Monday, October 26, 2020

Eleven Reasons We Believe Dumb Things

Just Discovered: Flapjack Planet Beneath Our Very Feet!

The human intellect is celebrated for being superior to all our plant and animal cousins. Indeed, we do have the ability to discover hidden truths and learn from our mistakes much quicker than any other Earthling. Still, with nearly eight billion of us on the planet, groups and individuals continue to embrace false ideas that have no credible evidence. Here are my top eleven observations on why this is so.

#11 Lazy Thinking is Prolific. Humans have gotten so good at surviving that for centuries many have shifted a daily attitude to pursue ease and entertainment. Even when we're not laying back streaming fictional content, too often our daily tasks are repetitive and lacking in stimulating curious minds.

#10 "Black and White" Answers are Alluring. Modern multitasking and break neck speed lifestyles have humans doing so much that contemplating answers to scientific, philosophical and moral questions compacted into sound byte beliefs. Rather than considering compassionate and well-reasoned  spectrum of reality, many desire the absolute, confident, and often mistaken, answers provided by religion, ideology, and talk show hosts.

#9 Entertainment Reigns Supreme. Fictional storytelling tends to stimulate pleasure in our minds more than dry old scientific explanations. And so we are more willing to listen again and again to stories of miracles and anecdotal tales that defy logic. 

#8 Everyone Has a Right to Their Opinion. Humans have been sold such a high standard of individual liberty that we allow irrational points of view to go unchallenged. One should not be persecuted for weird beliefs that do no direct harm. Still to not confront misguided ideas with compassionate, critical thinking is to invite long term uninformed consequences.

#7 Predisposition Inertia. Children are very susceptible to believe whatever they're told without skepticism. Whether religious doctrine, cartoon physics, or playground street wisdom, false information can stick with individuals throughout their lifetime...often to be passed along generation to generation.
#6 Money is Motivation. Survival in the modern world no longer relies on individuals fighting nature, we need only find a mechanism to generate cash. Thus, our beliefs can be swayed both by tempting false advertisement and we can be lured into careers that hinge on misrepresenting truth, so long as the paycheck is large enough.

#5 Seeing is Believing Modern techniques that create deep fake video and audio clips are ever more convincing to our senses. Whether watching a sci-fi movie or a news animation, our brains can be fooled into a suspension of disbelief. It is one thing to keep in mind such virtual representations as entertaining stories and models, its another to be convinced something exists that is the creation of a social media guru.

#4 Magical Thinking. A conviction for good or ill can self-indoctrinate ourselves. The world can be so bleak sometimes that we cope by projecting that which we desire into reality without evidence. We want someone to be in control, even if Nature herself is random and unkind at times. We want a magical outcome to soothe our psyches. Whether for pseudoscience or mythical perfection humans often fall prey to the motto "I Want to Believe."

#3 Ambiguity is Annoying. In reality, our understanding of the world is a work in progress. The best answers will be part of long term research and even then may be filed with caveats. Accepting the world as subjective and on a spectrum takes effort. Remaining a touch agnostic can be a healthy attitude, but holding such a position too harshly can be misconstrued as holding scientific findings equally uncertain in comparison with outright falsehoods. 

#2 Cult of Personality In society we ought to consider truth separate from the personalities that present them. Too often we don't and if we have high esteem for a person, misinformation they share may be assessed as true in spite the idea's merit. Thus, celebrities, leaders, parents, teachers, lovers, and friends can add undeserved credibility to falsehoods if we don't take care to consider the idea on its own.

#1 Evolution Pre-programmed our Brains. Over millions of years, the flexible software of our minds has been tweaked to react to things that feel good or bad toward generation survival. These "gut" feelings persist, reinforcing ideas that may or may not be false. Just as we can be scared of the "tiger in the bushes" that was never there, we can be lured into believing something imaginary. 

Many of these overlap in our everyday experience. There is no magical path to truth, but scientific method, critical thinking, and compassionate understanding can come together to save the day. True wisdom and knowledge comes by effort, by seeking better answers to questions old and new, considering the veracity of evidence and dismissing preconceptions. It is a work in progress, but it is also a process worth pursuing!

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