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Belief Machine

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Saved by swanson@...
on June 25, 2012 at 1:59:31 pm

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. 



“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




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