A posting on the RD.NET site today linked me to a study finding that Belief in God Boils Down to a Gut Feeling. In it the experimentors conducted a test, which included the following:
Shenhav and his colleagues investigated that question in a series of studies. In the first, 882 American adults answered online surveys about their belief in God. Next, the participants took a three-question math test with questions such as, “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
The intuitive answer to that question is 10 cents, since most people’s first impulse is to knock $1 off the total. But people who use “reflective” reasoning to question their first impulse are more likely to get the correct answer: 5 cents.
Note that the “intuitive” answer is WRONG.
In fact, calling it an “intuitive” answer doesn’t even rise to the level of being wrong. It’s a guess, based on faulty logic and an inability to reason. Period. I will grant that different people have different levels of the “ability to reason,” or “to read instructions.” But it is a category error of epic proportions to call these failings intuition.
So that was all that bothered me, right? (Oh… you haven’t been reading me long enough if you thought this was over.) Toward the end of the article the authors of the study opine, “vis a vis some unhippily empirical comment made by me,”**
“It’s not that one way is better than the other,” study researcher David Rand of Harvard said in a statement. “Intuitions are important and reflection is important, and you want some balance of the two. Where you are on that spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God.”
WHAT!! It’s not that one way is better than the other? It sure as hell is, unless you enjoy losing 22% on every transaction you engage in! (That’s my intuitive sense of how far off the original answer was. hmm, what do you know… it’s wrong too!)
When someone starts sneaking intuition into a discussion, it almost surely is as a trump card to reason, the same way “faith” is used. “Oh well, I can feel my back pressed firmly to the wall, time to use my get out of jail free card and claim that “You just don’t understand spirituality and intuition.”
** Quote by Tim Minchin, in Storm... a 9 minute, relentless takedown of similar “bullshit” argumentative tactics as those on display by this Harvard Professor.