Wednesday, December 07, 2005

InG we T -Commitment Theories

In Gods we trust
Introduction 1.2 - Commitment Theories

Commitment theories are mindblind. For the most part, they ignore or misrepresent the cognitive structure of the mind and its causal role. They cannot in principle distinguish Marxism for monotheism, ideology from religious belief. They cannot explain why people can be more steadfast in their commitment to admittedly counterfactual and counterintuitive beliefs-that Mary is both a mother and a virgin, and God is sentient but bodiless- than to the most politically, economically, or scientifically persuasive account of the ways things are or should be. For commitment theorists, political and economic ideologies that obey transcendent behavioural laws do for people pretty much what religious belief in the supernatural is supposed to do.

I'll admit it, this last sentence stumped me for a while as I was reviewing things. I believe it is similar to what I was thinking about in my post on humanist religions. What makes something a religious is the way it is treated. This is an interesting, but I think, unworkable side step around the the main issue of scientific vs. religious knowing.

However it does lead to the interesting question that I think is raised in Judges with Gideon's scientific like testing of revelation. If revelation is treated in a scientific fashion, is the knowledge obtained from it science based or religious based? How universal do the dogmatic foundations of belief have to be before something moves from a religious realm to a scientific realm? It seems like community access and verifiability is the stumbliing point. But is this an appropriate limit if the validity of spiritual knowing is limited to oneself? In this sense, is it ever possible for religious based knowledge to be scientifically provable, at least on an individual basis?

Good questions aside, it is interesting to note how religious tendencies do seem to facilitate belief in counter factuals. Perhaps part of this is due to religion's entry point - the risk of abuse of this trait is offset by the necessity of having it to get the ball rolling with the type of faith based communication we obviously must have with the divine.

To get back to one of the central issue of the quote, are "transcedent behavioural laws" the hallmark of religious sytled belief (whether that be traditional religion, modern humanism, etc), or is the tendency to over idealize belief the most appropriate demarcker?

1 comment:

jeff g said...

I think that what Atran is getting at in that passage was that commitment theories of religion suffer from the same faults as behavioristic psychology. Just because similar stimulii lead to similar behaviors (which in this case they apparently don't) that does not mean that the same thing is going on between the two points at all.