Monday, December 16, 2013

Anything goes (as long as it's not science)

I have written about this subject previously, but it just never ceases to amaze me.

There's an almost frightening amount of people in this world who would believe almost anything. The only two criteria that they seem to apply to what they believe are:
  1. It's believed by a significant amount of people.
  2. The scientific community does not accept it.
(And by "significant" I don't mean millions. I mean hundreds.)

As unbelievable as it sounds (and to me it still does), there really are many people out there who will accept almost anything as long as it's something that science does not accept. It literally doesn't matter how completely crazy and clearly made-up it is, as long as a group of people believe it, and as long as science does not, they will believe it too (or, at the very least, consider it possible and be completely uncritical about it.)

Scientific claims are believed only if they pertain to the person's immediate practical surroundings and experience, or if they have no significance to their other beliefs. Scientific claims that contradict their other beliefs will be freely dismissed without thought or rationale.

Naturally scientific claims that can be used to bolster some of their other beliefs will be used. Or rather, a completely distorted-beyond-recognition version of a simplified "reader's digest" version of the scientific theory (ie, not only will an inaccurate overly-simplified version of the scientific theory be used, but even that will then be distorted to accommodate and support whatever claim the person wants.)

Just to give a taste, here are two actual examples of what some people accept completely uncritically:

They believe that some ten thousand years ago people from Mars arrived to Earth, and many people today are their descendants. And why exactly do they believe this? Because one person a couple of decades ago claimed to have a vision where he got this information (among a ton of other even crazier stuff.)

That's all. There's exactly zero evidence of this other than the claim of this one man that he got this information in a vision. And thousands of people today believe this completely uncritically.

Another example is the claim that in recent years hundreds of "super-psychic" children have been born in China. According to this claim, these children can do almost anything (including telepathy, levitating and moving objects, moving through solid objects, and so on.)

Why hasn't this hit all the news media around the world? For the flimsiest of excuses: According to these people, the Chinese scientists are afraid to publish these results for fear of ridicule. (They don't seem to be fazed by the contradiction that this poses: How do they know about this event if nobody in the news media knows about it? Why hasn't this leaked?)

The people who uncritically believe these things demand no evidence. It's enough if many other people believe it too, and someone who is charismatic enough makes the claim.

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