The Psychology of Belief

Apr 2009
20
0
I'm looking for some advice and assistance. If anybody can offer any, I'd be grateful to receive it.

A few years ago I had a number of internet conversations with Young Earth Creationists, and was struck by the way they exhibited what appeared to be an extreme conviction. I'd offer evidence and facts, but they'd find a way to dismiss it. I'd talk about fossils, radiocarbon dating, rock strata, the half-life of radioactive isotopes, and evolution in progress as demonstrated by skinks, sea-lions, finches, et cetera. But there always some facile rather dishonest reason why it simply didn't count. Thus they could cling to their current viewpoint, even though there was no evidence to support it, regardless of any logical argument. I ended up thinking it was as if these guys had been hypnotised, and were incapable of independent thought. I even started to wonder a little about the nature of consciousness.

That was then, this is now. And I find I'm having similar problems with physicists. I'm a systems analyst by trade, with a degree in computer science, very logical, very empirical, and very rational. I'm also an unaffiliated amateur physicist specialising in relativity. I find myself in conversations with for example string theorists who appear to exhibit the same sort of utter conviction as YECs, believing unswervingly in the existence of ten-dimensional branes for which we have no evidence whatsover. Others involved in Quantum Field Theory are adamant that we live in a multiverse, others are adamant that time travel is possible. I offer strong evidence and argument to counter these concepts, referring back to Einstein and others such as Feynman, Dirac, and even Newton. But it's as if the people I'm talking to are simply not listening, as if "Morton's Demon" is sitting on their shoulder refusing to admit any information that challenges their current ideas.

Is there anybody here perhaps with experience of hypnosis who call tell me how I can "snap my fingers" and get these guys to wake up and enagage in rational discussion? PS: I don't find there's any difficulties talking face to face.
 

SWM

May 2008
2,314
0
i have encountered similar minds. religious and scientist alike, both have their minds fixed towards one or other way of interpreting thir reality. neither realising that they are, just like the other, blindly fumbling in the dark with only the dim light of their own intellect. each one can only see what their own mind has focused on. and each one can only draw conclusions from their restricted interpration of reality.

in respect to belief and hypnosis. people hypnotise themselves all the time. in fact, when you begin to understand hypnosis you will realise that many people spend a large amount of time in a hypnotic state.

when you understand trance you will notice people slipping in and out of trance all the time without any hypnotic inductions.

unfortunately when engaging people at the level of "beliefs about the world" you will not find a way to bring them out of their trance. dispute about the correct way to interpret reality will prove to polarise your views from theirs and remove the possiblity of rational discourse and understanding of the harmony of both perspectives.
 
Nov 2008
34
0
Minnesota
[quote author=Farsight link=topic=735.msg3060#msg3060 date=1239883893]

Is there anybody here perhaps with experience of hypnosis who call tell me how I can "snap my fingers" and get these guys to wake up and enagage in rational discussion? PS: I don't find there's any difficulties talking face to face.
[/quote]

I wish it were that easy. YEC experience cognitive dissonance because reality and their beliefs do not mix. This is why they explain away everything.
 
Apr 2009
20
0
Thanks guys. Dan, I used to think the problem was something unique to religion, but now I feel there a whole spectrum of belief out there, and it's a people problem rather than a religion problem. People who exhibit a conviction re Young Earth Creationism or Intelligent Design do it because they're people, not because they're Christians. Here's an excerpt from something I've written to illustrate what I mean:

It doesn’t stop at religion. There’s ideology, Kafkaesque bureaucracy, and dynastic communism, all the sorts of things that can end up with starvation, murder, and Nazi death camps. There’s racism, tribalism, and insane conspiracy theories, all leading to enmity and hate and violence. There's heroin, crack, and alcohol addiction where people die before their time. Moving down the scale there's anorexia and obesity, and the dieting that makes you fat as your body sets store for a rainy day. Then there’s gentler symptoms like fashion, where folk let themselves be brainwashed into thinking purple is the new black. Or swaggering around with some eco cotton bag containing the keys for the 4x4 and the plane tickets. It affects everybody to some degree, even people who consider themselves to be utterly rational and totally open minded. Everybody’s got some kind of belief about something. When you find it and hit it, whoosh, everything you say goes in one ear and out the other. They just don’t listen. They just don’t think. It’s like the shutters are down and there’s nobody home.
That last sentence is something I find a little worrying. It's like talking to an automaton rather than a person, with an unconscious barrier that prevents them from examining the evidence that counters something they think they know, but which is not in itself based on any evidence whatsoever.

SWM, I note your comments about hypnotic state and trance, see above. And about engaging people at the level of beliefs about the world. Interestingly enough I seem to have no problem when talking to people face to face. I was at our kitchen bar the other night with a physics guy kicking things around, also doing demonstrations involving the Falaco soliton and moebius strips. There was absolutely no problem at all, he listened to what I was saying, understood it, and agreed that it made good sense. I was able to get through to him, but it seems much more difficult to do so over the internet. I've tried using optical illusions, like this one:


[sup]The squares marked A and B are the same shade of grey.[/sup]
http://web.mit.edu/persci/people/adelson/checkershadow_illusion.html

..but people remain in denial and still refuse to examine the evidence. I've had people calling me a liar, saying it's a trick when it isn't, refusing to look into it to find out that it isn't. So, any tips to try and break through the barriers will be warmly received. I was wondering if I should book some time with a hypnotist and see if s/he can help at all. Or maybe somebody at a university, cognitive sciences, psychology, neuroscience, that sort of thing.
 
Mar 2009
182
0
Pennsylvania, US
[quote author=Farsight link=topic=735.msg3060#msg3060 date=1239883893]
I'm looking for some advice and assistance. If anybody can offer any, I'd be grateful to receive it.

A few years ago I had a number of internet conversations with Young Earth Creationists, and was struck by the way they exhibited what appeared to be an extreme conviction. I'd offer evidence and facts, but they'd find a way to dismiss it. I'd talk about fossils, radiocarbon dating, rock strata, the half-life of radioactive isotopes, and evolution in progress as demonstrated by skinks, sea-lions, finches, et cetera. But there always some facile rather dishonest reason why it simply didn't count. Thus they could cling to their current viewpoint, even though there was no evidence to support it, regardless of any logical argument. I ended up thinking it was as if these guys had been hypnotised, and were incapable of independent thought. I even started to wonder a little about the nature of consciousness.

That was then, this is now. And I find I'm having similar problems with physicists. I'm a systems analyst by trade, with a degree in computer science, very logical, very empirical, and very rational. I'm also an unaffiliated amateur physicist specialising in relativity. I find myself in conversations with for example string theorists who appear to exhibit the same sort of utter conviction as YECs, believing unswervingly in the existence of ten-dimensional branes for which we have no evidence whatsover. Others involved in Quantum Field Theory are adamant that we live in a multiverse, others are adamant that time travel is possible. I offer strong evidence and argument to counter these concepts, referring back to Einstein and others such as Feynman, Dirac, and even Newton. But it's as if the people I'm talking to are simply not listening, as if "Morton's Demon" is sitting on their shoulder refusing to admit any information that challenges their current ideas.

Is there anybody here perhaps with experience of hypnosis who call tell me how I can "snap my fingers" and get these guys to wake up and enagage in rational discussion? PS: I don't find there's any difficulties talking face to face.
[/quote]

In my honest opinion you are better off talking with the skinks and finches. There's a much greater chance of intellectual discourse occurring that way.

The sixth commandment is "Thou shalt not kill" (or something similar) and yet Deuteronomy 21:18-21 states:

" 18. If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

" 19. Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

" 20. And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

" 21. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. "

How would the YEC's explain that, hmm? They pick and choose what is convenient and are not worth the paper that their little "Book of Literal Belief" is printed on. Now, I'm not one for denigrating another man's beliefs, but too much is, after all, too much.
 
Apr 2009
20
0
The trouble is, seekinghga, YECs are not unique. Other people thump other books, and they're full of snake-oil garbage with as much evidential support as heaven and hell. Things like parallel worlds. I just can't get through to them.

Help!
 

SWM

May 2008
2,314
0
[quote author=Farsight link=topic=735.msg3073#msg3073 date=1240152214]
The trouble is, seekinghga, YECs are not unique. Other people thump other books, and they're full of snake-oil garbage with as much evidential support as heaven and hell. Things like parallel worlds. I just can't get through to them.

Help!
[/quote]people believe things and have experinces that they cannot prove to others. what is it about this that bothers you so much?
 
Apr 2009
20
0
Physics is in trouble. A-levels are down 56% in 20 years, departments are closing. I set out to do something about it but I'm meeting huge resistance.
 

SWM

May 2008
2,314
0
[quote author=Farsight link=topic=735.msg3080#msg3080 date=1240251531]
Physics is in trouble. A-levels are down 56% in 20 years, departments are closing. I set out to do something about it but I'm meeting huge resistance.
[/quote]ok, so people are not as interested in phsyics as they used to be, what is important about this for you? what is important to you, in getting more people interested in physics?


Other people thump other books, and they're full of snake-oil garbage with as much evidential support as heaven and hell. Things like parallel worlds. I just can't get through to them.

Help!
what bothers you about people who believe in things without evidential support?
 
Apr 2009
20
0
[quote author=SWM]ok, so people are not as interested in phsyics as they used to be, what is important about this for you? what is important to you, in getting more people interested in physics?[/quote]It's not just physics, it's engineering too, even handicrafts. Fewer people know how to make things any more, or maintain things. I consider this to be an example of what appears to be a downhill trend in civilised society, and I don't like it.

[quote author=SWM]what bothers you about people who believe in things without evidential support?[/quote]It isn't rational. In extremis we're on the way back to the dark ages believing in mumbo jumbo.