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The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science

The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science
Illustration: Jonathon Rosen "A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point." So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger (PDF), in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial—the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. Festinger and several of his colleagues had infiltrated the Seekers, a small Chicago-area cult whose members thought they were communicating with aliens—including one, "Sananda," who they believed was the astral incarnation of Jesus Christ. Through her, the aliens had given the precise date of an Earth-rending cataclysm: December 21, 1954. Festinger and his team were with the cult when the prophecy failed. Read also: the truth about Climategate.At first, the group struggled for an explanation.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney

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Why People Believe Weird Things and 8 Ways to Change Their Minds Some people believe all kinds of weird stuff including… …no, actually, for a very good psychological reason I’m not going to repeat any of it here. Let’s just say that some people believe weird stuff and leave it at that. It turns out that just one of the fascinating reasons that people accept odd ideas is that they keep getting repeated, even if only to debunk them. Why Save a Language? Photo Gray Matter By JOHN McWHORTER “TELL me, why should we care?” Be considerate of future generations – and future species, too Climate change may not be forever, but it’ll be for a long, long time. Who — or what — will be around thousands or millions of years hence, when the consequences of our casually massive carbon emissions are still playing out? And do we owe them anything? According to philosopher William Grove-Fanning, currently at the Environmental Studies Program at Trinity University in San Antonio, the phrase “future generations” first started showing up in the late 1960s, in discussions of bioengineering and nuclear waste.

Top 10 Thinking Traps Exposed Our minds set up many traps for us. Unless we’re aware of them, these traps can seriously hinder our ability to think rationally, leading us to bad reasoning and making stupid decisions. Features of our minds that are meant to help us may, eventually, get us into trouble. Here are the first 5 of the most harmful of these traps and how to avoid each one of them. 1. 5 examples of how the languages we speak can affect the way we think Keith Chen (TED Talk: Could your language affect your ability to save money?) might be an economist, but he wants to talk about language. For instance, he points out, in Chinese, saying “this is my uncle” is not as straightforward as you might think.

People Choose Electric Shocks Over Sitting Quietly for 15 Minutes and Thinking In psychology experiment one man shocked himself 190 times rather than sit doing nothing. Most people would rather be doing something than sitting alone thinking, a new study finds, even if it involves self-administering a painful electric shock. Across 11 studies, psychologists at the University of Virginia and Harvard University had people sitting on their own in a featureless room for between 6 and 15 minutes (Wilson et al., 2014).

The power of stupid ideas: ‘three generations that have never worked’ This month I ran a workshop with a group of first year undergraduate sociology students at Teesside University (in the North East of England). Our students tend to be from working-class or lower-middle class backgrounds and often the first in their families to go to university. I’d been invited to give an insight into a ‘real life’ research project, and I began by asking for responses and thoughts about some quotations: ‘Behind the statistics lie households where three generations have never had a job’ (ex-British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, 1997). 5 Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think The Internet has introduced a golden age of ill-informed arguments. You can't post a video of an adorable kitten without a raging debate about pet issues spawning in the comment section. These days, everyone is a pundit. But with all those different perspectives on important issues flying around, you'd think we'd be getting smarter and more informed. Unfortunately, the very wiring of our brains ensures that all these lively debates only make us dumber and more narrow-minded. For instance ...

How consciousness works – Michael Graziano Scientific talks can get a little dry, so I try to mix it up. I take out my giant hairy orangutan puppet, do some ventriloquism and quickly become entangled in an argument. I’ll be explaining my theory about how the brain — a biological machine — generates consciousness. Kevin, the orangutan, starts heckling me.

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