The old adage advises us that the first step toward solving a problem is acknowledging that it exists. I think the danger in our current circumstances isn’t that we know too many things that are not true, but that we don’t know that they aren’t true. People believe what the hear on the internet. Maybe it sounds plausible. It might reinforce their established beliefs and opinions. They honestly hope that it’s true. No one bothers to question things when they’re invested in them being true. No critical thinking or fact checking happens.
“A problem thoroughly understood is always fairly simple. Found your opinions on facts, not prejudices. We know too many things that are not true.”
Charles Kettering, quoted by W. Clements Zinck in Dynamic Work Simplification (1971)
There is also a ego component to this. Admitting that you’re wrong, or simply stating that you don’t know, is seen as weakness. People honestly believe that it’s better to stick to your guns, even when you’re completely off the mark, than to change your position as new information becomes available.
We Know Too Many Things That Aren’t True
Having an opinion that evolves somehow undermines your credibility, in the eyes of some people. This year alone I’ve seen people trash-talking scientists with “first they said this, now they say that, they don’t know what they’re talking about”. Ugh. Yes, based on available data they drew one conclusion. As they acquired more data, with wider breadth and greater depth, they altered their conclusions to incorporate the additional information. That’s literally how science works.
What’s infuriating is that the critics didn’t believe the scientists the first time, either. They’re just trying to rationalize their decision to dismiss expertise and objective reality. They know what they believe. It’s not true, but they know it.
We know what the problem is. It’s ignorance. We won’t admit it, and we won’t do anything about it. So we’re just going to continue the downward spiral, holding our heads high with pride because we’ve kept our integrity intact.