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How Facts Backfire

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Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
67,360
4,073
126
CycloWizard: Some of you may have noticed that I don't really visit P&N anymore. This probably makes most of you very happy, as my approach here was never popular (except, perhaps, with the largely silent minority). I attempted, however unsuccessfully, to bring facts and logic to the argument. In this way, I changed my own mind much more often than I influenced anyone else's opinions.

What more could you ask for? But more importantly you cannot know this. When I was six or seven, dressed in my finest cowboy outfit with two big colt revolvers I shot a man driving by in his car. He threw his hands up and slumped over the wheel. He was alive and awake and gave me the gift of his being. He sowed seeds in me to wish to be alive for others. In a second of life he left a mark on me, whereas I lived in his memory probably no more than a minute.

CW: People on both sides of the aisle hate me because I don't have a side. I could never figure out why anyone would align themselves with one side or the other as neither side was aligned with reality.

M: I have objections to this based on what I think are assumptions, that your sideless side is not also a side, and that you determine who posesses reality. I believe this is basically immodest and not unlike what you are complaining about.

CW: After talking with a friend (who is also an engineer) working on his MBA, he said that the hardest thing about managing people as an engineer is that he's used to working with other engineers who consider things logically and reasonably. With most people, that's simply not the case. Things started to click into place.

M: This is ancient and obvious news to me and I react to it in a completely different way. You have a bias in favor of logic and reason and believe therefore, that being your good, that it is also who you are. But it is totally irrational to believe in logic and reason when you can see that for most folk it means nothing at all. It is foolish to have faith in things that have no practical value. People, including you, are irrational and the question is 'what now?'.

To function in this world requires, in my opinion, the capacity to operate in a totally different dimension. What I always presume folk will take from what I say is absolutely nothing. My efforts are on what effect I have on them and what others may see in that. My aim is to infect folk with an alternate method of perception. That and humor can open the doors of perception where logic and reason will fail.

CW: After years of beating my head against the wall that is the vocal majority of P&N posters, I finally found an article that explained what I already knew: most people simply accept tidbits which agree with their predisposed positions while summarily rejecting all other information as bogus.

M: The problem, of course, is that you've beat your head for a reason. You are wedded to the notion that reason and logic should have some effect. It's a kind of faith and misplaced. But when one door closes another opens. Just because folk can't reason or think very well doesn't mean they can't grow and change. Becoming more enlightened is all about letting go. You let go of reason and logic, I let go of hope, Joe lets go of his fear of his black neighbor after he saves his wife. We aren't so much missing brains as we are missing love.

CW: When confronted with facts, most of you will actually cling tighter to your position which is in direct opposition to those facts rather than adapting your position to bring it into line with reality. This is why conservatives prefer Fox News, why Rand Paul makes liberals so uncomfortable when he says that the poor here don't really have it so bad, and why most of you have never and will never change your opinions on any political issues.

M: I have said this over and over for years and years and nobody will ever hear me. I have explained why this happens with total logic and reason, hehe. He who hates himself, and that would be everybody, will never trust himself, the biggest fool in the world, and to fill the void we identify with whatever we are taught is the real good. We become attached to something that gives us our worth because it is the good. To see what we have attached to as wrong and evil thereafter is to be thrown back on the self. We will never allow the self to express because we hate ourselves. If what we believe is wrong then we are the worst in the world. But nobody will see this because nobody whats to know how he feels.

CW: In any case, here are some key points from the somewhat lengthy (4 page) article that about three of us will read.

M: I won't because I know I am hundreds of years in advance of anything that will be said, hehe.

Quote:
The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

M: Poor blind fools who imagine the problem is in others, when they are as infected with it as anybody else on the planet. A natural defense is nothing but total bull shit. It is a defense but totally unnatural as learning words like you are bad and believing them. We were put down as children and made to hate ourselves, every single one of us, and we will not remember because it is too painful.

More quote: In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept.

There is a substantial body of psychological research showing that people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preexisting views.

M: And no psychological understanding of why because to know would expose the truth of how we feel.

Quote: If we believe something about the world, we are more likely to passively accept as truth any information that confirms our beliefs, and actively dismiss information that doesn't’t. This is known as “motivated reasoning.”

M: But no recognition of the actual nature of the motivation, the need not to know that we feel worthless.

Quote: Whether or not the consistent information is accurate, we might accept it as fact, as confirmation of our beliefs. This makes us more confident in said beliefs, and even less likely to entertain facts that contradict them.

M: Duh

New research, published in the journal Political Behavior last month, suggests that once those facts — or “facts” — are internalized, they are very difficult to budge.

And no fucking research on why, that they are our substitute for our missing ability to value our true selves.

Quote: In 2005, amid the strident calls for better media fact-checking in the wake of the Iraq war, Michigan’s Nyhan and a colleague devised an experiment in which participants were given mock news stories, each of which contained a provably false, though nonetheless widespread, claim made by a political figure: that there were WMDs found in Iraq (there weren’t), that the Bush tax cuts increased government revenues (revenues actually fell), and that the Bush administration imposed a total ban on stem cell research (only certain federal funding was restricted). Nyhan inserted a clear, direct correction after each piece of misinformation, and then measured the study participants to see if the correction took.

For the most part, it didn't’t. The participants who self-identified as conservative believed the misinformation on WMD and taxes even more strongly after being given the correction.

M: Of course, they had a powerful need not to feel worthless, like somebody who could make a mistake is. Stupid, you made a mistake.

Quote: With those two issues, the more strongly the participant cared about the topic — a factor known as salience — the stronger the backfire.

M: Let's call it backfire, in those folk over there, a nice sweet harmless name that will never address the fact that we ourselves are the ones who feel like shit. It's those stupid liberals or conservatives, not us analysts of human nature. We are OK. Jesus.

WC: The effect was slightly different on self-identified liberals: When they read corrected stories about stem cells, the corrections didn't’t backfire, but the readers did still ignore the inconvenient fact that the Bush administration’s restrictions weren’t total.

M: Well what can I say. Liberals feel as worthless as anybody else, but we don't become liberals to join a herd of similar bleating sheep maintaining their way of seeing is the only good. Too fucking liberal for such massive absolutes, perhaps.

Quote: It’s unclear what is driving the behavior — it could range from simple defensiveness, to people working harder to defend their initial beliefs — but as Nyhan dryly put it, “It’s hard to be optimistic about the effectiveness of fact-checking.

M: It is unclear to those to whom it is unclear. It is crystal clear to me. Defensiveness is defending the ego, the false self, the false set of beliefs that we were trained to call the good instead of the one true God within, the real self that we were forced to hate as children.

Good luck to you. May you find your way to what you really feel.
 

CycloWizard

Lifer
Sep 10, 2001
12,348
1
81
Unless you are dealing with science or mathematics, how can you know what the facts of anything really are? Even with science, facts change with every new discovery.

Unfortunately, with today's media, and how audio/video can be manipulated, how can you believe anything that is presented to you is fact? It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, the only reality you can be certain of is the reality that is taking place 3 feet around you. I tell my 12 year old fairly often to not believe anything that you see on TV, hear on the radio, or see on the internet. Only believe what you see with your own eyes, and then still question what you see.
Oops, missed this one earlier. I would argue that facts never change. In science, the interpretation of data may change in light of new and improved data and models. The only way to ascertain whether anything presented to you is factual or fantasy is to critically evaluate the methods used to arrive at the results or conclusions you're presented with. This is still not always a reliable indicator, but you have to hang your hat somewhere. I can't drive down the road every day wondering whether the millions of man-hours spent developing the laws of thermodynamics, designing the engine, and manufacturing it are based on reality or will break down at any time.
 

Munky

Diamond Member
Feb 5, 2005
9,372
0
76
Doesn't matter because your original statement was a straw man anyhow. Atheists do not, as you claim, believe that "science has discovered everything there is to know." Atheists generally will assert that science, not faith, is how we understand the world we live in. Claiming that science has found all the answers, however, is neither a necessary, not common, assertion of atheists.

- wolf
Atheists assert that God doesn't exist... that's the core belief of an atheist. Basing faith in science as opposed to religion does not make one an atheist.
 

werepossum

Elite Member
Jul 10, 2006
29,873
460
126
What were found were degraded chemical stores, not usable WMDs. Abandoned remnants of the Iran-Iraq war, not stockpiles. This is akin to finding a large pile of termite droppings and proclaiming it lumber because it was 2x4s twenty years ago.
Degraded, certainly, but still usable and dangerous. In particular coalition forces found several hundred charged artillery shells with mustard gas and sarin. But the biggest reason these aren't used isn't the degradation of the agent so much as the increased danger to the user, as gas in general and mustard gas in particular is somewhat corrosive and thus with time the risk of a rupture at firing is greatly increased. Old gas shells can be a greater hazard to the firer than to the target. However the USA maintained until recently bombs and artillery shells of mustard, sarin, GB and VX gas among others which were manufactured as far back as the fifties; if memory serves roughly half our chemical weapons stockpile was stored in ready-to-use munitions. In the case of Iraq the sarin might not have been viable - they had notoriously bad quality control - but the mustard gas shells certainly were. Whether they would have ruptured on firing is a different matter.

However my point still stands, saying "No WMDs were found is Iraq" is simply not a fact and the authors use it as one. They could say with accuracy "We did not find any WMDs likely manufactured after 1991" or "We did not find the WMDs we thought they were still manufacturing." But to bluntly say "No WMDs were found is Iraq" is simply not true.

Right... they just BELIEVE there is no God, in the absence of conclusive evidence.
Atheists certainly assume science has learned everything possible about the existence of G-d, else they'd be agnostics.
 
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TridenT

Lifer
Sep 4, 2006
16,810
45
91
This is probably going to turn into a stupid agnostic vs atheist thread.

Most atheists do not say they know god does not exist. Most atheists say god probably doesn't exist. Richard Dawkins had a scale. Look it up.
 

JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
33,662
3,138
126
Which one are you? Do you kneel before Jesus or Muhammad?
You see you miss the whole point...it does not matter.
It makes no difference to me who you kneel before.......
I will never ever push my religious beliefs on another person as long as they don`t push there beliefs on me.
The person I kneel before preaches love your fellow man and take care of the needy and poor...etc...etc
I will never ridicule you for what you believe or don`t believe.
I will never call you a beloved patriot or any other name becaue you may or may not believe in what I believe.
We all are free to believe as we may....regardless if there is proof or no proof of the existance of a supreme being........
 

shira

Diamond Member
Jan 12, 2005
9,567
5
81
However my point still stands, saying "No WMDs were found is Iraq" is simply not a fact and the authors use it as one. They could say with accuracy "We did not find any WMDs likely manufactured after 1991" or "We did not find the WMDs we thought they were still manufacturing." But to bluntly say "No WMDs were found is Iraq" is simply not true.
The point you say still stands is utterly irrelevant. What is relevant is that the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed significant, threatening stores of WMDs was a MAJOR justification of our invasion of Iraq, yet the reality is that there was absolutely no WMD threat in Iraq at the time of invasion.

So, when it is said that "no WMDs were found in Iraq," the RELEVANT point being made is that the WMD pretext for invasion has been determined to be false.

Yet, here you are clinging to a laughable technicality. Why are you wasting our time?
 

dank69

Lifer
Oct 6, 2009
28,246
10,981
136
This is probably going to turn into a stupid agnostic vs atheist thread.

Most atheists do not say they know god does not exist. Most atheists say god probably doesn't exist. Richard Dawkins had a scale. Look it up.
This thread derailed after the third post. All you guys arguing about religious vs. atheist are seriously detracting from the beauty of the OP's self ownage.

You're a good guy, C-Dub, but the Socratic approach you put on the last couple of months got old pretty quick...
CW Socratic? :eek: I must have been reading all the wrong threads/posts by him. Please point me in the direction of one of his Socratic posts. I have to see it to believe it.
Please yllus. Please show me a post somewhere. I absolutely must see this other side of CW. All I see is him often being the first to start insulting people who disagree with any of his posts.

Ah yes, that thread where I presented you with the facts and you turned your nose up at them. That'll learn me!
Yes that thread where you posted a wall of text that supposedly backed up your claim. After reading your source (twice, just to be thorough) I noticed that not one sentence even remotely backed up your claim. So I asked you to please quote a single sentence that supported your claim. Since you couldn't do that simple task, you just quoted the original wall of text and declared victory.

While others here claim not to hate you, I find you to be a despicable human being. Worse than any troll or bigot on these forums by a country mile. You have just enough intelligence to be dangerous when coupled with your unbelievable ego. While trolls and bigots are harmless to anyone with half a brain, you are smart enough to fool even relatively intelligent people who do not take the time to examine your posts and see past the bullshit smokescreen you post through. You do not fool me, however, and since I have called you out on it on several occasions, you probably have me on ignore by now. If not, bravo, you are less of a coward than I think you are.

I weep for your 'students' if you actually have any IRL.
 
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daishi5

Golden Member
Feb 17, 2005
1,196
0
71
The point you say still stands is utterly irrelevant. What is relevant is that the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed significant, threatening stores of WMDs was a MAJOR justification of our invasion of Iraq, yet the reality is that there was absolutely no WMD threat in Iraq at the time of invasion.

So, when it is said that "no WMDs were found in Iraq," the RELEVANT point being made is that the WMD pretext for invasion has been determined to be false.

Yet, here you are clinging to a laughable technicality. Why are you wasting our time?
Because his technicality changes the truth value of the statement in question?

His point seems to have flown over your head, that because the truth of the statement is complex and relies on many unstated qualifications, such as "manufactured after 1991," many people are correct to refuse to change their opinions after just one statement. He demonstrated how both of the statements could be right or wrong depending on prior assumptions. But I think you again prove the OP correct, you are ignoring what he brought up, and restating your previously held beliefs.
 

Cogman

Lifer
Sep 19, 2000
10,264
109
106
I'm currently studying CompE (Almost got my BS). And I just have to say, The premise that "engineers think of things logically" is fallacious. It has been my experience that engineers can be some of the worst offenders when it comes to defending illogical or plain false stances.

Quick example. I got in an argument with one of the students over "Did the K7 have an IMC" Even after showing him documentation from AMD explicitly stating that the K7 didn't have an IMC, he wouldn't accept it. I've had others argue that pieces of hardware were broken because they don't do what they expect (even after showing them that, no, it isn't broken).

Engineers get just as pig headed and arrogant as the rest of society. In politics, where there is limited information available, anyone is prone to fall in the trap of the OP. Not just common folk. (And no, I'm not saying I'm immune to it. I can think of several times I defended a incorrect stance. In the heat of debt, you would defend the earth being flat if you accidentally made or agreed to that statement)
 
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yllus

Elite Member & Lifer
Aug 20, 2000
20,576
431
126
I'm currently studying CompE (Almost got my BS). And I just have to say, The premise that "engineers think of things logically" is fallacious. It has been my experience that engineers can be some of the worst offenders when it comes to defending illogical or plain false stances.
Not to mention the scientific and anecdotal evidence to the contrary. ;)

Why do so many terrorists have engineering degrees?

...

A paper (PDF) released this summer by two sociologists, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, adds empirical evidence to this observation. The pair looked at more than 400 radical Islamic terrorists from more than 30 nations in the Middle East and Africa born mostly between the 1950s and 1970s.

Earlier studies had shown that terrorists tend to be wealthier and better-educated than their countrymen, but Gambetta and Hertog found that engineers, in particular, were three to four times more likely to become violent terrorists than their peers in finance, medicine or the sciences. The next most radicalizing graduate degree, in a distant second, was Islamic Studies.

...

Is there some set of traits that makes engineers more likely to participate in acts of terrorism? To answer this question, Gambetta and Hertog updated a study that was first published in 1972, when a pair of researchers named Seymour Lipset and Carl Ladd surveyed the ideological bent of their fellow American academics. According to the original paper, engineers described themselves as "strongly conservative" and "deeply religious" more often than professors in any other field.

Gambetta and Hertog repeated this analysis for data gathered in 1984, so it might better match up with their terrorist sample. They found similar results, with 46 percent of the (male American) engineers describing themselves as both conservative and religious, compared with 22 percent of scientists.
 

CycloWizard

Lifer
Sep 10, 2001
12,348
1
81
Not surprisingly, every single person on my ignore list has found their way into this thread, just as they found their way onto said list by being the worst offenders in their lack of ability to accept facts as facts and bring their opinions into alignment with reality.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm stubborn about my opinions. I'd like to think that this is because my opinions are based on a careful evaluation of available information and the utilization of logic to arrive at my conclusions. However, when I'm presented with (or, almost as often, discover for myself) a fact which contradicts what I thought was true, I will and often have changed my opinion to accommodate this new information.
 

Red Dawn

Elite Member
Jun 4, 2001
57,531
3
0
Not surprisingly, every single person on my ignore list has found their way into this thread, just as they found their way onto said list by being the worst offenders in their lack of ability to accept facts as facts and bring their opinions into alignment with reality.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm stubborn about my opinions. I'd like to think that this is because my opinions are based on a careful evaluation of available information and the utilization of logic to arrive at my conclusions. However, when I'm presented with (or, almost as often, discover for myself) a fact which contradicts what I thought was true, I will and often have changed my opinion to accommodate this new information.
Aren't you special:rolleyes:
 

CallMeJoe

Diamond Member
Jul 30, 2004
6,938
5
81
Not surprisingly, every single person on my ignore list has found their way into this thread...
Am I one of those lucky few? It's not an honor to compare with the Nixon Enemies List, but I'll settle for what I can get...
 

Cogman

Lifer
Sep 19, 2000
10,264
109
106
Am I one of those lucky few? It's not an honor to compare with the Nixon Enemies List, but I'll settle for what I can get...
Kind of wondering it myself (Though, AFAIK I haven't really ever attacked Cyclo's stance)

My ignore list is pretty much reserved for 9/11 truthers.
 

dank69

Lifer
Oct 6, 2009
28,246
10,981
136
Kind of wondering it myself (Though, AFAIK I haven't really ever attacked Cyclo's stance)

My ignore list is pretty much reserved for 9/11 truthers.
I would never use an ignore list. I think the need to use a list to ignore someone rather than just, y'know, reading it and dismissing it, is a sign of a weak mind. :D
 

Cogman

Lifer
Sep 19, 2000
10,264
109
106
I would never use an ignore list. I think the need to use a list to ignore someone rather than just, y'know, reading it and dismissing it, is a sign of a weak mind. :D
You haven't argued with a 9/11 truther, have you? I'll look at there posts for a laugh, but in general, I'm happy not reading any of their comments. It isn't so much a need as a wonderful feature. Think of it like a spam filter.
 

dank69

Lifer
Oct 6, 2009
28,246
10,981
136
You haven't argued with a 9/11 truther, have you? I'll look at there posts for a laugh, but in general, I'm happy not reading any of their comments. It isn't so much a need as a wonderful feature. Think of it like a spam filter.
Bah, C-dub here is as bad as any truther I have run into, when it comes to poor argument form. While I'll admit truthers can be excessively crazy, I find them to be very entertaining and would miss said entertainment.
 

Blackjack200

Lifer
May 28, 2007
15,993
1,678
126
My brother is a 911 truther and it's incredibly sad. I feel like the person he used to be is gone :(
 

HumblePie

Lifer
Oct 30, 2000
14,621
387
126
I personally don't have a problem with anyone that tries to use logic and still assumes what they are saying could be a mistake. However, in more than a few arguments, you seemed to form a conclusion with no basis of logic or fact and rolled with it. Many people do that, but it is what it is. When you try to seem like you are logically arguing something that has no logic formulation to it, that can tend to irk some people.

As a general rule, I've learned who some of the bigger blow hards are around here. Cyclo, you weren't one of them. These are the people I know to basically be trolls damn near all the time off the top of my head.

(Right) spidey07, patranus, and fearnoevil
(Left) moonbeam, craig, and classy

Others like Ihatevirus, lemon law, Azn, and others only really talk about 1 topic that interests them period. Ihatevirus and lemon law are both about anything to do with isreal. Azn is all about north korea. There are others that stay mostly within their little microcosm. Rarely I post in those threads because they are not worth posting in. Sometimes it is fun to read a bit of those posts, despite how they end up typically being the same rant from the same parties, just to see how some people try to argue various logical fallacies. It's more amusing when I personally do not have an opinion on the subject nor care to formulate one.

Personally though, unless someone around here was attempting to do you bodily harm or issue death threats, I would take the arguments around here with a grain of sand. Sometimes there is some interesting factual or correlation data to be gleaned to help you formulate, strength, or change your view points.

If you notice I personally never start threads around here. I'm not that passionate about any 1 particular ideology. I usually only inject comments when I start noticing some "WTF?" arguments going on. I read the threads around here for a little bit of info, some fark like news links, and some humor at seeing how differently people think and believe.
 

werepossum

Elite Member
Jul 10, 2006
29,873
460
126
Because his technicality changes the truth value of the statement in question?

His point seems to have flown over your head, that because the truth of the statement is complex and relies on many unstated qualifications, such as "manufactured after 1991," many people are correct to refuse to change their opinions after just one statement. He demonstrated how both of the statements could be right or wrong depending on prior assumptions. But I think you again prove the OP correct, you are ignoring what he brought up, and restating your previously held beliefs.
Exactly right, which speaks directly to Cyclowizard's statement about facts. Everything Shira said about the WMD pretext (one of several by the way) was true, yet so many people prefer to simply say there were no WMDs found in Iraq. People on these very boards have even argued that Iraq never had WMDs in spite of their widespread use of them, or argued that Iraq had no yellow cake uranium (not a WMD) when in fact they had over five hundred tons of it. When you are right, why not argue the correct point rather than choosing instead to say something related that is more useful politically but isn't strictly speaking true?

Facts are precious things and should be protected; instead we tend to prefer half-truths that fit our political ideology. To that extent I agree with the article CW posted, although I find it amusing that the researchers put two such poor examples of "truth" in what is supposedly a scientific study. But facts are perhaps not as widely spread as CW seems to think. Most of what we argue here is simply not knowable, and making an honest educated best guess requires that you first make some assumptions which are almost always coloured by your existing political beliefs (as per my second example about the tax cuts.) In engineering or experimental science this isn't a problem, but one simply cannot run the economy both ways to see if the economy grows or society experiences a net benefit or the government gains revenue. Certainly there are facts available for political discourse, but they tend to scatter rather than overwhelmingly support one view, and the importance and relevance of each fact is arguable. And any engineer knows that the key to correctly solving any problem lies in your initial assumptions.
 

werepossum

Elite Member
Jul 10, 2006
29,873
460
126
You haven't argued with a 9/11 truther, have you? I'll look at there posts for a laugh, but in general, I'm happy not reading any of their comments. It isn't so much a need as a wonderful feature. Think of it like a spam filter.
My favorite is "Never before has fire melted steel." I like to respond "Forget 9/11, what will we do when the girder mines run out and we can't build any new buildings? If only there were some way to make things out of steel . . ."
 

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