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.

Do not get offended, get thoughtful.

I am a millennial.  We are known for two things, 90s nostalgia and getting offended, especially the later.  While Millennials on college campuses are the poster men and women for offense.  It seems to me that being predisposed to offense goes beyond my generation.  I think that social media is the root of a lot of offense.  How about instead of getting offended we get thoughtful.

We are steeped in technology and information.  How companies get their information to you through all the other sources is to pander to what you want to hear and believe.  As a result, we lose our ability to empathize with someone else.  That, requires effort.  We must seek out what the “other side” believes.  It’s okay to disagree, but what happened with civil discourse and free exchange of ideas without someone feeling it is a personal attack?

In the era of knee-jerk reactions and visceral reactions on the internet, I challenge whoever is reading this and myself to respond thoughtfully.  It goes against every instinct within us.  When we are hurt we want to get even, make them suffer and feel pain.  There is enough of that on the internet.  Why don’t we instead learn why we believe what we believe and support it with facts and research?  When replying to posts we disagree with, why don’t we keep calm and explain our position rationally.  This is something we should all think about.