Author Topic: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?  (Read 1425 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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From an old SGU episode:

Quote
S: And you know what? And they don't. There is a different in agenda. About... there's admittedly a great deal of overlap between the two groups. About seventy percent, by surveys. Seventy percent of self-identified skeptics are also non-believers, also either atheists or agnostics or secularists. And about the same is true of secular humanists, although, I think, a lot of them—more of them consider themselves skeptics. Some of them are amenable to a lot of superstitious beliefs. A lot of them are enamored of alternative medicine or acupuncture or, sort of, eastern spirituality and even when confronted on this say, "Well, this is not religion cause it's a different culture. It's eastern. It's not western." Which is kind of silly.

B: That was a surprise when I realized that. It's like, "Whoa."

In the UK, Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins, in the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group and patron of Humanists UK, is a strong supporter of homeopathy. And he is not alone either, Tim Yeo, Conservative MP, also part of hte All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, is a supporter of homeopathy. This is a bit ironic, given that Humanists UK works to end the public funding for alternative medicine.

The American Humanist Association recently gave an award to the anti-GMO fearmonger David Suzuki.

So I have never really hanged out in circles specifically dedicated to atheism or humanism, but I guess some people here have. So what's up with it? Are pseudoscientific or maybe even antiscientific viewpoints common in those circles or organizations? Maybe even accepted, if fighting religion is viewed as the cause that trumps all other concerns?

Online daniel1948

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2018, 07:33:00 PM »
The SGU has talked many times about the fact that there are pseudoscientific beliefs peculiar to conservatives, and pseudoscientific beliefs peculiar to liberals. I am sure there are plenty of atheists and humanists who subscribe to the leftie pseudoscientific ideas. I opposed GMOs and strongly supported organic farming until I heard folks like the SGU explain the issues. Were it not for science and skepticism podcasts I'd probably still hold those beliefs. But most people don't listen to podcasts. (I came to podcasts because I've preferred radio over tv all my adult life, and podcasts are essentially radio on demand. But most of my friends watch tv instead.)
Daniel
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2018, 10:26:53 PM »
Hmm. You know, it's almost like skeptics, atheists and humanists are different groups with different philosophies. You know, like there's a Venn diagram that shows some overlap, but that there are also non-overlapping areas. Almost a bit like that.
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Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2018, 09:04:42 AM »
Based on anecdotal experience, yes.  I'd bet the overlap between UFO and ancient alien enthusiasts and atheists and humanists is not insignificant.

Offline Mr. Beagle

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2018, 10:04:54 AM »
I attended a couple UU (Unitarian/Universalist) churches for a time until I realized that sometimes you can be so "open-minded" that you have a hole in your head. The woo was strong there. Nice folks, though, and better than most of the alternatives.

My best experience there was early on when homosexuality in the church was a very hot topic, and not in a good way where I was living. These folks were having a celebration of the return of their long-time musical director after several years away from town living with his same-sex partner. The open and honest love with which they welcomed him and his partner back was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes.
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Online daniel1948

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2018, 11:52:15 AM »
I attended a couple UU (Unitarian/Universalist) churches for a time until I realized that sometimes you can be so "open-minded" that you have a hole in your head. The woo was strong there. Nice folks, though, and better than most of the alternatives.

My best experience there was early on when homosexuality in the church was a very hot topic, and not in a good way where I was living. These folks were having a celebration of the return of their long-time musical director after several years away from town living with his same-sex partner. The open and honest love with which they welcomed him and his partner back was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes.


Agreed.

I attended a UU for a while. There was a lot of woo, but there was also an open and welcoming attitude. The idea that everyone's beliefs are equally valid attracts woo, but also attracts all sorts of positive diversity. I loved the diversity, but could never agree with the basic principle of all beliefs being valid. I always regarded stupidity as invalid. I kept my mouth shut, out of respect for the organization, but I never felt like a UU myself when I rejected one of their most fundamental principles when it validates belief in woo. I really liked the Wiccans: They were sweet and kind and have tremendous respect for the environment and the importance of caring for it; and they support human rights, which has long been one of my top issues. But their beliefs were bat-shit crazy.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2018, 01:49:10 PM »
Hmm. You know, it's almost like skeptics, atheists and humanists are different groups with different philosophies. You know, like there's a Venn diagram that shows some overlap, but that there are also non-overlapping areas. Almost a bit like that.

Hmm. You know, it's almost like you try to be condescending to me just for the sake of it. Almost a bit like that.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2018, 01:55:17 PM »
The SGU has talked many times about the fact that there are pseudoscientific beliefs peculiar to conservatives, and pseudoscientific beliefs peculiar to liberals. I am sure there are plenty of atheists and humanists who subscribe to the leftie pseudoscientific ideas. I opposed GMOs and strongly supported organic farming until I heard folks like the SGU explain the issues. Were it not for science and skepticism podcasts I'd probably still hold those beliefs. But most people don't listen to podcasts. (I came to podcasts because I've preferred radio over tv all my adult life, and podcasts are essentially radio on demand. But most of my friends watch tv instead.)

I'd think Jesus myhticism is much more common in that community than in the scholarly community. I was surprised that the SGU were agnostic but seemed to lean toward mythicism on this subject.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2018, 01:35:40 PM »
I attended a couple UU (Unitarian/Universalist) churches for a time until I realized that sometimes you can be so "open-minded" that you have a hole in your head. The woo was strong there. Nice folks, though, and better than most of the alternatives.

My best experience there was early on when homosexuality in the church was a very hot topic, and not in a good way where I was living. These folks were having a celebration of the return of their long-time musical director after several years away from town living with his same-sex partner. The open and honest love with which they welcomed him and his partner back was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes.


Agreed.

I attended a UU for a while. There was a lot of woo, but there was also an open and welcoming attitude. The idea that everyone's beliefs are equally valid attracts woo, but also attracts all sorts of positive diversity. I loved the diversity, but could never agree with the basic principle of all beliefs being valid. I always regarded stupidity as invalid. I kept my mouth shut, out of respect for the organization, but I never felt like a UU myself when I rejected one of their most fundamental principles when it validates belief in woo. I really liked the Wiccans: They were sweet and kind and have tremendous respect for the environment and the importance of caring for it; and they support human rights, which has long been one of my top issues. But their beliefs were bat-shit crazy.

Probably there is a relation here in trying to be tolerant that almost any craziness is greeted with a shrug.

Offline david_s

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Re: Are pseudoscientific beliefs common among atheists and humanists?
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2018, 12:37:24 PM »
I don't have any direct evidence about atheists or humanists but I am also curious about this question.

I made an observation along these lines when I was watching Sidewalk Epistemology on the Youtube. Anthony goes around and tries to start up 5 min conversations with random strangers and asks them questions about strongly held beliefs and why they hold them. There is a playlist of all the times he encountered an atheist (struggling to find the link). I was surprised by the number of atheists who held a belief in some form of karma. (small sample size, anecdotal, etc.)  It was very apparent that at least a few of the atheists he interviewed did not arrive at an atheist position because of a skeptical thought process. However, several of them did say that they didn't believe in a god because of a lack of evidence.

It seems like I have to work harder to fill out the rest of my worldview now that I have rejected the first premise of the holy book. Depending on how each person arrives at atheism, one might be tempted to just go with what feels right. This of course *can* lead to belief in superstition. That said, it did appear that the karma atheists were much more open to examining why they believed in karma than were the newly saved believers.