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  • Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on May 24th, 2007 (All posts by )

    Why do parlor tricks convince even very intelligent people that they have witnessed a paranormal event rather than a bit of magic? Because even many intelligent people are too foolish to realize that they are not so intelligent as to be beyond being fooled.

    The Skeptic’s Dictionary


    3 Responses to “Quote of the Day”

    1. Shannon Love Says:

      In my experience, very intelligent people are often extremely easy to manipulate in this fashion because their egos are so tied up in their intellect that they cannot admit that there is something they do not know or understand. They will quickly latch onto any seemingly plausible explanation rather than stand there and say I don’t know.

      Less intelligent people, by contrast, have less ego involvement. They are quite used to encountering things they do not understand and people don’t expect them to know things. We they see something they don’t understand, they simply say so.

    2. Ginny Says:

      It’s an old chestnut but no less worthy for that:

      It is well to be a gentlemen, it is well to have a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life;—these are the {121} connatural qualities of a large knowledge; they are the objects of a University; I am advocating, I shall illustrate and insist upon them; but still, I repeat, they are no guarantee for sanctity or even for conscientiousness, they may attach to the man of the world, to the profligate, to the heartless,—pleasant, alas, and attractive as he shows when decked out in them. Taken by themselves, they do but seem to be what they are not; they look like virtue at a distance, but they are detected by close observers, and on the long run; and hence it is that they are popularly accused of pretence and hypocrisy, not, I repeat, from their own fault, but because their professors and their admirers persist in taking them for what they are not, and are officious in arrogating for them a praise to which they have no claim. Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.

      From Cardinal Newman’s Idea of a University, in his “Discourse 5. Knowledge Its Own End”.

      I haven’t read much of Newman, but you can’t live with a Victorian for 35 years without picking up something and its a useful topic for freshman rhetoric. Of course, if my students look too blank, I usually begin the explication with Dierks Bentley’s “I know what I was feelin’, But what was I thinkin’?” At their age, it is probably the impetuous and physical that wars with the reasoned; when we get older, as Newman notes, our will is as often prideful, wanting to appear knowing as much as knowing.

    3. Elliot Says:

      One of the best ways of fooling people is to appeal to their sense of identity. Hence, if someone as intelligent and gifted as you can’t figure it out then it’s obviously genuine paranormal.

      This works in other areas, too. A few years ago a scammer made millions by sending out emails to people telling them a billionaire had decided to give them new cars at half price. This was to reward them for being outstanding committed Christians. Millions flowed into his account from folks who agreed they were oustanding Christians.

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