Review – 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True
by Guy P. Harrison
Prometheus Books, 2011
Review by Bob Lane, MA
Mar 20th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 12)
Guy Harrison is a journalist and author of an earlier book “50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God and Race and Reality . . . .” In the current book he looks with a skeptical eye at fifty currently popular beliefs about all sorts of strange but often strongly held beliefs about everything from ghosts, haunted houses, Area 51, reincarnation, creationism, astrology, vaccination is bad, etc. In other words, Harrison reviews and rebuts many of our current beliefs in various kinds of nonsense.
Beliefs come in three flavours: false, true, and untested. The interesting thing about beliefs is that one cannot hold a false belief. If you believe, e.g., that the New England Patriots won the last Super Bowl a check with the NFL score board will give you the correct final score. Once you see that score it would be absurd to continue to hold the belief that the Pats won! Now, obviously, it is not always that easy to verify a belief and some beliefs are difficult to verify as true or false. But everyone who is rational should it seems understand that belief without evidence is a very dangerous stance to take in matters of epistemology.
Recently I have been listening to audio books in the gym while I work out. It helps to pass the time in an other wise boring activity (row, row, lift, lift). Currently I am listening to a fine reading of Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”. It is a fascinating story. [BTW, the best free source for audio books]
In his “Heart of Darkness” Conrad has his narrator say:
“The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.”
What do you think this comment says about the meaning of “yarns” in general?
[In the picture the halo around the moon is where the meaning is to be found.]
I am editing the Blog to delete several pages of old entries. While doing so I have been reading many of the old posts by justinthecanuck and by nebulaflash and others. There are some thought provoking posts and I don’t want to delete them yet.
Before deleting them here is a chance to read them once more!
Philosophy makes a difference.
Are we born good?
Radical empiricist challenge.
Hopi and gladiators.
Which comes first?
Culture of honour.
Moral sense in infants.
More on power.
Things I cannot prove.
Save the world.
King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.):
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.
What a great question! In these two audio files I offer a few thoughts on the topic.
Capital T TRUTH – Pilate and Jesus continue the discussion.
ordinary truth – Proclamations and descriptions.
Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Christ to the people Ecce homo! (Behold the man!). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Check out a page of authors’ pictures to see how many you can identify. Click on Samuel Beckett to start.
Ludwig Wittgenstein in his youth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As Wittgenstein put it in the “The Blue Book”:
Our craving for generality has [as one] source … our preoccupation with the method of science. I mean the method of reducing the explanation of natural phenomena to the smallest possible number of primitive natural laws; and, in mathematics, of unifying the treatment of different topics by using a generalization. Philosophers constantly see the method of science before their eyes, and are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer in the way science does. This tendency is the real source of metaphysics, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness. I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is “purely descriptive.
Part one of the debate here.
Part two is here.