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Evidence vs "Beliefs" || Sovereign

Evidence vs "Beliefs" Sovereign
Monday, April 3, 2006 - Vol. 8 No. 66In Today's Letter:Comment: Evidence vs. BeliefsOffshore: Swiss EU Tax Directive Comes Up ShortWealth: Bernanke Surprise Privacy & Rights: Secret Panel Can't Keep Quiet Evidence vs. BeliefsComment by John Pugsley, Chairman of The Sovereign Society and leading author on economics, investment, and libertarianism.
Dear A-Letter Reader,A few months back in The Sovereign Society Offshore A-Letter, I argued the case for value investing. I referenced scientific studies that didn't support technical analysis or market timing. Some readers strongly objected to my conclusion, but no readers addressed the question of my evidence.

Similarly, over the years I've written extensively about individual liberty, and found myself puzzled when I couldn't convert followers of socialism, communism, or any other forms of big government to the principles of individual sovereignty. Once again, this in spite of the historical evidence.I've puzzled over this phenomenon throughout my life. Arguments for a free-market fail to sway those who believe in government intervention.

Evidence for Darwinian evolution fails to convince believers in religion. And studies showing the random nature of price movements fail to sway believers in technical analysis.It seems that evolution has endowed us all with wiring that demands we support whatever beliefs that have been "stamped" into our brains. This has been demonstrated by a recent research study at Emory University in Atlanta, a study that has potentially wide implications, from politics to religion to investments.

The investigators used functional magnetic-resonance imaging (fMRI) to study a group of committed Democrats and Republicans during the three months prior to the last U.S. Presidential election. The Democrats and Republicans were asked to evaluate threatening information about their own candidate while undergoing fMRI to see which parts of their brains were activated.As reported by Emory, "...the partisans were given 18 sets of stimuli, six each regarding President George W. Bush, his challenger, Senator John Kerry, and politically neutral male control figures such as actor Tom Hanks. For each set of stimuli, partisans first read a statement from the target (Bush or Kerry), followed by a second statement that documented a clear contradiction between the target's words and deeds, generally suggesting that the candidate was dishonest or pandering. Next, partisans were asked to consider the discrepancy, and then to rate the extent to which the person's words and deeds were contradictory."Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study, said: "We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning, What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."In other words, in most cases no amount of logic interferes with our strongly-held beliefs. The brain automatically rationalizes discrepancies in facts to support beliefs.

Evidence that contradicts our beliefs fails to reach the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most associated with reasoning (as well as conscious efforts to suppress emotion). The finding suggests that the emotion-driven processes that lead to biased judgments occur outside of conscious awareness.Do you and I succumb to emotionally-biased judgments when we have a vested interest in supporting our beliefs? Only when we find ourselves resisting the evidence.

Success in life tends to be proportional to our willingness to examine the evidence.H. L. Mencken observed: "The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true." Beliefs, at least false beliefs, are an impediment to us all.Or, as Mark Twain put it, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."JOHN PUGSLEY, Chairman, on behalf of The Sovereign Society Ltd.

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