I WANT TO BELIEVE

Just when you did not think things could get any weirder, they always seem to do so. The well of absurdity is apparently bottomless.

Suddenly, Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head are America’s greatest threats. Islamofascist terrorism and China’s growing global influence are in the rearview mirror. Locking down entire states and forcing people to wear masks make sense while releasing a flood of illegal immigrants into the interior of the country regardless of their health status does as well – hard to reconcile those two. You must never question an election when a Democrat wins, but always consider any election that produces a Republican win as illegitimate. Russia! Russia! Russia!

A cognitively compromised president and creeping anti-constitutional authoritarianism are NOT concerns.

Ever wonder why supposedly smart people seemingly believe such stupid stuff?

#MeToo.

Especially now that the dam holding back the reservoir of liquid WGD (Weapons Grade Dumbass) has broken and it seems about half of America was inundated in the subsequent flood.

I have been reading about the psychological motivations behind why people believe stupid things. There are several reasons for cognitive and confirmation biases – societal, cultural, family influences, personal or emotional reasons, you were reared to believe certain ways, perhaps influenced by a teacher, a particular book, or something leads an individual to a belief system… and empowers you to rationalize and defend that system for any number of apparently rational reasons.

In short, what and how you believe comes down to two things, preference (believing whatever you want to believe – what most people do) or evidence (basing your beliefs on evidence – what real scientists and truth seekers do). These characteristics of believing result in two general ways of reasoning, 1) thinking like a scientist (not the politicized kind), someone who does not care what outcome is, only that they outcome is true, or 2) you can think like a lawyer, someone who has a clear outcome in mind.

It seems pretty clear that most people think like lawyers, arguing only to win, rather than to discover the actual truth and facts. They are not interested in following the evidence where it leads unless, of course, it leads to their preconceived, preferred conclusion. Not in the least interested in all the available evidence and information, they only seek the evidence and information that supports their position.

The latter type of reasoning has an official title, it is called “motivated reasoning”. Think of motivated reasoning as personified by Fox Mulder from the old TV show, “X-Files”. On the wall in Mulder’s FBI office, there was a poster showing a flying saucer over some trees with the text “I WANT TO BELIEVE” across the bottom.

This is that.

Motivated “I WANT TO BELIEVE” reasoning is closely related to confirmation bias – because instead of being interested in all the facts, people are only interested in the facts that support their argument. The signs of motivated reasoning are:

  • Arguing with a goal in mind, with an obvious attachment to one particular belief or conclusion
  • A tendency to be dismissive of any evidence or information that threatens your beliefs or your argument
  • An unwillingness to follow the evidence where it leads – unless it supports your beliefs or your argument
  • Double standards for evidence
  • One extremely low standard for the things you DO want to believe
  • One extremely high standard for the things you DON’T want to believe
  • A tendency towards mental gymnastics and ridiculous farfetched scenarios in an attempt to justify and rationalize your beliefs, and to reach your preferred conclusion
  • A tendency to interpret information in a biased way that supports your beliefs
  • Supporting evidence is considered “proof” and is perceived as stronger than it is
  • Disconfirming evidence is dismissed and/or perceived as weaker than it is
  • Neutral evidence is also perceived as being supportive of your argument
  • A tendency to twist any evidence or information presented to suit your argument and to see it as supportive of your argument

Keep in mind that most of the “smart people”, with whom you engage are NOT necessarily smarter than you. Often “smart people” do not use their “smartness” to reason to a logical and factual endpoint, they are simply better at finding clever arguments and reasons than other “non-smart”, perhaps lesser educated people are. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame calls these “smart” people “credentialed, not educated”, meaning they have the framed sheepskins hanging on their “I Love Me” wall, but are dumber than a burlap bag of rocks.

The answer to why people believe stupid crap is pretty simple, it is because they want to believe it. In some cases, they NEED to believe it to continue the mirage that their “reality” has enough validity to exist. That’s why these “smart people” tend to see these debates in personal terms – when you attack the weakness in their argument, you are attacking their reality and by extension, they perceive that attack as one on their person.

This is why I say that you cannot reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into in the first place.

One thought on “I WANT TO BELIEVE

  1. I may be the minority here but think all the dinkum is due shield (pardon my interjection of my name) the limitations of an old man who thinks he is mind is working on all six cylinders. Biden doesn’t seem to think he is still both as strong and gifted as he was when he was VEEP with Obama. The more I think about (shudder) Obama Biden was very important to the biumvirate as Obama was everything but a simpatico leader.

    Once again, Biden isn’t able to speak cogently. I think the Democrats are waiting to really drive Biden to quietly fill the massive holes without actually filling the holes. I think the donnybrook after Biden will be similar to Barry Goldwater’s “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no virtue…,”.
    Let the donnybrook begin!

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