The Bari belief in partible paternity may be functional, but it is not any closer to truth than the stork theory of conception. Some philosophers with pragmatist inclinations might believe that truths ought to be defined in terms of utility. By that standard, if a particular belief is useful for the Bari, then it is true. But, that is sloppy thinking. A statement is true if and only if it corresponds with facts.
The Bari belief is clearly false, and for that very reason, it cannot be called “knowledge.” This also applies to the wide array of beliefs that in North American academia, are beginning to be honored as “indigenous ways of knowing.” The word “knowledge” has a very specific philosophical definition…
This idea of a gullible, pliable populace is, of course, nothing new. Voltaire said, “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”. But no, says Mercier, Voltaire had it backwards: “It is wanting to commit atrocities that makes you believe absurdities”…
If someone says Obama is a Muslim, their primary reason may be to indicate that they are a member of the group of people who co-ordinate around that statement. When a social belief and a true belief are in conflict, Klintman says, people will opt for the belief that best signals their social identity – even if it means lying to themselves…
Such a “belief” – being largely performative – rarely translates into action. It remains what Mercier calls a reflective belief, with no consequences on one’s behaviour, as opposed to an intuitive belief, which guides decisions and actions.
In 2014, a grad student made a joke video about a celestial body coming to destroy Earth, and got way more than he bargained for.
(click on image for full cartoon)
It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem. The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance—at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy—is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites—and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong…
I fear we are moving beyond a natural skepticism regarding expert claims to the death of the ideal of expertise itself: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople, teachers and students, knowers and wonderers—in other words, between those with achievement in an area and those with none. By the death of expertise, I do not mean the death of actual expert abilities, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors and lawyers and engineers and other specialists. And most sane people go straight to them if they break a bone or get arrested or need to build a bridge. But that represents a kind of reliance on experts as technicians, the use of established knowledge as an off-the-shelf convenience as desired. “Stitch this cut in my leg, but don’t lecture me about my diet.”
Popper’s vision is one of knowledge as useful information, by which we mean knowledge that solves a problem. Information counts as knowledge, therefore, if it fulfills this simple purpose.
The trouble with ignorance is that it feels so much like expertise. A leading researcher on the psychology of human wrongness sets us straight.
IN MANY CASES, INCOMPETENCE DOES NOT LEAVE PEOPLE DISORIENTED, PERPLEXED, OR CAUTIOUS. INSTEAD, THE INCOMPETENT ARE OFTEN BLESSED WITH AN INAPPROPRIATE CONFIDENCE, BUOYED BY SOMETHING THAT FEELS TO THEM LIKE KNOWLEDGE.
Tacit knowledge is knowledge that can’t properly be transmitted via verbal or written instruction, like the ability to create great art or assess a startup. This tacit knowledge is a form of intellectual dark matter, pervading society in a million ways, some of them trivial, some of them vital. Examples include woodworking, metalworking, housekeeping, cooking, dancing, amateur public speaking, assembly line oversight, rapid problem-solving, and heart surgery.
Psychologists have offered one explanation: that valuing our identity more than our accuracy is what leads us to accept incorrect information that aligns with our chosen political party’s beliefs.
How do we determine what is true? What role do emotions play in our acquisition of knowledge?
In this clip from 2005, Stephen Colbert coins his phrase, “truthiness” which to some degree portended the coming of “fake news” and its pervasiveness a decade later.
Facts are believable and “true if they “feel” true. This also lends itself to a discussion of the role of emotion in the acquisition of knowledge.