Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 23

NEWS FLASH! A third of the stars are going to fall from the heavens!  You know you're going to click on that link! I know you don't believe that falling stars are really happening, but you still have to see for yourself. I will always be amazed at the endless curiosity of human beings. It's probably one of the things I'll miss most after the world ends.

I find myself doing this constantly, thanks pretty much to Google and smart phones. There is not a single fact that I don't back check now. Oh, so and so hit the most home runs in 19 whatever? Checked! Kristen Stewart isn't from New Jersey? Checked! Toyotas get better gas mileage than Chevys? Checked! Why do I feel this constant need to confirm things? And once we find the answer on Wikipedia, why do we accept it as true?

William James once said, "Our faith is the faith in someone else's faith." It's a great quotable, but the premise of the argument that it comes from is even more astounding. We don't choose to believe. There is even a math problem out there that shows your prevalence to be an atheist or a deist. Here's an example. No matter how hard you try, you can't force yourself to believe that 2 dimes and a nickel equals 30 cents. I'm not talking theoretical BS, I'm talking someone gives you the wrong change and swears it's a different amount than what's in your hand. James was a pragmatist after all. If you'd like another example, show someone your hand and tell them you have six fingers. Why do we believe what we believe? Why are skeptics such a small part of our society? Barely any of us research and truly understand what we "choose" to believe. I can watch the same press briefing, look at the same voting record, and delve into campaign contributions, and you can think that the president is a crook and I can believe he's the savior of Western society, and yet another can believe he's the Antichrist. I think we pretend that we have an insight that someone else is not privy to, or that we "know the facts" better than those that don't share our belief. Ultimately, it seems it is not our choice as to what we believe. It does seem to be our choice as to whom we believe. Like James' quote, it is our confidence in that other individual that enables to accept a new fact or paradigm as real truth. It is usually our biases or disdain for another person that presupposes us to believe the opposite of whatever comes out of their mouth. This also pertains to how strongly we feel about something. You may believe in something, but not necessarily care if you change your mind in the future, and there are beliefs that you are willing to die for. The willingness to explore those beliefs and uncover why we believe them, and take a chance on undoing what we have known is to truly express oneself as a rational agent.