Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Why Do Smart People Believe Stupid Things?

Read Mark Hanson’s book. Read the sample. Read about the most heroic man I’ve ever heard of. 

Witold Piecki was already a war hero before he decided to sneak into Auschwitz—the only man to ever voluntarily enter a prison camp. His purpose was to liberate the people.

“Hope,” writes Hanson, “is to strike a match to light up a void. To show us the possibility of a better world—not a better world we want to exist, but a world we didn’t know could exist.” (His book: Everything is F*cked, -A Book About Hope.)

Holy Moly, I started to write about Why Smart People Believe Stupid Things and found Piecki’s story. Some people minimalize the death camps—thinking they didn’t exist, or think that the number of people murdered was exaggerated. Yet, even before Auschwitz, the Soviets were systematically making MILLIONS of polish people disappear.

I understand, our mind doesn’t want to believe that such evil exists.
Authorities thought Piecki’s reports were exaggerated too, and he was living it. No help came. That was until the war ended, and the US. troops liberated the camps.

Some believe the #world is flat. 

No gravity? Well, that’s precious. Things just fall down.
Ever hear of Newton and Einstein and mathematical equations?
Circling the globe? “Planes are just fly in a big circle,” they say.

Have you ever been talked into changing a belief?

Maybe you’ve changed beliefs, but probably not in an argument. You changed them because you believe in science and evidence and data, even if sometimes it is only antidotal, but large enough to make a dent in your belief system.

One of my favorite books is The Magic of Believing by Clyde Bristol. 
It might sound like I am talking out of two sides of my face, one is that people believe stupid things, and second that I believe in the magic of believing. 

Let’s get a grip here. There are beliefs that fly in the face of science, and there are beliefs that exalt the human condition.

Believe in yourself. Believe that you have what it takes to make this journey through life. Believe that if someone is successful, you can be. Believe in your own goodness, and that kindness matters. Believe in walking gently on the earth, and to preserve as is humanly possible its resources be it animal, mineral, plant, water or air. 

It’s tricky when you’re holding a belief about yourself or believing you can do, be or have your heart’s desire. Yet, belief brings the subconscious into play. Believe in good things, not bad.

It’s a difficult job. for we have many factors working against us, and basically it’s been drummed into us, that “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  Like those people can be successful, but you can’t.

My daughter looked up “Why people believe stupid things,” on Google, and Google answered. That started me down this road. 

We all believe certain things, and evidence is low on the list.
We tend to believe something when we hear it over and over.

Ad writers know this.
Propagandists know this.
Politicians know this.
Most people don’t know it.

Smart people can be the worst for holding onto a belief, or they are good at rationalizing. They are sometimes too clever for their own good.

When doctors didn’t believe in germs, they refused to wash their hands and thus passed on childbed fever to new mothers. What doctor would want to believe that he caused his patient to die?

When evidence to the contrary of a belief, such as when Dr. Robert Collins (1829) said that it was the passing of cadaver germs to laboring women that caused the infections, he was ridiculed.

In 1872 Dr Ignaz Semmelweis again presented germ evidence, including closing the hospital, cleaning every square inch, making the doctors wash their hands with chlorinated lime, and the result was that childhood fever plummeted. But, according to belief hospitals and doctors slackened their efforts and more women died.

Childbed fever raged for 50 years. 

Smart women, yet on welfare and needed their babies born in a hospital, were onto the fact that more women died of childbirth in hospitals than at home, but since they needed a doctor’s verification to get aid, many had their babies in the streets and told the doctors that the birth came on so fast they couldn’t make it to the hospital. 

They saved their lives and gave their child a mother.

The belief in long-held practices happens repeatedly in the scientific community. 

People in authority hold on to an old belief that has endured in the system for so long it is canonized. 

We hate to throw out our pet theories. 

There are social, cultural, family reasons, personal reasons, emotional reasons, why we hold beliefs. We were raised to think that way. Something influenced us when we were young, maybe a teacher of a particular book. 

Most people are approval seekers rather than truth seekers.

It’s our nature. We’re social creatures. We want to fit in. How many times have you faked laughter at a joke that wasn’t funny—well, I guess that’s being polite.

I suppose people believe stupid things to fit into a group, to be a fraternity of like-minded souls set out to battle the world. It makes them special.

Skinheads must fit into that category, but their beliefs are based on hate. 

Hate-filled people are more dangerous than those saber-toothed tigers we used to run from.

We all love finding someone who believes as we do. We immediately enter a garden of delights.

Yet, Brene’ Brown speaks of “Braving the Wilderness,” meaning to stand alone if that’s what must be.

What is it that makes a difference in the quality of people’s lives? Why do some people talk about their dreams and never follow through, while others go for it?

Why do some rail about their life conditions, and others turn dire circumstances into light?

Think of the little girl who was raped at 9-years-old then taken for ice cream with blood running down her legs. Later on, she was molested by two close family members. She gave birth to a stillborn child—a pregnancy she hid until delivery time. She was fired from a reporting position because she identified too strongly with her subjects. This person turned to television and now is worth billions. She is Oprah Winfrey.

And while I champion the cause of science as a framework for beliefs, I also know that we are babes in the woods regarding science, especially at a quantum level. How atoms work, and sub-atomic particles, and that everything is energy is new to us. We know we are electrical and chemical, but we don’t know the seat of intuition or ESP. 
We know we are bathed in consciousness, but it baffles us. It is our soul? Is it calling out to us?

And so we suppose and create models, that’s all we can do until science catches up to our supposing.

 “Keep believing, keep pretending, We’ll do what we set out to do.”—Kermit the Frog

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

What Drives You Crazy?

Packaging is one for me.

And that hard-formed plastic that encapsulates everything from toothbrushes to pliers is a health hazard. I’ve heard that hospitals have a name for hard plastic injuries, but I don’t know what it’s called.

Scissors are now the most important tool in my kitchen, and all of mine are dull, so I’m hacking my way into packaging. Just serving a meal of cheese, salami, crackers, and olives can—with the ripping, cutting, unwrapping, opening—takes more time than cooking steak and veggies. And I was trying to have an easy meal.

In 1995 two friends and I visited Germany and I came home championing the cause of no grocery bags. Now Eugene has established a no bag policy, but they do sell paper bags for 5 cents, but where we live, right outside Eugene, the shops use plastic bags, so I’m spoiled again.

I debated the paper vs plastic bags for a time, until my grandson said, “Throw that paper bag on the ground and it will be gone in a few days. That plastic bag will hang around for eons.” 

Folks who found a dead whale washed up on the beach with 40 kg of plastic in his belly convinced me.

Before I sound too high and mighty, I am the worst for remembering to take my reusable bags into the grocery store or other shops in Eugene, so I spend a lot of 5 cents.

Europe is way ahead of us. Even back in 1995, when we went into a German grocery, we found that they charged 25 cents to use a shopping cart, but had no bags. You placed your items in the cart. You weighed the produce, printed a price sticker and plastered it to your lettuce, apples or such. You checked out, reloaded everything into the cart and wheeled it out to your car. If you had the foresight to put a box in the car, you put your groceries in it, and when you get home you carried the box into the house. Simple. 

If you walked to the store, you carried a bag.

I think Europeans are more trusting than Americans so they don’t have to tie everything up because they are afraid someone is going to steal it, contaminate it, or do some dire something. 

I got a kick out of hearing that the Euro Rail used an honor system. However, if on a random check, a person was found with no ticket, they put that person off the train at that place—wherever it was. How about that to keep people honest?

Bathrooms in Germany had on-demand water heaters in the Zimmer Free homes. where we spent our nights. (Zimmer Free means, “Room available.” When you see such a sign, you can go up to the door and ask if they have a room. We followed Rick Steves’ travel guide for good places to stay, and to our surprise, we ran into Rick at a cafĂ© where he sat upgrading his book. And most every place had goose-down comforters. It spoiled me and I’ve slept under one ever since.

Oh, and their pretzels, about a foot across, chewy on the bottom twist, crispy on the top curve, and sprinkled with coarse salt were spectacular. I believe I had one daily. Now wheat flour has been demonized, but not then. 

What set me off on this topic was an article I found online about shops in the UK that have minimal packaging and no plastic. 

They use bins to hold their merchandise and there are many glass containers. They have pumps for filling their customer’s own bottles with liquids such as shampoo, and soaps. Their shops are quite upscale and beautiful, and even people who hate shopping love to go there.

According to Steven Moss, who wrote the article, walking into one shop named Natural Weigh, smelled heavenly. Natural Weigh is a zero-waste shop that opened a year ago in Crickhowell, Mid-Wales, and is part of a quiet revolution. 

Over the past two years, well over 100 of these stores have sprung up across the UK. Natural Weigh doesn’t sell produce because they don’t want to interfere with the local markets. 

Regarding produce: Have you ever been to an open air market such as they have in Mexico? You walk through aisles of fruits and vegetables, with various items hanging overhead, and the sight, colors, and fragrances are a feast before you buy anything.

I suppose Farmers Markets and Saturday Markets in the US serve that purpose. They are second to harvesting your own produce. 

When I was a kid, we wrapped our sandwiches in waxed paper, and it worked. The sandwich was fresh come lunchtime. It might have a crater in the middle though, from the apple packed beside it.

I use plastic wrap, and plastic bags, I’m no saint, why, though, I wonder, must I search to find bags without a Ziploc? Oh, that reminds me, I have a perfect solution to oil spills, sinking ships, and capturing an ice burg for fresh water. We just need a company that can make a zip-lock bag huge enough so we can slip a ship or an iceberg inside, or pull it around an oil slick.  One more thing needed though--a device to hold the bag open for filling.

Consumers can reduce the use of plastic, but it is minuscule compared to what companies could do.  Yes, use plastic for cars Televisions, refrigerators, etc. etc, but if engineers can build the bay bridge across from San Francisco to Oakland to withstand the strongest earthquake they can think of, some genius could come up with a product we can use in place of plastic garbage bags, kitchen bags, plastic wrap, grocery bags, and those absolutely ridiculous rings that hold a six-pack of just about anything that comes in bottles or cans. 

We’re tired of needing a hacksaw to get newly purchased products out of their packaging. And think about those cups that look like plastic, but are made from corn. Hey, corn has been demonized too, let’s use it to wrap our food. 

What? Both wheat and corn are demonized? 

Wheat and corn built civilizations. I don’t believe it is the wheat and corn specifically— without maze where would South America be?  And we love our corn chips and corn on the cob. And popcorn. I used to say that if I was stranded on a desert island, I would want popcorn along.

I don’t believe it is the grains that are causing the trouble,  I think it is what has been done to the wheat and corn.

With the extensive use of genetic engineering and insecticides, what can we trust? I’ve heard that they spray Roundup on wheat.   No wonder people have problems. 

Why do we stand for all the dinking with our food, so that they can be shipped without damage, and grown in abundance, prettier, and bigger, but without the taste of a lovely vine-ripened fruit? And I wonder if those GMO dinked foods are nutritious.

So we start eliminating foods from our diets because they don’t settle well with us. 

Well duh.

I’m not going to show you pictures of beautiful sea creatures strangled by plastic, it will spoil your entire day.
You know about it. What can we do about it?

Indigenous peoples revered the earth, and they knew to walk gently on her back.  They knew that respecting all the forces of nature, as well as all the living things was essential in maintaining harmony on the planet.  Corn was a precious gift, a plant that would not grow without the aid of a human hand.  Giving that ear of corn to a newborn child was a symbol of nurturing; it would provide sustenance in her life. 

Walking gently applies to everything. Sunday we had such an experience on my Daughter and son-in-law’s gorgeous 100-acre wood. Pics were taken last Sunday.

Lovely forest floor.   

Wild strawberry 

Grandson and Sweetpea with bridge over fallen log behind them (Called a stile.) That's son-in-law's gift to hikers.

  The poison oak was healthy too.

        And a treat at the end of the hike, baked by Grandson.