A rational mind needs regular maintenance. One of the maintenance systems I employ is to remind myself of things I used to be sure about and later discovered to be untrue. I started a list organized by the approximate ages at which I realized my errors. A healthy rational mind needs regular doses of humility. (I might need more humility than most people.)

Here is the approximate age at which I stopped believing in different stuff.

Age 8

Santa Claus
Tooth Fairy
Easter Bunny

Age 11

Money isn't important for happiness


People are mostly rational
Unquestioned patriotism is a good thing
Any college is as good as any other
Memories are generally accurate
Looks don't matter
Wealth doesn't make you more attractive
Gay is a choice
Alcoholism is a choice


School reputation doesn't matter
History as taught in school is generally accurate
You can do anything you set your mind to
Flying saucers are visiting on a regular basis
Hard work is almost always rewarded
Some men don't enjoy porn
Individuals can pick good stocks if they do research
Management is a science


Food pyramid
Vitamin supplements are backed by science
Free will
Solving your problems can bring you lasting happiness

Age 50

Common sense exists (as opposed to experience)
Drink eight glasses of water a day
Exercising is a big help for losing weight
A calorie is a calorie
Don't swim soon after eating
Wash hands with hot water to kill germs
Marijuana is bad for adult health (Note: still probably bad for kids)
Stretching helps athletic performance
Humans are more likely to be real than artificial/software
Everyone will die
The government isn't controlled by big money
The stock market is mostly legitimate

You can probably suggest a few things to add to my list.


Link to my book: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

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Jan 30, 2014
Scott, perhaps the reason you don't believe you have free will is because you've observed yourself and ascertained--correctly--that you *must* engage in certain behaviors you are not entirely comfortable with but cannot control. You've discovered you can manage your behaviors by relegating them to the times and places of your choice, and that gives you an illusion of control and some temporary peace of mind. The truth is, however, those addictions control you, and therefore you are not free.

You're right, you're not.

Rethinking your decision about God is the place you need to start if you want to break out. Remember, you don't know what you don't know.

[If God wants me to know him, I think he'd be able to make that happen. -- Scott]
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 30, 2014
- If you tell someone a secret, they will keep it to themselves.
- What adults say is probably right (perhaps I was the only teen who thought this).

- Keynesian economics works.
- Mechanical engineering taught me how the world works (the physical world is such a small part of life).
- Most people have some basic level of competence about common things in life.
- You can win an argument with facts.

- People appreciate intelligence.
- Being right about something matters.
- If you treat someone like a real friend, most people will reciprocate.
- Working hard is the best route to success.

- Most people have the ability to really understand anything at all.

Gosh, reading these makes me sound cynical. I'm really not bitter at all, just less naive.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 30, 2014
I would be very interested to see a post cataloging the opposite...

The age at which you started to believe things that you were once sure to be false. Is such a thing possible? Or do you becoming increasingly "open minded" as you age, with nothing "closing down".
Jan 30, 2014
I don't know if you can get it in America, but there is a BBC programme called QI that specialises in debunking life's myths.
Stephen Fry will often ask a question to which everyone "knows" the answer. Someone will give the answer expected and a loud siren goes off.

I thought I knew that people in the middle ages thought the world was flat - they never thought that, haggis was invented in Scotland - it was first cooked in England, a day is 24 hours long - it can be slightly longer or shorter,……
Jan 30, 2014
Here's one for your next list...
Marijuana can cause harm to adults
Jan 30, 2014
Age 60:

Since I am the center of everything I observe in the universe, I am the center of the universe.
Jan 30, 2014
"I might need more humility than most people." --Scott Adams

I believe that is one of those rare statements that is actually its own proof.
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 30, 2014
Cartoon artists aren't the best sources of advice.

+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 30, 2014
My 20s
- Facts can win arguments
- Any discussion can be won as long as you have the right arguments
- If you win an argument, you win
- If you're doing something wrong, the people around you will always let you know in a timely fashion
- People understand my thoughts when I explain it to them
- Everything can be explained to a person if you explain it the right way
- Being clever and intellectual is always a good thing
- People who have the same personality as me can always understand me instantly.

Man, the 20s turned everything I knew upside down.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 30, 2014

On a two dimensional coordinate system, if one axis represents the aging and another shows the increasing exposure to irrationalities, this learning curve would look like an exponential growth of cynicism.

I am wrong obviously. This cannot fully reflect the maturing humor of an accomplished cartoonist.

And I expect, as the aging process tends to infiniti, the graph would show a steady drop in the number of observations. Ideally it could like a bell-curve, except that you seem to have very few samples between 40 and 50.

Wonder if that says something about your humility in that period.

+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 30, 2014
Some of the poorest countries are in the top twenty of the happiest people. (Google the list, I am too lazy).

One of the richest countries, Germany, (I live there) is on number 26. In Germany there are about 80 million people, so I wouldn't qualify that as an exception.

O.K., it is still a minority, but obviously it is very well possible to be happy with little money and vice versa.

Not everyone will die? You are talking about the tiny squid with the eternal life cycle, I presume. You and I will die, I promise you that.
Jan 29, 2014
@lisapatridge - "The government is good at some things". Look into science research. Industry doesn't invest until it is viable. Hence, transistor technology, computers, the internet, a great deal of modern medicine etc.

@Phantom II - "You cannot prove a negative". How about, "There does not exist a pair of integers p and q such that p/q = sqrt(2)?".
Jan 29, 2014
Age 5......
Tooth Fairy
Every adult can be trusted

Age 12.....
We are all the same.
Toys are everything you need in life.
If it occurs to you to say something, you should say it.

Age 19.....
Everyone thinks alike.
If someone wants to talk to you, they must think you're a good conversationalist.
There will always be more time.

Hard work is always rewarded.
Confident people generally know what they're talking about.
You'll make more friends if you pretend to be someone you're not.
Work is supposed to suck.

If you have to do something, it's worth doing to the best of your ability.
The government is good at some things.

Jan 29, 2014
I'm surprised at your one about exercise not being a big help in losing weight. Personally, if I'm working out I feel healthier, which keeps me motivated to not eat unhealthily. They're intrinsically associated.

Maybe that's the case for you, but I strongly doubt it's the norm.

(I hope you're not looking at it from the super-simplistic POV of "# of calories burned" because that's ignoring most of what exercise does for you)

[Exercise makes you eat healthier? I can't rule out that possibility but I haven't seen any science to support causation versus correlation on that point. -- Scott]
Jan 29, 2014
Oh, I forgot about the idea of an act-alike robot that hosts a cluster of one's cells. Still, for the "everyone will die" line, I suspect Scott is talking about medical technology, like Ray Kurzweil's idea that the rate of medical technology improvements that prolong life is increasing. So, we will reach a point where each improvement lets one live long enough to take advantage of the next improvement, and so on. It's kind of like what Dick Cheney has been able to do with advances in heart assist and replacement technologies, for a very long time, as his heart disease progressed.
Jan 29, 2014
Stretching does help athletic performance. If you stretch before exercising, you decrease the risk of a pulled muscle, which would hinder athletic performance.

[There is no evidence to support that hypothesis but there are studies that debunk it. -- Scott]
+17 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 29, 2014
Sex is like Pizza -- Even when it's bad, it's good.
People mostly want the same things.

Ugly girls require less maintenance than pretty girls.
Most people are reasonably smart.
Most people know a fair bit about the world - science, history, art.
The main difference between people are the opportunities they have.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

There's someone for everyone.
Most people are reasonable.
Most people have a rudimentary understanding of everyday technology.
Most people have a rudimentary understanding of civics.
Most people will pursue an opportunity as long as it's not too hard.
Everyone contributes something.

Scott Adams' Law of Slow-Moving Disasters.
Most People avoid overt self-destruction.
Most people have a rudimentary understanding of finance.
Most people understand what an opportunity is.
Everyone has a potential to contribute something.
+26 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 29, 2014
It took me until my 30's to learn comic artists weren't the best guys to take life advice from.

I'd also add "Democracy is the best form of government" to that list somewhere.
Jan 29, 2014
From your comments on free will I suspect you are skeptical for the same reasons as Sam Harris (i.e. you believe "free will" is incompatible with physics). You may appreciate Dan Dennett's critique >> http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/reflections-on-free-will
+54 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 29, 2014
Where we agree, it feels like a nod from a secret tribe member.

Where we disagree, it feels like that cousins odd long-term boyfriend who just can't be wrong over anything, and I'm seated next to him yet again.

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