The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Open discussion for all registered members.

The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby DjVortex » Fri May 04, 2012 6:23 am

I often wonder how many extremely religious people start having doubts at some point in their lives, but reject those doubts primarily because of a sense of loss aversion. In other words, they fall (more or less subconsciously) for the so-called sunk cost fallacy.

"I have spent so much time, effort and money on this, I have invested so much emotionally on this, that it would be unthinkable for me to stop now, after all these years." They might not think explicitly like that, but that kind of idea might be the driving force that casts aside doubts and keeps them practicing the religion.

Can this make people irredeemably religious, with no way out? Imagine if someone like Ray Comfort or Kent Hovind slowly but steadily started to "get" what skepticism, the scientific method and things like the theory of evolution are about, and understand at some level that they are making excuses for the Bible in order to defend it, and thus having serious doubts about their faith. Would they be able to accept that they have been preaching falsities and lying to people all these years? Could they come out and admit that they have been wrong and that they are now atheist rational skeptics? Or would the sunk cost fallacy prevent them from doing that, making them forcibly shove aside any such doubts and keep self-brainwashing with even stronger emphasis? Would they feel too ashamed to toss basically all their lives aside and start anew? Is their situation hopeless?
DjVortex
 
Posts: 218
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:45 am

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby Fyrebrand » Fri May 25, 2012 5:13 am

With regards to people like Ray Comfort, I think some version of this is going through his head at all times. I don't think there is a 100% match between Ray Comfort, the man and Ray Comfort, the character, but as long as it's the character and not the man who gets all the attention and rakes in all the big money, he's not going to give up the ghost. There's no way that he can be completely oblivious to how ignorant, fallacious, and dishonest he is in his silly little video appearances, but you don't make the big bucks by carefully re-examining your previous statements and going back on what you so adamantly proclaimed as truth. Ray's into his own crap so deep, that if he one day actually stopped believing his own nonsense, he would still keep pretending. It's his most successful gig ever. I don't know if it's a matter of him being "ashamed" to be caught in doubt -- is that man capable of shame?

For ordinary, non-celebrity types like Joe Church down the block, it may or may not be about how much they put into their religion -- but more about what they stand to lose if people find out they no longer believe. We've all heard the stories about people coming out as atheists, or merely doubting their faith somewhat, and losing their job, friends, family, or worse. Even those who don't seriously think they'd have to deal with such catastrophic personal losses are probably still apprehensive about what people will think about them, or that it will just get them more negative attention. The label of "atheist" still has a unclean stigma about it, and not everyone is comfortable being the weirdo outsider of the community.

One other thing that I don't think we should neglect to consider, even though it's not exclusively a religious factor -- people love someone who's self-assured in their viewpoints, and many see uncertainty as a weakness. "Sticking to your guns" is almost seen as a moral virtue, regardless of what it is you stand for -- meanwhile, "fence-sitters" who are uncomfortable backing any position too strongly are seen as "flip-flopping" and unstable. In that sense, there are probably some people who just stay with their religion because it's "good" to just stick with something, whatever it is. So, yeah, I think that's probably another way of seeing it as the "sunk cost" you brought up.
Fyrebrand
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:14 pm

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby DjVortex » Fri May 25, 2012 4:55 pm

There are indeed many possibilities with regard to Comfort's honesty, such as:

1) He's completely honest and believes everything he says. For example, when he argues how evolution would have us believe that an animal of a completely different species turned into a dog, which would have made it the only dog in the world and would thus have gone immediately extinct, he honestly believes that's what the theory of evolution implies, and he dismisses all counter-arguments as excuses, as attempts to whitewash evolutionary theory by denying what it's really saying. If anything, he's being dishonest to himself because he deliberately and actively refuses to even consider any counter-arguments as valid and dismisses them outright, because he's so utterly convinced that what he thinks about it is right.

2) While he believes all the theology he preaches, he knows that not everything he claims about evolution and cosmology is exactly true, but he thinks that the end justifies the means, and distorting science for the purpose of advancing theism is justified. Also, he has been too vocal about it in the past to change his position on the subject now. It's a question of pride, and of avoiding the shame of admitting that he has been wrong about those subjects all these years. He still thinks that the theory of evolution is not true in all aspects (in other words, he honestly believes the creationist mantra "a kind cannot produce a different kind", as well as thinking that abiogenesis, which he rejects, is part of the theory of evolution), but internally knows that not everything he claims about it is true, but keeps doing it anyways.

3) He has serious doubts about his theology as well as his arguments against science, but he keeps going because of loss aversion, resistance to change, and fear of shame and ostracization. He has to keep the facade going because the thought of admitting these doubts publicly is too unbearable. He also tries to convince himself with arguments like Pascal's wager.

4) He's an outright conman, like eg. Peter Popoff. He doesn't believe anything he says and he's in it just for the money and fame.

If I had to guess, I would go with option 1, but who knows these things...
DjVortex
 
Posts: 218
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:45 am

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby Fyrebrand » Fri May 25, 2012 7:04 pm

Well, the precise reasons people have for holding religious beliefs in the face of contrary evidence can differ depending on the specific issue or topic. For example, Ray probably knows that evolutionary theory should not lead us to expect the formation of a croco-duck, but he may not understand exactly why that is. But he knows that most other people probably also don't understand why evolution doesn't lead to croco-ducks, so in the end it doesn't matter and he can use that ridiculous argument anyway.

That "sunk cost" thing probably applies a lot when people are in the middle of working on a directed rant, presentation, essay, etc. They want to get in as many points that support their side as possible, and conceding points that expose weaknesses in their argument is both time-consuming to deal with and makes the issue less simple than they'd like it to seem. Do you remember when Bill O'Reilly suggested that there must be a God in charge of the universe, simply because "Tides come in, tides go out... never a miscommunication" or some such nonsense? He was shot down pretty quickly, and there were countless replies on other shows and all over the internet explaining how we do, in fact, understand the mechanics of how tides work. Now, if O'Reilly really thought about it or bothered to research the point, he could have easily learned this bit of science for himself. Heck, maybe he did know it all along, but just forgot in the heat of the moment. But, in the economy of mental stamina and time constraints, he just didn't want to bother looking into it too deeply, because the results probably wouldn't have strengthened his argument. He was too invested in reaching a set conclusion that he had to ignore whatever obstacles were in the road, or twist his own ignorance in such a way that it seemed to support him. He dug himself so deeply into a hole, that instead of facing the struggle it would take to climb back out of it, he instead prioritized the digging the hole itself as a worthwhile intellectual project.
Fyrebrand
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:14 pm

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby DjVortex » Sat May 26, 2012 6:47 pm

Fyrebrand wrote:Do you remember when Bill O'Reilly suggested that there must be a God in charge of the universe, simply because "Tides come in, tides go out... never a miscommunication" or some such nonsense? He was shot down pretty quickly, and there were countless replies on other shows and all over the internet explaining how we do, in fact, understand the mechanics of how tides work. Now, if O'Reilly really thought about it or bothered to research the point, he could have easily learned this bit of science for himself.


It's very similar to Ray's banana argument (ie. how the banana is "perfectly designed for human consumption", which clearly demonstrates the existence of a supernatural designer). This implies that the banana has existed as it is today from the beginning of time. When he was told that the modern banana was actually created by human artificial selection some time in the 1800's, and before that the banana did not exist in its current form (the ancestor of the modern banana is almost inedible and only vaguely resembles it) he had no choice but to concede.

However, he completely missed the most crucial point. The most important thing here is not that he was wrong, but that he demonstrated how little research he had actually done to present his banana argument. Just a quick google search with something like "history of the banana" would have quickly taught him that he was about to spout some serious BS and saved himself a lot of shame. Making such claims without actually doing even the minimum amount of research to back up the claim is a sign of serious incompetence.

When O'Reilly was pointed out his easy mistake with the tides (an argument that he had actually presented several times before that most famous one against Dave Silverman), he half-conceded, likewise totally missed the crucial point (ie. his own lack of the most basic and simplest research), and then proceeded to move the goalposts (because he then made a video arguing "ok, but how did the Moon get there?"). At least Ray didn't go that far.
DjVortex
 
Posts: 218
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:45 am

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby Fyrebrand » Sun May 27, 2012 5:21 pm

DjVortex wrote:It's very similar to Ray's banana argument (ie. how the banana is "perfectly designed for human consumption", which clearly demonstrates the existence of a supernatural designer). This implies that the banana has existed as it is today from the beginning of time. When he was told that the modern banana was actually created by human artificial selection some time in the 1800's, and before that the banana did not exist in its current form (the ancestor of the modern banana is almost inedible and only vaguely resembles it) he had no choice but to concede.


That banana video was probably Ray's single biggest mistake -- not only in terms of making himself look like a dishonest fool, but because it the real answer so clearly demonstrates the general idea of how evolution works (even if it was artificial selection, in this example).

In part, though, I can almost understand why Ray might not have thought to research the history of the banana. I mean, if he actually thought that bananas have always been the same, and that its current form is naturally-occurring, then there would be no history to research.

What makes Ray even more ridiculous is that, to my knowledge, he ended up acknowledging the true history of the banana in the end, and accepts that breeding led to its current form. Yet, you take that same idea, but substitute natural selection for artificial selection, and he rejects the whole concept. On some level, he knows he's wrong. He knows just enough to get the general concept, I think -- but whether consciously or unconsciously, he manages to keep himself in the dark on the details, just enough that he can still half-believe his own deceptions.

Although, I think when he phoned in to the Atheist Experience, he claimed to have received direct communications from God. So, who knows what kind of wrench that throws into how his mental gears. I have trouble accepting that at face value, since he doesn't sound like a schizophrenic to me, but I guess it's impossible to know for sure whether he's sincere about that one.
Fyrebrand
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:14 pm

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby DjVortex » Mon May 28, 2012 6:27 am

Fyrebrand wrote:What makes Ray even more ridiculous is that, to my knowledge, he ended up acknowledging the true history of the banana in the end, and accepts that breeding led to its current form. Yet, you take that same idea, but substitute natural selection for artificial selection, and he rejects the whole concept. On some level, he knows he's wrong. He knows just enough to get the general concept, I think -- but whether consciously or unconsciously, he manages to keep himself in the dark on the details, just enough that he can still half-believe his own deceptions.


It's curious how the most vocal hardcore creationists can be roughly divided into two camps with respect to how much they accept the theory of evolution:

1) There are those, including such hardcore creationists as Kent Hovind and Ken Ham, who accept something like 90% of the theory of evolution (including the concepts of species changing over time, natural selection and even speciation, ie. two groups of the same species which are geographically separated becoming so different that they can no longer interbreed) as long as you don't call it "evolution" but something else. (For some reason these people hate the word so much that it seems to be the word itself that's evil, not the theory that it represents. After all, they accept at least 90% of the theory, but keep pounding on how "evolution" is wrong and evil and eats children and whatnot. They consistently call that 90% that they accept something else.)

2) Those who reject everything that the theory of evolution proposes, no matter how simple and non-controversial (such as eg. natural selection). It seems to me that since they detest the idea that humans evolved from some other animal species, then everything that the theory of evolution says must be equally false, at all possible levels.

I have not followed very closely what Ray's stance is on this, but from the little I have seen, he seems to fall mostly on camp #2.
DjVortex
 
Posts: 218
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:45 am

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby Cephus » Mon May 28, 2012 10:40 pm

Fyrebrand wrote:
DjVortex wrote:That banana video was probably Ray's single biggest mistake -- not only in terms of making himself look like a dishonest fool, but because it the real answer so clearly demonstrates the general idea of how evolution works (even if it was artificial selection, in this example).


The problem is, you're assuming that Ray, or most other creationists, is at all rational. He's not. He's accepted a conclusion as 100% factually true and has no interest in questioning, examining or demonstrating that fact. It just is true and can never, by his definition, be false. Therefore, having any sort of discussion with him is pointless and he doesn't bother thinking about his "proofs", like the banana, because as far as he's concerned, *EVERYTHING* proves his foregone conclusion is true.

You can see the same kind of "thinking" when you watch the TV "reality" show "Finding Bigfoot". Everything "proves" Bigfoot. Not finding anything is, by their definition, proof that Bigfoot exists. There's no conceivable possibility that they're wrong, therefore anything that happens demonstrates they're right.

These people are all functionally insane, they haven't got a critical, rational or logical bone in their body and they cling to a fantasy which they cannot ever let go of. Ray is good for a laugh, nothing more.
Want to know more? http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com
Religion is a mental disease.
Cephus
 
Posts: 246
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:55 am
Location: Redlands, CA

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby DjVortex » Wed May 30, 2012 7:51 am

Cephus wrote:
Fyrebrand wrote:That banana video was probably Ray's single biggest mistake -- not only in terms of making himself look like a dishonest fool, but because it the real answer so clearly demonstrates the general idea of how evolution works (even if it was artificial selection, in this example).


The problem is, you're assuming that Ray, or most other creationists, is at all rational. He's not. He's accepted a conclusion as 100% factually true and has no interest in questioning, examining or demonstrating that fact. It just is true and can never, by his definition, be false. Therefore, having any sort of discussion with him is pointless and he doesn't bother thinking about his "proofs", like the banana, because as far as he's concerned, *EVERYTHING* proves his foregone conclusion is true.


Actually Ray has admitted that his banana example was wrong.
DjVortex
 
Posts: 218
Joined: Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:45 am

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby Cephus » Sat Jun 02, 2012 7:53 pm

DjVortex wrote:Actually Ray has admitted that his banana example was wrong.


Duane Gish admitted his bombadier beetle claims were false, yet continued to use them for a long time thereafter when talking to Christian groups. They just weren't bright enough to know he was wrong.
Want to know more? http://BitchSpot.JadeDragonOnline.com
Religion is a mental disease.
Cephus
 
Posts: 246
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2007 12:55 am
Location: Redlands, CA

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby Fyrebrand » Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:34 pm

I think I recall seeing a video where Ray admitted his error about the banana, but it was only about that particular example. I don't think he saw how it was an error in reason. If it turned out that the modern form of the banana indeed had always been like that and occurred naturally -- or maybe if he found out about another fruit or vegetable he could use for his demonstration -- then he'd still think it was evidence of a designer.
Fyrebrand
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:14 pm

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby sepia » Wed Jun 06, 2012 9:41 pm

As far as I remember, Ray Comfort has replaced the banana with an apple.
sepia
 
Posts: 112
Joined: Sat Jun 02, 2012 2:38 pm
Location: austria

Re: The sunk cost fallacy and religion

Postby Lausten » Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:14 pm

You mean like an iPad? Similar to the way that beer proves God wants us to be happy, iPads prove intelligent design. They fit right in your hand, respond to your touch and provide all the wisdom of the ages.
Lausten
 
Posts: 234
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:53 pm
Location: N. Minnesota


Return to General Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron