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Why Do People Believe Stupid Sh*t?

Updated on May 27, 2010

Why Do People Believe Stupid Stuff

Why do people believe stupid stuff? Other people, not us ofcourse. Our beliefs are true. Our parents told us so, teachers, priests, scientists.

There are those beliefs that are hamful, racism, bad medical advice, unsafe practices touted by 'experts' that turned your portfolio into a debt ledger. Well, it's because some to these ideas have played quite a trick on us.

Some ideas are self-replicating evolving entities called memes. For example, the ideas of the ancient Greeks were lost for generations yet they had been replicated from speech onto paper and stone tablets that survived medieval centuries in a library in Timbuktu. Their rediscovery sparked the Age of Enlightenment. They continue to be influential today and moved from stone to brains to paper to hard drives and now you can get them on the internet.

Some religious memes threaten with eternal torture if you don't believe them and spread them. They even contain strategies for ensuring you don't forget them like having you repeat them several times a day. Many of these memes are helpful when they elicit greater love and cooperation among people. The problem is that harmful memes or just plain stupid beliefs may use the same strategies.

For example, the ideas behind the Cold War, neo-colonialism, militant missionary democracy and communism had replicated themselves in many minds, in many books, structures such as statues, and even on computers. Those very ideas could have easily led to nuclear annihilation of the human race, getting rid of it's major motor for replication, but those books, structures, and computers with the ideas written on them would have survived. Aliens or advanced ants might decipher them, become indoctrinated and lead their own wars in the name of democracy and communism. Ideas can have that effect.

The biggest reason people believe stupid stuff is because beliefs aren't necessarily as rigid as we like to think. For example, just because someone believes in the bible doesn't mean they've read it or know what's in it. It means they have a general devotion to the idea and may be somewhat partial to religious arguments. How can you believe something you haven't read? The same way I generally trust my calculator without working out all the problems by hand to confirm the calculator isn't lying to me. In the same way, you can see how stupid beliefs can easily sneak in. I've trusted my calculator even when it was stuck on some function that made all my answers come out wrong. We defer to books and devices that we trust because our brains can't always hold and retrieve our trusted ideas, but we can recognize them on a prosthetic device.

Many beliefs people simply hold out of convenience.  If most people you are surrounded by believe something, you are likely to go along with it out of a sense of community or if you live in a country without religious freedom, you may simply believe it out of tradition or because you had better of it's going to be a short and difficult life for you.  Belief and disbelief are often practical concerns.  Also, people may hold a belief strongly, weakly, situationally, temporarily, or provisionally.  Or, one may have a general agnostic attitude about all beliefs and use them only as tools to enhance success.

What's the point of all this. Respect beliefs that pass the moral test. If it does good for people, it's worth respecting. If it spreads hate and division, be more skeptical. In the end, whatever we believe is only gonna be a partial truth so it's not worth busting anyone's head over.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Each to their own fella, I wouldn't think about it too much myself,Doesn't do any good, Well written though.

    • kkbunnylover profile image


      8 years ago

      so true (comment or FOLLOW ME

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Belief is based upon emotions. They are not "rational."


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