The Evolving Monkey

Why do people believe things that are not true?

  • Truth is best determined by if something works.
    • If something works you can reasonably call it true.
    • If it does not work, then you can know it is not true.
  • Should belief in what is True, that which works, lead to better lives?
    • Yes, it should.
    • Leading a life based on Truth is leading a life in accordance with the way the universe actually is, the way it actually works, and that should lead to better outcomes.
  • Examples of beliefs that do not conform to the real world.
    • I’m talking about such ideas as Astrology, magic, faith healing, and prayer (as a means for getting what you want).
    • I personally would also include ideas like vaccine denial, climate denial, gun rights (as a way of improving our society), and racial superiority.
    • Many conspiracy theories, although not necessarily all of them.
    • You probably have your own list.
sojourner truth
  • Then why do so many people believe in these ideas if they clearly do not work?
    • They do receive benefits from the false beliefs that the rest of us do not see.
    • In other words, they are getting a positive reward for their false belief.
    • Such as, feeling they have special knowledge, without the need for specialized education and training.
    • That they, themselves, are special beyond other people.
    • And perhaps most importantly, belonging to an intimate group that believes in those false ideas.
  • But if what they believe is not True, doesn’t this reduce their ability to survival?
    • Yes, the more wrong a belief is the greater your risk that a situation might arise that will cause you, or others, great harm.
    • But if a wrong belief does not directly impact basic needs for survival, the day of reckoning may be many years off or never come in a person’s own life.
    • If a wrong belief is passes on to others, they may have to deal with the problems.
    • In cases of racism, extreme nationalism, and selfishism in general, others might have to deal with the problems.
  • The Truth is not always clear.
    • We want to believe in things that are easy.
    • Climate change denial is easier than accepting climate truth. and allows you to do nothing.
    • Simply surviving day to day is stressful, and we rather not think about all the world’s problems, so we often accept ideas that relieve us of the responsibility to do so.
    • Knowing what is True and what is not is something we can never have certainty.
    • We must have a willingness to discard ideas when the evidence against them piles up.
    • We must hedge on the truth of an idea if the evidence for it is weak.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. Socrates

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