Outrageous beliefs

By Phil Plait | March 5, 2009 1:00 pm

My friend John Weiss sent me this great graphic:

song chart memes

I agree with it.. except to add that if it’s backed by indisputable scientific evidence, it’s not outrageous by definition.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Science, Skepticism

Comments (36)

Links to this Post

  1. The Mosquito Eater » I’d believe that | March 5, 2009
  1. Bill

    Brilliant graph.

    Totally freakin’ sad. But brilliant.

  2. Leon

    A better title for it would have been “Chance of people believing a seemingly outrageous statement”.

  3. Tim

    No line for “When presented with a colorful graph”?

  4. BJN

    “…not outrageous by definition.”

    Way to spoil the ironic humor of the graph!

    Actually, science provides facts that are outrageous by way of being counterintuitive to everything we experience by our own senses. Quantum entanglement has been demonstrated by experiment, but it’s an outrageous concept that is most often described as “spooky action at a distance”.

    I’m using the common definition of outrageous — a: exceeding the limits of what is usual b: not conventional or matter-of-fact

  5. Original Obe

    Heh, my life is now complete, one of my graphs is on Bad Astronomy!!!

  6. philippec

    Should I believe this graph really represents reality, just because I saw it on the Internet?

    You know, because everything you see on the internet is not always true. There are so many people on there with their own agenda…. Furthermore, this item has been reported to me by a friend of a friend, so….

  7. cuggy


    • adjective 1 shockingly bad or excessive. 2 very bold and unusual.

    Thats from oxford! The gag still works, Phil!

  8. Brian

    philippec: I got an email once that assured me that this graph does accurately represent reality.

  9. rob

    hey, i just saw this data on Oprah.

  10. Scott

    Why on earth are do so many people regard as Oprah as an authority on anything?

  11. :( Image blocked. Would anyone care to email it to me at jan dot lundquist AT us dot af dot mil? Pretty please?!

  12. TS

    Okay then here goes: I wrote all of The Beatles’ Songs.

  13. Well I believe everything I read on the internet. I’m still waiting for my winnings from the Spanish National Lottery but I know they’ll arrive soon! :)

  14. Bill

    On it’s way.

  15. QUASAR

    Does that graphic only refer to religulous wingnuts?

    Where’s the reasoning in this faith intoxicated world, anyway?

  16. Huron

    I would also add: “Saw it on a youtube video”

  17. Yeah, I’d agree with this graph.

    It makes me sad that people, when told that scientists have discovered something interesting or wonderful, will suddenly announce that it must really be the exact opposite for absolutely no reason. It’s like there’s some pervasive belief out there that anything scientists say must always be abolustely wrong at all times.

  18. Turing Eret

    Chance of Hating a Graph Due to Font Used:

    Comic Sans: 100%

  19. MadScientist

    I like to tell people things that are true but which just don’t seem right. For example: the rising and setting of the sun is due to the spinning of the earth and not the motion of the sun. A more obscure one would be that everyone (at least the living) glows in the dark; it’s just that the glow is infrared so humans can’t see it but some animals (like many snakes) can sense it. Oh, one of my favorites: The Vatican Observatory is in Arizona, USA. There are a lot of jokes and puzzles based on misperceptions and biases – for example, exploting people’s bias that all physicians are male.

  20. MadScientist

    I forgot to ask: What % of people believe an outrageous statement when presented with a graph?

  21. A friend of a friend told me this graph is inaccurate.

  22. Ryan

    Ironic, considering that your friend gave this to you.

  23. Billy Meier predicted this graph in 1987.

  24. llewelly

    … except to add that if it’s backed by indisputable scientific evidence, it’s not outrageous by definition.

    Nonsense, Phil. Evolution is backed by overwhelming evidence, but it’s been outraging people for 150 years. Outrage is rarely the result of careful consideration of evidence.

  25. bsander

    So much win, yet so much fail..

  26. I agree with other commenters like llewelly. Tons of true statements are outrageous, like time-dilation, length-contraction, entanglement, the Copenhagen interpretation…

    If you want some that really break your head, look at math, and not just physical science. Banach-Tarski is a great one.

  27. This reminds me of the X-Files paradox: the people who most embrace the “I Want To Believe / Trust No One” philosophy are most likely to accept as true any random piece of information sent to them in a multiply-forwarded e-mail, and are most likely to doubt anything they hear from an extablished and reputable source.

  28. I believe Feynman recounted a story involving Banach-Tarski or some related theorem from his undergrad days, when some mathematics students explained to him that you could cut up an orange and reassemble it into something the size of the sun (or something like that.) He rejected the whole notion, arguing that if you are talking about cutting up real oranges with real knives, you run into constraints that don’t affect mathematical constructs.

  29. Richard

    I’m sure there are plenty of reasons to trust Oprah. For instance:


    Well, maybe she can be easily, quite easily,…I mean, totally super-duper fooled. I guess she’s just another celebrity.

  30. Don’t forget the chance of your spouse believing something non-outrageous you say.

  31. Gonzo

    I want the t-shirt!

  32. kuhnigget, I thought the Mayans predicted this graph.

  33. Any sufficiently awesome scientific discovery is indistinguishable from outrageousness.

  34. How about another type of statement? “The source is the bible.”


  35. Kerr Mudgeon

    Mixter Says:
    How about another type of statement? “The source is the bible.”
    – Not specific enough. Try this:
    “The source is the bible (verse/chapter) as reported by FOX News!”


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