Self Deception: "False beliefs are helpful" paradox

Life is complicated. There actually are paradoxes that are very hard to solve.

Example: I am convinced religion is wrong. There is no God. But, on the other hand there is lots of research proving “miracles” of religion like

  1. Imagine a poor, uneducated, violent neighborhood. If any church can gain foothold there, crime decreases, the entire community starts improving and working better. It is good, it is an improvement. So even if the church teaches wrong things, even if the church is run by a fraudster who just wants to siphon away part 10% of the faithful’s income (Tenth, Tithe), the church can have a positive effect. It is false, but it does good.
  2. James Randi (“Flim Flam”) is a great guy who relentlessly preaches against false beliefs, astrology, wonder healers, dowsing rods etc.
  3. Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by James Randi $22.98 0879751983 James Randi has a US$ 1 Million bet that anyone can win who can show any paranormal effect to him. He never had to pay. For example, James Randi debunked a US$ 1000 dowsing rod that was sold to US police departments. These dowsing rods could identify criminals! But James Randi himself admits that the dowsing rods worked. They helped police identify criminals they otherwise would not have identified.
  4. People who are very religious, people who have supersticious beliefs about their breast cancer recover better then average from breast cancer (research by Professor Shelley Taylor). So if you take their beliefs away, you are reducing their chances of recovery. Positive Illusions by Shelley E Taylor $16.95 0465060528

  5. Health Psychology by Shelley E. Taylor $64.50 0071283609
  6. Placebo effect in Medicine: if you believe in healing power, you have a good chance of getting healed. And the more invasive the method is the better it works. A huge european study on acupuncture found that sticking needles into someone has a stronger placebo effect then pills. So let us assume that acupuncture and homeopathy are quackery ( I don’t want to discuss the merit of this here and now). But it has effects when done by a professional doctor who is strongly enough self deceived that he honestly believes in it.

So maybe the truth does harm. Very disturbing idea! Maybe I should start praising the virtues of human stupidity, self deception and unconsciousness.