This Article Won’t Change Your Mind: The facts on why facts alone can’t fight false beliefs

Mar 22, 2017

By Julie Beck

“I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘She’s totally lying.’ At the same time, I remember something in my mind saying, ‘And that doesn’t matter.’” For Daniel Shaw, believing the words of the guru he had spent years devoted to wasn’t blind faith exactly. It was something he chose. “I remember actually consciously making that choice.”

There are facts, and there are beliefs, and there are things you want so badly to believe that they become as facts to you.

Back in 1980, Shaw had arrived at a Siddha Yoga meditation center in upstate New York during what he says was a “very vulnerable point in my life.” He’d had trouble with relationships, and at work, and none of the therapies he’d tried really seemed to help. But with Siddha Yoga, “my experiences were so good and meditation felt so beneficial [that] I really walked into it more and more deeply. At one point, I felt that I had found my life’s calling.” So, in 1985, he saved up money and flew to India to join the staff of Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the spiritual leader of the organization, which had tens of thousands of followers. Shaw rose through the ranks, and spent a lot of time traveling for the organization, sometimes with Gurumayi, sometimes checking up on centers around the U.S.

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18 comments on “This Article Won’t Change Your Mind: The facts on why facts alone can’t fight false beliefs

  • It seems in the UK, education on medical facts, is definitely either changing mind, or providing resistance to indoctrination!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-39153121

    Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians

    A quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, a survey commissioned by the BBC suggests.

    However, almost one in 10 people of no religion say they do believe the Easter story, but it has “some content that should not be taken literally”.

    A fifth of non-religious people believe in life after death, the poll suggests.

    The Church of England said it showed many people held religious beliefs.

    ComRes surveyed 2,010 British adults by telephone, between 2 and 12 February 2017.
    The research was commissioned by BBC local radio for Palm Sunday.

    The survey suggested:

    17% of all people believe the Bible version word-for-word

    31% of Christians believe word-for-word the Bible version, rising to 57% among “active” Christians (those who go to a religious service at least once a month)

    Exactly half of all people surveyed did not believe in the resurrection at all

    46% of people say they believe in some form of life after death and 46% do not

    20% of non-religious people say they believe in some form of life after death

    9% of non-religious people believe in the Resurrection, 1% of whom say they believe it literally

    Respondents were split evenly on the issue of life after death.
    While the majority of Christians say they do believe, just 46% of the general public do and 46% do not.
    The remaining 8% say they do not know.

    Examples of life after death given in the survey included heaven, hell and reincarnation.

    Three in ten Christians surveyed (31%) said they did not believe in life after death.

    However a fifth of non-religious people surveyed said they did (21%).



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  • “There are facts, and there are beliefs, and there are things you want so badly to believe that they become as facts to you.”

    It is amazing that such a sentence is coming from atheists, because they think that they are immune to this trap described in the sentence. But in fact, they are probably the most exposed to it because atheism is just a believe like another on the same level as religion.

    In fact, atheists only believe in what they want to believe. They are excluding a priori the possibility that God exists. This is not scientific. A scientist must always be open to either hypothesis. If someone is taking some stuff as an unproven postulate, the subsequent thinking based on such a postulate is prone to bias. This is why atheists ignore scientific facts if they are against their believing model and are thereby in contradiction with their own credo .

    Take Dawkins’ Weasel algorithm for example, which is considered to show how natural selection works on a admittedly basic level. However, there is an article on this algorithm on ResearchGate.net, which shows that according to it the time for the Pan/Homo split would have taken more than twice the age of the universe, while in reality it did not take more than 13 million years. The mainly atheist biological community just ignores such statements, qualifying them as pseudoscience, while in fact the pseudoscience is on the side of the atheists, because they reject something without even knowing what they reject.



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  • This is a quite superb article from the Atlantic by the way.

    Theirs is some of the best researched material going.

    In fact, atheists only believe in what they want to believe.

    So you believe, based on a single article. The mechanism success is exonerated specifically in “Arrival of the Fittest” by Andreas Wagner (decades of work by a Swiss team), that shows the solution space in evolution is a million times larger than realised and structured to benefit multifunction genes.



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  • Web Hopper

    Further to the previous. Just read that article by an electrical engineer, no less. Its rubbish in its understanding of the details of what actually happens in evolution in its random co-option of whole sequences etc. WEASEL was an educational schematic illustration of how any change could be got with a really mechanism.

    Still you needed to believe its outcomes….



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  • ” Just read that article by an electrical engineer, no less. Its rubbish in its understanding of the details of what actually happens in evolution in its random co-option of whole sequences etc. WEASEL was an educational schematic illustration of how any change could be got with a really mechanism.”

    This article has more than 50 pages. It took me some days to read it and go through all the math. There are only some hours left since my post and your answer. So I guess you did read it only very superficially and thereby confirm what I said in my post: atheists don’t want to know the truth. Thy reject all what is not in their favor without discernment. If at least you had read the abstract and introduction of this article, you would understand that this researcher uses the algorithm as a lower limit for more sophisticated ones. The Weasel algorithm produces a target nucleotide sequence very rapidly, much more rapidly than nature can produce it. So if it provides an expected number of generations that is far beyond the Homo/Pan split, then something must be wrong with natural selection. Do you grasp this?



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  • And he is a theoretical physicist, not an electrical engineer, teaching at a technical college. If you even misinterpret his profile information, what can be expected from your interpretation of the article?



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  • You’d do the maths!!! Wow! Me, I expect people to get that right.

    Read the premises and the conclusions and in this case a quick scan of the bibliography simply confirms the idiocy within.

    Many egregious premises predict a meaningless conclusion. The first to catch my eye.

    “Genes are only functional if they are complete. A partial achievement of a target sequence is not functional and thereby does not procure an advantage for survival. Partial code may even be disadvantageous, as mutations are often detrimental.”

    Sadly Dawkins has led your IDers into a trap with the selective breeding illustration leading them to think in terms of targets. In fact his intention was more modest,

    to demonstrate that the process that drives evolutionary systems—random variation combined with non-random cumulative selection—is different from pure chance.

    Things go from bad to worse as you move through the conclusion, but I invite all to scan the page or two of the conclusion to know exactly what value is contained in the previous 40+ pages.

    If there were any value in them the specific conclusion is, anyway, blown out of the water by Andreas Wagner.

    Have you read Ulrich Utiger’s CV?



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  • My previous post has gone astray. It will get rescued shortly.

    Ulrich Utiger was born in 1958 and, after high school, preferred to get a job rather than to go to university. Thus, he first became a freelance builder and was engaged several times, among others, for conducting renovations in a Franciscan Convent. After some years, he found back to his high school enthusiasm for natural sciences and studied theoretical physics. He graduated with a Master’s degree in 2007 and afterward also got a diploma in education. He is since then working as a high school teacher.

    In 1986, a friend told him about Lourdes, the most important Marian pilgrimage destination in France, and the miraculous healings of seriously ill people occurring sometimes there. The next summer, when he was travelling in France, he decided to make a trip to Lourdes, without knowing what exactly happened at this place. He was deeply moved when he learned that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared there to the young girl Bernadette in 1858.

    Back at home, he studied Catholic theology and Mariology on an autodidactic basis. However, books did not always give him satisfying answers to his questions. This is why he tried to answer the questions himself. As a result, he wrote the present book on salvation history, which took him several years. His work is far from being exhaustive and sometimes even offers speculative and bold solutions. However, for those who prefer a short overview on salvation history focusing on its global context rather than on sophisticated details, his work should be very interesting.



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  • If I had the same expertise you demonstrate in your posts, I would prefer to shut up rather than to say anything more. You probably even don’t realize anymore that you are disqualifying yourself with your posts. Do you know what are codons? They are composed of three nucleotides, change one of them and you get another codon that synthesizes another amino acid. Change some of them and you get another protein and another gene. This information you can find in any textbook. This is all what Utiger says. But I will not waste my time any further with people like you. Post whatever you want to post and continue to believe what you need to believe. I hope you will get happy with it…



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  • Yep. I know what codons are and how they work. You, however have shown no understanding of what I have been saying.

    It seems my comment on target outcomes has gone over your head.

    The only definition of a target protein for instance (if we look ahead to the resultant effect in the phenotype rather than its intermediary building blocks) is a protein that confers advantage. It may in no way directly relieve the specific selection pressure but may confer differential reproductive benefits sufficient to make the specific selection pressure irrelevant. By not having a specific target far fewer mutations are judged “wrong”.

    Analysis based on having target intermediaries or final expressed results is the chronic failure creationists make.

    Trust me you should carry on learning this stuff. Discover how many other processes contribute to phenotype change (that can drive genotype selections that in turn drive much of the phenotype, but not all of it). Then truly go read the Wagner and understand that not only is evolution an effortless doddle it is almost suspiciously easy. Wholeheartedly buy in to evolution by natural selection and its other less famous mechanisms of change and Wagner will deliver a much better God Puzzler to work in your favour.

    But no creationist ever takes this up, so committed are they to these simplistic models, like the Straw Hypothesis you linked to here.



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  • “Analysis based on having target intermediaries or final expressed results is the chronic failure creationists make.”

    You definitely even don’t know what the Weasel algorithm is: it procures an advantage for every correct nucleotide that makes part of the target. Utiger shows that even with this, it would take billions of years to produce the genetic divergence between humans and chimps instead of millions as shown by empirical data. Is that really so complicate to understand? Apparently yes for someone who deliberately closes his eyes and obstructs his ears.



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  • “It is amazing that such a sentence is coming from atheists, because they think that they are immune to this trap described in the sentence. But in fact, they are probably the most exposed to it because atheism is just a belief like another on the same level as religion.”

    Hi, Web Hopper,

    For the umpteenth time, atheists are as capable of self-deception as anyone else; they are not immune to any of the vices that plague mankind, including all forms of treachery, hypocrisy, and self-seeking; but atheism per se is not a belief; it is the absence of belief in a god or gods (theos). The burden of proof is on those who posit the existence of an existing thing to provide evidence or even a good practical reason to believe in the existence of that thing – let alone worship it. To conflate the mere absence of a belief in something (in this case a god or gods) with a positive belief in something is dishonest, or simply wrong.

    Many words have several distinct meanings. You are (perhaps unwittingly) playing with words, are manipulating language. If someone doesn’t believe in ghosts, that absence of belief can be described as a “belief” that ghosts don’t exist. “I believe that ghosts don’t exist.” An inelegant phrase but it could be used. This is the more common way of putting it: “I don’t believe in ghosts.” But the word “belief” in this context just means: “I don’t think ghosts exist.” Why take advantage of the polysemous aspect of the word belief and distort its context-specific meanings? Religious people believe in things they think are real; it is a positive belief; and belief in that context also means having faith in that thing. Not believing in something that others believe in, and in spite of no physical evidence, does not imply that the non-believers must necessarily believe in what they regard as non-existent. Don’t you see how absurd and distorted that is? And, again, even saying “I believe it to be the case that no god or gods exist” is not a belief in that sense, and does not give someone the right to distort the meaning of belief in that isolated context.

    If there is any other reason why you might be inclined to argue that atheism constitutes a belief in the same sense as “any other belief”, or if you have spotted a flaw in my reasoning, let me know.



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  • Hopper,

    Do you not even notice when you type the word “target”? Do you not, even now understand this root of your error?

    You definitely even don’t know what the Weasel algorithm is: it procures an advantage for every correct nucleotide that makes part of the target.

    Believe me I’ve known it since it first appeared in print. I’ve already printed Dawkin’s own intended purpose for the algorithm. There are plenty of mathematical models of the actual process.

    An understanding of evolution has, of course, nothing to do with Atheism or the incidental fact of being atheist. I’d be very happy to pit your nonsense against religious scientists like Ken Miller, key witness against that other Intelligent Design nonsense in the Kitzmiller-Dover trial or Francis Collins head of the publicly funded Human Genome project.



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  • Dan:

    “Why take advantage of the polysemous aspect of the word belief and distort its context-specific meanings?”

    I don’t distort the word “belief”. I use it in the sense that belief contains a certain part of uncertainty because things are too complex or because of other reasons. Those who belief in God have rational reason to do so, but this is not possible with 100% certainty. In the same sense, atheists believe that there is no God, which also contains uncertainty because we live in an immense universe. Excluding something from this universe may be more or less accurate. For instance, one can say that there is no motel at the north pole of Jupiter. This is rather accurate, even if nobody has been there to check. However, if you say, ” I don’t believe in dark matter because I can’t see it” would be inaccurate, even though some decades ago this would have been considered accurate. So what I would like to make you understand is that it would be more honest to just say modestly, “I don’t know if there is a God or not”.

    There are a lot of things out there that we don’t understand and from which the existence we ignore. Also what is happening in the infinite microscopic world. If the universe is curved, there must be space that we completely ignore. Take a circle line lying in a plane for instance. If this line was the universe and intelligent beings would live in this universe, they had no chance of knowing what is going on in the plane. A line can also lie in 3d or multidimensional space. So in view of this ignorance it is dishonest to say, “I am 100% sure that there is not God, otherwise prove it to me”. Just my humble opinion.



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  • If the universe is curved, there must be space that we completely ignore.

    No. There isn’t a vacuum outside the vacuum that remains unbent when the first is curved. Only a vacuum can be occupied.

    Those who are atheist in Northern Europe are increasingly without belief. They simply lack a belief in supernatural entities. There is simply no choice that needs to be made (and nor was one offered) because there is no problem encountered in life that needs such a hypothesis. Americans have a real problem with this as their daily existence from childhood is saturated with supernatural belief as is their language. Often force-fed nonsense they must actively choose to reject it.

    Atheists increasingly are not believers in the non-existence of God but simply lack belief. Atheism (capital A and “ism”) is something of a political enterprise, supporting the rights of those atheist, say, but many these days don’t even think to so label themselves. Third parties may describe them as apparently atheist but they cannot be described as Atheists.

    There is no onus on those who are atheist to begin to respond to your hypotheses. The baggage is entirely yours to carry.



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