When are enough facts enough evidence? Why is it that carbon dating, fossils, sedimentary layers, genetic research, DNA sequencing, and the rest, subsequently ignored by such a large number of people when asked about the age of the Earth?
Why is it that you usually believe the first piece of gossip you hear and why does it usually take 10 times the amount of energy to refute that first statement?
Our curious beliefs are a wonderful thing. They create hunches, questions and ideas that help push society along. A belief that we can harness the power of the atom or that we can build a flying machine, have forever changed the way we live. But those beliefs were the bedrock of hypotheses and determination that were then tested, tested, and tested again.
Our naked beliefs are a dangerous thing. We protect them and they remain forever our own because they embody the space between our ears. Naked beliefs are personal opinions based on religious, political, racial, cultural or word-of-mouth foundations. No one or nothing can touch them if we don’t let them. Naked beliefs (without the backing of scientific rigor or some other form of evidential proof) are your “I”. Some people call this, “being yourself” or “your identity” because they are what you believe. In reality, they come about because of the people we associate most with: our friends and family. Our naked beliefs are autonomy’s dark shadow.
For instance, debating whether or not the age of the earth is thousands of years old vs. billions of years old is like debating the existence of the tooth fairy vs. the existence of teeth, and yet, it still seems like a discussion that has not been put to bed. When can we (a learned society) move on, logically, God or no God? When can we move from what “we believe” to what “we understand”?
A belief in anything with no search for proof, is planned ignorance. We’re better than that.
Naked beliefs have an effect on our individual lives as well. We are all blind to facts and information that make us uncomfortable. We’re all susceptible to believing or convincing ourselves of something to make us feel better, feel right, go against authority, or be part of a group.
I don’t have enough time.
I didn’t mess up.
My boss is an idiot.
My life is going how I want it.
I’ll start working out tomorrow.
I didn’t accomplish x, because y happened.
I was just doing my job.
I heard that so-and-so did this and that!
My parents told me that.
______ people are always so _______.
These thoughts let us sleep well at night. We must always be conscious of our beliefs and where their footing lies to ensure we are not the marionettes of our mind’s wicked hand. Margaret Heffernan wrote a brilliant book called, Willful Blindness, that touches on why it is so easy and natural to be blind to the facts that we’d rather not agree with.
Prevent naked beliefs from trumping objective facts. Be accountable for what you believe in. Ask questions. Search for answers. Don’t be embarrassed if something you thought was true turns out not to be. In fact, be happy because you just learned something new!