Beliefs Kill People

Guns Don’t Kill People, Beliefs Kill People

BY MICHAEL SHERMER

f80c8e709e50ffa7c7697affd18fedb8If by fiat I had to draw one core generalization from a quarter century spent studying the psychology of beliefs, it is that almost everyone thinks that their beliefs are right, both ontologically and ethically. For the most part, people think that their beliefs are true, moral, or both. No one joins a cult—they join a group that they believe is going to help them and/or society. No one thinks they’re practicing pseudoscience—they believe they’ve discovered a new truth that mainstream science has yet to recognize. And very few believe their actions are immoral—at the time they had perfectly rational and moral reasons for acting as they did.

You do not have to give people reasons to be violent, because they already have plenty of reasons. All you have to do is take away their reasons to restrain themselves.

Continue reading “Beliefs Kill People”

On This Weary, Unbright Cinder

cosmosAs we are pattern-seeking, story-telling primates, to most of us the pattern of life and the universe indicates design. For countless millennia we have taken these patterns and constructed stories about how life and the cosmos were designed specifically for us from above. For the past few centuries, however, science has presented us with a viable alternative in which the design comes from below through the direction of built-in self-organizing principles of emergence and complexity. Perhaps this natural process, like the other natural forces which we are all comfortable accepting as non-threatening to religion, was God’s way of creating life. Maybe God is the laws of nature—or even nature itself—but this is a theological supposition, not a scientific one.

Continue reading “On This Weary, Unbright Cinder”