Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Smart people believe weird things, they do

It is certainly entertaining to hear about other people's weird beliefs, because we are confident that we would never be so foolish.

But why do smart people fall for such things?

Michael Shermer's answer to this question: Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for no smart 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.

Read the rest of the article:

Smart people believe weird things by Michael Shermer

Smart people use, what the article call "confirmation bias", to defend their beliefs.

The key is teaching how science works, not just what science has discovered. Science is not a database of unconnected facts, but a set of methods designed to describe and interpret phenomena, past or present, aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation. If you don't learn how science works you are not able to apply your scientific knowledge to evaluate pseudoscientific claims.

So for those lacking a fundamental comprehension of how science works, pseudoscience becomes hard to resist, no matter how smart you are.

Students should be taught how to think, not what to think.

See who links to your web site.