JR'S Free Thought Pages
On Logical Dysfunction, Irrationality and Religion
By JR, April 12, 2022
Permit me to set the stage with a few insightful quotes of intelligent folk…
Let us not dream that reason can ever be popular. Passions, emotions, may be made popular, but reason remains ever the property of the few – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits – Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
There is something feeble and contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comfortable. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed - Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
William James used to preach the “Will to Believe”; for my part, I should wish to preach “The Will to Doubt”. What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite – Bertrand Russell
I regard religion as a disease born of fear and a source of untold misery for the human race – Bertrand Russell
Christianity is the complete negation of common sense and sound reason – Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876)
If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him - Mikhail Bakunin
It has been claimed that Aristotle referred to humans as “rational animals”. To even the cursory observer of our dysfunctional, ethically unhinged pathological non compos mentis world this is patently false. The understanding by most people of the methods of scientific inquiry and especially the distinctions between deductive and inductive reasoning as employed in mathematics (especially probability and statistics) and science respectively is, for the most part, incredibly deficient. Sadly, it’s not just the average person who is mystified by and hates mathematic. Many of our obscenely wealthy elite capitalist oligarchs and their political puppets in our so-called “democracies” display some of the worst aspects of these violations of basic mathematical understanding, logic and scientific knowledge. Balancing your budget and filing your income tax require at most grade three arithmetic but many people cannot even handle this. Then there are the delusional math challenged morons who buy lottery tickets and engage in the newest form of idiocy, online gambling, now legal for betting on professional sports. Don’t these people know these activities are rigged scams, not unlike our capitalist fraudulent “democracies”?
In the 1980s, the A and W fast food company launched a new hamburger to compete with the popular “Quarter Pounder”, coronary artery blocker from their big competitor McDonalds. The Quarter Pounder weighs 1/4 pound (approximately 110 grams), and the campaign for the new squishy fat laced burger at A and W claimed that for the same price, contained 1/3 pound of meat. It was a huge failure; primarily because of millions of low IQ math customers who thought that 1/3 is less than 1/4 since 3 is less than 4; so why pay the same for less? This is serious math dysfunction. Perhaps it’s time for a math joke. Studies have apparently shown that philosophers and mathematicians have the best sense of humour.
Why would 6 fear 7? Because 7, 8, 9. 
Similarly for the math challenged, when the beer company Miller launched Miller 64 beer, which has only 64 calories, in order to compete with the leader in the super light beer segment, Budweiser launched Bud Light 80, which has 80 calories. Guess what happened? Miller’s solution was original and devious because they hired a mathematician who specialized in advanced number theory, specialized in partition congruencies, modular forms, partial differential equations and the Riemann Hypothesis. After days of calculations and mind bending mathematical acrobatics, he was able to guarantee that 64 is less than 80.
Even among the world’s best-educated and most scientifically and mathematically literate populations, irrational ludicrous belief systems flourish, religion being the most prevalent and absurd. The vast majority of the world’s population believe in such things as gods, ghosts, goblins, astrology, religious absurdities, television psychics, crystal divination, the healing powers of magnets and Q-Ray bracelets, chiropractic quack Dr. Ho, the prophecies of Nostradamus and stock market forecasters. Many believe that the ancient pyramids were built by aliens, that the Holocaust never happened, the Q-Anon conspiracy and that Donald Trump is ethical and intelligent. A few kooks would have us believe that Earth is ruled by a secret cabal of lizard-like aliens.
Belief v Knowledge
I only know what I believe – Tony Blair
Even within mainstream Christianity most believe in propositions that would not be believable to an un-indoctrinated preschooler. Former British Prime Minister, pathological liar and devout Catholic Tony Blair can’t even seem to understand the important conceptual distinctions between belief and knowledge. Moreover, Catholicism notwithstanding, the countless Protestant denominations such as Mormonism, snake charming Pentecostalism, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science (an oxymoron if there ever was one) are just bat shit crazy. Most Christian theologians and preachers of the evangelical sects believe in virgin births, resurrections from death, miracles that violate fundamental laws of physics and biology, the carrot/stick fairy tales of heaven and hell, that the creationist bed time fables of Genesis are true and insist the entire universe is only a few thousand years old. Some fanatical Islamic imams promise seventy-two heavenly virgins to suicide bombers who want to kill infidels. The roster of long gone historical gods such as Odin, Zeus and Thor and accompanying list of absurdities are long.
How do intelligent, college-educated people, even some 5-10% of scientists, end up the willing slaves of fear mongering and intellectual claptrap such as religion and the supernatural, all of which fly in the face of even a junior high school student’s understanding of science? Is it lack of courage to face life’s realities as Bertrand Russell claims in the introductory quotes? Is it the inability to challenge the authority of our inculcated beliefs, which is what an education ought to be about? How does a physicist or molecular biologist manage to compartmentalize his brain in which rational beliefs in one sector of the brain contradict the irrational other which seems to be an intellectual dead end or black hole? Isn’t this a diagnosis of and mind virus or perhaps schizophrenia? But this ability to hold contradictory beliefs has been explained by cognitive dissonance theory; but I still find these not uncommon erratic fragmented mental states incomprehensible. How, in particular, do the true believers manage to convince themselves and others that they with their childish fairy tale beliefs are the rational, reasonable ones and everyone else is deluded?
Confirmation bias is a logical fallacy, along with cognitive dissonance, self-deception, motivated reasoning, group think, the fallacy of false cause (post hoc ergo propter hoc), maintenance of the status quo via the Overton Window and literally hundreds of other deductive and inductive cognitive failings regularly committed by us humans. For example, when reality and glaring counter- evidence clashes with a religious person’s deep convictions, rather than modify or reject those beliefs as is the rational thing to do, they will ignore the evidence and recalibrate reality rather than amend their delusional world views to sustain the self-induced coma. In fact when logic conflicts with their convictions, they often become more rigid and dogmatic than before in the face of inconvenient logic and scientific evidence.
This irrational behavior of digging in your heels and reconfirming your faith-based beliefs in the face of counter-evidence - referred to by cognitive psychologists as cognitive dissonance - has been called the “backfire effect”. This behavior is more widespread than we care to admit as people, despite it being against their economic and social interest, prefer to be on the majority or winning side rather than the side of moral rectitude and real democracy.
The attempts by scientists, philosophers of logic and critical thinking experts to implement courses in logic and critical thinking in our schools have been systematically blocked by various conservative power factions such as those in our so-called “democracy” with wealth and power (the infamous “power elite”), churches and the corporate oligarchy. What these powerful people and institutions desire are not skeptics and critical thinkers, but docile obedient citizens, parishioners and compliant workers.
One of many books on critical thinking I have in my library lists 300 logical fallacies, although many of these overlap. Others commonly committed examples of spurious logic include emotional appeals, the non sequitur, circular reasoning (begging the question), hasty generalizations, false analogy, straw man fallacy, ad hominem, appeals to pity or authority, false dilemma, slippery slope, red herring, cherry picking, anecdotal and other errors in evidence, appeal to the majority, argument from ignorance conflating correlation with causation and numerous errors in probability and statistics.
The great Canadian economist and US diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith once remarked that “the only purpose of economic analysis and forecasting is to give astrology some measure of credibility. Yet high paid bullshit bankers, market analysts and other capitalist crystal ball gazers, accountants and lawyers continue to polish petrified dog shit at the expense of the common good and real jobs such as waste collectors, doctors, nurses, caregivers and teachers. Is this what we now call “logic” and “reason” in our era of neo-fascism and techno-feudalism?
For anyone sufficiently interested, I have a section on my web site devoted to logic and critical thought. Look for Section V: Logic, Skepticism and Critical Thinking at www.skeptic.ca
 There are many classical problems in mathematics, some that require only arithmetic or elementary algebra to solve while others like the Monty Hall problem may require some sophistication with probability theory such as Bayes Theorem. However, many PhDs in mathematics get the Monty Hall problem wrong. When intuition competes with mathematical analytics, logic and formulae, the intuitionists are usually wrong.
Consider this one that seems simple on an intuitive level:
A Bat and Baseball together cost $11 with the bat costing $10 more than the ball. What is the cost of the ball? Most will give the answer $1.
Answer: Ball: 50 cents and Bat $10.50
Solution using junior high school elementary algebra): Let the cost of the ball be X dollars, then the bat will be (X + 10) dollars.
X + (X +10) = 11
2X + 10 = 11
2X = 1
X = .5
Therefore the ball costs 50 cents and the bat costs $10.50