Monday, March 13, 2017

Why We Believe Obvious Untruths

A NY Times op-ed says:
How can so many people believe things that are demonstrably false? The question has taken on new urgency as the Trump administration propagates falsehoods ...

Knowledge isn’t in my head or in your head. It’s shared. ...

Consider some simple examples. You know that the earth revolves around the sun. But can you rehearse the astronomical observations and calculations that led to that conclusion? You know that smoking causes cancer. But can you articulate what smoke does to our cells, how cancers form and why some kinds of smoke are more dangerous than others? We’re guessing no. Most of what you “know” — most of what anyone knows — about any topic is a placeholder for information stored elsewhere, in a long-forgotten textbook or in some expert’s head.
No, I cannot rehearse the astronomical observations and calculations that led to that conclusion, because they do not exist.

We say that the Earth revolves around the Sun because it looks that way if you use a center-of-mass inertial frame of reference. Other frames are possible. The Earth's revolution is not really a fact, but a subjective view based on popular conventions. Yes, it is in your head, and not necessarily shared by experts.

We say that smoking causes lung cancer because of statistical correlations, not from what smoke does to our cells.
We suspect that most of those people expressing outrage lacked the detailed knowledge necessary to assess the policy. We also suspect that many in Congress who voted for the rollback were equally in the dark. But people seemed pretty confident.

Such collective delusions illustrate both the power and the deep flaw of human thinking. It is remarkable that large groups of people can coalesce around a common belief when few of them individually possess the requisite knowledge to support it. This is how we discovered the Higgs boson and increased the human life span by 30 years in the last century.
The Higgs boson was discovered by ppl who knew what they were doing, and not just accepting collective delusions. The human life span was not really increased so much. Life expectancy increased by cutting infant mortality.

It is funny how everyone is supposed to be an expert on the conclusions from long-range climate models, but no one has anything to say about the details of those models.

The authors are described:
Philip Fernbach is a cognitive scientist and professor of marketing at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business. Steven Sloman is a professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown University. They are the authors of the forthcoming “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone.”
So this is what cognitive science professors do? Hmmm. I think I will skip their book.

1 comment:

  1. Roger,
    They may not have found the Higgs Boson at 125 GeV. A monte carlo random sampling and Gaussian sum filter was used to sift for a detection (a sign or desperation), which they claim found a large particle, which they are claiming is the 'Higgs'. I don't buy this for Three main reasons:

    1. The entire reason for the particle's existence is fudged bullshit. The reason the Higgs Boson exists at all is because gauge math predicted particles to have no mass, which was being shown not to be true by particle accelerator experiments. Purely mathematical (not physical) breaking of symmetry ensued, voila, you have any number you want now instead of zero. Problem was, a paper needed to be published about this new magic trick, and to do that, a prediction had to be made. Voila, a magical large particle that bestows mass (even to particles far smaller than itself) was born.
    2. Lets say you found a massive particle. Why is it the Higgs and not just a large (and very temporary/unstable) particle? This is much like saying, I am looking for planet X, Planet X is large. I found a large planet, ergo sum, I found Planet X. This is horrible reasoning.
    3. When was the Higgs supposedly discovered? Years ago(circa 2012). How much more do we know about the secrets of mass and the universe and everything...yada yada yada. Not a damn thing. I have heard not one revelation or a single breakthrough about the magic Higgs particle and how it conveys mass (outside of mathematical fudging), or some minute demonstration of it actually doing so to prove they actually caught the right guy. So, a claim is made that a goose that lays golden eggs has been found. But the goose lays no golden eggs. Hmmmm. Why again are folks so certain they caught the golden goose? The evidence is ...well, not actually there.
    Before you go telling me 'how could this kind of ruse be possible?', How could so many well educated experts mislead people?! Because Roger, They had to, their entire field's (HEP) livelihood literally depended upon a discovery. If you just spent the last ten years bullshitting up a storm to sell a multibillion dollar erector set and you promised a magic golden goose that would answer all your magic eight ball questions, by golly you would find one. Sounds a lot like the same kind of overblown promises made by hucksters for Quantum computers and Green Energy scams. My only question about this kind of blatant nonsense is this: Why do they expect not to get caught?