[FoRK] Smart People Believe Weird Things

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sat Oct 31 21:25:18 PDT 2009

Nice juxtaposition in my reading today.  We've made the point of the 
first article before.


> Smart People Believe Weird Things ( Preview )
> Rarely does anyone weigh facts before deciding what to believe
> By Michael Shermer  
> In April 1999, when I was on a lecture tour for my book Why People 
> Believe Weird Things, the psychologist Robert Sternberg attended my 
> presentation at Yale University. His response to the lecture was both 
> enlightening and troubling. It is certainly entertaining to hear about 
> other people's weird beliefs, Sternberg reflected, because we are 
> confident that we would never be so foolish. But why do smart people 
> fall for such things? Sternberg's challenge led to a second edition of 
> my book, with a new chapter expounding on my answer to his question: 
> Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at 
> defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.
> Rarely do any of us sit down before a table of facts, weigh them pro 
> and con, and choose the most logical and rational explanation, 
> regardless of what we previously believed. Most of us, most of the 
> time, come to our beliefs for a variety of reasons having little to do 
> with empirical evidence and logical reasoning. Rather, such variables 
> as genetic predisposition, parental predilection, sibling influence, 
> peer pressure, educational experience and life impressions all shape 
> the personality preferences that, in conjunction with numerous social 
> and cultural influences, lead us to our beliefs. We then sort through 
> the body of data and select those that most confirm what we already 
> believe, and ignore or rationalize away those that do not.

> Steven F. Hayward wrote: "The single largest defect of modern 
> conservatism, in my mind, is its insufficient ability to challenge 
> liberalism at the intellectual level. . . ."
> No.
> The single largest defect of modern conservatism is that it has ruined 
> the nation.
> Conservatives do not have ideas; they have interests.
> Conservatives are not "thinkers"; they are rationalizers who give an 
> intellectual gloss to their belief that an alliance of predatory 
> businesspeople and religious extremists should rule the rest of us.
> The wreckage caused by modern conservatism lies all around us, and 
> speaks for itself: If conservatism isn't dead, it should be.
> Baltimore 


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