09 April 2010


Francis Bacon
1561 – 1626

1st Viscount
St Albans, KC

English philosopher,
statesman and essayi

I have mentioned here before, that recent studies have shown that it is almost impossible to change someone's mind about a long-held belief. In fact, it seems that the more facts and well-reasoned arguments one gives, the more the believer digs in his/her heels to accept that belief even more than previously.
Sir Francis Bacon knew this when he wrote the following, nearly 400 years ago (1620) ---and I'll bet he didn't use a scientific study to figure it out.
"The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.... And such is the way of all superstitions, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, although this happened much oftener, neglect and pass them by."
Today (April 9, 2010) marks the 384th anniversary of Francis Bacon's death.

As quoted in
Why People Believe Weird Things
Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

by Michael Shermer
See this and other Michael Shermer books below.


Snowbrush said...

Amen! And THAT'S why they think prayer works, which is almost too funny to contemplate unless you figure that they just don't pray for one hell of a lot.

libhom said...

I think traumatic events do change peoples' beliefs at times. An example I would give would be Cindy Sheehan's loss of her son, which opened her mind to a very different worldview.

One thing I think atheists need to do is to get our ideas out there so religious dogma isn't the only set of ideas available to people who are in life changing circumstances.

Rita said...

Thank goodness for free thinkers throughout the ages.

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