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The same holds true of almost every superstition — as astrology, dreams, omens, judgments, and the like — wherein men, pleased with such vanities, attend to those events which are fulfilments; but neglect and pass over the instances where they fail (though this is much more frequently the case).

[Eadem ratio est fere omnis superstitionis, ut in astrologicis, in somniis, ominibus, nemesibus, et hujusmodi; in quibus homines delectati hujusmodi vanitatibus advertunt eventus, ubi emplentur; ast ubi fallunt, licet multo frequentius, tamen negligunt et praetereunt.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Instauratio Magna [The Great Instauration], Part 2 “Novum Organum [The New Organon],” Book 1, Aphorism # 46 (1620) [tr. Johnson (1859)]
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See also Bacon.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

All superstition is much the same, whether it be that of astrology, dreams, omens, retributive judgment, or the like; in all of which the deluded believers observe events which are fulfilled, but neglect and pass over their failure, though it be much more common.
[tr. Wood (1831)]

And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.
[tr. Spedding (1858)]

The same method is found, perhaps, in every superstition, like astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgements, and so on: people who take pleasure in such vanities notice the results when they are fulfilled, but ignore and overlook them when they fail, though they do fail more often than not.
[tr. Silverthorne (2000)]

That’s how it is with all superstition -- involving astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, and the like, Men get so much pleasure out of such vanities that they notice the confirming events and inattentively pass by the more numerous disconfirming ones.
[tr. Bennett (2017)]

 
Added on 28-Feb-24 | Last updated 28-Feb-24
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Once a man’s understanding has settled on something (either because it is an accepted belief or because it pleases him), it draws everything else also to support and agree with it. And if it encounters a larger number of more powerful countervailing examples, it either fails to notice them, or disregards them, or makes fine distinctions to dismiss and reject them, and all of this with much dangerous prejudice, to preserve the authority of its first conceptions.

[Intellectus humanus in iis quae semel placuerunt (aut quia recepta sunt et credita, aut quia delectant), alia etiam omnia trahit ad suffragationem et consensum cum illis: et licet major sit instantiarum vis et copia, quae occurrunt in contrarium; tamen eas aut non observat, aut contemnit, aut distinguendo summovet et rejicit, non sine magno et pernicioso praejudicio, quo prioribus illis syllepsibus authoritas maneat inviolata.]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Instauratio Magna [The Great Instauration], Part 2 “Novum Organum [The New Organon],” Book 1, Aphorism # 46 (1620) [tr. Silverthorne (2000)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

The human understanding, when any preposition has been once laid down, (either from general admission and belief, or from the pleasure it affords,) forces every thing else to add fresh support and confirmation; and although more cogent and abundant instances may exist to the contrary, yet either does not observe or despises them, or gets rid of and rejects them by some distinction, with violent and injurious prejudice, rather than sacrifice the authority of its first conclusions.
[tr. Wood (1831)]

The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects; in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.
[tr. Spedding (1858)]

The human Intellect, in those things which have once pleased it (either because they are generally received and believed, or because they suit the taste), brings everything else to support and agree with them; and though the weight and number of contradictory instances be superior, still it either overlooks or despises them, or gets rid of them by creating distinctions, not without great and in jurious prejudice, that the authority of these previous conclusions may be maintained inviolate.
[tr. Johnson (1859)]

Once a human intellect has adopted an opinion (either as something it likes or as something generally accepted), it draws everything else in to confirm and support it. Even if there are more and stronger instances against it than there are in its favour·, the intellect either overlooks these or treats them as negligible or does some line-drawing that lets it shift them out of the way and reject them. This involves a great and pernicious prejudgment by means of which the intellect’s former conclusions remain inviolate.
[tr. Bennett (2017)]

 
Added on 1-Feb-24 | Last updated 1-Feb-24
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Generally speaking, men are influenced by books which clarify their own thought, which express their own notions well, or which suggest to them ideas which their minds are already predisposed to accept.

Carl L. Becker (1873-1945) American historian
The Declaration of Independence, ch. 2 “Natural Rights Philosophy” (1922)
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Added on 22-Jan-24 | Last updated 22-Jan-24
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Most people learn nothing from experience, except confirmation of their prejudices.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Lessons of Experience,” New York American (1931-09-23)
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Added on 7-Dec-22 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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If you make a great number of predictions, the ones that were wrong will soon be forgotten, and the ones that turn out to be true will make you famous.

Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell (b. 1963) Anglo-Canadian journalist, author, public speaker
“Dangerous Minds: Criminal Profiling Made Easy,” The New Yorker (12 Nov 2007)
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Added on 15-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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The tendency of the casual mind is to pick out or stumble upon a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it the representative of a whole class.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
Public Opinion, ch. 10 “The Detection of Stereotypes,” sec. 9 (1922)
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Added on 2-Mar-22 | Last updated 2-Mar-22
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A middle-aged white male wearing a tie and saying anything with some conviction will be believed by at least 55 percent of people, especially if they already want to believe it. (Sixty-five percent if he has a classy accent.)

Bill Oakley
Bill Oakley (b. 1966) American television writer and producer
“One of the defenses of Trump is — literally — a TV-cartoon joke,” Washington Post (14 Nov 2019)
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Added on 9-Jul-21 | Last updated 9-Jul-21
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One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) American scientist and writer
The Demon-Haunted World, ch. 13 (1995)
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Added on 29-Sep-20 | Last updated 29-Sep-20
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Men of all races have always sought for a convincing explanation of their own astonishing excellence and they have frequently found what they were looking for.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) British writer, novelist, satirist, theatre critic
Dead Man in the Silver Market, ch. 1, opening lines (1954)
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Added on 22-Jul-20 | Last updated 22-Jul-20
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Naturally I am not pointing a finger at me,

But I must admit that I find Mr. Ickes or any other speaker far more convincing when I agree with him than when I disagree.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Seeing Eye to Eye is Believing,” Good Intentions (1942)
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Added on 3-Jul-20 | Last updated 3-Jul-20
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Human psychology has a near-universal tendency to let belief be colored by desire.

Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, author
The God Delusion (2006)
 
Added on 23-Jun-20 | Last updated 23-Jun-20
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When people reject a truth or an untruth it is not because it is a truth or an untruth that they reject it,

No, if it isn’t in accord with their beliefs in the first place they simply say, “Nothing doing,” and refuse to inspect it.

Likewise when they embrace a truth or an untruth it is not for either its truth or its mendacity,

But simply because they have believed it all along and therefore regard the embrace as a tribute to their own fair-mindedness and sagacity.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Seeing Eye to Eye is Believing,” Good Intentions (1942)
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Added on 19-Jun-20 | Last updated 19-Jun-20
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And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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If you torture the data long enough, Nature will confess.
Coase - torture the data - wist_info quote

Ronald Coase (1910-2013) British economist, academic, author
(Attributed)

Criticizing econometricians. Cited as early as 1977. Variants:
  • "If you torture data long enough, it will confess to anything you'd like."
  • "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything."
 
Added on 25-Apr-16 | Last updated 25-Apr-16
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It was not the absence of intelligence which led us into trouble but our unwillingness to draw unpleasant conclusions from it.

H. A. de Weerd (1902-1979) American military historian, author [Harvey Arthur de Weerd]
“Strategic Surprise in the Korean War,” Orbis (1962)

On the US decision in 1950 to call China's bluff by advancing above the 38th parallel.
 
Added on 24-Feb-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer that you’ve already decided you’ve got to have. It doesn’t work that way.

Clinton - ideology - wist_info quote

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (b. 1946) American politician, US President (1993-2001)
Interview, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (20 Sep 2012)
 
Added on 17-Feb-16 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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Nearly always, the best deception trades on the enemy’s own preconceptions. If he already believes what you want him to believe, you have merely to confirm his own ideas rather than to undertake the more difficult task of inserting new ones into his mind.

No picture available
Ronald Lewin (1914-1984) British military historian, radio producer publishing editor
Ultra Goes to War, ch. 10 (1978)
 
Added on 11-Aug-15 | Last updated 11-Aug-15
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Everyone is prejudiced in favor his own powers of discernment, and will always find an argument most convincing if it leads to the conclusion he has reached for himself; everyone must then be given something he can grasp and recognize as his own idea.

Pliny the Younger (c. 61-c. 113) Roman politician, writer [Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus]
Letters, Book 1, Letter 20 [tr. Radice (1963)]
 
Added on 30-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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We are susceptible only to those suggestions with which we are already secretly in accord.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
Modern Man in Search of a Soul, ch. 3 [tr. Dell & Baynes (1933)]
 
Added on 25-Jun-15 | Last updated 25-Jun-15
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The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“In Front of Your Nose” Tribune (22 Mar 1946)
 
Added on 12-Jun-15 | Last updated 12-Jun-15
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Earthly minds, like mud walls, resist the strongest batteries: and though, perhaps, sometimes the force of a clear argument may make some impression, yet they nevertheless stand firm, and keep out the enemy, truth, that would captivate or disturb them. Tell a man passionately in love that he is jilted; bring a score of witnesses of the falsehood of his mistress, it is ten to one but three kind words of hers shall invalidate all their testimonies.

John Locke (1632-1704) English philosopher
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 4, ch. 20, “Of Wrong Assent, or Error” (1690)
 
Added on 15-May-15 | Last updated 15-May-15
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Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things … well, new things aren’t what they expect. They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds … Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
The Truth [Lord Vetinari] (2000)
 
Added on 6-Jul-10 | Last updated 25-Jun-21
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Once you touch the biographies of human beings, the notion that political beliefs are logically determined collapses like a pricked balloon.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
A Preface to Morals, ch. 7 (1913)
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Added on 1-Apr-08 | Last updated 23-Sep-21
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For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 49 (1620)

Alt. trans.: "Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true." [Quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius credit.] See Demosthenes.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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People readily believe what they want to believe.

Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) Roman general and statesman [Gaius Julius Caesar]
The Gallic Wars [De Bello Gallico], Book 3, sec. 18 (49 BC)

Alt. trans.: "Men believe that willingly which they wish to be true."
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Feb-15
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