People believe what they want to believe(.)

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Fri Mar 16 2001 - 15:00:21 MST

From: "Neal Blaikie" <>
> People simply believe what they want to believe. Period. When someone
> to not believe in something anymore, or to start believing in something
> haven't believed before, it is ultimately a personal decision.

Yes, people believe what they want to believe... politically,
economically, theologically, socially, and in every other way. There's
even evidence from behavior genetics that mostly people's political
ideologies are genetically inheritable. Whatever context you grow up in,
to some extent the kinds of attitudes and beliefs you have about political
issues and social issues, does not seem terribly much affected by the
intellectual environment that you're exposed to-people pick up the ideas
that fit with their preconceptions and they reject those that don't. It's
a mistake to credit science with too much importance in shaping people's
attitudes towards other people, towards government policy, towards social
priorities-once you know what social priorities you want to pursue,
science is very helpful in suggesting effective ways of pursuing them. But
it's a mistake to confuse science with ideology. Ideologues always pick up
whatever science looks like it will fit their cause and they distort it
and present it and support it and they'll try to use it to convince
others, but that doesn't mean that scientists should go around trying to
censor themselves for fear that their ideas will be picked up and used by
the wrong people. The wrong people always pick up and use any ideas they
want in the wrong way. There are so many ideas out there anyway that good
people can already do good with the ideas at hand and evil people can do
evil with the ideas at hand.
Let's take one rather provocative piece of research. There's some evidence
from behavior genetics now, some evidence, not a lot, but a little bit,
that happiness itself is somewhat inheritable. If you're extremely
reactionary and conservative you could say Ah! See, we can't do anything
for people, they'll just be happy or not as they see fit; there's no point
in trying to improve people's lives. On the other hand you could be a
radical socialist and you could take this as a profound critique of
capitalist consumerism-you could say people have been duped into believing
that the more stuff they acquire the happier they'll be. That is
empirically not the case. You could take it either direction. You could
also just say well, pragmatically speaking, if you want happy kids, marry
somebody happy. Any different scientific discovery can be taken in a
thousand different ideological directions for a thousand different


Stay hungry,

--J. R.

Useless hypotheses: consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind,
free will

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