...believe that the sun revolves around the earth, according to a poll cited in this NY Times op-ed on the brain science behind people's false beliefs (and particularly the implications for political campaigns, i.e. why people would continue to believe that Obama is Muslim despite all statements that have been made to the contrary). It has bigger implications though--actually it explains a lot of prejudice and irrational thought. For example, people keep writing letters to the editor of the local paper stating that (one of the reasons) same-sex marriage is an abomination is that gay couples can't produce children. When in reality, gays and lesbians obviously produce / acquire children by all sorts of means, sometimes even the old-fashioned accidental method, sometimes during a failed attempt at heterosexual marriage, sometimes with help from a donor, and of course by adoption in the states where they believe children should have as many chances for loving, devoted parent(s) as possible. And some people, gay or straight, choose not to have children of their own at all, but can make the world's most fabulous uncles and aunts, or can devote their energy to nurturing the world in many other ways that people with kids don't have time and resources for.
All of this information seems to have been sucked into a black hole for some people. I rode with a group of NorCal AIDS Challenge cyclists (most of whom were straight) in the Sacramento LGBT Pride parade last week, and protesters were out with signs about all the stuff God hates. We couldn't help but notice that these 'religious' people were completely fixated on one particular act as if it summed up the whole of gay male (and apparently their own) existence. And one of my favorite signs was "Hatred of Parents Causes Homosexuality." Sad, to think of all those little gay parent-hating babies.
One has to wonder sometimes what planet people are living on. But according to this article, we tend to remember information that fits our existing mental framework and forget what doesn't fit. So it probably wouldn't work to make somebody who watches FOX News all the time just listen to NPR for several hours (though I don't think that would hurt). False beliefs are difficult to undo. In order to correct them, the "truth" (i.e. Obama is a Christian, for example) has to be presented with some kind of affirmative little emotional attention-grabber, something that puts a new picture in the listener's mind. Merely contradicting the falsity can actually reinforce it.