In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Psychology explains why people are so easily duped

The science of “Truthiness”

True or false: “The Eiffel Tower is in France.” Most of us can quickly and accurately answer this question by relying on our general knowledge. But what if you were asked to consider the claim: “The beehive is a building in New Zealand.” Unless you have visited New Zealand or watched a documentary on the country, this is probably a difficult question. So instead of recruiting your general knowledge to answer the claim, you’ll turn to your intuition. Put another way, you’ll rely on what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” — truth that comes from the gut, and not books.

As a cognitive psychologist, I study the ways that memory and belief go awry: How do we come to believe that things are true when they are not? How can we remember things that never actually happened? I am especially intrigued by the concept of truthiness — how smart, sophisticated people use unrelated information to decide whether something is true or not.

For instance, in a classic study by Norbert Schwarz and Rolf Reber at the University of Michigan, people were more likely to think a statement was true when it was written in high color contrast (blue words on white) as opposed to low contrast (yellow words on white). Of course, the color contrast has nothing to do with whether the claim is true, but it nonetheless biased people’s responses. The high color contrast produced a feeling of truthiness in part because those statements felt easier to read than the low color contrast statements. And it turns out that this feeling of easy processing (or low cognitive effort) brings with it a feeling of familiarity. When things feel easy to process, they feel trustworthy — we like them and think they are true…..

How to Spot Truth in the Sea of Lies, Rumors, and Myths on the Internet


The internet is full of crap. For every piece of reputable information you’ll find countless rumors, misinformation, and downright falsehoods. Separating truth from fiction is equal parts a mental battle and diligent research. Here’s how to make sure you never get duped.

As long as words are hitting the page, news and facts are filtered through someone. Sometimes this is a ludicrous rumor that somehow morphs into a fact, or even just a small tip that doesn’t work at all. Filtering out the junk from the facts is hard, but it’s not impossible.

Before we start filtering through all the junk, we need to quickly talk about how and why misinformation travels quickly. A number of reasons for this exist, but two are more prevalent than others. First off, we have belief perseverance, which Scientific America describes like so:

[B]elief perseverance: maintaining your original opinions in the face of overwhelming data that contradicts your beliefs. Everyone does it, but we are especially vulnerable when invalidated beliefs form a key part of how we narrate our lives. Researchers have found that stereotypes, religious faiths and even our self-concept are especially vulnerable to belief perseverance.

Essentially, once an idea becomes a “fact” in our head, we have a hard time believing that the opposite is true when it’s disproven. This is how myths and rumors gain steam.

Belief perserverance also plays well with cognitive bias: flaws in judgement where we make statistical or attribution errors based on patterns. These biases include confirmation bias, where we tend to ignore information we don’t agree with, and the bandwagon effect, where we tend to go along with what other members of a group are doing.

Essentially, both make spotting misinformation difficult because we believe just about anything if we want it to be true. The only fix is to acknowledge that you do this. Once you do, it’s time to start digging for truly reliable information…

Continue

What Science Tells Us About Why We Lie

When are we most (and least) likely to lie?

“Could switching to Geico really save you 15 percent or more on car insurance? Was Abe Lincoln honest?” So intones the Geico commercial spokesperson, followed by faux vintage film footage of Mary Lincoln asking her husband, “Does this dress make my backside look big?” Honest Abe squirms and shifts, then hesitates and, while holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart, finally mutters, “Perhaps a bit,” causing his wife to spin on her heels and exit in a huff.

The humor works because we recognize the question as a disguised request for a compliment or as a test of our love and loyalty. According to neuroscientist Sam Harris in his 2013 book Lying (Four Elephants Press), however, even in such a scenario we should always tell the truth: “By lying, we deny our friends access to reality—and their resulting ignorance often harms them in ways we did not anticipate. Our friends may act on our falsehoods, or fail to solve problems that could have been solved only on the basis of good information.” Maybe Mary’s dressmaker is incompetent, or maybe Mary actually could stand to lose some weight, which would make her healthier and happier. Moreover, Harris says, little white lies often lead to big black lies: “Very soon, you may find yourself behaving as most people do quite effortlessly: shading the truth, or even lying outright, without thinking about it. The price is too high.” A practical solution is to think of a way to tell the truth with tact. As Harris notes, research shows that “all forms of lying—including white lies meant to spare the feelings of others—are associated with poorer-quality relationships.”

Most of us are not Hitlerian in our lies, but nearly all of us shade the truth just enough to make ourselves or others feel better. By how much do we lie? About 10 percent, says behavioral economist Dan Ariely in his 2012 book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty (Harper). In an experiment in which subjects solve as many number matrices as possible in a limited time and get paid for each correct answer, those who turned in their results to the experimenter in the room averaged four out of 20. In a second condition in which subjects count up their correct answers, shred their answer sheet and tell the experimenter in another room how many they got right, they averaged six out of 20—a 10 percent increase. And the effect held even when the amount paid per correct answer was increased from 25 to 50 cents to $1, $2 and even $5. Tellingly, at $10 per correct answer the amount of lying went slightly down. Lying, Ariely says, is not the result of a cost-benefit analysis. Instead it is a form of self-deception in which small lies allow us to dial up our self-image and still retain the perception of being an honest person. Big lies do not.

Psychologists Shaul Shalvi, Ori Eldar and Yoella Bereby-Meyer tested the hypothesis that people are more likely to lie when they can justify the deception to themselves in a 2013 paper entitled “Honesty Requires Time (and Lack of Justifications),” published in Psychological Science. Subjects rolled a die three times in a setup that blocked the experimenter’s view of the outcome and were instructed to report the number that came up in the first roll. (The higher the number, the more money they were paid.) Seeing the outcomes of the second and third rolls gave the participants an opportunity to justify reporting the highest number of the three; because that number had actually come up, it was a justified lie.

Some subjects had to report their answer within 20 seconds, whereas others had an unlimited amount of time. Although both groups lied, those who were given less time were more likely to do so. In a second experiment subjects rolled the die once and reported the outcome. Those who were pressed for time lied; those who had time to think told the truth. The two experiments suggest that people are more likely to lie when time is short, but when time is not a factor they lie only when they have justification to do so.

Perhaps Mary should not have given Abe so much time to ponder his response.

X

A lie can be halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

English proverb

(Source: quoteyard.com)

Americans detest all lies except lies spoken in public or printed lies.

Edgar Watson Howe… (via quotedojo)

abaldwin360:

terfbored:

2spooki4u:

choosechoice:

marriedtomybestfriend:

4 month premature #baby #life #prolife

This is a load of crap… the youngest preeme born to survive was born at 21 weeks- that’s a little over 5 months gestation. 

Yeeeep, load of crap. 
The most premature baby ever to have survived birth was delivered at 21 weeks after her mother suffered severe complications (x)
What’s more, babies born at 23 weeks or under have little chance of surviving, and if they do, are often severely disabled.  ”All the organs are extremely immature. The critical issue is the lungs. Even with machines, it’s impossible to get oxygen in because the lungs are almost solid. Trying to keep the baby alive may involve inflicting a very high degree of irretrievable damage. The skin is often very thin, and the kidneys underdeveloped. The brain is extremely immature, and very prone to injury, especially bleeding. Furthermore, follow-up studies suggest that babies who survive below 23 weeks have a very high chance of developmental or neurological problems.” (x)
I can’t say I’m surprised at the pro-life crowd using yet more emotive, poorly researched shite as propaganda though. Truly shameful. Fuck you.

plus i’m tired of the whole “well if the baby can survive at the point you want/need an abortion, just give birth to it and it will be your little miracle!” like fuck you that’s not the goddamn point and you know it

Pro-life? More like, Pro-lie!

abaldwin360:

terfbored:

2spooki4u:

choosechoice:

marriedtomybestfriend:

4 month premature #baby #life #prolife

This is a load of crap… the youngest preeme born to survive was born at 21 weeks- that’s a little over 5 months gestation. 

Yeeeep, load of crap. 

The most premature baby ever to have survived birth was delivered at 21 weeks after her mother suffered severe complications (x)

What’s more, babies born at 23 weeks or under have little chance of surviving, and if they do, are often severely disabled. 

 ”All the organs are extremely immature. The critical issue is the lungs. Even with machines, it’s impossible to get oxygen in because the lungs are almost solid. Trying to keep the baby alive may involve inflicting a very high degree of irretrievable damage. The skin is often very thin, and the kidneys underdeveloped. The brain is extremely immature, and very prone to injury, especially bleeding. Furthermore, follow-up studies suggest that babies who survive below 23 weeks have a very high chance of developmental or neurological problems.” (x)

I can’t say I’m surprised at the pro-life crowd using yet more emotive, poorly researched shite as propaganda though. Truly shameful. Fuck you.

plus i’m tired of the whole “well if the baby can survive at the point you want/need an abortion, just give birth to it and it will be your little miracle!” like fuck you that’s not the goddamn point and you know it

Pro-life? More like, Pro-lie!

ilovecharts:

Today I saw that Romney claimed that the president will lie during the debates. I thought I would look at their records on Politifact.com to see how reliable each candidate has been. Out of the statements analyzed by Politifact, this is the percent of things they have said that have been on the spectrum of true and false, for Obama and Romney.This isn’t perfect, since Obama has been rated more frequently than Romney has. Still, it’s interesting to see how often each candidate gets rated in each category.
-birdmechanical 

ilovecharts:

Today I saw that Romney claimed that the president will lie during the debates. I thought I would look at their records on Politifact.com to see how reliable each candidate has been. Out of the statements analyzed by Politifact, this is the percent of things they have said that have been on the spectrum of true and false, for Obama and Romney.

This isn’t perfect, since Obama has been rated more frequently than Romney has. Still, it’s interesting to see how often each candidate gets rated in each category.

-birdmechanical 

Call out the lies right in your headlines - The Washington Post

abaldwin360:

:

I didn’t expect this, but the epic dishonesty of Romney’s campaign is finally prompting something of a debate among media types about whether what we’re seeing here is unprecedented — and how to appropriately respond to it. This debate is focused partly on whether there’s a racial dimension to this attack. But it’s also about (as I noted here yesterday) what the media should do when one campaign has decided that there is literally no set of boundaries or standards it needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of the core assertions at the heart of its entire argument.

There seems to be a bit of a strain of media defeatism settling in about this. James Bennet, the editor of the Atlantic, wrote yesterday that he is glad to see news outlets calling Romney’s falsehoods out for what they are. But he wondered whether we are about to discover that the press is essentially impotent in the face of this level of deliberate dishonesty: “what if it turns out that when the press calls a lie a lie, nobody cares?”

I’m sympathetic to the question. Indeed, it goes to the heart of the Romney campaign’s gamble here, which is that the press simply won’t be able to keep voters informed in the face of the sheer scope and volume of mendacity it unleashes daily. At the same time, though, I have to agree with Atrios: When news orgs want to make a big stink about something, and keep that stink going for a good long while, they prove to be very capable of it indeed.

As Steve Benen and James Fallows keep arguing, this poses a test for the news media. What would happen if a nontrivial number of articles and broadcasts about the welfare lie and other Romney falsehoods called out his dishonesty right in their headlines, prominently featuring unequivocal declarations (not mealy-mouthed he-said-she-said nonsense) that Romney is misleading people and has done so again and again and again, despite knowing the truth?

Mark Kleiman suggests that horserace reporters begin clearly spelling out that Romney has “made a strategic decision to try to bury Obama under a blanket of false charges.” Would that be an exaggeration? No, it wouldn’t. What if newspapers devoted extensive front page pieces to dissecting Romney’s decision to continue basing entire ad campaigns on widely debunked claims, even as Romney advisers openly boast about the success of their dishonest ads and openly declare that they won’t be constrained by fact-checking?

Could something like that begin to shift the dynamic a bit and make it harder for a campaign to keep lying at this pace? I don’t know, but it would be nice to find out.

The fact that this shit is even a debate is fucking sad.

(Source: sarahlee310)

Fact-checking the RNC

FactCheck.org has been very busy wading through the distortions at the Republican National Convention.

The Tax Returns: If Mitt Romney were being treated like Pres. Obama and other Democrats

underthemountainbunker:

How tough is it for Mitt Romney to have to “deal with” Harry Reid’s accusations that a Bain Capital insider told him Mitt hasn’t paid federal taxes for 10 years?

It’s NOTHING compared to what Democrats have had to deal with.

BooMan nails it:

Mitt Romney isn’t really a Mormon. He’s an atheist who only went along with his father’s faith so he could duck the Vietnam draft. He didn’t actually try to convert anyone when he was in France either. In reality, he spent all his time in Monte Carlo gambling and buying high-end hookers. When his daddy found out what he was doing, he made him come home and marry his high school sweetheart. Actually, he only made him marry her after the second time she got pregnant. The first time, they got an abortion. Then Romney started using some of the mafia connections he had made in Marseilles to import heroin. By the time he became governor, they were flying it straight into a secret airport they set up in the Berkshires. When one of the pilots started to talk, Romney had him killed.

Wait for it….

Now, if we started telling these stories to people, and a substantial percentage of the population started to actually believe these stories, and if congressmen humored and even encouraged the people who believed these stories, and if media figures talked about these stories, and if Congress actually had hearings about some of these stories, then Mitt Romney would know what it’s like to be treated like a Democrat.

(via)

Also, too from Steve M:

Poor Mitt. Logic tells us that Reid couldn’t possibly have heard this from multiple sources, so he’s just blowing smoke. And yet, even if it’s a lie, Reid’s put Romney on the spot, because what he’s saying sounds plausible to a lot of people.

Y’know, it’s a bit like saying that the current president is a secret Muslim socialist who lied about his U.S. birth and has a fake Social Security number and is secretly plotting to take away all privately owned guns if he’s reelected, either before or after he finishes the job of deliberately destroying American capitalism. It’s also a bit like saying that the previous Democratic president was a drug dealing serial murderer and rapist whose lesbian wife had her male lover killed when she wasn’t hanging sex toys on the White House Christmas tree.

It’s almost like that. The difference is that Romney’s not facing an ever-expanding list of accusations, most of them truly grotesque and preposterous, many of them of a felonious or treasonous nature, spread by multiple prominent rumormongers over the course of years, and believed in every particular by roughly a third of the country…

Romney says Reid is lying. To make this ONE accusation disappear, all Mittens has to do is release his returns and *poof* problemo no mas. Right?

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Fox News banned from broadcasting in Canada

ladyfabulous:

tehblackbirdishiding:

 Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canadian regulators announced last week they would reject efforts by Canada’s right-wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news. 

Canada’s Radio Act requires that “a licenser may not broadcast … any false or misleading news.”

Read More

I can’t even hate on Canada right now.

Does it concern anyone that any politicians would want to “repeal laws that forbid lying on broadcast news”?

(Source: obi-wankenblowme)

Penn State, Bain Capital, and American Lying Inc.

It has to make a man dizzy when he first realizes that he can pretty much lie with impunity, that his success has immunized him against the truth of what he actually is doing. We seem to have incubated an entire universe of out-of-control liars within the various institutions of our society and our culture. All week on the blog and in the new issue of Esquire, Tom Junod has been exploring that phenomenon at work, even among people who assure us that they’re doing it for our safety. Barclay’s is the latest, loudest voice in support of the proposition that this phenomenon of Institutions Against Truth is almost the entire operating dynamic of the international banking system. (“Reprehensible” doesn’t begin to describe it.) Joe Paterno, as if it wasn’t already obvious, buried the Penn State horrors because he was deeply confident that nobody would believe him capable of lying. Willard Romney is going to stick to his story about when he left Bain Capital — his campaign’s immediate response seemed to be, Pay no attention to those SEC documents… Olympics! — because he is deeply confident that nobody who counts is going to care if he is capable of lying. In all of these cases, you have confidence rotting into what would otherwise be called “entitlement,” if we were talking about people on food stamps or unemployment, and not the true owners of the country. [++]

They passed a law saying that Catholic medical institutions would have to provide abortions.

religiousragings:

abaldwin360:

thisgingersnapsback:

bebinn:

jas-u-minetea:

I hate this fucking planet.

There are enough institutions that provide those socially acceptable murders. Why do we have to as well?

If people can illegally provide abortions, we should be able to illegally NOT.

But they’ll probably keep a more watchful eye on us that the former. 

This is the beginning of the end of religious freedom.

What law is this?

A good one, if it’s real.

Everything is the beginning of the end of religious freedom to you people.

OH NO CAN’T BULLY GAYS?? BUT MY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!!!!

Let me say confidently that there is no way in Hell that this is true.

It is rather notable that there is no link here to what the OP is even talking about. Are they just making up shit to be outraged about now? Oh, right… That’s exactly what they’re doing.

(Source: b0ats-against-the-current)