Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
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31-05-2012, 08:50 PM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
(31-05-2012 07:40 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Light.

You open the blog post by saying you don't approach older people about this subject because you PRESUPPOSE that they have a certain capacity, or lack thereof. That's ageist.

You finish by specifically suggesting that one should not bother with old people, but instead focus on young people because they are not like old people. That's ageist.

It's the equivalent of saying, "Don't talk to women about subject X because they're more fragile than us and prone to getting the vapours." That would be sexist. Your blog post is ageist.

Like Cufflink says, old farts are more resilient (it's all good, I can say old farts because Cufflink's my nigga. See how that works Cool )

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
It's not ageist. It's practical.

Again, if the circumstance requires it, I will happily engage in the conversation with an older person.

However, in my experience, it does more harm than good to the individual and since I try my best to be ethical/moral I tend to avoid behavior that might harm others, even if that harm is simply psychological. I made my thirty-something wife cry when I managed to get her really consider the idea that there is no afterlife and she'll never see her loved ones again. And she has her entire life in front of her (in theory).

Older folks like my mom don't have that luxury (assuming we don't have a breakthrough in life extension technology in the next decade or two).

So you can read into it however you'd like (reading too much into it in my opinion) but it's definitely not ageism. It's compassion.

But don't just take my word for it. Read some of the posts in this thread or listen to Seth's podcast from earlier this week.

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31-05-2012, 09:08 PM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
Hey, Light.

You're offering justifications, but you're not really offering any serious challenge to the idea that it's ageism.

Your experience is anecdotal. Old people (whatever that might mean) do not react homogeneously. The fact that you're speaking of an entire group of people illustrates how you're beginning from a place of stereotype. But when you prejudge individuals based on their affiliations or categorisations, that's prejudice. Prejudice that has to do with age is ageism. This isn't just ageist, it's textbook ageism.

If your post was called, "Why I don't bother talking Atheism to any individual I feel might be incapable of having their beliefs challenged," then there would be zero issue. That would be compassionate. But you're saying, "Old people can't handle it." That's ageist.

You must understand that I'm not pointing this out because I think you're an ageist as a state of being. You're a good guy. But this idea of yours is ageist. I'm asking you to put your justifications aside and look at it for what it is, not so I can lord something over you can call you a lesser being, but so that you can move forward in the best way possible.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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31-05-2012, 09:51 PM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
(31-05-2012 09:08 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Light.

You're offering justifications, but you're not really offering any serious challenge to the idea that it's ageism.

Your experience is anecdotal. Old people (whatever that might mean) do not react homogeneously. The fact that you're speaking of an entire group of people illustrates how you're beginning from a place of stereotype. But when you prejudge individuals based on their affiliations or categorisations, that's prejudice. Prejudice that has to do with age is ageism. This isn't just ageist, it's textbook ageism.

If your post was called, "Why I don't bother talking Atheism to any individual I feel might be incapable of having their beliefs challenged," then there would be zero issue. That would be compassionate. But you're saying, "Old people can't handle it." That's ageist.

You must understand that I'm not pointing this out because I think you're an ageist as a state of being. You're a good guy. But this idea of yours is ageist. I'm asking you to put your justifications aside and look at it for what it is, not so I can lord something over you can call you a lesser being, but so that you can move forward in the best way possible.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
Right, and I'm telling you that, in my opinion, the best way to move forward is to not talk about atheism with older folks because more often than not it will do more harm than good in my experience. In other words, I disagree with what you think the best approach is in these situations.

I'm basing this generalization on anecdotal evidence, which is certainly a weak form of evidence. If I had the time and resources (and perhaps some day I will, working on it...) I'll perform some rigorous studies and experiments in an effort to provide empirical evidence that either supports or falsifies my hypothesis.

Until then, I do, in fact, think that the best way to move forward is by generalizing (or "stereotyping/pre-judging" in your words).

You're a social science buff, so you likely realize that stereotyping is something that is more or less inherent and subconscious (e.g. everyone does it more or less all the time in one way or another). And as I've mentioned countless times, when the situation calls for it, I definitely do talk about atheism with old people (or any other sort of person) so again, this isn't ageism, it's compassion.

Or in layman's terms, I'm not going to beat my 60-something mother over the head with my atheism. It has been addressed (and it was no fun for anyone involved) and revisiting it will only cause emotional harm. That's not ageism. That's reality.

P.S. The title of my post is "Why I..." not "Why You..." and it's an important distinction.

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01-06-2012, 05:41 AM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
Hey, Light.

You misunderstand. I haven't offered an approach.

You wrote something. You put it out there. And then, by posting it here, you gave the people in this forum the opportunity to tell you what they thought. I gave you a critique. You don't like it. That's all that's happening.

You're basing this on anecdotal evidence. That's a weakness in your argument.

Your inherent and unconscious stereotyping argument is weak. That isn't an excuse for writing a blog post based on stereotype.

What you're saying about compassion is a justification, not an explanation why this is not ageism. I am doing X because of Y doesn't make X=Y.

If you don't want to beat your grandmother over the head because you've determined that as an individual, she can't handle it, that's reality. If you don't want to do it because you assume she can't handle it just because she's old and you presuppose that no old person can, then that's prejudice. Clear cut prejudice in fact. Age-based prejudice is ageism. In fact, thinking it is prejudice. Actively excluding her based only on here age is an act of discrimination.

And again, the 'why I' and not 'why you' argument is weak because 1 - this has nothing to do with personal preference, this is a critique of a concept, 2 - because you put this out there and 3 - because I haven't said why I do anything.

So listen, brother, I'm gonna leave it at that. I'm not attacking you as a person, I'm giving constructive criticism about something you wrote. I'm not telling you to approach old people the way I think they should be approached, I'm saying that there is an issue with the way you're looking at it. If you don't want to hear it, then it's all good. You don't have to re-explain your argument to me, it was spelled out quite clearly in your blog post. I think that something you wrote and published was ageist. If you want to ignore that critique and go on doing what you're doing, then it's your reputation at stake, not mine. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it isn't ageist, or maybe it is but no one will take it that way, or maybe people will see it for what I believe it is. That's your gamble to take.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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01-06-2012, 07:23 AM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
People's brains change as they age. It isn't just religion, it is everything about who they are. Your neural wiring is less and less likely to be able to change or adapt later in life. Someone who is older who has been religious their entire life, is much less likely to be able to look at things from a radically different perspective than someone who is younger. That is not anecdotal whatsoever, that is backed up by a mountain of very conclusive brain research.

You can call it ageism if you like, but whatever you want to call it, it won't change the physical reality of what aging does to you neurologically.
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01-06-2012, 08:03 AM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
Hey, Super.

What does that even mean, I can call it ageism if I like? And what's this "but" business? There's no but involved. It either is or it isn't. If it isn't, so be it. If it is, then no amount of justification makes it OK.

I would like to see this mountain of evidence. Especially if there's some sort of peer reviewed journal that supports the idea that no old person can change their mind. Until I do, I have to assume that this evidence you allude to is much like the evidence that convinced the Air Force than black men's blood vessels were too small meaning they'd make terrible fighter pilots.

At any rate, I've said my piece. What makes discrimination discrimination is clear as a bell. If you want to deny that something is discrimination, more power to you. Just don't be surprised when other people call you on it.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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01-06-2012, 08:36 AM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
Ghost your argument is really quite sloppy.

"some sort of peer reviewed journal that supports the idea that no old person can change their mind" Classic straw man argument. I never said anything of the sort, only that the ability to change your mind is related to how our brain function changes. Very disappointing that you would stoop to attacking what you would like to attack instead of addressing what I said.

So what exactly is your argument, that our brains do not change when we age? That from the day you turn 18 to the day you die you have the exact same mental capacity? Sorry, wishful thinking on your part.

As far as studies go, here is one to start you out: Habit and Recollection in Healthy Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Alzheimer's Disease - 2012, published in Neuropsychology.

The study discusses that as brains age, maintaining familiar patterns and behaviors helps to maintain cognitive function. It specifically addresses how habit-based memory works, and that habit-based memory continues to function in older patients while their controlled decision making and memory declines.


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01-06-2012, 12:09 PM (This post was last modified: 01-06-2012 12:14 PM by Ghost.)
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
Super.

First of all, I'm sure you think you're clever enough to mask your condescension, but you're not. Since you're nobody to me, I don't have time for it.

As for your strawman, "much less likely" is not worth a damn. Tell me. 25% less likely? 52%? 3%? Come on. Bring the facts. Is it statistically significant or not? What exactly is the relationship between neuronal wiring and world view? Belief systems? I'm curious. Do tell.

Third, you have the fucking stones to accuse me of "stooping" to attacking a strawman and in the following sentence, attack a strawman yourself? That's incredible and I don't mean Fran Tarkinton style. I am WELL versed in developmental psychology and fully aware that the brain changes over lifespan. What you are not offering is how significant the impact of that change is in this case, frequency, anything. The thread topic is "don't bother", not "there's a 3% statistical difference" or "studies showed that 3 out of 5 elderly people refused to adopt a new world view" or anything. It's a blanket statement that covers an entire group. And you're defending it with... what exactly? The brain changes as we age? Stop the fucking presses!

Fourth, where do I find this article? I searched on Google scholar and found sweet fuck all. I did find this which seems to be a complete listing with PDF versions of every article published in Neuropsychology volume 26 (2012) issues 1 (Jan), 2 (March) and 3 (May). It wasn't among them.

As for my sloppy argument, get real. IF you prejudge someone based on a stereotype THEN you have acted with prejudice. IF it had to do with age THEN it is ageism. There is NOTHING sloppy about my argument. What is sloppy is the critique of it. The critique goes like this, "It's not ageism because...." So far, no reasonable case has been made.

Your argument is the worst kind of crap. You're arguing that because of some decline in the ability to rewire neuronal pathways that occurs with aging, the nature and significance of which you have conveniently left out, that it is perfectly fine to assume that everyone in that category will be less able to accept radical changes in their world views. What is implied in your post is that this is some sort of support for Light's argument that one should simply not approach the elderly about Atheism. You have yet to make a convincing argument.

ON EDIT: If I said, "don't stress old people's bones because they're more likely to have osteoporosis than younger people," that's a blanket statement. If I bar old people from doing something because it would stress their bones, then that's discrimination. But what's important is, what is the frequency of osteoporosis in the elderly? What are the age categories? What is the range of severity of osteoporosis? How many elderly people straight up don't have it? These are the sort of questions your position lacks.
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01-06-2012, 06:59 PM (This post was last modified: 01-06-2012 07:09 PM by Superluminal.)
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
I'm not even going to bother responding to your most recent post. Your objectivity is so far gone it is ridiculous. You are just wildly and emotionally thrashing about. At no point did I ever say I agreed with his view that you shouldn't even bother. I was however agreeing that it is understandable that his anecdotal experience is meeting resistance or creating emotional trauma for older people when trying to discuss the topic, and it is understandable for a variety of real reasons backed up by psychology and physiology.

To get back on track:

"Beliefs About Behavior Account for Age Differences in the Correspondence Bias" - Jennifer Stanley and Fredda Blanchard-Fields, The Journals of Gerontology, October 2010.

The reason I specifically mention this article is that the abstract itself contains some of the more pertinent points for those that do not have access to an academic
journal service. Specifically, the study states that as a matter of fact for it's starting point, "Older adults tend to exhibit the correspondence bias to a greater extent than young adults."

For those that may be following this, correspondence bias is a term which refers to people's tendency to infer things about other people or situations which can not really be inferred, and instead can be explained by the situation. An example would be if you met someone, and they didn't shake your hand, that you assume they are an unfriendly person, when in reality you cannot confirm this. Some people also refer to this as the fundamental attribution error.

Another prime example of correspondence/confirmation bias is atheism. Some people meet you, learn you are an atheist that doesn't like religion, and then assume you eat babies. The fact that a study about correspondence bias that was accepted to a major peer-reviewed journal started with the assumption that it is a widely known and accepted fact in the field of psychology that older adults exhibit this bias more strongly is as damning as it gets.

Furthermore, the discussion abstract states "The results of this study suggest that age differences in the correspondence bias task are in part driven by older adults
holding stronger attitude–behavior consistency beliefs than young adults." Attitude-behavior consistency is a term used by psychologists to describe essentially how strongly people remain unchanging in their attitudes and behaviors.

There are further studies and articles by people such as Mark Zanna and Arie Kruglanski that describe what kind of environments and psychological factors tend to cause people to increase their attitude-behavior consistency. In the elderly it is often believed to be related to a loss of control of the environment around them and decisions in their life.

Belief or disbelief in a God almost certainly falls into the category of an evaluative summary of the world. Even Katz back in the 1960's already realized that these evaluative summaries that people construct are used to project structure and understanding of the world into their lives.


So yeah, you take an older person who has been religious their entire life, someone who is damn well known by the field of psychology to exhibit correspondence-bias and tendency toward the need for attitude-behavior consistency more than younger people, and try to start a conversation about atheism with them, and you are gonna hit a brick wall most of the time. Is it guaranteed? No. Am I saying you should never try? No. However, Light simply brought up the point that he had experienced hitting this wall. He didn't claim anything more than anecdotal experience, yet you go off accusing him of all sorts of nasty things. Oh but I forgot, you signed your posts "Peace Love and Empathy" while you were talking down your nose at him, so that makes it okay right......
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01-06-2012, 10:36 PM
RE: Why I don't bother talking atheism with older folks
Super.

You're a joke. Let me know when you graduate high school.
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