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What is "Compartmentalization" with regard to religion?

Whenever the question is brought up how intelligent, educated individuals can be religious (the best example are: theistic scientists), the word most often used to explain that is "compartmentalization".

But how does it work? These people do not suffer from a 'split personality' in a technical sense (where some part of the person does not know what is going on in another part).

Is compartmentalization just a handy concept to offer a pseudo-explanation of a strange phenomenon, or is it real? Are there any psychologists who have published on that topic?

By Matias
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29 comments

6

"One of the challenges, however, of being highly compartmentalized is that over time, people may lean more and more into those compartments where they feel most competent, capable and confident. That can cause other compartments to either atrophy from disuse or in some cases, never develop in the first place.

"Over time, these people can appear to be more like “human doings” that don’t feel particularly present as people even as they appear quite competent in a particular function. Think of IT instead of HR (or Romney vs. Obama).

"This may explain some of the challenges that successful problem-solving entrepreneurs have in “relating” to spouses and children who don’t want solutions or advice or to be figured out, but want to be listened to and understood."

"Compartmentalized v. Integrated: The Mind of Elliott Rogers - Does too much Compartmentalization Risk Disconnecting You from People?"

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A., Psychology Today, May 2014.

[psychologytoday.com]

LiterateHiker Level 8 Oct 11, 2018
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That is very interesting, but what does it tell us about the alleged compartmentalization of religious scientists?

Really interesting. And slightly scary.

It means you can never really know someone. If they can split themselves off that way.

Most introverts compartmentalise as a means of survival 😊

5

This is really about cognitive dissonance, as others have said. Separating irreconcilable beliefs in order to function. I think we should be honest and admit that we all do this, or are capable of it, on some things. I suspect, though this is not my field, that it's a trait that allows human beings to cope with things but continue on with the contradiction. That said, this compartmentalizing in religious people is often so pronounced they literally say stupid things that impair their mental function and make them look and sound silly. A scientist who says they believe in the silly Jesus story, for example. Out comes a lot of nonsense, yet they can't help themselves. An historian or social scientist who knows the fakery of Jesus and Christianity, but peddles rubbish about their "faith" and spiritual knowledge. I've seen it, pushed them in debates, and watched the compartments in their brains clash. And religions rationalize this for them, prattling on about being "tested by God" or knowledge from another way of knowing, and so on. I've said this before, but when intelligent people start justifying their brand of religion, they seem less intelligent. They are because their cognitively dissonant minds are impaired during this discussion. The neuroscientists will give us more scientific analysis, but that's my layman take on it.

David1955 Level 7 Oct 11, 2018
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"cognitive dissonance" cannot be the correct explanation because it always involves a stressful tension between two sides (example : a medico who is also a smoker and who knows that he should quit smoking and who then tries to find excuses for his bad habit.) -
But in the case of religious scientists there simply is no tension and no stress and therefore no attempts to make the tension go away in order to reconcile the positive self-image with a bad habit or a contradictory idea... -
No stress-inducing tension, no "cognitive dissonance"

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@Matias Compartmentalising is how the stress is avoided, evaded, denied or tolerated from cognitive dissonance. The stress appears when stress is placed on the subject bringing the normally separated compartments into conflict. I've seen it, when asking serious probing questions of someone who holds irreconcilable positions, like science and religion. I've done it. Focused questioning brings real stress, silly answers and sometimes just dumb things coming out of the mouth of someone I know who should know better. Truly, sometimes it's almost sad. Look at the uncomfortable body language. Any rationalisation is used to have some answer, no matter how unbelievable. This is the stress that is usually avoided by keeping the mind separated. Cognitive dissonance and mind compartmentalisation are inextricably linked, in my view.

@David1955 Your answer is logically incoherent. You simply assume (!) that religious scientists must suffer some form of stress because science and religion are irreconcilable (in YOUR worldview).
But that is not what can be observed! Religious scientists are able to reconcile both sides in their mind and in their worldview, they talk and write about it (I read it), and they have zero stress about it. Therefore there is no cognitive dissonance and no need to resort to compartmentalisation to get rid of the stress.
YOU would suffer from stress if you were in their position, but you must not project your perspective on other people, in this case: on religious scientists.

@Matias well, that's how YOU see it from YOUR world view. There are many who would agree with MY worldview, and you can see in this thread. You can't call differing perspectives logically incoherent simply because your perspective differs. You posed a question in your post, and I have given my view, as have others. Don't attack people for sharing their perspective on the question you pose.

@David1955 I am attacking no one. I just pointed out that your logic is flawed because you assume something (that science and religion are per se irreconcilable), and then you build your argument on this assumption.

5

I am not expert on the Psychological analysis of compartmentalization though I have done much study of the Psychology of religion.

Compartmentalization I can say is a real thing. As a correctional officer after 15 years I had developed the us vs. them psychology in maximum security where ours lives were in danger constantly that I began to see the offenders in some aspects as less than human. I realized this when I happened across offenders that had passed away. I had no regard for their humanity what so ever. I had no more passion for the humans that I had found dead than a mouse in a trap. I realized this and felt somewhat guilty for that. If I had come across any other human that had died there would have been an emotional response.
I am glad that I am no longer a correctional officer and have recovered my humanity now 6 years later and have plans to volunteer as atheist clergy As I am an ordained Atheist Pastor(another story.)

As far a religion is concerned I was indoctrinated very young as a young earth creationist, fundamentalist, extremist. It is by no means a split personality. It is simply a disregard for reality when it comes to faith. Lets take gravity. If the religion says that gravity does not exist then to the believer it is simply God magic that makes everyone think that it exist even though it does not "really" exist. I know it does sound crazy. People that are intelligent, of sound mind are very capable of this. This is why you can have perfectly normal, rational people display unthinkable beliefs and behaviors when it comes to religion. This compartmentalization is not a conscious choice or understanding to the individuals that it occurs in. It is normally like when I was a correctional officer a symptom of conditioning.

This is also how good people in Germany during WW2 were able to participate in the holocaust. The pressures and fear made these normal otherwise good people rationalize subconsciously unthinkable actions.

DavidLaDeau Level 7 Oct 11, 2018
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3

It's really simple: you don't think about A when working with B and don't think about B when working with A. It's not magic. It's not cognitive dissonance. It's just the realization that what I do when I do A may not, need not, apply to what I do when I do B and vice versa

So for example, my father is a very religious man and also a (retired) nephrologist. When he is in church, he isn't thinking or bringing his dialysis machines into his prayers or rituals and when he is in the clinic, he isn't thinking or bringing his prayers to his dialysis machines. There are times when both realms sort of meet, for example when dialysis fails for a terminal patient. In that case, he would pray for the patient but not hope for some divine intervention to make dialysis work for that patient.

Another great example of compartmentalization is his emotions in regards to his patients vs. us. He is a very loving and giving father to us but when he deals with with patients he has to "compartmentalize" his emotions. Likewise, when he is dealing with sickness with one of his kids, he can't treat us as his kids, he has to look at us like patients, unemotional, compartmentalize his feelings for us in order to focus on his knowledge.

Myself, I use compartmentalization in my work as a physicist as well. I realize, as an agnostic, that there are many things that I don't know and possibly can't know. I put all those things in a little box/compartment and don't let them affect me. Every so often, I'll put them out of the compartment to examine, to see if there is new evidence for me to put it in a different compartment or to let it out. If there is, I review. If there is not, I put it back. A good example of this is Russell's Teapot: great philosophical argument but as an agnostic, not one I can test. This is especially relevant considering that we have put objects in orbit around other planets and thus it's possible for the teapot to be orbiting. But ultimately I can't test it. So I put that in the "can't test" compartment and don't let it affect how I view the world. Same with religion. Same with string theory. Etc.

Just put it away, don't let it affect you, pull it out every so often to example, and put it away again. Simple if you need to do it for your job or rational life; impossible to conceive if you don't need it for your job or don't care about a rational life.

TheMiddleWay Level 8 Oct 12, 2018
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I think you have described the functioning of compartmentalisation rather well. No one should think that this process involves deeply emotionally troubled neurotic people walking around in a non functioning state. No, it's more subtle than that. I said before in this thread that I think we can all do this on some things, when, intellectually speaking, we want to have our cake and eat it too. I don't agree that it's really simple. Neurologically speaking, I think it's quite complex, but it's not my field. It's probably one way that we manage to survive in a complex world, and believing things that don't quite reconcile probably helps. That said, belief in religious mysticism and reason, together, when heavily scrutinised in an individual can reveal tension or even stress, from my experience, when they are obliged to bring the compartments together, so to speak. Then you see cognitive dissonance. Finally, speaking for myself, the thought of believing in science, logic, reason and evidence on Monday through Saturday, but on Sunday believing in virgin births, miracles, zombie gods in human form, and vengeful dieties, is just impossible, and no amount of trying to think with one part of my brain on different days would help. Cheers.

@David1955
II see it as less having our cake and eating it too and more realizing that when you are eating cake you don't also drink water or you'll choke. Taking the analogy possibly too far, if you are starving and dehydrated and presented with water and food, you compartmentalize hunger to drink and then compartmentalize thirst to eat... or you make soup and satisfy both needs at once! LOL

Given that you don't share religious beliefs with scientists, I wouldn't ask you to try to relate to compartmentalization using the religion v. science dichotomy. But as you said, you likely have other dichotomous beliefs which should allow you to relate to how a scientist has a need for evidence on weekdays and yet can compartmentalize that need on weekends.

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@TheMiddleWay small dichotomies perhaps, but science on weekdays and religion on Sunday is a huge irreconcilable, for me. I don't know how they do it. I've pressed enough religious scientists in my time on this issue to see what I would call cognitive dissonance in their behaviour. They don't like it, understandably perhaps, but I have no regrets doing it.

@David1955 I bet you have never talked to a religious scientist, because usually they are happy to explain how they 'manage' to reconcile both sides.
You may not understand or like what they say, but that is another matter.
I recently read two books on that subject: "Real Scientists, Real Faith: 17 leading scientists reveal the harmony between their science and their faith", and a similar book in German. I do not agree with what they say, I sometimes shake my head in disbelief, but what they say is never irrational - given certain assumptions.
But there is no "cognitive dissonance" and if there is "compartmentalization" it is of the ordinary variety we all practice (as described by @TheMiddleWay

@Matias not sure why you posted in this question in the first place. You know exactly what you think, and opinions which coincide with yours are complimented, and those that don't are flawed, wrong or logically unsound. I notice your posts are like this and follow the same pattern. You are looking for confirmation of what you already know is true. Fortunately, the comments and opinions of other people are interesting in the thread.

@David1955
RE: Matias, you are proposing that scientists suffer from cognitive dissonance, a mental discomfort, that he doesn't see.

Don't expect others to accept your claim when his (and my) experience with scientists don't bear that same judgement nor if all you can provide is anecdotal evidence and personal judgement to support your case.

In other words, I see it less as confirmation bias and more of a failure of you, and others, to make the case for cognitive dissonace, unfortunately.

Edited

@TheMiddleWay okay, the issue is one for discussion and debate, but I don't see the point of this poster, who poses an issue and invites comment, but in fact is merely looking for agreement with what he clearly has a fixed position about and nothing would change it. It's the pattern of his posting. "What do you think about A?" Reply with what he already believes, and he's pleased. Offer a different view and you're engaging in logical falsehoods. So, I'm going to give him a miss.

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3

I concur with @David1955. It's all about cognitive dissonance and I would add, dissociative thinking. Everyone has these traits to varying degrees. I often refer to scientists as having blind spots - those areas where they haven't applied critical reasoning to this or that topic. Critical reasoning is a time-consuming laborious task and is only used when there is a perceived need for it. Thus, a few scientists are quite content with their fundamentalist Christian views, while at the same time, they can be quite good at scientific research.

While religion is perhaps the largest example of cognitive dissonance, scientists often have small blind spots in numerous other regards. For example, a scientist might become enamored with another scientist's approach to a scientific problem. He then might simply brush off counter arguments as being irrelevant without giving much thought.

All humans have gaps in their thinking. That's where dissociation comes into play. Dissociation is where a person can drive their car to work, while their mind is a million miles away. Once they arrive, they might wonder how they managed the feat. When gaps occur, the human mind is so possessive that it simply fills in the gaps with its own created story.

TheAstroChuck Level 7 Oct 11, 2018
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A blind spot is something you normally do not notice. You have to be quite inventive in order to become aware of your blind spot. But that is not the case with religious scientists: they are well aware of the tension between science and belief.
They are not in denial, neither consciously nor subconsciously. They somehow manage to reconcile both worlds while being aware of both of them.
That is why I do not think that the comparison with "cognitive dissonance" is apt and useful, because we normally do not notice having it; it happens under the radar of consciousness, and it usually takes another person to draw our attention to our cognitive dissonances.

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@Matias My definition of a blind spot is something the person does not see for themselves, but others can see.

I don't think they have reconciled both worlds. They are aware of both worlds, but have not reconciled these. Rather they "have chosen" one worldview and dismissed the other through cognitive dissonance.

@TheAstroChuck yes, and indeed hence the compartmentalising, to come back to the original question. Cognitive dissonance is the result, but compartmentalising is the cause, due to not being willing, or able, to reconcile belief in, essentially, mysticism, while supposedly living a "rational" life. This is a cause and effect situation, since of course they cannot be reconciled. ( @Matias )

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@TheAstroChuck Your explanation seems to me to be an effort to rationalize away an awkward fact: That there ARE religious scientists and that they embrase BOTH worlds.
Just one example (pars pro toto): D. Gareth Jones Professor of Anatomy and Structural Biology wrote sentences like these:
"Throughout my academic life I have found it impossible to separate my science from my faith and my faith from my science. In the early days, I concentrated on creation – evolution issues – and came to what I regarded as a satisfactory synthesis."
"I do not want to keep my science and faith in separate watertight compartments. I am unwilling to live with a vast chasm between the two. I am determined to relate my faith to the science in which I am engaged",

There are many like him, and explanations like "blind spot" or "cognitive dissonance" may be satisfactory for atheists, but they do not offer an adequate explanation from a neutral point of view.

@Matias I disagree; I'm not rationalizing away an awkward fact. I also don't think compartmentalization applies to all people or all scientists. All scientists, like all people, cannot be pigeon-holed into a monolithic ideology and they don't always come to the exact same set of conclusions.

I've written an unpublished book where I lay out the scientific case against a personal god (i.e. the gods of the Abrahamic religions). I take to task biologists because some of them are able to find just enough wiggle room to reconcile their belief in god and in science - provided they don't also consider the implications of the physical sciences (e.g. astronomy, geology, physics). It has been shown that many processes of evolution, strictly obey the laws of physics (the development of hemoglobin, for instance). The fact that the laws of physics are never violated precludes a god who actively participates in the lives of humans or interferes with any process in the universe.

@TheAstroChuck You write about the "fact that the laws of physics are never violated".
Nobody is in the position to make such a statement. Only an omniscient being could say that .
You know that "X does never happen" does not logically follow from "X has never been observed".

@Matias The laws of physics are never violated is a basic tenant of physics. It cannot be proved, but the tenant has never been observed to be violated and nowhere in the observations/measurements on Earth or of the universe has a scientist had to invoke a supernatural force to explain the observations.

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I don’t know of any psychological analyses, but here’s the opinion of a Nobel laureate in physics:

KIP THORNE:

"There are large numbers of my finest colleagues who are quite devout and believe in God [...] There is no fundamental incompatibility between science and religion. I happen to not believe in God."[13]
(Wikipedia)

It is a healthy, sane and reasonable opinion. Trying to psychoanalyze those with whom you disagree—now that is what is irrational, especially if you have no credentials in psychology.

WilliamFleming Level 7 Oct 11, 2018
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what has been shown is that the more intelligent you are, the better excuses you make for irrational beliefs, the person who's name i don't know works as a paleontologist yet is a baptist who believes the bible as well. most scientist that have a god belief tend to have a nebulous god not a biblical god.. deist etc.

MichaelSpinler Level 8 Oct 11, 2018
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"Compartmentalization in religion?" Is that like when Jesus finally got his own room?

The-Krzyz Level 4 Oct 13, 2018
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I have seen astounding compartmentalization at work across other domains, such that nothing surprises me anymore. Some examples from my experience:

Earth-loving pagan types couldn't possibly be racist, right? Wrong!

A self-described "green" friend of the environment couldn't possibly buy bottled water and refuse to recycle, right? Wrong!

A self-improvement and mental health enthusiast couldn't possibly be hopelessly, deleteriously mired in co-dependency, right? Wrong!

I've seen all kinds. I have my own. That this should occur with religion is no surprise, intelligence or no. I don't understand how it works, but I know it can be powerful--and there are no guarantees with human beans.

stinkeye_a Level 7 Oct 12, 2018
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The examples you give are IMO more like "cognitive dissonance": behavior on the one hand and cherished ideas on the other hand collide. But if we take the testimonies of religious scientists at face value (there is no reason why we should not do this), there is no collision between their belief and their job (= doing science).

Just one example: If you confront an adherent of the Green movement with his environment unfriendly behavior, he will squirm and try to find some excuse for his behavior. But a Christian scientist will not squirm, he will be happy to explain to you how his belief enriches his professional life.

@Matias
And what is compartmentalization other than a coping mechanism to help avoid cognitive dissonance and the stresses it causes?

@beerkrump Compartmentalization can be a coping mechanism, but need not be one. We all practice it more or less in our daily life: We all have multiple identities: husband, father, accountant, chess-player, singer in choir, ... to name just a few. When at work, Peter is an accountant, at home he "compartmentalizes" accounting, when playing chess in a club he "compartmentalizes" being a father and so on.
Above "TheMiddleWay" describes this very well in his comment using his father as example.

@Matias
Thats not compartmentalization. That's recognizing a situation and acting appropriately.

If you are a mathematician and a father, you can help your kid with their algebra homework and not see a conflict. But, if you are a fundamental Christian biologist, you have to build a rigorous maze in your head so science and religion don't collide.

@beerkrump Maybe if you are a fundamentalist Christian scientist.
But not if you are a Christian scientist, like, say, Kepler, Isaac Newton, Max Planck or Francis Collins. For them, science and faith were/are just two sides of one coin.

@beerkrump
Problem is that being a mathematician and a father don't clash so it's not a good example of compartmentalization. What about if you are a law enforcement officer and your son has committed a serious crime? Would you not agree that there is a level of compartmentalization if you are to arrest him... or not?

And if you are neither christian nor fundamentalist nor a biologist, how do you pretend to know what mazes or coping mechanism they have? After all, these may be the mechanism you can imagine for yourself but, again, not having any of the qualities listed above (religious, fundamentalist, or biologist), you can't really know HOW they do religion, much less how they do science, and much much less how they do both!

I just think people should speak more about how they would handle something and not try to project it on others insofar as saying how they would handle something.

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My brother is a geophysicist and a hardcore Baptist. He sees no contradiction in this. That can only happen by compartmentization. When he's at work, hes a scientist (Technologist really), when he comes home hes an uber Christian. How can he do this.

I contend that he can't. He is beholden to two Gods (metaphorically speaking). In order to his job or live his life, he has to compromise his ideals continually. Instead of doing one thing well, he does both poorly (he is a successful grophysicist- thus a technogist). His science paradigm is compromised when a controversial issue arises. He compromises his religious ideology anytime he does his science. The two patadigms are mutually exclusive and opposed. Doesnt mean you can't be successful, just means your judgement is always suspect.

t1nick Level 7 Oct 14, 2018
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I know of no research on compartmentalization but I would not be surprised if it exists. Speaking from my armchair I would say that compartmentalization is the ability to ignore cognitive dissonance. People can learn to tune out all kinds of stimuli: the sounds of chainsaws, jackhammers, trash trucks, crying babies, etc.. By comparison, a niggling little detail like the incompatibility between belief in god(s) and scientific knowledge is no great hurdle. We should not be surprised when emotion trumps logic.

Flyingsaucesir Level 7 Oct 14, 2018
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These people are choosing to think differently in regard to different sectors of their lives. Down deep, they know that their ways of thinking about these different sectors are incompatible, but their compartmentialization enables them to avoid the discomfort of having to face the conflict. It is simply a coping device to evade internal conflict.

wordywalt Level 8 Oct 11, 2018
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That explanation is as rational as if a theist argued "Atheists deep down know that there is a Supreme Divine Being, but their compartmentialization enables them to avoid the discomfort of having to face the conflict"

@Matias Your attempt at an analogy simply does not make sense, and bears no resemblance to reality..

@wordywalt Your comment above is patronizing and overbearing, as you claim to have privileged access to the depth of other minds: you claim to know what they "really" know "deep down".
I am sure that any scientist - religious or not - has enough access to his/her mind to know more or less accurately what is their stance about these important matters.

Edited

@Matias As Hermann Hesse pointed out in his STEPPENWOLF, we are all a bundle of contradictions. Most people do not want to recognize -- much less, face -- that fact. To keep from dealing with that fact, they compartmentalize.It is the most aware, intelligent, and truly independent of us who choose to face and deal with the fact of our contradictions..

@wordywalt What you are saying is basically that people you do not like or you disagree with are ignorant morons who can only cope with reality by compartmentalizing its unpleasant aspects, whereas YOU are the brave man who is able and fit to face the bleak truth fearlessly, YOU are among the most aware, intelligent, and truly independent.
Gimme a break.

@Matias I am saying no such thing. You are putting false words in my mouth.

@wordywalt Wrong. You siad in your comment: "Down deep, they [religious scientists] know that their ways of thinking about these different sectors are incompatible..." - No. They tell us how the two sides positively influence each other. They do not compartmentalize. If you are claiming the opposite, you implicitly claim to know their minds better than those persons know themselves. THEY know only the surface, whereas YOU know what is going on "deep down". That is arrogant and overbearing. Imagine I would tell you what you think "deep down" ? You'd say that I'm crazy.

@Matias Those who compartmentalize will almost always deny that they are doing it.

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It seems to me the idea of compartmentalization can be akin to specialization. A book that talks about the ever increasing complexities of the world are leading to specializations is titled "Common Fire". I went to a book discussion on this book by the authors Laurent A. Parks Daloz, Sharon Daloz Parks (a couple with an interesting approach to their surnames) [earthlight.org] A big part of the discussion centered on how people become specialists in a field but lose the overall picture of that field. I have a friend who was a nurse practitioner. She told me she had gotten her PhD and I asked why still be a NP and not a doctor. She said doctors tend to specialize in one area whereas NP's see the whole body. I consider myself a Jack of all trades (and master of some). I look for generalities and try to see the world from a holistic angle.
I very much think compartmentalization is real and increasing in our complex society. A recent article in the Atlantic showed how the presidency has gotten far too complex for one person and we see with the present rapscallion how that is very true.

JackPedigo Level 8 Oct 11, 2018
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I'm going to give your comment some more thought. I'm not quite sure why, but I'm inclined to think specialization or as you seem to infer: over specialization is a separate issue from compartmentalization. My off-the-cuff thinking is compartmentalization is an internal mechanism of the brain for dealing with various aspects of one's life. For example, everyone has to deal separately with employment related issues, with love and relationship issues, with their own religious and/or ethics, with their personality issues, and a lot of other categories. For some people, the lines between the categories are bleared with plenty of overlap. These people, I would classify as uncompartmentalized. Those individuals who deal with the various issues of their lives by putting each in very distinctive and isolated boxes are highly compartmentalized. Most people fall somewhere in between these two extremes on a continuum. In contrast, specialization IMO has to do with the individual becoming one of the best in some area. Specialization in medicine is one obvious example. Another might be an American football team's approach - one team might specialize in speed, while another in physically imposing strength of their linemen.

I can see your point. I worked for a big accounting firm. I saw most of the employees were into their jobs first, families, second, religion and or sports next and that was that, compartmentalization. There wasn't enough time/energy to take on other areas. The complexity of their jobs made it even harder to focus on other things. One manager who specialized in non-profits told me she couldn't do her own taxes and need a specialist to do it. I still see a connection in that specialization and focus it requires can lead to a loss of time for other things.

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Suspension of Disbelief is another potential explanation.

Sane rational people can sit through 2 hours of a movie or TV show about a zombie apocalypse, dragons, vampires, etc. Sitting through a church service is no different.

The difference is that most people don't let movies about zombies, dragons, and vampires influence their lives.

When they let their life be influenced by stories about zombie Jesus, their compartmentalization is failing.

BD66 Level 7 Oct 11, 2018
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It is a misuse of an actual world for the purposes of euphemistically excusing expedient hypocrisy.

LenHazell53 Level 7 Oct 11, 2018
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This is something that has puzzled me all my life. When I was a schoolgirl studying science I asked my biology teacher who was a woman I admired as a teacher, but I knew to have a strong Christian faith, how she reconciled her scientific knowledge with her belief in God. She admitted she had struggled with her belief when she was a student herself but that she had come to terms with believing in both and could reconcile the two by keeping them compartmentalised. I don’t think she actually used that expression , but that was the essence of what she meant. She said she thought that if I ever opened up my mind to God that I would be able to do so too. That never happened in my case, as I am still as sceptical today as I was at 17.

Marionville Level 8 Oct 11, 2018
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Compartmentalization, it seems to me, is an evolutionary survival mechanism. In order to continue, we learned to compartmentalize psychological horrors and trauma, often locking them in a vault within the labyrinthine chambers of our minds.

And just as we are able to compartmentalize trauma, we would seem to be likewise able to compartmentalize our hopes, joys, dreams and desires, isolating them from the relatively unvarnished reality of our existence. Upon this basic framework may be erected an elaborate superstructure of avowed belief. Thus, the religionist, no matter what the doctrine, may isolate the observed nature of the universe, to include the lack of evidence for the supernatural. Has our ability to compartmentalize for reasons of survival been hijacked by religion?

p-nullifidian Level 7 Oct 17, 2018
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That is an interesting theory, but unfortunately it is - as far as I can see - not backed by evidence, because when queried about their faith, religious scientists answer something like the following:
"Throughout my academic life I have found it impossible to separate my science from my faith and my faith from my science.
"I do not want to keep my science and faith in separate watertight compartments. I am unwilling to live with a vast chasm between the two. I am determined to relate my faith to the science in which I am engaged,....
"A Christian faith must surely seek to influence science and likewise science must influence our faith, as long as our faith is firmly controlled by a biblically based ethos."
(- D. Gareth Jones Professor of Anatomy and Structural Biology - )

My impression is that the cognitive dissonance is less on the side of religious scientists but on the side of atheists having difficulties to square (a.) their conviction that science and faith are mutually exclusive with (b.) the awkward FACT that there are scientists like Prof. Jones who explicitly refuse to put the two into separate compartments!

@Matias First, let me say that my ideas / opinions hardly qualify as ‘theory,’ but are more similar to your term, ‘impressions.’ smile009.gif

Second, our impressions aside, the fact that we are able to cite religious scientists who, by definition, would most assuredly claim to unify their faith with their profession, is as old as faith itself, and their refusal to, as you have said, “put the two [faith and science] into separate compartments” demonstrates absolutely nothing, other than their own religious bias.

Third, in the case of the religious scientists, not only have they succeeded, to a point, in compartmentalizing their faith from their research, they have repackaged this dichotomy into a fully unified, if not complementary, philosophy.

@p-nullifidian Well, the fact that we can cite religious scientists is not as old as as faith itself, because the territories of science and religion (to use the expression of Peter Harrison) were only separated about 150 year ago (by the way: have you been able to read one the books about the history of science and religion that I recommended to you a few month ago?).

Your basic misconception is that you treat "religion" and "science" as if they were natural kinds, like two species of animals which cannot produce viable offspring.
But religion and science are NOT naturally divided in the world 'out there', because both are human inventions, and it is up to humans with some competence in both fields to judge about their (in-)compatibility.
There is no scientific experiment to settle this question once and for all, so the answer to the question necessarily depends on some "bias": in the case of religious scientists it is their religious bias, in your case it is your atheist bias. Again: this question cannot be settled neither by adducing empirical evidence nor by applying pure logic or reason. How this question is answered depends on basic assumptions.

All we can state is: It does not make sense to me" (atheists like you and me) or "It does make sense to me" (religious scientists)

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In my experience, people tend to just treat religion as a special category where they are justified in altering their normal standards of evidence. I've worked with scientists who would, immediately after a 3 hour lab meeting to discuss how to thoroughly prove our model, lament how people always ask for evidence for their religion.

At least for the abrahamic faiths, the defining of god has been done in such a way that it is non-testable(ish). So there is an active push by many churches under this wide umbrella to make and reinforce an artificial separation between the two. This is the heart of many books discussing the faith vs science debate. It was even a huge point in the curriculum of the philosophy/theology and even evolution course within the Catholic college I attended.

The basic idea is that god and the supernatural exist outside our universe, therefore understanding them requires a separate epistemologic toolkit than that used for understanding our universe.

cRex92 Level 2 Oct 14, 2018
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To my mind, the religious are the greatest compartmentalizers of all time, they see scientific facts as pure fiction and religious fiction as facts.
Their best ever example of compartmentalization is to 'combine' the words Biblical/Religious with such pursuits as Scientist/Archaeologist, etc., in doing so they make a joke of the TRUE Scientist/Archaeologist who has studied and worked tirelessly in those fields with as unbiased mind as possible whereas the so-called Biblical/Religious one has merely 'scrabbled' around with the sole intent of find proof of their inane belief/s where there is none but, none-the-less, CLAIMING 100% falsely that they have found it and it is irrefutable.

Triphid Level 6 Oct 14, 2018
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I suppose it depends on the sect/religion. Many "science friendly" Christian sects still hold nonsensical beliefs to some level in my experience. The oddest one is to say that god guides evolution, which is ridiculous with even the smallest prodding. Why would an all knowing being need a system of natural selection to make beings it already knows it wants? This sort of shallow reasoning is probably why the Socratic method has been adopted by so many atheist "street epistomologists"

@cRex92 Yes, I've heard numerous Faithfools, as I like to call them btw, claim that Evolution is steered and guided by God, then tell me in their next breath that " God created everything as it now and as it always and always will, there is NO evolution, it is just an Atheist myth.

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Intelligent, educated individuals, generally can't be religious.

zesty Level 6 Oct 11, 2018
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False. Some of them ARE religious, like it or not...

A prominent example is Francis Collins, who was head of the Human Genome Project at the time they completed the mapping of the Human Genome, an achievement he was instrumental in. He's the current director of the National Institutes of Health. It's actually one of his books, The Language of God (the title referring to DNA), that I went into assuming it would help me to persuade an agnostic friend of God's existence, when in fact Dr. Collins laid out some extremely compelling examples of the proof of interspecies relation, which was the first wrecking ball to topple my faith.

Dr. Collins is openly Christian, unfortunately I haven't heard him elaborate on his reconciling the Theory of Evolution with a theology that distinguishes humans as unique, moral agents, exclusive from the rest of Creation. You don't get much more educated on pertinent issues opposed to the basic concepts of Christianity than that!

[en.m.wikipedia.org]

Edited

@Matias Yes, this was the reason for the "general" in the statement. These days in the US 30 to 35% of the general population is atheist or agnostic. Among the members of the American Academy of Sciences 98% are atheists. Source: FFRF 2017

@zesty
Careful.

There is no American Academy of Sciences and no scientific institution boasts that high a percentage of atheists. In fact, the majority of scientist in the American Association for the Advancement of Science are religious [1]

Further, the vast majority of medical doctors in the us are religious [2] as are the majority of scientists around the world [3].

Thus a more accurate statement is that generally, intelligent, highly educated people ARE religious... yet being smart, we don't correlate our religion (or lack of religion) with our intelligence. smile009.gif


[1][pewforum.org]

[2] [mdmag.com]

[3][journals.sagepub.com]

@TheMiddleWay No. False statement,.

@zesty
I stand corrected; I did find the American Association of Sciences though I can't find the FFRF report that shows they are 98% atheists; could you cite it for me?

Some of the greatest minds that have ever lived have been religious. That’s like saying intelligence didn’t exist before Luther!

@Geoffrey51 Maybe some. However the Society of Pedofiles changed the written history quite frequently, so who knows?

@zesty
More fun facts: the majority of Nobel prize winners in science have been religious... that's more than just "some". smile009.gif The Society of Pedophiles, whomever they are, have not changed that written history. smile009.gif

And I'm still curious about the 98% atheists in the AAS stat you mentioned; I've been unable to find that statistic for myself.

@GodlessB Oh NO!

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I have no idea how compartmentalization works in regard to religion. Why not ask someone who is religious?

creative51 Level 6 Oct 11, 2018
Reply

Why? Because "compartmentalization" is one of the favorite explanations given by atheists. A religious scientist will never tell you that his/her belief is in one compartment of his mind, and the science in another compartment, so that the two will never mingle or influence each other. On the contrary: these people tell us that the two sides exist in a happy and fruitful coexistence.

@Matias Perhaps others do, but I do not compartment my life. That would just make it needlessly complicated. I accept who I am and what I believe. Over time I may evolve who I think I am and what I believe. But that totality is one, me.

@Matias
But how is "coexistence" different than "compartmentalization"? Take Francis Collins... his scientific belief and religious ones coexist and I would argue are compartmentalized insofar as the Bible has never influenced his scientific gene studies nor have his gene studies influenced his Bible.

@TheMiddleWay I tend to follow Occam's razor, which is the simplest explanation is almost always the correct explanation. I look at my life as whole entity, which means my beliefs and actions in one part of my life are in sync with all other parts of my life, because it is simple that way. People are free to coexist or compartmentalize all they want. But they are just mind fucking game playing and making their life needlessly complex.

@creative51
That is not how occam's razor works though. If it were "God did it" would be the simplest explanation to everything and would almost always be the correct explanation... a view which I doubt we share. Also, science is the best refutation of occam's razor considering that the simple explanation is rarely the correct one; the correct science explanation is usually very complex.

All that aside, I think it better to speak about our mental lives and not try to comment on other peoples mental lives. If you think such actions would make your life needlessly complex, then so be it; I believe you because it's your life and you can examine your mental state. But if you claim that it would make another life, say my life, needlessly complex, I have zero reason to believe you given that it's not your life and you cannot examine anyone else's mental state nor have any inkling of how others do or don't process information.

Edited

@TheMiddleWay You ask: But how is "coexistence" different than "compartmentalization"? -
Coexistence is like symbiosis: two beings not only live side by side but influence each other positively. With compartmentalization you have two beings or sides separated by a cognitive wall, so that the two are kept apart.
If you read what religious scientists tell us about their faith, they deny that faith and science are "living" is two separate compartments, on the contrary: they claim that both influence each other (a situation which by the way was quite usual in the early modern period until the first half of the 19th century.)
If you are interested in how religious scientists manage to reconcile faith and science in their mind, you should read what they have written on this subject. That is what I did. My conclusion: there is no compartmentalization, even if I disagree with their world-view.

@Matias
Thanks for that explanation between coexist and compartmentalization; makes a lot of sense. I have no doubt that both occur as there are many more religious scientist than a stereotype or are written about. But I would drill down at this point at what we mean by influence.

Is the influence in the form of "for the glory of god I'm pursuing science" or is the influence "I need to pray to god every night for the experiment to work"? I see the latter as a harmless influence, one that isn't directly aimed at the actual practice of science but at the human motivation for a personal pursuit. I see the former as a more damaging form of coexistence and liable to slip into, if not cognitive dissonance, then at least circular logic... given that if I pray and the experiment works, I give glory to god but if I pray and it doesn't work, I also give glory to god.

My opinion, based on experience in the physics labs and medical clinic with practitioners that are religious (i.e., two different set of religious scientists) is that the majority of religious scientists leave their religion home when they go to the lab or clinic and leave the lab or clinic at work when they go home. I have never met a scientists in all my works or conference or journal readings, etc that severely mashs their religious beliefs with their scientific beliefs such that one depends on the other.

@TheMiddleWay Your advantage is that you have a first-hand experience of religious scientists or practitioners; I have to rely on what they say and write if asked about their faith and their science.
My impression is that there is no one-size-fits-all explanation. Some (I'd even say: the majority) of them are motivated by religion to study God's creation. In this case religion just provides the motivation and does not interfere with the cognitive aspect of science.
But some of them explicitly reject any separation and claim that science and religion are just two sides of the same coin (was is interesting is that most of the latter are either physicists or mathematicians, for them God manifests himself in the structure of the universe, and doing science and doing theo-logy are almost the same thing, just viewed from two perspectives (that was also the world-view of scientists like Boyle, Kepler or Newton)

@Matias
I'd say that's in line with my opinion and experience as well. After all, when you read about a particular scientists experiences, you are getting that one persons account, a singular, but deep account of how they function. My perspective, on the other hand, is shallow but broad: I know a lot of scientists in many different areas but only superficially.

I think the important takeaway, and a common thread in a lot of posts I've been doing lately, is to not stereotype and judge the views and experience of a whole community or population based on singular instances. But I think we can agree that if a scientists truly did have their religions and science coexist on more than just a motivational level, they "probably" wouldn't get very far with their science... or religion! smile007.gif

My question to you at this point would be, in your readings, do they purport to claim that their views are the standard or that their views are in the majority or simply don't talk about their views in comparison to others? I mean if these writers are claiming that the majority of scientists actually allow their religion to influence (not just motivate) their scientific pursuits, I'd be surprised but curious to follow up on that as well.

@TheMiddleWay Of course they know that they are a minority today.
But if you are really interested in this topic you'll have to read the book "Real scientists - real faith" where 17 of them (among them luminaries like Simon Conway Morris and Francis Collins) explain their stance. Some of the texts are shallow, some made me shake my head in disbelief, but some of them are really interesting )

@Matias
I will definitely look into that book, thanks...

@TheMiddleWay Science does NOT negate Occam's razor. While some natural processes when explained by humans seem to be complex, they are the simplest explanation to that natural process. And no I do not believe in gods, as that is not the simplest answer, it actually creates all kinds of complications. Having said all of this, I do feel many people on this site in an effort to "prove" there is no god, go through a lot of elaborate mind fuck games, probably to try to show off how "smart" they are, sort of "hey, look how smart I am". There is no god or gods period. There is nothing more to prove or say. There just is none, and to go in to any more of a discussion is just plain mind games.

@creative51
As a theoretical example Einsteins equations, for example, use 256 coupled equations to describe the gravitational interaction between 2 objects. Only 2 objects mind you... and even then it is completely unable to describe the movement of three objects (the "three body problem" as it's known).

As an experimental example, It takes an accelerator miles in radius, billions of dollars in cost, and has to collect trillions of data points in order to tease out 5 events to prove the Higgs Boson. And when the paper is written, it has 500+ authors.

There are far simpler equations one can use to explain 2 bodies, namely Newton's Law. But it is found to be inadequate. And there are far simpler experiment that tentatively disproved the Higg's boson, but they too were inadequate. In these two examples it is clear that "simpler is not better nor correct".

Ask any scientists and they will say that occam's razor is NOT how they do science precisely because science the universe is under no obligation to make itself simple for our sake. smile009.gif

"There is no god or gods period."
Prove it to someone who says there is a god, period. After all, they as theists think it's simple that there is a god. You as atheist think it's simple that there isn't. I as agnostic say it's more complicated that both positions would like us to believe. smile009.gif

@TheMiddleWay I think you are confused. Nature exists. What nature does is the simplest way to get what ever nature whats done. Humans are one of a large number of organic mixtures which happen to reside on this planet. We have this brain and we use to do something we call thinking. In our thinking we some times solve problems which we have and some times we make problems which we have worse. We do not understand nature. So we invented god and said god runs nature.

But nature has its own way of doing things which often confounds the idea that "god" runs nature. In our next effort to understand nature, we developed a line of questioning, which we later decided to call science. Science is our attempt to understand and explain nature. But because we at this point in time (and perhaps in all points in time), our understanding of nature is limited, we are in a position where our explanations of nature are often very long and complicated. But these same events to nature are merely the simplest way for nature to do what ever it is nature is wanting to do.

One basic problem humans have is thinking we are special. We are not. We are a species of primates going back roughly 4 to 5 million years, that have been in our present form for roughly 200,000 years +/- and living in settlements for maybe 10,000 to 12,000 years. In this period of time we have developed amazing weapons of destruction, extensively polluted our environment and over populated our planet. Significant numbers of humans do not even believe such activities are wrong/bad, true or any thing which should be addressed. My take is we are an evolutionary dead end. We think, but we think stupid and we will cause our species (and perhaps many others) to die off. Then the next best thing, what ever that might be,will come along.

No. There is no god or gods. period.

@creative51
"What nature does is the simplest way to get what ever nature whats done."
Nature isn't sentient. Nature doesn't "want" to do anything nor has any conception of simple or complicated. Your anthropomorphic of nature is suspiciously close to how theists justify their views...

"No. There is no god or gods. period."
Yet, you nor science can prove it; I mean I understand that uncertainty is unsettling and that is why the theists believe that there are gods, period... but this is no more logical or scientific than resolving the opposite uncertainly by believing that there are gods, period. Hence, as I see it, lacking scientific validation, your atheistic period (and the theistic one, are more of a question mark than an definite answer.

@TheMiddleWay Well I agree that nature does not "want" to do something in the same vein as when we "want' to do something. But nature is present and is dynamic. All one has to do is to look at the world around us to see that. But I do not have to prove there is no god. Proving something implies that it exists. If god exists it is up the those who believe in that god to provide proof that it exists. I figured out it did not exist at the young age of 14. Since then I have never seen any proof or evidence that god does exist and I have been willing to listen at least to those who claim god does exist. BTW, as I reference nature, I do not think that nature is some entity which can be worshiped or prayed to. Nature is simply the entire universe and every thing in it, encompassing all of the possible interactions between all and any of its parts. This does not forego the possibility of some unknown type of other universes also existing. I am not saying they do, but am open to the possibility that they might.

@creative51
" But I do not have to prove there is no god. Proving something implies that it exists."
Scientists prove things don't exist all the time; why should the god claim be any different?

This is why I'm agnostic: insofar as on side says they are positive god exists and the other side says they are positive god doesn't, neither side can provide any proof to back up their assertion and thus, in my view, both sides are wrong to claim such certainty where there is none.

@TheMiddleWay Well good for you. You just keep thinking what your thinking. But I am and will not ever try to prove that some human thought up supernatural being lives in the sky,watching over us, who runs this entire cosmic show actually exists. It does not exist. No proof will ever be produced which shows it exists because it doesn't exist. You keep waiting for Godot if you want. I have other things I am more interested in spending my time doing.

@creative51
You have the wrong idea about me as an agnostic: I'm not out to prove that god(s) exist or not. I'm a scientist through and through.

I only deal in those things that are amenable to quantification or qualification. As such, I leave the question of god(s) alone and don't engage in the hubris of making claims one way or the other when I can't prove, experiment, falsify, simulate, or in any other way make tests to see if my claim is right or wrong, justified or not.

That is why your certainty that god doesn't exist reads to me, as a scientist, absolutely no different than the theist certainty that god(s) exist. Both claims are beliefs without tests, certainty without evidence, assertions without experimentation, guesswork without proof.

Sadly, unlike you, I don't have the luxury you have of basing my beliefs on things I can't test. Such is the onus of the agnostic and I wish you the best.

Edited
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Believers make "god" mean whatever they want it to mean, and act in whatever way supports their preferred narrative.
You have to remember, god is magic. Magic trumps everything.
It's seamless.

MLinoge Level 5 Oct 11, 2018
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Definitely not a psychologist...
I agree with others that it is cognitive dissonance. I mean why do they (religions) all seem to "evolve". I think it is because irrefutable truths emerge and they are impossible for rational minds to deny. So dogma is adjusted to fit the new truth and a new branch of the religion is created attracting the like minded. It is pretty obvious with christianity and I am sure is reflected in most if not all religions. I mean eventually more and more truths will emerge and organized religions will dissolve into mythology. It won't happen in the blink of an eye because people are stubborn with beliefs but science and religion are by definition opposites.
As global education levels rise religious fervor will shrink

maxhyde Level 6 Oct 11, 2018
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Religions evolve - like everything in nature and culture. But religions evolve much more slowly than other domains of culture, like languages, political systems, fashions etc...The dogmas of the church have changed only imperceptibly since the Middle Ages. The rites of Hinduism have not changed for 2000 years.

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I've always wondered about this. I don't even trust a doctor with my healthcare if they have magical thinking.

William12354 Level 6 Oct 11, 2018
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It's the equivalent of a special pleading fallacy with regards to evidence standards...entirely brought on by indoctrination at a young age.

buck1977 Level 7 Oct 11, 2018
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