…and as the saying goes, sometimes the reason is because you’re stupid and make bad decisions.
A recent study out of the University of Fribourg shows that people whose thought processes involve believing that everything has some sort of intrinsic purpose—teleological thinking—are more susceptible to irrational beliefs, including and especially conspiracy theories.
Here, we show that conspiracism — the proneness to explain socio-historical events in terms of secret and malevolent conspiracies — is also associated to a teleological bias. Across three correlational studies (N > 2000), we found robust evidence of a teleological link between conspiracism and creationism, which was partly independent from religion, politics, age, education, agency detection, analytical thinking and perception of randomness. As a resilient ‘default’ component of early cognition, teleological thinking is thus associated with creationist as well as conspiracist beliefs, which both entail the distant and hidden involvement of a purposeful and final cause to explain complex worldly events.
We especially appreciate that section in bold (our emphasis), because it’s a stinging jab at how childish this type of thinking really is.
And if you suspect we’re exaggerating, here’s the first line of the main text:
Although teleological thinking has long been banned from scientific reasoning, it persists in childhood cognition, as well as in adult intuitions and beliefs.
“It was just meant to be..”.
“There’s a purpose for everything…”
“The sun rises every morning to give us light and warmth.”
“A banana fits perfectly in the Human hand because it was designed by God to…”
These are examples of this kind of “thinking”, and if you noticed, they got progressively dumber, culminating in a steaming pile of… teleology that was presented by none other than 80’s teenage heartthrob Kirk Cameron in support of Creationism.
♫ Show me that smile, again… ♫ …although to be fair and balanced, atheists have a problem with bananas too. We’ll let you look that one up for yourself (hint: it’s “amazing”).
To be clear, we don’t normally fire shots across the bow of religion here on Bullshido, at least not directly. But we couldn’t avoid it in this case. Because the above study shows that same cracked cognitive foundation that leaves one susceptible to conspiracy theories, is also correlated with belief in that banana bullshit.
Why is that bullshit? Well if you grew up in a banana republic—for our purposes here both a literal one and the retail clothing store will work—you may be unaware that the modern banana shares very little in common with its original, natural form. People have been modifying it through selective breeding for hundreds of years. The above image is what a wild, “intelligently-designed” banana looks like; certainly not perfect for fitting in your hand, or… (AMAZING!)
In short, the fact that everything happens for a reason doesn’t mean everything happens for a purpose, and the fact that a lot of people need for there to be a purpose to everything, doesn’t mean there actually is one; much less does that make it necessary to pull one, like a banana, out of your… erm… atheist.
Sources and Further Reading
RationalWiki: The Banana Argument