Monday, September 19, 2016


None of us lives in reality. We all inhabit mythologies of our own devising. We build up these mythologies slowly, inexorably over the course of our lives. We start by piecing together the bits of information from our own experience, and what we see and hear from others.

After a while, though, these mythologies become self-sustaining. We begin to understand new information in terms of the beliefs we already hold, and even reject any information that contradicts them. You can see this in people’s most fervently held, unshakeable beliefs.

For example, many conservatives believe Democrats are out to take their guns away. This persists despite the fact that no one has ever taken any legally owned guns away, or even suggested doing this. Gun control advocates only propose making it harder for dangerous people to buy guns, but the “take away our guns” myth lives on.

Likewise, many liberals believe that government regulations and agencies can completely solve many problems. They advocate environmental regulations and treaties, while at the same time driving SUVs, consuming food and beverages from plastic packages, and dumping last year’s electronics in landfills.

On the other hand, conservatives believe government can’t solve anything, and that we’re much better served by private industry and the free market. This ignores the revelations that the sugar industry conspired to spread false information about the health risks of sugar, or that Volkwagen actually engineered a way to cheat on emissions tests. And then there are the banks!

A lot of educated people think that science is infallible. Maybe in theory, but like anything else done by people, it’s subject to mistakes and dishonesty. And of course, new information is constantly blowing away old theories. The “everything goes around the earth” idea worked pretty well for thousands of years. It was only after we started making more observations of the stars and planets, making the calculations much more complicated, that Copernicus said “Hey, you know what?
Everything is much simpler if we think of everything going around the sun.”

On the other hand, while not infallible, science is pretty damn good! In terms of predicting what’s going to happen, or designing things that work, nothing beats it. And in fact, science is about the only way to punch holes in these mythologies we inhabit and to get a glimpse of real reality. So just ignoring science, as with evolution or climate change, is about is ignorant and closed-minded as you can get.

I’m sorry. I tried many ways to make this funny, but it’s just not happening.

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