Conspiracy Theorists Fooled by Even the Most Obvious Anti-science Trolling: Study

Source: awStory via AlterNet

Author: Travis Gettys

Emphasis Mine

Anti-science conspiracy theorists are so credulous they can’t determine when they’re being purposefully duped, according to a new study.

A team of Italian and American researchers tested the social media biases feeding belief in conspiracy theories such as chemtrailsshape-shifting reptilian overlords, and the Illuminatireported Motherboard.

The researchers found that adherents to conspiracy theories are highly receptive to claims that support their views and rarely engage with social media pages that question their beliefs.  The ongoing measles outbreak linked to unvaccinated children has exposed one danger posed by hostility toward science, which is promoted in large part through social media.

The World Economic Forum last year identified “digital misinformation” alongside terrorism, cyber attacks, and global governmental failure as threats to modern society.

Social media allows this misinformation to be transmitted and amplified as users gather around shared beliefs, interests, and worldviews – whether or not factual evidence supports those belief systems.

The researchers examined social media patterns for 1.2 million Facebook users and found that nearly 92 percent of those who engage with Italian conspiracy theory pages interact almost exclusively with conspiracy theory pages.

The study also found that conspiracy theory posts are much more likely to be shared and liked by Facebook users.

The researchers then tested the strength of these users’ biases by posting “troll information” – or sarcastic comments parodying anti-science views – on Facebook.

“These posts are clearly unsubstantiated claims, like the undisclosed news that infinite energy has been finally discovered, or that a new lamp made of actinides (e.g. plutonium and uranium) might solve problems of energy gathering with less impact on the environment, or that the chemical analysis revealed that chemtrails contains sildenafil citratum (the active ingredient of Viagra),” the researchers said.

They found that 78 percent of those who “liked” these 4,709 troll posts interacted primarily with conspiracy theory pages, as were 81 percent of those who commented on them.

The researchers also noted that anti-conspiracy theorists often wasted “cognitive resources” pushing back against these unscientific “troll” claims, even when they were “satirical imitation of false claims.”

 

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Good Without god!

Why “Non-Religious” Is the Fastest-Growing Preference in America.

From Alternet.Authors Phil Goldberg and Greg Epstein share their provocative views on why a quarter of Americans now call themselves agnostic, atheist or nonreligious.

“Currently more than one billion people around the world define themselves as agnostic, atheist or nonreligious — including 15 percent of Americans. Perhaps more striking, “nonreligious” is not only the fastest growing religious preference in the U.S., but also the only one to increase its percentage in every state over the past generation.

Phil Goldberg and Greg Epstein have provocative perspectives on who these people are, what they believe, and how they arrived at their worldviews and their moral codes.

In February, 1968, the Beatles went to India for an extended stay with their new guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It may have been the most momentous spiritual retreat since Jesus spent those 40 days in the wilderness.

With these words, interfaith minister Goldberg begins American Veda, his look at India’s impact on Western culture. From Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman, succeeding generations absorbed India’s “science of consciousness,” and millions have come to accept and live by the central teaching of Vedic wisdom: “Truth is One, the wise call it by many names.”  

Acccording to Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, recent bestsellers from Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris stress the irrationality of belief and what’s wrong with religion, while offering few positive alternatives. In Good without God, Epstein explains how humanists strive to live well, build community, uphold ethical values, and lift the human spirit…all without a god. “It’s not enough to just ‘discover’ the meaning of life. Humanism is concerned with one of the most important ethical questions—what we do once we’ve found purpose in life.”

Read the whole post at: http://www.alternet.org/story/150900/good_without_god%3A_why_%22non-religious%22_is_the_fastest-growing_preference_in_america?page=entire

Emphasis above mine.

In general, the question is not whether we need religion to achieve morality, but can we achieve morality with religion?

Those who desire to replace our US secular government with a theocracy are the most unamerican conceivable – but I don’t expect a House committee to investigate them soon.

Of Elephants and Elitists

On Thursday, March 5 at the Independence Library, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Northeastern Ohio Chapter, hosted a presentation by John Fazio: “Can Secular Humanists and Theists join together to keep religion and matters of faith separate from the affairs of the state to facilitate peace, harmony, and tolerance? ”   This delightful and informative presentation was a variation on his talk: “The Elephant is still in the Living Room”.  Mr Fazio, who, unlike (speaking of elephants), Rush Limbaugh, has looks sufficent for television, a voice sufficent for the stage, and knowledge sufficent for his subject, began with listing the recent cannon of popular books on atheism: Dawkins, Harris et all, as well as some on cosmology – e.g. Hawking.

He addressed the ultimate metaphysical questions on the origins, fate, and size of our universe, and stated that in his opinion, modern science has no actual better answer to these questions than religion, and that we are arrogrant to think we do.  Covering very recent history (about 1000 years), he elucidated that organized religion has no monopoly on inhumanity, citing many specific examples, including the Soviet Union, and the Peoples Republic of China, which he describes as the twentieth century’s two great experiments in atheism.

On a common, self elevating theme of free-thinkers – that religion has been a cause of wars, he observed:  religion had often appeared to cause wars, but, beneath the covers,  the real reason(s) were always material.

In recorded history, religion’s influenced has waxed and waned, but always come back.  His conclusion, then, is that religion is here to stay, it is hard-wired into our brains, we should accept this, and sit at the table with our devout brethren.   ( “…I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be.”  – Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals”. ) From a public relations point of view, he observes that our elitism and arrogrance will convert few.

Well stated and entirely valid: when Christians give us an equal place at the table, I will be happy to join.  As missionaries for Truth, Light, Reason, and the Human Way, we should keep his message in mind.

That having been said, let us consider the following:

The religions we have in the world today cover only 2500 years – a mere grain in the sands of our species’ time on this planet – and it is only about 300 years since the Enlightenment: the beginning of the end of Supernaturalism.

While we may not have advanced metaphysics, our science has, in its quest for ultimate origins, produced a vast amount of valuable wisdom.  Can the same be said for our mythologies?

All observed phenomena can be classified as having either a supernatural or a natural cause: the former is one basis for religion; the latter one goal of science.  As we explain more by natural cause, we have less need for the supernatural, and perhaps for  religion as well.  Is religion a relic of our evolution?

That the influence of religion has risen and fallen throughout history could be a result of many effects, including: a return to the ground of a basic human need, as Mr. Fazio suggests, or an example of action and reaction in history, as Dr. Marx proposed.

That the acceptance of religion is more widespread than the acceptance of science (e.g. natural selection), is a fact that we must keep in mind.  Another is that the tendency toward atheism among scientists increases with their level – is it elitist to mention that?

Returning to the question: “Can Secular Humanists and Theists join together to keep religion and matters of faith separate from the affairs of the state to facilitate peace, harmony, and tolerance? ”  Yes, provided that:

Theists gain the empathy and humility to accept that they have no monopoly on solutions, and listen to secular humanists.

Secular humanists gain the empathy and humility to accept that they may have no monopoly on solutions, and listen to theists.

The vast majority aquire learning sufficent to look for answers in science, not Genesis.

N.B.: The title: “Of Elephants and Elitists” is, of course,  a play on “Of Pandas and People”.