Most people think that they question everything, they really do, but that fact of the matter is that everyone has a pretty substantial blind spot regarding whatever they personally believe. We can see countless examples of this, from the religious fundamentalists constant skepticism of modernity to the conspiracy theorists outright rejection of self-evident truths, to the bloody-minded, dogmatic rhetoric of the radical identity politico. Willing to flagrantly deny the role evolution plays in the development of society while having the audacity to call themselves “enlightened: or “progressive.”
Everyone questions everything, provided they disagree with it. The problem with this attitude is that, quite frankly, just because something makes sense within the prism of your own ideas and experiences doesn’t make it correct. It “makes sense” to the Ostrich to stick it’s head in the sand, but it will do little to halt the advance of the Lion.
As a species, we are very selective about what we choose to question and what we choose to accept. Take the example of the Flat Earther, a subtype of conspiracy theorist that has enacted a truly tremendous labour concocting a vastly complex mythology to serve as “evidence” for their belief that The Earth is a flat disc as opposed to the oblate spheroid that all modern evidence points to it being. The cognitive dissonance on display from believers of these kinds of theories is, quite frankly astounding.
A personal favourite of mine is the argument that “we don’t have the technology” to invent satellites, and so all Satellites launched since the early 1950’s are in fact elaborate fakes. How was such a convincing hoax achieved? Using computer generated imagery (CGI) , a technology which was still in it’s infancy in the late 80’s.
That’s right, we didn’t have the technology to create Satellites, but we had photorealistic CGI during the heyday of Elvis (maybe he was CGI as well?)
I’d like to share a story with you (Don’t worry, there is a point to this). When I was in the early days of my Secondary education, I had constant disagreements with my science teacher. These disagreements stemmed from the fact that said Science teacher point-blank refused to teach us any scientific ideas that were linked to the Theory of Evolution.
Her reasons for this were religious, as a young earth creationist she couldn’t accept the idea of teaching what, from her perspective were “lies” to the malleable young minds she had been charged with developing. While I am sympathetic to the ethical struggle she was wrestling with, from an educational perspective I was being ill-served.
I found a solution in the form of self-education, reading and learning in my own time and, as a result developing an understanding (and deep respect) for both the scientific method and the value of properly conducted research. It also taught me that the Status Quo was not always right.
This was an authority figure, the kind of person I was raised to listen to and obey without question, they were demonstrably wrong, and thanks to the knowledge and attitude they had unknowingly instilled in me I knew it.
I’ve told that story many times, but only recently have I stopped to consider the perspective of the teacher. In their mind, they may have fancied themselves a trend bucking libertine, freeing these poor young souls from the icy grip of the establishment, and their satanic anti-religious, pro-Darwinist agenda. In their mind, they probably saw the refusal to teach scientific theories that they personally disagreed with as some grand act of rebellion.
In many ways this story is a great microcosm of the constant struggle between legitimate, objective skepticism and ideologically biased skepticism. We both questioned what was presented as fact, the only difference was motive.
I questioned (and later rejected) the creationist theory because it didn’t gel with the other scientific ideas we were being taught, and my mind needed a more satisfying answer. My teacher questioned (and later rejected) the Theory of Evolution because it flew in the face of the Dogma she had already accepted.
In my humble opinion, there is a disturbing trend in the education systems of the western world. Children are taught what to think, rather than how to think. This is just one example of a “truth” that I was taught as a child which I later discovered was anything but. I was very fortunate in that I had a supportive family who fostered a healthy amount of scepticism in me from an early age. Other Children were not so lucky.
Here is the Alternative that I suggest:
Question Everything, especially what you already agree with.
That is all.