What is the most ridiculous thing someone has ever tried to convince you of?

by on July 1, 2013 at 7:19 am in Education, Uncategorized | Permalink

Here is a Quora forum on that topic, with some good answers.

I liked this response by Shivang Agarwal:

That Windows is trying to find a solution to the problem just occurred.

1 Rich Berger July 1, 2013 at 7:22 am

Is this restricted to just to MR?

2 david July 1, 2013 at 7:45 am

Has that Windows dialogue ever worked for anyone?

3 Erik July 1, 2013 at 7:49 am


4 Axa July 1, 2013 at 7:51 am

That recreative drugs such as marihuana, LSD and extasis can kill you. Once you try, satisfy curiosity and desire for adventure, you carry on with your life. However, the big problem is that as a young you lose all trust in adults for saying stup….errr, ridiculous things. Even if the adults tell sound advice, you don’t listen to them anymore. To all parents: better speak the truth or you’re going to become a clown with a bottomless wallet for your children.

5 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 8:06 am

Wow. I should have tried drugs A LOT younger.

6 Chris S July 1, 2013 at 9:55 am

Agreed. The opportunity cost of being a pothead or other less-than-capacity individual is lower when you’re young. Plus, those drugs – particularly LSD and psylocybin – tend to tear down and force you to rebuild your perceptual and cognitive filters, and I’ve spent way too much time building what I feel is a fine set of filters, thank you very much.

7 Nathan W July 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm

“LSD and psylocybin – tend to tear down and force you to rebuild your perceptual and cognitive filters”

Could this be considered as equivalent to “opening your mind” or are you getting at this differently?

8 Nathan W July 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm

That was going to be my answer.

But the supposed existence of a man in the sky who knows everything and actually metes out justice really takes the cake. Powerful people have been misusing spiritual knowledge for their own gain for all of time, and I doubt that will change any time soon.

9 DAK July 1, 2013 at 8:03 am

That I should not talk (or even think) about Roko’s basilisk. It is the most sophisticated bullshit I know of.

Here is one of the messages that I have received:

I didn’t read your post about the Basilisk stuff, but do you think it could be dangerous to post such things? I don’t know, because I’m not going to read what you said. I may not read your reply either, but I thought I’d let you know. I pretty much know the gist of the Basilisk thing (unfortunately), but I don’t want to read more in case there’s further nuance I haven’t discovered yet.

All of the people who take that stuff seriously are members of a community devoted to refining the art of human rationality.

10 Alex Godofsky July 1, 2013 at 11:16 am

Wow. I’ve always been skeptical of the LessWrong folks, but that just massively updated my priors (as it were).

11 albatross July 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

So am I missing something, or are they in the process of rediscovering Pascal’s wager?

12 Jay July 1, 2013 at 8:05 am

Sad thing is the left-wing sheeple probably believe this rubbish…

“If people really understood the implications of economic libertarianism, especially the long run ones, almost everyone would flee in terror, so libertarians have no choice but to massively lie and mislead if they want to get support for libertarian policy. So that’s what you constantly see from libertarian writers educated in economics well enough to really understand the implications. They have no choice but to lie and mislead their asses off.”

13 Chris S July 1, 2013 at 9:57 am

Heh heh he said Sheeple. Don’t you know that only conformists use that word these days?


14 Fallibilist July 1, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Wrong one, doofus.


15 derek July 1, 2013 at 10:20 am

Another old liberal lost an argument with a young libertarian.

16 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 8:05 am

It is trying! The problem is the user needs to be stalled into submission.

17 ThomasH July 1, 2013 at 8:10 am

I guess I’ve led a sheltered life. Mine is that President Obama is a foreign born/Muslim/Socialist.

18 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 8:17 am

Although I don’t think we are counting chain e-mails here, those are all plausible. The lease plausible is that he’s a Muslim. However, if being Muslim got him votes, he’d be Muslim.

19 ThomasH July 1, 2013 at 12:49 pm

These were not emails they were real live “conservatives” who were also troubled by the fact that the President uses a teleprompter, plays too much golf, bows to foreign royalty, speaks too often on TV, and travels too much (personal, official, campaign-related) all of which proves that he hates America and Americans.

20 albatross July 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Obama being a secret Muslim/Indonesian/whatever is not all that silly. There’s no reason to believe either one, and lots of reason not to, but it’s not like it *couldn’t* be true. Plenty of people have hidden their backgrounds or religious beliefs to get ahead.

Similarly, a 9/11 truther kind of conspiracy isn’t that ridiculous. I don’t remotely buy it, or see any reason to think it’s worth exploring, but it’s not like it’s impossible for such a thing to happen. The same applies to many other conspiracy theories–Flight 800 being shot down by a missile, various angles on the JFK assassination, etc. They seem unlikely to be true, but not ridiculous–things like that *could* be true without violating the laws of physics, or requiring completely implausible things to happen. (Often the conspiracy theories as they circulate are long on interesting details to add a feeling of reality to the story, but some Occams razor version of them is often not impossible to imagine being true. Occasionally, wild-sounding conspiracy theories even turn out to be true.)

Conspiracy theories get more ridiculous the more they require things that are possible but very hard. If your conspiracy needs to put one guy on the grassy knoll long enough to get a shot off at JFK, that could plausible be done without anyone else being any the wiser. If it has to preload demolitions charges in the Twin Towers, and then hijack two planes to crash into the buildings, and then get the charges to go off after the impacts and fires to bring the buildings down, you’re pretty far into hard-to-imagine-it-really-working land.

Probably young-Earth creationism is the silliest thing I’ve had anyone honestly trying to convince me of, and it’s not just one crazy guy on a street corner arguing with the little voices, either–it’s a noticeable chunk of the US who more-or-less believe it. I say it’s silly because it massively contradicts all kinds of evidence. The only way to hammer the world into the shape needed for young-Earth creationism to be true is the one used by Gaiman and Pratchett in _Good Omens_–an appeal to a divine practical joke.

21 Todd July 1, 2013 at 9:21 am

Do they really try to convince of you of that, though? Don’t they just scream it at the top of their lungs and then move on to complaining about funding for sasquatch tracking?

22 F. Lynx Pardinus July 1, 2013 at 10:51 am

I get lots of chain emails from relatives about how the founding fathers were 20th-century fundamentalist Christians.

23 Finch July 1, 2013 at 11:43 am

I used to get ones that said George Bush was stupid.

24 Jay July 1, 2013 at 8:26 am

I lost the link (maybe someone can help me) but I believe Krugman tried to convince people a year or so ago that Fed purchases of US Treasury notes and bonds had no impact on yields.

I guess two weeks ago proved that boneheaded statement ‘ridiculous’.

25 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 8:31 am

The next time someone says that only Paul Krugman makes accurate economic predictions ask them to name the next 5 down the list. We’ll even spot them Dean Baker.

26 anon July 1, 2013 at 8:31 am

Not to eat at restaurants where there are beautiful women.

Any elected official who says that whatever it is they’ve done, are doing, or about to do, is for my own good.

27 Brent July 1, 2013 at 8:39 am

You have to go to college.

28 CIP July 1, 2013 at 8:41 am

That “Atlas Shrugged” had literary, intellectual, or philosophical merit.

29 Peter July 1, 2013 at 9:05 am

That qualia aren’t really real.

30 Plaza July 1, 2013 at 9:09 am

“This bill will be budget neutral.”

31 Todd July 1, 2013 at 9:14 am

The higher truth/morality/effectiveness of any general political outlook/dogma involved in mainstream contemporary America.

32 NPW July 1, 2013 at 9:19 am

“You can be anything you want to be” , “Believe in yourself”, “You just have to have faith”

I find these the most ridiculous because of the absolute sincerity of the adults who say and believe even with the contrary evidence of their own lives staring them in the face.

I don’t find political lies in the same category. I assume that politicians aren’t trying to convince me of the veracity of their statements; they are just attempting to categorize themselves as a member of my tribe.

33 F. Lynx Pardinus July 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

“Follow your comparative advantage, as defined by a combination of faith/desire/dreams, natural talent, and practice (2 out of 3 may be enough).” doesn’t sound as good.

34 albatross July 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Those are all useless as actual guides to life, but they’re often useful correctives for existing biases in your worldview and assumptions. “Believe in yourself” is a bad way to prepare yourself for final exams, but for some people, it’s a good first step to motivating themselves to study for those exams, rather than sitting around in despair knowing they’re doomed to flunk out.

35 Mark Thorson July 1, 2013 at 9:27 am

God exists.

36 Raphael Cuzon July 1, 2013 at 11:16 am

Mark Thorson’s existence matters in a universe where God does not exist.

37 Johnny July 1, 2013 at 11:26 am

That wanting something to be true is a good reason to believe it.

38 mofo. July 1, 2013 at 11:59 am

That being an atheist is intellectually or socially brave.

39 Axa July 2, 2013 at 10:36 am

This one, the stupid idea that atheists are more intelligent than the rest of the people.

40 Scott July 1, 2013 at 9:31 am

That it would be a good idea for me to invest $1k in their “pyramid club” … don’t know this counts as that was in 1979 … was obvious even to my very young self that this was an exponential progression that would rapidly leave them with no one to “invest”.

41 asdgh July 1, 2013 at 11:39 am

For $0.01 I can get 16 CDs.

42 John Skookum July 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm

You mean 8-tracks.

43 dbp July 1, 2013 at 9:33 am

That light bulbs do not give-off light, rather they suck-in darkness.

44 8 July 1, 2013 at 9:34 am


45 MD July 1, 2013 at 11:47 am


46 tor July 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm


47 derek July 1, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Off with your heads

48 AaronM July 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

That it is in the United States’ interests for Iran to achieve nuclear weapons.

49 Dan in Philly July 1, 2013 at 9:52 am

My ex-wife tried to convince me of what she had convinced herself: her leaving was good for our daughter. Bad reasoning on the front end has been supported by emperical evidence since.

50 Tim July 1, 2013 at 9:54 am

That black people don’t sneeze.

51 Willitts July 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

It’s extraordinary that 1) I have never heard that claim before and 2) now that you mention it, I cannot recall ever seeing a black person sneeze – not even in film or television.

I accept that it might be the case my daily exposure to black persons is morelites than I ever thought possible, and lack of sneezing is just part of a general lack of seeing every other typically human behavior.

I need to evaluate the representativeness of my sampled experiences.

52 Eric July 1, 2013 at 9:55 am

That Michael Jordan really wanted to play minor league baseball during his athletic peak and wasn’t serving a two-year gambling suspension.

53 Joe July 1, 2013 at 10:34 am


54 AndrewL July 1, 2013 at 10:59 am


55 lemmy caution July 1, 2013 at 7:18 pm

That the NBA would suspend Michael Jordan during his athletic peak for gambling.

56 Rahul July 1, 2013 at 10:11 am

Does signing up for yet another pyramid sales network count? Amway etc.

57 Thor July 1, 2013 at 10:12 am

That “the author is dead”.

58 Enrique July 1, 2013 at 10:25 am

That lightning starts from the ground and moves towards the sky …

59 derek July 1, 2013 at 10:32 am

That central banks can lead us into prosperity.

60 prior_approval July 1, 2013 at 10:47 am

That MRU is in any way independent of the same funding sources and ideological framework as the Mercatus Center.

61 Thor July 1, 2013 at 11:16 am

That Prior Approval doesn’t have a weird grudge of some kind … No, wait, no one has tried to convince me he doesn’t.

62 prior_approval July 1, 2013 at 11:43 am

I do have a strange grudge – I used to be paid to convince people of things that I knew at the time were untrue.

But it was fun watching the same tired script unfold with MRU – including the anything but coincidental use of a center’s e-mail address for MRU registration, the creating of a new position seemingly dedicated to managing the MRU online/video environment, and the wonderfully concocted story of how two plucky GMU professors were striking out in a bold new direction using youtube and a $4 dollar app.

Check into GMU-TV’s history – much of the same fantasy went into describing its mission and existence. Actually, at the time, it was just a legal fig leaf for microwave licenses. Not that anyone would have dared to breathe a word of that outside of a couple of GMU offices – the FCC (which a GMU affiliated center has the rights to broadcast, along with FERC – and when billions are hanging on decisions made by such commissions, you would be surprised just how much a subscription is worth, compared to its cost) would have probably had to notice that what was supposed to be in the public’s interest for educational use was in reality one of President Johnson’s more reliable streams of revenue at the time.

Because when it comes to making money off the federal government through warping the idea of public interest, GMU was quite creative decades ago.

I’m confident that nothing has changed since. Except the size of the checks.

63 mofo. July 1, 2013 at 12:07 pm

every time you go on about MRU/GMU/Koch i become more convinced that there is nothing to see there. In my case at least, your rambling tirades have had the opposite effect, you threw back the curtain and boldly declared that the empty brick wall you revealed really is proof of some grand conspiracy.

Pro tip: Not everyone speaks crazy, try English to get your point across.

64 TallDave July 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm

You and every non-leftist journalist in the MSM.

Dammit, yet another giant Koch brothers cash giveaway where I didn’t get a dime! How I keep missing the eternal rain of Kochlear greenbacks that I am assured constantly bathe the libertarian movement I will never understand.

65 Ken July 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

“Follow the money” arguments are simply ad hominems argument. Pointing the source of the funding is simply a way to side step having to confront the argument actually being put forth.

66 Yancey Ward July 1, 2013 at 10:54 am

That Prior_Approval isn’t a paid Koch Brothers troll intended to discredit all other legitimate Koch critics.

67 prior_approval July 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

So, who told you that? Or what sources make you think that I care about the Kochs? I’ve been quite consistent in talking about GMU and good ole Til Hazel, and how GMU made the map due to location, location, location. And how GMU PR works, including the quite typical split between insider and outsider information, and how careful GMU is to walk the line between being a state institution and its apparently insatiable need to collect funds from private sources in exchange for a bit of academic respectability when hosting various centers and institutes.

Remember, facts generally don’t count as being ridiculous.

The second most ridiculous thing I’ve been told was that MRU was the work of a couple of professors, youtube, and a $4 dollar app. Well, ridiculous until it turned to be a fantasy, to the tune of 1200 or so billed inQbation project hours.

68 Yancey Ward July 1, 2013 at 11:33 am

You did.

69 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 11:37 am

I know this is like talking to the Indian/bot who cares deeply about my technical support call, but who the fuck cares? You think you are on the website where people would feel better if all funding came from the government?

70 prior_approval July 1, 2013 at 11:46 am

Why would I care where funding comes from?

Being aware of what the purpose the funding has strikes me as the more interesting perspective.


71 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

I don’t believe you care.

72 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Do you bug the shit out of Soros’ grant recipients?

73 Ken July 1, 2013 at 11:34 am

That politicians and government bureaucrats put citizens’ interests above their own. Describing private sector workers as greedy, but public sector workers are altruistic.

74 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm

It might be more convincing if they wowed our pants off with positive sum ideas. But, I have to admit that I’ve been a little underwhelmed with the general welfare versus adversarial group identity politics ratio of late.

75 anon July 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm


Politicians and government bureaucrats are “public servants” engaged in “public service”.

76 Larry Siegel July 2, 2013 at 4:35 am

A bull “services” a cow.

77 Go Kings, Go! July 1, 2013 at 11:36 am

Still pending: That the Fed should(n’t) target NDGP.

78 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 11:57 am

I’m not sure anyone has tried to convince me of anything. Maybe all the teachers who pretended what they tried to teach was important. I guess I’ll go with that.

79 Andrew' July 1, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Oh, like when Wal-Mart wouldn’t sell me the $4 key without the chip because “it might damage my ignition system” but did sell me the $40 key with the chip that they didn’t program correctly. That’s a good one.

80 Modern Drunkard July 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Then we have never met when I’m in my cups. My favorite bar sport is to convince some that they’re wrong (about anything).

81 Skip Intro July 1, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I once got rather drunk at a birthday (not mine) at a Cheesecake Factory and decided it would be funny to go up to tables, introduce myself as “John Cheesecake”, and ask guests how their dinner was. The very first table asked if my family owned the chain.

82 yi July 1, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Global warming is real.
That Al Gore, while living in a 27 room mansion, owning a fleet of SUVs, and flying his private jet — honestly believes the climate is in “crisis” and we all must drastically reduce our energy use.

Anyone who says they believe in a “climate change” crisis is either a liar, a thief, or functionally retarded.

83 That Jim July 1, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Yep. You can start believing it’s a crisis when the people who are insisting it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.

Til then, it’s the flat-out dumbest thing ever.

84 Nathan W July 1, 2013 at 5:31 pm

That common people have even a basic idea of how science and statistics function.

Greenhouse gases, by definition, trap heat in the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. There is more C02 in the atmosphere every year. We are the primary (if not only) major cause of the rise in C02 levels.

Which of these statements would you like to debate with a liar, thief and retard?

85 yi July 1, 2013 at 7:28 pm

You’re lack human decency is revealed.
The problem with the world is bigot’s like you.

86 TallDave July 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Most of the effect is in feebacks not C02 itself, the CO2 effect is logarithmic, the relevant emission bands may be nearly saturated, CO2-driven warming models say feature tropospheric warming.

87 Nathan W July 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm

That’s the trillion dollar question, not the fact of the day.

88 Rahul July 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm

….that eating organic food is healthy for me.

89 Sean P. July 1, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Your major doesn’t matter one bit. Employers will see that you have a liberal arts degree and want to hire you because they know that you have good critical thinking skills.

90 Blzl the Bldr July 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Argument, Based on divergence from real facts,
God doesn’t care about my little siblings.
No Paper or Study on that yet, sadly.

91 Skip Intro July 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

That Andrew Sullivan is the Most influential public intellectual of the last 25 years.

92 Turkey Vulture July 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Certainly the most ridiculous thing anyone has tried to convince me of recently.

93 Dan in Philly July 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm


94 anon July 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm


95 Ken July 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm


96 libert July 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm

How has no one mentioned this one yet?

That George Bush was behind 9/11.


That rising global temperatures are a massive, coordinated conspiracy by thousands of independent scientists, and not one has defected or “spilled the beans” despite the huge financial incentives to do so.

Really you could put any conspiracy theory in this category.

97 Larry Siegel July 2, 2013 at 4:39 am

A very large number, although probably not a majority, of those thousands of independent scientists have expressed serious reservations about either the existence of AGW (anthropogenic global warming) or the ability of policy changes to stop the warming. I not want to be classified as a denier but I think it’s important to keep an open mind. And yes, Nathan W., I have a pretty good idea how science and statistics work.

98 albatross July 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

No. That’s not the way to bet, but there have been many scientific consensuses before that just flat turned out to be wrong. I remember reading books as a kid that convincingly argued that a Malthusian catastrophe for mankind was just around the corner. That was widely believed by very smart people, specialists and interested amateurs, and it turned out to be wrong. Nor is that unique.

It’s not the way to bet–people who study climate modeling, meteorology, etc., pretty overwhelmingly thing AGW is real and important, and their opinion surely has to count for something–but it’s not like the idea that it might be wrong is ridiculous.

99 Nathan W July 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

They might be wrong (p <0.001). Quick, let's do nothing.

100 albatross July 3, 2013 at 10:30 am

I’m not suggesting we do nothing, though I doubt the probability that they’re wrong is as low as 0.001. I am saying that denial of AGW is not remotely the most ridiculous thing anyone has tried to get me to believe.

101 Urso July 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Bama’s 25 national championships.

102 gabe July 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm

“Really you could put any conspiracy theory in this category.”

That 19 muslims living in caves conspired to hijack 4 planes with boxcutters/evade NORAD and crash into the most heavily defended building in the world(Pentagon). They succeeded and then a 3rd steelframe building (WTC 7) collapsed as if it were a controlled demolition even though it was not hit by the planes and the NSA/FBI/CIA would have done a better job protecting us if only they were more easily able to spy on us.

103 pete July 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm

That love exists

104 Dave July 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm

When we were kids, my friend Bruce tried to convince my little brother that a picture of a big electrical apparatus (can’t remember what it really was) was the switch to turn the sun on and off. My brother, although only 8, refused to believe it.

105 YetAnotherTom July 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I’m from the rural south, so I have a lot of options. The thing that bothered me most was preachers at burial services implying that a person had died in order to bring me (unbelievers) to the service to hear the good news about Christ. As if God had put a hit somebody so I could be baptized that day.

Fast forward to college, Most of the sociology professors were clinging to the idea of human nature as a blank slate.

106 Nick July 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

– Voltaire

107 Harold July 1, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Our diversity is our strength.

108 Chester White July 2, 2013 at 2:43 am

That girls in high school were attracted to nice guys, and not a-holes.

Or maybe in college economics when Samuelson told me that federal deficits don’t matter because “we owe it to ourselves.”

109 albatross July 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I guess it’s worth asking how we should define ridiculous. I’m defining it more-or-less as how hard it would be for it to be true, given the evidence I am aware of. So, for example, a claim that the holocaust never happened would be pretty hard to buy (think of how big the conspiracy to make it all up would have to be, complete with death camp sites and memorials and people claiming to be missing family members), but I’ve never had anyone try to convince me of that. If you had to assess the probability that the claim was true, what claim someone has tried to convince you of would get the lowest probability.

Maybe Tyler means something else by “ridiculous?” Lots of claims you could make may be trivially and obviously false to someone who knows more than I do, in the same way you could probably convince most people on the street that researchers at MIT recently discovered the last prime number (and this wouldn’t seem ridiculous at all to people who didn’t know why it had a probability of 0 of being true).

110 Floccina July 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I guy tried to convince me that his father had had a carburetor that made his old Cadillac get 100 MPG.

111 Hazel Meade July 9, 2013 at 10:49 pm

That it’s plausible that the US government might have invented the AIDS virus.

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