If you or I were anthropologists, we might be tempted to look at this particular age with a jaundiced eye. Everywhere there are false claims, exaggerations, wild theories, misinformation and other evidence that something is missing. While that’s certainly nothing new, technology is enabling bullshit to be more widespread than ever.
I call this Man’s Fallacious Period. I’ve mentioned it before.
It’s not like we’re stupid or anything. Certainly there are and always have been intelligent people. The American Twentieth Century is an example of the world’s best and brightest people doing what they did best: dreaming of a better world and then bringing those dreams to fruition, thus raising the living standard of not only America but the world to levels never before thought possible, creating wealth for themselves and others in the process.
The most recent example of this was the late Steve Jobs.
But intermingled with all this was fallacy. In a way, Mr. Jobs helped to promote this, which is not to diminish his considerable contributions. He could be likened to the first person who harnessed fire. What you do with it after that is up to you.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the political arena. As candidates jockey for power, they say a great many things, some true, some not.
It’s along about here that I draw the analogy between facts and fire, and present, in no particular order, a few of these fallacies.
1. Capitalism is unfair.
2. Mankind is killing the planet.
3. The Tea Party is racist.
4. President Obama knows what he’s doing.
5. America is the world’s Bad Guy.
6. Lady Gaga is a shy, retiring, fashion maven.
I may have made that last one up.
Anyway, you get my point. We’re presented with a great many ideas, some good, some not so good. The question then becomes, “How do I tell the difference?”
In my experience, you need some sort of inner GPS system in order to navigate the seas of fallacies that crash across your bow and threaten to wash you overboard. It’s essential that you remove your emotional reaction from any decision. To quote that great philosopher/warrior Obi Wan Kenobi, your thoughts can deceive you, being as they are so closely linked to emotion. That’s the first thing.
Once free from the ravages of emotion, you can remain calm and take your time exploring as many sides of an issue as possible, testing them against your own experience and those of others. As I used to tell BackwardsBoy’sBoy, some mistakes are so big, you don’t need to make them yourself, you can watch what happens when someone else screws up to see the results. Sometimes, all you need to do is wait for the correct answer to come to you, as it inevitably will. Patience really is a virtue.
We’re currently having our beliefs tested against reality. What works? What fails? Even more importantly, am I seeing things accurately and truthfully?
I sure hope so.
And I hope the same thing for you.