Why do skeptical, rational people believe ridiculous things?

I have the good fortune of being alive in an age more rational than any before it.

I’m old enough that I don’t have to pay lip service to religion any more. I have a lot of atheists around me, allowing me to talk freely about my lack of beliefs and not have to worry about offending anyone. occasionally I forget how many think differently to me, and what I thought was a belief- free zone reveals itself to be just as biased in favour of the unproven and the unnecessary. I forget how atheist is a label that applies generally to a lack of religion, but doesn’t guarantee my conversation partner free from blind devotion to some other spiritual, mythological stupidity.

Religion is the biggest misbelief around, but there are so many other things in life that my peers accept just because they like the idea. So many people reject religion but don’t deprive themselves of a deep mystical inner life. Don’t think there’s a god, but still can’t deal with the idea you’re just (in the words of a christian youtube commenter) “just a bag of meat” that will die and be really dead? Why, don’t check any religion- build your own custom faith! Reincarnation sounds nice, but you don’t want to be a bug? Why not make it so that you reincarnate as a human? Or mix it up and reincarnate once as a man and once as a woman. Whatever you need to feel good. Don’t think there’s a heaven with clouds and harps? Why don’t you tell yourself you’ll become part of a collective conscience, and know everything and be at peace? Or maybe your mind will free itself from your body and you’ll be eternally happy and tranquil? It really annoys me. People are masquerading as agnostic or atheist but without really embracing the reality of life. Of course there are things we don’t know. Science isn’t done yet. We’re probably wrong about a lot of things. I can’t even say “we” because I don’t know most of the science there is today. I just pick up bits and pieces, and fill in the rest. Maybe there are ghosts everywhere, how would I know? But until people discover ghosts, why would we believe in their existence? Because we want to? Why do we have to believe in anything? Isn’t there more pleasure in knowing something than thinking it is and not letting evidence change your mind?

There are lots of accepted delusions among so-called logical, reasonable people.

1. Horoscopes.

I’m not even talking about the predictions of your week ahead. I’m talking about the basic 1 out of 12 personalities idea behind it all. I used to be into horoscopes, as I mentioned somewhere else, because it made me feel sure of a few traits I wanted to possess. It made me think that if I felt brave, smart, sexy, interesting, mysterious… people saw those things too! And if I was pigheaded, stubborn, mean, callous, indecisive… those were just the cons to my beautiful list of pros. I also know that 1 in 12 personalities is a generalisation it’s supposed to be closer to 144 possible variations if you factor in the exact position of all the planets and other stuff at your time of birth. That means that it is completely infallible, because if you disagree with one part, the other parts are in there too. I don’t think all my traits are Scorpio- well that’s ok, because Pluto is in Aquarius. Pluto’s not a planet any more? That’s ok, astrology calls it a heavenly body. The sum of any birth chart happens to equate to a mix of a load of generic personality traits. The shittier sign no one wants to be? Taurus. It’s dependable, loyal.. boring, and if you’re a man, sexist! So what do astrologists say about Taurus? Their analytical minds reject astrology as being too airy-fairy. Nice work astrologists, now the only label no one wants is taken out of the game because of its very nature. Oh, I really could go on, but this will just end up being a tirade against astrology. I also group numerology, meanings in names… etc in with this.

Here’s a link to a page that offers a free birth chart. Just fill in date, time and location of birth, and get a full reading. For bonus points, ask a friend for their data and read your own chart to them. Just replace the name of your sun sign with theirs and read the rest of your chart.  See, it’s interchangable.

http://alabe.com/freechart/

2. Mayan prophesy

Seriously, these people were not advanced. You saw some program about how they descended from aliens and given higher powers and knowledge? How they had such an amazing society that was so enlightened? No, they lived in shitty huts and had a small agricultural society. Their calendar might have been better than ours, but can you understand it? No? Neither could they. The priests or elders or whatever were in charge of keeping track of the days. Because they might have had a more accurate calendar, but it wasn’t printed out and stuck in the Mayan’s cubicle for him to look at and dream of his holidays. That’s probably why we have a shitty inaccurate calendar that needs adjusting every four years. Because the average person just needs to know when it’s their day off, not track the rotation of the planet with swiss watch precision. These people also didn’t last very long. They might have known a lot about the stars, but we know more now. So why did they know so much? Because they cared. Why do we know more? Because our civilisation is the sum of all those before us, and we have the world’s population looking at the sky and sharing the results, not a few villages for a few hundred years with very little contact with the outside world. We know what the Chinese knew, we know what the Mayans knew. We have awesome medicine. We can predict the weather, and we don’t kill children every time there’s a drought. And we know what a horse is. World today- 9000000000000000000000, Mayans- NIL

3. Homeopathy

There is absolutely zero evidence that homeopathy works. NONE. Ever. And people make a lot of money from homeopathy, so don’t doubt that studies have been done. I’m not even going near the people who are duped or dupe themselves into trying to cure cancer or paralysis with a one in a billion dilution of some flower essence. It’s very simple. If a field of science works, it works. Most people I know who believe homeopathy say the same thing “well, if I got cancer or Aids I would go to a real doctor, but homeopathy works wonders on a rash, cough, anxiety…” Ok so what system is this that works on minor ailments that clear up on their own normally, but doesn’t work on anything that will actually kill you? It’s called a placebo. There are books on homeopathy that isolate the symptoms of each type of cough, how much flegm there is, how sore your throat is, what colour your piss is and prescribes a flower precisely for that type of cough. You know what else cures a cough? Keeping hydrated and taking a few days off. I recently read about some studies that showed not only do placebos work an awful lot of the time, they also work better if the person pays more money for them. Even if the person knows it’s a placebo. Expensive placebos heal people with minor ailments. So there you go, that’s why homeopathy healed your hurty arm even though you didn’t believe it would. What’s the harm in that, you might say? Well, just the fact that homeopaths don’t stick to minor ailments, and they believe in the placebo even more than the patient. Check out this crazy woman:

or this must-see clip from Mitchell and Webb

4. Witch doctors and other tribal type healing

Come on, seriously? If there’s a root that cures headaches, you can bet it’s part of your headache medicine. There are no special magical plants that get rid of cellulite, hidden in the Brazilian jungle. Brazilian people aren’t stupid, and they care about how they look. That means they’ve tried all the plants. The ones that make you skinny are being sold by big companies. They certainly aren’t going unnoticed in the wilderness. And the witch doctor doesn’t know anything useful that isn’t available to you. I know we all like the idea of knowing something other people know, or finding a cheat to get healthier or skinnier without trying. But health isn’t some goal, it’s a manifestation of what you do to your body. You don’t get healthy by eating some special root because human bodies are not designed to run on some special root. We are healthy and attractive when we live something like the life we evolved living, eating food that grew somewhere and being active. I know, it’s shit.

5. Ghosts

So there’s a lot we don’t know about. Why attach ourselves to ideas we have no reason to believe? If I see a weird light late at night, and I don’t know what it is, I don’t know everything about the world so it could be A) a ghost or B) any of the other simpler things science doesn’t know about yet. Why go for the more complicated unknown? It’s the same with religion just because scientists don’t know exactly step by step what happened from the first atom to the day we go extinct, why does that make the bizarre and complicated version of things something to believe? We don’t know. Now either go find out, get some proof that would convince a sane person, or be reasonable and go with the most likely possibility.

6.  Tarot cards and gypsies telling your fortune.

If gypsies had any special powers, they wouldn’t be selling fortunes to stupid people. If anyone had any special powers, they wouldn’t be doing it on tv or selling specific routines. They would be doing stuff you couldn’t doubt, and not messing around with traditional sleight of hand based tricks like cards and scarves and coins. If I had super powers I wouldn’t be proving it with cards. I’d know that cards are traditionally used by blag artists, and I’d choose another medium. Like real money, or live people or something. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter because it’s all bullshit. If you want to believe someone has special powers, I’d look for the biggest most opulent house n the nicest private island in the world and start asking about that guy.

7. Conspiracy Theories

Ok, so I admit that I am against just blindly believing everything. That’s just stupid. But if you automatically reject news reporters and government officials word as lies, lies, lies to kill us all… why the hell should you blindly follow the preachers of the New World Order, the end of the world, the twin towers cover up, and any other hippie’s paranoid rants? Yes, there could well be a NWO with secret plans but they’re not going to start hiding symbolism everywhere for hippies to find. Yes, there could be a catastrophe any day that kills us all, but it will be discovered by scientists. astronomers, or by everyone one day when we don’t wake up. It’s not going to be hidden in some prehistoric document that mentions a lot of other things that we now know didn’t happen or can’t happen. If the bible says the world will end on day X, well it also said a sea was parted and turned into blood and a bush spoke to someone and a man walked on water and made a whole bunch of food out of very little food. Why would we trust a document like that?

Or what about Nostradamus? Nostradamus who apparently said that in 2001 a plane would crash into two towers and some shit like that. No, he didn’t. He didn’t know about planes, or he would have been a very rich man. He mentioned a bird. And anyway, his prophesies have been lying around for ages, and the twin towers was not a natural disaster. Any Al Qaeda person could have read the prophesy and just planned the attack to look like it was coming true and freak everyone out. Also, all this bullshit of people who know nothing about building, architecture, science of any kind… quoting “steel doesn’t melt at X degrees, so it couldn’t have collapsed”- to them I say, I don’t know anything about steel, but when I heard that from he 50th person I got really pissed off and googled it. I can’t remember what I found, but it was easy to find and I was satisfied that steel wasn’t so indestructible. So before you start shitting on about conspiracies and prophesies, do me a favour and be as sceptical as you are with the news and the government. Doubt them a little. That’s what rational people do. And if you really care, do some research. Instead of googling “conspiracy 911 blah blah blah”, try looking up “steel properties”. The internet is here, so use it for research into facts, not just to read some unreliable unknown’s interpretation of information.

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