Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cognitive Dissonance and Religion


Cognitive dissonance is an intellectual tension that occurs when two contrary ideas present themselves.  Normally, this happens when a person invests themselves in a belief and then is presented with contrary information.  All rational responses to contradicting facts lie between these axes:
  • Either your old belief was wrong, or
  • The new information is wrong
We usually try to resolve this disharmony of ideas by taking the path of least resistance, which often results in an irrational third option that we see all too often in religion (among other things):  Rather than dissecting how either idea is false, we accept both conclusions as true and then reverse engineer supporting data for both ideas using confirmation bias.  There must be some way both things can be right!