Tag Archives: belief

Where do superstitions come from?

Do people still practice magic?

By Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know via YouTube

As humanity’s understanding of science and technology evolved, magic seemed set to become another historical footnote. Except, that is, for the people that still practice it today.

Perceiving is Believing – Crash Course Psychology #7

If it has to do with the brain and its inner workings, then count me IN! I love anything brain related.

I suggest watching full screen.



By CrashCourse via YouTube

5 Things I’ve noticed about… Bizarre Conspiracy Theories


by via The Soap Box

eye all seeing_250pxWhen you dive into the world of conspiracy theories (either as a skeptic, or a conspiracy theorist, or just a curious onlooker) you will ultimately come across some conspiracy theories that sound really, really bizarre…

In fact ever since I started doing serious skepticism and debunking and investigating conspiracy theories I have found conspiracy theories so strange that I could never have possibly have thought of them (which is probably a good thing).

Now while there are a lot of things I have noticed about bizarre conspiracy theories, I have narrowed it down to five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about bizarre conspiracy theories:

5. They’re indicators of mental illness.

schizophrenia 932_250px_250pxFirst I want to say that anyone who believes that the world is controlled by shape-shifting aliens, or that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by lasers, or that the government is using radio signals to attack peoples minds, or believes in crisis actors, or believes that chemtrails are real is not necessarily mentally ill… I’m just saying it’s a pretty strong indicator of mental illness, especially when you consider the fact that others who also believe in such conspiracy theories have engaged in behavior that strongly indicates that they are mentally ill (such as making long and incoherent rants, or harassing people, or making threats), or actually has been found out or proven to be mentally ill.

It’s not just the people who believe in them either. Many of the people whom have created the most bizarre conspiracy theories out there are they themselves believed to be mentally ill. Even the ones who are very intelligent and hold college degrees, but come up with these weird conspiracy theories, are automatically assumed to be mentally ill because it’s really the most logical explanation for many skeptics concerning a person whom is very smart but believes in really weird stuff.

4. There is no deep end to them.

tunnel tumble_200pxHave you ever heard or read about a conspiracy theory that made you think, “there is no way that there can be something stranger than this…” Well, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but trust me when I say this, there is a conspiracy theory out there that is more bizarre than what you have just heard or read about. And if there isn’t one, one will be invented soon enough.

Now I don’t blame anyone for believing that whenever they hear about a crazy conspiracy theory that they believe that it is the craziest conspiracy theory out there, I use to believe that myself when I came across a really bizarre conspiracy, but then I would be proven wrong again and again whenever I kept coming across one even more bizarre than the next one, it kind of destroyed my ability to believe that there is a bottom to conspiracy theory craziness.

In fact some are so bizarre that…

3. They are confused for satire.

what-hi_200pxIt really should not surprise anyone that there are some conspiracy theories out there that are either so weird, or so bizarre, that some people don’t believe that it is a real conspiracy theory (well, as real as one can be) and that it was made up as a parody of other conspiracy theories, or some type of satire, or, as some conspiracy theorists may claim, dis-information.

This is something that even I have assumed at times whenever I see a bizarre conspiracy theory, either in the hope that no one can seriously be so crazy that they could come up with such a thing, or that it just looks like satire.

In fact some have actually turned out to be satire (or a hoax) but because some conspiracy theorists can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is fake, some of them assume that it is real.

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6 Conspiracy theories that make people paranoid

by via The Soap Box

conspiracies02There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there, and while most of them tend to be, well… stupid, for the most part they’re pretty harmless (although some of the people who believe in them are not so harmless).

On the other hand, there are some conspiracy theories that can drive a person to become paranoid, and possibly even act out in very disturbing ways, perhaps even in a violent manner towards those who they feel are apart of that conspiracy.

Here are a few of those conspiracy theories:


chemtrail UFO culprit_200pxChemtrails is a conspiracy theory in which some conspiracy theorists believe that the government is spraying chemicals on the population from air planes, and that the contrails coming out of many air planes are actually laced with chemicals, and thus called “chemtrails”.

Now despite the fact that the chemtrail conspiracy theories have been debunked, some people take it very seriously. So seriously in fact that many conspiracy theorists will spray vinegar into the air whenever they see a contrail (because they believe that doing so will destroy a chemtrail), or even go to a hospital whenever they see a bunch of contrails in the air, because they are seriously afraid it might cause them health problems.

Some people have even taken their paranoia a step further and have threatened shoot down air planes because they think they are spraying chemtrails.

Mind control

mindcontrol 858_200pxIf there is one conspiracy theory that believing in can cause a person to become very paranoid (although it may also be a strong indicator of a serious mental illness) it would be the mind control conspiracy theories, particularly the ones that involve some sort of telepathy.

The fact is that if a person believes that their mind can be attacked at any point in time it tends to leave that person extremely paranoid, and causes them to do some pretty bizarre stuff, such as wearing hats made out of aluminum foil, or even covering their entire house in aluminum foil (because they believe it will block out what ever rays are being used to control their minds).

This may also cause some people to be wary of other people as well, even people who might try to help them overcome their fear, because they fear that person might come under some kind of mind control as well and harm them.

Shape-shifting aliens

Icke - Remember what you are_250pxOften times attributed to David Icke, there are some people out there who seriously believe that there are shape-shifting reptilian aliens that not only walk among us, but are in control of the world, and that many world leaders are actually aliens from either another world or dimension.

I really wish I was making this up, but sadly I am not. There are people out there that are so paranoid, and so delusional, that they seriously believe that the leaders of the world are actually shape-shifting lizards from another planet or universe.

The belief that another person is a shape-shifting alien doesn’t just include world leaders, it can actually include anyone, be it a celebrity, a rich person, some random person, myself, and even David Icke (who has been accused of being a shape-shifting alien).

Some people who believe in this conspiracy theory are even so paranoid and delusional in their beliefs that they believe that they themselves are a shape-shift alien…

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Superstitious Beliefs Getting More Common

by Emily Sohn via Discovery News


ghost 820_250px

  • Believing in the paranormal is actually more normal than you might think and may be growing more common.
  • Contrary to common stereotypes, there is no single profile of a person who accepts the paranormal.
  • It might be in our nature to look for patterns and meaning in strange and random events.

It’s that time of year again. Ghosts, goblins and other spooky characters come out from the shadows and into our everyday lives.

For most people, the thrill lasts for a few weeks each October. But for true believers, the paranormal is an everyday fact, not just a holiday joke.

To understand what drives some people to truly believe, two sociologists visited psychic fairs, spent nights in haunted houses, trekked with Bigfoot hunters, sat in on support groups for people who had been abducted by aliens, and conducted two nationwide surveys.

Contrary to common stereotypes, the research revealed no single profile of a person who accepts the paranormal. Believers ranged from free-spirited types with low incomes and little education to high-powered businessmen. Some were drifters; others were brain surgeons.

paranormal_america_book_300pxWhy people believed also varied, the researchers report in a new book, called “Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture.”

For some, the paranormal served as just another way of explaining the world. For others, extraordinary phenomena offered opportunities to chase mysteries, experience thrills and even achieve celebrity status, if they could actually find proof.

“It’s almost like an adult way to get that kidlike need for adventure and exploration,” said co-author Christopher Bader, of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “Other people are sitting at home and renting videos, but you’re sitting in a haunted house that is infested with demons.”

“These guys who are hunting Bigfoot are out chasing a monster,” he added. “I could see the real appeal in going out for weekend and never knowing what you might find.”

There is no hard data on how common it is to believe in the paranormal, which Bader and co-author Carson Mencken define as beliefs or experiences that are not fully accepted by science or religion.

But trends in television programming offer a sense that there is a widespread interest in . . .

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Why do people lie about their belief in a Conspiracy Theory?

Part 2: Ulterior Motives

by via The Soap Box

conspiracies05Why do some people claim to believe in a conspiracy theory, when in fact they do not? In Part One of this two part series, I explained that some people do this out of a motivation of fear (mainly the fear of some sort of lose by no longer believing in a conspiracy theory, or the fear of some type of retaliation).

Of course it is not always fear that motivate a person to claim that they believe in a conspiracy theory when they really don’t. It could be that they have an ulterior motive that tends to be selfish in it’s reasons.

Attention Seeking

seek-attention_250pxConspiracy theorists get a lot of attention, either from fellow conspiracy theorists who may or may not share their beliefs, or from skeptics who debunk their beliefs (while at the same time mocking them for those beliefs), or from the media (and law enforcement agencies) when a conspiracy theorist breaks the law after being motivated to do so by a conspiracy theory.

This attention can be attractive to those whom seek out attention themselves, and will take any type of attention (positive or negative) they can get.

Basically you can think of them as a bratty child who is acting bad simply because no one will play attention to them, and they know that acting the way that they are people will pay attention to them, and they do so without fear of consequences because there might actually be very little in the way of consequences, and even when they do suffer the consequences of their actions, they know it will be either minor and/or temporary, and that there are probably ways around it too.

Financial Motivations

crook_250pxSome people claim to believe in conspiracy theories not because they actually do, but because they’re greedy, and they know that selling products that some conspiracy theorists buy can make them a lot of money.

For example, some one might open up a store that sells alternative medicine. The owner of the store might tell their customers how they “believe” that big pharma is evil, and that the medicine big pharma makes is actually bad for you, and that what they are selling will cure just about anything. The owner might not believe a word they just said, but if it gets them a sale, then they might not care.

Another example would be someone who has their own radio show and/or internet site which is dedicated to conspiracy theories, and lets say that this radio show and/or internet site has several sponsors that sell products that are aimed at conspiracy theorists. This could cause the host of this radio show and/or internet site to constantly spout out conspiracy theories that don’t believe in order to keep money rolling in from those sponsors, and maybe even sell products that they have created (such as videos) to their audience.

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Delusional People See the World Through Their Mind’s Eye

A mechanism for how the brain creates and maintains delusions is revealed in a new study.

By Tanya Lewis via LiveScience

Human beliefs are shaped by perception, but the new research suggests delusions — unfounded but tightly held beliefs — can turn the tables and actually shape perception. People who are prone to forming delusions may not correctly distinguish among different sensory inputs, and may rely on these delusions to help make sense of the world, the study finds. Typical delusions include paranoid ideas or inflated ideas about oneself.


Having delusions, such as a belief in telekinesis, can influence how people see the world – literally.
Credit: Arman Zhenikeyev | Shutterstock

“Beliefs form in order to minimize our surprise about the world,” said neuroscientist Phil Corlett of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., who was not involved in the study. “Our expectations override what we actually see,” Corlett added.

The prevailing thinking holds that people develop delusions to predict how events in their lives will occur — just as Pavlov‘s dog learned to predict that the sound of a bell ringing meant dinnertime was imminent. Humans update their beliefs when what they predict doesn’t match what they actually experience, Corlett said.

But delusions often appear to override the evidence of the senses. To test this idea, German and Swedish researchers conducted behavioral and neuroimaging experiments on healthy people who harbor delusions.

In one experiment, volunteers were given a questionnaire designed to measure delusional beliefs. Questions included: Do you ever feel as if people are reading your mind?; Do you ever feel as if there is a conspiracy against you?; Do you ever feel as if you are, or destined to be someone very important?; and Are you often worried that your partner may be unfaithful?

The participants then performed a task that tested their visual perception: They were shown a sphere-shaped set of dots rotating in an ambiguous direction, and asked to report which direction it was rotating at various intervals.

People who harbored a greater number of delusional beliefs (those who scored higher on the questionnaire) saw the dots appear to change direction more often than the average person. The result confirms findings from previous studies that delusional individuals have less stable perceptions of the world.

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11 Reasons why people believe in Pseudoscience

by via The Soap Box

pseudoscience_250px_250px_250pxWhy do some people believe in pseudoscience?

It’s a question that I’m sure that many skeptics have asked when they encounter someone who believes in something that has been discredited for years (sometime centuries).

Doing a little bit of research into the subject, as well as a bit of thinking, I’ve come up with quite a few reasons why some people actually believe in pseudoscience.

11. It goes along with their beliefs.

Due to either religious or personal beliefs (or a combination of both) some people will believe in the pseudoscientific explanation for something, rather than the scientific explanation for something, if the pseudoscientific explanation goes along with their beliefs. Sometimes this will even go so far as to out right reject and ignore the scientific explanation, so long as the pseudoscientific explanation goes along with their beliefs, and the scientific explanation does not.

Examples of this would be people who have strong biblical beliefs rejecting the theory of evolution in place of intelligent design because intelligent design goes along with the creation story, or people who reject modern medicine in place of alternative medicine or believe in claims that vaccines cause autism because they believe pharmaceutical companies are evil, or people who believe that GMO foods are bad for you because they believe that organic foods are better for you and that GMO foods aren’t tested or regulated.

10. Real science can be difficult to understand.

I have to admit, there are some things in science that are just difficult to understand, and unless you already have a decent amount of knowledge about a certain scientific field, you probably aren’t going to understand whats going on if someone is discussing something about that scientific field.
Pseudoscience on the other hand is usually much easier to understand than real science, and because pseudoscience tends to be much easier to understand than real science, it can attract some people who have become frustrated with real science and their inability to understand it.

9. It sounds more awesome.

Besides being difficult to understand, science can also be boring to some people.

Because some people find the real scientific explanations to certain things to be boring and uninteresting, some people will go over to the pseudoscientific explanations, because it sounds a lot more exciting.

An example of this would be the explanation by ancient astronaut theorists that the Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed by aliens using their advanced technology for reasons unknown. Sounds a lot more exciting than the actual scientific explanation in that it was a giant monument and tomb constructed over a 20 year period by thousands of people for some egotistical Pharaoh.

8. It sounds more logical.

crop-circles_250pxFor some people that don’t have a good understanding of both how science and logic works, a pseudoscientific explanation can actually sound a lot more logical than an actual scientific and/or logical explanation for certain things.

Lets take crop circles for example. Some people believe that crop circles are made by aliens as a way to send us a message. To some people this sounds more logical than the actual explanation of a bunch of pranksters getting together and creating these geometric shapes in wheat fields using rope and 2x4s.

7. It makes them feel smart.

Because real science can be hard to understand, it can make certain people feel dumb when they try to understand it and just can’t. On the other hand because many things in pseudoscience are easy for most people to understand, and because of the false assumption that it is real science, it can make people feel smart when they understand it.

Because of the fact that they can understand it (and because they feel that it makes them look smart because they understand it) they might be more inclined to believe in it.

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B.Y.T.H. Busters (The Secret Law of Attraction)

From WikiPedia:

The law of attraction is the name given to the belief that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy, and the belief that like energy attracts like energy. One example used by a proponent of the law of attraction is that if a person opened an envelope expecting to see a bill, then the law of attraction would “confirm” those thoughts and contain a bill when opened. A person who decided to instead expect a cheque might, under the same law, find a cheque instead of a bill.

via YouTube.

In B.Y.T.H. Busters: The Secret Law of Attraction, Adam Average and Jamie Imtheman put the “Law of Attraction” to the test. This is the second in a series of videos that promote science and critical thinking through the use of humor, wit, and satire. If you missed our first video, The Con Academy, watch it now: http://youtu.be/eR_HlRDhUxY

Open Up Your Mind and Let Your Brain Shut Off

Sharon_hill_80pxBy via The Huffington Post

People tell me I should be more open-minded.

There is a clichéd saying regarding open-mindedness: “Keep an open mind — but not so open that your brain falls out”.

This piece of advice is most often said to come from physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), but also a slew of other more or less famous people, most of them from the field of science: Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, James Oberg, Bertrand Russell, J. Robert Oppenheimer. It’s plausible that they all certainly said it at one time or another because it applies every time one is presented with a fringe or alternative explanation for something. It’s well worth remembering as a rule of thumb.

Because I peruse paranormal-themed sites and various “water-cooler” forums on the web, I frequently see ideas thrown out there that would qualify as amazing and paradigm-shifting. So, what do I think about this latest crazy thing, people ask?


The Starchild skull.

Here’s a recent example. With all the recent speculation about “alien” remains, someone on Facebook mentioned Lloyd Pye who contends (for almost 15 years now) that a curiously-shaped skull he has is that of an alien-human hybrid. Called the “star child” skull, Pye promotes the story that this is proof that humans descended from extraterrestrial beings.

The plausibility of this idea is practically nil. There is no decent evidence in support of it except a nifty story. To accept it, we’d have to throw out all of what we know about human history, evolution, and a good bit of well-established physics. Just because of one odd-looking skull? No, thank you. That would be stupid. Thus, to consider such an idea takes me about a minute before I realize that would be unreasonable. It’s an imaginative idea, just like mermaids and remote viewing and time travelers. But in order to accept it, I’d have to discard too much (e.g., my brain and society’s accumulated knowledge). The evidence clearly suggests another more down-to-earth explanation. Since the skull DNA tested as human, and we know that certain genetic conditions can cause the enlargement of the skull in just this way, I’m going to accept the obvious and not some far-fetched story just for kicks.

Calling skeptics closed-minded because we discard wacky ideas is a common ploy. It’s often used as a personal insult because the skeptic has rejected a baseless idea that the promoters fancy. When you don’t have evidence to support your idea, observe that the proponent resorts to derogatory tactics.

But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.

“But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.”

It’s not about actually being open-minded towards new ideas. Instead, the proponent is accusing the skeptic of being stubborn, undemocratic and unfair. They see it as the skeptical person, being overly rational, ignoring a possibly worthwhile option to be considered. But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.

Let’s take another example: energy healing. I should be open-minded, reiki practitioners say, and try these forms of energy medicine where healing energy gets channeled or manipulated for better health. If someone offers these treatments to me and I just say “OK! Sounds good!” (and hand over my money) is that actually being open-minded? No. It’s swallowing what I’m being fed without a thought. The same would apply to . . .

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Cognitive Dissonance

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

Cognitive dissonance is a theory of human motivation that asserts that it is psychologically uncomfortable to hold contradictory cognitions. The theory is that dissonance, being unpleasant, motivates a person to change his cognition, attitude, or behavior. This theory was first explored in detail by social psychologist Leon Festinger, who described it this way:
Dissonance and consonance are relations among cognitions that is, among opinions, beliefs, knowledge of the environment, and knowledge of one’s own actions and feelings. Two opinions, or beliefs, or items of knowledge are dissonant with each other if they do not fit together; that is, if they are inconsistent, or if, considering only the particular two items, one does not follow from the other (Festinger 1956: 25).
He argued that there are three ways to deal with cognitive dissonance. He did not consider these mutually exclusive.
  1. One may try to change one or more of the beliefs, opinions, or behaviors involved in the dissonance;
  2. One may try to acquire new information or beliefs that will increase the existing consonance and thus cause the total dissonance to be reduced; or,
  3. One may try to forget or reduce the importance of those cognitions that are in a dissonant relationship (Festinger 1956: 25-26).
For example, people who smoke know smoking is a bad habit. Some rationalize their behavior by looking on the bright side: They tell themselves that smoking helps keep the weight down and that there is a greater threat to health from being overweight than from smoking. Others quit smoking. Most of us are clever enough to come up with ad hoc hypotheses or rationalizations to save cherished notions. Why we can’t apply this cleverness more competently is not explained by noting that we are led to rationalize because we are trying to reduce or eliminate cognitive dissonance. Different people deal with psychological discomfort in different ways. Some ways are clearly more reasonable than others. So, why do some people react to dissonance with cognitive competence, while others respond with cognitive incompetence?
Cognitive dissonance has been called “the mind controller’s best friend” (Levine 2003: 202). Yet, a cursory examination of cognitive dissonance reveals that it is not the dissonance, but how people deal with it, that would be of interest to someone trying to control others when the evidence seems against them.

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Bigfoot Sightings & Pictures: Hoaxes and Cases of Mistaken Identity

via LiveScience

Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, is a giant ape-like creature that is said to roam the Pacific Northwest. There is scant physical evidence that such creatures exist, but Bigfoot buffs are convinced that they do, and that science will soon prove it.

While most sightings of Bigfoot occur in the Northwest, the creatures have been reported all over the country. There are many native myths and legends of wild men in the woods, but Bigfoot per se has been around for only about 50 years. Interest in Bigfoot grew rapidly during the second half of the 20th century, spurred by magazine articles of the time, most seminally a December 1959 “True” article describing the discovery of large, mysterious footprints the year before in Bluff Creek, California.

If you don’t believe in Bigfoot (singular or plural), you’re not alone. According to a 2007 Baylor Religion Survey, only 16 percent of Americans said that Bigfoot “absolutely” or “probably” exist, with 44 percent responding “probably not” and about 40 percent saying that they “absolutely [do] not” exist. (In contrast, over twice as many people believe in ghosts or astrology.) [Infographic: Tracking Belief in Bigfoot]

Eyewitness evidence

By far the most common evidence for Bigfoot is eyewitness reports. Unfortunately, this is also by far the weakest type of evidence. Psychologists and police know that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and that people are simply not very good at accurately describing something they saw — especially at a distance in low light and when the subject is partially hidden by trees and foliage (as most Bigfoot reports are).

A frame from the film by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin.

Anyone can be mistaken, and pilots, policemen, priests, and public officials are no exception. Most Bigfoot researchers admit that the vast majority of sightings are mistakes or hoaxes (up to 95 percent, by some estimates). Still, they insist that a Bigfoot must be hiding in that tiny portion of sightings and reports that can’t be easily explained.

Photographic evidence

The most famous image of a Bigfoot is the short film taken in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. Shot in Bluff Creek, Calif., it shows a dark, man-sized and man-shaped figure striding through a clearing. Widely considered a hoax, it remains to this day the best evidence for Bigfoot. However this poses a serious blow to the film’s credibility: if it’s real, and these Bigfoot creatures are really out there wandering in front of people with cameras, it’s very suspicious that better films and videos haven’t emerged since Lyndon Johnson’s administration.

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