Rejoicing over Damaged Opinions

Read about the connection !

Richard Dawkins appeared on Al Jazeera recently in an excellent, 30 minute interview around the theme of “Is there room for religion in science?”   For me, like many atheists, the greatest, non-compatible difference between the two is that those who value science are taught to rejoice when their favorite and most inspiring theories are empirically overthrown, while religions teach their adherents to hang on stubbornly to their beliefs in spite of what counter evidence appears — they call that “faith”.

Not all religious folks obey this version of stubborn faith and instead change their beliefs and let their spirituality evolve over time.  And not all people who say they value science rejoice when data contradicts their favorite theories.  Science fans can be politically obstructive, biased and display vested self-interests just as a religious person can.  But, the rhetoric, policy and temperament of both sides is different.  The “Science temperament” is thirsty for more accurate estimates of reality and willing to sacrifice any opinion to move in that direction while the “Religious temperament” praises unyielding belief in spite of counter-evidence as a virtue.  Here is a post listing confessions of scientists to their previous mistaken opinions.

I must say, I have always been scientifically minded since I was very young.  I have always rejoiced at having my opinions overthrown.  I’ve used this blog to document many of my past mistaken beliefs.  And today, I’d like to playfully share two of my long-held opinions that were severely challenged on my recent trip to Europe:

The French & Their Language

When I was younger, I had bad experiences in Paris (in contrast to Germany, Holland and other countries) when I could not get people to speak with me.  I also never liked the sound of the language.  But my European trip took me to Alsace region in France where I met some fantastic people who were very kind about baby French.  I even have begun to like the sound of the language.  It is embarrassing how such a short trip could overthrow such a long held prejudices!  My French host suggested that my experiences may have been favorable because Alsace people are special in France.  This may be, but I am glad to enjoy my new images and my dissolving prejudice.

Belgian Beer

My image of Belgian beers before my trip was fruity, sweet beers — which I do not enjoy at all.  But my Belgian host introduced me to his favorite Belgian beers which were not fruity or sweet — I loved them.

Questions to readers:  What are some non-religious opinions you have had overturned by your exposures in life?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

15 responses to “Rejoicing over Damaged Opinions

  1. Much like your image with Belgian beer, I’ve had similar experiences with different foods that I had always been biased against until trying them in varying recipes. I must credit several cable food shows and online sources like for discovering new tastes!

    I would also be remiss if I failed to mention the Mythbusters show on the Discovery Channel. Many of my misconceptions have been shattered over the years…

  2. TWF

    I’ve had several embarrassing opinions overturned at work. In my job, I am considered the expert for my company, and I sometimes have to make decisions and interpretations based on very limited data. In one of the more recent cases, I thought a part of a machine had gone into resonance, and was shaking itself apart. So I directed spending ~$100K to improve the support and change the natural frequency of the part.

    Well, we have a whole fleet of these types of machines, and subsequent inspections revealed that this was not a case of resonance, but rather an issue with the type of supports which were originally used. So now, repairs of the other machines are only ~$20-50K, depending on a few different factors.

    So it was embarrassing to be wrong, and to have spent more money than necessary in the first repair, but I am quite relieved to learn that it is a problem with the supports instead, because that is less severe, and cheaper and faster to repair.

    It is also cases like these where I can understand exactly how scientist draw wrong conclusions based on the apparent results, and why learning the real truth is worth the embarrassment. 🙂

  3. Great examples, alphabet boys.

  4. I grew up in a time and place where I was taught women didn’t like sex, but only put up with it out of love for their menfolk. I was eventually disabused of that notion, but not before it had created in me early feelings of guilt for wanting to do to women what women didn’t want done to them.

    By the way, are you aware of the New Belgium Brewery? It’s headquartered in Colorado but might distribute in your area. It’s product line is based on Belgium recipes. The “1554 Enlightened Black Ale” is one of my favorites.

  5. theartofsciences

    The raindrops patiently wait to dry out on the windows after the rain subsides.
    They no more belong to the sky and never made it to the ground. Useless and futile, trapped in the limbo of the materiel world.

  6. @ Paul Sunstone
    BTW, is the your real name? I love the name “Sunstone” — totally envious.
    The sex example is interesting.
    Thanx, I found the New Belgium Brewery blog.
    I have a local pub that has a huge selection of Belgian beers but I guess I only sampled the sweet ones.
    You said your favorite is a “Black Ale”. I personally tend not to like dark ales which are usually dark because dark burnt malt or coloring — neither a favorite of mine. For instance, I don’t enjoy Guiness or Black and Tans. I also don’t like carmel flavor.
    But I love bitter hops.
    There, that was fun chatting about.

  7. CRL

    I admit to feeling bit of the same frustration when getting my opinions overthrown, both in religion and science. In religion: “Oh, but what I believed can’t be right. But this means I have to figure out what is right! And I wasted years believing in X when I should have been trying to find another solution!” In science: “Oh, these results don’t support my hypothesis. But is my hypothesis wrong? My results last week supported it. Did those $&^% cells disobey my orders and get sick and not express those proteins? Okay. Time for one more week in which I do the same thing as last week and hope that my cells are happier and more obliging.” (Stone rolls down hill, time to roll it up again.) Of course, those odd results from which you learn something are a lot nicer than those odd results which are just useless, just as changed religious beliefs which open one up to a new line of exploration are much nicer than those which direct one into a dead end in which further exploration is prevented by dogma. Also, it’s a lot easier to enjoy overturning hypotheses and religions beliefs when they are’t your own.

  8. I agree, CRL. For me, better approximating reality by either finding data which stirs away from a theory or towards it is helpful. Indecisive data is really frustrating. Obscure data is irritating. But I agree, “getting it right” is very rewarding.

    Indeed the thrill of “being right” is what causes us to be wrong so often.

  9. @ Sabio: Actually, I rather admire your name. I think, if I wasn’t Paul Sunstone on the net, I’d want to be something as cool as Sabio Lantz sounds to me. And this is not the first time I’ve thought that!

    Neither Paul nor Sunstone are my birth names. Both, however, are names I prefer to my birth names. If not for the fact it would scandalize my family, I might very well change my legal names to Paul Sunstone.

  10. LOL — Maybe someday, you could fork out the few hundred bucks and change your name! So how did you choose “Sunstone” if I may ask? Or better yet, have you done a post on this, or could you? Link us to it!

  11. DaCheese

    Personally I had mostly good experiences in Paris (only one exception, and the other waiter actually apologized for him). But I know that many people who dislike Paris find the rest of France to be far more agreeable. There’s a sense even among the French that Parisians are “different” and generally more rude; sort of like New York City’s reputation in some parts of the US (though I haven’t had any problems there either).

  12. As we discussed in the past, I live in Sweden (my second year now), and here are a couple of things that come to mind, having read your post:
    1. In the Swedish church, it is not a requirement to be a person of faith in order to be a priest. This is absurd to me, but true. So, here is an example where faith is not a requirement for a particular organized religion.
    2. Regarding your reaction to the French language, I must say that I do not like the sound of Swedish. This is one reason I am not trying to learn it. (The other reason is that Swedes do not like to speak.) So, I’m looking for an opportunity to change this impression of mine. But how?
    3. I had the same thoughts about Belgian beers as you: fruity, etc. Nevertheless, having tried the other ones too, I still prefer standard German/Czech/Polish/Japanese/etc lager (e.g., the real Budweiser — Budvar) or stouts (Guinness and Murphy’s. The sad thing is, of course, that alcohol laws in Sweden are stricter than in the land of Mormons (Utah): you have to buy it from a state shop (open only certain restricted hours), it is expensive, and it is outrageously expensive to have a pint in a bar (around 8-10 US dollars per pint).

  13. Earnest

    Riffing on the Belgian theme, I really like Brussels sprouts now wheras I had a passionate dislike of them as a child. Is this developmental? Do all children hate them and all adults like them?

  14. Two years after I wrote the above, I still don’t like Belgian beers (neither their price in Sweden) and still don’t enjoy the sound of Swedish. I still prefer Guinness.

  15. @ Takis,
    That was hilarious, Takis — you put a big smile on my face tonight! Thanks.

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