Personality disorders and true believers
By Sam Sewell
My purpose here is not to persuade or debate, but to make clear my own thinking on this subject. The very nature of the pathology I write about precludes listening to opposing views or being rational. Another name for the pathology I describe is "true believer".
For a philosophical perspective on group pathology, please familiarize your self with Eric Hoffer and his book "The True Believer". If you have any familiarity with the story of Jim Jones and his Jonestown Kool-Aid mass suicide, or of the group suicide of the members of the cult who found new meaning in the passage of the Hale Bop comet, or of the mental make up of those who bought into the seven seals dogma of David Koresh in the fatal Waco fiasco, then you will recognize that which Hoffer describes. Read this book for further insight into the fanaticism of the holy warriors of Islam, and perhaps it will steel your resolve for the long struggle.
I hop around the internet forums quite a bit. In fact I have taken to deliberately provoking debates and keeping track of the irrational responses, personal attacks, ad homonym arguments, logical absurdities, hyperbole, extreme examples (would everybody please quit comparing your favorite villain to Hitler,) and hard-headed, narrow-mindedness in general.
I have been collecting on-line responses to illustrate the premise that members of "movements" have certain predictable responses to information that contradicts their "faith" or "party line." In almost any "faith group" there are beliefs that are irrational and will not stand up to logical examination. It is amazing how political parties, special interest groups, advocacy groups, religions, doctors, nationalists, philosophical schools of thought, and even scientists, are so narrow minded about information that contradicts their particular paradigm. If you want to see this kind of pathology rear up in front of your own eyes, try some of the following experiments:
1. With black forums: present conclusive historical documentation that the American slave trade depended on Black African chieftains who either sold their own tribe members into slavery or captured other tribe members and sold them as slaves to the Arabs who controlled the slave trade. I add the historical fact that it was white abolitionists who ran the "underground railroads" and ended slavery in America.
2. With fundamentalist Christians: present solid evidence that the Bible is not literally true.
3. With the NRA members: present several of the solid studies which support the premise that having a gun in the house is more dangerous than remaining unarmed.
4. With law enforcement officers and law and order advocates: I present many studies which reveal that almost any alternative sentencing program results in less recidivism than imprisonment or punishment.
5. With MDs: present very well researched studies which show that orthomolecular medicine achieves superior results over traditional medical treatments in several areas of pathology.
6. With mathematicians: present evidence that math is not really connected to reality in a predictable way, but functions as a kind of "virtual reality." "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." Albert Einstein
7. With homosexuals: present evidence that "gayness" is not genetic and that Dean Hamer, a homosexual and molecular biologist, is under investigation by the federal Office of Research Integrity for fraud connected with his highly touted "gay gene" study.
8. With feminists: present over 100 social science research studies on domestic violence showing that women are at least as violent, if not more violent, than men in domestic settings.
9. With Republicans: talk about the very real accomplishments of the Clinton administration.
10. With Democrats: point out that it was the Republican policy and Republican leadership that won the cold war.
In our little informal study we check for 10 standard responses and rank the willingness to accept conflicting information accordingly.
Typically, people have very low evidence standards for accepting the validity of things with which they agree, and very high evidence standards for accepting things with which they disagree. An example: Feminists seem perfectly willing to accept law enforcement statistics as an accurate description of the domestic violence problem (low standards for accepting.) Scientific studies are far more reliable in presenting an accurate view of the problem. However, the scientific studies clearly show that domestic violence is a two-way street. Therefore, feminists clutch onto misleading Justice Department statistics with the same obsession that Silas Marner clings to his gold, while at the same time denying the validity of statistical evidence with the same narrow minded belligerence of a fundamentalist who is confronted with evolutionary science (high standards for accepting.)
Another example of narrow-mindedness is a comparison of scientific thinking skills between a group of PhD scientists and a group of Protestant Ministers. These men were advised that "science" had already determined the "four correct" (there were actually more than four)