There’s an article making the rounds regarding “The Backfire Effect.” It argues that “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”
At least at it pertains to us, when we argue about religion with theists, their defenses tend to go up, and they may become even more religious in the process. If we think we’re changing their minds with our use of Reason, we should think twice.
Once something is added to your collection of beliefs, you protect it from harm. You do it instinctively and unconsciously when confronted with attitude-inconsistent information. Just as confirmation bias shields you when you actively seek information, the backfire effect defends you when the information seeks you, when it blindsides you. Coming or going, you stick to your beliefs instead of questioning them. When someone tries to correct you, tries to dilute your misconceptions, it backfires and strengthens them instead. Over time, the backfire effect helps make you less skeptical of those things which allow you to continue seeing your beliefs and attitudes as true and proper.
I want to say that something similar happened when I visited churches — that pastors made arguments for god and what they said made me not believe in god even more strongly, if that sort of thing is even possible… but I don’t think it’s the same thing. Their arguments just weren’t persuasive. And while I was open to hearing a contradicting point of view, I had logical reasons to reject their ideas.
I would hope we, as skeptics, are better than those people who just block their beliefs from the truth. Even our most cherished beliefs should be open to scrutiny if the evidence warrants a second look.
Since we’re on the topic, though, a couple questions for everyone: Outside of god, what’s something you once believed in strongly that you later changed your mind about? What caused that change?
(Thanks to Julien for the link!)