Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Intelligent Design and the Echo Chamber

I'm sure I'm not the first one to write on this, but I can't help but making note; It seems to me a very odd phenomenon that the only people who argue for the idea of intelligent design are religious. And beyond that, not only are they all religious, but they are almost all evangelical Christians, with a few fringe Jews like Ben Stein. The fact that this is almost an exact match to the same group of evolution deniers (other than the muslims) is rather telling when you look at it from a scientific and sociological perspective.

The largest part of this group is what is commonly called an echo chamber. They all tell each other what they want to hear while bouncing their own ideas back at each other and keeping any dissenting opinoin out. But this group never looks outside the chamber to make the obvious conclusion: If we're the only ones who don't believe something and we all happen to share one certain belief system, perhaps its not the other side that's closed-minded.

Of course, that would be an admittance of severe cognitive dissonance that the average fundamentalist simply cannot accept. It's world-shattering in their view after all. But when we look at modern evolutionary theory which is generally accepted by (non-fundamentalist) Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Shinto etc. you have to look at that and wonder how the recalcitrant deniers of evolution can possibly make their case when they are basically the lone voice of dissent. If their absurd dating was correct certainly someone outside the echo chamber would have come up with something supporting it, but that's never the case. And then, of course, the ones outside the echo chamber are considered to be either consipiratorial, or just plain closed-minded.

I think its important to avoid an echo chamber mentality, wchich is why I listen to dissenting media quite a bit. I like to make sure I'm analyzing the other side which gives my personal convictions a stronger basis through reasoning. For example, I hate Michael Savage. I think he's an ignorant alarmist who is riding solely off of sensationalism. But I listen to him because every once in a while an interesting point pops up that I can't reasonably dispute. Then i research the claim and see how valid it really is. If it is, I've learned something. I may come a to a different conclusion than that asshat, but I did learn something. When you're in the Echo Chamber its rarely learning something new. Its regurgitation of what you already believe, and what you want to hear.

I think that's valuable for many skeptics and rational thinkers. Many of us do fall into the same problem, but to a less severe degree. Luckily, particularly with evolution, the facts and science are very much on our side. But that's not always been the case, and while most of us are open-minded to new theories and ideas, but we need to keep it that way.

And that doesn't mean giving pseudoscientific garbage a fair shot. Homeopathy, ID and such are pretty much objectively garbage. But even so when a reliable source presents dissent we need to (and usually do) listen.


  1. This is why we hear the same stupid 'observations' of why evolution is wrong from every christian... they hear a tasty bit someone said and repeat it and repeat it... it's very annoying.

  2. But I bet they have a Time Cube inside the echo chamber. That'd be a different story entirely.

  3. You broach a dangerous possibility. One that I don't know that I want to contemplate.