September 27, 2008

What are some irrational things that's intelligent, educated people believe in?

For example, I know law professors who believe in astrology.


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Jim47 said...

My father, an otherwise rational person, must always throw unused salt over his shoulder. My mother, an otherwise rational person, believes that consciously worrying about something will magically help prevent it from happening.

Many otherwise intelligent people think there is a move to secretly establish a North American Union.

Many people who are smart on paper believe that conservatism/republicanism are inseparable from racism.

William said...

Intelligent, educated people believe that rational life is possible if they just try hard enough.

erniecu73 said...

bleeper said...
Erns - yes, I will. How exactly do we test it?

Not saying I disbelieve it, just waiting for some tests to confirm it. I think we will have to wait a long time to have some way of proving or disproving it. But it's a swell theory.

5:36 PM


"What do you mean we can prove it?? See all these convoluted and obviously calculations over here? Well, that's how we prove it, and we are astrophysi...astrophycissss...A S T R O P H Y C I S I S T S!!!"

Or something like that. It kinda makes sense if you like to also dabble in quantum dynamics (code word for crazy shit that may and may not be, like half a cat that is half healthy)

AllenS said...

Call your physician if you have an erection that lasts longer than 4 hours.

What's the possibility of that happening?

Michael McNeil said...

The belief that there is such a thing as “proof” in science (as opposed to abstract mathematics).

bleeper said...

Paul is dead.

erniecu73 said...

Michael McNeil said...
The belief that there is such a thing as “proof” in science (as opposed to abstract mathematics).

6:50 PM


erniecu73 said...

bleeper said...
Paul is dead.

6:57 PM

Newmann, yes, very sad.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I know a number of intelligent, educated mathematicians who believe in Pi.

bleeper said...

I like pi. Buckminster Fuller explained it to me once. No meringue involved.

erniecu73 said...


Michael McNeil said...

“The belief that there is such a thing as “proof” in science (as opposed to abstract mathematics).”


Nope. There is no proof in science. Gravity could cease working the very next instant, and we have no certain assurance (such as a “proof” would provide) that it won't.

As Jacob Bronowski put it with regard to the earlier theory of gravity, Newton's:

“Here we have been thinking for nearly three hundred years that if there is one causal law which is certain beyond all challenge, it is the law of gravitation. The whole tradition of causality derives from its triumph. A hundred years ago, when the distant planet Uranus seemed not to be keeping time, we took it for granted that some unseen planet still further away must be disturbing it by its gravitational force. Two men, Adams in England and Leverrier in France, working with no knowledge of one another, and with nothing but pencil, paper and Newton's laws, calculated where such a planet must be. And when the great telescope at Berlin was turned to the spot, there was Neptune clear to the eye, and spectacular in its vindication of the unalterable laws of gravitation.

“And yet, and yet, the laws of gravitation have gone. There is no gravitation; there is no force at all; the whole model was wrong. All that theory was no more than a happy approximation to what really happens. When Newton brought in force as a cause, he was giving to matter the human property of effort, as much as Aristotle once gave it human will. The true causes are now embedded in the nature of space and the way in which matter distorts space; and they have no resemblance to the causes in which we believed for nearly three hundred years.

“Ironically, Adams and Leverrier merely postponed the catastrophe by sixty years. For one beginning of the crisis in classical physics about 1900 was an oddity like the one which they had set out to explain; only now it was the planet Mercury that was not keeping time. But search as we might, we could find no new Neptune to blame for the irregularity. It was cleared up only by a radical overhaul of the basic assumptions in Newton's philosophy, particularly in his conception of time.

“I have said that this is not a final objection to causal laws. After all, the new theory which Einstein put in place of the old, although as a field theory it is less mechanical than Newton's, is still a causal theory. And Einstein, almost alone among the great physicists of today, continues stoutly to argue on behalf of causality. Yet it does seem to me, for two reasons, that this overthrow of a long accepted cause must deeply shake our confidence. For one thing, the whole conception of causes in science springs historically from the triumph of gravitation. And for another, we see now that it is possible to have every human faith in a causal mechanism, every assurance that this is how nature works, that here is her very action laid bare, and every demonstration that some apparent departure really fits in with that cause — we could have all these, unviolated and gaining in strength for two hundred years. And yet at the end we find that the cause was a fiction. Something else was at work, which has nothing in common with that famous cause. The machine never was a copy of nature. It was only a kind of gigantic planetarium, which got the heavenly bodies to the right place at the right time, but whose causal mechanism was no more like nature's than Ptolemy's itself.”

(Jacob Bronowski, The Common Sense of Science, 1951)

erniecu73 said...

I will have to go buy that book now. Thanks!

Michael McNeil said...

I will have to go buy that book now. Thanks!

Very highly recommended. Indeed, it's pretty much my all-time favorite book.

bleeper said...

But getting back to pi, or Pye, I like the works of David Pye "The Nature & Art of Workmanship" and "The Nature & Aesthetics of Design". He was no Bronowski, but for what I do, he was spot on.

How does one test string theory? Or string art? Or pies? Ok, I am getting irrational here...

Michael_H said...

Billy Mays a really smart inventor who personally uses everything he sells on the teevee.

Tibore said...

Damn, I'm late to the party.

Peter Duesberg, Berkeley cell and molecular biologist. Believes it's recreational and theraputic drug use (i.e. use of AZT) that causes AIDS, not the HIV virus.

Steven Jones, fusion physicist, former professor at BYU. Was credited for bringing rationality and far more solid science to the cold fusion debacle. Believes that the Twin Towers and the Solomon Building (to truthers, aka "WTC 7") were brought down by incendiaries. One of several founders of "Scholars for 9/11 Truth".

James H. Fetzer. Professor Emeritus at University of Minnesota, Duluth. Is well published in cognitive psychology, computer science, history and philosophy of science. Believes in Kennedy and 9/11 conspiracy theories; is well known for arguing that it was either a missile or a military jet that hit the Pentagon on 9/11.

Dr. Andrew Wakefield, MD. Formerly respected gastroenterologist and researcher. Almost single-handedly responsible for the Measles-Mumps-Rubella-vaccination-causes-autism scare in the United Kingdom. He published research in the Lancet supposedly linking the MMR vaccination with bowel symptoms and both to autism. Yes, I'm saying that right: His claim is that the measles component of the vaccination were damaging childrens' bowels and causing autism. I kid you not; he leaped from "damaged bowels" to "autism". Best summary of his research can be found at England's "The Science Museum" website, in the MMR Files section.

Some otherwise rational people hold irrational beliefs. I'm not talking marginal superstitions when I say this, I'm talking out-and-out, demonstrably incorrect beliefs; Jones and Fetzer with their 9/11 CTs is a prime example of believing in falsified theories.

Tibore said...

Whoa!... comments after a period of time are not displaying... that's weird.

redneck hillbilly said...


Michael The Magnificent said...

That Christ was a community organizer.

Oh wait, you said intelligent people.


MadisonMan said...

That the nation will end if x is not elected President. Oh wait, that's political isn't it?

I'll second the meme that vaccines cause autism.

People believe that peanuts should be banned in school. People believe that sugary snacks should be banned in school.

erniecu73 said...

bleeps, if they were to prove it in practical terms, a lot of theoretical physicists would go hungry. You don't want a pack of hungry physicists roaming the streets of our college towns. Trust me on this one.

erniecu73 said...

tibore, you should put down the bong at this time, and walk away from the computer. Slowly, very slowly, of course.

Peter V. Bella said...

People believe that peanuts should be banned in school. People believe that sugary snacks should be banned in school.

People believe education should be banned in school.

Pete said...

That being famous automatically means one is significant ...

peter hoh said...

Fear of irradiated foods.

Tregenza said...

That Socialism doesn't work at the same time their government is spending $700 billion nationalizing the banks.

That Universal Health Care doesn't work when the US health system costs more and delivers less than all those Europeans countries with a national health service.

That invading Iraq was a good idea

That letting anyone buy guns makes everyone safer.

Bissage said...

[E]rniecu73 at 9:28 PM:

My guess is Tibore posted his 8:45 PM comment on the 1-200 screen, and then looked for it on the 1-200 screen without realizing it was waiting for him on the ≥ 201 screen. Then at 9:01 PM he remarked, humorously, about his surprise at the phenomenon.

Tibore is an every-now-and-then commenter at Althouse who has probably no experience with the extra-long threads of late.

He is a cool dude, very smart and greatly appreciated here at Althouse, if I may be so bold as to say so.

His contributions to the anti-Troofer threads were among the very best.

And he’ll never see this compliment.


Bissage said...

Of course, then again, you and Tibore might have been sharing a clever inside joke that went right over my head.

Whatever the case may be, it now seems prudent to bail by linking to a photo of the curiously nifty Ann Hathaway.

Michael_H said...

Some otherwise intelligent people believe that Ron Paul should be elected president.

Oxbay said...

Victoria says "Now Aquarians are scary crazy. They have inner demons which propel them to success that people will never know about.

We can only guess at them...OPRAH.

(Oh yeah, and Sarah Palin too. Gulp)"

Here's a list of Aquarius Presidents:

- William Henry Harrison
February 9, 1773
- Abraham Lincoln
February, 12, 1809
- William McKinley
January, 29, 1843
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
January, 30, 1882
- Ronald Wilson Reagan
February, 6, 1911

Out of five four of them died in office. Reagan lucked out there. Three of them were consequential Presidents.

Roy in Nipomo said...

Swimming within a half hour of eating causes stomach cramps.

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