Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Believe!! I Believe!! (Umm, Do You?)

Cognito, ergo sum.  I think, therefore I am, said Renee Descartes.  Or did he?  How do you know?  You read it in some book? Someone told you?  You found it on Google?

Okay, you don't "know" know.  What if I told you Descartes ripped it off someone else? (Really?  He did? No! Well, then).  Okay, we may not know.  But we certainly believe it.

Like people believe in lots of stuff. 

An epiphany happened today during an IRS audit on why people believe what they believe, despite evidence to the contrary.  Or, more to the point, despite a lack of evidence one way or the other.  More often than not, it seems to me that people just believe what it's convenient to believe, as long as it pretty much goes along with ingrained predjudices. Inconvenient facts ought not to upset one's diurnal equilibrium, after all, so why seek them out?  Too uncomfortable.

And so, ahem, I present these photos of two different defendants freed from murder charges because of messed up DNA sampling in two world-famous trials:

Did he do it? (Greek Chorus: Yes! He did it with that knife he bought and he killed Nicole and Ron Goldman! You can tell because he's black and he's arrogant and it was a WHITE WOMAN!)

Did she do it? (Greek Chorus: No!  Look at the angelic face of a beautiful vixen! She could never have slit that other girl's throat and by the way probably never ingested anything stronger than 3.2 beer!)
And do you know, or do you believe? And why?

For the record, I am a confirmed skeptic when I'm not a confirmed cynic.  Honestly, not believing and, later, undoing what I decided to believe is hard. Trust me on this.  During today's epiphany, I tried to recall the first time I realized something I believed wasn't true, and then tried to accomodate it.  Maybe it was when my best friend, at six years old, hauled around his pet rabbit for days saying, "It's asleep."  Or, maybe when the pastor's son tried to molest me in the locker room.

It's gotten to the point that when someone tells me what s/he believes, I go, "hmm."  As in:

 Remember the "I Believe You, Anita" bumper stickers?

"We need to cut spending and end job-killing taxes." 

I guess what I REALLY mean is, here's the problem:  Most people, including me, don't really care what the other person believes.  It's that person's business, and if it works for them, it works for me.  And most of the time, that attitude is okay--at least I BELIEVE it's okay--because I know and love too many people who don't believe what I believe.

But too much relativism on this issue is, maybe, dangerous.  One of my favorite bitches is real estate and mortgage brokers who say now is a good time to buy a home, no matter if it's now or 2006.  We got this:

Because this is where we will end up:


  1. This is something that I have kept to myself but you're right; people don't know what they don't know. People say the know things that they could never possibly know, like quotes, conspiracy theories, science, heck even their own experiences but they fight with such vigor to defend some things. It's why I love counter-intuitive findings. My brain would have melted with happiness when they found out the world wasn't flat. I like when people get shaken out of knee-jerk reactions. But it won't change, the world is simpler with quick decisions and black and shite thinking.

  2. I love your remark about finding out the world wasn't flat and wish I'd had thought of it. It's so great to see the beginning of some item of common knowledge beginning the journey to being neither.

    I just read an article in the Economist about scientists at the Haldron Collider possibly having detected sub-atomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light. If true, it would be a game changer similar to a round earth discovery.