Cognitive Pathology and Consensus
What is cognitive pathology? It is the study of the source or origin of a belief, in other words, why people think the way they do. You have probably experienced someone informing you, that you believe a certain view because of some hidden motives. For example, someone declares that you are a Republican because you believe in capitalism, or you are Democrat because you believe in big government.
Atheists often use cognitive pathology to explain away the validity of the believer’s faith. This has been the case from Feuerbach to Bertrand Russell. Both Feuerbach and Russell seemed to believe like many atheists, that if you could explain the source or cause of peoples belief, that basis would invalidate those beliefs as being rational. Of course, this kind of thinking is not unique to atheism. It is a method used by many to attack or dismiss any arguments made against their beliefs on any subject.
I have run across this thinking in politics and science. For instance, if you are against the theory of manmade global warming, you must be a capitalist or own stock in an oil company, For that reason you cannot face the truth about climate change therefore, I need not to bother myself with answering your arguments. Another example would be; if you believe in smaller government, you must be a libertarian, therefore, all your criticism of government must be untrue and comes from your prejudices. This is not to say that climate change is not real nor is it an endorsement of small government, it is simply an example of how people will use cognitive pathology to win an argument, or to avoid any possible argument against their belief system.
The problem with cognitive pathology is that it is often used as a form of reductionism to reduce human emotions and thoughts down to one source. This kind of thinking is common in a scientific age that has tried to reduce everything down to cause and effect; believing that everything can be reduced to one cause. Another problem is that even if you could reduce a person’s belief on an issue to a single cause, that would not itself nullify a person’s belief or prove it to be false. The belief itself must still be examined for its truthfulness. Otherwise cognitive pathology becomes nothing more than a personal begging of the question, which I find often to be the case with those that continually use this kind of circular reasoning.
A similar concept to cognitive pathology is the argument from a consensus. In this form of argument, the person simply asserts that their position is correct because that’s what the majority believe. This is usually done without proof as to what the majority actually believes. Furthermore, proving what the majority believes in, is a massive job, which most people are not willing to undertake. So, if someone uses the argument of consensus simply ask for proof, if the consensus is not self-evident.
I have run across a number of atheists who use consensus arguments to try to support their unbelief. They say something like this, “the majority of scientists do not believe in God.” To begin with, this is a pretty large blanket affirmation to make without any hard evidence to confirm it; and without the evidence it is nothing but dishonest propaganda. In fact, if you Google the question, you’ll find a lot of polling data on the subject and in my study of different polls, it looked pretty close that those who believe in a higher power edged out the unbelievers by a couple of points. One of problems with polling of this type is that it usually does not consider the difference between the types of scientists that are being interviewed. What is called the ‘soft’ sciences like psychology, psychiatry and sociology, would to encompass a much larger number of unbelievers because much of their studies are based on a methodology other than the scientific method, which for many put them outside of a true science.
Cognitive pathology and consensus arguments are the preferred tool of the pseudo-educated class and status quo class to cover up their bias and to discredit the arguments of their opponents without answering the argument. Using these two techniques, they can dismiss arguments with little or no thought, much less a good argument. Some use them to support an ego that has run amok. Sometimes, I myself have practiced it, though hopefully noting it in the context of my writing, that in the end it proves nothing other than a person has the analytical skills to dissect the motives of others; and let me hasten to point out that in the majority of cases humans have more than one motive for doing or believing something.
The closest explanation, to explaining the source of faith and unbelief is William James book “The Will to Believe”. In his book, James who was a psychiatrist and a philosopher postulates the theory that people basically believe what they want to believe about God. James believed that a man’s will was their source of faith or unbelief as much as reason. However, it is seldom reason alone that dictates whether a person believes in God or not. He also points out that conditioning and temperament can make a person dead to a particular belief. By the expression “dead to a belief” he means that a person will not even consider looking at it or engage his reasoning to examine it.
 According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006. Specifically, more than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say they believe in God and 12% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, conducted in May and June 2009
 This is done in political debate by inferring that one’s opponent is racist or homophobic. This infers that their statements or arguments come from a racial or gender bias.
 “The Will to Believe: and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy”
 James believed that temperament and disposition are some of the major factors in what people believe about things and especially metaphysical things. You can read about this in his book on pragmatism.