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i think an important factor in these discussions is also: beliefs that are are not based in evidence are unlikely to be changed by evidence.

for example, no one believes in gods because it's a such a good explanation with high predictive power. people believe in gods because of reward and punishment, or because it's conformable to think that the world is in good hands, or because their community is centered around the belief, or because it makes them think of themselves as member of a superior group, or because they feel they have already invested too much into the belief to let it go, or just because it provides an undeserved sense of certainty.

there is a technique called street epistemology (SE), which is a kind of socratic questioning. rather than presenting the best evidence, it tries to guide introspection about epistemic questions:

  • how certain am i?
  • why do i believe it?
  • is that a reliable way to get to true beliefs?
  • can other people use my method to get to contrary beliefs?
  • what would change my mind?

from what i've seen (which is mostly interviews of Anthony Magnabosco) this seems to be a pretty effective way to get people to question irrational beliefs. people tend to get curious instead of defensive.

of course this doesn't work in every setting. but i think there is a lot of potential in it. religions often use every trick in the book to get believers, but think my little list of bad reasons for belief brings some other examples to mind. for me it's statism and nationalism, but it seems to me that most (if not all) irrational beliefs could be approached with SE.

cc @lillycreature

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