Rick Santorum claims that college attendance undermines religious faith. The evidence (including even the surveys he himself relied upon) shows the exact opposite to be the case. Derision ensues.
But step back for a minute. Yes, certainly Santorum has been blinded by prejudice. But the vice is a pretty universal one, going back to the first time a shaman blamed a thunderstorm on the violation of a tribal taboo. The tendency to link unwelcome events to disliked behavior seems hard-wired into the human mind.
Think of all those surveys you read—invariably later withdrawn—contending that coffee is bad for you. Coffee is a powerful mood-altering substance. Medical researchers instinctively mistrust the stuff. So they invest years of effort and tens of millions of dollars seeking proof of harmfulness that they inwardly suspect just must be lurking in the roasted bean.
Think of the readiness to accept the (utterly bogus) urban legend about the Super Bowl leading to wife-beating. Or that the measles vaccine causes autism. Or that "bottling up" emotions could cause heart attacks or other sicknesses.
False, false, and false—and yet people all eagerly believed these myths when it suited them to believe them.