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Wednesday 8 July 2009

Bad Thinking, Bad Company

I had good intentions for this post to be the first of my icon series of articles, but this is taking longer than what I had originally intended. Anyway, today I just heard an excellent podcast from Brian Dunning that nicely linked with a previous article I wrote on peer pressure ( Peer pressure wasn't the focus of Dunning's podcast, but it certainly has a strong role to play. Whereas I discussed how good people can do evil things, Dunning argues that intelligent people can think stupid things. Dunning warns us of the common ad hominem argument mistake made by his fellow sceptics when it comes to facing people who have erronous ideas. As Michael Shermer points out in his book "Why People Believer Weird Things", intelligent people can also think the craziest ideas and have the most odd beliefs. Of course, what we often find is that these bright people have had a certain circle of influence that has fed these peculiar ideas into their minds. In turn the zealous believer, regardless of his intelligence level, will use confirmation bias to cherry pick anything he feels supports his belief, often dismissing all contradictory evidence.

Here is the written script of the podcast, which I urge you to download. Please ignore the title the piece has little to do with politics:

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