Belief not the same as truth

Going through some of notes (scraps of paper all over the place) I came across these jottings:

“To believe in something because it’s true does not come naturally to people.”

and

“Subordination of belief to what is true is not natural to people.”

Perhaps you recognise this problem?

I think I noted them down while reading Dan Agin’s book: Junk Science recently.  It’s a great book (although I think he is a bit hard on evolutionary psychology). I certainly ended up feeling very angry with the huge negative influence anti-science groups and beliefs have on humanity.

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8 responses to “Belief not the same as truth

  1. I like the second quote.

    I always think of physics (not my field) when I think of this sort of thing. Our brains are wired to handle every day speeds, distances, etc., and faced with things outside that realm, we need to try not be distracted by our intuition.

    I’m reminded of the Mr Tompkins books that Gamow wrote. Wonderfully whimsical thought experiments.

    I guess for non-biologists, biology presents some things like this too; the physics ones are probably more striking to me personally as I had to work a little to take them on board, at least the first time around.

    Empty pointless little late night waffle this :-)

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  2. There’s also this attitude of wanting to rebel against the Establishment. I come across it often with friends who believe in various free energy scams and alternative medicine.

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  3. …so belief in (or ‘subordination of belief to’) what is true is other-than-natural? What is it then, supernatural? ;)

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  4. Dale,

    I don’t see Ken’s words as referring to the “supernatural” but referring to something more general about how everyone’s minds work.

    The book Ken refers to speaks about a wider range of people than just the religious, all the “usual suspects”: “natural remedy” proponents, anti-vaccine groups, conspiracy theorists, etc. These people have some pretty “odd” beliefs—to put it politely—that fly in the face of demonstrated evidence, yet they persist with them. The book is about the misuse of science, a different issue; my point here is that I believe that Ken is referring to a broader meaning to “belief” than you are referring to.

    The “intuition vs. truth” thing that my earlier post referred to doesn’t seem to be the issue with these people, but some sort of unwillingness to allow demonstrated “truths” take precedence over their beliefs.

    Damian,

    Rebelling or wanting control over their lives? (They’re not that different, eh!) I read a recent comment elsewhere that suggested that a feeling of a lack of control lay behind some of this attitude. For example, alternative “medicine” people thinking that they “knew better” than medical specialists could reflect a wish to make the decision themselves, rather than and real claim to expertise. Gullible views of “natural remedy” marketing can’t help (a bit like many “self help” books, this marketing seems to play on the ego or “concerns” of the target audience), and I guess we’re back to education vs. ignorance perhaps being key to all of this?

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  5. (note the wink at the end of my comment :) )

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  6. So? Your comment still is referring to something he isn’t writing about ;-)

    Note the wink at the end of the previous sentence ;-)

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  7. On a related note is this opinion piece in the ODT today that comments on the ODT’s “Faith and reason” series:

    “Religion’s terrifying capacity for unquestioning faith”

    http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/52659/religion039s-terrifying-capacity-unquestioning-faith

    It argues that “the Otago Daily Times series “Faith and reason” has so far featured a lot of faith, and very little reason.” (The relevance is that to get to truth, you need reasoning.) I’d have to agree.

    I can’t help but think that this author is going to have some lively mail for a while, though. There are some pretty silly letters to the editor of a pro-religion stance: the editor has just closed that topic and I wouldn’t mind a wager that these people will shift to writing to him for a bit.

    (Annoyingly the editor has closed the anti-evolution correspondence on a letter that pushes a number of lies about Darwin, effectively disallowing these to be put right. I personally wish that the editorial team would distinguish opinions—which people are entitled to—from presenting misrepresentations or outright untruths, which should not be acceptable. Not that there is an easy way of doing that.)

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  8. I read that opinion piece, Heraclides. Although I am a bit out of touch with the print media it strikes me as a bit of a breakthrough – an atheist or humanist viewpoint being accepted within a series like Faith & reason. These things are usually limited to religious views.

    If this became more common it would certainly liven up the faith pages of our dailys. And, of course, it would be more consistent with our values of human rights than the current situation.

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