Four More Provisional Conclusions

Here’s a first draft of four more provisional conclusions I’ve drawn in recent years; they summarize themes I’ve invoked many times in these posts. I’ll revisit this post and refine, before I add them to a standing page on this site for PCs.

11, You can’t change someone’s mind by showing them evidence and expecting them to draw rational conclusions.

Rather, people remain committed to the “beliefs” of their family or community, and to change their mind entails a challenge to their sense of self-worth and to their allegiance to those around them. In fact people tend to “double-down” on their beliefs, despite evidence to the contrary, by finding ways to dismiss the evidence, discredit the source, and so on. People don’t behave like rationalists; they behave like lawyers, defending conclusions made on emotional grounds.

12, Many, if not most, people don’t know much of anything about the world outside their immediate sphere of daily life.

All humans live within a “bubble” of human interactions, where for most people everything not involving human interactions — say, the extent and size of the universe; the bases for biology and modern medicine; the details and scope of human history, much less the history of the planet — is irrelevant and ignored. (Just one example of evidence on this point are scenes available on YouTube of late night hosts interviewing people on the street. How many commandments are there, asks one. Response: uh, 12? Can you name one? Uh, freedom of speech?)

13. And it’s just as well.

Frankly, the human race survives through interactions among people, never mind those external facts about the real world. Human nature and society has evolved for survival, not for accurate understanding of the real world. It’s more effective for survival to share beliefs, no matter how outlandish, among communities and tribes, as a kind of bonding mechanism. The nature of the beliefs is irrelevant. To understand reality — to attain wisdom — is a private affair.

14. Humans live by stories.

Beginnings, middles, ends; causes and effects; the presumption that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ This is part of the not understanding the real world, but it’s due to stories being more important for group cohesion, and thus survival, than any evidence of what the world is really about. A corollary to this is that, not only do many people not understand evidence or conclusions, or have any savvy about how the world really works, they seem to think that wishing what they want to be true is as valid a position as anything supported by evidence, and that if they keep repeating their assertion — e.g. that Trump actually won the election — loud enough and often enough, it will rub off on other people and stick. Never mind evidence; they don’t have any. But it soothes their egos to imagine that they have discovered some kind of secret knowledge that the masses (e.g. the “sheep” who take vaccines) are unaware of. The malignant extreme of this imposing of stories upon a world despite lack of evidence are conspiracy theories. And the implication of these ideas is: most conspiracy mongers simply *make things up* and get a kick at seeing how many people they’ve duped.

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