Slate published an article “Why Truthers, Birthers, Trig Truthers, etc. embrace lies even when presented with definitive truth: http://slate.me/f7PaS5 I wanted the article to answer the question, but instead it just demonstrated that the premise was true. When people strongly believe something, they refuse to believe evidence to the contrary. In fact, they treat that evidence as falsified and manipulated.
This whole topic troubles me. I want to believe that the truth will set us free. (Yeah, it’s a cliché) I think if I could just give that critical piece of information, people will see my side of things. I believe this even though I defensive and refuse to listen when someone tries to use facts to tell me my beliefs are wrong. (There’s some irony in there somewhere, but don’t point it out to me. I won’t listen.)
It makes me think about a book I recently read “The relationship theory of love.” (Thanks Katja for loaning it to me) It basically says that the part of our brain that deal with emotions is separate from the part that deals with facts. We basically have three brains all stick together in our heads. One that deals with basic stuff: breathing, heart-beats, etc. One that deals with emotions and attachment and one that deals with logic and facts.
Today during lunch, I read about what other folks on the web said about belief. (Whoo Hoo I get to retype my shortened Bit.ly URL and see if it works for blogs too. Sorry if you also read my twitter feed. I’ll try to be less redundant in the future. http://bit.ly/i6INEp ) As I read, I became convinced. Belief falls squarely into the part of our brain that deals with emotions. It deals with things we feel are true rather than concrete evidence. Religion asks us to take a leap of faith. Morality seems more like it is patterned on our experiences than a list of facts someone put down on paper. Otherwise we could solve all issues with enough data instead of endlessly having debates about what is right and what is wrong. (Yeah yeah I know lots of people believe in the basic things like not killing people, but I’m talking about littler things like how to dress)
The problem with this is that when we talk about fact versus emotions, nothing ever wins. (I’d give an example of fighting bananas with grass, but that is probably meaningless to anyone else.) I think the reason this whole thing bothers me so much is that it seems like our politics have devolved into this kind of discussion. We come up with catchy phrases to evoke emotions and discredit facts. Where is this going to lead us? Am I a fool for my steadfast belief in proof through experimentation? I don’t know how to turn that into an argument that “feels” right.
There are more facts than any one person can comprehend in a lifetime and still we work to discover more. I feel like we fight back by holding onto the one thing we know for sure, ourselves and our beliefs. I’ve seen people use techno-babble to sound intelligent. In the face of that, is it any wonder that we have people rejecting science in favor of beliefs? Can we bring science back down to non-PhDs? Do they even want to understand it?