The book "The Unpersuadables"

#1
Have you ever wondered why it's difficult to get someone to change their minds even when presented with the facts? Here's what appears to be a good book that explains that and it even covers skeptics.

We would like to believe people are rational. We would like to believe that if they have formed a false belief based on inaccurate information and poor reasoning, they will change that belief when they are provided with accurate information and better reasoning. We are frequently disappointed.

An example of what should happen
I recently talked with a college professor who believed chiropractic treatment could lower blood pressure. His belief was based on a media report of a chiropractic study. He thought it was plausible that neck manipulation could somehow relieve obstructions to blood flow to the base of the brain, thereby somehow correcting the cause of high blood pressure. I told him that rationale was anatomically and physiologically implausible. I pointed out that the researchers used NUCCA, a form of manipulation that is rejected by most chiropractors. He did not know what NUCCA was. I provided him with information, including links to the study itself and to chiropractor Sam Homola’s excellent critique of the study. My friend changed his mind and thanked me for educating him.

An example of what all too often happens
I was invited to give the “con” side of a pro/con presentation on dowsing to a local discussion group. I lent my opponent my copy of Vogt and Hyman’s classic book Water Witching USA so he would know ahead of time what I was going to say. He read it. The book explains how the ideomotor effect creates the illusion that the dowsing rod moves of its own accord and explains that dowsers have never been able to pass controlled scientific tests. I said as much in my “con” presentation. His “pro” presentation consisted of two arguments: he had personally seen dowsing work, and lots of people believed in it. He didn’t even try to rebut my facts and arguments; he simply refused to engage with them in any way. It was as if he had not read the book and had not heard anything I said. Afterwards, one of the audience was heard to say she would have liked to hear more about how dowsing worked and less about how it didn’t work!....



Posted by Harriet Hall http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-unpersuadables/
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#2
Makes me think of the skeptical evangelist Bharati's outburst, as quoted in Boulders in the Stream: The Founding of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness:

When discussion was opened to the floor, Bharati rose and screaming and waving his hands in the air, said to Emerson “You’re either lying or cheating... I simply don’t believe you... it can’t happen... I don’t care what kind of evidence you’ve got.”

Bharati had now dismissed the work of both Eisenbud and Emerson, but it was the way in which he had done it that caught attention most. The contradiction between Bharati’s emotional outburst and his paper, which called for objective (etic) standards to be applied to any research involving parapsychology and anthropology, was not lost on the audience. One woman anthropologist in a stage whisper that could be heard by all nearby said to her companion, “How much more emic can you get than ‘I simply won’t believe it?’”

What surprised me then, although it wouldn’t today, was how much his disparagement lacked substance. Emerson’s reports of the Iroquois work, emphasized location information that had been tested by the spade, and found to be accurate. Archaeology, could provide clear, indisputable, testable information, in a way that the Castaneda work never could that something worth study was going on. Shamanism may be subject to several interpretations, but whether an artifact is where a psychic says it is, is identified as described, and is positioned as Remote Viewed is not. The viewer is either right or wrong. Bharati – and everyone else – instinctively recognized this. Every question from the floor was addressed to Emerson. Only his paper was discussed.
(The papers published by the SAC can be found here. More information on anthropology of the paranormal can be found in the free access journal Paranthopology.)
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#3
On Radin's post 'Show me the evidence' the physicist Ulrich Morhroff* made a comment in line with this thread:

'Usually they are not satisfied with evidence. They want extraordinary evidence for what they regard as extraordinary claims. I usually respond by pointing out just how extraordinary the claims of the materialist mainstream are. Certain regularities in our experience of the world are held (i) to describe all there really is and (ii) to account for the very experience from which the regularities are abstracted. How extraordinary that something can (i) exist by itself, out of relation to any consciousness or experience, and (ii) exist for someone! How can something that exists by itself be experienced? How can there be consciousness of what exists by itself? Even more extraordinary is the claim that what exists by itself is adequately described by mathematical symbols and equations. Isn’t mathematics a creation of the human mind? And is not this mind a creation of matter and evolution? How extraordinary, then, that matter should be governed by mathematical laws! And how extraordinary that mathematical laws describing certain regularities in our experience should be the very laws governing all that really exists! Where is the extraordinary evidence for all that?'

For more discussion on the validity of accepting natural laws as brute facts, people might find Feser's Can We Make Sense of the World? of interest.

*His work The World According to Quantum Mechanics - Why the Laws of Physics Make Sense After All was available for free, but having trouble finding a link for it as his site is down.
 
#4
This probably fits into ideas of tribalism and the like, where people find their cliques, huddle together, and vigorously defend their positions against even perceived opposition. It can be unconscious, but I find it probable that in least some cases it is very conscious. Some people very consciously do not want their views challenged or altered in any way.
 
#5
On Radin's post 'Show me the evidence' the physicist Ulrich Morhroff* made a comment in line with this thread:

'Usually they are not satisfied with evidence. They want extraordinary evidence for what they regard as extraordinary claims. I usually respond by pointing out just how extraordinary the claims of the materialist mainstream are. Certain regularities in our experience of the world are held (i) to describe all there really is and (ii) to account for the very experience from which the regularities are abstracted. How extraordinary that something can (i) exist by itself, out of relation to any consciousness or experience, and (ii) exist for someone! How can something that exists by itself be experienced? How can there be consciousness of what exists by itself? Even more extraordinary is the claim that what exists by itself is adequately described by mathematical symbols and equations. Isn’t mathematics a creation of the human mind? And is not this mind a creation of matter and evolution? How extraordinary, then, that matter should be governed by mathematical laws! And how extraordinary that mathematical laws describing certain regularities in our experience should be the very laws governing all that really exists! Where is the extraordinary evidence for all that?'

For more discussion on the validity of accepting natural laws as brute facts, people might find Feser's Can We Make Sense of the World? of interest.

*His work The World According to Quantum Mechanics - Why the Laws of Physics Make Sense After All was available for free, but having trouble finding a link for it as his site is down.
Judging from the review, I don't think this book covers what the quotes are describing.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#6
This probably fits into ideas of tribalism and the like, where people find their cliques, huddle together, and vigorously defend their positions against even perceived opposition. It can be unconscious, but I find it probable that in least some cases it is very conscious. Some people very consciously do not want their views challenged or altered in any way.
I think for materialist evangelicals reality is a house to be boarded shut against whatever horror-represented-by-immaterialism that apparently awaits outside. Seems for many in the West this is their conception of God and the association of this being with guilt, sexual restriction, and the eternal concentration camp He supposedly has prepared for unbelievers.

In contrast it's interesting to look at Bharati's outburst when he says it cannot be real no matter the evidence. Bharati was an Indian monk, and he never found any evidence of Psi on his own. Perhaps he cannot stand the idea that others could so easily access aspects of reality he failed to contact, which is why he says he will never accept the evidence?

But as Ulrich Morhroff points out, the naturalist picture is far more fragile than the immaterialist one. It's only a masquerade of shaming tactics that has led to the association of materialist disbelief as an indication of intellect and/or maturity.
 
#7
Sci, the exact same argument can levied at the immaterialist position.
You do realize you are exemplifying the argument this author is making?
 
#9
Have you ever wondered why it's difficult to get someone to change their minds even when presented with the facts? Here's what appears to be a good book that explains that and it even covers skeptics.
I find it interesting that people reject this "science" out of hand. I've seen that happen too. Of course, the example of waterwitching and the bullshit skeptical explanation about why it isn't real are difficult to rebut, but people seem to recognize, perhaps on a subconscious level, what is really going on. They seem to know the difference between when something is being explained, and something is being explained away even if they can't put their finger on it.

I think that at a deep subconscious level, many people have a nose for when a truth has been presented to them and can also discern when others have nothing of value to say.
 
#10
I'm fairly sure 90% of the threads on this forum exemplify his argument. That percentage is probably higher still in Critical Discussions.
All true. However, the author's argument isn't strickly materialism vs. Immaterialism as Sci is making it out to be. His (the author) argument covers a broad range. In actually, you read the review I'm sure, explores why people won't change their minds when presented with facts, hence, why the book is titled "The Unpersuadables"
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#11
I'm pointing out a subset of unpersuadables of interest to this board. Since the biased review on Novella's materialist-missionary site conveniently absolves the criticism of skeptics - which plausibly wasn't well documented in Storr's latest book anyway - I figured it would be good to present the other side.

In any case I'm actually familiar with Storr's work, largely from his involvement in bringing Randi's past flirtations with Social Darwinism to light. It's interesting to note that Social Darwinism given all the questionable skeptical enterprises Randi's been involved over the years (here, here).

I find it interesting that people reject this "science" out of hand. I've seen that happen too. Of course, the example of waterwitching and the bullshit skeptical explanation about why it isn't real are difficult to rebut, but people seem to recognize, perhaps on a subconscious level, what is really going on. They seem to know the difference between when something is being explained, and something is being explained away even if they can't put their finger on it.

I think that at a deep subconscious level, many people have a nose for when a truth has been presented to them and can also discern when others have nothing of value to say.
Ah that's a good point. I suspect there are times when an evangelical of some kind or other will go on smugly about how wrong the other side is, not realizing their audience has sniffed out the fanaticism early on.

Prescott actually gets into that when examining the skeptical dismissal of the NDE at Harborview Medical Center.

Not having visited Seattle and investigated for myself, I would not presume to say what actually happened at the Harborview. What I would like to do is submit the above article to the same kind of "skeptical" critique that it would surely receive had it been written to endorse Kimberly Clark's account. The article is long, and this analysis will be lengthy, as well. It will appear in multiple parts.

Remember, I don't claim to know the facts of the case. My point is to apply the standards used by the skeptical authors to their own claims.
 
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#12
I'm pointing out a subset of unpersuadables of interest to this board. Since the biased review on Novella's materialist-missionary site conveniently absolves the criticism of skeptics - which plausibly wasn't well documented in Storr's latest book anyway - I figured it would be good to present the other side.

In any case I'm actually familiar with Storr's work, largely from his involvement in bringing Randi's past flirtations with Social Darwinism to light. It's interesting to note that Social Darwinism given all the questionable skeptical enterprises Randi's been involved over the years (here, here).



Ah that's a good point. I suspect there are times when an evangelical of some kind or other will go on smugly about how wrong the other side is, not realizing their audience has sniffed out the fanaticism early on.

Prescott actually gets into that when examining the skeptical dismissal of the NDE at Harborview Medical Center.
I wasn't singling out a subset. This was a teaching moment for everyone to understand why it's so difficult for anyone to change their minds. It was not meant for anyone to use it as a reason to rage.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
Radin has more to say on the unpersuadables:

Besides the snarky insult, this response reveals more than ignorance. It indicates that Wales has allowed his amygdala to trump his frontal lobes. He might benefit from re-reading his own guidelines on the "Five Pillars" of Wikipedia, especially the pillar recommending that articles are to be written from a neutral point of view.

ACEP provides an evidence page that shows there already is "work published in respectable scientific journals." Yes, energy psychology techniques seem strange, but so what? There are all sorts of things that are not well understood yet, but are nevertheless backed by solid empirical evidence (like psi). And in this particular case, the methods are not merely empirically intriguing, they're also clinical useful.

And so now it becomes clear why Wikipedia has become a bastion of reactionary lore. It assumes a quaint form of reality that would have been appropriate to promote in the 17th century, but that view is neither appropriate nor useful nor correct in the 21st century. As Tolstoy once said:

'I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.'
I think the Tolstoy quote gets to the heart of the matter. I actually mentioned it with respect to philosophers who couldn't accept the conclusions of the IQOQI results that falsified certain realism assuming models in physics.

Have any philosophers picked up on the conceptual 
implications of your research?


I have a program where I invite philosophers to see what goes on in the lab, because it changes your intuition. A great majority of philosophers are realists, though sometimes naive realists. I often ask them, “Why are you so realistic? If you analyze your fundamental notions you might conclude that these things are more counterintuitive than you think.” Often the answer is, “Yes, but I want to describe reality.” And then I say, “I also want to describe reality, but why are you not satisfied with describing the reality of the observations? Why do you want a hidden reality that exists independent of the observation?” And I don’t get satisfactory answers.
 
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#15
Grof recalls Sagan being an Unpersuadable from his essay When Science Becomes Scientism:

I felt frustrated. Carl was using here the old dictum of British empiricist philosophers that had become a popular tenet of monistic materialistic science: “Nihil est in intellectu quod non an te a fuerit in sensu” (Nothing is in the intellect that prior to that was not in the sensory organs). If my subjects’ experiences contained some seemingly new information, they must have acquired it sometime, somewhere, somehow during this lifetime through sensory input.
I shook my head incredulously, not believing what I just had heard.

“What do you mean, this did not happen? Cardiosurgeon Michael Sabom reported this in his book based on the research he had conducted with his patients. What is your explanation for what I just have described to you? What do you think all this is about?” I asked. This time the pause was even longer; Carl was clearly thinking very hard, struggling to find the answer.

“I’ll tell you,” he finally broke the long silence.

“There are many cardiosurgeons in the world. Nobody would have known the guy. So he made up a wild story to attract attention to himself. It’s a PR trick!”

I was shocked. Carl’s last words seriously undermined the respect I had had for him.I realized that his worldview was not scientific, but scientistic. It had the form of an unshatterable dogma that was impervious to evidence. It was also dear to me that our discussion had reached an insurmountable impasse. I saw that Carl was willing to question the integrity and sanity of his scientific colleagues before considering that his belief system might require revision or modification to fit the new data. He was so convinced that he knew what the universe was like and what could not happen in it that he did not feel the slightest inclination to examine the challenging data.
There's a quote from there that also applies more generally:

The nature and intensity of some of the mainstream scientists’ reaction to any form of spirituality, in general, and to transpersonal psychology, in particular, seems to mirror the fanaticism of religious fundamentalists. Their attitude lacks solid scientific grounding, ignores or distorts all existing evidence, and is impervious to facts of observation and logical arguments. Closer scrutiny reveals that what they present as an image of reality that has been scientifically proven beyond any reasonable doubt is a colossus on clay feet supported by a host of a priori metaphysical assumptions.
 
#16
From the article in the OP:

We are creatures of illusion. To be human is to be “unpersuadable,” at least to some degree about some things. We can’t escape the limitations of our prehistoric brains, but we can learn to constantly remind ourselves that no matter how right we feel, there is a possibility that we might be wrong.
I've said this I can't count how many times. We are all biased. We all have blind spots. Every. Single. One of us.

There will be no end of fingers to point in terms of practical examples. That's not a big deal as long as you also point the finger at yourself.

There is a potentially constructive purpose to bringing up examples - and that's as case studies to analyse and how the person might have better controlled their bias. Note that I said controlled - not get rid of. I don't think we can escape bias entirely. We can become aware of it. We can take measures to control for it/get through it. But not get rid of it. It's hardwired in.
 
#17
I don't think we can escape bias entirely. We can become aware of it. We can take measures to control for it/get through it. But not get rid of it. It's hardwired in.
I agree that we each have some degree of bias. However, that doesn't change the fact that some people's perspectives are more open and encompassing than others. IOW all bias is not the same. Also the notion of it being "hard-wired" is trite. First of all it is not a singular thing or action. Second, it is a term describing more fundamental processes.
 
#18
There is perhaps also the question of how challenges are raised. Asking questions about an assertion by another person makes it easier sometimes for them to reconsider their view, easier that is than when presented with a full-on assault on their opinions.

Combative debate rather than constructive discussion makes it a lot more difficult for many to concede a point and adapt imho.
 
#19
Combative debate rather than constructive discussion makes it a lot more difficult for many to concede a point and adapt imho.
I doubt that anyone would disagree with that. Though to me that isn't really about bias. It's rooted in personal defensiveness - approaches to conflict.
 
#20
I agree that we each have some degree of bias. However, that doesn't change the fact that some people's perspectives are more open and encompassing than others.
I agree there are degrees, but I honestly think they are less wide than many believe.

Also the notion of it being "hard-wired" is trite. First of all it is not a singular thing or action. Second, it is a term describing more fundamental processes.
I don't think it is trite. I think people give it lip-service, but fail to really consider what it really means, and the implications it has - especially with regard to how we should assess our own views. It is a crucial concept to accept and understand if one hopes to get past one's biases. Many people vastly understate how difficult it is to control one's biases.

I agree as well that it is not a singular thing or action - there are many biases.
 
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