Physicist Larry Krauss Joins the “Black Parade” Blaming Religious “Beliefs”, Good Lord!

If you are a scientist and claim science credentials you cannot spout off about what causes behavior without citing peer-reviewed research supporting theories, etc.  Especially if you are just slinging mud, to demonize “others” with really different ideas that you “feel” threaten your ideas and profession.

Well, actually you can – Larry Krauss proves it in the New Yorker online edition article “Teaching Doubt.” Frankly, I find the article a barely intelligible screed, just intemperate venting.  It is not worth reading.  Where are the vaunted New Yorker fact checkers, please?

Joining the – “religion is the source of bad behavior”(esp the Muslim religion, apparently)  parade, which includes Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne  –  Krauss hammers away with such howlers as:

“But it seems fair to say that, on average, religious faith appears to be an obstacle to understanding the world.”

That’s just silly.

 “One thing is certain: if our educational system does not honestly and explicitly promote the central tenet of science—that nothing is sacred—then we encourage myth and prejudice to endure.”

Gee, if we could just get everyone’s “thinking” right so many problems would be solved!  Here is a good example of a physicist engaging in magical thinking, outside of his specialty.

The statements above are not evidence-, or data-, based.  Maybe they are true, maybe not.  We just don’t have the experimental, double-blind data to know one way or another.

Certainly, a professional physicist will wait for experimental evidence in their field.  But apparently not a professional physicist holding forth on the causes of human behavior for the “greater good” of what!? Ridding the world of superstition and supernatural beliefs/statements? Yeah, good luck with that.

Why are physicists given free-range to pontificate about human behavior and never an animal ethologist or even a biologist?!  I suspect it is all the TV shows on space/Cosmos – the Carl Sagan Syndrome.  The media will turn to Steven Hawking with a brain, behavior, biology question pretty much before anyone else. for example.

At best, we can suppose what we have is the American atheist dogma/theory that religious beliefs – really just self-reported statements about supernatural events – are a source of harmful behaviors, of all sorts, including murder and prejudice!  A counter-view is something like my piece: ““Jihadi John”: The Accidental Terrorist*”

Why are the American atheists getting away with these articles making impossible claims about religious beliefs!? Well, they are good “click-bait” – fair enough.

How Are American Atheist Misstatements Relevant to Israelis

Selling the idea that religious beliefs/statements cause bad behavior, in the bad guys, or any behavior, is a razor sharp “sword.”  It will “cut” all sorts of damaging ways.  False statements, that sell well and get attention on pop(ular) media may be obstacles to real problem solving.  But of course, we don’t know.

We just don’t know what effect anyone’s beliefs about anything have on behavior.  And in science and real problem-solving – it’s always acceptable to say – “We don’t know.”

The fact is, we are all going to have to problem-solve, like right now, without anyone changing their supernatural, religious, political, food-preference, or any kind of “beliefs.”  When in human history has changing ideas mattered?  Behaviors matter, not ideas or beliefs.

There are all sorts of “beliefs.”  Some really bad ones, some really fantastical and imaginary ones, a few good ones and mainly just pointless ones.

Until we have some real experimental evidence about how beliefs cause behaviors, let’s just get on with problem-solving behaviors and hold off on the false demonizing and “symptom chasing”, shall we?

About the Author
Elmer Rich is interested in evidence-based problem-solving in professional, business and policy work. With an M.S. in Lifespan Developmental Psychology from University of Chicago, he works as a professional marketer and communicator in B2B/technical topics in financial services.