Evolution of Credulity Forum Debate

Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Evolution of Credulity Forum Debate


CREDULOUS OF CREDULITY

Parejko's article on "Selection for Credulity" (SKEPTIC, Vol. 7, #1) was both interesting and offensive. Parejko presents no evidence that credulity is directly related to heritable traits, and his artide increases in offense in a gradual manner.

The first offense is that Parejko fails to adequately define his terms in applying the labels of "credulist" or "skeptic?" to groups or individuals. Adjectives such "gullible" and "childish," in the case of the credulist, are open to a variety of interpretations. what are the guidelines for applying these labels to individuals? Parejko acknowledges that all humans demonstrate "credulous" behavior on a daily basis (using credit cards, driving automobiles, etc.). Parejko realizes his failure to define his terms (to a certain extent) by the introduction and application of the term "supercredulist" to those individuals involved in new religions, or cults, which are often distinguished by unorthodox social structures. These "supercredulists" stand in stark contrast to "normal" credulists who participate in the normative institutions of Western society (e.g., church, family, governments, etc.), but who fail to reach some level of skepticism to actually be considered as skeptics. By the introduction of the term "su percredulist", Parejko implies that levels of credulity exist.

The next offense is that he openly acknowledges that he has no empirical data to present in favor of his hypothesis. If I was a skeptic based upon Parejko's definition--constantly demanding "Show Me"--I would not have finished reading this article. Parejko cites Bouchard's Minnesota Study (Science, 250:223-8; Ibid, 264:1700-2) to gain support for his own hypothesis, but this is hard to do, largely because Parejko has failed to objectively define "credulity." Bouchard's studies associate specific and tangible qualities and behavior with genetic components, whereas Parejko attempts to stretch that association to abstract and subjective qualitis (i.e., credulity). The weight of the evidence lies with the behaviorists, like Subbotsky (Br. J. Dev. Psych., 12(1):97-108), who find that expressions of credulity vary with environment. Parejko realizes this and attempts to synthesize these findings with his own hypothesis. In his model genes determine the potential expression of credulity, while environment either nur tures or deprives that potential. This model, however, is based largely upon an argument from silence, and thus contains no validity. But perhaps the most offensive portion of Parejko's article is the conclusion that he reaches based upon his hypothesis. The only way, he intimates, to achieve a safe and peaceful world which is conducive to the evolutionary process, is to effectively eradicate these credulists from future gene pools (and perhaps present society). Although his comments are specifically directed to "supercredulists" they leave a door open for the suspicion of "normal" credulists that he implies in his article. Who decides if a person is a "normal" or a "super" credulist? Who determines if an individual should be eradicated from the gene pool? Until Parejko is able to absolutely qualify the necessary terms, and then present a clinical trial in which "credulity" is shown to have a heritable component, this hypothesis remains shrouded in speculation, which makes it unprofitable as a matter of discussion.

Matthew Lear, matthewlear@hotmail.com

IS PAREJKO JOKING?

I thought Ken Parejko was joking. As I read on, it became less and less funny. First, I don't think any true skeptic would claim to "rely" on his or her senses. The senses can deceive, as any true skeptic would know. It is for this reason that entire industries exist to augment our senses. A pilot flying without visual references to the outside world (in the clouds) would almost certainly get killed if he or she relied on his or her senses alone. It is necessary for the pilot to trust the instruments of the airplane, not his or her sense of spatial orientation.

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