There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “For every complex problem there exists a simple and elegant solution that is wrong.”
Of course there are many simple solutions that are correct but the keyword here is “simple”.
I believe that we are wired to believe and accept simple, rather than complex explanations.
For example, just the other night (9/27) there was a segment on the PBS Newshour wherein a middle-aged woman who had previously believed in, but changed her mind, about conspiracy-type theories such as the existence of secret government groups whose goal is to control your thoughts.
When the interviewer asked what had caused her to change her mind about believing these theories, her candid response was very interesting. She admitted that her life was in shambles — a single mother with little education in a dead-end job. In short, life was giving her a raw deal. So when someone comes along (eg on the Internet) that gives her a reason for her pain and poverty, like most of us, we are strongly inclined to accept it.
If she is told that her situation is not her fault but due to sinister outside forces, she is freed up from any self-blame when presented with a simple but ungrounded theory, like most folks, they latch on to it without further ado and they generally stick with it.
The interviewer continues with the question, “So, what made you change your mind that the 2020 election was stolen or that the claim during the 2016 presidential election that “the Clintons, the Obamas & the Biden family were all involved in running a child sex -trafficking ring in the basement of a Washington, DC, pizzeria?”
This outrageous claim would be funny if it weren’t for the fact that, “Although it was a hoax, many apparently believed in pizzagate — including Edgar Maddison Welch, who got four years in prison after going to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria on Dec 4, 2016, armed with a loaded AR-15 assault rifle and a revolver, firing the assault rifle into a door and scattering customers.
“Welch was motivated, at least in part, by unfounded rumors concerning a child sex-trafficking ring that allegedly was being perpetrated at the,” the Department of Justice said in a June 2017 press release announcing his sentence.”
The response of the woman being interviewed was enlightening — it was easy for her to accept all this propaganda because of her miserable living conditions — that outside forces were responsible, not her. But the event that sealed the deal for her turn-around de ella was that many of her sources for these theories also claimed that the earth was actually flat and presented her with obviously bogus “evidence” dredged from the Internet.
Undoubtedly, this broke her trust in these sources and all their prior far-fetched theories. The happy ending to this situation was that she realized that many of her problems were due to other factors similar to those that hold down the poor and that she had to shoulder some of the responsibility for solving them. Blaming others for our problems is the simple (and usually wrong) solution. With that in mind, any solution to a problem should be examined very carefully before making any decisions.
In the interest in providing a balanced analysis, I discovered on the Internet that: “Earth is 70% water and 10% is carbonated water — so the Earth is actually flat!”
Although this was presented as a joke, except for 70% and 10%, it seems to be mostly true.
However, to no avail, I have attempted to ascertain the 10% figure but there must be a bunch of carbonates in the existing water because,
“For eons, the world’s oceans have been sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and releasing it again in a steady inhale and exhale. The ocean takes up carbon dioxide through photosynthesis by plant-like organisms (phytoplankton), as well as by simple chemistry: carbon dioxide dissolves in water. It reacts with seawater, creating carbonic acid. Carbonic acid releases hydrogen ions, which combine with carbonate in seawater to form bicarbonate, a form of carbon that doesn’t escape the ocean easily.”
“Ok”, you may be thinking, “all of that is very interesting but what does it have to do with the interaction between Technology and Society?”
The short answer to this question is that beginning in the early sixties, the Internet has been one of the strongest drivers of societal change, especially with regard to people’s views and there is much misinformation and disinformation mixed in with the information it provides worldwide.
It becomes almost too easy to spread lies and half-lies about everything and anything as evidenced by the interview mentioned above. This presents a very tough problem to consider, but what it boils down to is simply whom you trust — — your’re always more likely to accept information from a trusted source, whether the source is a friend or a newspaper or TV/Network commentator that you respect and trust — you must have a certain amount of faith to swallow any viewpoint.
I am fond of pointing out to my very liberal friends that I whole-heartedly agree with them on topics like Climate Change, and the Causes and Effects of Global Warming on the Environment because I have “Faith in Science”. and that faith stems from my belief in the truth and value of viewing and understanding our world (and universe) using the Scientific Method. Not to put too fine a point on it but this definition from the Oxford English Dictionary sums it up quite well I think:
“sci en tif ic method
“a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses; Criticism is the backbone of the scientific method.”
Any viewpoint is subject to criticism which is best dealt with using science and not just faith.
Many folks have faith in their religion as well as their political philosophy. I have no problem hearing out the views of religious or political zealots — even flat-earthers — but to my mind, the scientific method has borne more fruit for mankind’s growth and benefit and until another viewpoint comes along that subsumes or replaces this method using a reasoned accounting, I’m sticking with it!