Pharyngula

Let’s all convert!

i-15f7a03c8e4b8eb737316c616810767e-danaeism.gif

Comments

  1. #1 Grumpy Physicist
    March 31, 2006

    Gee, thanks for posting that PZ. I’ll look forward to the burgeoning masses of Danaeites amoung the students in my physics class.

    Well, probably Danaeites of the anti-Velocitarian sect. They’re pretty fanatical.

  2. #2 BlueIndependent
    March 31, 2006

    The third panel is classic.

  3. #3 Mogens Michaelsen
    March 31, 2006

    Some Danes might get quite insulted, if it is meant as a joke!

    Others might think this could be the solution to our problems with: 1)integration of muslims 2)separation between church and state 3)xenofobia 4)a certain degree of ignorance.

    However, I don’t think anybody will burn down the American Embassy, just because of that.

    Joke or not…

  4. #4 Zeno
    March 31, 2006

    Yeah, when I saw this in the morning paper I knew it was going to go on my office door. Danae’s acolytes have clearly already infiltrated my algebra class.

  5. #5 wamba
    March 31, 2006

    Some Danes might get quite insulted, if it is meant as a joke!

    Uh, do you realize the cartoon has nothing to do with Danmark, and that the religion is named after the child character, Danae?

  6. #6 pw
    March 31, 2006

    Gotta get up pretty early in the morning to beat ole PZ. I just read the strip myself, and came over here to be sure to that PZ saw it.

  7. #7 ivy privy
    March 31, 2006

    Give me all your dirt on Cornelius Hunter please.
    Intelligent Design proponent coming to Cornell

    Intelligent Design proponent coming to Cornell
    .
    There are a couple neat events coming up next week:
    .
    On Wednesday, April 5…
    .
    5:00 PM, OH 165
    Lecture by Cornelius Hunter, biophysics professor at Biola University and author of Darwin’s God: Evolution and the problem of evil and Darwin’s Proof: The triumph of religion over science.
    .
    7:00PM, OH 155
    Panel Discussion
    Come hear both sides of the story!
    .
    Panelists:
    Representing Evolution:
    Richard Harrison, EEB, Cornell University
    Kern Reeve, NBB, Cornell University
    .
    Representing Intelligent Design:
    Cornelius Hunter, Biophysics, Biola University
    ______________________________
    .
    Sponsored by the Intelligent Design Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Club and the Bioethics Society of Cornell

  8. #8 Kristine
    March 31, 2006

    I already belong to Danaeism, and I’m trying to get out!

  9. #9 Gilgamesh
    March 31, 2006

    Isn’t she also an Intelligent Falling advocate? 😛

  10. #10 ivy privy
    March 31, 2006

    Sorry, I should have put that in the open thread.

  11. #11 Chris
    March 31, 2006

    Danae is the name of the little girl (it’s a serial cartoon). There’s no connection to Danes (the nationality) other than a coincidental similarity of names.

  12. #12 PaulC
    March 31, 2006

    It’s worth a chuckle, but it’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind about anything.

    What I think many rationally inclined people ignore is the fact that most of what most people believe did not get in their heads through a process of empirical observation and rational analysis. It got there through some combination of upbringing, peer pressure, and appeal to authority. I’m not just talking about religion. I’m including things like the best way to unclog a drain or how to tell if your brownies are ready to get out of the oven. People learn stuff from other people. We would like to think that learning is a process of critical analysis, but in many cases it’s a process of absorbing lore from those assumed to know the answers.

    So in a sense, the 2nd panel has some practical validity. You cannot just concoct beliefs de novo. (Or if you do, it’s an uphill battle to get any followers.) All through human history, beliefs have had to be validated by the usual arbiters of truth: upbringing, peer pressure, or authority figures. You can ask how the culture got hold of the supposed truth in the first place, but I think for a lot of people, this is not a practical question because the authority of culture is so fully ingrained. There might be some myth postulating a higher authority figure–some kind of Prometheus–who revealed the truth at some time in the past, and that is assumed to settle the matter.

    Now I happen to think that the arbiter of belief should be empirical observation and analysis, but I think many people fail to comprehend what a radical notion this is to most people. There have been thinkers throughout history, but they’re usually a tiny minority. The idea that one individual can overturn consensus just by doing a contradictory analysis is not even universally accepted. The idea that everyone is allowed to try probably didn’t gain currency until after the Enlightenment.

    But in effect the culture of science is that everyone is expected to question the consensus and if their little experiment and analysis contradicts prevailing beliefs, this will be accepted with great excitement as a new development. I often wonder if people deeply ingrained in this culture can appreciate the fact that most people probably haven’t even fully internalized enlightenment ideals and are still not sure that they’re even allowed to question prevailing assumptions let alone attempt to challenge them with fact and logic.

  13. #13 Graculus
    March 31, 2006

    I’m including things like the best way to unclog a drain or how to tell if your brownies are ready to get out of the oven.

    How many people do you know who, when faced with under-cooked brownies, will *not* think to themselves “Hmm, maybe I should do this differently?”

    but in many cases it’s a process of absorbing lore from those assumed to know the answers.

    Which then gets tested in the real world. If a recipe is wrong, we know it, and we don’t use it again.

    When religion comes out half-baked, they just keep on.

  14. #14 Daniel Martin
    March 31, 2006

    I’m not just talking about religion. I’m including things like the best way to unclog a drain or how to tell if your brownies are ready to get out of the oven. People learn stuff from other people. We would like to think that learning is a process of critical analysis, but in many cases it’s a process of absorbing lore from those assumed to know the answers.

    There was an article in the New York Times within the last few months that actually talked about attempts to study this behavior – that is, the degree to which humans learn by received wisdom as opposed to original thought.

    The study in question compared the behavior of human 4 year olds with that of chimpanzees when solving certain puzzles. (I think it was opening a certain type of box to get a treat) In the first phase both groups (human and chimp) were shown how to open an opaque box by a human adult, and this procedure included several unnecessary steps. The adult then sealed a treat inside the box and handed it to the subject. On this phase, both humans and chimps repeated the unnecessary steps to roughly the same degree.

    In the second phase, a clear plastic box was used, so that anyone looking at the mechanism could see that certain steps were unnecessary. (the box design had been tested earlier to ensure that both 4 yr. old humans and chimps could examine the box and determine how to open it without adult instruction) Now, the adults demonstrated how to open the clear box, including unnecessary steps. This time, when given the box the chimps by-and-large ignored what the adults had done and just opened the box, whereas the human children repeated the unnecessary steps.

    The title of the NYT article played on the phrase “Monkey see, monkey do” noting that actually that’s what humans did, not what the chimps did.

    In other words, there is an ingrained human tendency to trust received wisdom over what direct observation tells us. Furthermore, this is a comparatively recent evolutionary development. I can only conclude that this means that if you are human, there is an evolutionary advantage in not thinking for yourself when you don’t have to. (on the flip side, there may be an advantage to engaging in independent thought if you are a chimpanzee)

  15. #15 Arun
    March 31, 2006

    Aren’t they comparing inequivalent stages of development, between chimpanzee and child? And extrapolating child to adult?

  16. #16 PaulC
    March 31, 2006

    Which then gets tested in the real world. If a recipe is wrong, we know it, and we don’t use it again.

    But often if it could be better, we don’t know. Beliefs that are sufficiently harmful might be short-lived, but ones that work well enough are often accepted non-critically. How many people still use some kind of ineffective folk remedy? Note that some folk remedies actually are effective, but provided that the ineffective ones are not very harmful, few people are going to be able to make the distinction.

    To answer your first question: the person in question won’t get undercooked brownies if they were good rote students. The brownies ought to turn out as well as those of their brownie mentor. If the brownies don’t turn out, the person will wonder what they did wrong, and indeed might begin some kind of trial and error resembling rudimentary science. Alternatively, they might begin an entirely different process of attempting to construct the “true” recipe. It depends a lot on the individual.

  17. #17 PaulC
    March 31, 2006

    Daniel Martin:

    Now, the adults demonstrated how to open the clear box, including unnecessary steps. This time, when given the box the chimps by-and-large ignored what the adults had done and just opened the box, whereas the human children repeated the unnecessary steps.

    That’s really interesting, though I’d want to see a lot of similar experiments before concluding much.

    I can think of two interpretations.

    One is purely cultural. Even shown the simpler way to open the box, the human might say “Well, any chimp can open a box, but I know how to do it with panache.” I remember reading somewhere (no reference handy) that anthropologists have observed tribes ridiculing the design of competing tribes’ weapons even though the designs are equally effective. So learning the unnecessary steps is part of developing a cultural identity.

    My other interpretation is to observe that it could be a very practical adaptive trait. Just because you think you can eliminate “unnecessary” steps doesn’t mean you can. E.g.:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060322/ap_on_re_as/japan_nuclear_plant_fire

    In 1999, a radiation leak at a fuel-reprocessing plant northeast of Tokyo killed two workers and triggered the evacuation of thousands of residents. That accident was caused by two workers who tried to save time by mixing excessive amounts of uranium in buckets instead of using special mechanized tanks.

    Humans may simply need to be able to carry out more subtle processes than chimps. Suppose you lived in the Amazon and needed to learn the correct handling of poisonous frogs to tip your darts. That’s a case where you might do much better to accept received wisdom than to try to make process improvements.

  18. #18 Torbjorn Larsson
    March 31, 2006

    Before extrapolating on man-chimp behaviour differences, I would like to see Arun’s question answered. What do we learn by comparing small children with either adult chimps, or possibly chimps of the same age but near adults? The animal that matures slowest compared to man is the orangutang that is adult at 7, IIRC.

  19. #19 SteveG
    March 31, 2006

    I’ve always wondered why more people don’t start their own religion. What could be more liberating? Rather than trying to shoehorn your acquired beliefs in with some archane metaphysical structure, take control.

    Mine is Comedism — our God is funnier than their God. We believe fully in evolutionary theory as long as a new selection mechanism — survival of the funniest — is included in the theory (you try to explain the platypus otherwise). In fact, if you are thinking of converting, stop over tomorrow — April 1 is the holiest day of the year for Comedists — at the Philosophers’ Playground and take a look at our holy skripture, the Comedist Manifesto.

  20. #20 Straw Men Are a Bigot's Best Friend
    March 31, 2006

    So in one breath (figuratively speaking) you support straw man arguments about religion, but then in the next, you condemn straw man arguments when they are used against evolution?

  21. #21 Torbjorn Larsson
    March 31, 2006

    On second thought, “animal that matures slowest” should probably be “mammal that matures slowest” since cikadas et cetera are slower, IIRC.

    “you support straw man arguments about religion”

    Unfortunately for us all, it’s not a straw man. While PaulC explains that it’s practise as well as faith beliefs, those beliefs are made and supported pretty much of the reason the cartoon says; to fit needs.

    Evolution happen to fit badly fundies needs and in fact go against their beliefs, or so they want to believe, which is the reason it’s harassed for telling the facts.

  22. #22 Frumious B.
    March 31, 2006

    You cannot just concoct beliefs de novo. (Or if you do, it’s an uphill battle to get any followers.)

    It worked for L. Ron.

  23. #23 QrazyQat
    March 31, 2006

    Aren’t they comparing inequivalent stages of development, between chimpanzee and child? And extrapolating child to adult?

    They’re not really extrapolating, but just looking at what the kids of each species do — we do tend to extrapolate when we read the study. But there is some difference, although this could be kids being more likely to exactly copy adults of their own species (as the authors mention).

    I don’t have the article so I don’t know how much was known of the exact ages of the chimps involved — they were young wild-born chimps — but typically young apes mature faster (if any 2-5 year old can really be “maturing” :)) than humans. Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson brought up their daughter with a young orangutan and said they made great companions, and that the ape was more mature earlier, after which the human kid catches up (around 3-4 years if I remember right). (Somewhat OT, I’ve also seen it stated that young orangs and gorillas do better at learning with humans than chimps because they aren’t quite so hyper.)

  24. #24 J. J. Ramsey
    March 31, 2006

    “It worked for L. Ron.”

    True, but Scientology takes the approach of boiling the frog slowly so it won’t know it’s being cooked. Initially, they present themselves as a sort of alternative to psychology, and only after one has significantly invested time and money does one see the really far out doctrines.

  25. #25 BronzeDog
    March 31, 2006

    True, but Scientology takes the approach of boiling the frog slowly so it won’t know it’s being cooked.

    I think the whole frog thing is a myth, but yeah, that’s pretty much how I see Scientology… Of course, most of everything I know of Scientology came from South Park before they burned the tape.

  26. #26 Carlie
    March 31, 2006

    I can’t point to the exact papers, but I have heard many times that adult chimp intelligence has been tested as roughly equal to that of a 4-year old human. There are a lot of studies specifically that point to humans developing a “theory of mind” around age 4 (shown in the PBS Evolution series), and that chimps never get to that point. There seems to be a lot of support for the idea that in general chimps operate at the mental level of an old toddler, so those are comparisons often used. I don’t know if it’s entirely accurate across all mental capabilities (Can 4-year old humans coordinate a sneak attack on another group? Maybe.)

  27. #27 Michael Bains
    March 31, 2006

    PaulC said:

    …anthropologists have observed tribes ridiculing the design of competing tribes’ weapons even though the designs are equally effective.

    Tribes?

    You mean College ‘n’ Pro Sports fans, right?

    Danae deserves a nice big Ramen! (Mine’s on its way! lol)

  28. #28 NickM
    March 31, 2006

    Freud, from “Civilization and its Discontents”. I love the abrupt shift in tone midway.

    “I was concerned much less with the deepest sources of the religious feeling than with what the common man understands by his religion – with the system of doctrines and promises which on the one hand explains to him the riddles of this world with enviable completeness, and, on the other, assures him that a careful Providence will watch over his life and will compensate him in a future existence for any frustrations he suffers here. The common man cannot imagine this Providence otherwise than in the figure of an enormously exalted father. Only such a being can understand the needs of the children of men and be softened by their prayers and placated by the signs of their remorse. The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. It is still more humiliating to discover how large a number of people living to-day, who cannot but see that this religion is not tenable, nevertheless try to defend it piece by piece in a series of pitiful rearguard actions.”

  29. #29 Zeno
    March 31, 2006

    You cannot just concoct beliefs de novo. (Or if you do, it’s an uphill battle to get any followers.)

    It worked for L. Ron.

    Well, kinda sorta. How much of Scientology is really de novo? L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer long before he became the founder of a religion. He spun out the “scripture” of Scientology in numerous lectures and articles that he appeared to produce extemporaneously. The whole Xenu story smacks of space opera, which is why the late Christopher Evans called Scientology “the science fiction religion.”

    When Isaac Hayes quit South Park because of the Xenu episode, I wrote a blog post titled Chef d’oeuvre and sprinkled it with links to various articles on Xenu and Scientology (one connects to a complete on-line biography of L. Ron). I also cite some material from Martin Gardner and Christopher Evans, both of whom wrote extensively on cults and pseudoscience.

  30. #30 IAMB
    March 31, 2006

    (you try to explain the platypus otherwise)

    I agree. In the past, when confronted with the “If you could meet God and ask only one question before being sent back, what would it be?” scenario, I have (in all seriousness) replied with “What the f@%! were you thinking when you built the platypus? Get bored and dug in the spare parts bin for fun?”

    The theists always thought I was making fun of them with my response. Some even accused me of mocking their God. The joke, I figure, was always on them…

    I was dead serious.

  31. #31 Chris
    March 31, 2006

    Wow, so Freud *was* right about something. Who knew?

    I was turned off of South Park for a while when it seemed like they were degenerating into bathroom humor, but the Scientology episodes (particularly The Return of Chef) make me think that Parker and Stone have rediscovered their satirical edge. I may have to start watching regularly again.

  32. #32 Graculus
    March 31, 2006

    But often if it could be better, we don’t know.

    Don’t do much baking, then? 😉

    What it comes down to is that there are rote learners, and a lot of them. But there are a lot of humans that will test it out.

    We wouldn’t have made it past fire (if that) otherwise.

  33. #33 NelC
    April 1, 2006

    There’s an article in this week’s New Scientist about the chimp vs. human learning differences. The current theory is that we learn things by rote, a) because we can (big brains bring clearer memories, perhaps) and b) because we have an awful lot to learn in any given environment and culture that isn’t programmed into our genes. Learning by rote enables us to cram more stuff in, in a shorter time.

  34. #34 brook
    April 1, 2006

    Sounds like Danae’s been hanging out w/one of my kids.

    My mother tried to explain god to Sterling when Sterling was 3yo.

    Sterling thought about this for a few minutes then said “Hmm my (imaginery) friend the beaver says god is pretend.”

    Which to me has always tidily summed up the issue. Believe what you want none of it’s real.

  35. #35 Kadin
    April 1, 2006

    Oh. Oh that is good.

  36. #36 Corkscrew
    April 1, 2006

    I wonder if one could figure out what the best ratio of habitual rote-learners to habitual non-rote-learners would be in any situation? I would suspect that the development of the “information economy” has shifted the balance quite a lot – problem-solving skills are becoming substantially more important.

  37. #37 Mogens Michaelsen
    April 1, 2006

    to wamba + Chris:

    T’was a joke!

    As a Dane, I have – for the moment – a tendency to associate the words CARTOON and RELIGION … sorry!

    Pretty name for the girl, though.

  38. #38 george cauldron
    April 1, 2006

    Well, kinda sorta. How much of Scientology is really de novo? L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer long before he became the founder of a religion. He spun out the “scripture” of Scientology in numerous lectures and articles that he appeared to produce extemporaneously. The whole Xenu story smacks of space opera, which is why the late Christopher Evans called Scientology “the science fiction religion.”

    You know, ‘Zeno’ and ‘Xenu’ sound awfully similar… Coincidence? I think not

  39. #39 G. Tingey
    April 1, 2006

    Hmmm … little girls called Danae ….

    VERY dodgy.

    Given the legend in classical mythology of Danae and the “golden Shower” – Zeus in disguise, getting her in the club.
    Source of several renaissance soft-porn pictures.

    I’d be really careful around this one folks, ESPECIALLY if you like younger females …erm – I’ll just go and lie down in a cool, dark room fo a bit, until it passes off ….

  40. #40 Graculus
    April 1, 2006

    problem-solving skills are becoming substantially more important.

    Not in my experience.

    “Information” is not the same thing as “meaning”. They can (nay, will, with glee) process the stuff without understanding it.

  41. #41 Shyster
    April 2, 2006

    As a devout Presleytarian I know that the King is King. We face Vegas at least three times a day (if we remember). Our Priesthood, known as the Jordanaires, wear really cool jump suits. Fat is OK; drugs are Ok; peanut butter and banana sandwiches are our sacrament and pink Caddys are the bomb. Best or all, Presleytarians don’t die — we simply leave the building.

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