Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Atheism and Inferential Bias

Kelly James Clark

Abstract

While the cognitive science of religion is well-trodden ground, atheism has been considerably less scrutinized. Recent psychological studies associate atheism with an intellectual virtue, inferentiality (Shenhav 2011; Norenzayan, Gervais, and Trzesniewski 2012; Norenzayan and Gervais 2013; Pennycook 2012). Theism, on the other hand, is associated with an intellectual “vice”, intuitive thinking. While atheism is allied with the attendant claim that atheism is the result of careful rational assessment of the relevant evidence, theism is considered the result of a lack of reflection on the relevant evidence (or careless disregard of the evidence). Atheism, then, is rational, but theism, then, is irrational. In this essay, we will assess the import of these studies and the attendant claims that these differences in thinking styles entail differences in rationality.

Keywords

Atheism, Inferential Bias, Intuition

Full Text:

PDF

References

Alexander, J., and Weinberg, J. M. 2007. Analytic Epistemology and Experimental Philosophy. Philosophy Compass 2.

Atran, S. 2002. In Gods we trust. New York: Oxford University Press.

Barrett, J. 2004. Why would anyone believe in God? Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

Boyer, P. 2001. Religion explained: The evolutionary origins of religious thought. New York: Basic Books.

Brooks, David. 2013. Beware stubby glasses. New York Times.

Cappelan, H. 2012. Philosophy without intuitions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Frederick, S. 2005. Cognitive reflection and decision making. Journal of Economic Perspectives 19: 25–42.

Gervais, W. M. and A. Norenzayan. 2012. Analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief. Science 336: 493–496.

James, W. 1956. The sentiment of rationality. In The will to believe and other essays in popular philosophy. New York: Dover.James, W. 1956b. The will to believe and other essays in popular philosophy. New York: Dover Publications.

—. 1981. Pragmatism. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.

Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kang, J. and Lane, K. 2010. Seeing rough Colorblindness: Implicit Bias and the Law. UCLA Law Review, 58(2), 465-520.

Kornblith, Hilary. 2012. On Reflection. Oxford University Press.

Machery, E., R. Mallon, S. Nichols, and S. Stich. 2004. Semantics, cross-cultural style. Cognition 92(3): B1–B12.

McCauley, R. N. 2011. Why religion is natural and science is not. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McGinn, C. 1993. The problems of philosophy: The limits of inquiry. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Nichols, S. and J. Knobe. 2007. Moral responsibility and determinism: The cognitive science of folk intuitions. Nous.

Nichols, S., Stich S., and J. Weinberg. 2003. Metaskepticism: Meditations in ethno-epistemology. In L. Stephen, ed., The skeptics, 227–247. Ashgate Publishing.

Norenzayan, A. and W. Gervais. January 2013. The origins of religious disbelief. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17(1): 20–25.

—, W. Gervais, and K. Trzesniewski. 2012. Mentalizing deficits constrain belief in a personal God. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36880.

Pennycook, G., J. A. Cheyne, P. Seli, D. J. Koehler, Fugelsang, J. A., 2012. Analytic cognitive style predicts religious and paranormal belief. Cognition 123 (3), 335–346.

Shenhav, A., D. G. Rand, and J. D. Greene. 2011. Divine intuition: Cognitive style influences belief in god. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. doi: 10.1037/a0025391.

Swain, S., J. Alexander, and J. Weinberg. 2008. The instability of philosophical intuitions: Running hot and cold on truetemp. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 76(1): 138–155.

Weinberg, J., S. Nichols, and S. Stich. 2001. Normativity and epistemic intuitions. Philosophical Topics 29: 429–460.

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.