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Do true believers hold back society?

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An unexpectedly level-headed discussion from Tom Mahony at RealClearScience:

Ironically, true believers often moralize about the importance of facts and insist they’re the only ones who are “reality based.” However, in practice, they confuse facts with assumptions, beliefs, conjecture, and opinion. If you take an incorrect assumption, assume it as fact, and extrapolate from that assumption, even if the logic of the extrapolation is sound, the whole idea is wrong because the foundational assumption is wrong. Garbage in, garbage out. Yet, since true believers mistake their incorrect assumption for fact, and tout their impeccable extrapolation, you’re the kook. This is what passes for logic in the true-believer community.

True believers haunt any subject: science, religion, health, history, economics, politics. The distinction is not the subject matter, but the treatment of evidence and dismissal of same. True believers are not restricted to any particular political affiliation, ideology, culture, gender, age, metaphysical belief system, or education level. They can occur anywhere, but seem especially concentrated in partisan politics, dogmatic religion, and scientific materialism.

True believers include believers in scientific materialism? Yes, yes, everyone knows that what Mahony says is true and that it is drowning science in nonsense (cf crackpot cosmology). But the pop science media is a temple and, you know, death to unbelievers and all that …

Science has, for centuries, been vital to discovering evidence about the natural world and countering religious dogma. But calling yourself a “scientist” doesn’t inoculate you from true-believer status. Science is an empirical study that is both open minded and skeptical. Not all scientists practice this. Dogmatic adherents to scientific materialism, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, are a perfect example. (They will argue vehemently against this characterization, but present them with evidence countering materialism and see what happens.) More.

See what happens? When the smoke cleared, Uncommon Descent was still here. But yes, it was a blast.

See also: great physicists

and

Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

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One Reply to “Do true believers hold back society?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    Don’t baffle aand confuse them by talking about ‘assumptions, beliefs, conjecture, and opinion’.

    But, seriously, I love the fact that a wrong assumption will, via the most impeccable logic, ‘lead to Bedlam’ – as Keynes pointed out concerning the burden of a book by Hayek. And Keynes’s elegant style adds still acerbity to the humour:

    ‘The book, as it stands, seems to me to be one of the most frightful muddles I have ever read, with scarcely a sound proposition in it beginning with page 45, and yet it remains a book of some interest, which is likely to leave its mark on the mind of the reader. It is an extraordinary example of how, starting with a mistake, a remorseless logician can end up in bedlam.’

    ‘But then the brain got away’, reminded me of ‘then something happened,’ News. Haplessness in its purest form.

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