All of my posts to date have something in common. They relate to some kind of ideology or belief. Veganism, Racism, Human Singularity, Climate Change Denial. These issues involve a fight between knowledge and ideology. Between belief and fact. Belief and Ideology are the enemies of reason. Yet, facts can be analyzed in different ways depending on your ideology; a cup half full, or half empty, or just a “boring drink”. But the way we see it doesn’t matter, the fact is that the cup contains a liquid. And we all agree with that. Ideology was supposed to be the “science of ideas” but became an “idea backed without thinking”. I believe that – as Jefferson stated it in the Declaration of Independence – all men are entitled to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness “. But I also believe that as people living in society, our duty should be the pursuit of knowledge.
The first and only rule of the Smart Club is: “You can’t know everything”. The matter is that we can’t say “I don’t know” (anymore). We must side one way or the other. Otherwise we must be hiding something. We want to – or are forced to – give our take on everything. We must take a stand because of social pressure. We have been taught that our opinion matters even if we have no idea what we are talking about. I’m sorry to wake us up. Our opinion doesn’t matter. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of facts. Instead of basing our opinions on knowledge we acquired, we’d rather “think” on our own. “I think it is like this”, “I think it is like that”. Don’t take me wrong, we should think and dream about everything and anything. That’s good for the mind (I think). But a thought is not a fact. The problem is that now, our opinion is more important than our knowledge. Truth is not based on our own appreciation of it.
We live in a world of “Easy Believism”. Not the Christian concept fighting Lordship Salvation – because Christianity is Easy Believism anyway – but a new concept that I hope will take over the Christian one. Easy Believism is the notion to take at face value any concepts, cultural identity or information without doing due diligence on it. It is believing that our culture has always been the way it is today. But today’s culture is yesterday’s fringe. What we claim being our identity today is not the same that existed a couple generations ago. A few decades ago, while the Beetles were touring in the US, White people were still lynching Black people in some parts of the country. Is that the kind of culture we want to go back to? But culture is not something that can always improve. Religious tolerance existed in the past. Sexual tolerance existed in the past. Democracy existed in the past. Time is not always an indicator of improvement. Let’s also take the example of the french fries. There is not a meal in the US without it. But french fries originated in Europe (France or Belgium)…thanks to the Spanish who introduced potatoes they found from…South America. So whose culture is it?
As soon as we acquire a belief, we think it is the Truth and we don’t want anybody questioning it. We want to live with people who only think like us. Even worst, We think that we are so right that we need to teach other people the way they now should think and behave. This makes me think about the safe spaces in Colleges – the place where you are supposed to form your opinions, ideas and critical thinking. Students “don’t want to feel uncomfortable”? Are they kidding me? At 20 years old, their goal in life should be to be uncomfortable. If they don’t want to be challenged ideologically, they should stay home. The bigger issue is that Colleges are more proactive to cancel the venue of Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins than to fight against a real problem such as sexual assaults. Colleges voluntarily let students drink alcohol illegally – they are < 21 years old – because it is “part of the college culture”. This – protected – illegal behaviour multiplies the risks of sexual assaults. I think we would all agree that sexual assault is much more “uncomfortable” than being challenged ideologically. We cannot avoid Easy Believism if we don’t let young adults hear about opinions that are against their beliefs. But it pays more to listen to the loud ones than the silent ones.
There is nothing I hate more – ok, maybe cinnamon – than the Opinion Polls from News channels such as “Do you think President Obama made a good decision in signing NAFTA?”. They only have 2 options: Yes or No. I mean, what the hell do we care about your opinion on a subject you don’t understand? There should be a Quiz about NAFTA and if you know about it, you can answer the question. Otherwise, there should be articles explaining what NAFTA is. How do we want to avoid partisanship when on Fox News the question is “Do you think Obama made a wrong decision…” to people who already dislike him. And on MSNBC “Do you think Obama made a good decision…” to people who already like him?
In today’s world, there is no middle ground anymore. There is us and the other side. The good vs the evil. Our truth against their lie. We trust a 140 character sentence from a celebrity (e.g., Trump) as if it were a peer review conducted by scientists. Contrary to what we could have thought, the availability of more knowledge decreased the importance of fact checking. We think that if someone says something online, they must have done their due diligence. If an article is shared by our friend, it means that both the “news agency” (or a 20 year old Macedonian) at the origin of the story and our friend have done research to back their claim. This is why misinformation spreads like the cholera. Sixty percent of Americans say they get their news from social media. But 60% of Americans only read the headlines of the articles before commenting or sharing them. This is a symptom of the world of Easy Believism we live in. If it is shared by the “right” people – friends, the celebrity we like, the leader we aspire to be, etc. – it must be true. But if shared by the “wrong” people, it must be fake.
We have the chance to live in countries where we eradicated viral diseases, where we have freedom of speech, democracy and civil rights. Because such things have been implemented in the Western world for decades, we take them for granted. We think racism is over. We think that we can say whatever we want, that we have equal rights and that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they avoid the spread of. It seems like the critical thinking of the developed world is shrinking.
Socrates is quoted saying “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.” We should all live by this motto. No one is born with knowledge. It needs to be acquired. But no one is born with a pre set of beliefs either. This is where the environment we live in, the education we receive and the efforts we put forth play a major role. It it hard to overcome the lies you’ve heard since you were born. It is hard to understand issues you never had to face yourself. It is hard to make your own opinion on scientific gibberish. Easy Believism was understandable at the time of the Bible. But nowadays, It is a shame. We need to stop using our positions of power and force – parents, friends, leaders – to impose our beliefs upon others. We need to start nurturing critical thinking. It’s easy to criticize people for being stupid, it’s harder to teach them to be more critical. We should care about what we know before caring about what we think. We’d rather be ignorant on a ledge rather than being down to Earth with knowledge.