The Tinderbox fascinates me. I have taken a fairly big step backwards in posting in here in favor of constantly lurking (with the exception of religious threads) and analyzing arguments and articles posted without providing any opinion or commentary on them. This is not because I am without opinion, but because I have become increasingly fascinated with observing the processes by which humans form ideology.
I contend that we cast ideological lots, and much of what we hold to be true is held purely on faith by association.
Examples of this phenomenon are everywhere in societies (globally, I would argue.) In religion, a religion's unverifiable claims are embraced without challenge because they are associated inextricably with necessity of adherence to that religion. In Islam, for instance, notions of the barzahk as a space between abstraction and reality wherein dreams can be interpreted is embraced as a tenet of Sufi philosophy and part of Islamic hermeneutics; even devout Muslims may contend that dream interpretation is independently absurd, but its association with a greater belief system is what gives it its clout (and, to an extent, its imperviousness.)
To follow the monotheistic religious theme, orthodox Christianity is composed of a number of claims that, in a vacuum, would be considered ridiculous. But if you've already subscribed to the religion and ends, then the means are acceptable regardless of the implausibility of those means. We know dead people can't come back to life, but if we accept "Christianity is true" to be a true statement, then we can suspend our standards of belief to make room for it without a second thought.
This phenomenon is just as easily visible in politics (and perhaps more readily noticeable in daily American political discourse.) Look at how some unlikely political issues are often allied. Parties rely on cohesive constituencies that constitute a voter bloc that reflect a particular platform. And suddenly with this in mind it makes a lot more sense that fundamentalist Christians, for instance, also strongly ascribe to 2nd amendment rights (when there is zero correlation to be drawn between fundamentalist Christianity and guns.) Some would even argue that Christianity and capitalist economic systems are mutually exclusive, but functionally this is not the case, and that's because of, again, association. We take it to be true because of our alliance with the ally of another position, all defined by the subtle movements of political or social structure.
If this all seems a little abstract, consider any issue... say, for instance, global warming. Most of us have really strong opinions about global warming. But how many of us are climate scientists? How many of us have access firsthand to raw data? How many of us have drilled ice cores or measured oxygen levels in the North Pacific? The truth is most of us have opinions on whether or not global warming is real (or manmade) with absolutely nothing substantial to back them up. We quote sources of authority that we've placed our faith in based on their association with other things we already believe in. "I believe that Democrats are bad, and Democrats are banging the climate change drum, therefore it's fake." Or, "I believe anti-science is religious bias, and that's stupid so climate change is real."
Another example is evolution. How many of us are evolutionary scientists, or young-earth creationists dedicating lives to such a field? Mav1234 is the only one I can think of, but it seems most of us have an opinion on this. In essence we are casting our lots with whichever source of authority best matches the most important things we believe. If we hold the predetermined conclusion that the Bible is literally true, then we'll cast our lot with the YEC that claims radiocarbon dating is flawed even if we don't know the first thing about radiocarbon dating, just because he said so and he's on our side. I see this all the time, hardly a surprise given my social context.
So what do we do about this? Should we do anything about it? Is it a problem at all? Is it just the way things are?
Answering respectively: I don't know, I think so, yes, and yes.
The fact is if any of us were to suspend decision-making until we fully understand an issue, none of us would believe in anything, or very few of us would, and most of us would have to either be MENSA members or old as hell to really legitimately substantiate that belief. So most of us just plug into our predetermined info sources and yammer on without considering we could be complete idiots in reality and then yell loudly about how other people are stupid. Why do you think echo chambers are so popular and marketable?
^ Look at that guy! He is Exhibit A. He has cast his lot irretrievably with a particular information source, which is reflective of a specific ideological bloc, and will be manipulated accordingly.
....so what? if this is all true, what do we do? how do we change our methodology of information-gathering, processing, belief-forming, and decision-making based on it?