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Belief Machine

Page history last edited by swanson@... 6 years ago

It is that which we do know which is the great hindrance to our learning, not that which we do not know.

Claude Bernard http://exp.lore.com/post/23733586533/it-is-that-which-we-do-know-which-is-the-great



Maybe start a presentation with type1 & type 2 errors. make a story out of it. story about savanna or jungle or something. we are hardwired for cause and effect, we tell stories, we give explanations, belief comes first, then explanation. Emotion --> then logic


Connect with something you believed

"To me, when I relate to a piece of fiction, you know, or a novel or something, it isn't that it makes me step outside myself, although sometimes there are those kinds of books. But I mean, the things that I really relate to is when I read something that has articulated something that I felt but haven't been able to articulate."

Charlie Kaufman, 10/23/08, Fresh Air




Kentucky chapter- a shooting, beliefs come to add explanation


Living in a society where info is "too big to know"


We can find information to support anything


Well structured vs Ill structured questions 


Nature of belief


Virus example: 

-death rates from small pox, polio, measles, flu (epidemics in US small pox, polio. flu)


-history of fear of vaccines

-connecting fear of autism to vaccines

-form communities of belief, attack experts, misrepresent evidence, shift beliefs in spite of evidence, (they claim an evil empire of schools, gov't & corporations which has evolved over around 150 years "cog in medical machine") 

-vaccines as ill-structured problems (fear of unknown-proving negatives)

-beliefs preserve themselves 


Spanish American War: 13 from sickness to 1 death on battlefield

WWI: 1:1

WWII: 1:85


1920-1955 life span of average american increased by 25%

same period, California cases of diphtheria went from 110,000 (700 death) to 72 cases (4 deaths)  (stats above from Panic Virus)

-1916 polio epidemic in New York  9,000 people died. There was a 25% death rate among infected. : Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2027479_2027486_2027527,00.html



Teach about info

Stress background & grasping the topic

Ask then to recognize their own beliefs


Observation is useful but not enough


One study can be good but you need multiple to really understand a phenomenon


Studies measure reality


Some questions deal with measurable reality more than others


Science must be our belief system

Recognizing the role & interplay of our beliefs is crucial


We must be skeptical but not fool ourselves 



To really understand something we need: 1) theory 2) connections between actions & events (correlation) 3) understanding of the mechanics. Many times we hvae 1 & 2 but not three. 

(is this from Shermer?) 


“We have inherited an image of ourselves as Homo sapiens, as thinking individuals separated from the other animals because of our superior power of reason.

This is mankind as Rodin’s thinker—chin on fist, cogitating alone and deeply. In fact, we are separated from the other animals because we have phenomenal social skills that enable us to teach, learn, sympathize, emote, and build cultures, institutions, and the complex mental scaffolding of civilizations.”

David Brooks, the social animal



Do I want to emphasize:

1) confirmation bias

2) freezing & seizing 

3) Lack of Knowledge Shouldn't trump knowledge 


When dealing with topics that experts have explored we need to go out and find multiple experts the more experts we listen to the more we can see where they agree the more we can see where the common thought is in each field


People often want to show that new thinkers like Galileo like Einstein like Copernicus went against the common thinking at one point and they were proven right


 But they miss two key things when they say that


First they don't talk about all the other thousands of crazy people that went across a common thinking who were wrong


Second they don't talk about all the things that they agreed with like the Pythagorean theorem which everyone else also agreed with


Third they do not talk about the extraordinary evidence it takes to prove extraordinary claims with all these people had


Progress in knowledge can happen Hedgebrooke rates sometimes it slow and steady and sometimes it happens quickly in radical big wiping away step


Most of the time it happens very slowly and scientist have a hunch about something and they slowly build evidence and build a picture until they can prove the larger hunch


We must seek balance between believing everything and believing nothing.


Experts can teach us, but experts also know that they are in a conversation about knowledge. Experts can be wrong.


There are areas where we have strong, deep knowledge. There are areas where our knowledge is thin. Experts can be good at recognizing this.


Knowledge is never absolute but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.


You can't test everything yourself.


Science is NOT tied to the government.


Reality exists. Measurements are real. We should base our knowledge in reality.


We know something that is part of current knowledge in each discipline will be changed in the future. But we should also know that a majority of that knowledge will stand.


Knowledge gets deeper. Not right or wrong.


In a democracy, we should care what out neighbors think because we hope they vote. We should engage them in discussion so we can make decisions as a society.


When we hear scientific finding the first thing we must ask is can it be replicated Or has it been replicated


When finding shows correlation between two items we must assume that that correlation is by chance until we get further evidence that shows otherwise


brains almost work like a democracy where competing interesting fight for decision making



Believing Brain

Demon Haunted World 









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