Why do people believe in pseudoscience?

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March 11th, 2019 at 12:17:21 PM permalink
Mosca
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 22
Posts: 527
I found this answer insightful.

Robert MacDougall
Associate Professor, History, University of Western Ontario, who studies the history of science and pseudoscience in nineteenth-century America

It would be lovely to think that we believe things because they are true, and disbelieve them because they are false. And truth is, generally, a useful quality for an idea to have; it provides some competitive advantage in the battle for our hearts and minds. But it’s hardly the only criteria that makes an idea stick or spread. Beliefs persist when they perform some useful function for the individual or society that believes them. The work performed by a weird or false belief is often obvious when you think about it: People believe in get-rich-quick schemes because they’d really like to get rich quick. They believe in miracle cures because they want to be well. They believe in ghosts or séances because they don’t want their loved ones to be gone.

As a historian, the episodes that intrigue me most are the ones where the work performed by a given belief is not so obvious. In the 1890s, a few hundred Americans, most of them married women, left their homes and families to form a communal utopia in South Florida called the Koreshan Unity, dedicated to the proposition that the earth is hollow—and we live on the inside. It is hard to see just what benefit the Koreshans got out of this belief, until you dig deeper to find that they also called for the strict equality of the sexes, and for permanent celibacy for all. “Believe in the hollow earth and you never have to have sex again.”

Not all ideas are created equal. History and psychology both suggest that we cling most tenaciously to our beliefs, even the false ones, when they support some narrative about who we think we are. That’s why there is always a bull market for ideas that seem to justify injustice, like the racist pseudoscience of the 19th and early 20th centuries or, I would argue, climate change denialism today. Slaveholders, and CEOs, want reassurance that they’re not bad people. This goes for those of us who believe in good science, too. I have seen a few scientific theories tested first-hand; I find airplanes and penicillin pretty convincing. But let’s be honest: I also believe in science because I see myself as the kind of person who believes in science. This confirms my own view of myself as rational and well educated, and it conforms with the views of people I respect. A twenty-first century flat earther (there are no Koreshan-style hollow earthers today, that I know of) is drawn to that belief because of their own self-concept, as an iconoclast who cannot be fooled by authority figures like science teachers or experts on TV. I remain confident the earth is round. But the flat earthers and I are both motivated less by our view of the planet than by our views of our own ourselves.

That’s why you can’t fight flat earthers or anti-vaxxers or any other brand of pseudoscience with arguments from authority. If you want to combat false belief, you have to ask, “What work is this belief doing for the person who holds it?” Then you start from there.
March 11th, 2019 at 12:41:40 PM permalink
AZDuffman
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 118
Posts: 9626
Quote: Mosca
I found this answer insightful.

Robert MacDougall
Associate Professor, History, University of Western Ontario, who studies the history of science and pseudoscience in nineteenth-century America

It would be lovely to think that we believe things because they are true, and disbelieve them because they are false. And truth is, generally, a useful quality for an idea to have; it provides some competitive advantage in the battle for our hearts and minds. But it’s hardly the only criteria that makes an idea stick or spread. Beliefs persist when they perform some useful function for the individual or society that believes them. The work performed by a weird or false belief is often obvious when you think about it: People believe in get-rich-quick schemes because they’d really like to get rich quick. They believe in miracle cures because they want to be well. They believe in ghosts or séances because they don’t want their loved ones to be gone.

As a historian, the episodes that intrigue me most are the ones where the work performed by a given belief is not so obvious. In the 1890s, a few hundred Americans, most of them married women, left their homes and families to form a communal utopia in South Florida called the Koreshan Unity, dedicated to the proposition that the earth is hollow—and we live on the inside. It is hard to see just what benefit the Koreshans got out of this belief, until you dig deeper to find that they also called for the strict equality of the sexes, and for permanent celibacy for all. “Believe in the hollow earth and you never have to have sex again.”

Not all ideas are created equal. History and psychology both suggest that we cling most tenaciously to our beliefs, even the false ones, when they support some narrative about who we think we are. That’s why there is always a bull market for ideas that seem to justify injustice, like the racist pseudoscience of the 19th and early 20th centuries or, I would argue, climate change denialism today. Slaveholders, and CEOs, want reassurance that they’re not bad people. This goes for those of us who believe in good science, too. I have seen a few scientific theories tested first-hand; I find airplanes and penicillin pretty convincing. But let’s be honest: I also believe in science because I see myself as the kind of person who believes in science. This confirms my own view of myself as rational and well educated, and it conforms with the views of people I respect. A twenty-first century flat earther (there are no Koreshan-style hollow earthers today, that I know of) is drawn to that belief because of their own self-concept, as an iconoclast who cannot be fooled by authority figures like science teachers or experts on TV. I remain confident the earth is round. But the flat earthers and I are both motivated less by our view of the planet than by our views of our own ourselves.

That’s why you can’t fight flat earthers or anti-vaxxers or any other brand of pseudoscience with arguments from authority. If you want to combat false belief, you have to ask, “What work is this belief doing for the person who holds it?” Then you start from there.


Kind of slanted against people who think for themselves. All he doesn't do is chant "FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWPO LEGS BAD!"

Science should be questioned. Science once believed the earth to be the center of the universe. When I was a kid science believed we would be out of oil by now and freezing in a new ice age.
The man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it
March 11th, 2019 at 1:41:58 PM permalink
Evenbob
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 128
Posts: 17330
Quote: AZDuffman
When I was a kid science believed we would be out of oil by now and freezing in a new ice age.


And the world would be over populated
and out of food by 1999. The truth is
we have surpluses of food everywhere.

The world has a surplus of food. So why can't we eliminate hunger ...
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/.../the-world-has-a-surplus-of-food.../article347093
If you take a risk, you may lose. If you never take a risk, you will always lose.
March 11th, 2019 at 3:34:17 PM permalink
AZDuffman
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 118
Posts: 9626
Quote: Evenbob


The world has a surplus of food. So why can't we eliminate hunger ...
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/.../the-world-has-a-surplus-of-food.../article347093


Yeah, here is what happens there. I learned this from working Hati fundraisers. Here is what happens. Hunger hits an area. Few areas in the world are incapable of producing food. Even fewer if we ignore city-states like Singapore that are almost always able to import.

So then westerners, usually Americans, send food. Lots and lots of it. Free. What happens is the local farmers cannot sell their product. In no time at all there is no local agriculture.

In Haiti rice used to be a treat. Once a week meal. Since that earthquake several years back they are flooded with it and eating it most meals. The carbs are not doing the locals well. Oh, and repeat the process for other products. Those out of style clothes you drop in the donation box? Dumped at prices so low no local competition can survive.

Road to hell.......
The man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it
March 11th, 2019 at 4:01:03 PM permalink
Nareed
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 345
Posts: 12542
For the same reason they vote for El Cheeto or obsess incessantly over a freshman Democratic Congresswoman: because they are morons.
Donald Trump is a fucking liar
March 11th, 2019 at 4:25:38 PM permalink
Evenbob
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 128
Posts: 17330
Quote: Nareed
For the same reason they vote for El Cheeto or obsess incessantly over a freshman Democratic Congresswoman: because they are morons.


Nareed's back with the classic uplifting
attitude that we all missed during the
suspension.
If you take a risk, you may lose. If you never take a risk, you will always lose.
March 11th, 2019 at 4:57:19 PM permalink
terapined
Member since: Aug 6, 2014
Threads: 44
Posts: 4678
Quote: Nareed
For the same reason they vote for El Cheeto or obsess incessantly over a freshman Democratic Congresswoman: because they are morons.


I agree
Sometimes we live no particular way but our own - Grateful Dead "Eyes of the World"
March 12th, 2019 at 2:37:37 AM permalink
AZDuffman
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 118
Posts: 9626
Quote: Evenbob
Nareed's back with the classic uplifting
attitude that we all missed during the
suspension.


Name is in brown again. Two days. You predicted 3. I should learn to take the under.
The man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it
March 12th, 2019 at 9:54:22 AM permalink
Evenbob
Member since: Oct 24, 2012
Threads: 128
Posts: 17330
Quote: AZDuffman
Name is in brown again. Two days. You predicted 3. I should learn to take the under.


Got kicked for the sig line, has the F word
in it. I predict 3 days again if the sig line
is cleaned up.
If you take a risk, you may lose. If you never take a risk, you will always lose.
March 12th, 2019 at 2:51:55 PM permalink
Aussie
Member since: May 10, 2016
Threads: 2
Posts: 416
Quote: Evenbob
Got kicked for the sig line, has the F word
in it. I predict 3 days again if the sig line
is cleaned up.



It won’t be cleaned up.
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