Beliefs Kill People

Guns Don’t Kill People, Beliefs Kill People

BY MICHAEL SHERMER

f80c8e709e50ffa7c7697affd18fedb8If by fiat I had to draw one core generalization from a quarter century spent studying the psychology of beliefs, it is that almost everyone thinks that their beliefs are right, both ontologically and ethically. For the most part, people think that their beliefs are true, moral, or both. No one joins a cult—they join a group that they believe is going to help them and/or society. No one thinks they’re practicing pseudoscience—they believe they’ve discovered a new truth that mainstream science has yet to recognize. And very few believe their actions are immoral—at the time they had perfectly rational and moral reasons for acting as they did.

You do not have to give people reasons to be violent, because they already have plenty of reasons. All you have to do is take away their reasons to restrain themselves.

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Greetings From Apalachicola

images.jpgIt has been about ten months since my daughter moved me down to Florida to make her family unit multigenerational: her two kids at one end and me at the other. Most of the construction is now completed and I am very comfortable in my two rooms with all my books, my T-shirts, and my dog Ricky (we miss Luci).

This last weekend the more active members of the family spent a few days cavorting at the beaches of the gulf and I stayed behind to enjoy cold-brewed coffee and read poems by Allen Ginsberg. It was only two days but the peacefulness of being alone with my thoughts was refreshing. When the family returned, my precocious little granddaughter brought me a cowry shell with Apalachicola engraved on its top and a gold sticker announcing Made in the Philippines on the bottom.

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13 Ways of Looking At a Fat Girl

images.jpgMona Awad is an Arab-Canadian and the product of creative writing schools. I don’t know if she had any first hand knowledge of her subject, but her 13 vignettes in the life of a woman with severe body issues certainly seems viable. Awad has a strong grasp on the essentials of good fiction. As someone once said, It’s all in the details.

Each individual story (vignette) shows a different view of a fat girl’s involvement in the everyday elements of life: food, clothes, exercise, friends, sex. The conflict comes, however, not with ripped seams in an expensive dress or an extra cannoli for dessert.

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Vinegar Girl

imgres-2.jpgReading this new novel by Anne Tyler I couldn’t help but hum those memorable Neil Young lyrics

I could be happy
the rest of my life
With a vinegar girl.

It’s not really The Taming of the Shrew (or even 10 Things I Hate About You) but it does have a similar vibe. Here the scientist father needs to assure the continuing services of a Slavic lab assistant nearing the end of his visa work permit. Perhaps the scientist’s older, somewhat rebellious daughter would marry the guy until the residency requirements are met. Wacky, huh?

Actually Anne Tyler writes a smooth narrative that is engaging and entertaining, but not terribly deep or thought-provoking.

Vinegar Girl comes from the old adage, “You can catch more flies with cinnamon than you can with vinegar.”