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Changing people's Views

  1. Apr 14, 2015 #1
    "It's why we're still spending trillions of dollars on machines to kill each other with but not on space exploration or colonization. What's important to the average human and what is important to humans of high intelligence, knowledge, and vision are vastly divergent."

    I read this on another post, I believe it was about why we didn't go back to the moon, but it made me think of a few things about how do we close these gaps. Such as bringing more people to wanting to know why and how things in our universe work. Knowing how our politics are nothing about this, and most people are still fighting to have religion in charge or which sky daddy is better. How could one change peoples minds and herd people into the direction to want to support more knowledge, spend more money on learning than killing people and just generally get people interested in learning? Is this even possible?
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  3. Apr 14, 2015 #2


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    Welcome to PF!

    These are very difficult questions to answer but it seems that overall the world is evolving toward a global business model and that as this takes hold then education will become more important and people will start to look to the stars as we realize the limits to growth imposed by the Earth itself.
  4. Apr 14, 2015 #3


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    Sorry but this smacks of elitism to me. What on earth makes it so that the values of the "more knowledgable" (and how is that defined? By academic qualification? Level of career? Life experience?) are more valid than anyone else's? Don't get me wrong I think that deference to authority on technical matters is an important thing, if ten doctors tell me to take a pill then I'm going to take it regardless of if twenty non-do tors tell me not to, but when it comes to things like this we're talking about values more than facts.

    Furthermore whilst there is an obvious interplay between the two it doesn't invalidate the point.
  5. Apr 14, 2015 #4
    You know, big part of the space race were a double purpose expenditures. Nevermind... ;)

    For practical reasons, in the West, except USA and Israel you have rather quite low military expenditure (the NATO target of 2% GDP is not reached at all). So by changing attitudes you would not free so huge money, the spending priority nowadays is welfare state (with over promised pension system). Plus with Russians imperialism and turmoil in Arab countries huge spending cuts may not be especially wise.

    Idea - mass education - it works well, just it takes generations. If you want to get in election the desired answers, then you presumably should introduce exam to become a voter, which of course would be considered as blasphemy against democracy.
  6. Apr 14, 2015 #5


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    Mass education is a great policy, exams for enfranchisement not so much. I object to the term blasphemy as it implies critics of the proposal are dogmatic. There's also some weak historical precedents in the form of democracy without universal sufferage (I.e. when you could only vote as a white male landowner in some countries). There are multiple problems with this sort of exam: who gets to decide the questions? If it is politicians what's to stop them structuring it so that only their supporters will pass? If it isn't politicians how is it done fairly? What's to stop ossification of social class as those with the most money afford the best schools? And finally as I've pointed out above knowledge is not the same as values. Just because you're more educated in a subject doesn't mean your values are more worthy.
  7. Apr 14, 2015 #6


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    In either case to the OP if you want to change people's views then simplistically:

    - You have to identify the basis for their opinion
    - Explore that, what values is it based on? What facts support it?
    - If any of those facts are incorrect then explain why
    - Regarding the values take a step further back to look at other values they might have and how they decide them
    - Are there any contradictions? Any logical fallacies?
    - Always bear in mind the non-rational side of things. All humans have implicit biases and we're prone to taking mental shortcuts (see also heuristics) that are great for every day life but not so much for being completely consistent.

    Take the example of someone who is homophobic. An ideal conversation would go something like this:

    - Why are you homophobic?
    - Because it's wrong to be gay
    - How is it wrong?
    - Gay people commit more crimes and it's unnatural
    - But they don't commit more crimes (show and discuss data) and it's perfectly natural (show and discuss data) and even if it were unnatural that isn't intrinsically a bad thing (explain naturalistic fallacy, give examples of other unnatural things)
    - Good points, I'm no longer a homophobe
  8. Apr 14, 2015 #7

    It’s not even close to elitism. The values of a doctor telling me that me that chemo will give me better chances to live than taking advice from a pseudoscientist who states eats sassafras 3 times a week for a month will cure me. It’s more so about bringing people to the same level of knowledge so that we don't have to hear the argument of how the theory of evolution is fake but the theory of gravity is real. Replacing ancient and medieval with modern values like education.
  9. Apr 14, 2015 #8
    Honestly speaking I consider belief that people get enlightenment at their 18th birthday that let them understand issues of macroeconomics, law, foreign policy, ecology, etc. as somewhat dogmatic. ;)
    Weak? Well, not specially except XXth and XXIst century. (like de facto constitutional monarchies)

    What stops politicians in democracy for granting foreigners citizenship to get those new votes? For practical purposes - constitution with some arbitrary percentage of people who vote. It would be hard to write a math test that would be clearly skewed towards right-wing or left-wing.
    According to opinion polls in my country:
    a) the majority is for subsidizing deficit generating coal mines;
    b) the majority is against paying for that subsidize from their tax money.
    What are worth values of people who agree with both statements? And how any gov can realistically implement their values? :D

    Before I read quite famous study from Lancet concerning comparison of harm caused by psychoactive substances, I had different views concerning their legality. Are my views "before" and "after" equally worthy?

    (I mean the study summarized here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_h...sical_harm_and_dependence,_NA_free_means).svg )
  10. Apr 14, 2015 #9


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    A doctor telling you what medicine to take is a very different situation to voting in politics. In the first case the patient has already acted on a value (that being healthy is preferable to being sick) and is acting on it by consulting an expert on the best way to achieve this. When it comes to representative government it's not a case of consulting experts, were choosing people to represent our values who can then go on to consult experts so as to make decisions as to how to proceed.
  11. Apr 14, 2015 #10
    In Ryan's favor, there are the famous Nazi I.Q. test scores from the Nurenberg trials:

    http://www.quora.com/How-accurate-were-the-IQ-scores-of-the-high-ranking-Third-Reich-officials-tried-at-Nuremberg [Broken]

    Intelligent, educated people can, and have, perpetrated acts of war.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  12. Apr 14, 2015 #11


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    I don't think you're using the word dogma correctly. Dogma refers to incontrovertible rules laid down by an authority, an age of majority is an inexact but some would argue necessary policy. The alternatives are treating all ages the same (giving babies /children the same rights and responsibilities as adults) or introducing some for of majority test which leads us back to the problem of how do you test for majority?

    I refered to it as a weak because it's not exactly what you proposed. The situation in the UK before universal sufferage was voting restricted to make landowners whereas you're talking about restricting it to those who pass a test.

    Foreign citizens aren't granted a vote because they are not citizens of the state in question and as far as I know no voting public has voted in politicians who would grant that power. I don't get the relevant to this situation. My point was that those who can vote could further vote to solidify their power.

    What do math skills have to do with being a better voter? Do you have something against people with dyscalculia voting? This brings us nicely to the question of what exactly are you testing for and how are you going to test for it? I'm genuinely interested to know your answer to that. Because if it's things like simple math skills then I'd argue it's irrelevant at best and if it's things like political awareness then itndoes open up the doors to being able to skew the questions.

    I don't get your point here, are your arguing that if you restricted voting in some way problems like this would go away? This is a problem for debate to solve.

    This is a different question for a few reasons: firstly because I'm not saying that more informed voters is a bad thing. Obviously we want voters to be as informed as possible. But it's not just about being informed. Two equally informed individuals can have different views based on their values and people vote along those lines too. Or to put it another way consider your previous point about coal subsidies and taxes. How would being better informed solve the conflict of values there wherein people want subsidies to stop but don't support greater taxation?
  13. Apr 14, 2015 #12


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    I find it very difficult to change peoples' opinions.

    Conventional wisdom is that people don't change their minds so much as new generations tend to embrace new ideas and old ones die out.
  14. Apr 14, 2015 #13


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    Then the elitism is severe.
  15. Apr 14, 2015 #14
    Technically speaking you can have a different ages of majority for different purposes (alcohol in USA from 21, in Germany from 14). Everything here is quite arbitrary. I've seen ideas in my country of reducing the voting age to 16, "accidentally" suggested by a party that was popular among teenagers.

    Cortez in Spain, Estates General in France, Sejm in Poland.... I know the idea.

    Actually in Poland one can vote as EU citizen in local election or in EU election. In recent referendum concerning Scottish independence one had to have 16 years and did not have to be a citizen. If you want to know, fresh Polish immigrants voted to support keeping Union. ;) (yes, really)

    A few EU countries allow voting in general election for people who are merely permanent residents.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but in the US the debated immigrants amnesty calculation involve also part, that freshly naturalized Latino would tend to support Democrats, so Republicans are unhappy about whole idea.

    Anyway, in the US to become naturalized one have to pass a test...

    Just g Factor - ability to solve different mental task is quite well collerated. I would give a mixture of:
    -reading skills
    -history and geography
    -basic economy/law

    I just showing that already the previous part is quite arbitrary, just we get used to it.

    Because gov money come from taxes. A person who do not try to pretend otherwise, would have to make up his mind in one way or another, and don't expect two contradictory aims at the same time.

    I consider as dilemma choice high taxes with high spending vs. low taxes with low spending. But big part of voters in my country would only vote for someone who promise low taxes and high spending. And later be outraged that elected politician is such liar and vote someone else. The cycle is repeated.
  16. Apr 14, 2015 #15


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    Agreed. Perhaps even worse, I don't think the intellectual elites would favor lunar colonization/manned space explanation anyway!
  17. Apr 14, 2015 #16
    I am starting to see that maybe I should of worded this a little different so that it wouldn't "sound" elitist.
  18. Apr 14, 2015 #17
    Notice that the quote you posted to start the discussion had the flaw of circular reasoning. It silently defines "high intelligence," "knowledge," and "vision," as 'the desire to explore and colonize space' (let that interest in space travel stand for 'a general curiosity about everything around us' for the sake of this discussion). And "average intelligence" is implicitly defined as 'the desire to make war'. To put it a bit differently, the person who wrote that assumes some obviousness about a connection between interest in everything around us, and high intelligence, knowledge, and vision, and some obviousness in a connection between low, or at least average, intelligence and making war.

    The "elitist" aspect of this, which I would characterize as the implicit assertion that people of high intelligence, knowledge, and vision will automatically have the 'right' value system, bothers me less than the fact it's all a mass of unexamined assumptions and undefined terms.

    At any rate, your anti-war sentiment was clear, and I'd wager most people here are anti-war in principle. In practice everything's vastly more complicated than it ever seems at first glance, and you end up with academics and otherwise "intelligent" people supporting certain wars and war efforts. Our pal, Feynman, for example, the epitome of curiosity about everything and anything, directly helped create the atomic bomb at Los Alamos.
  19. Apr 14, 2015 #18


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    I think it was Jacob Bronowski who said this -
    I don't think that smacks of elitism ... it is the only meaningful destination there can be.
    Knowledge includes knowledge about ourselves and our interactions with each other, as well as about the universe.

    I think, as scientific minded individuals, it is our duty (as well as our right) to raise awareness in general. About science, the scientific method and why its the best we have, and what it has revealed to us about ourselves and about our universe so far.
    Ignorance is the cause of a lot of darkness, and the less ignorance there is, the less darkness there will be ...
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