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"The Backfire Effect", 4 days ago, 2:12 PM #1
...(RockB)

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Just found an article about it mentioned in a comic:

https://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/06/10/the-backfire-effect/

A quote from the article (there's probably need to read the linked article up to that paragraph to fully understand the context, but you may want to see the bottom of this post first):

Geoffrey Munro at the University of California and Peter Ditto at Kent State University concocted a series of fake scientific studies in 1997. One set of studies said homosexuality was probably a mental illness. The other set suggested homosexuality was normal and natural. They then separated subjects into two groups; one group said they believed homosexuality was a mental illness and one did not. Each group then read the fake studies full of pretend facts and figures suggesting their worldview was wrong. On either side of the issue, after reading studies which did not support their beliefs, most people didn’t report an epiphany, a realization they’ve been wrong all these years. Instead, they said the issue was something science couldn’t understand. When asked about other topics later on, like spanking or astrology, these same people said they no longer trusted research to determine the truth. Rather than shed their belief and face facts, they rejected science altogether.

Well, isn't that exactly what the researchers did: Undermine their own credibility by presenting both groups contradicting information, where half of it was fake, thereby telling the participants of the study rather blatantly that they cannot trust anything they get told by anyone?

IMHO it has become too easy to throw around words with whatever meaning. Truth has no value anymore, "information" is the only thing that has value now, and this "information" can be anything, either true or false, a twist of the truth, a lie by omission, an intentional misdirection, an alternative fact, anything but the full truth. It's just words and images, all easily fakeable these days, and given that the full truth is only one possibility of a large number of possibilities, all of which but one are untrue to some extend: Coldly considered, it makes more sense to distrust all "information" you get unless you are capable to verify it yourself, I mean by the means of your physical body and all of your own senses. Of course that's only possible for things you have a chance to physically access and even then, what if the object of the "information" was made to deceive in the first place?
(Sadly, the only example of this I can think of now are the bath rooms in former German concentration camps, they were made to look like proper bath rooms, not to give a hint to the people about to be gassed, so the guards could direct them in there peacefully. Same for the gas vans. Looking at them now, from the perspective of an inmate, would still not give you the hint you'd need to determine the hidden truth about them.)

Letting your opinion get swayed by some some other external "information", after you thought about the matter, analysed the "information" you initially had and put your p.o.v. somewhere, and knowing that either "information" is potentially fake - that would mean you accept that you cannot trust your own process of decision-making anymore or at all. In effect you'd accept being crazy. Who would willingly want to do that? So it's safer for your own assumed mental well-being to not believe "information" that contradics your opinion.

Oh and about that article itself: The guy has written a book about it and hints to it on Amazon for "further reading". Is anyone who is trying to sell their own book any trustworthy at all? Ask yourself!
(By ordering you to ask yourself I express that I know the correct answer to my question, that the answer is trivial to find, that I "trust" you (or the vast majority of readers) to find the answer - and I lay all responsibility onto you: It's not my fault if you act on behalf of anything written above.
Can you trust me? Of course not, I have just admitted that I tried to manipulate you. Since I made no secret of my opinion, can you trust that the opposite is any safer than my opinion? Also no, I might try a double-negative(?) by telling you that I'm not trustworthy - what if I still presented my honest opinion or what if I'm right for the wrong reason or even accidentally right without knowing it?)

You are on your own.

It might be the safest to ignore what I wrote and to ignore the article on the website altogether, but can you still do that now?

Anyway, what do you guys & gals here think about information gathering via the internet? Or "information" by and large? Whether you have read anything mentioned above, including the linked article, or not.
4 days ago, 5:06 PM #2
Robotwin.com

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In addition to all that, considering stuff like False Memory Syndrome, and the Holographic Universe theory, maybe we really are crazy. Given that most truths are difficult to see firsthand, it's not surprising that we rely on faith, either in religion or in science, or both.
4 days ago, 5:53 PM #3
Ambrose_Folly

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There are certain objective truths that exist no matter what. We can see evidence of these in the concept of dragons, pyramids, and beds shared by many civilizations.
If you humble yourself and keep your mind capable of entertaining all possibilities (even ones you dont like) you can avoid the mental gymnastics if preserving your bias.
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4 days ago, 7:07 PM #4
Cooke
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...(RockB):Truth has no value anymore, "information" is the only thing that has value now, and this "information" can be anything.


Outside of the Internet, you can thank the rise in Postmodern thinking for that as it tries to deconstruct accepted truths because there is no "objective" truth. Google the Sokal Affair to see how a lot of what postmodernists say is just waffle.

As for on the Internet, well that's just the nature of it. Thousands of fragmenting truths perpetuated by echo chambers and circle jerks, feeding themselves as the accepted reality. Hey, wasn't that the plot to MGS2?

Information having value is so damn true. Not just culturally, but monetarily too. It's set to have a greater economic hold than OPEC.

And the author of said book sounds like a legend in their own mind.
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4 days ago, 7:24 PM #5
Sovember

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To claim anybody can know almost anything with 100% confidence is silly. Whatever your epistemological beliefs, we as a species have had a mostly empirical paradigm when it comes to creating a model of "what is and isn't true". "Fake News" has been around forever really, people (most notoriously larger entities) consciously or unknowingly distributing misinformation has been a theme throughout the ages. Now a days with the internet and the "age of information", it's easier to gain access to information, and to see the inevitable pile of rubbish and deceit that comes along with this enhanced scope. While misinformation isn't new, we still have yet to see the long lasting effects of being able to access ANY kind of information we want, all the time. Like you reference with your title, the backfire effect is an interesting problem. When people have deep convictions challenged, they usually want to dissipate that cognitive dissonance as fast as possible, so they will just go the nearest online echo chamber to reinforce their beliefs. What do we do about this? Beats me :/
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4 days ago, 8:31 PM #6
NiaNook

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There's no shame in simply saying "I don't know".

We really don't know much. I've never seen outer space, though I've looked at the night sky and saw the pretty starlights glittering in the dark expanse. I only believe they're probably stars because some people who study them said so, but... technically, I don't know. ("they're fireflies. They got stuck in that big bluish black thing")

I find it helps to just keep information you hear and read in a "Maybe" pile stored in your brain. Instead of believing or disbelieving them, just keep them in mind, thinking "it may or may not be true" and study them out over time. I'm just a dumb little speck on the Earth. There's a lot that happens in the universe that goes on and we're only able to witness a teensy tiny amount of it... I suppose I tend to follow my gut/heart with a lot of things.
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4 days ago, 10:42 PM #7
...(RockB)

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Ambrose_Folly:There are certain objective truths that exist no matter what.

Yes, but math is the only one that comes to my mind.

Ambrose_Folly:We can see evidence of these in the concept of dragons, pyramids, and beds shared by many civilizations.

I could have used dragons to stengthen my point: Not all civilizations have the concept and the concepts differ. Besides... dragons... Why not use "god" instead? Same virtuality but a more general concept, I know of no civilization that did or does not have any god at all. Some have a healthier concept (that of native Americans I like best, next to the Indian one(s)), some have the most unhealthy concept (Christians). Oh wait, Buddism, could that count as having no god at all?

Ambrose_Folly:If you humble yourself and keep your mind capable of entertaining all possibilities (even ones you dont like) you can avoid the mental gymnastics if preserving your bias.

My point was that these "metal gymnastics" make sense, provided that the source of information is in doubt, as any source "off the internet" should be. Sure I could just follow any argument about a specific matter and change my mind about said matter. And then change it again when someone comes up with a counter.argument that supports my earlier "opinion". But really, I don't have an opinion then.
4 days ago, 10:48 PM #8
MK_Wizard

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I think for some things you have to go with your own experience. Hence an old saying "nonsense out of the mouths of geniuses is still nonsense". At one time, people believe if a woman was too intelligent, she was crazy. And people even believed that colour affected intelligence or hostility. When it comes to human behaviour, I don't believe there is one true science at all. Except that if you raise kids with love, chances are they will be good people.

Science is good for showing facts and figures, but not emotions or the hands of fate. And it's definitely not a good source for 'measuring' personality or self worth. Science is great, but even it can't do everything. And frankly, when I'm presented with 'science' that argues otherwise, I see it as nonsense.
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3 days ago, 12:05 AM #9
...(RockB)

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Cooke:Outside of the Internet, you can thank the rise in Postmodern thinking for that as it tries to deconstruct accepted truths because there is no "objective" truth. Google the Sokal Affair to see how a lot of what postmodernists say is just waffle.

Just read the Wikipedia article. Well, that was mean. Since my only source of information is the internet, I can't be sure that everything happened exactly as described. :D
I personally experienced a somewhat similar event, a claim that now you must put in doubt, especially because I don't remember enough details to find any evidence, not even the exact time it happened: More than 30 years ago I used to read a magazine named "Spektrum der Wissenschaft" which was and is the German version of Scientific American. In one of the issues was an article that was meant as a april fools joke and some people took it seriously. A reader's letter was written to "Spektrum der Wissenschaft" and published in a later issue. From what I remember, the writer was pissed that something apparently serious was published about a matter he was not able to verify because it didn't fall in his field of knowledge. When he told someone about it (and defended the article) who had some expertise in the matter, he was told that it was nonsense. In his letter he wrote that it was not OK to publish something like that in a scientific magazine where everybody who could not veryfy the seriousness of a specific matter had, merely by reading articles outside of their field of expertise, "committed to believe" (my translation of "zum glauben entschlossen", these are the words I remember) anything in this magazine. "Spektrum der Wissenschaft" added an excuse and further april fool's jokes were clearly fantastic stories (like a mechanical computer used by an ancient civilization, driven by elephants) or just fun stuff.

My point is, there is probably no need to restrict the "just waffle" effect to "postmodernism", whatever that is, idk. Every area of theoretical science is most probably susceptible to such hoaxes or jokes.

Cooke:As for on the Internet, well that's just the nature of it. Thousands of fragmenting truths perpetuated by echo chambers and circle jerks, feeding themselves as the accepted reality. Hey, wasn't that the plot to MGS2?

What's MGS2?
Otherwise I agree. The biggest problems I see are:
- There is anything. If you look for a specific answer that exceeds a certain complexity or is just outside of your range of knowledge, you can find an answer but you can't decide how much truth it contains.
- You may go for the majority if you find contradicting answers, but that is no guarantee that you end up on the side of truth and there are things in play (like "facebook filters", so I have heard) that can damage your chances for finding the truth severely.

Cooke:Information having value is so damn true. Not just culturally, but monetarily too.

Monetarily. That's what I meant. Culturally, idk.
3 days ago, 12:41 AM #10
GMan003

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So on the one hand, it is logical to not completely change your opinions based off a single scientific article. There are some things I hold as true, where the probability of it being false is far lower than the probability of a scientific paper being wrong. For instance, if you showed me a paper claiming to have constructed a perpetual motion device, I would evaluate it as probably false, and continue believing that perpetual motion devices are impossible.

However, to be completely rigorous, after seeing that paper I would have to weaken the strength of that belief, proportional to the amount of evidence against it I have witnessed versus this new evidence (with weightings for how solid each piece of evidence is in a vacuum, etc. etc.). And if I continue to see more evidence claiming existence of a perpetual motion device, I would eventually have to concede that it exists.

So I can't absolutely condemn not changing one's mind based on a single paper, particularly given how many fraudulent, negligent, propagandic, or even just fluke articles get published.

However, there is a well-known larger problem - people always examine evidence that contradicts their existing beliefs with higher scrutiny than evidence supporting. It's a known bug in the human mind. And it gets especially bad when you get tribal politics involved (because honestly, that's the only reason anyone is anti-LGBT anymore, they identify as part of a group that has homophobia as a membership criterion). Did you think half of America just happened to favor lassez-faire economics and discrimination against a whole laundry list of groups, for any reason other than that a social group requires you to believe both of those in order to be a member? (This is not exclusive to Republicans, there's no innate reason why balanced fiscal policy and environmental protectionism are clustered the way they are.)

There's also a very worrying anti-science trend. Global warming denialism is the worst (since there's an actual, well-funded group dedicated to denying it), but anti-vaxxers, anti-GMO, and homeopaths are also worrying signs. I can point to causes (Andrew Wakefield literally belongs in prison for the damage he's done), but I don't have any solutions.
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3 days ago, 12:50 AM #11
Robotwin.com

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Wikipedia and major news companies have to deal with false information every day. Fact checking is time consuming, requires certain expertise and uncommon social connections. I heard that major news providers are experiencing a surge of growth and success these days because of their reputations, in contrast to the crapola on the net, and compared to the decline newspapers had with the early growth of the web.

So good information is really valuable, especially if you get it before anyone else, for investing purposes. And who usually gets the info first? Leaders in government and business. However, corporations and governments also spin news as a means of economic or political warfare. Our leaders are really sharks looking to feed on our economic output.

Moreover, a lot of people willfully spread false information just for the lulz. This is really crazy. Just look at all the hoaxes and pranks on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_hoaxes_on_Wikipedia
3 days ago, 1:27 AM #12
...(RockB)

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Sovember:... What do we do about this? Beats me :/
*nod* me too! But I feel some dissatisfaction about it.


NiaNook:There's no shame in simply saying "I don't know".

We really don't know much.

Hmmm - I think, "we the species" know a lot, even though, the more knowledge we amass, the more we discover how little we know. On the other hand, I feel that there are some things "we the individuals" need to have an "opinion" about.

NiaNook:I've never seen outer space, though I've looked at the night sky and saw the pretty starlights glittering in the dark expanse. I only believe they're probably stars because some people who study them said so, but... technically, I don't know. ("they're fireflies. They got stuck in that big bluish black thing")

That's a good example! There are still people who (claim to) truely believe that the world is flat. They have some arguments,,, Of course, nowadays it should be easy to prove the idea as false: For those who don't know or care, they believe that the north pole is in the middle of the world and the south pole doesn't exist. So just make some flights around the world, on the northern hemisphere and on the southern hemisphere and compare how long it takes and how much fuel you need... But they just don't believe the already existing things (trips to the moon, photos of earth from space) *handwave* and whatnot. Sure, if your are a follower of the round-earth theory, you must believe a lot of things other people just tell you, so it's not much difference. But armed with a certain "knowledge" about things others have told you, and I include the followers of the flat-earth theory into "others", you can ask "which of these things make sense, which don't, which of these things fit together and which don't fit", and you can find answers. Like, that the old Greek Erathostenes of Cyrene calculated earth's diameter and got it quite correct, while Christopher Columbus believed earth's dianeter was one third smaller and thus, that he could find a way to India by sailing around the world. We know what happened. If the world was flat... how might that have played out...

NiaNook:I find it helps to just keep information you hear and read in a "Maybe" pile stored in your brain. Instead of believing or disbelieving them, just keep them in mind, thinking "it may or may not be true" and study them out over time. I'm just a dumb little speck on the Earth. There's a lot that happens in the universe that goes on and we're only able to witness a teensy tiny amount of it... I suppose I tend to follow my gut/heart with a lot of things.

That's an interesting idea, indeed.

Edit: I come back to the rest later / after I got some sleep, it's 2:47(am) here now. This is quite interesting!
3 days ago, 3:30 AM #13
defo18

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My God thank you for making this thread. One of the things to make the Bates about anything so hard nowadays because everyone has their own facts and their own accepted truth. You can sling every article and every paper you can think of as proof and evidence for your argument but it's almost pointless because there is somewhere somehow, another source that challenges yours and it's hard to tell sometimes if these sources are fake or not.
Nowadays you see more and more people relying on the internet especially YouTube for hardcore evidence even though that too can be muddled and even fake.

A few months ago I was debating with a woman and she told me that slavery was propaganda and of course I was angry at first but after debating with her more I realized that she actually believed that to the core of her being. I was no longer angry but I was fearful because that to me is textbook brainwashing. But that's a conversation for another day. My point is she pointed me to some article she saw online that spoke about this. Now of course we all know that at all actually happening and it wasn't propaganda but because of that article that she found online and that she held that to be truth she actually believe that.

That my friends is what we call societal programming. It happens to all of us.

Whenever I encounter a situation like this is best to use common sense and good judgment.
Like is it worth to getting into this debate in the first place?
At the end of the bait when we both walk away better than when we were?

Do I have any chance of trying to sway this person's opinion?
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3 days ago, 11:42 PM #14
...(RockB)

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MK_Wizard:...
Science is great, but even it can't do everything. And frankly, when I'm presented with 'science' that argues otherwise, I see it as nonsense.

IMHO it becomes more and more difficult to differentiate "good" (honest) science from "bad" (paid-for, fake) science (by "paid-for" I mean paid to come up with a certain result and still sound legit).

I agree with all the rest.



GMan003:So on the one hand, it is logical to not completely change your opinions based off a single scientific article. There are some things I hold as true, where the probability of it being false is far lower than the probability of a scientific paper being wrong. For instance, if you showed me a paper claiming to have constructed a perpetual motion device, I would evaluate it as probably false, and continue believing that perpetual motion devices are impossible.

Yeah because you know that some physical law makes it impossible to build a perpetual machine. But if I avoid the matter of it being perpetual? Then you have to dig through all of it to find that it's perpetual...

GMan003:However, to be completely rigorous, after seeing that paper I would have to weaken the strength of that belief, proportional to the amount of evidence against it I have witnessed versus this new evidence (with weightings for how solid each piece of evidence is in a vacuum, etc. etc.). And if I continue to see more evidence claiming existence of a perpetual motion device, I would eventually have to concede that it exists.

Well, its existence would still violate a physical law that is well known to be correct. But it's a good example: Whom do you trust more, the old law (Newton was not 100% correct with his law about the attraction of masses, so he may have made another error somewhere else) or the new discovery (hey it's new, there cannot be lots of articles about it, and the one who made the discovery surely knew about Newton's law of energy conservation within a closed system, so one should cut him some slack). There's the problem.


GMan003:So I can't absolutely condemn not changing one's mind based on a single paper, particularly given how many fraudulent, negligent, propagandic, or even just fluke articles get published.

I think I wouldn't. If I get confronted with some paper that goes against something I have an opinion about, by which I mean it goes against that opinion, I'd still consider it, but I would try (logically) to rip it to shreds! If I find I can't do that because there's something I don't understand, I would declare it invalid until I get the mystery thoroughly explained and find myself unable to rip the explanation to shreds. That behavior will hopefully help me with not falling for every scam there is, only for a small amount of them.

GMan003:However, there is a well-known larger problem - people always examine evidence that contradicts their existing beliefs with higher scrutiny than evidence supporting.

Of course. I do, too. The difference was worded as "must I believe this vs. can I believe this" in the linked article.
Having made up an opinion about something means I have thought about it, and of course I assume that my thinking and methods of decision-making works. So if I encounter something that supports my side, I embrace it without much critical consideration, because I already have considered the matter, so the new piece is only interesting if it provides a new pro-argument for my side. Otherwise I smile and nod.
If it argues against my side, then I assume it's either meant to trick someone or it contains an honest error - so I try to rip it to shreds! (That is, try to find the error or try to find the point where it falls apart. I still need to read it, but I read it with the mindset "there's either an error in it or it's some trickery".)

GMan003:It's a known bug in the human mind.

I'm not so sure about it being a bug, at least not in general.

GMan003:And it gets especially bad when you get tribal politics involved (because honestly, that's the only reason anyone is anti-LGBT anymore, they identify as part of a group that has homophobia as a membership criterion). Did you think half of America just happened to favor lassez-faire economics and discrimination against a whole laundry list of groups, for any reason other than that a social group requires you to believe both of those in order to be a member? (This is not exclusive to Republicans, there's no innate reason why balanced fiscal policy and environmental protectionism are clustered the way they are.)

Oh I have an idea about that: Being a supporter of dicrimination against groups on said laundry list defines your place in the political range, at least roughly with a high probability, to name it: Whether you lean rather "left" or "right". So that being know one can tell with some good probability whether you would support other ideas of the left or right side. It's not a guarantee that you do, but increses the likelyhood. So openly expressing a cerain opinion makes you either welcome or unwelcome to some political group, I guess this is used harder the more extreme the group in question is.

(Please ignory any typos, I don't see all of them in my own writings.)

Merged Doublepost:

Robotwin.com:Wikipedia and major news companies have to deal with false information every day. Fact checking is time consuming, requires certain expertise and uncommon social connections. I heard that major news providers are experiencing a surge of growth and success these days because of their reputations, in contrast to the crapola on the net, and compared to the decline newspapers had with the early growth of the web.

Reputation, that's IMHO the key point here. You care about your reputation, you try to do fact checking as best as you can and be open about an error and apologize (and here is where the backfire effect comes in, unfortunately). You don't care about your reputation, you select news beforehand by whethere they fit to your bpolitical agenda (then you publish it and spread the word) or you simply don't publish it. If something you published turns out to be a hoax, well, who cares, it supported your agenda, that's all it needed to do. And because of no backfire effect, the bad/dishonest guys win. They even profit from the backfire effect.

Robotwin.com:So good information is really valuable,
Yyyyes... generally yes...
Robotwin.com:especially if you get it before anyone else, for investing purposes.
No. I don't think so anymore. The more important it is for you to publish some news, the less important the correctness of said news is. That's how I think about it, nowadays.

Robotwin.com:And who usually gets the info first? Leaders in government and business. However, corporations and governments also spin news as a means of economic or political warfare. Our leaders are really sharks looking to feed on our economic output.
Not sure what you mean here.


Robotwin.com:Moreover, a lot of people willfully spread false information just for the lulz. This is really crazy. Just look at all the hoaxes and pranks on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:List_of_hoaxes_on_Wikipedia
Crazy, indeed. A petty crime. No reward except knowing that you tricked an unknown amount of people into taking a falsehood as the truth. Something for people who want their 5 fimutes to criminal fame and are ready to set back the whole of humanity a bit. In short, assholes. But being an asshole seems to be desireable for some peple, especially when there's no serious punishment for being one.
2 days ago, 12:34 AM #15
GMan003

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Okay, so I was trying to avoid going into another rant on Rationalist philosophy, but I guess I kind of have to now.

...(RockB):Yeah because you know that some physical law makes it impossible to build a perpetual machine. But if I avoid the matter of it being perpetual? Then you have to dig through all of it to find that it's perpetual...

Well, its existence would still violate a physical law that is well known to be correct. But it's a good example: Whom do you trust more, the old law (Newton was not 100% correct with his law about the attraction of masses, so he may have made another error somewhere else) or the new discovery (hey it's new, there cannot be lots of articles about it, and the one who made the discovery surely knew about Newton's law of energy conservation within a closed system, so one should cut him some slack). There's the problem.


No knowledge is absolute, outside of abstract mathematics with well-defined axioms (and that's only as true as the axioms). This includes stuff normally considered a "law of physics" - you cannot, with certainty, know them to be correct. I am merely extremely confident in the Four Laws of Thermodynamics.

Let's just say that it's wrong, and tomorrow some team of geniuses at CERN publish a paper on an infinite energy source. They demonstrate it publicly and globally, every team of experts is eventually convinced that we have to go re-think all of physics, nobody can find any flaw in it. Within a decade it powers your car, and every other energy company in the planet either switched to making them, or went bankrupt. Would you still continue to insist that it can't possibly be true? Would you thump your thermodynamics textbook, demand scientists bring back the Four Laws, and treat it all as bullshit? I would hope not, because that would be pretty irrational. Flat-earthers are in that position now - proof of the globe's globe-ness is literally everywhere.

Because everything has some level of uncertainty, you need to account for that uncertainty. For that, we need the tools of statistics, but most public schools don't seem to teach that level of stats, so I'll pause a moment to let you read a guide on Bayesian statistics. Go ahead and follow the quick guide if you don't want to get bogged down with too much math, that's more than enough. And then read a brief definition of Bayesian update so you know why I'm even bringing it up.

Now that we have some shared basis, let's look at conservation of energy. I've seen plenty of evidence for it - direct experimentation, indirect evidence via books and papers, indirect evidence via "if it weren't true then someone would be making a shitload of money off of making free energy, and nobody is", and so on. Let's call my certainty level 0.99999, and weight it cumulatively at 10,000 observations of it being true. That means each individual piece of evidence against it, right now, is rather weak. Even if a piece of evidence is strong - say, someone shows me a working perpetual motion device - I would adjust my certainty level only a small amount. The prior experience tells me that it's far more likely this particular observation is flawed than that my belief in conservation of energy is incorrect.

...(RockB):I think I wouldn't. If I get confronted with some paper that goes against something I have an opinion about, by which I mean it goes against that opinion, I'd still consider it, but I would try (logically) to rip it to shreds! If I find I can't do that because there's something I don't understand, I would declare it invalid until I get the mystery thoroughly explained and find myself unable to rip the explanation to shreds. That behavior will hopefully help me with not falling for every scam there is, only for a small amount of them.

Of course. I do, too. The difference was worded as "must I believe this vs. can I believe this" in the linked article.
Having made up an opinion about something means I have thought about it, and of course I assume that my thinking and methods of decision-making works. So if I encounter something that supports my side, I embrace it without much critical consideration, because I already have considered the matter, so the new piece is only interesting if it provides a new pro-argument for my side. Otherwise I smile and nod.
If it argues against my side, then I assume it's either meant to trick someone or it contains an honest error - so I try to rip it to shreds! (That is, try to find the error or try to find the point where it falls apart. I still need to read it, but I read it with the mindset "there's either an error in it or it's some trickery".)


And here we can see you sort of grasping at the concepts I outlined above. But a certain level of mathematical rigor helps bring it all into a coherent doctrine, not a half-hearted "I will analyze it until I either prove it wrong or I don't".

...(RockB):I'm not so sure about it being a bug, at least not in general.


The "bug" is that weak evidence that supports your current beliefs is not discarded.

Say we're having this conversation, and we get interrupted by a crazed, unwashed, probably-inebriated hobo. Who then agrees that "Of course energy is a conserved property of isolated systems! After all, all energy was created by leprechauns, and what they make is eternal."

That's not very strong evidence. Even a cursory examination proves it wrong. Would it be rational to cite it as evidence, strengthening your certainty in thermodynamics? No! Of course not!

But people do the same basic thing, just minus the dirty hobo. Just look at the perennial "science proves that chocolate is actually good for you" cable news blurbs. People who clearly were going to keep eating chocolate will repeat that story to all their friends, because it claims to justify their actions. None of them look at it and realize the "paper" was an article in a pop-sci magazine, from an unaccredited researcher with a sample size in the double digits.

That's what the bug is - not treating new evidence supporting you with the same critical eye you use on new evidence against.
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2 days ago, 12:45 AM #16
...(RockB)

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defo18:My God thank you for making this thread. One of the things to make the Bates about anything so hard nowadays because everyone has their own facts and their own accepted truth. You can sling every article and every paper you can think of as proof and evidence for your argument but it's almost pointless because there is somewhere somehow, another source that challenges yours and it's hard to tell sometimes if these sources are fake or not.
Nowadays you see more and more people relying on the internet especially YouTube for hardcore evidence even though that too can be muddled and even fake.

A few months ago I was debating with a woman and she told me that slavery was propaganda and of course I was angry at first but after debating with her more I realized that she actually believed that to the core of her being. I was no longer angry but I was fearful because that to me is textbook brainwashing. But that's a conversation for another day. My point is she pointed me to some article she saw online that spoke about this. Now of course we all know that at all actually happening and it wasn't propaganda but because of that article that she found online and that she held that to be truth she actually believe that.

That my friends is what we call societal programming. It happens to all of us.

There's something else that support this kind of brainwashing: The informational collaps. If you study some area of science, you may be an expert with certainly limited amount of knowledge but still an expert when you finish. But meanwhile more books, articles, papers and whatnot are written about most subjects than anyone is able to read within the time they get published. So as times go by, you get dumber and dumber, relatively considered. This is not only a problem for experts, it affects everybody. Finding information on the internet is cool and great but you have little means and not enough time to check the information you found. Sadly, people realize meanwhile that everybody can get tricked, so nobody is really trustworthy - why simply believing anything somebody tells me, if it goes against the opinion I already have?

defo18:Whenever I encounter a situation like this is best to use common sense and good judgment.
Like is it worth to getting into this debate in the first place?
At the end of the bait when we both walk away better than when we were?

Do I have any chance of trying to sway this person's opinion?
Most likely not by just talking. And certain groups of interests make unashamed use of this problem. Repeating a lie over and over - anyone who has read the linked article, have you noticed that story told by Ronald Reagan about the woman who misused the social systems and that this woman didn't exist - to "make" it as "true" as needed to achieve a certain goal. Of course Reagan could rely on the assumption that his supporters would spread the word as fast as possible while proving him wrong would require checking an immense load of data and that by the time anybody could prove that being a lie, it was too late. The lie fulfilled its purpose. And everyone who wants to stay honest is at a disadvantage.

(Now the actual president of the U.S.A. doesn't make it difficult to prove him wrong. He relies on the backfire effect and it seems to work quite well. At least much too well for my taste.)

Merged Doublepost:

GMan003:Okay, so I was trying to avoid going into another rant on Rationalist philosophy, but I guess I kind of have to now.

Thank you for doing it!

GMan003:No knowledge is absolute, outside of abstract mathematics with well-defined axioms (and that's only as true as the axioms). This includes stuff normally considered a "law of physics" - you cannot, with certainty, know them to be correct. I am merely extremely confident in the Four Laws of Thermodynamics.

That's a more healthy way to put it, yes. But still... I'd put a damn great amount of confidence in them, because, thinking about them they make sense.

GMan003:Let's just say that it's wrong, and tomorrow some team of geniuses at CERN publish a paper on an infinite energy source. They demonstrate it publicly and globally, every team of experts is eventually convinced that we have to go re-think all of physics, nobody can find any flaw in it. Within a decade it powers your car, and every other energy company in the planet either switched to making them, or went bankrupt. Would you still continue to insist that it can't possibly be true? Would you thump your thermodynamics textbook, demand scientists bring back the Four Laws, and treat it all as bullshit? I would hope not, because that would be pretty irrational. Flat-earthers are in that position now - proof of the globe's globe-ness is literally everywhere.

Ahhh, welllll... that is... a difffficult question... Seeee... Up until the point where somebody makes good use of it, I would declare it bullshit. I'm an engineer, I have some confidence in what I was told and what I thought about - that part is the key. From that point on I'd think they got something wrong, as unlikely as that may be. Unless they attack the laws of thermodynamics specifically, with good, understandable arguments. That's something different - I'm not so stubborn to dismiss anything outright 100% if it seems to contradict well-believed physical laws, but I would make it as hard as I can muster to convince me.

GMan003:Because everything has some level of uncertainty, you need to account for that uncertainty. For that, we need the tools of statistics, but most public schools don't seem to teach that level of stats, so I'll pause a moment to let you read a guide on Bayesian statistics. Go ahead and follow the quick guide if you don't want to get bogged down with too much math, that's more than enough. And then read a brief definition of Bayesian update so you know why I'm even bringing it up.

Nice read, thank you :) I found it a bit counterintuitive at the beginning but the math is easy enough.
Alas, there's one problem with that: It deals with things you can verify by yourself. Now if you give me a theory that predics some outcome and I can test it and I can understand the theory well enough to rule out trickery, then that's indeed very very convincing. But what if I have no means to veryify the theory? Then I have to rely on some expert who can indeed test it and I must believe what the expert says. Does this bayesian thingamajiggy still apply, then?

GMan003:Now that we have some shared basis, let's look at conservation of energy. I've seen plenty of evidence for it - direct experimentation, indirect evidence via books and papers, indirect evidence via "if it weren't true then someone would be making a shitload of money off of making free energy, and nobody is", and so on. Let's call my certainty level 0.99999, and weight it cumulatively at 10,000 observations of it being true. That means each individual piece of evidence against it, right now, is rather weak. Even if a piece of evidence is strong - say, someone shows me a working perpetual motion device - I would adjust my certainty level only a small amount. The prior experience tells me that it's far more likely this particular observation is flawed than that my belief in conservation of energy is incorrect.

Ok... Let's say I follow so far. (AFAIU, that about adjusting your certainty level would weaken the theory, but I'm curious about where this goes.)
Edit: Thinking about it, I don't follow: If you need some room for uncertainly to keep your theory alive, then it would only be statistically falsifyable, in practise it would not be falsifyable at all. Either your theory can make a prediction that must come out true all of the time, so one conter-example is enough to falsify it, of course provided that the counter-example doesn't use trickery - or the falsifyability is moot and the theory is wortless.
Edit 2, after thinking some more about it: Please correct if I got it wrong: The theory in question states that that the conservation of energy applies all the time for a closed system - here is a way out, if you observe that this is not the case, you don't have a closed system. In reality you never have, because there must be a way to observe the system, therefore it's needed that an exchange of energy with an outer system is possible. Now if you can provide that this exchange is very small in comparison to the observed effects, you can say that you have a nearly/approximately closed sytem. Back to your level of uncertainty: Is it just a statistical construct, because the number of samples that are known so far is finite? I still think it should not be there, the theory says it shouldn't and that is it's point of vulnerability - one counter-case and the theory is wrong and must be adjusted.

GMan003:And here we can see you sort of grasping at the concepts I outlined above. But a certain level of mathematical rigor helps bring it all into a coherent doctrine, not a half-hearted "I will analyze it until I either prove it wrong or I don't".

Huh, that's not what I meant! First off, there's some difference between a theory that makes a prediction in the area of physics vs. a claim that is based on a logical structure that in turn is based on nothing I can check. Say, if I read that more people watched Trump's inauguration than Obama's, I think that may be true, because why not (Ok the the guy has some reason to make such a claim, but let's assume he's honest during his first day. Then I notice photos on the internet (could be fake!) that say otherwise. I go Hmmm... Then I notice that the Trump administration does not declare these photos as fake and does not present own photos, instead they try to explain away what is seen on these photos. At this point I feel a very strong likelihood, even without considering bayesian statistics, that this president was not honest on his first day in office, and now you would have a hard time to convince me otherwise (using photos that I would outright consider as fakes, because the trueness of the photos I have seen first was not disputed).
Edit 2: And 2nd, IF there was a case I cannot take apart, then, by all means, I must declare myself convinced against my further opinion.

Maybe we have a misunderstanding somewhere.

GMan003:The "bug" is that weak evidence that supports your current beliefs is not discarded.

Say we're having this conversation, and we get interrupted by a crazed, unwashed, probably-inebriated hobo. Who then agrees that "Of course energy is a conserved property of isolated systems! After all, all energy was created by leprechauns, and what they make is eternal."

That's not very strong evidence. Even a cursory examination proves it wrong. Would it be rational to cite it as evidence, strengthening your certainty in thermodynamics? No! Of course not!

If that would have been all I had to begin with, I had a quite weak standpoint to begin with. But as I said: If it supports my side, it only has value if it brings a new argument. Let's see... Leprechauns. They're mythological beings, but they could also be a synonym for something, alas, something unknown. So it boils down to the claim: Either mythological beings or something unknown created all energy, and because the energy was created this way, it is eternal. I can't rule out the existence of mythological beings or something else that is unknown and there's no way to tell whether the energy was indeed created this way, the hobo has (from the looks of it) no way to prove his claim and I cannot disprove it. Being so, it's not helpful for my side. But wait, does it somehow strengthen the other side? I don't see how, unless you consider some apparent nonsense being brought up by an apparently not confidable person as an automatic counter-argument. I don't, so I consider this neither good nor bad for my side, thus it will not influence my opinion. Finished and done.

GMan003:But people do the same basic thing, just minus the dirty hobo. Just look at the perennial "science proves that chocolate is actually good for you" cable news blurbs. People who clearly were going to keep eating chocolate will repeat that story to all their friends, because it claims to justify their actions. None of them look at it and realize the "paper" was an article in a pop-sci magazine, from an unaccredited researcher with a sample size in the double digits.

*eats a piece of chocolate* :D Yeah probably not all healthy, but I like the taste, so it's good for me :D

GMan003:That's what the bug is - not treating new evidence supporting you with the same critical eye you use on new evidence against.

I don't need new evidence supporting me. I had some when I made up my mind and that still stands. New material is welcome and I don't view it as critical as I view unsupporting material, you are right, I should, that about the hobo is a good example. On the other hand I could say, even unwashed hobos who most likely have little idea about the matter are on my side... well OK, that's not a good argument :D But who's on the other side and has he/she something I cannot rip to shreds?

Edit 2: About 16 hours later i filled in some omitted words and letters, and some totally new parts marked with "Edit 2".
2 days ago, 4:26 PM #17
Robotwin.com

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The YNSS article gives a pop-sci overview of the topic (the article's purpose is to promote and sell the author's book, not provide unbiased analysis), but it fails to mention statistics on people whose minds did actually change with new information. Now, I don't have time to look up the original research to point out evidence, but I believe anecdotes exist of people changing their minds. However, the argument seems to be that's it's impossible for anyone to change their mind based on contrary information.

Not sure what you mean here.


I was talking about stuff like Putin's infowar on the American election, and banks scamming the public with risky loans and mortgage investment derivatives prior to the 2008 economic collapse (for which none of the leadership was prosecuted). Politicians and investment bankers are often confidence artists.
Yesterday, 11:35 AM #18
EpicFILE

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The way I see it, any informations have some truth in it.
Some are very far from truth, some are more closer to the truth.
But we can never know the absolute truth.
The "truth" as we know it, is a mix of opinions, perceptions, and the truth itself.

Let's say there's a vanilla ice cream.
3 people commented about the ice cream (A, B, and C):
A: It's white!
B: It's cold!
C: It's sweet!

Now, can we say one person is right and the other 2 wrong?
Of course not. They are talking about the different aspects of the ice cream.
A is commenting about its color, B is talking about its temperature, and C mentions its taste.
The truth is mixed with opinions and perceptions.
But it's true nonetheless.
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Yesterday, 6:21 PM #19
...(RockB)

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Robotwin.com:The YNSS article gives a pop-sci overview of the topic (the article's purpose is to promote and sell the author's book, not provide unbiased analysis), but it fails to mention statistics on people whose minds did actually change with new information. Now, I don't have time to look up the original research to point out evidence, but I believe anecdotes exist of people changing their minds. However, the argument seems to be that's it's impossible for anyone to change their mind based on contrary information.

Hmm, I understood it like so, that people put up a great (and with time, growing) resistance and scrutiny against arguments & evidence that do not support their opinion and little or no scrutiny, not to speak of restance, against arguments and evidence that supports their opinion - so it's bekomming more and more difficult to change one's opinion. Alas, I stopped reading shortly after the paragraph I mentioned in my initial post, so you may be right and I missed that.

Robotwin.com:I was talking about stuff like Putin's infowar on the American election, and banks scamming the public with risky loans and mortgage investment derivatives prior to the 2008 economic collapse (for which none of the leadership was prosecuted).

Ah. Thanks. Indeed.

Robotwin.com:Politicians and investment bankers are often confidence artists.

Often only? :P


EpicFILE:The way I see it, any informations have some truth in it.
Some are very far from truth, some are more closer to the truth.
But we can never know the absolute truth.
The "truth" as we know it, is a mix of opinions, perceptions, and the truth itself.

Well, that's a way to put it, provided that everybody who is involved is honest.

EpicFILE:Let's say there's a vanilla ice cream.
3 people commented about the ice cream (A, B, and C):
A: It's white!
B: It's cold!
C: It's sweet!

Now, can we say one person is right and the other 2 wrong?
Of course not. They are talking about the different aspects of the ice cream.
A is commenting about its color, B is talking about its temperature, and C mentions its taste.
The truth is mixed with opinions and perceptions.

So I can give A a glass of milk, B a cube of frozen water and C a sugar cube? :D

All of them said something true, but to get ice cream, you need all three aspects to be true for the same object at the same time. And then you need to add vanilla flavor to it.

Now comes D and says: It's liquid!

Well, it is, when it's thawed, but with this partly-true opinion mixed in, you will never get vanilla ice cream that really satisfies anybody.

E: No, it's solid!

Now you have contradicting opinions (still, nobody lied) and you still don't know: Solid as a rock or solid as jelly?

And now F, who doesn't like vanilla ice cream: It's white, cold, about as solid as mud and despite being sweet, it tastes awful.

EpicFILE:But it's true nonetheless.

Well, all things considered, you are still right :)

Now, if someone looks up "vanilla ice cream tastes awful", they will probably find supporting opinions. If you tell them to look for "vanilla ice cream tastes good", they'll probably tell you that that's cheating. Now what?

(In the case of vanilla ice cream, I have an idea: Buy some, then destroy one known property, e.g. by putting some blue food color on it, and offer them to try it.)
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