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Thread: Why DO People Believe Weird Things?

  1. #1
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    Why DO People Believe Weird Things?

    I'm sure this topic must come up at least once a month, so you can ban it, delete it, whatever if you feel it necessary.

    The title pretty much says my question. I'm working on a paoer for english on why people believe weird things (and the danger of believing) , and your input would really help!

    So far, my list is:

    -Don't know any better
    -Makes them feel they have special "knowledge"
    -Truly believe it's "working"
    -Gives them comfort

  2. #2
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    Some people just feel better about the world thinking there is magic present.

  3. #3
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    *random note: Holy cow, we responded at the same time to each others threads...*

    I can understand that. But do they believe it because they feel it gives the idea that they have control over their lives, or just because it makes them feel powerful?

  4. #4
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    Also, a mistrust of authority, (TPTB).

    For example: NASA says, "Look at this, a hill on Mars that just happens to look like a face."

    Then some Woo woo says NASA lied, its artificial.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samara
    I can understand that. But do they believe it because they feel it gives the idea that they have control over their lives, or just because it makes them feel powerful?
    I think it depends on the person. Some probably fall inton one category, others in the other. Yet others simply think the world would be boring without magic in it, and thus choose to believe in magical things even when they are shown to not be true. A very dangerous approach to life, but people still do it.

  6. #6
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    Fear of change?

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    I think ego plays a large role in many cases. But sometimes, weird things are true

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    Look at the brain function of finding patterns. Humans naturally look for patterns. For those with advanced science learning, we've come to look for patterns that have evidence, logic, true cause and effect verification by ruling out other variables and so on. Humans came to those conclusions but for those that haven't gotten that far in their intellectual development, one comes to erroneous conclusions when patterns are noticed. Understanding when patterns are relevant and when they are not eludes the person.

    One gets a flu shot and becomes ill. No thought is given to the chance such an event was a coincidence. The individual concludes the two events are related by cause and effect. A false assumption.

    Another area we fail in is attributing value to particular sources of information. Personal experience has way too much value. Trusted sources like peers frequently provide erroneous information but the receiving individual incorporates the information as reliable fact.

    Ever notice how frequently people relate incredible stories adding that they know it is true because it happened to someone they personally know? People also have a desire to be believed even when relating a story they merely heard from someone else. In order to not have one's credibility questioned, because repeating a false story means you were stupid enough to believe it, the person telling the story often embellishes it with some fake personal knowledge as to why they know it is a fact. "It happened to my cousin" is one of my favorite jokes. When I hear that I am immediately suspicious of the story. But for many, the story is accepted without question, and when repeated the personal knowledge gets renewed. Now it happened to their cousin rather than to the first person's cousin. Funny how many people have first hand knowledge of weird events.

    After defending the information, one is likely to incorporate it into one's knowledge base as a fact. Which brings me to add the false memory syndrome as a basis of false beliefs as well. One either confuses several events or transposes some error into the memory which then becomes an irrefutable fact to the person. I know to not rely on my memory of events. If there is any doubt, there is always the possibility my memory is incorrect, no matter how vivid it may be.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samara
    The title pretty much says my question.
    What exactly do you have in mind when you say "weird things"? There are two things that come up that might present difficulties for your project. One is that most of us who have even a rudimentary knowledge of physics believe in the counterintuitive idea that you can't measure the velocity of an electron and its position at the same time, for example, and that the mass of an object increases as it accelerates toward the speed of light. But of course, all experimental evidence seems to show that these wierd things are actually true.

    And then secondly, there are many many people around the world who believe that the world was created in six days or other similar stories, which to somebody unfamiliar with those cultures, might seem weird.

    And then there are all these little things with superstitions. I think that most people don't really believe them, but we still tend to avoid walking under ladders, for example.

    So that's why I'm wondering exactly what "weirdness" means.
    As above, so below

  10. #10
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    It is a reference to Why People Believe Wierd Things by Michael Shermer. Since the book is about pseudscience and superstition, it is safe to assume this topic is as well.

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    There's also the things that are so uncommon seem to appear so often. People don't notice the "common" things but will notice the uncommon things.

    Most won't "notice" that the sun rose that day, but will notice an unusual cloud formation. This noticing of the unusual can lead to the belief in, as you put it, "wierd things".

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBlackCat
    It is a reference to Why People Believe Wierd Things by Michael Shermer. Since the book is about pseudscience and superstition, it is safe to assume this topic is as well.
    But I do like the weird physics point made by JENS. That was a good point.

    The young Earth and similar stuff goes with Shermer's idea of weird things. It doesn't matter whether the number of people believing it is large or small, nor whether their motives are religious or superstitious. But we should add indoctrination and religious motives for reasons people believe weird things. Keep in mind while I myself would put supernatural beings in the category of weird beliefs, many religious people do have very scientific groundings for their non-religious beliefs. In other words being religious doesn't by everyone's definition mean one believes weird things. For the sake of not treading into forbidden topics I will concede that point. But things like the Earth being 6,000 years old definitely crosses the line into irrational beliefs.

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    In some cases I have the unworthy suspicion that people assert their belief in something weird insincerely; "he only does it to annoy because he knows it teases". In other cases: "Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance."

    Is there a third case?

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    How about peer pressure?

    This is what we see when amongst HBs they use the "I bet you believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden, how can you be so naive"

    Sometime the weird things can somehow make it into "orthodoxy" so everyone has to subscribe or else they are ignored, like the belief that that which is non living gives rise to that which is living.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sticks
    Sometime the weird things can somehow make it into "orthodoxy" so everyone has to subscribe or else they are ignored, like the belief that that which is non living gives rise to that which is living.
    Or quantum mechanics, or relativity, or the heliocentric model of the solar system, or the germ theory of disease, or the atomic theory of matter, or the electical theory of lightning. That is just one of many other examples of "wierd" ideas that turned out to be true.

    Actually, I guess it isn't that wierd. People have believed that nonliving matter turned into living matter for most of history. Many religions have creation myths involving non-living matte turning into living matter. And biblical literalists think non-living matter turned into living matter (dust into man). The mechanism is different, but it is still abiogenesis. So there are 2 wierd things about this idea, neither of which is that non-living matter could turn into living matter. One is that it happened through natural processes, the other is that it happened only in early Earth and is no longer happening today.

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    I think BeSkeptical is close...

    I think it's directly related to understanding. Science tells us thus and so happens, and this is why your television works. But how many people really understand it? It's effectively 'magic' to the average joe. It's just that the scientist has replaced the shaman.

    It's no jump at all to go from TV to Ghost/ESP/Supergravitational Nose Picking.

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    That may be true for some people, but others either understand the science and refuse to accept it or go out of their way to avoid learning the science so they won't have their beliefs challenged. I think all the reasons people listed are valid ones for certain people. I do not think there is one reason that all people believe such things, it varies from person to person. Likewise, there is no one reason people do science, the motivation is different for different people.

  18. #18
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    TBC -
    ah, but I think we're on slightly different topics... I think I was looking at the "what", while your comment addresses the "why", and I would agree with that - the motivation is going to be different from person to person.

    Myself, if I can't repeat it (ok, maybe I need a lot of school first), it's bogus.

    ----

    As far as I am aware, there's only one thing I can't do if I set my mind to it.

  19. #19
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    I know people who believe weird things. (Actually, I kind of count in that category, but we'll pass on that for now.) My daughter's father, last I knew, actually passionately believed that the Illuminati controlled everything. Why? Well, I never did work that out. I think it fell into the "inside information" category.

    But I also think a lot of these things are trying to find a reason for seemingly irrational events. Things just happen, and there's no real reason for a lot of it, but a lot of people can't accept that belief. Or they don't want to take responsibility for whatever actions of theirs may have caused certain things to happen. If they can find someone to blame (TPTB), they have a reason, and it isn't their own fault.
    _____________________________________________
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren

    But I also think a lot of these things are trying to find a reason for seemingly irrational events. Things just happen, and there's no real reason for a lot of it, but a lot of people can't accept that belief. Or they don't want to take responsibility for whatever actions of theirs may have caused certain things to happen. If they can find someone to blame (TPTB), they have a reason, and it isn't their own fault.

    I imagine that's a large part of it.. It's God's fault! he LET IT HAPPEN!

    (zounds, this is odd! it's raining, and at the same time, there are leaves falling from the sky!

    Doesnt' sound odd, until you realize that I'm on the 12th floor, and I can look up and see them falling against even the taller buildings.)

  21. #21
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    Smart people will fill in the gaps of their knowledge. If the truth is present, great! If not, they'll resort to all sorts of things.

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    I believe itís a form of escape a way of releasing frustration ,tension ect, look at the films that make a lot of money such as Star wars Alien lord of the rings Harry potter ect all fantasy fiction that even scientists go to see and for that ninety minutes or so you believe the weird happenings until you return to the real world of stress and confusion but there are people who are susceptible or influenced easily or just plain scared to face the real world and adopt this weird reality they need this permanent escape so they believe until it becomes faith

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    Because, for many people science is hard to understand.

    "There is so much scientific untruth in it, it’s scary. Be careful, because others know how to manipulate you by this. Just because something is beyond your comprehension doesn’t mean it is scientific." -Dr. Dean Edell

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    I would need to point out that you are giving no credit to the fact that it is different in other peoples shoes. They may be looking at you and saying the same thing, so what right do you have to judge?

    (I am not ranting, just giving my views)

    EDIT: This is not intended for everyone, just some of you who choose not to look at it this way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragon Star
    I would need to point out that you are giving no credit to the fact that it is different in other peoples shoes. They may be looking at you and saying the same thing, so what right do you have to judge?

    (I am not ranting, just giving my views)

    EDIT: This is not intended for everyone, just some of you who choose not to look at it this way.
    I think this is very largely true. Everyone is ignorant about something; there is nothing shameful about that. But what does one do when confronted with superior knowledge? It can be accepted uncritically, evaluated critically, or rejected uncritically. I think many people, who pride themselves on being critical, rational people within their areas of expertise, fall into the third option without even realizing that they are doing it, when outside their areas of expertise...

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by montebianco
    I think this is very largely true. Everyone is ignorant about something; there is nothing shameful about that. But what does one do when confronted with superior knowledge? It can be accepted uncritically, evaluated critically, or rejected uncritically. I think many people, who pride themselves on being critical, rational people within their areas of expertise, fall into the third option without even realizing that they are doing it, when outside their areas of expertise...
    Good point..My wife is a very good paramedic (all her co-horts say so, so I'm not just spouting out my sleeve). As a paramedic, you have to think not only quickly, but very critically.

    I don't fault her for her belief in God (she's been a believer all her life), but belief in ghosts... well, it's a stretch for me. There are other things as well - we have learned to stay away from some topics. Friends and I call this 'compartmentalism'. I should have realised that's what is likely to be happening in a fair portion of the population.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genebujold
    Smart people will fill in the gaps of their knowledge. If the truth is present, great! If not, they'll resort to all sorts of things.
    "Smart people"? But your point is a good one. We can add filling in the gaps to why people believe weird things.

    But as to the topic getting fuzzy, I meant the belief in quantum physics was weird, but I didn't mean it was what I thought the topic was about. Instead of 'weird' perhaps a more descriptive term would be weird things with no evidence or actual evidence against. After all, the principles of quantum mechanics are at least evidence based.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LurchGS
    Good point..My wife is a very good paramedic (all her co-horts say so, so I'm not just spouting out my sleeve). As a paramedic, you have to think not only quickly, but very critically.

    I don't fault her for her belief in God (she's been a believer all her life), but belief in ghosts... well, it's a stretch for me. There are other things as well - we have learned to stay away from some topics. Friends and I call this 'compartmentalism'. I should have realised that's what is likely to be happening in a fair portion of the population.

    --------------------------

    Facts are absolute
    Compartmentalism and another term, cognitive dissonance. Humans have a mechanism for suppressing the contradictions in their beliefs. Sometimes it is denial and other times compartmentalism.

  29. #29
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    part of the problem, i think, isn't so much a lack of knowlege, but a lack of training in how to use that knowledge. science can easily be misapplied if you don't understand the underlying methodologies. it's one thing to understand the things you can find on the web, or have seen a discover channel show about, but it's entirely different when untrained hoi palloi attempt to apply that knowledge.

    it doesn't take much for a pseudo-scientist to put forth something that seems plausible on the surface. "yeah, i saw that on tv the other day, it makes sense" and then it's off to the races.

    taks

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    Samara, sorry I didn't see this thread sooner -- you may find this interesting. I think it's an excellent essay.

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