You’ve been brainwashed; or, following after fleshly lusts

Sometimes, from time to time, a fundamentalist or evangelical child grows up to question and reject her parents’ beliefs and values. The funny thing is, this shift in belief is rarely seen as a legitimate rethinking and change of belief. Oh, no! Far from it! After all, how could a child raised on the Truth ™ go on to reject the Truth ™? How could a child raised to know Jesus and the amazing life he brings go on to reject him and his gift? It’s incomprehensible! And so, an explanation must be found.

When I changed my beliefs and left the beliefs my parents raised me on, they had to find such explanations. And they did. The two explanations they used most frequently were that I had been “brainwashed” and that I was following after my “fleshly lusts.”

You’ve Been Brainwashed

When I began changing my beliefs, both politically and religiously, my father concluded that I had been “brainwashed.” Brainwashed by my liberal professors, to be exact.

The irony is, when this was all going on I was extremely afraid that I was being brainwashed. After all, I’d been taught that college students face brainwashing at the hands of their liberal professors and must carefully guard against it. As I found what I was learning was leading me to rethink my beliefs and values, I was very afraid that this is exactly what was happening to me.

At the time I confided this fear in my boyfriend, who is now my husband. Sean walked me mentally through the problem step by step, asking me what constituted “brainwashing” and suggesting that I compare that to what my professors were doing. My professors, I said, were simply giving me information and asking me to think for myself – and they were. Furthermore, they weren’t basing grades on my views or making any sort of requirement that I change them. They weren’t doing anything close to brainwashing. In fact…what they were doing was pretty much the opposite. And so, little by little, I was able to let go of my fear of being brainwashed.

The trouble is, I can’t exactly convince my dad of this. To him I will always be the good conservative godly daughter who went to college and was brainwashed by liberal college professors. The idea that I could have been thinking for myself, and could have honestly thought things through and formed my own opinion? Nope. Nada. I’ve been brainwashed.

Following after Fleshly Lusts

My mom, on the other hand, takes a different tact. She has informed me that I have changed my views because I am “following after my fleshly lusts.” In other words, I’ve changed my views because changing them allowed me to do things I really wanted to do but were condemned by God. For example, I decided that adult daughters should be independent from their fathers’ control because I wanted to be able to date whom I pleased rather than obeying my father and letting him guide my romantic relationships.

To be honest, at one point I was a bit afraid that this might be the case. I was concerned about the fact that I followed my parents’ beliefs until they got hard – i.e. until the started ordering me to do things I didn’t want to do – and that I then changed my views, thus allowing me to do what I wanted to do instead of what they told me to do. In some ways it would be like a teen saying she didn’t believe in premarital sex, and then getting a boyfriend and suddenly saying she didn’t think premarital sex was wrong after all. But if you know anything about me, it’s that I’m introspective. I didn’t change any belief without a great deal of thought, examination, and, yes, argumentation. I argued myself silly supporting my conservative opinions, finding, over time, that they simply didn’t hold up. I didn’t do or decide anything hastily or without reason.

But one aspect of this argument from fleshly lusts is that my mom was and is is convinced that I really truly do know that her beliefs and views are right, I’m just choosing to ignore that so that I can do as I please. I knew adult daughters are under their father’s authority, and that kissing before marriage was wrong, etc., and when I claimed I believed otherwise I was simply lying so that I could, well, do as I pleased, follow my “fleshly lusts,” etc. She’s told me this many times.

The trouble is, there’s no real way to combat this argument. Whatever I say, my mom can go on claiming that I know that she and her beliefs are correct, and that I’m saying otherwise just to gratify my “fleshly lusts.” In the end, I end up feeling kind of stuck, like I’ll never convince her that I have really formed my own opinions and beliefs. Seriously, think for myself? Nope! Fleshly lusts!

Conclusion

When you’re completely sure you’re right, it’s sometimes hard to understand why anyone would hold any other opinion. It’s especially hard to understand why someone raised on the Truth ™ you trust in so implicitly would go on to reject it. And so, you have to find a way to explain it. That person over there left the faith because she was brainwashed. That other person left the faith because he wanted to follow his fleshly lusts. Viola. Explanations.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Tracy

    That is really….horrible. It must be hard to have a continuing relationship with people who so totally negate your feelings and beliefs.

  • http://www.theuniversityofman.com Professor Mentu

    My old man is a “hell fire and damnation” Baptist preacher.

    I’m an atheist. I came to this conclusion on my own, even though I had good parents and my dad truly practiced what he preached. There’s not a hypocritical bone in the man’s body, and his salary is far below what one would expect from such a large church.

    People always try the “you’ve seen too much church politics, so you’ve turned away from the truth” argument to explain my “fall from grace.”

    Nope. I was raised by wonderful parents in a good church; I just have a brain.

  • http://Www.graceandPressure.blogspot.com Grace

    Ahh, yes. My parents even tried to control what courses I took to steer me clear of “brainwashing.”

  • machintelligence

    Here is a link to a wonderful and enlightening TED talk about being wrong. It would be useful for your mother to see it, but she probably wouldn’t want to watch.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong.html
    With respect to your father’s accusation of brainwashing, it is frequently the case that people accuse others of doing what they, themselves would do. Also, some people cannot believe that it is possible to form opinions on your own. It is always: Who told you that? Of course, authoritarian personalities do very little thinking on their own, so therefore would not recognize original ideas.

  • smrnda

    I know that I’ve brought up before on another post about how, somehow, when religious people tell kids to repeat articles of faith that the kids aren’t able to properly investigate, take the kids to church all the time, don’t let them watch TV or movies for fear of them being exposed to a non-Christian perspective and make up horror stories about ‘the world’ to make them extra loyal towards insiders and suspicious of outsiders, it’s somehow *not brainwashing,* but a college professor exposing students to facts is brainwashing.

    Part of the issue might be that fundamentalists tend to be authoritarian and cannot imagine a person, independently, evaluating claims and making a judgment based on evidence. I think you brought up the idea of ‘training’ kids instead of ‘raising’ kids – a fundamentalist probably can’t imagine letting anything follow a natural process, and so they probably can’t imagine someone making up their own mind about a topic. They can only imagine someone accepting one authority or another. It probably also goes in with the highly punitive aspect of child-rearing – instead of thinking that if you model good behavior and teach your kids to use good judgment they’ll turn out alright, they believe that nobody would ever be good unless it’s because of a punishment or reward.

    On your Mom’s perspective, I hear this a lot that people reject Christianity (or Islam or whatever) since they would have to stop doing something. Part of that might be an inability to grsp the idea that people decide whether something is right or wrong for a reason, and that they just don’t see a reason why doing X is wrong. You’d think a good argument against the idea that people just reject a claim so they can get away with something would be the large number of people who are not themselves homosexual who reject the idea that being gay is wrong. They clearly are not rejecting the idea because it’s something they themselves want to do, but because they just don’t see any good reason to condemn the behavior.

    • Rosie

      Speaking from my own experience of being raised in a near-fundie family, I’d say they can *imagine* someone thinking for themselves and coming to their own conclusions. They just think it’s “sinful” and “wrong” to do so. In fact, I was taught that in just about those terms. Remember the fundie blog reviewing the movie “Tangled”? (Libby Anne linked to it back around the time she reviewed the movie.) Something about if it’s wrong for the abusive mother character to be “a law unto herself”, it’s also wrong for the abused daughter to do the same? That’s how fundies view thinking for oneself.

      • smrnda

        It seems that with that way of thinking ignores whether actions are good or bad in and of themselves – they are only ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the sense of whether they are done in obedience to the right authority. It’s like arguing that it’s wrong for an officer to command soldiers to commit a war crime but it’s equally wrong for them to disobey orders, which is ridiculous. If there are 2 sides in conflict, both could be wrong, both could just be different in some incompatible way, but it’s quite possible that one side is right and the other side is wrong, regardless of who’s in charge or not.

        It seems like a major tenet of fundamentalism is that obedience = goodness.

  • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

    Back in the day, I recognized that it’s a basic tenet of fundamentalism that there are no legitimate reasons for disagreeing with the local orthodoxy. It’s never about having thought things through or having better information and reaching a different conclusion; it’s always about some sinful motive. Never mind atheism — even being the wrong kind of fundy, holding to wrong position on baptism or church governance or spiritual gifts, is dismissed in this way.

    When I took elementary logic, argumentum ad hominem was disparaged as a fallacy and a dishonest tactic. Fundamentalism baptizes it and adopts it as SOP.

  • Kat

    “Flesh” is my huge trigger word, if my husband’s family it took/takes the blame for everything (sort of like how one might stereotypically expect fundamentalist or evangelical Christians to blame every misstep or misfortune on “the devil,” just replace “devil” with “my flesh.”
    Growing up, I never heard “flesh” used in any context other than a reference to body tissues “flesh and bone, flesh and blood, etc.” but when met my husband I was shocked to hear “flesh” used in almost every other sentence by his family as some sort of Mr. Hyde-esque Jesus opposite that is constantly tempting one to sin. Example: “My flesh really wanted me to have a beer at the barbecue,” or “my flesh was telling me to watch Sex and the City,” or my favorite: “I shouldn’t have punched you. That was just my flesh being angry with your flesh.”
    I’m curious if this is a common Fundamentalist/CP/QF thing (my husband was raised in this way), or if it’s just a thing with his family (which like I’m learning is common with a lot of QF/CP families, occasionally attended church, did a little “home church,” but mostly pieced together their own personal family theology).

    • smrnda

      I think it’s a strange way to think, but I run into religious types who use that sort of language all the time. I think it’s a product of their perspective on human motivations and moral decision making.

      I’m totally irreligious. If I want to do something, I do it; if I think something is wrong to do, then it’s wrong for a reason and I wouldn’t want to do it. So if I decide to have a beer after work one day, it’s a conscious, rational decision made because I don’t think that there’s anything wrong about it. I don’t feel any struggle within myself since I’m living by rules I’ve chosen to accept, for good reasons.

      Now, if you’re trying to live by rules that are imposed on you from without, and where logical reasons aren’t being given for why things are right or wrong, you’ll find that you end up wanting to do things that you have been told are wrong, probably because somewhere deep in yourself you really don’t believe that they are wrong (like the beer or sex and the city example.) It’s probably a psychological trick employed to keep the cognitive dissonance to a minimum – it keeps the believer from saying “I felt like having a beer and the church tells me its a sin, but I don’t really think it’s wrong.”

      I think the other part is that it’s a way of avoiding full responsibility for one’s actions, and rationalizations like that are normally seen as a bad thing, but I think the culture of fundamentalism guarantees it’s going to happen. So much shame is created around feelings that are normal that the person starts to view parts of themselves as separate from their real self- if you tell a bunch of people that something as trivial as masturbation or kissing is a horrible sin, then they’ll have to find a way to dissociate themselves from those actions, and once you get in the habit of doing it you end up doing it with everything. I kind of get from lots of Christian writing that many Christians don’t feel in control of their own actions – it’s ‘the flesh’ or ‘the devil’ or ‘demonic interference’ but that kind of mindset is going to come up when you put place unreasonable demands on people.

      • Stony

        You’ve touched on something here that I’ve faced. I was told that I just wanted an excuse to live with my sins. I had long before given up on the idea of “sin”, as it becomes nonsensical if you examine it. What is sin? Your list of sins or my list? The Catholic church’s list? Pre- or post-Vatican II? Is there a sin continuum? Is there an unforgivable sin? I decided that “sin” was strictly and only reduced to man creating a scorecard to wield against his fellow man. So I rejected the idea of sin altogether but retained the label Christian. Now, I choose Agnostic, mainly because I see that scorecard used so often as a club, even against children.
        So try to have the argument that you just want to live in sin by countering that you do not believe in sin to begin with. Heads explode, mayhem ensues. You have just proven their point!! Etc.
        Best of luck, Libby Anne….this brairpatch is of epic proportions.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Christianity also seems to have a huge mind/body dichotomy running through it. Anything involving the soul is good, anything involving the body is bad–the body is the enemy. I think that explains a lot too. And honestly, it’s my biggest beef with Christianity, despite the many beautiful ideas that are also present in it.

      • ScottInOH

        This is exactly what Paul is about. Rejecting the “ways of the flesh.” I’ve never heard the language used quite like Kat describes, but I was definitely raised to be suspicious of my own desires. Those desires needed to be checked against what God desires for us; if the two didn’t match, then my desires (the desires of the flesh) needed to be rejected as temptation.

      • Steve

        Why are you surprised? The people who made up Christianity – Paul and Augustine of Hippo – were both screwed up, self-loathing and sexually dysfunctional. Augustine struggled with his sexuality his whole life and really hated himself for his desires. He then projected his hangups on everyone else. Just like fundamentalist Christians do today. They are sex-obsessed, but think everyone else is like them.

  • Tragedy101

    By what method did you determine the information provided by your professors was true?

    • Michael Busch

      Do you remember science lab? We don’t tell students to take the conclusions on faith. We have lab classes, field courses, and observing projects where they can check as many things as possible for themselves. Newtonian mechanics, the orbit of the Moon around the Earth, the properties of the alkaline metals, Mendelian genetics as illustrated by fruit flies for the freshmen (or even interested middle-schoolers); how to make antimatter, the age of the Earth (from isotope ratios of rocks) and of the universe (from measuring the Hubble flow), the biochemistry of progesterone, full-genome-sequence cladistic evolutionary trees for the seniors. Those are examples from the schools I’ve attended and worked at, but Libby Anne has described her own experience of learning biology.

      Things get a bit less direct for economics, sociology, psychology, history, etc. But the basic idea is the same – have the student do as much of the work as possible and _refer them to the evidence_. Students studying sociology do field work and interviews, those working on public health get epidemiology and vaccine trial data, and on and on.

      • Tragedy101

        I do remember science lab. One of the most memorable labs for me was my highschool science teacher filled a tub with tap water. On one side of the tub, he placed a light bulb with metal wires decending into the water. On the other side of the tub, he inserted a power cord plugged into a wall socket. When the cord was inserted into the water in the tub, the light bulb lighted. When he removed the cord from the water, the light bulb went out.

        The purpose of this first hand experiment was to prove that water conducts electricity. The science teacher was decieving the class. Water is a resistor and used in many manufacturing processes and for handling live high voltage transmission wires, safely. Water does not conduct electricity; however, free radicals in the water allow electrical conduction through the water. If there are no free radicals in the water, the water will not conduct electricity.

        An assertion of you being an educator would normally add authority to your assertions, but in this instance, it undermines your authority, by proving a substantial bias. Libby Anne’s parents also qualify as educators and, in many instances, they were as first hand oriented as could be desired.

        The afforementioned science teacher was an avowed atheist. In his public school class he taught that evolution was “proven science,” because it fit his beliefs. As I observed his active attempts to convert students to atheism through his teaching, I determined that atheism must be a religion, because it is not merely a “lack of belief” as he claimed, but a belief that my belief in God was in error. As I, further, observed that other teachers of varying faiths were prohibited from even, mere, personal practice of their faith on school grounds, the disparity became more distinct.

        Thus Atheism, whenever and to the extent the Atheist opposes the freedom of others to believe and act as they deem fit, becomes a religion.

      • Anat

        Tragedy101, proof is for mathematics and spirits. In science we don’t make claims of ‘proof’. We say ‘the evidence supports hypothesis X’ or ‘the evidence refutes hypothesis Y’. The evidence that species of living organisms on earth today are different than species that lived on earth in the past is vast and comes from many different methods of observation. This in itself is by definition evolution. But we also have evidence at more detailed levels: Changes in the genetic composition of populations over time have been observed directly. Such changes may be the result of natural selection or drift – there are mathematical models for these processes and ways to test how much either was involved in a particular instance. Events of speciation are being observed as they happen. Genetic evidence supports a nested hierarchy of divergence of species. The evidence supporting evolution as the explanation of the diversity of life on earth is thus very strong. Each aspect of the theory relies on evidence.

        Now, I suppose one could come up with some other mechanism for the divergence of life, but for that to work one would need to both bring independent evidence supporting said other mechanism and make sure this mechanism explains all things evolution does and that it is consistent with all the observations which are now explained by evolution. Also, you need to have criteria by which your hypothesis can be falsified. For evolution, see Disproving Evolution

        The theory of evolution does not in itself refute the concept of god(s)/ess(es). In fact, the theory of evolution makes no claim about any such entities as god(s)/ess(es). Many people accept that the evidence supports evolution while at the same time they maintain a belief is some divine being or other. What the theory of evolution does wrt divine beings is show they are not required to explain the diversity of life on earth or the way organisms are adapted to their environment. Or in other words, that the argument from design isn’t a good argument for god(s)/ess(es).

        As for atheism, there are various takes on it. Some atheists state that your (or anyone else’s) belief in a version of a god is wrong, whereas other atheists merely state that it is unsupported by evidence.

        Belief or lack thereof in one or more gods or goddesses is not sufficient to define a religion or else Christians and Muslims would be members of the same religion. Religion is a combination of belief system, a set of practices and a system to define and interpret the above. Atheism has none of those.

        Regarding teachers, if you live in the US, then in a public school there are limits to religious expression by teachers not because of atheism but because in a public school teachers are representing the government, and as such they need to be neutral wrt religion in front of the students or else that would be the establishment of a religion by the government.

        (BTW ions are the reason tap water conduces electricity.)

      • Anat

        To Tragedy101, have a look at What Would Disprove Evolution for more examples.

      • Tragedy101

        Very well stated.

        I am overloaded on questions that I could ask. There are many questions I thought of while reading your response.

      • Anat

        Tragedy101, I’d love to reply to questions but am not sure about a suitable venue. Do you have a blog of your own where we can continue this exchange?

  • http://returntovomit.blogger.com Jeffrey

    This article at Christianity Today highlights the worldview of fundamentalist parents:

    So 20- and 30-somethings are leaving—but why? When I ask church people, I receive some variation of this answer: moral compromise. A teenage girl goes off to college and starts to party. A young man moves in with his girlfriend. Soon the conflict between belief and behavior becomes unbearable. Tired of dealing with a guilty conscience and unwilling to abandon their sinful lifestyles, they drop their Christian commitment. They may cite intellectual skepticism or disappointments with the church, but these are smokescreens designed to hide the reason. “They change their creed to match their deeds,” as my parents would say.

    I think there’s some truth to this—more than most young leavers would care to admit. The Christian life is hard to sustain in the face of so many temptations. Over the past year, I’ve conducted in-depth interviews with scores of ex-Christians. Only two were honest enough to cite moral compromise as the primary reason for their departures. Many experienced intellectual crises that seemed to conveniently coincide with the adoption of a lifestyle that fell outside the bounds of Christian morality.

    See how the writer blames the leaver for leaving, and undercuts the legitimacy of their reasons. He suggests dishonesty on the part of all “leavers,” as if they’ve given up on their moral code.

    I came out as a nonbeliever to my parents a few months ago. My mother doesn’t understand. I talked with her a couple of days ago, but she couldn’t comprehend how I could deal with good and evil without God and the Bible. Many parents raised in brainwash situations do not have another lens to look through.

    • smrnda

      Maybe living away from the evangelical bubble caused these young people to doubt whether or not the things prohibited by their churches were really so bad? Did it ever occur to the writer that these young people might just re-evaluate whether the church is throwing a puritanical hissy fit over things that don’t matter and are completely unconcerned with serious, relevant moral issues?

      This guy’s “only 2 were honest enough” – so he’s already made up his mind why people leave, then he took a poll, only 2 people agreed with him, and so he’s 100% sure that his original assessment is true? What if nobody had agreed with his hypothesis?

      • machintelligence

        Then they all would have been lying.

      • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

        They’re brainwashed into disagreeing with him! Urk. The stupid hurts my brain.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      I also love how any “leavers” that cited any reasons for leaving besides the one the writer was looking for were simply dismissed as not “honest enough.” Apparently, anyone who leaves for any reason that the writer is uncomfortable with is just lying. Very clever.

      • smrnda

        It’s probably how a faith belief system works. You know what you believe, and continue to believe it not only in the lack of any evidence, but even if there’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Beliefs are fundamentally unfalsifiable since they don’t depend on evidence and some ad hoc explanation can be pulled out of thin air (or one’s ass) to deal with reality when it doesn’t fit the foregone conclusions.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    My parents refuse to accept the fact that I came to the conclusions I did on my own. It’s always “it’s because you’ve moved to DC” and “it’s because of your friends.” No matter how many times I tell them it’s due to my questioning the Bible and due to my following science, they will constantly reduce me to an irrational, unreasonable sheep.

    It’s infuriating, that they cannot accept the fact that I can do things on my own. They think that simply because as I child I was a Christian, there’s no way I can be an adult atheist. I love them, but seriously it makes me want to scream because they can’t accept an atheist child.

  • http://jw-thoughts.blogspot JW

    I never had that kind of thing happen to me from my parents but then again I wasn’t raised in fundamentalism but when I became a believer in Jesus I was ‘gently’ exposed to it. Not long ago when I took a biology course I remember the professor saying several times that the information taught in that class has nothing to do with religion at all. I thought he sounded a bit defensive but I also thought he was wrong. After all, religion is supposed to teach you about the meaning of life and give a person some idea of how life may have begun. Biology teaches about the evolution of all living things so in that way it does have a religious teaching to it.

    I always dissected things that I either didn’t agree with or just wondered about in that class. Some things I thought was just wacked out but through the class I wondered how much of the information is scientifically accurate and how much of it could be interpreted wrong on the more controversial things.

    Yet one thing that biology itself cannot show and science in general is proof of a supernatural spirit realm and as a result, for me, science is not the all knowing eye. Which means I don’t trust in it 100% because it does have flaws.
    JW

    • Michael Busch

      As soon as somebody can provide any convincing evidence of anything supernatural existing at all, they will be given one and a quarter million dollars by the Randi Foundation.

      You’re correct to not trust science completely – of course our knowledge is incomplete. But the process of doing science is _self-correcting_. That is the point.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Of course science is not the all-knowing eye. That’s why there are other disciplines besides science. But what they all have in common is that they build their arguments on sound evidence and premises. It’s not just people making stuff up.

    • Ken

      OK. You want to believe in the supernatural, you have the right. Just don’t bring it to my house. You don’t have that right. And I do have the right to consider you a nutjob.

  • Ibis3

    OT (hope you don’t mind corrections) The correct phrase is “to take a different tack“. It refers to taking a different direction when sailing. /OT

  • Rosa

    To me, it seems more like your parents chose “fleshly” values, or at least fairly obvious human desires – violence, control, the ego boost of being obeyed, total security in their own rightness, the emotional security of knowing for a fact that God approves of every aspect of your life (work, family, politics, food). Didn’t they convert from some other form of Christianity?

    Not every fundamentalist gets all these benefits, some people just become more consumed with feelings that they’re not measuring up, but your parents sound pretty secure and happy with their choices.

  • Zme

    Usage pedantry coming up…I’m sorry.
    It’s “different TACK” not “tact”…as in direction a sail boat goes when it’s desired course is into the wind.

  • machintelligence

    It is amazing how many fundamentalist values are in agreement with those godless scientists.

    Evolution by natural selection (Darwinism) implies that the winners at evolution are those with the most grandchildren. Hello Quiverfull movement.

    B.F. Skinner (an early behaviorist) based all learning and behavior on reward and punishment. Hello Pearl’s “Training Up A Child”.

    • Michael Busch

      You are confusing a descriptive statement (‘natural selection favors those traits that confer a reproductive advantage on their bearers’) with a value judgement (‘We must have many children to outbreed the enemy’).

      You are also referring to a strawman characterization of evolutionary biology – having more grandchildren than somebody else is neither necessary nor sufficient for your traits to spread in the population.

      And you are characterizing Skinner’s work incorrectly. He recognized the importance of _positive_ reinforcement, and that aversion techniques (such as corporal punishment) don’t work well and cause lasting trauma. In this he is exactly opposite to the Pearls. I refer you to Wikipedia.

      • machintelligence

        I don’t want to do a major derail of this comment thread, but I will address your criticisms, beginning with the second one.
        What strawman? If the changing frequency of genes in a population over time (the definition of evolution) is not having more grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren than everyone else, what is?
        I agree we may be talking about gene selection (inherited traits) and meme selection (value judgments), but if the two are linked, as they may well be, (for example a genetic predisposition to buy into the “big families are great” meme) then both the gene frequency and the meme frequency will shift in favor of the Quiverfulls.
        You are correct that Skinner used rewards (typically food) in his training experiments, but you don’t seem to realize that the punishments were built in as well. Typically the food ration without the training rewards was only about 70% of the calories necessary to maintain body weight, so it was learn — or starve.
        I have seen Skinnerian trained birds that could do amazing things, but they looked and acted like traumatized animals.

      • Michael Busch

        Re. the strawman of evolution: evolution works on genes in populations, not on individuals. _I_ don’t need to have grandchildren for my traits to be spread in the population – I only need the traits that I carry to confer an overall reproductive benefit to the fraction of the population that carries them (this is Dawkins’ green-beard thought experiment). Admittedly, in that situation “having more grandchildren” would be a reasonable statistical statement. But because the genes are competing _with each other_, sometimes intragenomic conflict sets in, where it is to the benefit of gene A to force individuals who also carry gene B to have lower fertility, because then gene A will then come to dominate the population. Wikipedia gives a list of examples. And sometimes, a population will evolve to have lower fertility to survive some transient threat (sickle-cell comes to mind here) – having more offspring now does not necessarily lead to a larger fraction of the population in the long term. You would also be hard pressed to justify any genetic correlation with Quiverfull-type beliefs – I’m not going to get into meme theory, since it is hard to track and quantify the behavior of memes (in contrast to genes).

        And, again, all of this discussion of evolutionary biology is strictly descriptive. It makes no statements as to what behaviors are ethical, appropriate, or desirable (Quiverfull being none of those things).

        Re. Skinner: my (admittedly limited) reading of his work was that he included punishments in his animal experiments, but recognized that doing that to humans was incredibly unethical.

      • machintelligence

        I think we are basically in agreement. I hope you didn’t take my original comment to be a defense of fundamentalist behavior — it was meant to be ironic.

      • Michael Busch

        Poe’s Law appears still be working. Sorry if I misinterpreted what you wrote.

    • Steve

      Human reproduction works on quality over quantity. Humans have relatively few offspring but they take a ridiculously long time to grow up. If having a large number of offspring were an evolutionary strategy for humans, we’d have far more babies (compare to some animals, even mammals) and they’d be less time-intensive.

  • Sue Blue

    I can sympathize with you because my parents, especially my mother, can’t accept that I’m an atheist. She’s firmly convinced I’m just “rebelling” against God because I blame him for some terrible things that happened to me. She refuses to listen to my carefully thought-out reasons for rejecting the SDA church, belief in any gods, and most of all, “faith”. No, it’s just that I’m mad at God and she thinks I’ll eventually “get over it”. She is consumed with anxiety and grief that I might not get over it in time to be saved before Jesus returns, and she’ll have to spend eternity in heaven without her daughter. I think she is afraid to question her own beliefs, and the whole “I just want you to be in heaven with me” thing is a not-so-subtle attempt to lay a huge guilt trip on me for making her feel bad.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Oh yes, Libby, you are such a wild woman–marrying your first boyfriend young and having children and all. Seriously, those fleshly lusts are driving you straight to destruction.

    Also, my first thought at the phrase “fleshly lusts?” BAND NAME!!! :-P

    • Mikey

      I thought “Fleshly Lusts” was a great name for a delicious meaty snack!

      • Carol

        Sorry Mikey, PP, you’re both wrong. It’s a great name for a porn star.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Eh, a porn star is too obvious. I still say band name.

  • Lirel

    I was going to say strip club, but that seemed too obvious.

  • scyllacat

    I will just say, Yup. I fought with myself a lot and took my parents’ side against myself in EXACTLY those terms.

  • Pingback: Dear Mom: It Could Be Worse

  • Ken

    Funny how being “prideful” is a good thing when God can be stapled onto it somehow.

  • Sapphire

    @Tragedy101 It may have been your most memorable science lab but your memory of it seems to be faulty. Firstly by putting both wires from the lamp into the water the teacher was creating a short circuit of the lamp which would then not have worked no matter what he did next. Secondly if he had put both power wires in the water he would have created a short circuit in the power supply and tripped the circuit breaker or blown the fuse.
    Assuming it was done correctly with one power line going direct to the lamp and the other via the water the experiment proved nothing. It demonstrated that tap water conducts electricity.
    Pure de-ionised water does not conduct electricity.
    A resistor DOES conduct electricity but at the expense of work, a drop in voltage across the resistor. The computer you used to type the comment contains hundreds of resistors – they all conduct electricity.
    Something which conducts no electricity is an insulator.
    Water is most certainly not used to “handle high voltage transmission lines safely”. Firefighters do not use water against electrical fires. Coolants in high voltage transformers and other apparatus are usually oils because natural water does conduct electricity only artificially purified and deionised water does not.
    Creationists usually misuse more complex science than this to make their point.


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