“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
― John Adams
“We are not entitled to our own facts.”
– Sen. Patrick Moynihan
Why is it that human beings tend to believe only what they want to believe in the face of reality?
In 1979 Stanford University did a number of studies that showed that people do not change their personal beliefs when confronted with proof that they are wrong and, in fact, then double-down on their false belief, all the more sure their belief is true.
It’s called “Confirmation Bias”. Nobody likes to be told what they believe is wrong, so they search for, interpret, and accept only whatever confirms their preexisting beliefs, and reject all evidence to the contrary. It’s also called “selective thinking”.
Conservatives believe anything from Fox News, and liberals from Huffington Post, because these outlets slant everything in ways that confirm what their listeners/readers are already inclined to believe, and will now that they’ve been told. And not just about politics, but economics, religion, and social issues as well.
The problem here is that when everyone becomes so ideologically invested in what they “know” is the truth, then everybody else is “wrong” and there is no room for compromise, everybody else is seen as an “enemy” to be shunned if not defeated.
Just look at our own Congress, it’s a microcosm of our society at large, an epitome of dislike, distrust and alienation, iconoclastic divisions that threaten to destroy the united “we, the people”.
Instead of being sheep, believing only what we’ve been told is true, we all need to first do some fact-finding.
There’s always some truth in the other side of any belief.
And most of the truth is somewhere in the middle between the two extremes.
The real problem is most people are either too lazy to look for it, too stupid to recognize it, or too ego-driven to admit it.
And that’s a fact.
I may not be entitled to believe that, as Moynihan says, but the evidence Adams says is necessary only confirms my bias that it’s so.