Just because a lot of people believe…

We all know the saying, “Just because everyone believes it doesn’t make it true.” Most people understand this is truth intellectually.  At the same time how many people believe things just because it is popular, or due to authority figures or intellectuals adhere to the same beliefs?

A common phrase I hear “studies say” is used to shut down conversations with supposed intellectual superiority.  Someone may know of a study’s findings and suddenly they are armed with absolute knowledge.  However, studies always have flaws.  Sure, they are they are the best we got to gather information.  Studies are useful tools, but they are based on averages and probabilities, not absolute truth.  There are almost always exceptions.  I have seen and heard countless discussions about what studies say such as “Liberals are more…” or “Conservatives are more…” which might be true based on what the sociologists discovered, but that hardly is supposed to be a justification for blanket statements.

It isn’t just studies that are abused to justify beliefs, so is science in general.  Disclaimer, I am not anti-science.  I really like it and appreciate it.  I simply do not believe using the phrase “most scientists believe…” as evidence in and of itself.  That is an appeal to authority fallacy.  Show me the proof as to why scientists came to the conclusion they did, do not tell me what they believe.  I want to know why.

These are two reasons I’ve seen large amounts of people believe something, and many times the data is warped to the point it becomes untrue.  Ideology often gets in the way of facts.  We certainly see that in the modern political sphere.  Liberals are apt to criticize Conservatives and Conservatives do the same but neither side regularly critiques their own.

It is an easy trap to fall into.  It is our duty to sift through truth, even if we must dig deeper.  Truth is often masked in ideology and buzz words these days.  The result is large crowds of people believing something just because others who think like them believe the same.  We see things through the lens of ideology and emotion more often than we use facts.  There is a cultural pressure to believe certain things right now, and those who disagree are branded with harsh labels at minimum.  Once again, just because a large amount of people believe something, or pressure others to think the same way, doesn’t make it true.  That pressure is transitioning to us creative writers.  Our job as authors is not to pander, as I’ve said before.  We must tell stories that people can learn and relate to, not become popular through forcing certain tropes.

Open-Minded

We hear about open-mindedness a lot in our culture.  It is often viewed as a good thing, a virtue even.  Those who adhere to traditional values on the other hand are viewed as the antonym of open-minded, and the enemy of diversity.  While that certainly can be true, open-mindedness, like everything else must be tempered.

Being open to ideas, experiences, and other people’s beliefs is a generally a good thing.  In a society that is so divided, a little more of that would do wonders to bring about healing.  Not all ideas are equal.  Some view all religions, political beliefs, and philosophies to be the same.  If only people would understand that, then there would be peace, right?  Not exactly.  Many belief systems are destructive, and because we are human, even the good and true ones often get warped.

A balance should be struck between the hardened skeptic and the hippy that believes anything goes.  Listening to people is always important, but that doesn’t mean their ideas are valid, in fact they might be very toxic to society.  How much toxicity have we allowed into our culture for the sake of being “open-minded?”  That is a question the reader will have to answer for him or herself.  I certainly do not have the answer, but with all the dystopian media I have consumed along with the insane ideas now peddled as truth, I cannot help but wonder if fiction is closer to reality than I had thought.