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Why do so many people believe in alternative stuff these days?

  1. Oct 6, 2006 #1

    J77

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    Why do so many people believe in "alternative" stuff these days?

    By alternative, I mean anything and everything from crystals to UFOs to the old "happy water" to the Holy Grail to spirits...

    Is it because of the vast amount of books which are being written on these subjects?

    For me, it went something like this...

    When I was younger, I read a lot of books like The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, The Holy Place, The Orion Mystery, Fingerprints of the Gods...

    These books started few and far between, but then loads of people started getting in on the case.

    Culminating in the hype of the Da Vinci Code.

    Likewise, I think the X-files was massively responsible for putting UFOs, conspiracy and conspiratorial governments in the fore of people's minds.

    I enjoyed reading the books I've mentioned but never took it to the extremes of forming complete opinions around them.

    The reason I put this in social sciences is because I think it has molded a whole generation into suspician and, of course, "trusting no-one".

    The internet and the ability of people into "alternatives" being able to get together and chat over these things has also played a big part.

    Why do people believe in this stuff?

    Is it because it's easy to understand? - there is no hard science behind it.

    Is it because people are annoyed with the real world and want to think there's something else out there?

    This stuff is almost like a new religion - loads of texts but no hardcore proof.
     
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  3. Oct 6, 2006 #2

    selfAdjoint

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    It's because the real world of hard facts gets less and less satisfying every day to many people. They find a lot more color and excitment in the various outre beliefs that are thrown around.

    Mysticism, which was just the common opinion of the westerm middle ages, has always spurted in antithesis to the great periods of rationality and war, and since Einstein 1905 and WWI 1914, our world has just spiralled further and further into those two.
     
  4. Oct 6, 2006 #3

    arildno

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    It is, IMO, an expression of a deeply hidden, foolish contempt of nature, humans and the universe. Somehow, they can't care less about actually understanding anything of this, be perennially fascinated by their actual surroundings, and dismiss those who are world-oriented as less "spiritual" than themselves. Their unjustified arrogance is also shown in their fondness for "secret knowledge" that only the few elect are privy to.

    Possibly, their contemptuous attitude is an attempt of sorts to ward of feelings of low self-esteem (always induced by the un-ignorable advances of rational thinking they might lack the competence to follow), but their ideas about the world are nonetheless ,on the whole, worthless.

    In fact, one may regard their whole leanings as an inversion attempt out of envy:
    1. They don't understand rational thinking like math&science
    Hence, they mistakenly regard those who do understand it as some sort of sect that has access to some esoteric knowledge.
    Thus, the new-agers also wants some special knowledge of their own.

    2. It is an un-ignorable fact that rigourous, rational thinking has brought about a wealth of advances for humanity.
    Hence, the new-agers also want it to exist some special province in which they are able to advance humanity. This province commonly goes under the nebulous epithet "spirituality".
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2006
  5. Oct 9, 2006 #4

    jim mcnamara

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    Arildno, I disagree.

    Maybe it's how I define worth. Worth=impact beyond your physical sphere - how your beliefs impact others.

    I live in the US and a lot of our leaders follow what they deem to be the truth, as they base it on religious views or on unfalsifiable personal tenets. These leaders follow their "truth" without regard to data or observations.

    That makes the leader's belief set transcend any worth you choose to define. It matters deeply, practically, and personally what the leader's beliefs are.

    Importance of worth lies mostly in WHO believes, and not necessarily in the WHAT. Ask the folks in Iraq if belief in "hidden WMD's" by a powerful man could possibly cause them harm.
     
  6. Oct 9, 2006 #5

    arildno

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    Yeah, sure Atlantis was sunk because of its sins, and Jonah lived in the whale ever after.
    Very worthy thoughts, at least when they come from a leader.
     
  7. Oct 9, 2006 #6

    selfAdjoint

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    More like "The prophesies of Daniel and John say that the second coming will be preceded by the rebuilding of the Temple, so we have to support Israel whatever, so they can do that". And remember that Babylon, which Iraqis with their irrational beliefs regard as their origin, figures largely in John's revelation (as in "Whore of...").

    The fact that these ideas are worthless intellectually means little outside the ivory tower. The impact they have, the human death and suffering and destruction, can be enormous.
     
  8. Oct 9, 2006 #7

    arildno

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    Well, that ideas can be emotional powerful precisely because one carefully has honed away from them every nuanced thought associated with intelligence, is amply attested throughout history.
    Hitler was very good at delivering such ideas, and getting people to believe in them.
     
  9. Oct 9, 2006 #8

    Astronuc

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    Perhaps there are some people like that, but I think the vast majority of people can't deal with reality of the world, or nature, or the universe - they simply do not have the intellect. A small minority of people get PhDs or MS degrees in mathematics and the sciences - because they have the intellectual capacity to that. And even there, I have seen kooky ideas from PhDs.

    It is sad that so many are willing to accept the death, suffering and destruction as 'that's the way the world is'. I can never accept the world in which humans are expected to suffer, or that wars are inevitable - yet that seems sometimes to be the way the world is. I am constantly astounded at the fateful resignation that many people express. Those are the views I want to change as much as humanly possible - and as futile as that might seem. But then I've always been a bit odd. :biggrin:
     
  10. Oct 10, 2006 #9

    arildno

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    It is hardly a matter of great intellect to be sufficiently interested about nature to find it worthwhile to learn something about.
     
  11. Oct 10, 2006 #10
    You might want to include a poll that backs up your concern in this thread. How many people "believe" in "alternative stuff" and how many do not?

    Where is the hard science (or a good poll) or is there an alternative way to perceive that "so many people" have alternative beliefs?

    When you say "alternative stuff" in your question does that apply to solar energy, wind energy, hydrogen fuel cell technology, recycling, alternative thought is the only way America could have come into being. An alternative to the taxes imposed by England is what spawned the American Dream.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2006
  12. Oct 11, 2006 #11

    SF

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    To me, it looks like some kind of a religion.

    Whether it's Jehova's Witnesses, Scientologists, Linux/Open Source loonies, String Theory proponents, Global Warming enthusiasts, it's all the same.
    The feeling of community, of fighting allongside others for a common goal, that's very pleasant for simple-minded individuals.

    You see it all the time in the examples I gave above.
    Jehova's Witnesses proselytize against all other denominations.
    Scientologists are just nuts.
    Linux/Open Source loonies fight "the devil" (Bill Gates)
    String Theory proponents fight the "old, obsolete science" (yea right!)
    Global Warming enthusiasts just geep rambling on and on about doomsday.

    In our case, "the devil" is anything mainstream.
    You'll see, the "alternative" guys never had any real progress but the "believers" don't care. They know they are under assault by the evil "mainstream" (be it science/medicine/media, etc) and they got to fight it.

    Usually the sheep have no idea of what they're fighting for, they just do it due to an accute "herd effect".
     
  13. Oct 11, 2006 #12

    Astronuc

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    There is the matter of curiosity and the inquisitive mind.

    People as children possess 'magical thinking', and many adults do not get beyond that. To go beyond that one needs the ability to inquire and reason and to understand abstract concepts, like force and energy.
     
  14. Oct 11, 2006 #13

    J77

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    The things you mentioned there have been proved to work. I'm talking about stuff that people believe in without any proof.
     
  15. Oct 11, 2006 #14
    Oh! Do you mean like believing in the existence of a super-being that has a big white beard and robe overseeing the progress of the universe? There's plenty of evidence of a large number of people who believe that without any evidence for or against the idea. No poll required! :rolleyes:

    But, just because there are millions of Dan Brown's books sold, (offering a novel view of the history of some cults and figures) this does not suggest that people believe the stories. It only shows the nature of curiosity in humans. And I think this is an example of why the sales figures for other "alternative" views and products have risen. People are curious but curiousity does not imply belief.

    When you look at the mainstay of dogmas and the failure of many scientific procedures (take the nutoriously incorrect diagnosis and treatment of ulcers for example) you can see why people are exploring alternative ideas. People are explorers by nature and some, possibly millions, have learned that what you believe may not actually be true.
     
  16. Oct 12, 2006 #15

    arildno

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    Granted.
    I would rather say that perhaps most people require a stimulation and guided development of that ability (rather than it evolving on its own). I will not ever agree to that people do not fundamentally share the same logical faculties. Some need a bit more coaching to develop it, that's all in my opinion.
     
  17. Oct 15, 2006 #16

    Astronuc

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    The brain, really, the neural pathways and neural density get set at some point. The time to develop abstract reasoning and rational thought is early - early as possible - which is why stimulating education/environment is critical.

    Think of weight lifting and muscle development. If one never lifts progressively heavy weights while consuming the appropriate protein, one would never develop strong muscles (also concomittant is testosterone level). Similarly, as one ages, the muscles become less strong with decreasing hormonal levels, and regaining strength by exercise is less likely. To maintain muscle mass, one must weight-train on a regular schedule.

    Likewise, if one never runs long distance, or sprints, or rides a bicycle, as one ages, one will not be able to have endurance, run fast (sprint) or ride a bicycle.

    As an old adage says - "Use it, or lose it" - it applies to the mind as well.
     
  18. Oct 15, 2006 #17

    arildno

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    Certainly I agree to that the "window of opportunity" may close off at some age, my guess is about the age 12-13.
    What I would maintain is that everyone is given that window of opportunity.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2006
  19. Jan 4, 2007 #18

    SF

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    There would be no problem with "believing in alternative stuff" if it didn't actually mean "believeing in nonsense".

    Why do people believe nonsense? Because they don't care for the truth.
    They only want to listen to what they choose. Afraid of reality maybe?
     
  20. Jan 4, 2007 #19

    DaveC426913

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    In the last century since modernization, and particularly in the fifties, science was God. It was a font of advancements that would make all our lives better in untold ways.

    These days, many have become disillusioned with what they see as "science". They see scientists making claims that "filbert flanges cause cancer", then ten years later, a new report comes out that says "filbert flanges extend your life".

    People feel betrayed. They feel science is just as riddled with bias, politics, fools and crooks as any other industry, and have begun to reject the idea that science has an answer for every tangible thing under the sun.

    People are returning to a mentality wherein you believe your own eyes, or if not, someone else's eye who sounds darned convincing. And scientists are no longer convincing.


    In short, to the average person, what makes the science mumbo-jumbo any more plausible than the alternative mumbo-jumbo?

    I'm sure we've all got our counter-arguments, but they don't 'make it didn't happen'.
     
  21. Jan 6, 2007 #20

    SF

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    You must be kidding, right?:)

    The difference between us and bronze-age people is science.
    Architecture is science.
    Building construction is science.
    Communication networks are science.
    Means of transportations are science.
    Medicine is science.

    To this day no one has seen "bioenergies", "paranormal", "ghosts", "fairies" and such. Yet we see the results of science every day all around us.

    Stop weasel wording.
    What people? Who are these people?
    For example: rational people (or if you don't like that term, let's just say people who produced results that changed the world) felt science was worth their attention.
    What did the people with the "alternative" stuff produce? Well, money for once. And delusions.
     
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