"Who is Tania? What is she that all the swains commend her?"

  • Tania Lombrozo
    • Wikipedia: Tania Lombrozo - Tania Lombrozo is an American psychologist who is the Arthur W. Marks Professor of Psychology at Princeton University. She oversees the Concepts and Cognition Laboratory, which looks to understand the science that underpins cognition.
    • Explananda - Human curiosity and its consequences.
    • Sinai and Synapses - “When do our brains behave more like scientists, and when do they behave like lawyers? What’s the difference between a “fact” and an “opinion,” and how do we respond to those perceptions? For Professor Tania Lombrozo, religion — and the many different types of relationships people can have to it — provides a fascinating case study for human belief and the social structures that scaffold it. So many of our current ideological battles, especially in the turmoil of the United States, hinge upon how people react when their beliefs are refuted, and how belief in facts creates different realms of truth.”
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Right at the start of the bottom link, where she was talking about how to treat evidence about a friend, she said “It’s not always straightforward that “this is the evidence,” and these are the “illegitimate” influences on belief.” I immediately thought of the TV show Columbo where over and over again what looked like straightforward evidence didn’t mean what it appeared to mean. Then my thoughts jumped to the first Star Wars movie, thinking that the way politicians and conspiracy theory thinkers and fringe religious groups (e.g. YECists) will essentially look at something and tell us, “This isn’t the evidence you’re looking for” – or as a certain politician loves to cry, “It’s fake news!” Then she calls this “thinking like a lawyer”, i.e. only using the evidence in favor of your case (and even twisting other evidence to force it to support your case), which is a great way to describe it.

I really like her idea of “charitable ground”, and the comment about it that the rabbi makes: “. . . it means that when they are speaking, I am going to assume that they are coming at it from a perspective of integrity, or at least self-integrity, and being able to say this is why I’m holding this.” It seems to me that this is something certain doctrinaire type people here on BioLogos need to get straight because it seems to me that they aren’t even capable of considering that any position but theirs could have a rational basis.
And I think this is related: “In many ways people are talking past each other, because they’re not even really agreeing on what should be the terms of the argument.”

I loved the reference to Descartes. One of my papers for a philosophy class that garnered me an A+ was one where I argued that the celebrated saying, “I think: therefore I am” was a proposition of despair because if you assume nothing then that is the only knowledge one can be certain of. Recognizing that is a great way to enable one’s own ability to ask, “What are my assumptions?” And she pegs one that doesn’t tend to get mentioned in science courses even at the university level: “The idea that we can use past experience to make reasonable inferences about the future”. That’s where Christianity essentially laid the ground for modern science, by asserting that God is faithful and thus His rules for how the world runs aren’t going to just shift around but are firm.


I decided to put this in a separate reply because it’s a critical issue between Christians and the fundamentalistically rabid atheists: the rabbi stated something thaat they refuse to get –

‘The Hebrew word for faith is emunah, which really means trust, which is: “I’m going to trust that this is accurate.”’

That’s also the case with the Greek πίστις, pistis (and the verb πιστεύω), where “I believe” means “I trust”. In fact in the Old Testament it was a community trust, i.e. “We believe”; the New Testament individualistic use possibly owes a lot to Philo for whom pistis meant trust in God.
And in both cases, trust is not blind but rests on evidence; we can have faith in God because He has shown Himself to be faithful, i.e. we can trust God because He has shown that He is trustworthy.

  • I really liked Tania and the rabbi’s exchange, … enough to listen through the whole thing; although the primary attraction is Tania’s brain.
  • That said: I liked the Rabbi’s point about “ethics”, i.e. ethics is not about choices between good and evil, it’s about choices between good and good. Choices between good and evil are (hopefully) no brainer choices, it’s the choices between good and good where trust in something bigger than me becomes necessary.

That’s indeed an important point that many militant atheists misrepresent: “I define faith as the opposite of reason, therefore anything called faith is unreasonable.” In reality, faith as trust is an independent variable relative to reason. Trust may be reasonable or unreasonable. Atheists have faith in various things, some more reasonable to trust than others, just as theists do.


We trust in reason, among other things.

We (Christians) have reasons to believe (factual evidence of God’s providence even).

Absolutely (or absolute faith ; - ).

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  • I’m posting the following lengthy conversation here for the specific purpose of making it easy for me to find it again. If anyone else likes it, … cool If no one likes it, too bad.
  • Content: A conversation between Sean Carroll the physicist and Tania Lombrozo:the psychologist Audio Version
  • Hard-copy transcript.

That is the one I found that made me decide to leave her to you. :wink:

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My first discussion of the link between reason and trust was at the county fair one summer when our dad was about to take my brother and I for a ride on the “Tilt-a-Whirl”: my brother said something, musing about how the ride worked, and our dad asked how we knew it was safe to ride. The point was that we didn’t actually know it was safe, but instead we trusted it was safe, and he asked why we should trust it.
I remember the guy running the ride staring at us like we were strange as he overheard our discussion.

  • Small but important detail, IMO: technically, I’d say you and your brother trusted that the people who had made the “Tilt-a-Whirl” had made it to sufficiently exacting standards, and that the people who set it up for use at the county fair had set it up properly, and that the guy running the ride had the know-how and ability to keep it running … safely.
  • In other words, you didn’t trust a book, like the Bible, or the inanimate object, i.e. the “Tilt-a-Whirl”.
  • And, I suspect that you trusted your Dad, too. If he thought it wasn’t safe, he’d have said and perhaps explained “why”. Don’tcha think?

Yeah. My brother was the one who pointed to the people who designed it and then both of us mentioned the people who built it; I noted the people who ran it who wanted it to run right. Our dad added the safety agency that required regular inspections and certified the rides.


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