Author Topic: Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?  (Read 6786 times)

Offline Numsgil

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2008, 01:34:53 PM »
Quote
"Because god wants it that way" is an easy, convienent answer.
"Why does God want it that way?" is a far better question to ask   Why did God put dinosaur bones in the ground to fool people in to thinking the earth is older than it is?
« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 01:35:43 PM by Numsgil »

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2008, 01:39:48 PM »
Quote from: Numsgil
Quote
"Because god wants it that way" is an easy, convienent answer.
"Why does God want it that way?" is a far better question to ask   Why did God put dinosaur bones in the ground to fool people in to thinking the earth is older than it is?
Why indeed.  But Nums, questioning God's intent?  Blasphomy!

I love memes.  When I first read Dawkin's meme theory, I though it was silly.  But now I find it obvious that for memes to survive and reproduce, most must contain a prohibition on questioning it's foundations....
Many beers....

Offline Moonfisher

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2008, 02:28:32 PM »
It sounds like we basicaly agree then, since what you're mentioning on the right side of the spectrum are examples of people believing what other people are telling them to believe.
As long as people form their own opinions.
Ofcourse faith can be used as an excuse, not just for lazyness but for anything realy.
But all humans have an ego and too few are aware of it and able to seperate their rational thoughts from it (To some extent atleast).
So religion or no religion, people will always find a way to justify the most horrible of actions.

But as an atheist I would speculate that religion is the result of our egoes.

Ofcourse religious or not, everyone should try to be aware of their ego, that litle voice in your head that convinces you that you're always right and that everything you do is right, no matter how wrong it is.

Offline abyaly

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2008, 02:15:27 AM »
I don't like the way science is often treated as infallible and sensible in religious debates. Science is basically the practice of repeated guess-and-check, where you keep refining the guesses. once you've refined them to a certian point, you assume you've controlled for all the variables that are likely to change and treat your result as if it was a fact. This reasoning doesn't work. The assumptions that you need in order to make it work are analogous to the following:
- The sun rose on monday.
- The sun rose on tuesday.
[snip]
- The sun rose on friday.
- Therefore the sun will rise on saturday.

This doesn't seem silly because we all believe the sun will rise on saturday. We know it will rise on saturday is because it has risen every day of our lives.

However, this type of reasoning is bogus. Let me demonstrate.
- Last month I turned on the shower and water came out.
[snip]
- Last week I turned on the shower and water came out.
- Therefore whenever I turn on the shower, water will come out.

As we know, this depends on whether or not I pay the water bill. It may very well stop flowing at some point. In order to reach that conclusion, I assumed that I was controlling for all variables that might affect the experiment—even though I wasn't.
There is no way to tell for sure whether or not something you haven't seen before may influence your outcome. The scientific method does not yield any conclusions without this completely absurd jump of logic.

Science is a study of doubt and plausibility; not conviction. If I make up something completely absurd and you give me mountains of evidence against it, you will not have disproven it.


This is why I can believe things you think are stupid. This is why I can doubt things you are certian of. Math is the only domain for universal truths.

Lancre operated on the feudal system, which was to say, everyone feuded all
the time and handed on the fight to their descendants.
        -- (Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum)

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2008, 12:03:44 PM »
Quote from: abyaly
I don't like the way science is often treated as infallible and sensible in religious debates.
I am certainly not arguing that science is infallible.  Afterall, scientists are people and prone to errors, misjudgements, corruption, greed and so on like the rest of us.  But unlike any other method of increasing knowledge (there arn't any others really) the checks and balances involved, from peer review to the practice of publication and experimental reproduction tend to catch and correct these things over time.

But sensible?   You have a very uphill battle my friend arguing that the scientific method is not sensible.  The very definition of the scientific method (formulating a question, proposing a hypothesis for answerring that question and then testing that hypothesis) is about as sensical a process as it gets.  What other path would you suggest for gaining knowledge?  Sitting on a mountain top waiting for enlightenment?  Frankly, no others come to my mind.

Quote from: abyaly
Science is basically the practice of repeated guess-and-check, where you keep refining the guesses.
Well, okay.  Most hypothesis are much more than guesses - often finding the right question to ask is much of the battle - but okay....

Quote from: abyaly
once you've refined them to a certian point, you assume you've controlled for all the variables that are likely to change and treat your result as if it was a fact. This reasoning doesn't work.
I disagree strongly.  Part of the problem may be the word " fact".  Laymen usage of the term generally means something irrefutable.  A good scientist on the otherhand uses the term to mean "something for which there is a strong, well tested and broadly excepted hypothesis with experimental confirmation, no evidence against and no reason to think evidence against will emerge."   It's shorthand.  It does not mean something irrefutable (only religon deals in such absolutes).

It happens of course that hypothesises get usurped.  It happens, but it is incredibly rare for a well-tested hypothesis to be shown to be patently incorrect (I challenge you to find one).  Rather what happens is as you say, hypothesis get refined.  Newtons laws of gravitation were refined by Einstien's Theory of Special Relativity.  This doesn't mean Newton was wrong - his equations still work just fine to many decimal places as long as the speeds involved arn't close to that of light.  It just means that Einstien's theory is broader and more encompassing.      

Quote from: abyaly
This doesn't seem silly because we all believe the sun will rise on saturday. We know it will rise on saturday is because it has risen every day of our lives.

However, this type of reasoning is bogus. Let me demonstrate.
- Last month I turned on the shower and water came out.
[snip]
- Last week I turned on the shower and water came out.
- Therefore whenever I turn on the shower, water will come out.

As we know, this depends on whether or not I pay the water bill. It may very well stop flowing at some point. In order to reach that conclusion, I assumed that I was controlling for all variables that might affect the experiment—even though I wasn't.
Your being simplisitic.   Let's apply the scientific method shall we?  As above, asking ther right question is much of the battle.  The question your asking is "will the water come out tomorrow?"  But in formulating this question, it becomes immediatly obvious that you can't asnwer it without asking another:  "Why does the water come out in the first place?"  Investigation of this question would obviously lead to a hypothesis and model which could make predictions, including the one that if you don't pay your water bill, the water will stop flowing.  

Science isn't about making blind predicitons of the future (the water will come on tomorrow ) based on the past (the water came out yesturday).  It's about understanding the actual underlying causes (why the water comes on at all) and what things influence that.

Quote from: abyaly
There is no way to tell for sure whether or not something you haven't seen before may influence your outcome. The scientific method does not yield any conclusions without this completely absurd jump of logic.
If you really beleive this, then you should not not fly in airplanes or ride in cars.  You never know what might influence the underlying science and cause the plane to plummet from the sky or the tires to stop adhereing to the road.

While I'll agree that controlling all variables is an impossibility, part of what formulating a good hypothesis is all about is determining which variables are the important ones.  The scientific process is very good at this.  Imagine a scientist who published a theory which did not take not into account an important variable that could impact the results.  How long do you think it would take for another scientist in the same field to point this out?   Not long.

Quote from: abyaly
Science is a study of doubt and plausibility; not conviction. If I make up something completely absurd and you give me mountains of evidence against it, you will not have disproven it.
You are mistaken.   It's called Disproof by Example.  If you make a claim and I give you evidence of something that violates your claim, you have a choice.  You can either modify your claim or show that my evidence is incorrect.  Proof by example is unscientific, as you point out above with your water example.  (Just because the water came on yesturday does not prove it will come on today).  But Disproof by Example is a very strong scientific method.

There is a third option I suppose.  You can continue to hold to your claim without attempting to demonstrate that my evidence is incorrect.   But in so doing, you are not only irrational, but I calim you are exhibiting arrogance, which was my original point in this topic.

Quote from: abyaly
This is why I can believe things you think are stupid. This is why I can doubt things you are certian of.
You've given no examples of your beliefs in the supernatural, so I have no way to know whether what you believe is (IMHO) stupid or not.   If you beleive that the lines in your palm can foretell your future or that you can find water undergound using a Y shaped stick, then yup, I'm going to argue that's stupid.

Quote from: abyaly
Math is the only domain for universal truths.
If by universal truths you mean provable assertions, then I agree.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2008, 12:23:41 PM by EricL »
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Offline shvarz

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2008, 12:46:43 PM »
Eric, this is about you
"Never underestimate the power of stupid things in big numbers" - Serious Sam

Offline EricL

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2008, 01:04:17 PM »
Quote from: shvarz
Eric, this is about you
I know I know.  But, this is the DB board!  You'd think I'd be preaching to the choir...
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Offline Numsgil

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2008, 09:26:39 PM »
Quote from: EricL
Quote from: abyaly
This doesn't seem silly because we all believe the sun will rise on saturday. We know it will rise on saturday is because it has risen every day of our lives.

However, this type of reasoning is bogus. Let me demonstrate.
- Last month I turned on the shower and water came out.
[snip]
- Last week I turned on the shower and water came out.
- Therefore whenever I turn on the shower, water will come out.

As we know, this depends on whether or not I pay the water bill. It may very well stop flowing at some point. In order to reach that conclusion, I assumed that I was controlling for all variables that might affect the experiment—even though I wasn't.
Your being simplisitic.   Let's apply the scientific method shall we?  As above, asking ther right question is much of the battle.  The question your asking is "will the water come out tomorrow?"  But in formulating this question, it becomes immediatly obvious that you can't asnwer it without asking another:  "Why does the water come out in the first place?"  Investigation of this question would obviously lead to a hypothesis and model which could make predictions, including the one that if you don't pay your water bill, the water will stop flowing.  

That's why the only science I trust 100% is statistics.  It's magnificently wormy in defining things.  You can never prove or disprove anything.  All you can do is say "this data matches the null hypothesis", and "this data does not match the null hypothesis."  Too bad there's so much bad science out there based on bad statistics.

Offline Moonfisher

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« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2008, 05:04:05 AM »
Heh, I guess people can believe in darwin and the supernatural at the same time... but one doesn't exclude the other.
And I like the comparison to statistics, since it's an excelent yet horrible example
If statistics is performed as it is ment to be then it will give a very good indication of the trouth, but in recent time researchers have become aware that when hired to prove something, coming up with another answer will cut your cash flow. So it's become more or less comon practice to "tweek" your results to reflect what your client wants you to "prove", or what you had initialy predicted the result would be.

A very good example of this is most of the climate "researchers" who seem to "tweek" (If you can call doubling a value tweeking, I'd call it manipulation) their simulations or disregarding important factors.
I got a realy bad taste in my mouth watching Al Gore perform in his litle show. I'm all for reducing the use of fosil fuels in inhabited areas, because it's disgusting to breathe, it sticks to buildings and depresses the hell out of people, but nothing I have seen anywhere indicates that Co2 has ever had or ever will have a significant effect on the temperature.
But watching "The Al Gore Show" (As I like to call it) is a brilliant example of how science can me misused because most people don't understand how it works, so you can make 'em believe anything.
You show the Co2 in the atmostphere compared to the temperature and they follow eachother, and then you just "forget" to tell people that this graf clearly shows that Co2 is driving the temperature and not the other way around...
So the graf is showing the exact oposite of what Al Gore claims, but noone realises it and the poeple who do are seen as evil oil loving, baby seal clobering, nature haters who have been paid in secrecy by the oil companies...
But the people who dare speak up against the big global warming family are not making any money... in fact they more often loose their funding that way.

And I may just be mentioning one error, but there are many to pick from and not just the stuff in the Al Gore show (That show is just to easy to attack, I could write a book about all the propaganda tecniques used in that show, but I'll just mention one, Al Gore claims that biodiversity will drop in certain regions due to global warming, then later in the show he speaks of the vermin that will arise in other regions, like rats, bugs and... (Not kidding) snails... but what he's saying is that the biodiversity in those regions will rise, but it will still be bad, for rediculous reasons).
The simulations we usualy see make a lot of very bold assumtions for example, usualy to the effect that Co2 will have on the temperature. And even when they grosely exagerate this factor they still don't manage to increase the temperature by more than 2 degrees over 100 years, and that's based on the assumtion that there are no other green house gases in the atmosphere which means that we would experience a growth in temperature based on the entire spectrum that Co2 reflects (Instead of just the very few small parts of the spectrum that aren't already covered by other greenhouse gases). And in the cases where they actualy "remember" that Co2 isn't alone in the atmosphere they usualy asume and effect that would require a toxic Co2 concentration in order to be possible.
And trying to pretend the sun has no significant effect on the temperature on earth is just rediculous. And whenever we get a realy hot day every green peace activist rushes to the streets and yells armagedon, but on a cloudy day they don't seem to change their opinion. Which brings me to another important factor... anyone ever noticed how it's usualy colder on a cloudy day ? Ever seen those grafs that compare clouds and sun spot counts to the temperature ? They match a whole lot better than the Co2 charts I've seen, and they make sence...
And I could keep going on and on, I could make a list with all this stuff.... bottom line is that when the same researchers keep coming up with half @$$ theories where they need to hide important factors to make their theory plausible I loose any faith I had in their research. But generaly whenever someone starts to warn me about doomsday I get very sceptic, and if I see them start to make a lot of money I get more sceptic, and when I see them NOT use this money for anything except strengthening their theory with more models and simulations or doing propaganda to convince people in other ways, then I get VERY VERY sceptic, and when an entire new field of work spawns from this with something as unethical as Climate Journalists, where thousinds of people are dependant on an iminant threat of doom in order to keep their job and where every news story about dangerous weather has to be more horrifying than the previous one in order to keep peoples attention... then I'm no longer sceptic, I'm outraged that such an obvious lie can spawn an entire industry.

Offline abyaly

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« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2008, 10:06:33 PM »
Quote from: EricL
But sensible? You have a very uphill battle my friend arguing that the scientific method is not sensible. The very definition of the scientific method (formulating a question, proposing a hypothesis for answerring that question and then testing that hypothesis) is about as sensical a process as it gets. What other path would you suggest for gaining knowledge? Sitting on a mountain top waiting for enlightenment? Frankly, no others come to my mind.

Ok. Let's call it sensible in the case where the user is completely aware of the implications and non-implications of their results. Will you argue that this is always the case? Will you argue that it is sensible when this is not the case?

Quote from: EricL
I disagree strongly. Part of the problem may be the word " fact". Laymen usage of the term generally means something irrefutable. A good scientist on the otherhand uses the term to mean "something for which there is a strong, well tested and broadly excepted hypothesis with experimental confirmation, no evidence against and no reason to think evidence against will emerge." It's shorthand. It does not mean something irrefutable (only religon deals in such absolutes).
It happens of course that hypothesises get usurped. It happens, but it is incredibly rare for a well-tested hypothesis to be shown to be patently incorrect (I challenge you to find one). Rather what happens is as you say, hypothesis get refined. Newtons laws of gravitation were refined by Einstien's Theory of Special Relativity. This doesn't mean Newton was wrong - his equations still work just fine to many decimal places as long as the speeds involved arn't close to that of light. It just means that Einstien's theory is broader and more encompassing.

My use of the word fact is what you call the layman's definition. Something true; not something stongly supported by evidence. I stand by the statement that scientific results are often mistaken for such "facts." By what you said, I think you agree that they shouldn't be. Math, philosophy, and religion  deal with such absolutes. Science doesn't.

Quote from: EricL
Quote from: abyaly
Science is a study of doubt and plausibility; not conviction. If I make up something completely absurd and you give me mountains of evidence against it, you will not have disproven it.
You are mistaken.   It's called Disproof by Example.  If you make a claim and I give you evidence of something that violates your claim, you have a choice.  You can either modify your claim or show that my evidence is incorrect.  Proof by example is unscientific, as you point out above with your water example.  (Just because the water came on yesturday does not prove it will come on today).  But Disproof by Example is a very strong scientific method.

A statement with a universal quantifier can be disproven by example; I don't doubt that science does this very often.
This is why if we played such a game I would use a statement with the existential quantifier. I claim that no matter how absurd it was, you could not scientifically disprove it.

Quote from: EricL
Quote from: abyaly
There is no way to tell for sure whether or not something you haven't seen before may influence your outcome. The scientific method does not yield any conclusions without this completely absurd jump of logic.
If you really beleive this, then you should not not fly in airplanes or ride in cars.  You never know what might influence the underlying science and cause the plane to plummet from the sky or the tires to stop adhereing to the road.

I use plausible reasoning to make casual predictions of future events, like normal people do. This lets us say things like "this is likely to happen" or "this is a safe thing to do." I believe the empirical evidence of planes not falling out of the sky makes it plausible that it won't fall out when I ride it. However, this does not let me say "planes don't fall out of the sky." There is a distinction between a statement about likelihood and one without such qualifiers.
I have nothing against this kind of reasoning, as long as the distinction is maintained.

Quote from: EricL
While I'll agree that controlling all variables is an impossibility, part of what formulating a good hypothesis is all about is determining which variables are the important ones.  The scientific process is very good at this.  Imagine a scientist who published a theory which did not take not into account an important variable that could impact the results.  How long do you think it would take for another scientist in the same field to point this out?   Not long.

Claiming to have controlled for every important variable requires you to assume that you have found every important variable. There is no way to guarantee that you have found them. You can simply preform experiments until you are satisfied in saying "if an anomaly was going to show up, it would have by now." This leaves you with a result which is likely to hold. I don't doubt you could make it more and more likely to an arbitrary degree. But the minute someone tries to say "this is true" instead of "this is very likely," they have used inductive reasoning. Inducive reasoning does not create logically valid statements.

Quote from: EricL
Quote from: abyaly
This is why I can believe things you think are stupid. This is why I can doubt things you are certian of.
You've given no examples of your beliefs in the supernatural, so I have no way to know whether what you believe is (IMHO) stupid or not.   If you beleive that the lines in your palm can foretell your future or that you can find water undergound using a Y shaped stick, then yup, I'm going to argue that's stupid.
How?
Lancre operated on the feudal system, which was to say, everyone feuded all
the time and handed on the fight to their descendants.
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Offline Numsgil

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Why do otherwise bright people beleive stupid things?
« Reply #25 on: March 13, 2008, 01:51:09 PM »
Math is a good example.  It's one of the few "sciences" (I guess it's not really a science, but what else do you call it) that deal in absolutes.  Something that is mathematically true is irrefutable, beyond questioning the presumptions on which a proof is based.  Compared with math, everything else is educated guess work.   (<-- Math major )

Offline Moonfisher

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« Reply #26 on: March 13, 2008, 05:02:10 PM »
Math is only an absolute trouth in theory, since you're only proving that this equation is valid with the mathematical rules that we currently have.
And the rules we create are prooven by making sure there are no possible paradoxes, that we can think of... or fixing those paradoxes with more rules.

Offline shvarz

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« Reply #27 on: March 14, 2008, 12:37:29 AM »
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So it's become more or less comon practice to "tweek" your results to reflect what your client wants you to "prove", or what you had initialy predicted the result would be.

What an asshole!
"Never underestimate the power of stupid things in big numbers" - Serious Sam

Offline abyaly

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« Reply #28 on: March 14, 2008, 12:59:34 AM »
Quote from: Moonfisher
Math is only an absolute trouth in theory, since you're only proving that this equation is valid with the mathematical rules that we currently have.
The basic structure of every mathematical statement is "If A, then B". A statement of this type can be shown to be true in an absolute sense.
Proving that an equation is valid under the rules we currently have means you have proven "if the rules we currently have are true, then this is also true." The implication is an absolute truth in this case. Even though the implication is true, the implied proposition might not be. Although if we are willing to pretend that the hypothesis is true for whatever reason, this means we need to do the same for the conclusion

Quote from: Numsgil
Compared with math, everything else is educated guess work.   (<-- Math major )
<-- me too.  
Lancre operated on the feudal system, which was to say, everyone feuded all
the time and handed on the fight to their descendants.
        -- (Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum)

Offline Moonfisher

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« Reply #29 on: March 15, 2008, 08:36:47 AM »
So basicaly Induction is the only way to obtain an absolute trouth