Scientific and Religious Mindsets: A Candid Look at the Perils of a Panglossian President
Through Voltaire’s novella Candide, this essay examines the differences between a scientific and a religious mindset and the consequences of poor decision-making when a political leader has a religious mindset that he misapplies to fundamentally scientific questions. By analyzing various decisions that President Bush has made, it is argued that he has a religious mindset that has resulted in several fallacious choices of extreme import, yielding considerable losses. As such, a decision-maker with power should be able to distinguish questions best answered with a scientific mindset from those that are in the realm of philosophy or religion and apply a scientific mindset to the former. A scientific mindset formulates a theory that yields testable propositions, it acquires data and uses that to evaluate the verity of the theory. As the data contradict the theory’s predictions, the theory is adjusted. The religious mindset proffers certain explanations but then holds steadfastly to them. It ignores contrary evidence, does not adjust its tenets, or alter its prescribed behaviors, attacks the integrity of those who espouse contrarian viewpoints, and commits logical falla- cies, such as inverting the causative relationship.
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