More secular (and obnoxious, and stupid) Millennials

I’ve been looking at some social psychology research concerning the so-called “Millennial” generation, in their twenties today. (I figure it doesn’t hurt to know more about my students.)

Often, the research finds that the Millennials are an obnoxious, shallow, and stupid bunch. (OK, that’s my take on it. But basically, reading the survey results, my usual reaction is that I hate most of them.)

But since Millennials tend towards self-centered consumerism and moral individualism (even more than the usual American norm), they also show up in surveys as a comparatively more secular lot.

So, there we have it. Apparently Americans are becoming less likely to act like morons because their brains are fried by Sunday sermons, but that is because they’re more likely to act like idiots because their brains are fried by advertising.

Whee.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    When you say 'Whee' I hear the exuberant 'Whee' of the Geico piglet in my head.

    Maybe the surveys are right…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826568465831489492 Alex Dalton

    Taner – to what do you chalk up the cause of your own obnoxiousness? You barely post a blog where it isn't evident. Despite your emotional aversion to religion, the best thing for you would probably be to look into into some more secular/Westernized forms of Buddhism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Taner,

    Please stay a curmudgeon! I love it! It is great to be a curmudgeon since there is so much to be curmudgeonly about. Check this out:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/dennis-terry-rick-santorum_n_1364414.html?ref=religion&icid;=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl14%7Csec3_lnk2%26pLid%3D144967

    He don't worship no Budder. He don't worship no Moe-Hammid. He don't worship no Allur. He worships JUH-EEE-ZUSS CUH-RHIST-UH!

    It is good to see idiocy in its pure, pristine, paradigmatic form. It lets you know what is really behind the more circumspect and soft-spoken idiocy of politicians.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826568465831489492 Alex Dalton

    Great advice. Because continued bitter resentment of one another, mostly in reaction to a few loud-mouth self-appointed power-grabbers from the opposing world of thought, who appeal to the more base instincts of territoriality/defensiveness of the masses they shout down to, is the true path towards harmony and peace among diverse peoples. Forget about vulnerability, understanding, compassion, real honest communication, and respectful dialogue. We all see what really works in the political realm. Let's all just act like the politicians…We need more polarization. Any unity should be a unity amongst opposing teams so we can continue the good fight. Rather than critique negative behavior patterns on the part of fellow "team members", make sure you step in to show your support.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Isn't it remarkable how Alex encapsulates a call for "vulnerability, understanding, compassion, real honest communication, and respectful dialogue" in a passage that drips with scorn, bitterness, and sarcasm? Do as I say, not as I do, huh Alex?

    Anyway, here is how I look at it: The ridiculous deserves ridicule. The hateful and bigoted deserves to be called hateful and bigoted. Fatuity parading as profundity needs to be deflated. Hypocrites need to be outed. The nudity of naked emperors should be noted. Fanatics need to be scorned, or, better, satirized. There is no way to do these things inoffensively.

    On the other hand, charity should be extended to opponents until and unless their offenses become so egregious that further charity becomes complicity in such egregiousness. I count two ordained ministers–one Methodist and the other United Church of Christ–among my closest friends. Another good friend is Christian philosopher Victor Reppert. I respect these gentlemen enormously and, to the extent that we disagree, I see this as the honest disagreement of people who are making an earnest attempt to figure things out as reasonably as they can. Our disagreements have always been expressed in mutually respectful terms.

    So, the bottom line for me is to respect your opponent as long as he is at all respectable, and when he stops being so, let him have it with both barrels.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Keith Parsons said…

    Anyway, here is how I look at it: The ridiculous deserves ridicule. The hateful and bigoted deserves to be called hateful and bigoted. Fatuity parading as profundity needs to be deflated. Hypocrites need to be outed. The nudity of naked emperors should be noted. Fanatics need to be scorned, or, better, satirized. There is no way to do these things inoffensively.

    ===============
    Comment:

    I agree. Furthermore, this attitude is something I learned from Jesus, or at least Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels.

    Jesus was both tolerant and forgiving on the one hand, and intolerant and unforgiving on the other.

    He was tolerant and forgiving toward the poor, the powerless, the weak, and the common people.

    He was not at all tolerant or forgiving towards those with power and wealth and position, especially when such people viewed themselves as better than or holier than the poor, the weak, the powerless, and the common folk, and especially when those with power or wealth were hypocrites who liked to tell everyone else how to live, but who were not so good at following their own advice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Alex, when one looks at the video it does get kind of scary though. It is not so much that the pastor is indeed an obvious idiot (or perhaps plays one? – who knows), and not even that so many people around him get so enthusiastic with his hate speech, but that a major elected official and second in line presidential candidate of the republican party is there clapping.

    This is a worrisome phenomenon in modern America, and perhaps secular people in the US should organize and do something about it. (And I mean “secular” in the original sense and not as a synonym to “atheist”.) As somebody pointed out in the Huffington Post page, that rally was as political as it gets. Therefore one should move to have that church’s tax exempt status revoked.

    As for Taner’s original post it does vent some frustration, but I wouldn’t characterize it as “obnoxious”. Young people today do appear to be rather shallow, and perhaps advertising, or in general the victory of fashion over reason, may be the cause. On the other hand the young have always seemed shallow to those of the previous generation, so perhaps we should not worry too much. But those of us who are parents or teachers should work better at inculcating critical thinking in the young.

    Which brings me to where I think I disagree with Keith. It is perhaps the case that ridiculing others can help in the political arena, but it certainly does not fit well with the teaching of critical thought. Ultimately, good education and the rational though it entails is the only solution to all political or social problems. And is the best gift one can give to young people. So then, I hold that ridiculing others or being a curmudgeon in one’s dealings with others does not make for good education.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826568465831489492 Alex Dalton

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826568465831489492 Alex Dalton

    Danielos: This is a worrisome phenomenon in modern America, and perhaps secular people in the US should organize and do something about it.

    Alex: I agree with alot of what you said; I think though, being unaware of the "original sense" of the word secular, religious people should specifically organize and do something about it. And that was also one of my points. Obnoxiousness only seems justified when the opposing camp reacts to it. Usually that reaction is the purpose of it in the first place. Its more effective when you critique it from within. When people with excessively harsh views start to get wind of the fact that their own team might not side with them, they are less confident to speak up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826568465831489492 Alex Dalton

    Keith: Isn't it remarkable how Alex encapsulates a call for "vulnerability, understanding, compassion, real honest communication, and respectful dialogue" in a passage that drips with scorn, bitterness, and sarcasm? Do as I say, not as I do, huh Alex?

    Alex: I intended it to be sarcastic, but I didn't feel bitter when I wrote it. And I'm not sure how or why one should avoid scorning negative behavior when critiquing it. That seems to be the point of critiquing it.

    Keith: Anyway, here is how I look at it: The ridiculous deserves ridicule. The hateful and bigoted deserves to be called hateful and bigoted. Fatuity parading as profundity needs to be deflated. Hypocrites need to be outed. The nudity of naked emperors should be noted. Fanatics need to be scorned, or, better, satirized. There is no way to do these things inoffensively.

    Alex: I *could* agree with all that and it would still be a bit beside the point I was making. Taner seems obnoxious towards the religious in general – something I wouldn't accuse you or some other members of this blog of. These are the kinds of people you simply *cannot* dialogue with constructively, when you hold a view opposite to their own.

    Keith: I count two ordained ministers–one Methodist and the other United Church of Christ–among my closest friends. Another good friend is Christian philosopher Victor Reppert. I respect these gentlemen enormously and, to the extent that we disagree, I see this as the honest disagreement of people who are making an earnest attempt to figure things out as reasonably as they can. Our disagreements have always been expressed in mutually respectful terms.

    Alex: And this is why I think you are a great guy, and more of an effective and convincing skeptic. I've even defended attacks on your character, on the part of other theists, at other blogs. Putting aside the fact that it shows a greater level of confidence in one's position, I consider the capacity for this kind of friendly engagement with people of radically different worldviews to be nothing less than one of the greatest human achievements. If we could all get to this mind state, I think it would change the world we live in and save countless lives. Without knowing of your relationships with other theists, it is evident after a few rounds of dialogue with you. Lowder should also get an honorable mention here. I wonder if Taner has such a capacity. It isn't evident on this blog, if so. I'm sure he's real swell in the eyes of fellow skeptics, just like I probably wouldn't have too much conflict with many of the views of that crazy preacher from that clip if we were discussing theology over a meal, but to most theists, I think Taner probably comes off as just as obnoxious, if not moreso, than the targets of most of his rants.

    I'm not sure ridicule is the best way – even with the ridiculous. Let's say you could sit down with that pastor and have a discussion one-on-one, or even one of those who cheered him on. Do you think it would be more effective to ridicule them? Or to explain to them – hey, I realize we hold separate views, but this is how alienated, looked down upon, stereotyped, etc. I feel when you speak about people with my views in that manner. Don't you think there is a common core of humanity where we all realize we really dislike that sort of behavior, when its coming from the opposing camp? Even people who are ridiculous are capable of empathy, and change.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Alex,

    Thanks loads for the conciliatory note! It is hard to discuss matters where there are deep disagreements and passionate feelings without stepping on toes occasionally. I have noticed that even some of the big shots, like Alvin Plantinga, can be sarcastic and provocative at times. Indeed, I have characterizes some of his remarks as the philosophical equivalent of thumbing one's nose and making a razzing sound. I think in philosophical debate it is good to follow the advice of Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly, but carry a big stick. Of course, in philosophical debate, the "big stick" should be the force of logic.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Alex,

    In my understanding the original sense of “secularism” is the separation of state and church, and that religious beliefs or practices must not be imposed by the state. Since all atheists are secular in that sense, the idea of secularism and atheism is often conflated.

    If anything I’d think that the idea of secularism should move in the opposite direction, towards the sense that any metaphysical beliefs (or practices based on them) must not be imposed by state power. Since naturalism is a metaphysical theory, secularism in that broader sense entails that naturalistic beliefs must not be imposed by the state. I think any secularist at heart, even if she happens to be an atheist, would agree.

    Does the state impose or strongly suggests naturalistic beliefs in public education? I think so. Here are a couple of examples:

    1) As a matter of fact the scientific theory of natural evolution does *not* entail that the evolutionary process is unguided, yet the way the expression “random mutations” is used in the teaching of the theory at school strongly suggests this. And that’s why most students end up believing that the science conflicts with theism – when in fact it’s only the naturalistic interpretation of the science that does so.

    2) Whether, as scientific naturalism has it, the physical sciences describe how reality is, is in fact an open philosophical question. In the Philpapers survey 16% of faculty or PhD philosophers accept or lean towards scientific anti-realism, versus 70% who do the opposite (a ratio of almost 1:4). Yet, the physical sciences are taught at school as if it were factually or indisputably true that the physical sciences describe reality.


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