History And The Beliefs Of Crowdsby jason on Feb. 26, 2012, under Art & Culture, Clarity, Critical Thinking, History, Reason, Religion, Sanity, Science, That's Life!, Willful Ignorance
This is another contribution from Dr. Stephen Uhl:
The influence of the crowd can grow down through the years (longitudinal, historical), or the influence can come from the contemporary crowd (latitudinal, current). Like the ripples on a pond, the influence or power of a current (latitudinal) crowd spreads and grows wider and wider as it engulfs more and more of the current population. Hearing and seeing the active crowd influences others to join in here and now.
On the other hand, a longitudinal crowd is more like a river of influence flowing down through time. Examples might be a lasting dynasty, a royal family, a traditional association, a historic religion, a historic political party, or acceptors of a traditional myth. When a person joins a group or crowd, gang or sect, he gathers strength from and lends strength to the group. The more completely he embraces the beliefs and traditions of the longitudinal group, the more totally the group accepts him. He also draws further strength or conviction from the group. Thus, there is a self-reinforcing cycle of individual accepting group accepting individual accepting group, etc.
This mutual strengthening process in the traditional or longitudinal group, “history’s crowd,” is quite similar to the mutual reinforcement of the mass hypnosis process in the latitudinal group or “today’s crowd” described earlier. Group hypnosis enhances the strength of individuals in “today’s crowd” as the individual self-hypnotizing members strengthen the growing crowd itself. The same applies to the river of “history’s crowd”—the believers of the past are believed by the current believer; he accepts their traditions, gains confidence and strength from those traditions, and so he adds his influence to strengthen the group that contributed to his strength.
Whether the crowd is longitudinal or latitudinal, the bigger it is, the easier it is to attract followers. Nothing succeeds like success especially in matters of opinion or belief in things that are beyond evidence. In numbers there is strength; and the fellowship feels good, so fellow-believers quite naturally strengthen one another. The result is that most people today still hold on to a plethora of traditions and beliefs of old. Critical thinking is needed to evaluate many of those customs and belief systems handed down from pre-scientific centuries.
(Excerpted from Out of God’s Closet, by Stephen F. Uhl, Ph.D.