How Can We Explain the Persistence of Irrational Beliefs?

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Why do people, in our modern age of rationality, science, and materialism, commence the formation and celebration of the irrational, the unscientific, and the immaterial? What anxieties drive us to escape the cold light of the empirical? What desires are left unfulfilled by the premises and promises of technocracy and market capital? What beliefs are unbelievable, and what do we wish to avoid remembering at the cost of forgetting the history of ourselves? This book explores these questions with a combination of analyses of structures which impose themselves upon our thinking and create for us templates of prejudice and spaces of judgment, and a variety of qualitative case studies taken from many of the somewhat occlusive and tricky fjords of human experience.


“All too seldom do academics contemplate the fundamentals of their enterprise. Rarely do they consider what basic commitments propel the many strange enthusiasms they espouse and to which they devote monumental efforts ... It is refreshing, therefore, to encounter a serious and even courageous contemplation of such fundamental questions ... Dr. Loewen lures us into comfortable cul-de-sacs, where he poses for our consideration some of the riddles that trouble the researcher, or at least, ought to trouble the researcher . . . He offers fresh templates, ethnographic riches and theoretical evidences. But, like the mischievous intellectual he is, he mystifies even as he shows the way. We are permitted to see, to understand, to be curious, but ultimately we are denied easy answers and analytic closures. Definitiveness is beyond the pale of reasonable expectation. This is as it should be.” – (from the Preface) Professor Elvi Whittaker, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

“By any measure, Dr. Loewen’s book is a unique reflection on the sociology of religious experience, and a refreshing one indeed ... As its primary objective, Dr. Loewen constructs a theoretical and hermeneutical framework for the study of religious experience and belief ... In short, the result is a different sociology of religion, and a different hermeneutic of experience, predicated on the uncanny realization of how one side of the binary always enfolds its alter without being able to account for it. By the same token, Dr. Loewen reminds us that our this-worldly age of science and empiricism has always enfolded an other-worldly and inner-worldly turning away from the positive reality that we have glaringly struggled to explain.” – Dr. Farzad Bawani, Regional Psychiatric Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

“Loewen clearly works within the tradition of earlier scholars (Marx, Weber, and Bourdieu), bringing philosophy, linguistics, history, psychology, anthropology, and other fields to bear on his sociology. By its very structure and analyses, the book is an argument for increasing multidisciplinary approaches and for halting the narrowing trends in academic scholarship. The message is that all knowledge and its creation cannot be compartmentalized, since social life is above all a matter of connections ... The book is an important contribution to anyone who believes that the critical analysis of society includes constant preoccupation with epistemological issues” – Professor Ibitola Pearce, University of Missouri

Table of Contents

Foreword by Elvi Whittaker
1. Introduction
Section One: Structures
2. Saussure and the Limits of the Sign
3. Structures of Memorialization
4. Cognitive Science as a Structure for Social Science?
5. The Fundamental Anxieties
Section Two: Beliefs
6. An Update on the UFO subculture: a case study of a deviant belief system
7. Pre-Gendered Beliefs about Gender: the case of social anthropology
8. Belief in Desireful Violence as a Means of Self-Discipline and Empowerment
9. Chronicling the Failure of the Belief in the Validity of Ethnography: the case of Kuper
10. Executive’s Belief’s Concerning New Technologies in the Workplace
11. Popular Music Lyrics: Giving Us Something to Believe In?
References Cited

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