Friday, January 09, 2009

Death By Irrationality

Phil Plait finds a link behind a new A&E series called "Paranormal Cops" and the murder of a woman in Papua New Guinea because she was accused of being a witch:

They are both shameful (on different levels, but still), and both are driven by ignorance. Ignorance of science, ignorance of logic, ignorance of reality.

There is no credible evidence for the existence of ghosts. None. Zip. Just first-hand testimony, notoriously inaccurate and untrustworthy, and fuzzy pictures either obviously hoaxed or obviously pareidolia. Our all-too-human fear of the dark, bred into us by ten thousand generations of being prey, takes over our rational mind.

The same with witchcraft; it’s our all-too-human ability of linking events together that may not be causally connected. You find a penny, and then you get a raise. Your brain says, finding a penny is good luck! Your neighbor sneezes violently, and your crops fail. Your neighbor is a witch.

Both of these feelings are natural. Both are understandable, and both are powerful motivators. And they’re both wrong.
Read Phil's entire post here.