Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why do Muslims think Zakir Naik is a genious?

After listening to dozens of Zakir Naik's speeches, endured hours of argumentum ad nauseam, I had to wonder, "why aren't Muslims seeing the obvious fallacies?" His arguments are full to the brim with one logical fallacy after another, one appeal to emotion after another. The video below was posted by a Christian, as you all know I am an atheist, but the Christian guy in this video pretty much hit the nail on the head. This blog goes on to explain exactly how people buy into all Zakir's bullcrap.  Finally, the best answer I found came from The Foreign Policy Journal. The issues were different, but the conclusions fit like a glove. I realized instantly, this is why Muslim's cannot pick up on  Naik's bullshit. It was amazing. A true epiphany.

It happens, for example, when true believers listen to a speaker who reinforces their core beliefs. A Professor of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, a Professor of Magnetic Resonance Research, a Professor of Anthropology, and a Professor of Religion put religious and non-religious subjects in an MRI to look for differences in brain activity while they listened a voice recording of a highly rated preacher. If you guessed that Professor Schjoedt and his colleagues found that nothing special happened in the brains of non-believers, but something striking happened in the brains of believers, you guessed right.

The opposite of executive function is inside-the-box thinking. The most inside box is our relationship with our self—our self-image. Successful management of self is key to managing our other inside box—our social network. Both inside boxes require careful maintenance of core values. From children’s dependence on their parents to business peoples’ dependence on their connections, we survive by maintaining values that form our identity and are shared across our social networks. So we have evolved a capacity to circumvent clear thinking when maintaining beliefs that strengthen social bonds is more important for survival than thinking outside the box. 

Prefrontal cortical shut-down is the mechanism for Simon and Garfunkel’s observation that “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Put more roughly, we get stupid for a reason. We dumb down to manage our self-image so that we can present an effective self to others. We fend off challenges, including rational challenges, so we can agree about contentious issues with people we depend upon. Indeed, the medial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices of believers shut down. Hemoglobin molecules coursing through those brain areas retained oxygen because surrounding neurons were not burning fuel, so they resonated at a different frequency. And there was a dose-response curve—the more devout the religious subjects rated themselves to be, the more complete the turn-off of brain regions that perform what psychologists call executive function—the ability to objectively evaluate information, make decisions based on that information, and act on those decisions. Put differently, the preacher’s words short circuited believers’ ability to think independently, to think outside the box.
Although the professors’ experiment compared religious to non-religious people, turning off executive function to protect beliefs that strengthen social bonds is not limited to religious beliefs per se. Because we evolved by natural selection, and because social networks are critical to human survival, protecting any convictions that keep us at peace with ourselves and in with our incrowd, including deeply shared political convictions, could generate the same mind-numbing effect. Put differently, because religious convictions are such powerful facilitators of group cohesion, they are low hanging fruit for detecting the underlying phenomenon with an MRI.
So we have evolved a capacity to circumvent clear thinking when maintaining beliefs that strengthen social bonds is more important for survival than thinking outside the box.
And we all need to give our executive function periodic time outs—to fly on autopilot while we sort out who we are. Most of us mix some level of reassurance about deeply held convictions with additional forms of solace. In days of yore, mugs of beer held high while proffering the religious and political exclamation “God save the Queen!” followed by reassuring shouts of “Hear! Hear!” served to calm the nerves of many medial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices. Beer still plays a big role, but today we also combine reassurance of core convictions with yoga, pilates, music, wine, rum punch, dank marijuana, and for more than a few, synthetic opiates. So Karl Marx was right about religion being “the opiate of the masses,” but Marx’s masses were not more weak-minded than the elite. Opium was prohibitively expensive, but religious and political reassurance were free.
Actually, religion and politics, the two things we’re not supposed to talk about in polite company, were and remain more than free. Most of us get them, whether we want them or not, through indoctrination from birth. So on a regular basis we use whatever it takes to put ourselves into a state of relative reverie. Those needed chill-outs are antithetical to evaluating information, making decisions, and acting off the grid—so we tend to get defensive about the particulars of our religious and political convictions (thus the polite company ban) because we are, in a real MRI-detectable sense, addicted to them.