Do you think the vast majority of the world is wrong?

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6 Responses to Do you think the vast majority of the world is wrong?

  1. That’s what Galileo would have said. Just because the wrong outnumber you doesn’t make them right.

  2. James Picht says:

    Just what exactly is it that critical thinkers, atheists, and humanists are collectively right about? Just about everyone, critical thinkers and atheists included, is in the misguided majority about something, and even humanists, critical thinkers and atheists are irrational and emotionally driven about some things. Critical thinkers don’t always think critically (they aren’t Vulcans, after all), and humanists can often be pretty inhumane, which most of us (wrongly?) think is wrong. The vast majority of the world is wrong about almost everything important, but we’re all in a vast majority now and then, just not always in the same majorities. So, just what is it that Mr. Minchin is right about that most of the rest of us have wrong?

    • RP says:

      Dear James, you’re absolutely right that everyone behaves irrationally sometimes. I’d go so far to say we’re all irrational most of the time.

      The difference is that while believers will accept things just because they feel nice or because some authority figure told them to; rationalists, naturalists and humanists try to make an effort to think critically, moreover we’re happy to change our stance and admit when we’re proven wrong.

      The deciding factor is evidence, as opposed to wishful thinking.

      And sure, science has been proven wrong many times and will be proven wrong again. But never by a fortuneteller or a priest or someone who heard a voice from Jesus in their head. Only by better science.

      Coincidentally, the best aphorism I can think of nailing this difference is by Minchin, again:

      • James Picht says:

        I don’t think you have quite the difference. Rationalists et al. make an effort to think critically when the benefits exceed the costs. No one makes an attempt to think critically about everything. Nor, for that matter, does everyone who tries to think critically manage to change his stance when the evidence is against him. I run into the problem of confirmation bias all the time in my work, and I find that the highly educated, often brilliant men and women with whom I work are sometimes so convinced of their version of reality that they really can’t see the evidence or their own biases.

        I like Minchin’s aphorism (the one in the link; I’ve heard it before and used it myself), but it’s an ideal that ignores human reality. Our brains are wired for belief and to find patterns where there are none. If you put headphones on a subject and play white noise after saying, “there’s a signal here, and we need you to find it,” a signal will usually be found. I want my students to think critically, and I like to think that I think critically (about things that matter to me; other things I believe because I like the belief and it does me no harm), but I can’t possibly separate myself from my experiences, my biases, the things I’ve struggled so hard to learn that might not be true after all – most especially when I don’t even recognize my errors or know that I’m blind.

        The Minchin quote above is just too undefined, or it takes as objective knowledge what can’t be objectively known. (And it ignores the fact that not all atheists are humanists, not all humanists are critical thinkers, not all critical thinkers are atheists, and so on, leaving me to wonder what it is they know that puts them all in the same right-believing minority.) It sounds good, but it doesn’t parse well.

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