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Let's just say that some people believe weird stuff and leave it at that. It turns out that just one of the fascinating reasons that people accept odd ideas is that they keep getting repeated, even if only to debunk them.
There are a lot of good things to be said about the internet but it's still a source of fantastic amounts of misinformation. Here's a frightening fact:
"A survey of the first 50 Web sites matching the search term "weight loss diets" revealed that only 3 delivered sound dietary advice."
Plus people tend to seek out information that confirms their existing points of view. And this is an exercise that has become much easier now the internet provides such a huge range of viewpoints. No matter what people believe they can find some other people who also believe it to back them up.
That blog post is also the title of one of my favorite books!: Why People Believe in Weird Things, by Michael Shermer. I posted about some related books in a few other threads:
The 3 most recent books I just finished reading have been:
Believing Bull**** by Stephen Law:
Stephen Law offers us not only a primer on how not to believe but about why so many people do believe-bull****, despite the lack of evidence for such beliefs, or even in the face of disconfirmatory evidence. It is a roadmap to a promised land free of undue credulity, where the best ideas win and 'intellectual black holes' no longer suck people in. Believing Bull**** should be read by every college freshman and every person seeking public office, and its strategies memorized and put to use by every critical thinker.
Counterknowledge by Damian Thompson
According to Thompson, we are experiencing a pandemic of counterknowledge: misinformation packaged to look like fact, but that is demonstrably false
The Believing Brain: How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Sermer
Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses, the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. Our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns that explain why things happen, and these patterns become beliefs. Once beliefs are formed the brain begins to look for and find confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, which accelerates the process of reinforcing them, and round and round the process goes in a positive-feedback loop of belief confirmation. Shermer outlines the numerous cognitive tools our brains engage to reinforce our beliefs as truths.
First - The problem with Shermer making statements like 'Brains are designed to make patterns out of data that form belief but not necessarily truth' is that it is a self defeating argument because how then can Shermer be sure that his brain has not fooled him into believing something that is not truth. He makes a statement of truth but excludes himself from the conditions of that statement.
Second if he thinks people should be skeptical of all information received then why should he not be skeptical of his skeptisism and accept the information that he receives.
Descartes seems to consider here that beliefs formed by pure reasoning are less doubtful than those formed through perception.