One of the primary sources of conflict and violence I see in the world are many people’s gross
misconceptions about the difference between a belief and a fact.
Let’s face it – as a species we buy into some of the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable and then swear it’s the only way things could be. We are ridiculous that way. We have grown, educated people who should know better teaching myths to school children who have no ability to judge how rational or irrational that information is. There are instances where those same children are literally beaten if they do not agree. Now I ask you, is that education or is that child abuse?
We have religious, cultural and and political extremists on every end of the spectrum insisting that the most blatantly false information is Absolute Truth and must not be questioned, even when such nonsense is easily disproved in just a few minutes.
Now why is this happening? Well, there are all kinds of reasons – culture, religion, nationalism or “because that’s the way things have always been” are just a few. There’s also just plain ignorance.
It’s true irony that in this so-called Information Age, willful ignorance remains the order of the
day. In some places, people are actually proud to not understand the world because they were raised to think that a two-thousand year old book or the supposed prophecies of someone from centuries ago are more important than they are. It’s not the beliefs themselves that are the problem, it’s that they think those beliefs are facts and that real facts don’t matter. They are very confused people.
There are whole swaths of our society, not just here in the US but all over the world, that are
tearing themselves apart for lack of figuring out how to get this under control. But they’re solving the wrong problems, because there’s no way we can control those factors, not on a planet with a population of 7 billion people and counting.
Science and technology can actually help but here’s the thing: our technological advances have been made by a very few for the benefit of the very many. Unfortunately, there are some who decry science and reason yet can only get out their messages of hate and ignorance using the very technology that science has given them. More irony.
Because of our technology, ideas can spread around the world literally at the speed of light. It
would be a good idea for us to get a grip on what kind of ideas we are spreading and what we are willing to believe.
So what do we do?
Here’s how I see it. No one is born being a racist, a sexist, a misogynist or any other -ist. There’s no proof that a gene or neuron tells people to hate other people just because they have a different skin color or come from a different place. Those attitudes and behaviors are taught either directly through pictures and words or indirectly through example and action.
There is no “one answer solves everything” but I believe that education is vital and one place we can start is at the difference between beliefs and facts. If people knew that just because they believed something, that doesn’t necessarily make it a fact – maybe we could get a grip on the
intolerance and ignorance which is destroying our species.
Here’s an easy way to look at it:
A belief is an idea you can change at any time. There may be real world things that support a belief or many people can share a belief, but by it’s very nature, belief is something that has not been proven to be real.
A fact is an idea that you cannot change no matter how much you change your mind about it or wish it was different. The fact is the fact regardless of what you think about it.
Example: The sun came up yesterday. That’s a fact. It happened and nothing you or I do will ever change that fact. We not only experienced it but we can cooroborate its happening in any number of different ways. It’s very provable through a number of physical tests that demonstrate its reality, not just because we saw it but because of the physical effects that event caused and records we have of it happening.
I believe that the sun will come up tomorrow. It’s not a fact because it hasn’t happened and we
can’t be 100% sure that it will happen. Science tells us that because of the facts we do have, the probability of the sun coming up tomorrow is very very high.
You see the difference? It may seem small but if you think about this for a bit, you’re going to see the differences are night and day.
There is very little that we can be 100% certain of, so isn’t it time that we stop killing each other over what we think we know? We don’t need to hate each other over beliefs. What we need to be intolerant of is intolerance.
Maybe we never will fully understand one another, but we can certainly learn to tolerate and even appreciate our varieties and differences. Critical thinking is all about learning these differences and similarities and maybe not agreeing with them all but at least learning to live with them. I realize this is a tall order and some may say it’s impossible but it’s a place we need to get to as a species.
Thank you for watching.