Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Leon Festinger

During the Easter weekend there was some of the usual debate about the historicity of the Resurrection. For the record my position is not that we can prove the resurrection, but merely that the facts and the evidence point to that conclusion, that he was raised from the dead. Weather not that is the case can't be demonstrated, and it is a matter of paradigm. The atheists tend to argue their paradigm of naturalism agaisnt it as an even as the sort of thing that never happens. Therefore we should not believe that it happened. I say First, it's a tenet of faith its' not necessary to use it as apologetical fodder. Evidence dose point to it and one accepts the "God exists and does things" then one can accept it as warranted for belief. To this they argued the follow quote about how unscientific it is. They are only saying "O isn't a shame that you don't subscribe to my paradigm?" That's all that argument means. No it's not a shame. It's a shame you don't know God.

But this argument did not unfold as it should have. There was some of their usual rejection of Popper, whom they adore at other times, and their misconceptions that scinece is about piling up a fortress of facts. That's the context, here's my post, begining with the statement that set me off:

Originally Posted by Keith View Post
(On CARM where else?)

It's ashamed that here we are in 2014, and after all our developments in the fields of science, people still believe somebody came back from the dead and floated up into the sky, and is still alive today in outer space somewhere.
what's ashamed is that people touting scinece as their world view are so unscientific. Here are some hard facts that must be faced about scinece:

(1) Science is not about proving things.

Read Popper! Science does not give atheism a fortress of facts.

(2) Science is not a means to spelling out all possibilities in the world.

(3) Science is not an ideology that spells what we may and may not believe.

Science is not a guide line that spells out belief systems.

(4) Science is a method that tests hypothesis by negating them not by proving them.

It's about disproving not proving hypothesis.

science does not give us truth. The best it can do is the appearance of truth, or verisimilitude.

(5) We know the resurrection is improbable by definition, it's a miracle that makes it impossible seeming. for Science to negate the res it has to prove it didn't happen.

To make science kill the resurrection you would have to disprove it. Not prove it's improbable. we know that. it should be improbable to be a tenet of faith.

In fact the real way to kill the disprove the resurrection would be to prove that it happens all the time.

To disprove the resurrection you have to go back in time and watch it fail to happen. That would be the only really scientific way to disprove it. The statement that it's such a shame that people still believe in such things in a scientific age is a affiliation of faith in an ideology, not science. It's not a scientific statement.

(6) Science is not a faith, It's not a replacement for god, not a religion it's salvation fro angry God, its not enforcement mechanism for atheism. It's not the fortress of facts.

(7) don't even think about saying I'm a "science denier." I'm more scientific then the person who said the statement above. It's unscientific to make scinece into an ideology.
This led to a lot of statments that the resurection is totally improbable. My protestation that it should be so because its a miracle. Them not getting that and not understanding it and reiterating that it's improbable then saying things like 'You don't get it, scinece disproves this by showing it's improbable. you are not playing the game right.' Ok that last bit is just my paraphrase of what they are really saying.

One poster got on to the 500 witnesses and his quip was that Paul just made them up. They were just "some dude told him this" or he made them up.

 Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
it's quite silly to think Paul would make up 500 people seeing the resurrection when he didn't see it himself. that's putting motives on them that can't be proven. If we accept those motive you have to the guys not an idiot he would some sense of what claims could be made. that claim if not based upon anything would be eaten up with one visit to Slammer.
It's like the Jesus myth idea. one trip to Jerusalem, hear one person say "Jesus who?" and it's all over.
Which totally explains why cults disappear after their leader has been exposed as a fraud.

Except that they don't.

 what does he mean by this mysterious crack? As it will turn out he's arguing that ala Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance, when prophesy fails cults don't fold they become stronger. Then they will argue to affirm the consequent that, therefore, that the success of Christianity proves the failure of the resurrection.Cognitive says says that if one has invested enough in something then failure is not the end of the matter, one must then  justify one's expense, so we re double our commitment to a re-written set of predictions or expectations. Festinger infiltrated a flying saucer cult in the 1950s, one which latter becasue part of dionetics, L.Ron Hubbard's empire. In those early says this cult said that the world was going to end and a flying saucer would save members of the cult. This message was delivered to a certain woman in automatic writing. Festinger was a psychology graduate student. He got wind of this cult and infiltrated it by joining it. He then brought in so many accomplices infiltrators that the data was totally contaminated: there's a good chance they kept the cult going just to continue the study, and there infiltrators to do that. They became the cult and kept it goign to study themselves infiltrating it.

I gave several reasons why the 500 were not made up and he never answered one of them. He merely asserted that since I'm a Christian I'm stupid to understand Festinger (actually I was studying Festinger in a sociology class when I got saved. I made a very through study of it, he doesn't understand the contamination of data). Festinger's book about the incident where he unveils his theory of cognitive dissonance is When Prophesy fails.

 Originally Posted by Arnold Chiari II View Post
Follow the argument with your finger: Paul could have made up the 500 witnesses, and even if someone cried foul, nobody may have cared, because cults don't always collapse when they are shown to advance untruth. Thats; the nature of cultic belief.
Especially when it comes to prophecies. Religious groups can engage in all types of tactics to avoid collapse when a prophecy fails. When one is having to grapple with the fact that one's supposed Messiah has does, without doing much of what the standard Jewish account of Messiahs prophecied they'd do, those tactics will likely come into play.

"When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: A Theoretical Overview"

 In terms of the Feistenger thing, they tried to turn it into proof that the resurrection failed. So they are arguing that since cults don't fold when their prophecies are disproved but people actually become more committed, then the fact that Christianity succeeded is proof that the Resurrection failed.
I argued that is affirming the conquest. Just becuase some times cults dont' fold when their predictions fail is no proof that they always and only succeed when their predictions fail. So their success is not proof that the predictions failed. After I pointed out the affirming the consequent the dropped it like a hot rock.

Here is my article on Festinger from Metacrock's blog. this was in relation to the prediction about the Myan end of the world.

So we are all still here hu?

I notice the world didn't end over the weekend. I had a plan but had it too late to carry it out. I was going to secretly contact all the Christians posting on CARM atheist and have them not post or show any presence on the net for several days after so that the atheists would begin to wonder "have they been raptured?" I didn't think of it until Saturday. So much for my whimsical contribution to the mockery of a bad idea. You can still read the warning on
I expect the guy who started all that, especially the guy who gave his savings to buy the posters, I expect them to become more committed to the idea than ever. This is a classic case of cognative dissonance, a major theory in psychology started by Leon Festinger.

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions.[2] Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology. A closely related term, cognitive disequilibrium, was coined by Jean Piaget to refer to the experience of a discrepancy between something new and something already known or believed.
Experience can clash with expectations, as, for example, with buyer's remorse following the purchase of an expensive item. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise,[2] dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior.

Notice the guy who started the idea also predicted it in 94. Being wrong once didn't prevent him from trying again, he was probably more attached to the idea. This is exactly what happened int the original case where Festinger developed the theory.

Festinger's original work was published in a book called When Prophesy Fails. The book was about Festinger, then a graduate student, who infiltrated a flying saucer cult. The cult began when a women in the mid west started receiving automatic writing from spirits who predicted the end of the world. The cult wound up believing that aliens were coming in flying saucers to save them. They were actually watching episodes of the classic tv sci fi show "Captain Video" to get "secret" messages form the aliens. The remarkable thing is several times the date came and went for the end of the world and yet the group became more committed each time, went out and got more members each time. Festinger contaminated his data because he asked so many questions and brought in so many "new members" (other graduate students and professors) that they began to suspect that he was an alien. They started taking opportunities in private to say "come on you can tell me I want tell the others, you are one of them aren't' you?" The cult finally disbanded the major people wound up in Scientology.


Of course very few Christians expected this guy's thing to be real. My feeling was if Jesus says he doesn't know the day or the hour, (only the Father does) what chance does this guy have of knowing it? As most of these things go this guy had some bogus theory about how to calculate secret messages from the Bible. His prmise is wrong on face value because he was calculating from the Flood, judging literal years (no way to know even if the flood was literally real--which it was not) when it happened. So there was no basis upon which to calculate anyway. Then he decided for himself that it could be traced that way, no Bible passage says it can be.

What is the basis for such foolish notions? First there is the kind of instruction in Bible reading that many people get in churches. When I turn past (I do mean past) televangelists almost without fail what I hear is total ignorance when they discuss how to study the Bible and how to read the Bible. They are the one's who set up this foolishness of secret codes and private meanings, becuase they don't know the basic scientific means of exegesis or textual criticism. American Christianity is based upon an revolution of anti-intellectualism led by harbingers of frontier life against the early Calvinist elites who founded the big schools in the east (such as Harvard and Yale). This revolution was called "the second great awakening" and it's legacy has been the sanctioning of uneducated guesswrok in reading the Bible and a profound suspicion and distrust of academic learning.

Although there may be broader ramifications for anti-intellectualism in America:

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
book by Hofstadter (quoting reader review on Amazon)
Hofstadter is careful to define what he means by the intellect and intellectuals. The intellect is the critical, creative, contemplative side of mind that examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, questions, imagines. It is the province of writers, critics, skeptics, professors, scientists, editors, journalists, lawyers and clergymen. Just being a "mental technician" in these fields is not enough; one also acts as an active custodian of values like reason and justice and truth.

Unfortunately, America's practical culture has never embraced intellectuals. The intellectuals' education and expertise are viewed as a form of power or privilege. Intellectuals are seen as a small arrogant elite who are pretentious, conceited, snobbish. Geniuses' are described as eccentric, and their talents dismissed as mere cleverness. Their cultured view is seen as impractical, and their sophistication as ineffectual. Their emphasis on knowledge and education is viewed as subversive, and it threatens to produce social decadence.

Instead, the anti-intellectuals believe that the plain sense of the common man is altogether adequate and superior to formal knowledge and expertise from schools. The truths of the heart, experience, and old-fashioned principles of religion, character, instinct, and morality are more reliable guides to life than education. After all, we idolize the self-made man in America.
my money is on this reaction of the second great awakening.

This common man stuff and common sense and so on usually means popular misconceptions and prejudices are enshrined as "common sense." When I was a kid the old people said "it's just common sense to keep the races apart." The same goes for the Bible, people want to feel that God is talking directly to them from the pages of the book and they don't some snob with a degree telling them what he says.

The other aspect of the equations, why we have this sense of "end times," in the first place, rooted in theology. Why does time have to "end?" Jurgen Moltmann, a major theologian of the twentieth century, explores this idea in this work Theology of Hope. (summary of book). He shows that the Israelites journey is spacial, through the desert toward the physical goal of a promised land. What happens once they reach it? Now the journey become temporal. They are no longer searching for the land, now it's a journey of time. They journey through history. Thus the bench mark of the end of times becomes the temporal goal. This theory might be in doubt due to modern scholarly notions that the journeying of the Israelites as been historically disproved. Lawrence H. Shiffman, Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, says this is not a consensus. There is still a large segment of scholars who don't accept this idea.

Shiffman writes:

Further, this theory must explain away the historical and archaeological evidence. Numerous cities from this period show a cultural change at precisely the point when the Israelites are said by the Bible to have appeared. Indeed, the newcomers, since they came from the desert, show a lower level of material culture than the Canaanites whom they displaced. This situation fits well the notion of Israelite conquest and infiltration. Second, the Israelites, throughout their history in the land, were concentrated in those areas easiest to defend against the superior arms of the Canaanites, a fact that supports the notion that they were invaders. Third, the doubters have claimed that few cities from this period show evidence of armed destruction. But careful consideration of the biblical narrative, with due attention to the account in Judges and the evidence that the Canaanites were never entirely displaced, eliminates this inconsistency fully. Indeed, the archaeological record supports a reconstruction of the historical events of the conquest when both Joshua and Judges are studied together. Finally, these scholars often claim that the Bible is the only source supporting the Exodus. But they forget that several different accounts of the Exodus exist in the Bible, in books written at different periods, thus providing corroborative evidence for the basic scheme of events.

Still it seems there would be more to the idea of end times than just enshrining it in Hebrew Hopes. The early chruch got into the act when the gentile churches, not aware of the apocalyptic genre of writing, took literal the symbolism of Revelation. No doubt all of that plays a role. Yet it seems there must be a psychological pay off that people long for. There must be an end to this vial of tears we call "the world." This seems especially acute when we wake of and hear of tragedies like what happened in Joplin last night.
People need a goal they need a pay off, other than death. Yet the wrong prediction that sucks others into false hope is not the way to go. We do not have false hope. We have to cultivate the inner life in a relationship with God to understand the reality of the true hope we do have. We need to be aware of God's reality in our lives so the present nature of eternity is always pressing upon us. We should live a position which is aware of two points at once, the concrete now which is here in life, and the eternal which we will someday join. I probably look too lovingly at the past, but being a historian I can't help but think that knowing the past is a good way to demarcate the present.

No comments: