Hyper-rationalist Zeal !

Watching-the-rabbleHyper-rationalists feel that, as a commenter on Athiest Nexus wrote, “… [we] want our beliefs to be as accurate as possible — regardless of whether they are comforting or not!”

I am not sure I agree with this. Our beliefs exist in a complex ecological system — the mind. Our beliefs are not isolated entities but come in huge clusters. Let’s say that in a given cluster you have several irrational beliefs but you are not in touch with these beliefs (they are reflexive and unquestioned and unconscious). Now let’s say that in the same cluster you have another irrational belief which you are somewhat in touch with and that this belief is comforting in that it counteracts the negative impacts of the other irrational beliefs. So it you do away with this one belief, you will have unnecessary suffering. Sure it would be nice to fix the whole bunch of them, but mental change rarely happens that way.

Straightening out beliefs is very important when problem solving in a rather scientific way, but otherwise, when we operate on the ecology of our beliefs or on the beliefs of others, we might want to be cautious, slow and gentle with tampering when the belief is comforting and doing no real immediate harm. Accurate is better but happiness sometimes trumps !

Related Post: Web of Beliefs

BTW, I loved this picture from Dawkins’ Coming Out site – unrelated to the post, but wanted to put it up !

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