Socially Influenced Beliefs

The discussion of the atheistic tendencies of professors leads me to posit the following.

1.  Suppose that we say that beliefs are primarily influenced by social considerations.  You believe X because you want to earn the friendship/respect of people around you.  So, if you are around God-fearers, your social instinct is to believe in God.  If you are around atheists, your social instinct is to be atheist.

2.  Suppose that you are inclined to believe x.  If your reference group does not believe x, then you will pay attention to evidence against x and reconsider your position.  However, if the group also believes x, you will want to search for evidence in favor of x and to be skeptical about evidence against x.  That is, we try pretty hard to align our thinking to conform to that of our reference group.

3.  Even our belief in mathematical and scientific propositions has a social component to it.   

4.  Academic intellectuals learn something of how to question beliefs in a rational way.  This makes them a bit less inclined to fall for popular superstitions.

5.  However, even academic intellectuals are leery of questioning beliefs within their own reference group.  So it is possible for a group of academics to get stuck in an equilibrium in which they believe a dubious proposition.  One hopes that eventually someone comes along and questions the conventional wisdom in such a way as to disturb that equilibrium.

6.  The atheism of academics looks like an equilibrium.  I think it is a sound one.  However, other equilibrium beliefs among academics strike me as more problematic.  That is, a huge majority of academics may hold some political views, and I do not share those views.

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