Persuasive Techniques in Robert Matthews article “Why do people believe weird things?”

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In Robert Matthews article “Why do people believe weird things?” his main focus is to prove to the reader that people who think weird things are not necessarily weird, or even crazy, but that they see things from a different prospective than the majority. Robert suggests that individuals can use the same evidence to make a claim, but with that evidence there can be two different viewpoints. Although in his article Robert only uses a few examples, he asserts his theory in a very persuasive manner.
Robert begins his claim by engaging the audience with his past experiences concerning conspiracy theorists. He insists that no matter what sort of evidence you provide to the contrary of someone’s belief, it will most likely be dismissed and replaced with a counter argument. For example, concerning the Apollo moon landing, Robert used to debate conspiracy theorists and refute their claims; he would state how witnesses saw the Apollo mission blast off, only to have his facts denied and be told that the witnesses were all government stooges. Robert then realized that no amount of evidence can persuade someone who is so set on their beliefs.
The majority of people label the individuals who consistently reject evidence given to them as being irrational. Robert believes that they are not irrational at all. He suggests that the issue these conspiracy theorists have is not rationality, but viewpoints. Robert believes that the reason people believe crazy things is because they see it the situation differently than most. For example, with the Apollo moon landing, conspiracy theorists see the evidence and situation so differently because they don’t trust NASA.
Robert uses the equation Odds(H | E) = LR × Odds(H) to prove his theory of trust issue...

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...t the likelihood of their being a creator with the complexity of natural systems is more likely than there not being a creator, and everything still being so complex. Robert goes onto explain how it doesn't matter how much evidence you give creationists to contradict their belief in creationism because you cannot change their likelihood ratio.
Robert shows how despite the hard evidence, two groups can still refuse to reach a consensus because of their view on the likelihood ratio and their prior beliefs. In the case of the moon landing the issue was trust, and in the case of creationism the issue was a belief in an omnipotent creator. Robert has clearly given his readers a deeper insight into reasoning and rationality.

Works Cited

Matthews, Robert. "Why do people believe weird things?" Significance 2.4 (2005): 182-184. Electronic Journal Center. Web. 2 Feb. 2014

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