Note: I have a heretical post full of crime-think behind the green door. This is a post about the sitcom The Big bang Theory.
One of the odd experiences you have on this side of the great divide is you notice just how many ridiculous things people accept as true. It’s not just gullible and stupid people who walk around with heads full of nonsense. Lots of smart and thoughtful people cling to ideas that are superstitious and primitive. Often people who make the journey to this side of the great divide struggle with the fact that for most of their life they have believed things that are ridiculous or devoid of any truth content.
A good example of something most people think is true, but is complete nonsense is the claim that your diet determines your health. More specifically, the claim that the Standard American Diet, as recommended by the rulers, is the key to long life and healthy lifestyle. That means lots of carbohydrates, rather than proteins and fats, especially from meat. Not only is there no truth to these claims, the Standard American Diet is probably the exact opposite of the truth.
The fact is, outside of the extremes, like starvation or morbid obesity, diet has little to no impact on your health. All of the “evidence” trotted out in favor the SAD is based on nonsense studies that are easily refuted. Humans are omnivores, which means we can survive on a wide range of foods. The main problem for modern humans is too much food, so many become obese. Otherwise, the combination of foods you eat has no measurable impact on your health or your lifespan.
The thing is, you can carefully explain this to someone and they will nod along maybe, seeming to get what you’re saying, but as soon as they get the chance, they will repeat the approved lines about diet. A man who has seen every man in his family get colon cancer, despite their diet and lifestyle, will cling to the idea that he can prevent colon cancer by eating oatmeal for breakfast. It’s no different than thinking he can appease the gods by sacrificing a goat on the prescribed day.
Another great example is mass media. One of the funny things about this age is the more partisan you are, the more trusting you are of the media, despite the fact partisans on all sides are sure the media is covering up the truth. Trump haters have fallen for every race hoax perpetrated by the media over the last five years. The old alt-right, the guys sure the media is controlled by little men in volcanoes, accepted without question the media claims about the Covid pandemic.
The Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is one of those remarkable observations that gets to the heart of why mass propaganda works. It’s not that good propaganda tricks people into believing lies. It’s that in every population, there is a percentage that will believe the lies being spread. It is not always the same percentage, which is what makes this so useful to the propagandist. That percentage does the hard work of repeating the lie in private conversations to friends and family.
Joseph de Maistre said, “False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.” That right there is why so many people, even very smart people, believe some amount of nonsense. They get the nonsense from people they know and trust, so they are inclined to believe it. At the minimum, they play along with the nonsense, for the sake of social peace,
This is the great insight of the propagandist. The purveyors of the big lie don’t start with the big lie, but the small ones. Maybe the small lies undermine some authority figure in society or maybe they nibble away at some accepted truth. Other small lies offer alternatives to the official truth or suggest motivations for why the authority is not being honest with the people. Over time, the little lies accumulate to the point where some people are unwilling to believe their own eyes.
Again, the diet stuff is a great example of this. Everyone who goes to a new doctor has to answer tons of questions about health history and the health history of family members, maybe going back a generation or two. They do this because disease runs in the family and disease runs in families because it is genetic. Yet, the same doctor will tell you to eat more grains and vegetables and lose a few pounds. A lifetime of little lies about diet have conditioned him to doubt his own training.
The most likely reason for this strange willingness to accept pretty lies is that humans are natural story listeners. For a very long time, most of human history, in fact, humans passed around knowledge with stories and songs. Most likely, we are wired to be more receptive to a good tale, than the hard truth. A story about how eating the right food pleases the gods and brings good health is something our ancestors heard around the campfire when they first climbed out of the branches.
Our deductive mind is that which allows us to know important truths about the world, while our inductive mind allows us to think about how the world should be. That conflict between is and ought is resolved by the abductive mind, which resolves these conflicts with amusing tales and easily remembered sayings that let us ignore these conflicts and focus on the act of living. Trog angered the gods is more easily accepted than Trog was eaten by a bear, because that’s what bears do.
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