Myth Information: More Than 590 Popular Misconceptions, Fallacies, and Misbeliefs Explained! by J. Allen VarasdiMyth Information: More Than 590 Popular Misconceptions, Fallacies, and Misbeliefs Explained! by J. Allen Varasdi

Myth Information: More Than 590 Popular Misconceptions, Fallacies, and Misbeliefs Explained!

byJ. Allen Varasdi, Allen J. Varasdi

Paperback | September 29, 1996

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It's common knowledge that Eve gave Adam an apple. Everyone knows that George Washington was the First president of the United States. And when your mother told you not to go swimming right after you ate, you took it as a matter of life and death. But you've been myth-informed -- by legend, by history... even by your mother! The truth is ...
-- Milk chocolate may actually help prevent tooth decay!
-- If you "eat like a bird," you may eat up to one-half your body weight every single day!
-- The largest city in America is not New York or Los Angeles -- it's Jacksonville, Florida!

Now you can face the facts -- on everything from aphrodisiacs to zip codes -- in this alphabetically arranged collection of more than 590 fabulous fallacies and memorable misconceptions. You won't know what you're missing until mastered Myth Information.
Title:Myth Information: More Than 590 Popular Misconceptions, Fallacies, and Misbeliefs Explained!Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 8.2 × 5.55 × 0.6 inPublished:September 29, 1996Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345410491

ISBN - 13:9780345410498

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Read from the Book

Introduction   Everyone knows that hemophiliacs bleed to death, piranhas are a dangerous, man-eating fish, the Boston Tea Party resulted from higher taxes on British tea, and teenagers have the highest rate of suicide. Yet everyone would be wrong to accept these beliefs, because they are not true. They also would be mistaken to think the Hippocratic oath is required of doctors, Paul Revere rode alone and completed his intended journey, the center of the earth is molten rock, and chameleons can change color to match their surroundings.   In fact, many of our common beliefs turn out to have no factual support. Indeed, the truth is often the exact opposite of what is usually thought to be true. Despite the fact that these ideas can be easily disproved, misconceptions, fallacies, and misbeliefs seem to be everywhere.   I will define a belief as the acceptance of a proposition as fact without the full intellectual knowledge required to guarantee its truth. In terms of certainty, a belief is above a surmise, conjecture, or opinion, but below the level of fact, knowledge, and truth. A misbelief is any idea or assumption held by a large number of people that violates correct and readily available information. In fact, one of the more interesting aspects of popular misinformation is just how easily it can be disproved and how surprised we are to discover our error.   In this book, I have collected more than 550 of these popular misconceptions which are as baffling to our sense of reality as they are easy to disprove. Although I have accumulated a considerable amount of unusual and interesting information, this is more than a collection of trivia and factual oddity. Myth Information debunks many of these common fallacies, challenges our reason, and encourages us to question our other beliefs.   Misbelieving involves more than just not knowing that a fact is true. That phenomenon is usually called ignorance—something we have all experienced. There is a difference between not knowing something and knowing something that is untrue.   For example, how many people really know the size of the world’s great pyramids? Yet, most of us believe that the largest ones are in Egypt. They are not. Similarly, few people, except medical experts, know the exact location of the human heart. Nevertheless, we all place our hand over the left side of our chest when pledging allegiance, so we believe the heart must be there. But to be correctly placed over the heart, the hand should actually be over the center of the chest.   Misbelieving is not just an individual act. In fact, it is usually the result of the collective, common mentality that we call society. Misconceptions are shared and reinforced by others, particularly through the highly influential and pervasive media—especially television and movies. But the media alone cannot be blamed, since misbeliefs have existed all through history. Even widespread literacy has failed to stem the tide of error in popular thought. Somehow these beliefs become accepted as truth, and no amount of available fact can dispel them from the minds of people.   The study of misconceptions and fallacies has only infrequently been addressed by academicians. Psychologists dwell on attitude, which includes thought, feeling, and behavior. Sociologists dabble in attitude, opinion, and group events in society, but seldom consider the acceptance of unfounded, individual beliefs. Philosophy grapples with profound issues of epistemology—the origin, nature, and validity of knowledge—but ignores the down-to-earth question of why people believe nonsense in the first place.   Why do we believe things that are not true? That is a complex question, the answer to which is beyond the scope of this discussion. But misbelieve we do, and with great persistence, despite the wealth of factual information available everywhere.   Many fallacies become established throughout history in art, particularly paintings, and then prove highly resistant to change. Others become fixed in folklore and legend and are not easily altered by the truth. Some are simply the products of our imaginations striving to create a reality that intuitively makes sense by fulfilling some basic, psychoemotional need for stability and closure in our lives. Because they are shared by others, their apparent truth becomes even more self-evident.   There also seems to be a human propensity to believe things that are read or told by an authoritative person, such as a parent or teacher. These misconceptions are then passed on from one generation to the next without anyone bothering to ask if they are true. A perception is created producing a barrier against the simple truth, which is nearly impossible to erase from the collective mind. These beliefs also become quite strong. History is filled with examples of how men are willing to die for their cherished beliefs rather than the support of the truth.   The consequences of readily accepting our beliefs without question is also the power behind the placebo effect, faith healers, horoscopes, occults, impostors, and charlatans. Misbeliefs also underlie the acceptance of fanatic religious groups, pseudo sciences, and are a factor in the success of heroes and great and not-so-great leaders.   But the fallacies presented in this book are of a much less serious nature. They deal with common, everyday misconceptions most of us share that are, in fact, unsupported by fact. Most will surprise and delight you. Many will inform and enlighten. Hopefully, by recognizing the fallacy in our popular ideas about the world, we may also begin to question the truth in our other beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes.   Finally, although much of the information contained in this book came from standard encyclopedias and reference sources, many times a question still remained unanswered. In these instances, correspondence to professional associations and societies proved invaluable. I would like to thank those individuals who took the time to share their considerable knowledge by responding to what must have seemed to them rather odd questions. There were so many people who contributed in this manner that, unfortunately, they cannot be mentioned individually. My appreciation is also extended to the many people—family and friends—who contributed so much to this effort by offering ideas or simply putting up with me as I regularly corrected them about their misconceptions.   A   “ ’Tain’t what a man don’t know that hurts him, it’s what he knows that just ain’t so.” Frank McKinney Hubbard   A–OK   The phrase A–OK was never used by Alan Shepard in the first U.S. suborbital space flight on May 5, 1961. Although attributed to him, quoted in newspapers, and even adopted as a catchword for the early years of the space program, the transcript of the pilot-voice communications reveals that no such expression was ever used by Shepard.   A–OK existed only in the mind of Colonel “Shorty” Powers, the NASA public relations officer. In a briefing to newsmen following Shepard’s mission, Powers related a routine “OK” from Shepard and replaced it with “A–OK.”   Powers liked the term and repeated it often. A–OK caught on with reporters and the public, although the astronauts generally disliked it. However, the nonexistent term became closely identified with the first launches of the Mercury space program despite the fact that none of the astronauts ever used it in flight.   Abacus   The bead and frame device used to perform arithmetic operations called the abacus is not Chinese as most people believe. Although its origins are not known for certain, it is fairly well established that the instrument did not originate in China. It appears likely that this type of counting device was first used by the Egyptians around 2000 B.C. The word itself is derived from the Greek abax, meaning a writing or ciphering tablet.   The abacus has actually been used for thousands of years in many different countries. The device was commonly used to perform arithmetic calculations when more ancient numbering systems, such as Roman numerals, made written computations difficult.   When our current system of Arabic numerals supplanted Roman numerals throughout the world, the abacus as an aid in calculating became obsolete.   However, it remained useful and popular primarily in China due to the cumbersome written numerical system that the Chinese retained. Since it is now used mainly in China, the abacus has become popularly identified as a Chinese device.   Abdication   Although most sovereign rulers may generally abdicate at will, in Great Britain, where utmost propriety is the rule, the monarch simply cannot voluntarily decide to quit. The king or queen must request permission to abdicate.   Following such a request, Parliament draws up an article of abdication which stipulates the full requirements and conditions for the royal resignation. It is signed by the monarch and then must be approved by Parliament. There are also provisions that force a monarch to abdicate should the situation arise.   A.D.   Nearly everyone is correct in believing that when used with the date, B.C. stands for “Before Christ.” However, it is not true, as most people think, that A.D. means “after death.” It is actually an abbreviation for the Latin anno Domini, meaning “in the year of the Lord.” A.D. refers to dates in the Christian era occurring after the birth of Christ, and should precede the date rather than follow it as does B.C. It should also be noted that there is no year zero in the Christian-era calendar.   Adam and Eve’s children   Adam and Eve did not have just two children as is usually believed. According to the Bible (Genesis 4:1–2), there were three named sons—Cain, Abel, and Seth. Also, Adam is said to have sired an additional unspecified number of “sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4), a fact not so surprising considering that Adam is said to have lived for 930 years (Genesis 5:5).   Aggravate   It is not possible to aggravate a person. To aggravate means to make a thing or condition worse or more serious. Thus, only a problem or situation can be aggravated. People are irritated or annoyed.