A short article on strange beliefs and illogical faiths.
| I feel the urge to make a claim. A fact that will no doubt shatter the comforting confines of your mind, forcing you to stare at the bleak outlook of reality. A statement that will most certainly upset you.
There’s no Santa Clause.
What, you’re saying you already knew that? That it was common sense?
That’s strange, because there’s a host of people out there who could readily disagree with me: optimistic logicists, annoyingly smart four-year olds, and of course internet trolls. After all, how would you go around proving that Santa doesn’t exist? A task force of a thousand hard-working (and rather bored) scientists could scour the whole of the Arctic for a decade, find absolutely nothing but ice and penguins, and have accomplished even less than that. All the believer has to say to counter-act this would be, “Oh, you didn’t look in the right places.” or “He just doesn’t want you to see him.” Then a decade’s worth of searching would have gone to waste.
Another scenario to consider concerns a certain, special, teapot. This teapot is currently floating around Jupiter. Now, the existence of this teapot is highly under question, but what can you do? It’s not like there are satellites circling the whole area around Jupiter, searching for the loneliest teapot in history. Hence, nobody can disprove it. It’s entirely possible!
Tying these two claims together is a rather simple, yet highly intriguing concept. Both of these ideas are completely possible. Yet, almost nobody believes in them. Why would they? The odds for it are relatively impossible, and the logic behind it is basically nonexistent. It would be something to laugh at, not to take seriously, and certainly not to put faith into.
But while we laugh at ridiculous claims, at the same time we put our belief and trust into other claims that are just as improbable and illogical as Santa, or teapots orbiting Jupiter. And then, even more interestingly, we defend those ideas rigorously against all opposition. Psychics, palm-readers, UFOs, miraculous signs, holocaust deniers, creationism, there are people who will believe in such things, with both their heart and mind.
(Religion in general would be included in this category, but to make what could be taken as degrading remarks against beliefs held by over four billion people in the world is tantamount to asking for a firestorm on your IP address. Because you know, people take offense at this kind of stuff.)
Why people would so easily believe in such things is a true mystery to me. They will skip past holes in their logic, jump over hurdles in their ideology, all to keep alive whatever strange belief they have put their faith in. I’ve seen it written down before that “we are all scientists”. If that’s the case, we might not be very good ones.
The best explanation I can place on this is our innate desire to explain the world around us, especially the things that we can’t actually explain. In doing so, we feel content, unwilling to continue to question what we already know. Then, when challenges to that belief form, we are reluctant to consider the fact that we were wrong in our faith the whole time. So we don’t consider it.
Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, makes an excellent talk on this subject on TED. He even wrote a book on the subject, titled Why People Believe Weird Things. In the end though, skeptics can make arguments against such beliefs for all of eternity, and it won’t make a smudge of difference. It’s up to the believers themselves to challenge what they put their faith in.