Saturday, May 28, 2011

How To Tell If Your Belief Is Stupid

A lot of people try to push their beliefs on all of us every day, and we do the same ourselves. The big problem is that a lot of beliefs are just plain STUPID. Unfortunately, we often can't see that something we buy into is dumb or not (but since we don't really think we're stupid to begin with, we think it's everyone else who has dumb ideas, not just us). So, in order to help you, the reader, I have constructed a short guide to identifying stupid beliefs. After all, identification is the first step towards ridding yourself of stupid beliefs. If any belief you hold matches one of these 5 criteria, it is a stupid belief. If you don't agree, feel free to post a calm, rational, and well-thought-out comment in the comment section.

1: If The Belief Is Not Verifiable, It Is Stupid
When you lack compelling evidence, you lack the ability to verify, and believing something that you can't verify is stupid. An example comes in the form of plaster casts of Sasquatch (Bigfoot) footprints. Do you have any evidence that the footprint is anything other than a fake? You only have the cast itself, and the word of the person trying to sell you the cast. You don't know that the Sasquatch is real, that the man trying to sell the cast to you is reputable, or if the cast is anything more than a fake. If he can't show you evidence aside from the cast itself, then believing you are holding a plaster cast of a Sasquatch footprint is simply an unverifiable claim...and if he can show you such evidence, then it will undoubtably be more interesting than any plaster cast would be.

2: If The Belief Is Not Falsifiable, It Is Stupid.
Falsifiability is an important principle not just in philosophy, science, and the philosophy of science, but in everyday life. How can you test any claim made by anyone if there isn't a way the claim could be proven wrong? An excellent example is David Icke's claims that the world is ruled by shape shifting aliens. If we ask why we've not seen evidence of this conspiracy, it's blamed on a cover-up. If we ask why we've not seen proof of the existence of shape-shifting aliens, it's because they can change shapes, of course. Literally nothing can disprove this notion. Meanwhile, the mainline theory ("David Icke's belief is bullshit") can easily be proven wrong by simply catching a shape-shifting alien changing form on tape. Granted, every attempt to do so has failed, but at least there's a test that could prove us wrong.

3: If The Belief Is Not Supported By Experts In The Relevant Field(s), It Is Stupid.
Some people study a particular thing their whole lives, or at least a significant portion of their lives. They learn from the best sources available, using the most up-to-date information to further their understanding of their chosen field, and often conduct research that furthers our collective knowledge of that particular field of study. These people are called "experts" and they know what they're talking about. Common people (you) do not. If, for example, every medical practitioner on the planet says that autism cannot be caused by any vaccine, and Jenny McCarthy, a Playboy Playmate turned actress with no medical background, is saying they do, she is wrong. Plain and simple.

4: If The Belief Is Dependent On A Logical Fallacy, It Is Stupid
There are several logical fallacies out there. While something is not necessarily false because the reasoning that one uses to reach that conclusion is faulty, if the only or best reason to believe something is a logical fallacy, then the belief itself is stupid. A great example is found in the Appeal to Tradition page, specifically example 2, wherein a man says that women shouldn't be equal to men in that country because that is how the country has always been. Can you think of a real-life country that also treats women poorly because of tradition?

5: If The Belief Depends On Faith, It Is Stupid
Oh come on! You knew this was coming. The word "atheist" is right there in the URL.
Of course, I'm specifically using the biblical definition of faith, found in Hebrews 1:11, or belief in things that you can't prove. If you deduced that point 5 is very similar to point 1, you are right, however, there is a difference here. When someone simply believes something they can't verify, once it's shown that the idea is wrong, it's not hard to accept reality, since there is generally at least some circumstantial evidence. When one has faith, it is very, very difficult to admit wrongness, since things you accept on faith more often than not affect one's life in a real way. But face it, if we were talking about was anything else aside from your religious views, would you accept it on faith alone? Well, actually, yes, there is one thing that is faith-based that isn't religion, but, dear reader, I highly doubt you think that racial supremacy is anything other than a stupid idea.

No comments:

Post a Comment