Author Topic: Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?  (Read 7042 times)

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« on: January 30, 2008, 01:51:29 PM »
I have a good friend who plans her week by her horoscope.  I have another who regularly visits palm readers and claims a tarrot card reading fortune teller told her things she couldn't possibly otherwise know.  My wife and I have dinner with another group of friends every few months, several of which are die hard creationists, beleivng the earth to be less than 10k years old.

Almost to a person, these otherwise intelligent, rational people who delight in inteligent, civil debate on highly opinionated and stongly held topics as diverse as sports or politics or education not only truly believe these irrational things but treat any discussion or challenge of them as a personal attack and will suffer no discussion of them however civil.

I like Dawkins and Harris's meme hypothesis as an explanation as to how and why certain shared ideas/concepts are what they are and have evolved to defend themsevles in such a way.  I also buy into Dennet's notion that there may be an evolutionary advatange to asigning an intentional stance to such things as the weather and that religion and other supernatural beleifs are an outgrowth of or at least are reinforced by this.  But this is not what this rant is about.

Recently, I actually think I may have managed what many 'active athesists' who enguage in endless debate with entrenched creationists hope to acheive but seldom do.   I have a neice attending a Lutherian college here in Seattle.  Her duel major is english lit and religious studies.   She is a very bright, unassuming kid (she scored 800 out of 800 on her verbal SAT).  A discussion of her major and her (low) prospects for employment at a recent family gathering led to a surprisingly frank and civil discussion of her personal religious beliefs.  In this discussion, I put forward the argument that beleiving in the supernatural without evidence is both ignorant and arrogant and that she in particular, is ignorant of her own arrogance.

Needless to say, as someone who sees herself as a do-gooder out to save the world, she was a bit taken aback at the accusation of arrogance.   Basically, I put forward the argument that when someone beleives supernatural things that contradict the findings of tens of thousands of dedicated, hard working scientists whose life work is to seek the real answers and who publish their results in peer reviewed research literature in full view for anyone to replicate or invalidate, when they beleive these things and not only expect others to do so but activly seek to pursuede them to do so, without evidence, they are not only mildly arrogant but in fact are the eptomy of arrogance.  What is arrogance if not holding an unwavering position, claiming only they know the right anwser all evidence to the contrary and the refusual to even entertain the possibility that they may be mistaken?

Anyway, long story short, she sent me email - she's changing her major to journelism and dropping religious studies.  This is a huge thing for her not the least because her father, my brother-in-law, is a Lutherian minister.  I don't expect he's very happy with me at the moment.   But she's doing it.  

Perhaps our discussion was simply the straw that broke an already overloaded camel's back, but it is the first time in my personal expereince where such a discussion has ever resulted in any significant movement of an entrenched position by the supernaturally inclined.  Perhaps I should look and see if my horoscope from last week said something about changing another's life for the better...  
Many beers....

Offline Peter

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2008, 03:09:59 PM »
 

Wow.

So you have basicly confinced someone to change her religious major to journalism, in a religious discussion.

Whenever I try to bring up the creastism/evolution discussion, for some people it is almost seen as a personal attack. I can't even remember much creastism/evolution discussion in family spheres. With some family-members I have avoided any discussion like it.

Discussions about religion tend to go to nowhere, the ones I had, atleast.  

And I check my horoscope regurly, if I go to school I pick up multiple free newspapers. And I look whitch newspaper horoscope is best.
Oh my god, who the hell cares.

Offline Testlund

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2008, 03:56:40 PM »
I believe in having an open mind and not being stuck to one belief nomatter what. When it comes to religion most people are totally atheists or they totally believes the bible and never questions there own beliefs. I have been a non beleiver in the supernatural most of my life because I haven't encountered any evidence of it and I have never experienced any such thing myself.
But a relative to me was visiting a medium last year and was told stuff that the medium couldn't possibly guess. The session was recorded on tape and I listened to it.
Under the session the medium said he was visited by passed away relatives to our family and those spirits talked to him under the session, explaining things that only we could know. Some spirit even told my relative (through the medium) what she had been doing before she went to the session.
Even my relative's dog that had to be put to sleep because it had grown too old and weak showed up under the session, saying she shouldn't feel any regrets for  that, and also told who used to feed it in the family and taking it for a walk.
The medium said the dog couldn't talk to him directly but his thoughts were translated to him from another spirit.
I'm just asking how is this possible? My relative didn't told him any thing. She hardly said a word through the whole session.
I've seen similar programs on TV but I've thought maybe it was all made up and all the people had been told what to say.
Also I've found some very interesting information about what the spirit world is through some readings which is quite interesting.
The bible though is mostly crap made up by people, and religion is mostly used for controlling and suppressing people. So I am against religious societies because they missinterpret what Muhammed and Jesus tried to preach.
I sound like a religious myself now but I'm not. I just think there might very well be a spirit world.
If you can believe in the 4th dimension and Einsteins relativity theory you can as well belive in a spirit world.
I think the concept of time as the forth dimension is something we've made up. What is time but memories and thoughts we have about the future.
I don't belive there is a past or future. It's only the present and movement of events.
We think about time as some movie playing by in a linear way.
I don't understand how you could possibly travel back in time if you move faster than light? Where would you move? Somewhere far out in space to see if the pictures of the earth will catch up??

When it comes to horoscope, don't read the weekly ones in papers. That's not astrology. Do a thorough one where all the position of the planets are counted in. I don't know about anyone who've done it where the information wasn't true about that person.
I know it is scaringly accurate for me!
« Last Edit: January 30, 2008, 04:01:32 PM by Testlund »
"God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorence." - Neil DeGrasse Tyson

"God is a kid with an ant farm" - Constantine

Offline Numsgil

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2008, 11:33:21 PM »
I find that the only true believers are the agnostics.  That goes for things other than religion too.

Most "rational" "scientific" people are just as pig headed and stubborn as the supposedly "irrational" "religious" folk.  How many times in science has a new theory been met not just with skepticism but with disdain or even open hostility?  People in general like to believe that what they've been told in the past is true.  The only trustworthy ones are those that realize they don't know one way or another.

Imagine this: you're time traveling to Celtic Britain circa 500 AD.  You're at a banquet in ancient Dumnonia, celebrating some king, warlord, birth, victory, or whatever.  You're offered wine (or ale, mead, whatever the spirit of choice is in ancient Britain at the time) in a lead cup.

You inform your gracious host that you won't drink from a lead cup, because of the possibility of lead poisoning.  He asks for clarification.  You say that scholars in your time have determined that drinking from a lead cup makes you sick.

"Ah," your gracious Lord says, "your Gods forbid it."  You explain that there aren't any Gods involved, it's determined through experimentation involving rats and mice and lots of time.

"Of course, I understand.  Our Druids do similar rituals before we prepare for battle, to see what fate the Gods have decreed.  Your priests have conversed with your un-Gods, who proclaim lead to be a cursed metal."

No, no, you explain.  It's not at all like that.  These scholars must study for their entire lives.

"As must our Druids," says your honorable Lord.

The results are verified independently by different groups, you try to explain.

"Our Druids often share the Gods' secrets with each other.  It's the way of Knowledge."

The point of my little made up metaphor is that ultimately, to people untrained in the science in question, the scientists doing the study might as well be Druids scattering bones in the dirt to commune with the Gods.  Lay people always take things on faith.  Whether in science or in religion.

So unless you've performed the experiment yourself (and analyzed the data using proper statistical tools), or communed with your God personally, you can just shut up.  Personal experience is the only undeniable truth.  All else is faith.

Offline Testlund

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2008, 03:03:12 AM »
I agree with that, but at the same time if something is very well explained, and makes sense in your head it might be hard to not believe in it. It may depend on the level of insight into things a person have how easy it is to convince him/her about something, and if that person is free to think critical or not. In many religious societies you're pretty much forbidden to think critical and you've been brain washed from birth that the only truth is what your parents or local priest have told you. The main purpouse of that is that someone wants power and control over people.
Also many are afraid to believe their is no god because the thought that their might be nothing after we die is too scary.
I believe in free thinking and not being bound to a group of believers, because they are usually guided by a psychopath.

Last night before I fell asleep a theory poped into my head. According to a book I've read that is called 'The Explanation' (translated from Swedish. I don't know the english name) every matter has a force striving for progress to become more complex, to evolve to become a greater being. And that is what the universe is doing. So I was thinking that after the Big Bang when everything was a mess it started to form into more complex structures. First all molecules just form into simple matter, but there is an energy force inside of everything striving for progress and wants to evolve. So that energy force then switches into the first simple organisms and then to more advanced beings. So according to the book the highest level that force can reach in the world that we can see is humans, cats, dogs and apes. The next stage is entering a spiritual state like a new dimension, but it continues to evolve after that and the end goal is to become God, or part of God. So I was thinking maybe there was no god in the beginning but he has been made by the life forces striving to become more advanced beings. So universe might be like a great organism (god) and everything in the universe is like the cells of that organism.
According what I've read about spirits and what they've said there is no beginning or end, there is only progress. Therefore there is no time either. The spirits themselves don't know if there is a god or not, only that there are different levels of progress.
Do I sound like I'm high on something now?

In any case I think the only way to solve the mysteries of the universe is if the creationists and darwinists can find some common ground and discuss with an open mind to each others beliefs. Maybe in the future we will reach a new level of understanding where a spirit world can be explained scientifically and even proved.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2008, 03:04:23 AM by Testlund »
"God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorence." - Neil DeGrasse Tyson

"God is a kid with an ant farm" - Constantine

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2008, 12:33:52 PM »
Quote
Personal experience is the only undeniable truth. All else is faith.
Dan Dennett does a good job in the speech below of making the distiction between belief in the supporttable and belief in the unsupporttable.  If you can get past the first 15 minutes of award presentation who ha, the rest of speech is worth watching though not his best.  Ben Harris's speech from the same conference is the best of the lot.

I am not a chemist or biologist and have not studied the toxicity of lead poisioning personally yet I would bet a million dollars against your $1 that lead is indeed poisionus.  It is something I 'beleive' and to a certain extent take on faith, but I have very good reasons for beleiving it, a dependecy chain of experts who know more than I about the subject and their work and other experts who validate the results of those experts and so on through a process of scientific analysis I trust.   In today's age, those who do not beleive this are either ignorant or deluded.   The Druids above are ignorant but this does not change the fact that the lead is indeed poisionious.  The probability that lead will be found tomorrow not to be posionious (and thus that there is someone today who is both not ignorant and not deluded in their belief that lead is not toxic) while non-zero, is sufficiently close to zero that it can be ignored given the evidcence and thus I have the confidence to make this bet all day long.

By the same token, I would bet million dollars against your $1 that Testlund's medium did not actually communicate with the dead.  I have just as strong reasons for 'believing' that this cannot actually occur - a chain of experts and research and a consistant world model that makes this all but impossible.  In this day and age, someone who would take the other side of this bet is as above, either ignorant or deluded.

If you actually beleive there is a reasonable chance of life after death and that a medium can actually communicate with the dead, that this is possible or even likely given all we know about biology and science, then you should be equally afraid that all the oxygen molecules in the room will suddenly migrate to one corner and you will die of affixiation.  You should certainly never get on an airplane or in a car since the physics that hold the plane up or the car on the road might suddenly be shown to be false.  I don't understand those physics nearly as well as I once did personally and not nearly as well as others, but I beleive them in the same way I beleive lead is poisionious or that there is no afterlife, to the extent that I bet my life on them everyday.

I have a parlour trick I do at parties.  I set out 9 matches or sugar packets or whatever on a table in a 3X3 pattern and then turn away and ask someone to touch one.  I then turn back, pass my hand over each one and through "supernatural" powers, detect the 'aura' left by the tocuh and tell them which one they touched.  I can do this every time, quickly and without fail.  What always happens is a sequence of events.  First, people think I peaked, so they force me to leave the room before they touch one.  I come back in and easily detect which one they touched.  They make me leave again and touch two or none or all of them or have someone else touch one instead.  In every case, I come back in and am immedialy able to tell them which ones they touched or didn't or who else touched them and so on.  No one has ever guessed the trick.  
But make no mistake, it is a trick.   If I did not reveal it at the end of the party, I'm sure a few people over the years would take it as evidence of the existance of supernatural powers.  It's that convincing.

My wife or a friend watches what happens and then causally moves their waterglass to the position in front of them of the one touched.  There are other signals, all but undetectable by others, which indidate multiple touches, no touches, etc.

Palm readers, mystics, mediums and so on - they're all cons, some explicit, some unwitting or unknowing on the part of the medium (that is, some mediums really beleive their own bullshit).  Studies have demonstrated this and also demonstrated how easily people are taken in by parlour tricks.  But this doesn't change the fact that they are just tricks.   To believe otherwise is simply either ignorance or arrogance.


Dan Dennett award and speech at AAI 07
« Last Edit: January 31, 2008, 12:36:42 PM by EricL »
Many beers....

Offline Numsgil

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2008, 02:15:28 PM »
But you're imposing your own values on to the idea of mediums, etc.  Reproducibility.  That's the defining hallmark of the science "religion".  But other "religions" could care less about reproducibility.  The defining virtue for spirituality might be a feeling of the profound.

Of course, that doesn't mean that non-science "religions" are more or less correct than the science "religion".  But they operate functionally very similarly.  Some scientist says something, and you believe them.  Some priest says something, and you believe them.  Some medium says something, and you believe them.

The one benefit of science as a religion over more traditional religions is that it's extremely egalitarian.  Anyone with the money and time can "commune with the divine" and reproduce any experiment that's been done before, and (hopefully) get the same result.  You don't need to explicitly be consecrated (though the way things are heading you do need a life time of training).

But ultimately, if you try to say "my religion is better than yours", ie: science can disprove your mysticism, you're imposing your own value system (reproducibility) to judge a religion that isn't based on that value system.  So that medium might not be science, or even reproducible.  But if the value that the other guy judges things with is a tingly feeling in the back of his spine, his mysticism is clearly superior to your science.

So ultimately it comes down to subjectivity based on your goals and desires.  And it's only the people who can understand this idea, that judgement (good, bad, harmful, etc.) requires subjectivity, that I trust.  When people stand up and say "this is true", or "This is good", I get turned off.  Whether in religion, science, or what-have-you.  Religion is good at the tingly feelings inside.  Science is good at understanding the physical laws we are all subject to.  The two aren't talking about the same thing, or even talking with the same language, and shouldn't be taken as some sort of either/or choice.

Offline Trilobite

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2008, 06:53:33 AM »
There are some things I'd like to say, but it would probably be against the forum rules.

What I will say is that you don't have any right to call anyone arrogant based on their beliefs. Science can explain a lot, but it doesn't disprove all aspects of the supernatural or religion. (it can try to, but there are too many variables) If it can't disprove it, how can you say these people are arrogant? Because they believe in something you don't think is true?

I'm all for a little debate, but directly insulting someone just because of their perspective on the world is just downright wrong, and is just as bad as those folks who impose their religion on people who don't want to believe.

One can present their evidence, ideas, etc, without the insults. It can be done, believe it or not. With the sort of narrow-minded agression you portray, is there any wonder people don't want to talk to you on the subject?

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2008, 01:14:36 PM »
Quote from: Trilobite
There are some things I'd like to say, but it would probably be against the forum rules.
This is the RANT forum.  Say anything you like.

Quote from: Trilobite
What I will say is that you don't have any right to call anyone arrogant based on their beliefs.
Sure I do.  I have the right to call anyone anything I like to subject to the laws of the country I find myself in, particularly when I'm enguaged in a non-libelous, thougtful and logical argument.  So do they.  Whether my or their statements carry any weight or are worth listening to is another issue entirely.

I do find it interesting that beleifs in the supernatural have become such protected ground that they must be tread ever so lightly lest even the mearest hint of offense be given.  We debate sports and politics and education and such with such vigor and energy.  People are generally capable of divorcing their own self-image from their positions on those subjects and go home unoffended even after the fiercests of contests.   Yet it seems (to me at least) that even the most modest disagreement with another's supernatural views is taken as a personal attack, at least in the US.  How did we get this way?  Our beleifs dictate so much of who we are and the decisions we make, what could possibily be more important to subject to scrutiny?  Amazing.    


Quote from: Trilobite
Science can explain a lot, but it doesn't disprove all aspects of the supernatural or religion. (it can try to, but there are too many variables)
Avoiding a digression into definitions of the term 'disprove' and 'religion' and such for a minute, I will in fact claim that science has in fact disproved the vast majority of testable claims for the supernatural (the remainder are generally too silly to be worth testing).  Pick any medium, mystic or palm reader you like.  Articulate their claims and/or powers, then test them.   It's been done many hundreds of times with the same results.  "Oh," but you might say, "it doesn't work like that."  Well then, how does it work exactly?  What is it they are claiming they can do that is supernatural?  Show me any claimed supernatural ability of any supposed value and I bet I can design an experiment that can test for it.

Quote from: Trilobite
If it can't disprove it, how can you say these people are arrogant? Because they believe in something you don't think is true?
Because they believe with conviction things which are demonstrably contrary to overwhelming evidence yet are unable or unwilling to defend those beliefs.  Because by so believing, they casually dismiss without a moments thought the hard work of people who actually study the problem and devote their lives to finding actual answers through rational investigation.  The definition of arrogance is being so sure that you are right that you are unwilling to defend your beliefs or entertain evidence to the contary.   Undefended belief in the supernatural is either plain old ignorance or by definition, the epitomy of arrogance.

And, lest you accuse me of a similar fault, let me point out that I defend what I beleive (with evidence) and will gladly and willingly change the positions I hold in the face of appropriate evidence to the contrary.

Quote from: Trilobite
I'm all for a little debate, but directly insulting someone just because of their perspective on the world is just downright wrong, and is just as bad as those folks who impose their religion on people who don't want to believe.
I have made no insults that I know of.  What I have done is make a rational argument.   I have made an observation, applied an appropriatly descriptive label to a catagory of people and provided a logical and rational argument as to why I think that label applies.   To call someone irrational or arrogant is not an insult if it is done as a factual observation with evidence.  People may still take offense I imagine, but their offense is unwarrented.

And to equate my rational observation with the unwilling imposition of religon is ridiculous and deserves no further comment.

Quote from: Trilobite
One can present their evidence, ideas, etc, without the insults. It can be done, believe it or not. With the sort of narrow-minded agression you portray, is there any wonder people don't want to talk to you on the subject?
Well, aggressive might be appropriatly descriptive, but narrow-minded is not.   I am open to any and all evidence or rational arguments people may wish to make or provide.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2008, 01:33:03 PM by EricL »
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Offline Trilobite

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2008, 03:37:52 PM »
Quote
Sure I do. I have the right to call anyone anything I like to subject to the laws of the country I find myself in, particularly when I'm enguaged in a non-libelous, thougtful and logical argument. So do they. Whether my or their statements carry any weight or are worth listening to is another issue entirely.

Yet you complain when people are offended when you insult them.

Quote
I do find it interesting that beleifs in the supernatural have become such protected ground that they must be tread ever so lightly lest even the mearest hint of offense be given. We debate sports and politics and education and such with such vigor and energy. People are generally capable of divorcing their own self-image from their positions on those subjects and go home unoffended even after the fiercests of contests. Yet it seems (to me at least) that even the most modest disagreement with another's supernatural views is taken as a personal attack, at least in the US. How did we get this way? Our beleifs dictate so much of who we are and the decisions we make, what could possibily be more important to subject to scrutiny? Amazing.

That's not the point. I didn't say that there was anything wrong with debating. The point was you're insulting people, which is a different thing entirely.

Quote
Avoiding a digression into definitions of the term 'disprove' and 'religion' and such for a minute, I will in fact claim that science has in fact disproved the vast majority of testable claims for the supernatural (the remainder are generally too silly to be worth testing). Pick any medium, mystic or palm reader you like. Articulate their claims and/or powers, then test them. It's been done many hundreds of times with the same results. "Oh," but you might say, "it doesn't work like that." Well then, how does it work exactly? What is it they are claiming they can do that is supernatural? Show me any claimed supernatural ability of any supposed value and I bet I can design an experiment that can test for it.

That would be interesting. But can you disprove all accounts of the supernatural, or religion for that matter? I agree that I would suspect most are bogus, but one can't rule out the faint possibility of some cases being genuine. The saying goes, just because it can't be disproven, doesn't mean it exists. But, I'd like to add, that it doesn't mean it doesn't exist either. I don't think its right to put your whole faith into - or even think about - something that probably doesn't even exist, but it works for some people, some people live by it. Don't they have that right?

Quote
Because they believe with conviction things which are demonstrably contrary to overwhelming evidence yet are unable or unwilling to defend those beliefs. Because by so believing, they casually dismiss without a moments thought the hard work of people who actually study the problem and devote their lives to finding actual answers through rational investigation. The definition of arrogance is being so sure that you are right that you are unwilling to defend your beliefs or entertain evidence to the contary. Undefended belief in the supernatural is either plain old ignorance or by definition, the epitomy of arrogance.

And, lest you accuse me of a similar fault, let me point out that I defend what I beleive (with evidence) and will gladly and willingly change the positions I hold in the face of appropriate evidence to the contrary.

Your point is fair, but I do think it is just ignorance. For example, my boyfriend, who is religious, didn't believe in evolution when I first met him. But he was definately not arrogant, just ill-informed. I'm sure if I'd opened up with the same agression you exhibit, he wouldn't have continued the conversation. Instead I explained to him what I knew of theory - which was vastly different from what he had been poorly taught about it - and he's now very accepting of the theory. He may not believe in it, but he's accepting of the likelihood of it being true, and talks about it as matter-of-fact rather than "if it happened...".

I can tell you're much against the soft approach but if you want your evidence to be heeded, maybe you should use a bit less fire.

"I have made no insults that I know of. What I have done is make a rational argument. I have made an observation, applied an appropriatly descriptive label to a catagory of people and provided a logical and rational argument as to why I think that label applies. To call someone irrational or arrogant is not an insult if it is done as a factual observation with evidence. People may still take offense I imagine, but their offense is unwarrented.

And to equate my rational observation with the unwilling imposition of religon is ridiculous and deserves no further comment."

The bolded area is what I'm concerned about. See, the thing is there isn't evidence to say that these people are all arrogant. Saying so would mean that they all think they're superior in their beliefs, which is not true at all. Many are very open minded about it.

As for the last sentence in that quote, I could compare it by saying that hardly anyone can be forced into religion, unless by words. You are using words - insulting generalizations to accessorize your argument, rather than just biting your tongue and taking the civil approach without being so narrow-minded.

Quote
Well, aggressive might be appropriatly descriptive, but narrow-minded is not. I am open to any and all evidence or rational arguments people may wish to make or provide.

Not narrow-minded in that way. Narrow-minded in the way that you can't see that not all people who believe in the supernatural or religion stick by their beliefs through pride alone. Many are simply ignorant to evidence, some already accept the evidence (but wuld still like to be keep to their religious beliefs in peace), at the end of the day, people don't deserve name-calling just because they won't change their views to suit you.

Besides - faith is a whole different world altogether. Faith is not about scientific evidence, it's about believing in something in the absence of evidence. Sounds silly to you? It does to me too! But for some people it's the very foundation of their lives, the way they can make sense of the world - in many cases alongside science - and why should they have to put up with prejudice just because of a lifestyle choice that harms nobody? (obviously excluding some pushy enthusiasts)

(by the way, I have an incidence I'd like you to comment on - about a psychic medium, if you don't mind, can I PM you? A second opinion from the other end of the spectrum would be nice)

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2008, 09:02:34 PM »
Quote from: Trilobite
Yet you complain when people are offended when you insult them.
Do not!  Do not do not do not!!!!!!  

I disagree on both counts.  It was not my intent to insult anyone and to my knowlege I have not done so.  Webster's defines insult as "To treat with gross insensitivity, insolence or contempuous rudeness, to afront or demean".  I can find nowhere in this topic where I am rude or demeaning and if I was, it was unintentional.  But I could hardly make the point of my argument without, well, making the point of my argument and that is that those who beleive things contrary to evidence and refuse to offer a defense of their position are either ignorant or arrogant.  That is my claim.  It you find that offensive, well then, I apologize, but that is no reason not to make the point.

Additionally, it's quite a stretch to term defense of one's position as complaining....

Quote from: Trilobite
That's not the point. I didn't say that there was anything wrong with debating. The point was you're insulting people, which is a different thing entirely.
Was not was not was not!!!!!!  

I think the issue you have might be that the term 'arrogant' is generally viewed as deragatory in our society and thus I imagine you might claim that any use of the term, whatever the setting, even when used descriptivly in a logical argument, must therefor be meant as an insult.  Perhaps your right and there is no way to even state my premise without giving offense.  If so, then so be it, but that would be a pity.  Think about that for a minute - that some positions cannot even be articulated without giving offense.  What kind of world is that?

Funny.  About the only thing I truly find offensive are people who are easily offended...

Quote from: Trilobite
That would be interesting. But can you disprove all accounts of the supernatural, or religion for that matter? I agree that I would suspect most are bogus, but one can't rule out the faint possibility of some cases being genuine. The saying goes, just because it can't be disproven, doesn't mean it exists. But, I'd like to add, that it doesn't mean it doesn't exist either.
Certainly I can't (disprove all accounts...).  Nor can I disprove the existance of a magical teapot orbiting Mars or an infinity of other equally improbable things one might imagine.  Lack of evidence against something does not constitute evidence for it.   We all live by probabilities.   I will grant you that the probability of any supernatural claim we might choose, no matter how nonsensical, is non-zero.  But the evidence overwhelming says that that probability is so vanishingly small as to essentually be zero for all intents and purposes.   My claim is that to place the liklehood of the supernatural within even a hundred orders of magnitude of a scientific explanation is irrational and based either in ignorance or arrogance.  

Quote from: Trilobite
I don't think its right to put your whole faith into - or even think about - something that probably doesn't even exist, but it works for some people, some people live by it. Don't they have that right?
Sure.   Everybody has the right to their own opinions.  But they don't have the right to their own facts.  To beleive something contrary to evidence, people have that right I suppose.  I'm just saying that to do so is either ignroant or arrogant......  blah blah blah, I sound like a broken record....  

There is a whole other side to this by the way that has to do with cognisant dissonence.   Namly, there is good evidence that many people, particulary those who grew up in a religious environment, have problems functioning when their world view is threatened by contrary evidence.  Even when they know in their front brain they should change positions on something, evolution v. creationism for example, due to obvious evidence, they can't do it because of how deeply rooted it is and what it would cost them w.r.t. their world view.   So to function, they don't rationalize their internal inconsistencies and end up believing contradictory things.  They know better, but don't force the issue so they can function.  IMHO, this may be part of why some people feel so threatened when their beliefs are contradicted.  Forced recociliation of cognative dissonance is physcologically tramatic.

Quote from: Trilobite
Your point is fair, but I do think it is just ignorance. For example, my boyfriend, who is religious, didn't believe in evolution when I first met him. But he was definately not arrogant, just ill-informed. I'm sure if I'd opened up with the same agression you exhibit, he wouldn't have continued the conversation. Instead I explained to him what I knew of theory - which was vastly different from what he had been poorly taught about it - and he's now very accepting of the theory. He may not believe in it, but he's accepting of the likelihood of it being true, and talks about it as matter-of-fact rather than "if it happened...".

Your boyfriend is a rarity.  As I mention in the first topic, very few people ever change their minds on anything once they hit adulthood, particularly when it comes to their deeply held beliefs in the supernatural.  

Quote from: Trilobite
I can tell you're much against the soft approach but if you want your evidence to be heeded, maybe you should use a bit less fire.
Yep, I'm forthright to be sure, as I freely admit elsewhere.  But in this forum, fire is permitted.

Quote from: Trilobite
The bolded area is what I'm concerned about. See, the thing is there isn't evidence to say that these people are all arrogant. Saying so would mean that they all think they're superior in their beliefs, which is not true at all. Many are very open minded about it.
I claim it is arrogant to hold entrenched positions in opposition to evidence when you are aware that evidence exists, whether you have examined it our not.   If someone says "I don't know if palm readers are for real, I've never studied the matter and have no clue whether science has anything to say on the topic" then they are truly ignorant, probably about a great many things.  They simply arn't aware there is evidence to contradict their beliefs and thus their beliefs are excusable.  (Although in today's society, it is becoming harder and harder to claim unawareness of the scientific evidence.)   There is nothing necessarily wrong with being ignorant.  I am ignorant of a great many things, East Indian Curry recipies not the least.  But if someone claims knowledge, to "know" the earth was created in 7 days or that mystics can tell their future by the stars or whetever, and they are aware this violates scientific evidence, even if they have never examined or explored that evidence, then I claim they are arrogant even though as I illustrate in the first post, they may not be aware of the depth of their arrogance.

If your going to hold a belief, then you better examine it and be able to defend it and be willing to change it.  Otherwise I'm going to call you arrogant.

In my experience, those that are "open minded" don't pretend to knowledge.  They are ignorant and freely admit to such.

Quote from: Trilobite
You are using words - insulting generalizations to accessorize your argument, rather than just biting your tongue and taking the civil approach without being so narrow-minded.
Yep, I'm using words though I disagree that they are insulting.  What should I use instead?  Suicide vests?  I've never been one to bite my tongue though I always try to be civil.  Besides, if I can't speak my mind in the RANT forum of this board, where can I?    

Quote from: Trilobite
not all people who believe in the supernatural or religion stick by their beliefs through pride alone. Many are simply ignorant to evidence, some already accept the evidence (but wuld still like to be keep to their religious beliefs in peace), at the end of the day,
Wholy cow, I think I agree with you!  Many people do indeed live with cognisant dissonance.

Quote from: Trilobite
people don't deserve name-calling just because they won't change their views to suit you.
Do to!  Do to do to do to!

Quote from: Trilobite
Besides - faith is a whole different world altogether. Faith is not about scientific evidence, it's about believing in something in the absence of evidence. Sounds silly to you? It does to me too! But for some people it's the very foundation of their lives, the way they can make sense of the world - in many cases alongside science - and why should they have to put up with prejudice just because of a lifestyle choice that harms nobody? (obviously excluding some pushy enthusiasts)
I have elaborated elsewhere on my opinion that blind faith is in fact extremely harmful but I won't digress here...

Quote from: Trilobite
(by the way, I have an incidence I'd like you to comment on - about a psychic medium, if you don't mind, can I PM you? A second opinion from the other end of the spectrum would be nice)
Of course.  Please do so.
Many beers....

Offline Moonfisher

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2008, 03:11:07 AM »
This is an endless debate, in the end noone is 100% sure of anything, but if you had to pick between theories formulated by a man who traveled and studied nature, a collection of oraly transmitted stories (Get your mind out of the gutter) from about 1938 years ago (That would be the bible) or one of the older books, or believing something that was written by a crazy old lady on wellfare with 50 cats, or a science fiction novelist.... and the list of options could go on....  (If I HAD to pick a religion, I think I would go for confusionism)
I would probably pick Darwin over all of the above, and I wouldn't call myself an anagonist, I would definately call myself an atheist, since I don't believe that any diety exists.
Latelty it seems like a lot of people are afraid to call themselves atheists, because some guy somewhere was realy arogant about it, so now people hate atheists. But I've met a lot more arogant religious people, that just take it for granted that anyone who doesn't share their beliefs is either retarded or evil...

In the end you can't prove or disprove anything, all you can do is prove that evolution is possible, and that it's more likely than... well... magic.
And if you think I'm being arrogant by calling it magic.... what would YOU call it ?

Edit :
I almost forgot, the reason atheists are often eager to join this debate is because religious rulers through time have had a nasty habbit of burning atheists whenever they couldn't find someone with other beliefs too burn. I'm personaly relieved that this year the "Christian Democrats" party in my country didn't even qualify to stay in government, since if I did believe in the devil I would believe he worked through religious leaders. As long as religion keeps out of politics and education I usualy stay out of the debate, but the second anyone tryes to tell people what to do or not to do, based on their beliefs, then I can't keep my mouth shut. And if people start arguing that schools should teach X religion because of it's fine moral codex, they're forgetting that any religion can be interpreted freely and often to the point where people with the exact same religion (Usualy one that teaches you never to kill) kill eachother over minute differences in opinion. A religion has nothing to do with moral, most christians don't even know all of the 10 comandments, because they don't care, they'll do whatever they want and find a passage in the bible that can justify it.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 03:35:59 AM by Moonfisher »

Offline Trilobite

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2008, 08:00:16 AM »
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Do not! Do not do not do not!!!!!! smile.gif

I disagree on both counts. It was not my intent to insult anyone and to my knowlege I have not done so. Webster's defines insult as "To treat with gross insensitivity, insolence or contempuous rudeness, to afront or demean". I can find nowhere in this topic where I am rude or demeaning and if I was, it was unintentional. But I could hardly make the point of my argument without, well, making the point of my argument and that is that those who beleive things contrary to evidence and refuse to offer a defense of their position are either ignorant or arrogant. That is my claim. It you find that offensive, well then, I apologize, but that is no reason not to make the point.

Additionally, it's quite a stretch to term defense of one's position as complaining....

I don't find it offensive. And I do think either is a beter way to put it rather than just is.

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Was not was not was not!!!!!! smile.gif

I think the issue you have might be that the term 'arrogant' is generally viewed as deragatory in our society and thus I imagine you might claim that any use of the term, whatever the setting, even when used descriptivly in a logical argument, must therefor be meant as an insult. Perhaps your right and there is no way to even state my premise without giving offense. If so, then so be it, but that would be a pity. Think about that for a minute - that some positions cannot even be articulated without giving offense. What kind of world is that?

Funny. About the only thing I truly find offensive are people who are easily offended...

So then explain how the use of arrogant, a term which describes the inflated ego and bigotry, is not insulting. I honestly don't know. Your argument is logical, but when you're calling people in real life arrogant for believing in what they do, I personally think that would only be counter-productive, and would only anger people rather than help them see your point of view. You may find that you have reasonable grounds to use that term, but not everyone will see it that way.

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Certainly I can't (disprove all accounts...). Nor can I disprove the existance of a magical teapot orbiting Mars or an infinity of other equally improbable things one might imagine. Lack of evidence against something does not constitute evidence for it. We all live by probabilities. I will grant you that the probability of any supernatural claim we might choose, no matter how nonsensical, is non-zero. But the evidence overwhelming says that that probability is so vanishingly small as to essentually be zero for all intents and purposes. My claim is that to place the liklehood of the supernatural within even a hundred orders of magnitude of a scientific explanation is irrational and based either in ignorance or arrogance.

That's exactly what I meant O_o But there's nothing wrong with ignorance, and that was my point.

Quote
Sure. Everybody has the right to their own opinions. But they don't have the right to their own facts. To beleive something contrary to evidence, people have that right I suppose. I'm just saying that to do so is either ignroant or arrogant...... blah blah blah, I sound like a broken record....

There is a whole other side to this by the way that has to do with cognisant dissonence. Namly, there is good evidence that many people, particulary those who grew up in a religious environment, have problems functioning when their world view is threatened by contrary evidence. Even when they know in their front brain they should change positions on something, evolution v. creationism for example, due to obvious evidence, they can't do it because of how deeply rooted it is and what it would cost them w.r.t. their world view. So to function, they don't rationalize their internal inconsistencies and end up believing contradictory things. They know better, but don't force the issue so they can function. IMHO, this may be part of why some people feel so threatened when their beliefs are contradicted. Forced recociliation of cognative dissonance is physcologically tramatic.

Maybe so, and I agree with you. But what can you do? If it can come as such a shock for many people to accept other possibilities, would agression even work anyway? Again, it would only be counter-productive.

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Your boyfriend is a rarity. As I mention in the first topic, very few people ever change their minds on anything once they hit adulthood, particularly when it comes to their deeply held beliefs in the supernatural.

No disagreements there.

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Yep, I'm forthright to be sure, as I freely admit elsewhere. But in this forum, fire is permitted.

Aren't we talking about real-life situations? (that is what you made a rant on, isn't it?)

Quote
I claim it is arrogant to hold entrenched positions in opposition to evidence when you are aware that evidence exists, whether you have examined it our not. If someone says "I don't know if palm readers are for real, I've never studied the matter and have no clue whether science has anything to say on the topic" then they are truly ignorant, probably about a great many things. They simply arn't aware there is evidence to contradict their beliefs and thus their beliefs are excusable. (Although in today's society, it is becoming harder and harder to claim unawareness of the scientific evidence.) There is nothing necessarily wrong with being ignorant. I am ignorant of a great many things, East Indian Curry recipies not the least. But if someone claims knowledge, to "know" the earth was created in 7 days or that mystics can tell their future by the stars or whetever, and they are aware this violates scientific evidence, even if they have never examined or explored that evidence, then I claim they are arrogant even though as I illustrate in the first post, they may not be aware of the depth of their arrogance.

If your going to hold a belief, then you better examine it and be able to defend it and be willing to change it. Otherwise I'm going to call you arrogant.

In my experience, those that are "open minded" don't pretend to knowledge. They are ignorant and freely admit to such.

I agree  There's nothing wrong with admitting you don't know something. However, in the case of those who choose to ignore evidence, would you be willing to consider that arrogance has less a part to play, and fear has a bigger part to play?

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Do to! Do to do to do to!

.....

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I have elaborated elsewhere on my opinion that blind faith is in fact extremely harmful but I won't digress here...

Ok.

Offline Moonfisher

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2008, 11:36:07 AM »
I don't think blind fate is harmfull, the problem is that you're leaving your most important decisions in life up to someone else... what makes it harmfull is that this person often lived thousinds of years ago and thought the earth was flat, so usualy this person is in no way qualified to make any decisions for anyone.
The best form of faith you can hope for is when people say they believe there's someone or something out there, but they also believe that anyone who claims to know ANYTHING about it is full of sh..... #2.
This is also why I like confusionism, since it encourages people to question confusionisme itself, which is the exact oposite of all other religions I know of.

I guess what I'm saying is, there's nothing wrong with blind fate, as long as you don't place it in another human.

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2008, 01:16:39 PM »
Quote from: Moonfisher
I guess what I'm saying is, there's nothing wrong with blind fate, as long as you don't place it in another human.
Okay, sorry, but I have to go here for a moment.

First some terminology.  I'm using the term 'blind faith" as opposed to simply 'faith' to distinguish between faith in something for which there is no evidence (and for which there is often evidence to the contrary) v. faith in something for which there is in fact supportting evidence.  I have faith in the unconditional love of my daughter.  I have faith that the articles in Nature magazine are peer reviewed.    This is faith, not blind faith, because although I may not have exhaustivly explored all the evidence for and against personally, what I have explorred provides sufficient evidence for me as a reasonable person to hold these positions.

Second, lets create a spectrum of what people might have blind faith in for the purposes of disucssion.  At one end (lets call this the left side) of the spectrum might be blind faith in something fuzzy and comforting but otherwise amorphous and not in violation of any laws of nature or physics.  There may be no evidence for it but neither is there perhaps strong evidence against it.  This is perhaps the position in which many educated folks who still call themsevles religious find themsevles.  It's about the least religous one can be and still fit that description.   When pressed, they will admit they don't actually beleive the earth was created in 7 days or in an afterlife or that prayers actually do anything outside the physcological impact on the brain of the prayer or that preists can really turn wine into blood but for some reason (perhaps they were raised that way or or otherwise maitain soem degree of cognisant dissonance) they still like to think there is "something out there" and would still check the box on the form indicating they are in fact religious.

At the other end (right side) of the spectrum is blind faith in things that really, truly violate evidence and scientific priciples.  Blind faith that there is an afterlife, blind faith that you will be granted 70 virgins in that afterlife, blind faith that preists really do have the power to turn wine into blood, that kind of thing.

Okay, so, my position is that the degree to which blind faith is dangerous or harmful is directly proportional to where it lies on that spectrum.

If you are near the left side of the spectrum, well, you may not be basing your beliefs and world view on the most logical analysis of the evidence, but the blind faith you have I would not term dangerous or necessary harmful.  In fact, it may be mildly benifical (to you) in that there are studies that show that some people may actually benefit from the physcological comfort such beliefs might offer.  I'm not one of them, but there is evidence this is the case.  

While I'm sure most people on this board are near the left side or off the spectrum entirely (as I beleive that I am) if you are near the other end of the spectrum, I would claim that blind faith is indeed harmful and dangerous for a number of reasons:

1) Holding positions that are contray to evidence with conviction is bascially the definition of irrationality.  People have been known to do crazy things such as withhold medical assistance from their dying spouse or mutilate their daughter's genitals because of such irrationality.

2) By definition, you can be convinced of irrational things.  Someone may come along and convince you that detonating an explosive vest in a shopping mall or flying an airliner into a skyscraper is the path to eternal salvation.  

3) It makes you lazy.  "Because god wants it that way" is an easy, convienent answer.  Why bother seeking the real answers?

4) If you have power or wealth, actions in support of your blind faith may have far reaching consequences for the rest of us.  You may use your TV show to convince millions of people that birth control is evil and thus increase the spread of aids.   You may be the president of the US and be more willing to lauch a nuclear strike or invade the Middle East because of your faith in the prophocies.

Remember that a huge portion of the world does not share your enlightened attitude towards blind faith or the supernatural.  Billions are on the wrong end of the spectrum....
Many beers....