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Why do most people easily trust anecdotes and dismiss data when paranormal is served?

By Doubting Thomas ~

Recently I spoke to a friend of mine about a car of a one German producer which has been proclaimed by a study as the most reliable machine on the market. I’ve said to him that I would love to have that car. He looked at me with a smile and said: “No way. That car sucks. I know a guy who bought him and had a lot of problems with it”. He simply discarded data from analysis I showed to him and not even bothered to read it.

This example proves that testimonies are more accepted as evidence of truth than ‘boring’ and comprehensive analysis. That is a known fact which is used in marketing since humanity exists. Let us apply it to religion. When people hear of personal testimony of somebody’s conversion or miracle story they will easily believe it and accept it as a self-evident proof of God’s existence. On the other hand, when you show them medical data or present them with other more plausible scientific explanations they will in majority cases discard them, because “one of those miracles is surely a genuine one”.

Evolution made as we are – some of us are more prone to supernaturalism and some less. Paranormal perspective is mysterious and people are natural mystics.Something similar happened when I had a discussion with an acquaintance who has just graduated in psychology. The topic was psy abilities. While I said that evidence for psy is weak or non-existent, when proper experimental conditions are approved, he replied that “there are millions of testimonies and stories that can not be all false and that modern science can’t grasp or explain psy or other supernatural phenomenon”. Frankly, I was kind of disappointed. This guy studies psychology and before he tried to give some rational explanation he immediately skipped to supernaturalism explanations of strange phenomena. I wanted to say that maybe problem was with cognition processes of people who report anomalous experiences and explain them the best they can in frames of their beliefs and education, or even if we do not have a plausible rational explanation there is no need to skip to a fantastic one, but I gave up…

I don not want to be a hypocrite and say that I am immune to this kind of reasoning. Evolution made as we are – some of us are more prone to supernaturalism and some less. Paranormal perspective is mysterious and people are natural mystics. Probably that makes our lives more interesting or complicated, if you cross the line of exaggeration when magic and supernaturalism is involved. Culture and what we learn also plays important role in this kind of reasoning. That is way despite all the scientific progress majority of people will always be cautious when paranormal is served on the menu. Hopefully, that will change…


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