related but different issue contradicting the overwhelming consensus of science without having to refute the scientific evidence. I am tempted to call it a form of cognitive dissonance.

What Anderson is trying to do is to turn science against itself because he lacks evidence to the contrary of the consensus. It only works on willing recipients who are looking for arguments without regards to their accuracy.

People are willing to promote an absurd argument because their belief in the argument is less important than the argument itself.

This form of manipulation affects our daily lives. Whether it is the suitability of Trump, gun violence or transgender accommodations, people promote utterly ridiculous assertions that they should know are utterly ridiculous. They do not appreciate the absurdity because it doesn't matter to them. As I said, it is the belief that is more important than evidence. If the belief serves a purpose it becomes an element of truth regardless of actual falsity.

For example: “Byron York: House GOP delivers blow to Trump-Russia collusion story. Will others follow?

That is nonsense because the House committee chairman, Devin Nunes (who seems to have IQ somewhere around room temperature) did not follow leads that suggest collusion. Sometimes I think that people like Nunes believe that everyone is as stupid as they are or that everyone should be similarly deficient. I suspect that Byron York knows that he is promoting bullshit. He doesn't care.

This image of a dinosaur with a saddle is actually the promotion of a figurine for sale to the faithful
This is how we get preposterous Alex Jones conspiracy theories and why people embrace them. Similarly, there  is no amount of scientific evidence that will convince a young earth creationist that the universe was not formed less than 10,000 years ago. While we see the absurdity of depictions of saddles on dinosaurs they start with the premise that their book is the inerrant word of their deity.

L. Ron Hubbard was a bloody genius. None of his teachings, or those of Scientology, make a whit of sense. However, Hubbard knew that people are willing to uncritically adopt a belief system if it satisfies other needs like answers to questions about who we are and how we got here.

In the final analysis, is biblical mythology really more convincing than Hubbard's Lord Xenu who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of his people to Earth in DC-8-like spacecraft? An outspoken rabbi who could walk on water and restore sight to blind people. Before him there was a burning bush and a parting of the Red Sea. Not to mention the sun and moon standing still or the talking ass quite a few years before Mr. Ed.

Getting back to Lake Ingle, the truly sad part of this story is that once people adopt a belief system they are stubbornly in its embrace. Moonies are not much different from Ryan T. Anderson and his crowd. These belief systems reward and support conformity or piety. Adherents achieve intellectual status with analyses of dogma and the dogmatic high priests as substitutes for critical thinking and intellectual curiosity. It is a system that is self-reinforcing.

I truly hope that Mr. Ingle is not a done deal.

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