Wednesday, May 09, 2012

"Scientifically" Trashing the Meanies

Margaret Sanger's Impact as a social activist is hard to overstate. Her motto was "no gods, no masters".

By Hos

Will the "vitriol" of people like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers hurt or help secularism? Recently we have been told time and again that it can only hurt. People who make this claim boldly state that their opinion is based on science. They cite psychological studies showing that for many people, confirmation bias is a more pivotal factor than evidence; that people only become firmer in their beliefs if openly challenged or mocked; and that for those who consider faith part of their identity, questioning their beliefs can be perceived as very hostile. (We are also told that as a result of the said "vitriol", believers may be inclined not to like atheists, which is hogwash-believers have been doing fine just by themselves for centuries).
But it absolutely takes a leap of faith to jump from the above findings to possible results of actions of New Atheists (no pun intended). Psychological studies are simply not equipped to deal with that kind of question. It would be like trying to examine the distribution of vegetations in a wooded area using a magnifying glass. To have a better idea we have to look elsewhere. And that elsewhere is history.
There is no question that some of the most important secularists with regard to their social impact have been the firebrand type. Whether through litigation (as in the case of Madeline Murray O'Hare) or swaying public opinion (as in the case of Margaret Sanger and Elizabeth Caddy Stanton), those who never minced words achieved a lot more than anyone would've guessed based on psychological studies alone. In the oft-cited gay rights movement, as recently as 2006, proponents of marriage equality for gays were accused of harming the movement by asking too much and by opening the door to an idea that many found revolting. In fact the idea of gay marriage was (and still is) to many as disturbing as questioning one's faith/identity. And yet, for all their "wisdom", the concern trolls were utterly wrong. Proponents of gay marriage only helped equality for gays in other areas, not to mention that they succeeded in legalizing gay marriage in certain places.

I am sure those complaining about vitriol will cringe at this video by Australian singer Shelley Segal. The song will never convince a single fundamentalist (though you never know), but that is not its point. The point is to reach out to those on the fence, or energize those who already believe in the cause. And as any politician will tell you, no race can be won without mobilizing the base.
But no eye-tracking studies would ever tell you I that.

1 comment:

Carl said...

Seems belief in god in America is still stronger than ever but it is wavering from the younger generations. With Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, Sam Harris, Ayan Hirsi Ali and Daniel Dennett it can only make people start thinking rationally and scientifically.