What people believe


General Culture

I keep finding emails in my inbox with links to polls, according to which about 50 percent of the people believe that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 (see this latest one, for example). Somehow, I just can’t muster any kind of shock about this. After all, “about a third of Americans believe in ghosts (34 percent) and an equal number in UFOs (34 percent), and about a quarter accept things like astrology (29 percent), reincarnation (25 percent) and witches (24 percent).” Or, even more bizarre, “belief in the devil has increased slightly over the last few years — from 63 percent in 1997 to 71 percent today.” (these last two quotes from our friends at Fox “News”). You know, with one in four people believing there are witches, and one in three people believing in ghosts, why is anyone surprised that about one in two believes there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11? Oh, and lest you gloat, because you think you’re so smart, get this: “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.” (this from Scientific American, who - if you, for whatever mysterious reason, do not believe Fox’s poll - also give some numbers for UFOs (30 percent), ESP (60 percent), astrology as being scientific (40 percent), or lucky numbers (32 percent)).