Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Why do people hold so tightly to ideas that are not supported by the data?

Asked by wundayatta (58586points) April 5th, 2010

This morning I was listening to a radio story about measles and how there is a measles outbreak somewhere in the US because parents refused to allow their children to be vaccinated. Some people believe that kids should get measles in order to boost their natural immunity, believing that measles is a fairly harmless disease. Others think that vaccinations cause autism.

Both of these ideas have no support in the scientific literature. I believe a lot of it comes through “alternative” sources. Some might call it new age thinking. In any case, the belief is harmful because it allows a disease we had eliminated in the US to spread again, and to hurt and possibly kill other people’s children. Yes. Measles can kill. It’s not as benign as people think. Not being vaccinated potentially has serious consequences for a large population.

I’d like to understand better where these beliefs come from and why they are so compelling that people maintain the beliefs in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. I’m not really interested in discussing the science behind such beliefs, except insofar as it explains why people believe these things so fervently. There are probably other examples of this kind of belief, and if you can think of some, please add them to the discussion.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

161 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

This behavior is all over Fluther, everywhere you look. I find it inexplicable, except as an example of what Goethe was talking about when he said that there is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.

Val123's avatar

I don’t understand either…..

drClaw's avatar

You can never second guess the power of popular culture on society. Jenny McCarthy thinks her son has autism because she let him get vaccinated and now parents who watch too much “Real Housewives…” all feel guilty when they take their kids to get shots. I feel bad for those kids, not only because they have to go through measles, but because they will grow up to be as crazy as their parents.

j0ey's avatar

I dont think it is stupid at all to refuse a vaccine…not when it is going into your own body. For example I never take the seasonal flu vaccine, and I sure as hell wasnt going to take the swine flu vaccine. Unless I know exactly whats going into my body they can go jump.

HOWEVER. When it comes to immunization of children…I think as a parent you should do it. When your kid is old enough to refuse the injection, that is when they can decide. Until then, you should trust modern medicine.

But yeah I dont think it is stupid, paranoid or anything else to not want a vaccine when you can decide for yourself.

At the end of the day, someone is making a pretty penny out of you getting some shit injected into your arm….and like everything else that involves money, you dont always have to 100% believe that its going to benefit you.

Snarp's avatar

All conspiracy fantasies, including anti-vaccination conspiracies, stem from an honest distrust of government, the apparent complexity and inaccessibility of real science, and the easy to digest hunks of disinformation available readily on the internet. Add to that the fact that these ideas easily fit into a preexisting world view and a lack of quality science education, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately these people are still a fairly small minority, unfortunately, as the recent San Diego example and others, including this case of an infant who died of pertussis before she was old enough to be vaccinated, show, this small minority can have a disproportionate impact on the majority where vaccination is concerned.

anartist's avatar

Because they like them.

cazzie's avatar

Aggressive stupidity. Decisions and belief based on fear and simplistic views. Save yourself. Save your children…. and try to have patience with the rest.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Fear is a powerful motivator and ardent belief tends to blind. Combine the two and you get a bunch of folks running from something without knowing where they’re going.

Why do they hold so tight? Because everything they hear is colored by their beliefs. You believe strong enough and you start twisting the facts to suit. As someone once said (though I’m sure I’m butchering it) “I’m not letting a bunch of facts get between me and my beliefs.”

Why do they hold so tight? Because they’re more afraid of the devil they know (autisim) than the one they don’t (measles). Remember most of these people didn’t have to grow up with measles, but they sure have heard a lot about autism and how bad it is.

marinelife's avatar

It is the old tribal fears of anything different or anything that an individual cannot understand personally (see @j0ey‘s response above about flu vaccinations).

It is a past of human brains and behavior that has not advanced.

ChaosCross's avatar

Usually because they want to believe it, or they are simply skeptical.

They might not believe that that the facts are really correct, as shown many times in history, this is why older people tend to cling to their beliefs more than the youth.

Take wine for instance, one year is is good for you, and then another part of research comes out saying that it is terrible for you. Then of course more research comes out claiming it is incredible for your health.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

cazzie's avatar

@marinelife I nearly mentioned something about j0ey’s simplistic comment about vaccinations

j0ey's avatar

@marinelife…...no. I just dont see why I should get some shit injected into my arm if I dont want it there.

I dont see it as simplistic, I just see it as exercising my right to say no.

I’m not scared of it, I just dont want it.

Its called a choice.

Snarp's avatar

BTW, you can find out exactly what is in a vaccination pretty easily. In fact, there is far more accurate information about what is in a vaccine handed to you when you get it than you will ever get for most “supplements” so popular with anti vaccination folks.

marinelife's avatar

@j0ey Why would you deliberately court the flu and help in its spread? That seems ignorant to me.

cazzie's avatar

@marinelife & @j0ey
No… flu shots shouldn’t be compared to preventing illnesses in children that could kill them or unborn foetuses. THAT was MY point.

unique's avatar

for the same reason that people buy lottery tickets.

ragingloli's avatar

@cazzie
Flu can very well kill children and adults alike.

dpworkin's avatar

Hey, look, @wundayatta! You get to see it in your very own post!

DarkScribe's avatar

There is a risk with all vaccines, there are no exceptions, but in most cases the risk is very slight and the benefits enormous. The problem is that even if the risk of death as a side effect is one in ten thousand, the friends, family work-mates etc., of that “ten-thousandth” person will react and talk about it. Once this happens a few times the impression left with many people is simply that the vaccine can kill and they prefer not to to take that risk for a disease that they feel they might not ever be exposed to. Bad news travels fast so more people will hear about the bad side effect than the lives saved. Add to that the few occasions when things have gone badly wrong – where the risk turned out to be much higher than anticipated and people become naturally wary.

I will certainly accept vaccinations for dangerous diseases that I expect to have a high likelihood of exposure to, say typhoid if I was traveling to an area where it was “in the wild” but not consider vaccinations for things that I am unlikely to be at risk for or those that carry a risk of inconvenience rather than permanent damage or death. .

j0ey's avatar

@Snarp @marinelife hahahaha ok…...It is not ignorant. I have a choice to get it, or not. I choose to not get it. I havent had the flu in years, I dont see the need.

If I was an elderly person, or worked with children…then yes I would. But in my current situation I don’t feel the need to go and spend money on it.

And I am not saying its dangerous…I just dont think it is an essential thing for everyone.

And if they have you believing that, then you are the ignorant ones.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@j0ey says: HOWEVER. When it comes to immunization of children…I think as a parent you should do it. When your kid is old enough to refuse the injection, that is when they can decide. Until then, you should trust modern medicine.

That position is inconsistent. Why should you suddenly stop trusting medicine after a certain age? You either trust or you don’t. Personally, I happen to think the evidence for vaccination is strong at all ages. It’s not a question of certain people getting rich or not; scientific data is data.

bob_'s avatar

Faith: evidence of things not seen.

cazzie's avatar

@ragingloli Of COURSE… some people… a very few number, die from complications from seasonal flus…. but they are (have been) compromised in other ways… HIV, severe asthma, etc…. If you fall into a risk category, flu shots may be prudent. But I’m talking about Whooping cough, polio, measles, malaria, etc….

Snarp's avatar

I think @DarkScribe is on to something, essentially it’s the power of the anecdote over statistics. Science relies on statistics that show real risk versus real benefit across the population. But statistics become meaningless in the face of a single powerful anecdote. Our emotions essentially cloud our ability to conduct a rational risk/benefit analysis. Sadly, there are even doctors who fall victim to believing anecdotes over statistics.

j0ey's avatar

@Dr_Dredd Its not about not trusting medicine. Its just choosing to say no to something when it involves your own body.

If I want to risk getting the flu, thats my business, its my body.

But making your child more susceptible to illness, because of certain beliefs is not ok.

Snarp's avatar

@cazzie The problem with only giving flu shots to those at high risk of death is that vaccines don’t work as well when given to a small subset of a population. The flu shot is less effective in the very people who would benefit most from it, and no vaccination is one hundred percent effective. So the more people outside the high risk group that are vaccinated, the fewer people who are spreading the flu virus around, and the less likelihood that one of those high risk people in whom the vaccine was ineffective or an infant too young to be vaccinated will contract the disease.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@j0ey I guess I just don’t understand why you don’t want to make your child more susceptible to illness, but don’t feel that way about yourself.

Where do you live? I don’t want to be around you next flu season… :-)

ragingloli's avatar

@j0ey
If I want to risk getting the flu, thats my business, its my body.
And when you get the flu you are jeopardising the health of others, by infecting others with the disease.

j0ey's avatar

@Dr_Dredd….I dont have any children.

@ragingloli…..I havent had the flu in years. Its called “looking after yourself”

Just_Justine's avatar

I personally do not take any medication (well known) including vaccines until I have researched them. (As much as I can). I very rarely get flu’ or get sick for that matter. I consider anything going into my body as suspicious until I have acquired as much data as I can on it. Only then I make a decision.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@j0ey Oh, for crying out loud. You’re the one who brought up kids. Hypothetically speaking, then.

j0ey's avatar

@Dr_Dredd hahaha the flu is hardly a life and death situation for me. So it is VERY different. And I think if I did have kids, I would care about their well being more than my own, yes.

And saying that, if I did have young children I would consider getting the flu vaccine, to minimize their chance and my chance to getting ill.

But right now, in my current situation. I dont need it. Therefore I say N O.

escapedone7's avatar

I am so confused. I thought I had to have my shots in order to go to public school. In fact I remember needing shots updated in order to get into university even. I thought it was required for international travel as well. Am I wrong? I didn’t think it was optional.

Snarp's avatar

@j0ey You realize of course, that there is no action or inaction on your part (or anyone else’s) preventing you (or them) from getting the flu, right? Eating better, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep are generally good for you, and may improve the function of your immune system, but if you are exposed to an influenza virus to which you do not already have an immunity due to vaccination or previous exposure, you’re going to get sick, period. Now if you lock yourself in, wear a mask, and don’t touch anything anyone else has touched without rubber gloves, that might prevent you from getting the flu.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@j0ey It could become a life and death situation. We saw plenty of young people dying from H1N1 this year. (Plus lots of elderly folks dying from the regular flu.)

Snarp's avatar

@escapedone7 There are exemptions available to the rules for school attendance, originally implemented for religious reasons, there have been more and more people going through the paperwork to get the exemptions.

Rules regarding international travel really only apply if you need to get a visa to visit a particular country. In that case getting a visa could be restricted based on vaccination, but the country requiring the visa would have to have the rule. There are recommendations, but you can travel without vaccination to most places.

Brian1946's avatar

@escapedone7

“I thought I had to have my shots in order to go to public school. In fact I remember needing shots updated in order to get into university even. I thought it was required for international travel as well. Am I wrong?”

I don’t think you’re wrong- I think shots are required for those occasions.
However, outside of those occasions and military service, etc., shots aren’t required for many private sector jobs and ordinary civilian life.

E.g., I’m retired so I don’t have to get any shots unless I travel to some countries.

j0ey's avatar

@ EVERYONE….so you all run to the doctor as soon as the newest vaccine is on the shelves? WOW…things must be a lot different in America.

cazzie's avatar

@Snarp j0ey doesn’t realise that she probably does get the viruses, but her immune system may be more effective at battling them. There is no avoiding viruses… they are everywhere.

@Snarp again….I understand about the effectiveness of vaccines, and about virus mutations. You’ll never effectively inoculate an entire population in a timely enough manner for the ideal theory of flu vaccines to work. The best you can do is minimise the death toll for those at risk.

@j0ey…. your simplistic view proves the point of the tread. For a start… I don’t live in America.

j0ey's avatar

@cazzie how is saying no to something that I can say no to simplistic???

cazzie's avatar

@j0ey… its not that you are saying no to the flu shot…that’s fine.. but your defence and then offence remarks seem simplistic. Even your jump to this conclusion….

tinyfaery's avatar

Disbelief in the so-called facts. In my short 36 years science has changed its mind, repeatedly, on a multitude of issues.

Snarp's avatar

@j0ey I’m just giving you the facts. You want to make a choice, it should be an informed one, and you should know that whatever “looking after yourself” you are doing is not preventing you from getting the flu. All the vitamins in the world don’t have enough impact on your immune system to prevent the flu. You just haven’t been exposed to a novel flu virus lately. It’s luck, not clean living. And also another example of relying on anecdotes over science.

cazzie's avatar

claps for tinyfaery in a sincere way

zophu's avatar

There’s this huge contrast when it comes to vaccines. People who believe they’re evil and people who believe those people are stupid.

And they usually are pretty stupid.

But the point remains, there’s so much potential for inhumane actions being taken when it comes to vaccines. A lot of skepticism needs to be directed towards them.

So, if you call yourself a skeptic, be one and stop positioning yourself directly against the “woos” and focus on what matters.

When skepticism becomes a culture . . . doesn’t that draw your skepticism? It’s like the word is trying to be redefined to mean something other than what it actually means. Be skeptical of yourself if your only concern with medicine is the data that’s given to you by the authorities.

edit: by the way, I think basic vaccination is the best choice for you and your kids, not trying to start a debate about that here…

Snarp's avatar

@tinyfaery And the safety and effectiveness of vaccines was not one of them. Neither was the roundness of the world, the heliocentric nature of the solar system, nor the effectiveness of antibiotics. Anyway, better minds than mine have handled this argument before.

tinyfaery's avatar

Not yet anyway.

j0ey's avatar

@cazzie….I dont know what else to say to you…I really dont. I dont even understand what I am being attacked for….I am saying that EVERYONE that says no to the flu vaccine is not paranoid or into conspiracy theories which is what was being suggested in the thread Some people just say no when they have the right to.

@Snarp…..Do you react this way when anyone tells you they are not getting the flu vaccine?.....Maybe I’ll get it this year…just for you. Will that make you feel better hahaha.

Snarp's avatar

@tinyfaery I await the publication of the paper providing the startling revelation that the earth is flat and is the center of the universe.

Fyrius's avatar

Um, guys. I recall @wundayatta mentioning this thread was not supposed to be about the science underlying vaccination.

As for what’s wrong with people who hold on to beliefs against all reason: I’d call it mental inertia. Changing your mind takes effort, and so some people avoid doing it unless they really can’t get away with that.
It also requires you to admit you were wrong, which makes most people feel bad, and so they deny it.

Lve's avatar

People like to have their views fit neatly into their own belief system. As soon as a new view comes along, even if it is based on a fairly solid fact, they have two choices: Change their belief system or shut their eyes and ignore the facts. The latter option is usually the easy road, since changing part of your belief system involves admitting you have been wrong before and your other views may be wrong too. People don’t like to be (proven) wrong. This behavior is harmless most of the time, but can become dangerous when issues like child vaccination are dealt with.

cytonic_horus's avatar

Well I have to say I’ve never had the vaccination for the flu in my life and I don’t feel worse off for it…I can’t remember the last time I had the flu and yeah that is probably down to luck but I’m healthy and my immune system should be able to shake things off.

My father got the flu vaccination and that coincided with the worst case of flu he has ever had in his entire life…but then they try to predict what strain is going to hit hard over the winter but of course there is more than one strain so it’s not exactly fool proof.

I’ve been happy to get vaccinations for going abroad and for my work as well so I guess I take it on a case by case basis which is the same for people who refuse to have their kids vaccinated.

Fyrius's avatar

@zophu
Lurve.
This is a very important point. Opposing nutters is in itself not scepticism, if you only oppose them because the other smart people do.

zophu's avatar

@Lye

Got to remain fluid, adaptable to the times. everyone do the jellyfish with me. fluid. adapting to new views. woooOOOooooOOOooo jellyfish.

. . . I’ve been up all night packing boxes. sorry

j0ey's avatar

@cytonic_horus great answer!!!!! Another person who says no :)....good stuff.

Exhausted's avatar

I think when you live and associate with others, you have an obligation to respect them. America is supposed to be based on this theory. Everyone has the right to choose what is best for them without condemnation, but in the same respect, if you are to mingle with the general public, you should conform to precautions in place to prevent the spread of disease. Vaccines are required for schools and international travel to PROTECT the general population. If you choose not to be vaccinated, that is your right, but if you don’t get vaccinated, you owe it to the general population to remove yourself from the possiblity of spreading potentially deadly illnesses on others. Although you may have a strong composition, others, like babies and the elderly or those with compromised immunities don’t have that protection. It would be selfish of me to shurk my responsiblilty to those less fortunate than I am.

escapedone7's avatar

Perhaps the people believe the data is falsified. Some people are prone to believing in grand conspiracy theories, and are very distrustful of the government in general.

Brian1946's avatar

I think another source of this obstinate adherence could called the “X Files” mentality, although I think a vaccine that could transform one into an advanced alien being might appeal to some celebrities and athletes. ;-)

Trillian's avatar

I briefly worked with a girl who refused to have her kids vaccinated because her daughter was diagnosed with Autism and someone told her that there may be a link. No empirical data was necessary for her at that point. She flatly refuses and that’s that. I find it exhausting to try to reason with people about things like this and even if the kids come down with Pertussis, Diptheria (spelling?), Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio, or Yellow Fever; it would convince her of nothing and I wouldn’t wish that on her anyway. I cannot account for it and decline to waste my breath on such as her.

j0ey's avatar

I swear where I live (Australia)....no one cares if you get the vaccine or not. They recommend elderly, children, and people working the elderly and small children get it. But no one my age really even thinks about it. I honestly do not see why it is so bad to say no to it, when its not even required.

escapedone7's avatar

May I please ask an off topic question about vaccinations? Many people who are older than I am have a round looking scar on their arm from a vaccine they gave at a time before I came around apparently. I don’t have the scar, and asked my mother once about it. She said they stopped giving that type of vaccine. Does anybody know what vaccine left a circle on people’s arms? Why did they stop giving it?

cytonic_horus's avatar

@Exhausted I don’t get this part about “you owe it to the general population to remove yourself from the possibility of spreading potentially deadly illnesses on others”...how can you tell the difference? If I was a bus driver should I remove myself from the possibility of knocking down someone?

I had years of going into a nursing home with old and ill people and common sense plays a large part…yeah if you are sneezing away then you don’t go near but maybe one of them gave me it in the first place?

You can’t tell who has and who hasn’t had a vaccination unless we are supposed to wear a sign which states our stance on the matter

Snarp's avatar

@escapedone7 It’s not a vaccine, it’s the old test for tuberculosis. They have a new test now that doesn’t leave that scar.

cazzie's avatar

@escapedone7 it was either from Small Pox or from an old TB vaccination.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Snarp, @escapedone7 It could also be the scar from the old smallpox vaccine.

Brian1946's avatar

@escapedone7

“Many people who are older than I am have a round looking scar on their arm from a vaccine they gave at a time before I came around apparently. I don’t have the scar, and asked my mother once about it. She said they stopped giving that type of vaccine. Does anybody know what vaccine left a circle on people’s arms? Why did they stop giving it?”

I have one of those scars- it’s from a smallpox vaccination.
IIRC, the vaccine was given by injecting it several times in concentric circular patterns.
I think they stopped giving it because the WHO has declared smallpox to be globally eradicated.

j0ey's avatar

“you owe it to the general population to remove yourself from the possibility of spreading potentially deadly illnesses on others”.

Paranoia right there.

cazzie's avatar

@j0ey and who ever said what she’s quoting…...Well, there’s risk assessment in that issue right there…. it’s not that easy and both points of view to the extreme are mistaken.

dpworkin's avatar

I think it’s hilarious that this question devolved into a perfect example of the very thing it addressed. Full of misinformation and unsupported beliefs, with the rational explanations all being distinctly ignored.

ucme's avatar

Kidology probably sums it up best.

MissFox's avatar

YOU WILL ALL DIE IF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU DOESN’T GET THE FLU VACCINE!!!!

DIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE

cazzie's avatar

@dpworkin yep.. but that was almost expected, wasn’t it?

j0ey's avatar

so @cazzie and @dpworkin do you both get the flu vaccine every season?

Pandora's avatar

I think it has to do with the fact that the medical community isn’t up front with patients about possible side effects. My son was saying a few words before the age of 1, mommy, papa, ball, (you get it) till he had his year shot. He got a fever, with his vaccination. Then I didn’t hear one word for almost a year. He just stopped talking. Doctor said this is normal behavior. I was young and believed everything they told me. I continued with his vaccines. By 5 years old he was way behind the curve in speech. He was entered into a program where they where studying the sudden increase in speech problems in young boys. They said they couldn’t explain it. The children tested were above average intelligence for their age but they just couldn’t verbalize well and some not at all.
First thing they did was look at me and assume I spoke Spanish to my child and suggested I speak English to him. I only spoke English to him from the beginning because I didn’t want to confuse him. They didn’t believe that was the case.

cazzie's avatar

hahahahaha sorry, not you Pandora

Sandydog's avatar

Ignorance can be bliss !!
If “data” or evidence goes against your beliefs then its convenient to ignore it.

ragingloli's avatar

I never wear my seatbelt because I have never had an accident

j0ey's avatar

@ragingloli now thats just ridiculous…..it is against the law to not wear a seat belt. It is not even recommended for people my age to get the flu vaccine.

Just_Justine's avatar

The original question asked “Why do people hold so tightly to ideas that are not supported by the data?

Plus the OP said he is not interested in scientific data. I am really not sure what you are all on about to be honest!

dpworkin's avatar

@j0ey Ask me that in the Flu Vaccine Question. It’s off-topic here.

cytonic_horus's avatar

with the swine flu vaccine the government and all of their medical board decided that I am big enough to deal with it myself…I think I would trust my govern…oh wait a minute that doesnt quite work

ragingloli's avatar

@j0ey
It is not ridiculous. It is the same reason you gave for not taking vaccines. That not wearing seatbelts is against the law or not recommended for certain age groups is completely irrelevant.

JLeslie's avatar

I think people keep believing ideas not supported by data either because they don’t trust the data, or for cognitive dissonance reasons. If changing the belief will cause a large breakdown or some sort of chain reaction of the destruction of other beliefs that relate to a persons identity, they may reject all of it out of hand. This is easily observed with very religious people who cannot stand the idea that one or part of their belief system is illogical or incorrect. They seem fearful that if one thing is incorrect then it all might be and so they just put on blinders.

@escapedone7 Definitely small pox. They stopped giving it around 1970 because it has been declared to not exist in the world anymore. Although there is samples of it in labs, so it has been thought that it might be used in bioterrorism, so we still have vaccine around if it does crop its’ ugly head up again. But, not enough vaccine to innoculate everyone.

j0ey's avatar

ok @ragingloli…thats right its exactly the same.

davidbetterman's avatar

Others think that vaccinations cause autism.”

Vaccinations don’t cause autism.

However, the preservative used in some vaccines, Thimerosal and the high mercury content therein do cause autism.
http://www.naturalnews.com/011764.html
http://www.thimerosal-autism-symptoms.com/

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Pandora It’s not a question about the medical community not being upfront about side effects. There just is no data supporting the vaccine/autism link. A doctor isn’t going to tell you about data that doesn’t exist.

markyy's avatar

[Mod says] Stay on-topic people. If you need a reminder, the question we discuss here is: “Why do people hold so tightly to ideas that are not supported by the data?”

Snarp's avatar

@davidbetterman That statement, in addition to continuing our apparent derailing of the thread, is simply not supported by any scientific evidence. Of course, I’m not sure discussing scientific evidence and vaccination is really off topic in a question that spends two thirds of its details talking about just that, caveats aside.

Response moderated
davidbetterman's avatar

@Snarp , if you read the quoted statement (”Others think that vaccinations cause autism.”) you might note that it comes directly from @wundayatta‘s question.

Thimerosal Autism Symptoms Resource
The chairman of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Boyd Haley believes thimerosal may be a cause of autism and the FDA and CDC…

Response moderated
Snarp's avatar

@davidbetterman Would that be the same Boyd Haley who is giving an industrial chelator to children that has not been adequately tested for safety or efficacy?

JLeslie's avatar

@davidbetterman many of the vaccines don’t have mercury anymore. I think the bigger question that I never hear asked is, “are the vaccines contributing to autism?” Maybe it is not the mercury, but something else in the vaccine? I am waiting for a study where they follow 100,000 children who do not get vaccinated until starting at age 3, welll after autism symptoms usually begin. I am not saying do not vaccinate at all, but delay vaccination for those parents who want to, and are in low risk groups to catching other disease (children not in daycare).

davidbetterman's avatar

@Snarp You tell me. But interesting how you jump on that rather than discuss the fact that the mercury in the preservative is causing autism.
However chelating is an answer to the problem.

Obviously, rather than discuss the problem, you are just going to be a dpworkin clone.

Snarp's avatar

@davidbetterman I’ve discussed that all it needs to be discussed, there is no valid scientific evidence for it, what else is there to say? You baldly state it as a fact when it is an unsupported conjecture of a few people on the fringe. Use of Boyd Haley and his title is a type of logical fallacy called the appeal to authority (and the wrong authority at that since he is a chemist rather than a medical researcher or doctor) and it is perfectly reasonable when confronted with such an appeal to authority to skewer the authority.

Brian1946's avatar

@JLeslie

“many of the vaccines don’t have mercury anymore.”

That’s good to know.
Do you know what vaccines still have mercury?

davidbetterman's avatar

@Snarp Bullshit…There are plenty of studies and facts supporting the mercury laden thimerosal causing autism in vaccinated children.
You are just another of those who ignore the fact and spread tripe.

Brian1946's avatar

@JLeslie

Thanks.

I’m due for a tetanus shot in 2012.
I’ll check the table then and specify a single-dose shot if the contents haven’t changed.

davidbetterman's avatar

@JLeslie It is interesting to note that after the parents of children made autistic by the deadly preservative in vaccines spoke out against the mercury laden preservative that those using it and who claimed that it didn’t cause any problems then removed it from the vaccines.

Sort of makes you think that the autism is caused by said chems.

Snarp's avatar

@davidbetterman Yes, me and every legitimate scientist on earth researching the issue. There are no properly conducted studies that support a link between autism and mercury. the two studies that most who claim the link like to point to have been withdrawn by their publishers for major methodological flaws bordering on outright fraud.

markyy's avatar

[Mod says (again)] Ok maybe I wasn’t clear enough. Stay ontopic, all offtopic quips will from here on be removed. As will personal attacks. That includes quips about vaccination, both sides have made made their arguments, if you feel like you absolutely must continue discussing the use of thimerosal and mercury in vaccins, please explore Fluther’s vaccine topics or ask a new question about it and continue in there.

Please respect wundayatta’s wishes: I’m not really interested in discussing the science behind such beliefs, except insofar as it explains why people believe these things so fervently.

Response moderated
Response moderated
Response moderated
Response moderated
wundayatta's avatar

I don’t mind so much about the deviation. I expected it. Perhaps I delayed it just a bit by making the request. I also think it is an interesting object example of what I’m talking about. The appropriate questions to ask @j0ey and @davidbetterman and any others who refuse such vaccines is why they refuse it, and then where did they get their information and why did they trust it.

@dpworkin says this in another way just above, although I want to push him to support his assertions that the ideas of anti-virus folk are unsupported by fact, and to try to gather information from anti-vacciners about why they ignore answers supported by good science.

I guess I think there’s something deeper to this than just dismissing it as a belief system that does not want to be assaulted by some inconvenient science. People have pointed fingers at government for covering something up, and at the medical profession for doing the same thing.

I think it would be interesting to see if there are any commonalities between the people who are against vaccination. The only person I feel like I know of those is @davidbetterman. It is interesting to me because I think I almost always find myself on the opposite side of any issue we discuss.

As to the discussion of the flu vaccine, I do think that kind of misses the point of my question. While the flu can kill people, I was more concerned with vaccines for things that have a much higher mortality rate than the flu. @j0ey is far from being alone in not taking the flu vaccine. I don’t know what the numbers actually are, but I’d be surprised if more than half the populations of the US gets the flu vaccine. I really do think that choosing not to get the flu vaccine is a much different thing from choosing not to get the measles vaccine, although the public health arguments made in that discussion still are relevant.

Response moderated
Response moderated
DominicX's avatar

Though I may read the other responses for my own personal enlightenment, I’m not going to read them for the purpose of this reply.

I’d like to bring up something else that affects people’s decisions to hold tightly to ideas. How often do you come across conflicting data? I come across it all the time. There is data to support almost anything out there. How am I supposed to know what to believe?

In general, I go with the more “credible” source, but even then, people will claim another is just as credible if not moreso or that that “credible” is corrupt. It’s confusing. There are mixed signals all over the place. We have to trust the professionals in many cases; we don’t have access to hard data. So sometimes, I really don’t blame people for deciding to just stick with a belief no matter what. Especially if they have their own personal evidence that supports it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Because we all want something to believe in.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I agree with many people above that, ironically, have contradictory views. First I want to say that I agree with @tinyfaery in that I believe scientific facts can and do change and people are simply unable to keep up. @Snarp When people were researching whether the earth was flat or not, much was not known to us and the amount of time necessary for discovery was different – these days progress (for better or worse) moves a thousand times faster and information comes to us from all over and a lot of it. Consumers who are laypeople when it comes to understanding data are not aware of how to critically assess what is being told to them. Many are not sure which sources (government or private organizations) to trust. I believe all parents wants to do what’s best for their kids (let’s hope anyway) and they are scared because others say ‘This is what happened to my child, I believe it was the vaccination’ and it’s relevant to them as parents. I suppose they also didn’t catch that one guy admitting to falsifying all his research linking vaccinations to autism. Anyway, this is not about the science behind vaccination as you mentioned. This is about the fact that science is not infallible, scientific researh is often at odds with itsels and that makes it even harder for people who are not familiar with the process to understand certain facts. People trust their doctors yet aren’t familiar with how much the pharmaceutical industry has their doctors in their pockets and with how much research is being done because of industry interests and NOT because of patients’ interests. I listen in on conversations between reps and doctors daily and believe you me, there is no clear cut objective way to do things – they take ‘em to dinner, agree to test their FDA not approved medication on some of the patients, docs say okay…so it goes…other patients in my other hospital never even get to hear about this medication and disparities continue (I work in one ‘poo’ hospital and in one ‘rich’ hospital). There are many other examples of science being led and morphed and influenced by corporations here in the U.S. and it makes me uneasy as a person of public health with a solid knowledge of biology and many years behind me of research. And if it makes me uneasy, then it’s sure as hell going to make others uneasy the less they know. People have a feeling sometimes that they’re being scammed and they are – they transfer this feeling to many areas of their life and unfortunately they don’t trust some facts that we can attest to.

Response moderated
Response moderated
Fyrius's avatar

In the particular case of vaccinations, there’s another motive why certain people might be motivated to find reasons to justify not getting one. Some people, including yours truly, just do not like it when people stick needles into them.
In my case, I know my syringophobia is not based on any rational concern (whether there could exist one or not), and I resolve not to let it interfere with my better judgement about what needs to be done for the sake of my health. But there are plenty of people out there who don’t have my inhibitions against basing their beliefs on their emotional reactions. It’s not inconceivable that some people would end up believing vaccines are bad just so they can avoid getting stung and still believe they didn’t just chicken out.

Snarp's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think it is less about actual conflicting research than it is about the media hyping the conflict and promoting both sides of a debate as being equal in a misguided attempt at fairness, when in fact one side has the overwhelming amount of properly conducted research on their side.

davidbetterman's avatar

Why do people hold so tightly to ideas that are not supported by the data?”

Often the data is skewed by the researchers who were bought and paid for by the company/companies pushing their deadly toxins on an unsuspecting populace.

wundayatta's avatar

@davidbetterman How do you make the decision that one set of data is skewed and another isn’t? Do you know which ones are bought by drug companies? Or do you decide that because some studies are skewed to support a company that paid for the research, you will distrust all studies?

escapedone7's avatar

There are people that are so distrustful that they think the government agencies like the CDC and Health Department would lie to them for some mysterious agenda. Some people are just paranoid to the point of not thinking logically. The illuminati is putting microchips in that, doncha know.

Some doubt the validity of the science given to them. Sometimes we read about scientific studies that came to an erroneous conclusion because of some flaw in the study (not a wide enough sample, not restricting certain variables). Perhaps they mistrust the facts as they are stated, thinking studies aren’t always conclusive evidence.

I think @Simone_de_Beauvoir has a very very good point too. Some perhaps are jaded by the way the news keeps changing the “facts” as we know it to the point of confusion, making the world of science seem confusing and ever changing to someone with little education. Nutritioon information is very confusing to me. One minute wine is bad for you, then it is good , then it is bad. One type of fat is called a bad fat, then a good fat, then bad again. People stop at the margarine and butter at the store and try to remember which one is supposed to be better for you this week. Perhaps because they get conflicting information in other areas, such as nutrition, they start to doubt anything is a hard fact.

Fyrius's avatar

@davidbetterman
Like when? Have any specific references, proof that those results were skewed, proof that those researchers were corrupt? And if yes, do you have enough well-documented cases of this to back up that this happens “often”?

Besides that, if the data are unreliable, that might justify not believing what those data imply, but it does not justify believing something not supported by any data.

CaptainHarley's avatar

To respons to: “Why do people hold so tightly to ideas that are not supported by the data?” ... it’s largely because people resist having ideas to which they have comitted themselves questioned, especially if the comittment was at least mildly public in some way. It’s the same process which many religions make mandatory in order to build comittment.

escapedone7's avatar

Perhaps the people don’t even know about the data.

wundayatta's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I think you raise a troublesome point. It is true that one study of a subject can indicate one outcome, while another either doesn’t support the first study or contradicts it. What is one to do? What do people actually do (in terms of this question, what percent of people follow one study and what is the percent who believe the other)?

It is the role of science to notice these contradictory results and to do further research to figure out what is going on. Usually, though, in such cases, a product is not released until the controversy is sorted out.

Then, in other cases—many of them food studies—we find on information saying something is healthy and we all go eat that, and then later on the evidence shows it isn’t healthy. I guess scientific research is another consumer product. Some people research it and others don’t. Some people will not take an action until the research results are very clear. Still other decide that all scientists are warped because some of them were bought by companies.

davidbetterman's avatar

@wundayatta “How do you make the decision that one set of data is skewed and another isn’t?
When the head of the chemistry department at a mjor university tells me that the data is skewed is one very good indication to me that the data has been skewed. Did you not read my response, or was it modded too?
That was for @Fyrius too.

Snarp's avatar

@davidbetterman But there are many more people who are just as renowned, and who unlike the head of chemistry at a major university are subject matter experts on vaccines, who say that the data is not skewed. And if some research being sponsored by pharmaceutical companies makes all similar research suspect, then how much more suspect must this chemistry professor be when he is selling an untested industrial chelator to treat autism, a treatment that is worthless when (since) mercury is not the cause of autism? Here’s the background: http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/chi-autism-chemicaljan17,0,6466364.story

davidbetterman's avatar

@Snarp
The head of the chemistry department to which I refer is not your friend from Kentucky. So this professor, who heads the chem dep’t at a different major university is not selling whatever tripe you keep harping about.
No wonder there is so much removed from this thread.

Snarp's avatar

@davidbetterman You brought Haley up, not me. Forgive me if I assumed that the head of a chemistry department you mentioned earlier was your nameless head of a chemistry department.

I know a fairly respected and highly skilled scientist who is an expert in satellite imagery who believes that we never landed on the moon and that evolution is false. He’s really good at what he does, but he’s still wrong about the moon and evolution.

davidbetterman's avatar

@Snarp You are forgiven. My nameless chem professor must remain nameless as his child who acquired the brain damage from the vaccination has rights to privacy,

dpworkin's avatar

Perhaps one answer to the OP’s question is that people are comforted by anecdotal evidence, and don’t really understand empiricism and falsifiability. Even people who have taken Latin.

davidbetterman's avatar

LOL…Perhaps people are comforted by evidence skewed by those performing the tests…skewed for the money and to save their jobs…Even people who claim they are taking a break from fluther.

Trillian's avatar

@wundayatta I think in a nutshell the bottom line answer is: People choose what they want to believe and will use anything at all to support that belief whether it makes sense or not. I’ve seen many here say the same basic thing about the Christian faith. The underlying principle is the same.
Ciao sweetie!

ninjacolin's avatar

“Fallacy” is the term used to describe exactly why people acquire and posses inaccurate conclusions: The only reason anyone ever believes something that isn’t accurate is because they have made a mistake, an error in their reasoning. The only reason people “hold on to” their fallacies is because they haven’t been exposed in their minds.

All fallacies are caused by Omission of pertinent data (which is what the word “Ignorance” refers to). The omission occurs either when some pertinent data hasn’t been revealed to the individual or when the pertinent data has been mistakenly overruled by other inaccurate data.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
“The only reason anyone ever believes something that isn’t accurate is because they have made a mistake, an error in their reasoning.”
Is that so?
Some beliefs are acquired long before people start reasoning at all and never questioned afterwards. Do you think children conclude that Santa Claus exists because of errors in their reasoning? Do you think that people with Muslim parents usually believe in Allah and people with Christian parents usually believe in Jehovah because of their reasoning?
Note: while either religion could conceivably be correct, at least one of them must be false.
I once was as optimistic as you, but I’ve found that some people don’t bother with reasoning at all. Some people just continue believing what they were raised with. And some people just believe what everyone around them believes.

Moreover even with perfect reasoning you can still end up with inaccurate conclusions, if it just happens to be the case that the truth is more bizarre than some false explanation. Proper reasoning is often probabilistic rather than absolute; often you can’t be completely certain, but one explanation is a heckload more likely than another. But occasionally, that doesn’t keep it from being wrong anyway. Believing it would then be a reasonable mistake; a wrong conclusion based on sound reasoning.

Also, aren’t fallacies a result of an incomplete understanding of how logic works, rather than of insufficient data? A well-trained rationalist will rarely fall for any fallacies, even if their knowledge of the facts leaves just as much to be desired as that of anyone else.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Fyrius Yes it is so! :) haha

“Some beliefs are acquired long before people start reasoning at all”

Some perhaps, but not any of the ones that are relevant to this discussion. The only beliefs that seem to be acquired without reasoning are the ones we take in through the 5 senses, the things we believe at first sensory experience. For example, that we are uncomfortably hot or cold, or that it is dark or bright outside.. We could consider consciousness a 6th sense by which we believe what we happen to be thinking about without reasoning on whether we are thinking about it.. it’s tricky though, huh?

Anyway, besides these all other conclusions/beliefs are arrived at through rational (reasoning) means. For example, because it’s daytime, i should go to work. Because i have to go to work i should wear my tie.. things like that. These are complex, logical, reasoned and rational conclusions.

Now onto the fallacies you asked about. Most fallacies have names. Sometimes they have 2 or more names, sometimes there are 2 or more fallacies occurring at the same time. First though:

@Fyrius said: “Also, aren’t fallacies a result of an incomplete understanding of how logic works, rather than of insufficient data?”

While ignorance about how logic works is in itself a case of insufficient data I would still have to say.. not really, errors in reasoning are judged according to the rules of logic. Whether you are a logician or not your error is still a fallacy as long as it can be shown by the laws of logic to be so. (btw, just by being a human you’re automatically a logician. whether you’re a good one or not depends on how many fallacies you make and avoid)

@Fyrius: “Do you think children conclude that Santa Claus exists because of errors in their reasoning?”

Yes, the name for this fallacy is Appeal to Authority. The authority is usually the parents in these cases. Sometimes it could be a case of Ad Populum because all their friends believe it, they assume it must be true.

@Fyrius: “Do you think that people with Muslim parents usually believe in Allah and people with Christian parents usually believe in Jehovah because of their reasoning? ”

Again, appeal to authority or ad populum fallacy.

@Fyrius: “Moreover even with perfect reasoning you can still end up with inaccurate conclusions, if it just happens to be the case that the truth is more bizarre than some false explanation”

if the truth is something other than what you thought it would be, then you’ve necessarily committed a fallacy in arriving at your conclusion. There’s a few fallacies I would suggest that encompass what’s going on in such a case. Consider Ignoratio Elenchi which is essentially “Missing the point.” Which describes what happens when some bizare fact blind sides you. Or perhaps consider No true scotsman fallacy. For example, when creationists say: “Let me get this straight, you want me to believe that my beautiful children came from monkeys?! That’s ludicrous!”.. essentially, they’re saying that no real human would ever come from some inferior primate (or even admit to it if it was true.)

@Fyrius: “Believing it would then be a reasonable mistake; a wrong conclusion based on sound reasoning”

Wrong conclusions may be the product of Sound “as possible” reasoning.. but never of truly Sound reasoning. Lacking enough information, you will form conclusions to the best of your ability. Sometimes you will be right, sometimes you will be wrong. Even if you do guess at something and get it right, your reasoning may not have been sound. For example, perhaps you’ve tried buying someone a cheese-less Artichoke and Sun dried tomato pizza with whole wheat crust, simply because you thought they were intolerant… only to find out they’re actually just vegetarian and your choice was wiser than you bargained for. Yet, still utterly fallacious.

ninjacolin's avatar

^ correction: “simply because you thought they were lactose intolerant”

shilolo's avatar

Why do people hold so tightly to ideas that are not supported by the data?

Because most people have no idea how to interpret data, or quite frankly, what “data” really means. Thus, they are susceptible to anecdotes and persuasive arguments that rely on emotions rather than science. It is very hard to convince people, even highly intelligent people, that their anecdotal response does not a pattern make.

escapedone7's avatar

@shilolo That’s an excellent point. I saw a book once that was titled “How to lie with statistics.” I intended to buy it someday. Maybe I should check it out.

Also consider most of these people are not scientists. They know what the television tells them, which changes all the time. One minute there are advertisements for a miracle drug that is “clinically proven” to cure an ailment. The next minute a lawyer advertises that the wonder drug is extremely dangerous, and if you’ve had a heart attack from said medication to call his office.

Outside observers have also been subject to the ever-changing landscape of science.

One of my favorite all time quotes is from that silly movie Men in Black.

Kay said, ” A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

gemiwing's avatar

Who was better received, Antony or Brutus?

I think part of the reason is that people react more strongly to emotion, not statistics and data. If we could put scientific data/results into an emotional context then perhaps more people would remember and believe them.

People connect to other people, either through experience (anecdotes) or visualization (how would I feel if…) so it doesn’t surprise me at all that people grasp onto and identify with ‘science’ in the same way. Even when science says otherwise.

JLeslie's avatar

To @escapedone7 point. Seems there are still a lot of black people around Memphis who for them Tuskegee lives today. A friend of mine volunteers in a prison to council on AIDS and some other things, and he said that population firmly believes that the government is not to be trusted. And, we can’t think they have nothing to do with the average guy just because they are in prison, because they learn these ideas from their communities, and they are not in prison their whole lives.

wundayatta's avatar

@shilolo It is very hard to convince people, even highly intelligent people, that their anecdotal response does not a pattern make.

I have found that if I explain a little about statistical techniques without actually naming it as statistics, it will be fairly understandable that there is variation in any set of observations. Their experience is different, and has been included when making this finding.

About the only statistical function most people know about is averaging. For whatever reason, reports in the media almost never talk about variance. When you only talk about average, then everyone is going to have a different experience and almost no one will believe the results. Average is a mystical—imaginary thing. I mean, how can the average number of children in the US family be 2.2? Or whatever it is now. You can’t have two tenths of a child. Immediately, to a person with little knowledge of stats, that seems suspect. And everyone knows someone with more than four children or no children at all. That doesn’t seem near the average, so this piece of data is now very suspect.

But tell them about variance, and it starts to make a little more sense. And, intuitively, people understand statistics because they do it all the time. They just don’t know they are doing it. Every time you see a new house, you add it to your internal database of houses. You add all the associated information, too.

Later on, when you see a house that matches one in your database with the same surrounding features, you jump to the conclusion that the same thing that happened in the house in your internal database will happen here, or in a place like here. That’s averaging and correlating.

The same problems happen with internal stats as with formal stats. That’s how things like racism and sexism can happen. People are basing their predictions based on the analysis of biased samples. Perhaps too few observations (one or two) or maybe a set that leaves out too many of a certain kind of people. Or they didn’t do any of their own analysis, or…. on and on.

I think people get it when you turn it into language that doesn’t have the jargon. I think it’s intuitively understandable because everyone is doing it all the time. They just don’t know it.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@shilolo One of my research methodology professors always used to say, “The plural of anecdote is not data.”

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
“Yes, the name for this fallacy is Appeal to Authority. The authority is usually the parents in these cases. Sometimes it could be a case of Ad Populum because all their friends believe it, they assume it must be true.”
I see, I see.
But still… is that really a matter of reasoning? Surely it’s not necessarily a conscious train of thought that leads children to take their parents’ word for it about Santa Claus, and I doubt whether any subconscious kind of thought could be considered reasoning…
I can see where you’re coming from with this, but I’m not sure if it’s really the same thing.

“if the truth is something other than what you thought it would be, then you’ve necessarily committed a fallacy in arriving at your conclusion.”
So if a perfectly sensible train of thought leads to the wrong conclusion, then that makes it a fallacy, is that what you mean? No such thing as a reasonable mistake?

If reasoning without enough information cannot be completely sound, then completely sound reasoning hardly exists at all. We almost never have enough information to be completely certain of anything. Most of the time, being rational means forming probabilistic expectations of what’s probably true, and estimating or calculating how probable it is, and what else could be the case and how probable those things are.

Probability assessment is a (the) formally correct way to deal with uncertainty. So if for example you participate in a lottery, then sound reasoning will tell you that your chances of winning the jackpot are one divided by the number of participants n (which can be thousands or millions of people). Based on that it would be perfectly reasonable to assume you’re (almost certainly) not going to win; the probability is infinitesimal.
Now, n -1 times out of n, that’s going to be true. And 1 time out of n, that’s going to be false. Would you still say that it’s fallacious reasoning in that one case where turns out you do win the lottery? Would it also be fallacious in those n -1 cases where you don’t?

ninjacolin's avatar

“Surely it’s not necessarily a conscious train of thought that leads children to take their parents’ word for it”

How could it be anything less? The child’s limited consciousness is exactly what forces them to follow their parent’s advice. An infant is an example of a mind that doesn’t follow because it lacks consciousness of how or why to follow. An adult is an example of a mind conscious of how to follow but also conscious of why it might be best ignore a nagging mom.

” I doubt whether any subconscious kind of thought could be considered reasoning”

hmm.. consciousness refers to a single moment in time, not a body function.

” if a perfectly sensible train of thought leads to the wrong conclusion, then that makes it a fallacy, is that what you mean? No such thing as a reasonable mistake?”

yes, a reasonable mistake is a fallacy.

“If reasoning without enough information cannot be completely sound, then completely sound reasoning hardly exists at all. We almost never have enough information to be completely certain of anything.”

Absolutely untrue. We have enough information to be certain about most things. Only the really complicated stuff is hard to be certain of. This is why almost everyone can get their license and relatively few people will ever die by a car accident. Even the people who do die or get hurt in accidents spend the overwhelming majority of their lives not in an accident. We’ve got enough information to be pretty practically certain about a vast array of things.

“Most of the time, being rational means forming probabilistic expectations of what’s probably true, and estimating or calculating how probable it is, and what else could be the case and how probable those things are.”

I agree, being conscious (there’s that word again) of odds factors in to how decisions are arrived at. But i keep in mind that sometimes the calculations of odds and the interpretation of data is done poorly, fallaciously.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
“consciousness refers to a single moment in time, not a body function.”
“Consciousness” is a word for a moment? Isn’t it a state of mind?
At any rate, that’s not the point.

“yes, a reasonable mistake is a fallacy.”
A reasonable fallacy?
I’m not sure what definition of “fallacy” and “reasonable” you’re using, but in my books, that doesn’t fly.

“We have enough information to be certain about most things. Only the really complicated stuff is hard to be certain of. (...) We’ve got enough information to be pretty practically certain about a vast array of things.”
I did say ”completely certain”. While we have enough information to make realistic assessments of what is true and false and what is and isn’t going to happen, we almost never have enough information to be completely certain of anything, beyond all possible doubt. And so we get probabilistic, and that’s how we end up with the sort of “practical certainty” you mention.

I think you still haven’t answered my question: is it reasonable to expect to lose the lottery if you lose it, and fallacious to expect to lose the lottery if you win it?
Or is the reasonability of the expectation based on the probability, but independent of the actual outcome?

zophu's avatar

i am so conscious right now, you would probably mistake me as a fallacy based on rationally miscalculated probability. cause i’m so fucking conscious. WAHH!

Fyrius's avatar

@zophu
He’s a fallacy! Get him!

(gets out the torches and pitch forks)

ninjacolin's avatar

@ninjacolin tackles @zophu

yes, a reasonable mistake is a fallacy.

@Fyrius “A reasonable fallacy? I’m not sure what definition of “fallacy” and “reasonable” you’re using, but in my books, that doesn’t fly.”

grrr, it would fly in your books if i could figure out how to word this right. you just don’t know what i mean yet but i’m not saying anything very weird. (hard sell, i know)

“reasonable mistake.”
We do have a misunderstanding here, as you pointed out.. so to clarify: when a brain is trying to solve a puzzle, it uses logic. Truth is the goal of logic. Directional errors in the search for truth are fallacies. Fallacies are misleading goals tempting traps which “try” to lure the brain away from Truth.

By “reasonable fallacy” I only meant a fallacy that can easily be sympathized with. A trap so tempting, you can understand why someone even slightly lesser than you would fall for it. :) For example, it’s very tempting for kids to believe whatever their parents tell them. Has a lot to do with being gullible. Has a lot to do with being uninformed.. has a lot to do with being unconscious of stuff.

@Fyrius “I did say ”completely certain”. While we have enough information to make realistic assessments of what is true and false and what is and isn’t going to happen, we almost never have enough information to be completely certain of anything, beyond all possible doubt. And so we get probabilistic, and that’s how we end up with the sort of “practical certainty” you mention.”

is there a significant difference between successful practical certainty and complete certainty?

@Fyrius “I think you still haven’t answered my question: is it reasonable to expect to lose the lottery if you lose it, and fallacious to expect to lose the lottery if you win it?”

Yes, I would say so. If by buying a ticket victory would be certain, it would certainly be a logical error not to buy it… unless your goal was something other than to get the greatest monetary gain.

@Fyrius “Or is the reasonability of the expectation based on the probability, but independent of the actual outcome?”

Reasonability is subjective and a made up term :). To a fly, it is reasonable to try to exit a home by searching for a way through a glass window in the living room. To a human, it is reasonable to try locating a door knob. The difference between a human and a fly, in this case, is that a human is conscious of more practical and relevant facts than the fly is. That consciousness allows the human to exit with ease while the fly will just keep trying the window until he starves to death.

But this isn’t to say that the fly was “less reasonable.” The fly behaves as reasonably as possible under his circumstances, based on the facts its conscious of. A fly’s conclusion about how one should go about exiting a home is fallacious but not unreasonable.

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
“By “reasonable fallacy” I only meant a fallacy that can easily be sympathized with. A trap so tempting, you can understand why someone even slightly lesser than you would fall for it. :) For example, it’s very tempting for kids to believe whatever their parents tell them. Has a lot to do with being gullible. Has a lot to do with being uninformed.. has a lot to do with being unconscious of stuff.”
I see…
But I’m still going to contend that sometimes, going for what you would call a fallacy can be the most rational choice. Sometimes, reasoning that leads to the wrong conclusion is not just tempting, but actually formally correct.

If you see an unopened cereal box on a shelf in a supermarket, it would be reasonable to assume there’s cereal in it. It would not be reasonable to assume it’s full of diamonds. I would contend that even if it turns out that jewel thieves about to be caught in a cereal factory have used this exact cereal box to hide their diamonds in, you have not committed a fallacy by assuming it was (almost certainly) full of only cereal.
If you don’t pick it up and shake it or anything, no kind of sane reasoning could lead you to assign a higher probability to diamonds than to cereal just by looking at the box. The truth is so weird that you can’t possibly be expected see it coming. It would be a schoolbook example of a reasonable mistake.
This is my main point.

“is there a significant difference between successful practical certainty and complete certainty?”
Definitely. Well, that is to say, there is a definite difference, and whether or not it’s significant depends on how much you care about science and philosophy.
We can be practically certain of Einsteinian physics, for example; we can operate on the assumption that it’s true, and (almost) everything works out. But still we can’t be completely certain that this really is how it all works. The same could be said of Newtonian physics before Einstein replaced that model with his more accurate one.
For a more commonplace example, I’m practically certain that when I turn on the tap in my bathroom, water will come out. Yet I’m not absolutely certain; I can’t be sure that the plumbing isn’t clogged up. I think the probability is very small, but it’s not impossible.

“Yes, I would say so. If by buying a ticket victory would be certain, it would certainly be a logical error not to buy it… unless your goal was something other than to get the greatest monetary gain.”
Um. That completely misses the point. Of course victory is not certain. It was a crucial part of the question that victory is overwhelmingly unlikely. If you win a lottery against all odds, did you commit a fallacy if you did not expect it?

“Reasonability is subjective and a made up term :).”
Lol, sometimes I just need to bend words into weird shaped to make the syntax work out the way I want. :P

ninjacolin's avatar

“Sometimes, reasoning that leads to the wrong conclusion is not just tempting, but actually formally correct.”

I think i just barely disagree with you. If the reasoning leads to the wrong conclusion, then it’s fallacious. If you end up with a box of diamonds when you meant to have a box of cinnamon crunchies, your conclusion was fallacious even though it was profitable to you. A reasonable mistake is still a mistake. A profitable mistake is still a mistake. I’m not saying that logical mistakes can’t work out to your unforeseen advantage. I’m simply saying that like all fallacies, they are deviations from your original intentions.

“Yes, I would say so. If by buying a ticket victory would be certain, it would certainly be a logical error not to buy it… unless your goal was something other than to get the greatest monetary gain.”
@Fyrius Um. That completely misses the point. Of course victory is not certain. It was a crucial part of the question that victory is overwhelmingly unlikely. If you win a lottery against all odds, did you commit a fallacy if you did not expect it?

no no, i don’t mean certain to the individual. I mean certain from an outside perspective. all things considered.

Fyrius's avatar

I feel we’re about to descend into semantics.

Even if you’re mistaken about the cereal box, logically speaking you did not do anything wrong. No logic could have led you to the right conclusion, only a nonsensical random guess might have had a chance to, and given your ignorance the probability that such a random guess would be wrong was much, much higher. Thus I don’t think you could find any fallacy anywhere in the train of thought that led to this wrong conclusion.
Where by “fallacy” I mean “methodological error”. A fallacy is when you think in the wrong ways. That does not apply here.
If you think in these ways, you might be wrong like this once in your life, and right every other time. It is a perfectly rational choice to think in this way even if you can be wrong.

Rationality means minimising your chances of being wrong, but it cannot annihilate them altogether. And that’s fine. It’s an acceptable risk for someone who cannot be omniscient.
If you apply the principles of rationalism, most of the time it gives you the right conclusions. You may still occasionally end up being wrong, but it’s an acceptable error rate. It is still a good idea to follow a modus operandi that gives the right answers 90% of the time, especially if there is no alternative with a lower error rate.

“no no, i don’t mean certain to the individual. I mean certain from an outside perspective. all things considered.”
It eludes me in what way an outside perspective could be relevant. In our own decisions we don’t have access to such an outside perspective. We see the world in first person view.
And from that first person view, the chances of winning the lottery are all but non-existent. Given that, would the logical validity of not expecting the almost-impossible to happen be nullified if the almost-impossible actually comes to pass?

ninjacolin's avatar

@Fyrius “Even if you’re mistaken about the cereal box, logically speaking you did not do anything wrong”

You failed to achieve the rational goal you were consciously working towards. By fluke, not by your own design, you came to a different answer.

@Fyrius “only a nonsensical random guess might have had a chance to”

Not necessarily nonsensical. Someone who knows better could just tell you the answer. But you’re right that the answer would have to elude the consciousness of the answerer.

“Minimizing chances of being wrong” is an interesting way to explain rationality. I’m not sure if it completely describes it though. Have to think on it more..

@Fyrius “Where by “fallacy” I mean “methodological error”. A fallacy is when you think in the wrong ways. That does not apply here. ”

This sort of conclusion is described in logic as a “Valid Conclusion.” Your last 2 paragraphs touched on it:

@Fyrius “It eludes me in what way an outside perspective could be relevant. In our own decisions we don’t have access to such an outside perspective. We see the world in first person view. And from that first person view, the chances of winning the lottery are all but non-existent. Given that, would the logical validity of not expecting the almost-impossible to happen be nullified if the almost-impossible actually comes to pass?”

Conclusions that necessarily follow from their premises are called “Valid” conclusions.

Some examples of perfectly valid conclusions:

v1. This is the button to unlock my car doors
I need my car doors unlocked
Therefore, I should push this button.

v2. All dogs have four paws.
Rover is an amputee.
Therefore, Rover is not a dog.

v3. Playing the lottery probably won’t benefit me.
I shouldn’t do things that probably won’t benefit me.
Therefore, I shouldn’t play the lottery.

Again, these are all valid conclusions. V1 is valid and sound, meaning, the conclusion is actually true since the premises were both true. V2 is valid but it isn’t sound because one of the premises happens to be untrue: Not all dogs have 4 paws.

V3 is a lot of fun to consider. But I have to leave. :) let me know what you think

Fyrius's avatar

Truth be told I’m getting kind of tired of this exchange. If it’s going anywhere, it’s moving Very Slowly.

I suppose this time it was me who was using a term wrong: “logically valid”. Indeed, I didn’t mean syllogism-style necessary truth like what you exemplified there. I’m not thinking of formal logic here, I’m thinking of drawing conclusions from probability estimation.
Because I do indeed define rationalism as the craft of how to be wrong as little as humanly possible. In other words, for every individual case, to minimise the probability of drawing a wrong conclusion.

Whenever I talk about rationalism these days, I basically channel Eliezer Yudkowsky‘s teachings. Many of them are about Bayesian probability assessment correction and how to use it in daily life to test hypotheses and evaluate beliefs.

If you take an interest in this subject, I’ve probably already recommended reading LessWrong to you, but I’m going to do it again anyway.

zophu's avatar

Yeah, that was a good example of mutual mental-masturbation. But it looked like good practice for more productive discussions, I guess.

Fyrius's avatar

@zophu
If any aspect of the discussion we just had could be captured in any metaphor about masturbation, it eludes me.
What exactly is your remark?

zophu's avatar

Heh, don’t worry. I just meant it was a sort of intellectual exercise without much pay off. Like masturbation. See? Sorry if I offended.

ninjacolin's avatar

zophu’s hilarious.

“Because I do indeed define rationalism as the craft of how to be wrong as little as humanly possible.”

i think this is cool. myself, i consider rationality the laws of physics for sentient minds.

Fyrius's avatar

No worries.

Masturbation pays off, though.

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther