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Memories of the 28th Century

Imagination and Delusion

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Why do people believe irrational and delusion things?

This is closely related to the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and I am completely comfortable discussing that. Fiction is that which we want to put forth as being other than an accurate description of the world. Fiction includes things that are completely made up, fantasy, dreams, etc. Fiction can also be a slightly altered version of what we see in the world that is altered for dramatic effect or some other effect. In contrast, non-fiction is those things that we express that we want accepted as fact. Unfortunately, this definition includes religious truths and other things that do not reflect reality, but the definition is based on how things are described.

Some of the sanest people are writers of fiction, especially imaginative fiction (Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, and similar), because we can imagine things that are far from everyday reality, but we clearly distinguish the difference between imagined things and the real world, but there are people to whom imagined things are part of ordinary reality. One of the reasons why I am writing this is that I noticed a note about the Jewish guy I know who claims that The Protocols of the Elders of Zionism is non-fiction. Even after I told him of the Frenchman who had written the original as "Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu", as an 1864 satire aimed at Napoleon III by Maurice Joly. Anyway, as fictional as that was, that person insisted that it is factual, and that he should know, because he is Jewish. Anyone with a picogram of critical sense could tell immediately that it is non-fiction, but some people are born without that much sense.

That isn't the only piece of fiction that uncritical people take as fact. there are piles of conspiracy theories that are clearly fantasies, and in some cases I think the authors managed to cash in on them. One of the people who has written about the reptilians has written several books, so he may have made some money, but the whole idea is silly, and the videos that are purported to demonstrate that it is factual are laughable. But it is logically impossible to prove that something is not; although it sometimes becomes clear that something is of so little probability that is easier to say that it is impossible.

But my question was: Why do people believe impossible things and retain those beliefs even after the ideas have been shown to be impossible? It is quite common, and people who are obviously deranged are not the only ones who suffer from it. I really don't know, but it is very common; it seems like everyone has at least one irrational belief, and I think I am among them; although I could defend myself against that charge, if I wanted to. There are large parts of society that are organized around irrational beliefs, and religion is only part of that. Many people try to teach children to imagine things do not exist; everything from talking to dolls and imaginary playmates to games of make-believe to theme parks based around fictional characters. As I recall it, elementary school teachers seemed to suggest imagining things as a way to develop creativity, or that may have just been how a few were. The best creativity it firmly grounded in the real world, and it relates to making new things in the world.

Then there is wish fulfillment imagination. Imagining that the things that we desire exist. Wish hard enough and maybe it will become true. There really are many reasons why people believe falsehoods, and some of the reasons are valid, but I wonder what a world in which everyone believed what was real and had the critical sense to tell what was real from what was not would be like (de Camp wrote a story about such a place). That is as speculative as the most fantastical fantasy, but it wouldn't necessarily be dull. The characters could clearly state the matter of wanting something to be true versus it actually being true. Having a concept of what one wants allows one to think up a way to get to that point. That is creative and imaginative, but it is not fantastic or delusional.

Then there is the matter of dementia. Someone recently mentioned on Facebook that his mother had ideas that are based only in fantasy, and my mother in her last few years was sometimes like that, but she also had some interesting insights. Fantasies that aren’t grounded in reality are very useful in the way that realistic fantasy can be, but it may have other uses. I wonder if fantasies have any survival value. They shouldn’t, be there might be some way in which they do.

What do you think? This is a more relevant question now that the majority of electors for Trump have been elected, and Trump seems to have trouble telling the difference.

Is propaganda simply encouragement for some people to adopt certain delusions?

Video of reptilians, somewhat humorous

Updated 11-09-2017 at 08:27 AM by PeterL



  1. PeterL's Avatar
    This is a good one.