WHY WE DENY UNDENIABLE FACTS
I have never understood people who don’t believe what is obviously fact. I guess it’s the case of: “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with facts.” On Facebook while ago, there was a very helpful graphic essay answering the puzzle: “Why facts don’t convince people.” It says in short that people’s action is invoked by an emotional impulse rather than the facts based reason. It’s like being caught up in the stampede rushing toward a precipice. You are conditioned to be loyal to the herd despite smell of death.
Even if I have all the data and hence I am convinced that a certain action is needed, I still have to be emotionally motivated to act. What moves me there is often not the knowledge of cold facts but compulsion. I can easily just sit and do nothing about what I know. What moves my emotion is a search for safety. We are, more often than not, motivated to look for security than correct logic or morality. Security feeling comes from a sense of belonging to a group of loved ones; family, friends, organizations, religions, customs, shared memories, or traditions.
This is why it is difficult to speak against the policy of the political party I have voted all my life; or to question what I have believed for a long time; or speak against someone I love and/or family and friends. This is how we come to behave against reason. Facts are often inconvenient and uncomfortable. Still some people act following what reason dictates and pay the price. How then do we manage to act rationally against natural instinct? Is it power of reason or pigheadedness?
What should be done, if the world should function and survive? The Facebook post suggests: first we must believe and persuade others to believe that we are in this together in the same boat despite the differences. We can argue until ‘cows come home.’ But never scuttle the boat. If you do we all drown. Secondly, admit that “I could be wrong.” That takes humility and courage. It is not easy: so many relationships break up because we insist “I am right and you are wrong.”
How many times have wars been fought over differences and have killed thousands and millions? The only cure for unrepentant stupidity is death.