Smarts and Nonsmarts

“Smart people believe in weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.”

This would have to the quote of the day for me. It comes from the book “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer.

“Smart” here refers to having a high IQ; “nonsmart” reasons refer to our unscientific filtering through our coloured lenses (coloured by worldviews, heros, prejudices etc), selecting facts that confirm what we already believe and rationalizing away those that condradict our existing beliefs. I would be inclined to replace “weird” with “weird or nonsmart”.

This is at the heart of multi-billion dollar industries (advertising, self help) as well as politics, the paranormal, etc. Hard science is well, hard, so we resort to the unscientific – half-baked facts, testimonials, etc and fill in the rest. This was alluded to in another book I read recently, “Redirect” by Timothy Wilson. We know this but I just wish there would be less of it and more of the hard scrutiny in the choices we make.

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