Rational Response Squad.We atheists fancy ourselves to be rational, and proudly so. Dusty Smith's outro slogan is "Logic!" The forum formerly attached to the Secular Web spun off and chose freeratio.org as its URL. An online group calls themselves the
He put into words some of my objuections to the Ayn Rand libertarianism that is based on the assumption that people will choose to do what's best for themselves. You can't plan for rational behavior in humans because humans do not behave rationally.
His book is sometimes a little dry, with summaries of various studies he has conducted, but each study reveals more and more about human tendencies. The one that inspired me to blog about the book is his study of dishnesty and whether being reminded to be honest by seeing the Ten Commandments would reduce the amount of dishonesty in his subjects. Despite what we atheists believe, it does indeed remind people to be honest. Since he was interested in general tendencies, not religious tendencies, it isn't clear whether any kind of reminder will keep people honest, but it's possible. People will cheat less if they believe they might get caught, so strong believers in a watchful Sky Daddy may feel that Big Brother effect. But... his studies reveal that people's honesty is dependent on their self-perception more than what others will think. When there's no chance of getting caught there will be cheating but not to a serious degree. He also studied whether pledging an honor code would have equal results to the Ten Commandments, and it did. I went to a college with a strict honor code and people still cheated, but I don't know how many of them would have cheated more, or whether more of us would have cheated.
I read this book awhile ago so I can't review its contents in detail, but I want to recommend it to anyone who fancies themselves to be a rational person. He will be attending The Amazing Meeting this year. I can't imagine a better speaker for a group of skeptics. (Also, he has a good sense of humor)
Here he is at Google headquarters explaining irrationality: