Marian Keech was the leader of a UFO cult in the 1950s. She claimed to get messages from extraterrestrials, known as The Guardians, through automatic writing. Like the Heaven's Gate folks forty years later, Keech and her followers, known as The Seekers or The Brotherhood of the Seven Rays, were waiting to be picked up by flying saucers. In Keech's prophecy, her group of eleven was to be saved just before the earth was to be destroyed by a massive flood on December 21, 1954. When it became evident that there would be no flood and the Guardians weren't stopping by to pick them up, Keech became elated. She said she'd just received a telepathic message from the Guardians saying that her group of believers had spread so much light with their unflagging faith that God had spared the world from the cataclysm (Levine 2003: 206).
More important, the Seekers didn't abandon her. Most became more devoted after the failed prophecy. (Only two left the cult when the world didn't end.) "Most disciples not only stayed but, having made that decision, were now even more convinced than before that Keech had been right all along....Being wrong turned them into true believers (ibid.)." Some people will go to bizarre lengths to avoid inconsistency between their cherished beliefs and the facts. But why do people interpret the same evidence in contrary ways?
For a more current example of "cognitive dissonance" one need look no further than the Tickerforum hosted by Karl Denninger at www.tickerforum.org. Chief "bottle washer" Karl Denninger has offered up a couple of prime examples proving that intelligence is no barrier to psychological delusion. I invite you to visit his site, read his ramblings and then consider the following...
Cognitive dissonance requires that two contradictory thoughts or philosophies co-exist within the confines of ones thoughts. Since the thoughts are contradictory, it stands to follow that one of them must be rational and the other irrational. In Karls case, the rational mind is obvious on a regular and continuing basis. He is an excellent forensic financial analyst who clearly and articulately documents economic doings with substantial evidence in the form of charts and graphs, documentation, logical deduction, statistics, disclosures and black letter law. It is rare, at least so far as economic issues are concerned, that he offers up opinion without the backing of substantial evidence supporting his conclusions and prognostications.
Such cannot be said for his personal philosophy...
Karl is a "Christian" or more specifically, a Catholic which while technically "Christian" stands quite unique amongst the multitude of denominations under that broad umbrella of "believers". On "Ash Wednesday" Karl proudly posted his "mark" (a broad thumbprint of some holy substance) smudged upon his forehead and posted comments about his "Mass" attendance and some "spiritual" babble. Herein lies the "Queen bees" open and obvious, proudly proclaimed "cognitive dissonance" and the similar "cognitive dissonance" of his hive of followers.
On the one hand you have a man with a following who insists upon fact based deduction, black letter law, hard statistical evidence and logical deductive reasoning in all things economic and financial, and on the other, you have a man given to ritual, idolatry, symbolism, myth, superstition, the supernatural, the invisible, "faith", "belief" without evidence, and an entire spiritual realm entirely unsupported by fact or rational thought. Karl does not "believe" the books of Bank of America but he believes in Satan, Hell, sin, confession, saints, heaven, virgin birth, virgin ascension, angels, priests, the pope, prayer and the entire doctrine of Catholicism which you have to swear to in order to be part of the genuflecting clan.
I'm sure Karl is aware of a place call Lourdes where it is said (and believed by millions) that the "Virgin Mary" appeared to a young child with some important message to be passed along to all of humanity. Putting aside the obvious ridiculousness of such a happening, an even more ridiculous parade of delusion goes on even to this day. Over 8 million people have pilgrimaged to Lourdes. Pushed, pulled, wheeled, dragged and on their own power they make the journey from every corner of the earth in search of blessing and miracle from the holy water that flows from the side of a hill in that most revered place. The Catholic church has "documented" 66 answered "official" miracles and a few more "probable" miracles where the desperate pleadings of the ill and crippled were granted. 66 out of 8,000,000. If Bank of America said that they had forged 66 mortgage documents out of 8 million how statistically relevant would that be on the entire mortgage market? Cognitive dissonance. The insistence on fact and evidence co-existing with blind irrational unsupported myth.
Being a good and faithful Catholic, I'm sure too that Karl is a believer in the mystical Catholic doctrine of the Virgin Mary ascension into heaven upon her death. Being the diligent analyst that he is I'm sure he is aware that no where in the Bible is there even the vaguest reference to the death of Mary let alone her miraculous levitation act into the heavens. Fact of the matter is, a Pope some years back, had a vision in his head that saw a virginal fly- by and with papal decree and an official proclamation and statement, made the imaginary vision, without a shred of evidence even from the good book...Catholic fact.
Denninger is a study in conflicting contradictory thinking. His cognitive dissonance extends beyond his "faith" to his everyday life. In his head he holds nothing but contempt for the criminal financial markets, brokers, banks, governments, agencies etc but publishes an ongoing running stream of "trading" activities that sees him shoulder to shoulder with the very crooks he rails against doing his best to pick their pockets before they pick his. He rails against government controlling the dealings of men but begs them to use their rules and laws to handcuff the crooks. He condemns the environmental destruction ongoing in China but carries a sign reading "drill baby drill" even as oil laps the shore outside his suburban castle in Niceville Florida. He insists upon fact based analysis of government budgets, projections, assumptions etc but spends hours compiling charts and graphs with bands and lines, wiggles and "fibs", dojis and clouds "guessing" at the outcome of bets wagered in the crooked casino in a manner that assures an outcome no different than the "Brotherhood of the seven rays" waiting for the ufos to pick them up before the world gets flooded.
Why would you believe a mans opinion who can't even sort out his own beliefs and separate what is real from what is make believe?
We'll explore "belief" in depth in future entries as well as "delusion" "reason" "religion" "the appeal of authority" and the ever mystifying contradictions of the human psyche in all its weird and wonderful ways as it applies to life, politics, decision making, ethics, morals and "god" knows what else I'll come up with!