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(Discover)   Smart people tend to find articles online that support their pre-existing beliefs. But you already knew that before clicking this   (blogs.discovermagazine.com) divider line 77
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1959 clicks; posted to Geek » on 20 Jun 2012 at 5:42 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-06-20 03:33:47 PM
The most important thing I have to say on this is: just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right. This is an incredibly common fallacy, and one I see a lot. In many cases, the opposite is true, especially when it comes to closely-held beliefs. Smart people hear a claim and decide to check up on it, and then fall victim to the bias of only reading articles that support their pre-existing belief.

Um, I would imagine that almost ALL people do this.
 
2012-06-20 03:39:11 PM
just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right.

The converse of this is also true. Just because you're right doesn't mean you're smart.
(Truly smart people don't care about being right.)
 
2012-06-20 03:47:23 PM
Confirmation bias? Surely you jest.
 
2012-06-20 03:47:25 PM
FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: RE: FWD: OBAMA IS IMPORTED MUSLIN! SCIENTISTS FIND 6,000 YEAR OLD DINOSAUR BONES! CHILD SEES LIGHT, HEARS GOD BEFORE DOCTORS REVIVE HIM! SNOPES CONFIRMS!111!
 
2012-06-20 03:47:50 PM
Also, just because someone is "smart" and an expert in one area, doesn't mean they are universally intelligent/knowledgeable. You wouldn't ask your car mechanic to perform open heart surgery, you shouldn't trust a person with a degree in engineering to be an expert in climate change
 
2012-06-20 03:47:58 PM

Because People in power are Stupid: just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right.

The converse of this is also true. Just because you're right doesn't mean you're smart.
(Truly smart people don't care about being right.)


The obverse is also true. Just because I'm right doesn't mean you're smart.

Wait...yeah.
 
2012-06-20 03:48:29 PM

Nadie_AZ: The most important thing I have to say on this is: just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right. This is an incredibly common fallacy, and one I see a lot. In many cases, the opposite is true, especially when it comes to closely-held beliefs. Smart people hear a claim and decide to check up on it, and then fall victim to the bias of only reading articles that support their pre-existing belief.

Um, I would imagine that almost ALL people do this.


They do.

I have a handy dandy quote to go along with it too.

"We sometimes find ourselves changing our minds without any resistance or heavy emotion, but if we are told that we are wrong we resent the imputation and harden our hearts. We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem, which is threatened. ... Few of us take the pains to study the origin of our cherished convictions; indeed, we have a natural repugnance to so doing. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do."
- James Harvey Robinson
 
2012-06-20 04:11:11 PM

rikdanger: Because People in power are Stupid: just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right.

The converse of this is also true. Just because you're right doesn't mean you're smart.
(Truly smart people don't care about being right.)

The obverse is also true. Just because I'm right doesn't mean you're smart.

Wait...yeah.


And the double secret reverse is true: Just because you're wrong doesn't mean your mother didn't sleep around and conceive you anally.
 
vpb [TotalFark]
2012-06-20 04:29:43 PM
Stupid people do that too, they just can't find articles that fit their pre-existing on mainstream news sites, which is why they go to sites that cater specifically to their pre-existing beliefs.
 
2012-06-20 04:41:57 PM
upload.wikimedia.org
 
2012-06-20 04:48:11 PM
The most important thing I have to say on this is: just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right. This is an incredibly common fallacy, and one I see a lot. In many cases, the opposite is true, especially when it comes to closely-held beliefs. Smart people hear a claim and decide to check up on it, and then fall victim to the bias of only reading articles that support their pre-existing belief.

I believe this is the most stupid thing I've read today

/still early, though
 
2012-06-20 04:59:11 PM

FishyFred: FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: RE: FWD: OBAMA IS IMPORTED MUSLIN! SCIENTISTS FIND 6,000 YEAR OLD DINOSAUR BONES! CHILD SEES LIGHT, HEARS GOD BEFORE DOCTORS REVIVE HIM! SNOPES CONFIRMS!111!


OMG I SAW THEM TALKING ABOUT THAT ON SODAHEAD.COM TOO!
 
2012-06-20 05:10:46 PM

vpb: Stupid people do that too, they just can't find articles that fit their pre-existing on mainstream news sites, which is why they go to sites that cater specifically to their pre-existing beliefs.


And most of those sites get linked to the Politics tab. You know, for rational discussion, and certainly not for pages and pages of F5F5F5F5F5F5F5F5RAAAAAAAAAAAGE! that gets Drew more beer.
 
2012-06-20 05:45:57 PM

vpb: Stupid people do that too, they just can't find articles that fit their pre-existing on mainstream news sites, which is why they go to sites that cater specifically to their pre-existing beliefs.


fox isn't mainstream?
 
2012-06-20 05:46:17 PM

vpb: Stupid people do that too, they just can't find articles that fit their pre-existing on mainstream news sites, which is why they go to sites that cater specifically to their pre-existing beliefs.


see: www.foxnews.com
 
2012-06-20 05:47:03 PM
When I came to Fark 8 years ago, I was pretty much still a neo-con fundie. After years of reading y'all's liberal atheist crap, I'm more of a moderate spiritualist now.

No confirmation bias for me!
 
2012-06-20 05:47:09 PM
DAMNIT LOONATIC!!
 
2012-06-20 05:52:25 PM
Why wasn't this posted in the politics thread? Nobody, according to themselves, is ever wrong over there
 
2012-06-20 05:52:53 PM

Strategeryz0r: DAMNIT LOONATIC!!


bwahahaha

I'd also follow this up with CNN, and the daily mail
 
2012-06-20 06:00:45 PM
Smart people Religious people, conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaxxers tend to find articles online that support their pre-existing beliefs.

FTFS.
 
2012-06-20 06:01:17 PM

vpb: Stupid people do that too, they just can't find articles that fit their pre-existing on mainstream news sites, which is why they go to sites that cater specifically to their pre-existing beliefs.


Or USA Today
 
2012-06-20 06:09:21 PM
I think the ability to look at the available sources and then discern the truth on your own is something many people are incapable of. It's also not something taught in any schools. Everyone just wants someone else to tell them what to believe. When you look at what the average person thinks about a certain subject, it's not a conclusion they came to on their own, it's something they were told.

I don't fit in on conspiracy sites because i question everything relentlessly, and if you do that you get labeled a "shill" or "plant" by the communities. You're supposed to just accept everything or nothing, apparently.

But i also don't quite fit in with those who just accept everything NASA or other 'official' groups say without question. I may be one of the only true skeptics.
 
2012-06-20 06:17:16 PM

Because People in power are Stupid:
(Truly smart people don't care about being right.)


Kinda depends what you're doing, there. If you're running for public office, yeah, you care more about being convincing. If you're repairing the life support system on your Apollo orbiter ten thousand miles out from the earth, you're probably somewhat concerned about being right.

As for what the article's talking about, his problem seems to be, not with smart people, but with educated people that aren't very smart. A little knowledge is a lot more dangerous than full mastery of a subject: teach a man to be an electrician and he can keep his wiring in good repair, teach a man how to remove the covers on a light switch and you now know what's going to be on his next entry in the hospital's records.

Approached with proper training, Ethos is actually a great tool for uncovering new information. The problem is that actually verifying a speaker's authority typically means knowing a good deal about the subject yourself, which can be an issue in science reporting. Sure, I know that Nature is a more reliable source than the Glenn Beck show and why that's the case, but someone who doesn't do what I do for a living just kinda has to take my word for it (or someone else in the academic sciences) or go by the "well, it's pretty famous" metric, which is an issue since so is Beck. And without actual scientific training, he can't read my/the other doctor's work and establish that my opinion of Nature v Beck isn't pulled from my ass either. So it comes to blind trust, which is kind of an issue even when you're accidentally blindly trusting the right people.

//Exaggerated example, obviously, but that's the general shape of it.
 
2012-06-20 06:19:22 PM

J. Frank Parnell: I think the ability to look at the available sources and then discern the truth on your own is something many people are incapable of. It's also not something taught in any schools. Everyone just wants someone else to tell them what to believe. When you look at what the average person thinks about a certain subject, it's not a conclusion they came to on their own, it's something they were told.

I don't fit in on conspiracy sites because i question everything relentlessly, and if you do that you get labeled a "shill" or "plant" by the communities. You're supposed to just accept everything or nothing, apparently.

But i also don't quite fit in with those who just accept everything NASA or other 'official' groups say without question. I may be one of the only true skeptics.


You sound special.
 
2012-06-20 06:38:07 PM

runcible spork: You sound special.


Retard and idiot are what i hear most.
 
2012-06-20 06:52:29 PM
I just examine what evidence and facts that I can find. Generally speaking, it's pretty farking clear what they mean. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes not. And when there isn't enough evidence to figure it out, I try to reserve judgement on it until there is.
 
2012-06-20 06:57:41 PM
Absolutely everyone rejects statements with which they do not agree.
 
2012-06-20 07:00:47 PM
One thing I think is sorely lacking in school (which exacerbates these issues) is good statistics curriculum. Unfortunately, it's boring as shiat, but if you actually start to understand many of the fundemental concepts, you begin to look at the world in a different way. You see all sorts of biases, you see samples sizes too small to make good conclusions, you see the correlation=causation fallacy emerge, etc etc etc.
 
2012-06-20 07:01:11 PM
nobody gets on the internet to get info, they get on to yell at people who don't believe what they believe
 
2012-06-20 07:02:51 PM
Isn't there also just some technical aspects that support that kind of thing? I mean if you believe there's life on Mars you google "Life on Mars" and you're going to find more results supporting it than not, right?
 
2012-06-20 07:06:03 PM

Embden.Meyerhof: One thing I think is sorely lacking in school (which exacerbates these issues) is good statistics curriculum.


qft.

School doesn't do a good job of teaching kids to think. I still get made fun of by coworkers for being nerdy enough to mention the concept of Occam's razor in response to a conspiracy about Obama being illegal and both republicans and democrats in on it. Apparently its dorky to dismiss a conspiracy like that on the ground that if the two parties were working together they wouldn't need to get someone who wasn't a citizen to be their puppet.

/sigh
 
2012-06-20 07:09:20 PM
On the other hand, I do know two mechanical engineers who are pioneers in the field of hybrid DNS/LES and coherent structures using CFD. They both worked with/for NOAA and NASA on complex geophysical fluid dynamics models and strongly believe in AGW from their modeling experience and corroborating the same with experimental research groups.

/I suppose their level of expertise is such that they consider themselves to be scientists/physicists rather than engineers.

zedster: Also, just because someone is "smart" and an expert in one area, doesn't mean they are universally intelligent/knowledgeable. You wouldn't ask your car mechanic to perform open heart surgery, you shouldn't trust a person with a degree in engineering to be an expert in climate change

 
2012-06-20 07:18:23 PM

Embden.Meyerhof: One thing I think is sorely lacking in school (which exacerbates these issues) is good statistics curriculum. Unfortunately, it's boring as shiat, but if you actually start to understand many of the fundemental concepts, you begin to look at the world in a different way. You see all sorts of biases, you see samples sizes too small to make good conclusions, you see the correlation=causation fallacy emerge, etc etc etc.


numbers don't lie and graphs well represent what may otherwise be abstract, hard to digest information. in my 20's i began to fully appreciate how much of the world demands a solid comprehension of numbers. those who lack the skills are severely limited on how much they will be able to assimilate in a huge variety of topics.
 
2012-06-20 07:30:08 PM

zedster: Also, just because someone is "smart" and an expert in one area, doesn't mean they are universally intelligent/knowledgeable. You wouldn't ask your car mechanic to perform open heart surgery, you shouldn't trust a person with a degree in engineering to be an expert in climate change


Myself I have a PHD in Climate Engineering :)
 
2012-06-20 07:32:43 PM

Nurglitch: Absolutely everyone rejects statements with which they do not agree.


That's a big thing, too. Confirmation bias.

Sadly ego is a big part of discussions or arguments online, and people won't give an inch to the 'enemy' no matter what facts are presented. They would sooner shoot themselves in the head than admit they were wrong. Willful ignorance abounds.
 
X15
2012-06-20 07:39:03 PM
In the Lifehacker interview I recommended following the scientific consensus as a default position. Why? Because when scientists agree on something, it's almost always because there is overwhelming evidence to support it, research indicating it's correct, and vast amounts of experience going into accepting that conclusion. That doesn't mean it's always right 100% of the time, of course, but that's the way to bet. Also, it makes a lot more sense to go with the consensus of people who have experience in a topic versus the opinions of people who don't.

On the one hand: SCIENCE!

On the other hand, I've seen an awful lot of bad science being taken as gospel.

Science has a much higher burden placed upon it, and I don't think most peer review is up to the task.
 
2012-06-20 07:50:56 PM

Nadie_AZ: The most important thing I have to say on this is: just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right. This is an incredibly common fallacy, and one I see a lot. In many cases, the opposite is true, especially when it comes to closely-held beliefs. Smart people hear a claim and decide to check up on it, and then fall victim to the bias of only reading articles that support their pre-existing belief.

Um, I would imagine that almost ALL people do this.


Problem: All people do that
Cause: People are lazy
 
2012-06-20 07:51:01 PM

zedster: Also, just because someone is "smart" and an expert in one area, doesn't mean they are universally intelligent/knowledgeable. You wouldn't ask your car mechanic to perform open heart surgery, you shouldn't trust a person with a degree in engineering to be an expert in climate change


Agreed. There are also those that have an incredible understanding of complex tasks, yet problems with simple things. My step dad is like that. He can plan an entire manufacturing robot in his head, and start building it. He's built his own tools, built a light house in their front yard, etc. The guy is brilliant, but holy hell does he have a problem with directions. He gets lost in the grocery store if my mom isn't with him.
 
2012-06-20 07:51:07 PM

X15: Science has a much higher burden placed upon it, and I don't think most peer review is up to the task.


I don't suppose you have any actual experience with scientific peer review?
 
2012-06-20 07:53:59 PM
Smart people tend to find articles online that support their pre-existing beliefs because their pre-existing beliefs are generally correct.
 
2012-06-20 07:59:45 PM

Unoriginal_Username: There are also those that have an incredible understanding of complex tasks, yet problems with simple things. My step dad is like that. He can plan an entire manufacturing robot in his head, and start building it. He's built his own tools, built a light house in their front yard, etc. The guy is brilliant, but holy hell does he have a problem with directions. He gets lost in the grocery store if my mom isn't with him.


Sounds like he may be mildly dyslexic. I am, and it's frustrating as Hell to have such a bad sense of direction. But I'm good at understanding 3-dimensional fluid flows, which helps me with my research.
 
2012-06-20 08:06:02 PM

Nurglitch: Absolutely everyone rejects statements with which they do not agree.


No I don't.
 
2012-06-20 08:11:05 PM
Hey, I'm so smart I've found FRACTAL DOUBT.

Have you found the power of doubt? It's amazing. You start by saying "How do I know what I think I know?" and you start poking around the topic. But you have to ask that question again and again until you have doubted the basis of each of the concepts your idea was built on.

I discovered fractal doubt after I heard someone who was fractally wrong.

Right now I'm having trouble because I applied fractal doubt to what I knew of economics. I think I need to start way over in cognitive psychology and see what is known about human interactions, see if I can get a better grasp of the economic transaction at the personal level. Then I'm going to try to expand my knowledge to the macroeconomic level.

And I think I already figured out why the global economy sucks. It's because people suck.
 
2012-06-20 08:15:10 PM

LouDobbsAwaaaay: Unoriginal_Username: There are also those that have an incredible understanding of complex tasks, yet problems with simple things. My step dad is like that. He can plan an entire manufacturing robot in his head, and start building it. He's built his own tools, built a light house in their front yard, etc. The guy is brilliant, but holy hell does he have a problem with directions. He gets lost in the grocery store if my mom isn't with him.

Sounds like he may be mildly dyslexic. I am, and it's frustrating as Hell to have such a bad sense of direction. But I'm good at understanding 3-dimensional fluid flows, which helps me with my research.


That is a possibility. I've always thought it was just because he was British
 
2012-06-20 08:18:43 PM

Fano: vpb: Stupid people do that too, they just can't find articles that fit their pre-existing on mainstream news sites, which is why they go to sites that cater specifically to their pre-existing beliefs.

Or USA Today


Bullshiat. NOBODY reads USA Today. It's usually used in hotel rooms to keep the desk clean while you eat breakfast.
 
2012-06-20 08:22:39 PM
what does that mean about global warming then?
 
2012-06-20 08:27:20 PM

gittlebass: what does that mean about global warming then?


It means you should give me all your money. Even if global warming isn't true, it's the safest option.
 
2012-06-20 08:38:25 PM
Lean Forward
 
2012-06-20 08:48:45 PM

Superjew: Smart people tend to find articles online that support their pre-existing beliefs because their pre-existing beliefs are generally correct.


I'm not just citing your post because I agree with it, but also because it's true.
 
2012-06-20 08:49:18 PM
A few minutes ago, while in the car, my 8-year-old daughter asked about heaven. My wife died three years ago, so these questions are important to my daughter.
I answered, "I don't know, honey. Nobody knows the answer to that question, because nobody has ever been dead and then come back to tell us about it all."
She said, "What about Jesus and God? Some of my friends say that they are real."
I answered, "Lots of people BELIEVE that they are, but I really don't know. I wish there was some sort of proof, but there isn't. They can believe those things if that makes them feel better, but you can believe anything you want and its probably just as true."
We decided that Mom can do whatever she wants now, but if she plays golf or basketball or soccer she still has to try hard and might not win, but she is always the best she can be and nobody ever gets injured.
 
2012-06-20 08:57:04 PM
There seems to be a lot of "Smart People are Actually Stupid" articles lately. Republican propaganda?
 
2012-06-20 09:01:15 PM

BallZach: There seems to be a lot of "Smart People are Actually Stupid" articles lately. Republican propaganda?


It's to make all you idiots feel better about yourselves.

/it doesn't work on me
 
2012-06-20 09:20:13 PM

karl2025: Isn't there also just some technical aspects that support that kind of thing? I mean if you believe there's life on Mars you google "Life on Mars" and you're going to find more results supporting it than not, right?


Yeah, the linked article discussed that. It's a good read, you should check it out.
 
2012-06-20 09:20:46 PM

untaken_name: BallZach: There seems to be a lot of "Smart People are Actually Stupid" articles lately. Republican propaganda?

It's to make all you idiots feel better about yourselves.

/it doesn't work on me


Yeah yeah and rich people aren't any happier than people working 3 part time jorbs. So relax proles!
 
2012-06-20 09:21:45 PM

beelzebubba76: On the other hand, I do know two mechanical engineers who are pioneers in the field of hybrid DNS/LES and coherent structures using CFD. They both worked with/for NOAA and NASA on complex geophysical fluid dynamics models and strongly believe in AGW from their modeling experience and corroborating the same with experimental research groups.

/I suppose their level of expertise is such that they consider themselves to be scientists/physicists rather than engineers.

zedster: Also, just because someone is "smart" and an expert in one area, doesn't mean they are universally intelligent/knowledgeable. You wouldn't ask your car mechanic to perform open heart surgery, you shouldn't trust a person with a degree in engineering to be an expert in climate change


Well, it sounds to me like they understand the expository data sources well enough to find confidence in the conclusions drawn from them.
 
2012-06-20 09:30:45 PM

Mazzic518: zedster: Also, just because someone is "smart" and an expert in one area, doesn't mean they are universally intelligent/knowledgeable. You wouldn't ask your car mechanic to perform open heart surgery, you shouldn't trust a person with a degree in engineering to be an expert in climate change

Myself I have a PHD in Climate Engineering :)


static2.dmcdn.net
Approves
 
2012-06-20 09:32:01 PM

X15: In the Lifehacker interview I recommended following the scientific consensus as a default position. Why? Because when scientists agree on something, it's almost always because there is overwhelming evidence to support it, research indicating it's correct, and vast amounts of experience going into accepting that conclusion. That doesn't mean it's always right 100% of the time, of course, but that's the way to bet. Also, it makes a lot more sense to go with the consensus of people who have experience in a topic versus the opinions of people who don't.

On the one hand: SCIENCE!

On the other hand, I've seen an awful lot of bad science being taken as gospel.

Science has a much higher burden placed upon it, and I don't think most peer review is up to the task.


And you're basing all this stuff you believe on what?
 
2012-06-20 09:45:31 PM

wildcardjack: Hey, I'm so smart I've found FRACTAL DOUBT.

Have you found the power of doubt? It's amazing. You start by saying "How do I know what I think I know?" and you start poking around the topic. But you have to ask that question again and again until you have doubted the basis of each of the concepts your idea was built on.

I discovered fractal doubt after I heard someone who was fractally wrong.

Right now I'm having trouble because I applied fractal doubt to what I knew of economics. I think I need to start way over in cognitive psychology and see what is known about human interactions, see if I can get a better grasp of the economic transaction at the personal level. Then I'm going to try to expand my knowledge to the macroeconomic level.

And I think I already figured out why the global economy sucks. It's because people suck.


Or maybe not. I think your approach to discernible facts (or at least findings) is good, but economics may well be philosophy. George Bernard Shaw famously said, "If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion." My grandfather was an economist, and considered that a piece of profound wisdom.
 
2012-06-20 09:48:44 PM

LouDobbsAwaaaay: Unoriginal_Username: There are also those that have an incredible understanding of complex tasks, yet problems with simple things. My step dad is like that. He can plan an entire manufacturing robot in his head, and start building it. He's built his own tools, built a light house in their front yard, etc. The guy is brilliant, but holy hell does he have a problem with directions. He gets lost in the grocery store if my mom isn't with him.

Sounds like he may be mildly dyslexic. I am, and it's frustrating as Hell to have such a bad sense of direction. But I'm good at understanding 3-dimensional fluid flows, which helps me with my research.


Or just has a bad sense of direction. I'm like that. I like to say I can take three right turns and be lost; which is almost true. I also have a rather poor sense of distance, and most other linear scales. And I'm bad at volumetrics: If you want someone to pick the container to store that stuff, ask someone else. But, I'm good at plenty of other things, and very good at some.
 
2012-06-20 10:15:28 PM
www.skeptic.com

Your friend.

/hot
 
2012-06-20 11:38:21 PM

MaudlinMutantMollusk:

I believe this is the most stupid thing I've read today



Maybe, but if you were smart you would've looked it up.
 
2012-06-21 12:18:38 AM

Jim_Callahan: Because People in power are Stupid:
(Truly smart people don't care about being right.)

Kinda depends what you're doing, there. If you're running for public office, yeah, you care more about being convincing. If you're repairing the life support system on your Apollo orbiter ten thousand miles out from the earth, you're probably somewhat concerned about being right.



In your astronaut example you reduced the problem to a single actor making a binary decision. You act as if being right or wrong is foreseeable, in the sense that the astronaut simply chooses a pathway and lives with the results. Reality is much more skewed than that.

Now your Astronaut (let's call him Major Tom) has Mission Control on the ground and there is a conflict about what to do to the life support system. For argument's sake both Major Tom and Ground Control have equal expertise on the life support system. Major Tom sees it one way and Ground Control another. -> Which is closer to my meaning than your single actor scenario.

The conflict that exists between humans about being right exists in some other plane than the physical one in which we actually exist. Sure, the physical realm is where the rightness is actually settled but there is much more about showing someone what's what. A single example could be Galileo and the Church. Galileo knew he was right for one reason and the Church also felt that they were equally right... So the Church, in all their compassion proved a point and guess what... turns out that Galileo was right after all... who knew? The Power that the Church exercised was all the convincing that they needed.

Now, when I said that smart people don't care about being right -it wasn't about a single astronaut making a decision by himself, far from home -no, it was about people asserting their opinions. A smart person realizes that being right doesn't matter as much as Truth and will succumb to that in an argument. The feeling of right isn't binary but closer to some statistical measure, "83% probability of being right" -rather. A smart person will remain suspicious of "the Truth" until it actually reveals itself. Thus, "being right" doesn't really matter... unless you are the bossy sort (and then you are probably wrong).
 
2012-06-21 12:35:25 AM
I've got the book by David McRaney, You Are Not So Smart, on my Kindle. It is a collection of short articles by many people in many fields of research and study. I haven't read it all yet, but it deals with the type of cognitive errors that smart people are more likely to make (from hubris or over-confidence, for example). Confirmation bias is one of the more common errors made by humans regardless of intelligence, education or training. This is because humans naturally tend to assimilate new information based on the information they already have--especially when they are emotionally or ideologically attached to beliefs or "facts" they already have.

No matter how smart you are, you are liable to make these mistakes unconsciously or carelessly if you don't watch yourself very strenuously. Naturally, smart people are also better at finding reasons or excuses, objections or quibbles as well, so their defences are stronger than people who are more aware of their limitations.

Furthermore, incompetent people are poor judges of competence, especially their own, and are blithely unaware of their weaknesses, ignorance, stupidity, or lack of judgement. Just as a person who works hard can accomplish more than a person who is smart but lazy, a person who is self-aware and self-critical can accomplish more in the way of sound thinking than somebody who is prone to leaping to conclusions and then defending their convictions firmly but not too wisely.

The reason why there seem to be so many articles about how stupid smart people are at the present time is probably due to several factors including 1) news articles tend to come in waves due to repetition, copying, fashion, fad, etc.; 2) there has been a lot of research into the psychology and logic of error and cognitive failure recently and 3) in a time when so many of the authorities in politics, economics, banking, investing, etc., have been revealed to be frauds or out-classed by current problems, the zeitgeist is favouring criticial re-examination of authority, logic and beliefs of all kinds.

Now is a particularly good time for humanity to stop and try to identify just where it has been going wrong. Many an idol has fallen in the last few years. Many a worthy person or institution has been brought into disrepute by the expansion of the internet to embrace more and more people who do not share the beliefs, traditions or epistemologies of the learned, the established and the authoritative.

The first step to correcting error is to acknowledge the risk applies to you and your thinking and action, and then to identify your errors and correct them, while identifying their causes and avoiding them. Cognitive errors such as the confirmation bias are universal but people tend to see the errors and faults of others while being blind to their own. An old metaphor says that we carry our faults in a sack on our back and that we thus can easily see the faults of others but cannot see our own. At best we can feel their weight when they shift on our back.

The book mentioned above is connected with the website Edge.org, which has collected ruminations on various subjects from many top people into several similar volumes.

http://edge.org/

I have quite a number of their books including, most recently, This Will Make You Smarter, and a number of collections by John Brockman, such as What is Your Dangerous Idea? and What We Believe But Can Not Prove, etc.

Many of these musings are very interesting, some are controversial or dubious, but most of them are from very well-known and distinguished scientists and others.

It's sort of like TED talks with a more conservative and older crowd of top people. The young whipper-snappers go to TED and people like Paul Davies, Mark Tegmark and Freeman Dyson post their thoughts to edge.org and are published in the spin-off books. There may be some considerable overlap between the two discussion fora.
 
2012-06-21 01:15:35 AM
I'm smart enough not to read TFA but to read the fark comments instead.
 
2012-06-21 01:39:23 AM
i486.photobucket.com
i486.photobucket.com
Dumb people rely on T.V.

/I wouldn't know as I don't have a tv......and whatnot.
 
2012-06-21 05:25:25 AM
I'll rather go with Descartes:
As it can't be proved that ya all and the rest of the world are actually real and not just a product of my imagination, I'll assume I'm always right.
Maybe if I think it strong enough, I could alter reality like I can sometime control my dreams...

But seriously, accepting the truth is difficult because the truth is mostly depressing, like:
-I'm gona die, and that's it.
-There is likely no god or whatever, or if there is one, it dont'give a fark.
-I'm not that special among humans, an even if I was, humanity is still nothing among the almost endless time and space in the universe.

Yeah, better believe something that makes me happy.
I AM THE MATRIX AND YOU ARE MY PUPETTS
 
2012-06-21 06:20:28 AM
I'd also add in that most people have no farking clue how to actually do 'research'.
 
2012-06-21 08:38:34 AM

FishyFred: FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: RE: FWD: OBAMA IS IMPORTED MUSLIN! SCIENTISTS FIND 6,000 YEAR OLD DINOSAUR BONES! CHILD SEES LIGHT, HEARS GOD BEFORE DOCTORS REVIVE HIM! SNOPES CONFIRMS!111!


Not enough apostrophe's.
 
2012-06-21 08:55:43 AM

AMonkey'sUncle: FishyFred: FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: RE: FWD: OBAMA IS IMPORTED MUSLIN! SCIENTISTS FIND 6,000 YEAR OLD DINOSAUR BONES! CHILD SEES LIGHT, HEARS GOD BEFORE DOCTORS REVIVE HIM! SNOPES CONFIRMS!111!

Not enough apostrophe's.


And you didn't leave ellipsis after every god damn sentence, showing how you have further wisdom to impart if only someone would recognise your genius and ask.

/I hate pointless ellipses...
 
2012-06-21 09:33:57 AM

meat0918: Nadie_AZ: The most important thing I have to say on this is: just because you're smart doesn't mean you're right. This is an incredibly common fallacy, and one I see a lot. In many cases, the opposite is true, especially when it comes to closely-held beliefs. Smart people hear a claim and decide to check up on it, and then fall victim to the bias of only reading articles that support their pre-existing belief.

Um, I would imagine that almost ALL people do this.

They do.

I have a handy dandy quote to go along with it too.

"We sometimes find ourselves changing our minds without any resistance or heavy emotion, but if we are told that we are wrong we resent the imputation and harden our hearts. We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem, which is threatened. ... Few of us take the pains to study the origin of our cherished convictions; indeed, we have a natural repugnance to so doing. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do."
- James Harvey Robinson


Except that I came to be an atheist after a lot of thought. When told I'm wrong I don't get all pig-headed stubborn and refuse to see the other viewpoint. I have seen it and rejected it. And if it costs me companionship (hasn't yet) then so be it.
 
2012-06-21 10:05:54 AM

AMonkey'sUncle:

Except that I came to be an atheist after a lot of thought. When told I'm wrong I don't get all pig-headed stubborn and refuse to see the other viewpoint. I have seen it and rejected it. And if it costs me companionship (hasn't yet) then so be it.


You sound like a Capricorn.
 
2012-06-21 11:08:31 AM
"I have a lot of beliefs and I live by none of them"

-Louis CK
 
2012-06-21 11:08:46 AM

Because People in power are Stupid: AMonkey'sUncle:

Except that I came to be an atheist after a lot of thought. When told I'm wrong I don't get all pig-headed stubborn and refuse to see the other viewpoint. I have seen it and rejected it. And if it costs me companionship (hasn't yet) then so be it.

You sound like a Capricorn.


CSB: I was born at 11:30PM on 12/21 and always assumed I was a Sagg. But someone told me as the sun was already up in Cap, that's what I was.

So good catch.
 
2012-06-21 11:39:23 AM
I can honestly say I never hold a belief that has been proven wrong to me.

I love seeking absolute truth. Unfortunately the truth is the result of a nuanced series of events that is in flux, and many times one is called either a dinosaur or fear-monger because the critics prefer to live in a snapshot of the present.


One example. While every race of human being has the potential to be whatever they want to be, within their personal abilities, whether it be a good punch-press operator, a decent middle-manager, or a great doctor, engineer, or lawyer, statistical facts show serious gaps in racial achievement. Hyper-sensitive people cry racism when this is pointed out, when the first way to fix a problem is to label certain aspects of behavior destructive and try to crush it.

Same thing with insisting English be the official primary language of the land. Wails of racism spew from every corner, but the reality is allowing multi-generational non-proficiency of English is creating a slave class that has no job or opportunity mobility. What is better in the long run, placating a voting block to do whatever they want, or develop a well-thought program of carrots and sticks to encourage English proficiency as quickly as possible to open opportunities for every legal immigrant?

Quebec is a good example on this--Their blue-collar class is trapped in one province fighting for a limited number of jobs, whereas the bilinguals or English-speakers can do pretty much whatever they want wherever they want.
 
2012-06-21 01:03:13 PM

zeronewbury:
She said, "What about Jesus and God? Some of my friends say that they are real."
I answered, "Lots of people BELIEVE that they are, but I really don't know. I wish there was some sort of proof, but there isn't. They can believe those things if that makes them feel better, but you can believe anything you want and its probably just as true."
We decided that Mom can do whatever she wants now, but if she plays golf or basketball or soccer she still has to try hard and might not win, but she is always the best she can be and nobody ever gets injured.


I'm atheist, and that is the sweetest thing I have read in a long time.
 
2012-06-21 01:38:33 PM
Stupid people tend to try and legislate the internet because they don't actually understand how it works, what it does, or how monumentally useful it is.

/and that's just the porn!
//Hachchachachacha!
 
2012-06-21 05:00:07 PM

Nadie_AZ: Um, I would imagine that almost ALL people do this.


You're quick to believe this article, but you want to believe that all people are like that.
 
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