Those who understand only what can be explained understand very little.
– Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Austrian writer of psychological novels (1830-1916)
We live in a world molded to a great extent by both science and economics. They don’t control our moment to moment existence, but they form the framework around which we tend to build our belief system.
For example, science creates a drug and physicians (some of whom derive a commission by prescribing that drug) prescribe it, while the patients accept that taking the prescribed drug must be necessary as the only way to heal because a respected professional recommended it. We believe because we trust the source, or think we must.
Almost every major newscast on radio and television includes a stock market report even though its content bears extremely little on everyone but a few who may be listening. However, many listeners will believe that the rise or fall of the share price for Microsoft or Exxon has some magical effect on something that influences their lives, somewhere.
Scientists and economists, indeed all people in the traditional professions, work with factors they can understand and manipulate (or could if they had the power). The scientific method (hypothesis, testing, conclusion) depends on the users having factors they understand and can work with (“massage” in the case of economists). What they don’t understand, they can’t manipulate, thus isn’t important.
That extends to what isn’t important to them–as they have so much influence on our lives–being considered as non-existent or unimportant to us. In fact, some people claim the inability to prove the existence of God using scientific method as evidence, even as proof, that God does not exist.
That thinking is an easy sell for people who believe that science has the answers (proofs) and for those who understand just how much fraud has been perpetrated on simple minded people over the past millennia of human history.
Just as the fact that because someone robbed a bank means that banks are unsafe places to save our money cannot be accepted as valid by most people, the perpetration of fraudulent “facts” and imagined history on people who will not take the trouble to investigate for themselves should not make anyone believe that God does not exist. Even if science searches for evidence of God, but in places where God has no interest, though people have made fantastic claims about God working in these ways, that does not prove that God does not exist.
The article is not about the existence of God, but about how easily people’s minds and belief sets can be influenced by convincing arguments made by determined people.
If I were to tell you that our moon will appear as a square rather than as its usual disk on August 1, a considerable number of people would make a point of checking out the sky on that date. Because they believe the moon will appear square? No, because they believe me as someone with authority on one subject, so I might have expertise in another. How many predictions of Armageddon go unfulfilled each year around the world, despite the fact that many people prepared for the Final Event in each case?
In the investment business there is a saying that “If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.” That should apply to what we believe as well.
Asking followers to “just believe” or to “have faith” that something that sounds unbelievable is real or true should be a tipoff that a fraud is in progress. Or at least a distortion of reality. Though there are many examples of this in religions, more happen every day in television commercials, in unsolicited mail in our mail boxes and email inboxes, even in movie promos that precede the feature we went to watch.
Those who understand only what can be explained not only understand very little, as our Austrian writer stated, it’s more important for us to know that they may not be capable of understanding more than they can manipulate in their minds. They form beliefs based on what they can and cannot manipulate with their minds.
Let’s take a common example that has been foisted on us for decades. Science fiction movies have made us believe that if “aliens” came to earth from a distant planet, they would almost certainly want to harm us, to obliterate us. According to these movies, the only viable action we should take is to destroy them as soon and as completely as possible.
Other movies have humans travelling through space to other planets and approaching them in peace, with the objectives to make contact, to share and to help them if we can.
Apparently in the movie business only humans are civilized enough to travel with peaceful intentions. Peace, just like here on earth, right?
Those two possible scenarios have been repeated dozens of times in movies, even though together they are not just hypocritical, they are absurd. Yet one of our major forms of entertainment perpetrates this absurdity on us again and again. We go in peace, everyone else comes to destroy us. We find enemies not just on earth, but we invent them in space.
If Moses or Jesus of Nazareth or the great prophet of Islam were to return to earth today, how long would they last before they were killed in some manner or another? Half the people alive in the world today purport to believe in these people and to follow their ways and their words (which differ very little, except in ritual). You can be certain that one of the “believers” would be the murderer, not someone who doesn’t believe in that person in the first place.
Do we really believe that peace is possible in the world? Our media don’t present us that way. Should the real heroes not be those who can bring peace where none existed before, not those who can defeat one invented enemy after another? Which is the greater accomplishment, bringing peace or making war? Heroes should save lives, not destroy them.
If we will ever make sense of a world that is trying to twist our minds into knots, we need to teach children how to think critically and to not be bamboozled by frauds, charlatans and propagandists. We could never teach the older ones, the adults, because they already believe what they have been told to believe.
Beliefs are at the centre of the life of every human. Everyone accepts that we need to teach beliefs to children. I propose that we need to teach how to distinguish among that fraudulent claims made by many people and many sources about what we should believe. The only way that could succeed would be to teach children before their minds get tangled, twisted, molded.
That change would not be hard to enact. But we can’t expect schools to change themselves because teachers get paid to teach what is on the curriculum and teachers rarely have the final say about what goes on the curriculum.
Talk about it.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who can avoid becoming automatons, products of corporate interests.
Learn more at http://billallin.com