I just had an a-ha moment. No I didn't start to sing wake me up before you go... but it does link in I guess... just a little.
I have always wondered how really well educated folks could fall prey to dogmatism and bullshit beliefs. Now I have (possibly) found the answer. Consider the following:
If I teach a 5 year old particle physics and microbiology, anthropology etc and then try to teach that child about religion at the age of 10, surely that child will be quite confused. Surely that child will be skeptical if after teaching him about things that have factual explanations, giving a completely contradictory and irrational alternative explanation to the mysteries of life.
I often see very intelligent people with very dumb beliefs. I am not sniping at religion only, there are many silly beliefs like new age medicine or breaking mirrors that sometimes ruin an otherwise wonderful mind. The answer may lie in the way that mind's foundations were laid. Before I understood the science of life I was told the religious version. Obviously as a child you don't require endless proof, you don't need citations and you certainly don't have any (significant amount of) money that can be taken from you. You become comfortable with these beliefs and choose to keep them. As you grow older and learn more your beliefs are not fully adjusted according to new knowledge gained. Instead you try to explain the irrational in order to keep that part of your brain alive.
Another answer lies in the laziness of the human brain. Unlike a computer, given a calculation several times we will cease to calculate the answer, and rather pull it up from memory. We learn most things once and then repeat them throughout our lives strengthening the neural pathways that allow for these calculations to take place. We do not rethink everything every time we need to figure something out. This is neural network thinking. We build up a neural network that makes us increasingly efficient the more we practice something. We are even at the stage of human social evolution that we can start building computers that think in this way.
The fundamental problem lies with finding the incorrect answer to a question, but being told that it is correct constantly. This reaffirms the correctness of the statement whether it is true or not. I often do not believe in things people tell me, but after a few people tell me the same thing I have to force myself to research the subject so that I do not get tempted to believe a fact that may be incorrect. I pride myself in being a skeptic but sometimes still fall into the trap of blind belief.
The day I decided to become a skeptic I started to methodically(as much as I could) rethink everything that I was ever taught. My very first question was. What is the truth? The answer I came to after thinking for a while is that the truth is reality. If you see things for what they are, then you see the truth. If you see things for what you want them to be, you live in a fantasy world and all of your existence becomes a form of a lie, constantly retelling itself to others to strengthen its cloak over reality.
Rethinking everything is a very painful exercise, which involves admitting to lies and the fruits that those lies promise to bare.