Max Weber - Sam Harris - Thomas Huxley - Stephen Jay Gould - Louis D Brandeis - Neil deGrasse Tyson - Leo Ornstein - Edgar Allan Poe - Emile M Cioran - Albert Ellis - Vladimir Nabokov - Sean Penn - Martin Rees - Aleister Crowley - Martin Bergmann - Adam Curtis TV -
The experience of the irrationality of the world has been the driving force of all religious revolution. Max Weber
The idea, therefore, that religious faith is somehow a sacred human convention – distinguished, as it is, both by the extravagance of its claims and by the paucity of its evidence – is really too great a monstrosity to be appreciated in all its glory. Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity – a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible. Sam Harris, The End of Faith
Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors. Thomas Henry Huxley, Science and Culture and Other Essays, 1881
It is not to be forgotten that what we call rational grounds for our beliefs are often extremely irrational attempts to justify our instincts. Thomas Huxley
Today Reason has a battle on its hands. I want to confront the epidemic of irrational superstitious thinking. It’s a multi-million pound industry that impoverishes our culture, and throws up new-age gurus who exult us to run away from reality. Richard Dawkins, Enemies of Reason: Slaves to Superstition, Channel 4 2007
Reason and a respect for evidence are the source for our progress. Our safeguard against fundamentalists. And those who profit from obscuring the truth. We live in dangerous times when superstition is gaining ground, and rational science is under attack. ibid.
Today a war is being fought against reason. Science is treated with suspicion, perhaps born of fear, and medical advance is challenged by the march of irrational belief. ibid.
Today a war is being fought against Reason. Science is treated with suspicion perhaps borne of fear. And medical advance is challenged by the march of irrational belief. Richard Dawkins: Enemies of Reason: The Irrational Health Service
A third of us now spend over £1.6 billion a year on superstitious alternative remedies which as far as the evidence can show don’t work. If any remedy is tested under controlled scientific conditions and proved to be effective it will cease to be alternative and will simply become medicine. So-called alternative medicine either hasn’t been tested or it has failed its tests. And some alternatives are funded by us taxpayers. ibid.
It’s little wonder that alternative health fairs like this are flourishing across the country. People may come here with real health problems, but what do they get? Remedies that appear to have no basis in science or evidence ... Remember this is a multi-billion pound industry. Yet 80% of alternative remedies have never subjected themselves to controlled scientific trials. ibid.
The indulgence of superstitious alternative remedies implicitly casts doubt on scientific advance, and undermines confidence in real medical progress. Yet as we’ve seen, the attack on medicine is just one small part of the creeping rise of irrational superstition. ibid.
Scepticism is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism – and is therefore one of the keys to human social and civic decency. Stephen Jay Gould
Fear of serious injury alone cannot justify oppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears. Louis D Brandeis
There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance. Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Sky is Not the Limit
By the way the point between rationality and what we would call the irrational is a very difficult point to establish. There’s no specific line, as you know. Leo Ornstein
It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream. Edgar Allan Poe
Since all life is futility, then the decision to exist must be the most irrational of all. Emile M Cioran
There’s no evidence whatsoever that men are more rational than women. Both sexes seem to be equally irrational. Albert Ellis
Poetry involves the mysteries of the irrational perceived through rational words. Vladimir Nabokov
I think life’s an irrational obsession. Sean Penn
The advance of science spares us from irrational dread. Martin Rees
But it so happens that everything on this planet is, ultimately, irrational; there is not, and cannot be, any reason for the causal connexion of things, if only because our use of the word ‘reason’ already implies the idea of causal connexion. But, even if we avoid this fundamental difficulty, Hume said that causal connexion was not merely unprovable, but unthinkable; and, in shallower waters still, one cannot assign a true reason why water should flow downhill, or sugar tastes sweet in the mouth. Attempts to explain these simple matters always progress into a learned lucidity, and on further analysis retire to a remote stronghold where everything is irrational and unthinkable. Aleister Crowley
The ratio between the irrational and the rational in America is very much in favour of the irrational. There is much greater unhappiness. Much more suffering. Much more. A sadder country than one would imagine from the advertisement that you get. A much more problematic country. Professor Martin Bergmann, Army psychoanalyst 1943-1945
This is the story of how Sigmund Freud’s ideas about the unconscious mind were used by those in power in post-War America to try and control the masses. Politicians and planners came to believe that Freud was right to suggest that hidden deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self II: The Engineering of Consent, BBC 2002
An extraordinary number of mental breakdowns amongst its troops: 49% of all soldiers evacuated from combat were sent back because they suffered from mental problems. It was the first time anyone had paid attention to the feelings and anxieties of ordinary people. ibid.
Psychoanalysts were convinced they not only understood these dangerous forces but they knew how to control them too. They would use their techniques to create democratic individuals because democracy left to itself failed to do this. ibid.
In 1946 President Truman signed the National Mental Health Act. It had been born directly out of the wartime discoveries of psychoanalysts that millions of Americans who had been drafted suffered hidden anxieties and fears. The aim of the Act was to deal with this invisible threat to society. ibid.
Psychoanalysts were about to move into big business and use their techniques not just to create model citizens but model consumers. ibid.
By the early ’50s the ideas of psychoanalysis penetrated deep into American life. The psychoanalysts themselves became rich and powerful. ibid.
And as the psychoanalysts’ ideas took hold in America a new elite began to emerge: in politics, social planning and in business. What linked this elite was the assumption that the masses were fundamentally irrational. ibid.
In reality Arbenz was a democratic socialist with no links to Moscow. Bernays set out to turn him into a communist threat to America. He organised a trip to Guatemala for influential American journalists. Few of them knew anything about the country or its politics … He also created a fake independent news agency in America – the Middle-American Information Bureau. It bombarded the American media with press releases saying that Moscow was planning to use Guatemala as a beach-head to attack America. All of this had the desired effect. But what Bernays was doing was not just trying to blacken the Arbenz regime, he was part of a secret plot. President Eisenhower had agreed that America should topple the Arbenz government. But secretly. The CIA were instructed to organise a coup. ibid.
Bernays had manipulated the American people but he had done so because he like many others at the time believed that the interests of business and the interests of America were indivisible … He called it the Engineering of Consent. ibid.
But the idea that it was necessary to manipulate the inner feelings of the American population in the interests of fighting the Cold War now began to take root in Washington. Above all in the CIA who were going to take it much further. They were concerned that the Soviets were experimenting with psychological methods to actually alter the memories and feelings of people. The aim being to produce more controllable citizens. It was known as brainwashing. Psychologists in the CIA were convinced that this really might be possible and that they should try to do it themselves. In the late ’50s the CIA poured millions of dollars into the psychology departments of universities across America. They were secretly funding experiments on how to alter and control the inner drives of human beings. The most notorious of these experiments was run by the head of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr Ewen Cameron. ibid.