If you want to see how delusion works, look at this clip, and read the comments that follow. The clip, in which Buzz Aldrin talks to a schoolgirl, was posted on a thread by a “Moon Landing Denier” who suggests it “proves” that we didn’t go to the moon.
He, and the commenters on the Youtube thread, mostly ignore the little girl’s actual question: basically “why haven’t we gone to the moon in such a long time” which means “why didn’t we go back” and interpret Aldrin’s answer “we just didn’t” as meaning “we never went” rather than “we just never went back.” This answer is followed by reasons (money. There were too many other things the public wanted that money spent on) and his reasons for feeling that it was an inspiration for people all over the world, said very patiently and simply for a child.
Catch that: ignoring all the times he clearly said “went back”, and focusing on a misinterpretation of the first question, to support a conspiracy theory that would have to involve countless thousands of Americans, the U.S. Government as a whole, and any other country with telemetry or telescopes. This is a kind of madness, and we can see it in some other things: Flat Earth is an extreme example, but Birthers and some other kinds of deniers are doing the same thing: excluding any evidence that runs counter to their beliefs, focusing on any apparent speck. I could prove the sun doesn’t exist, or that any other historical fact never happened, using the same tactics.
The question is: why? Because we make decisions emotionally first (“it just can’t be true”) and until the underlying belief shifts, NO AMOUNT OF INFORMATION WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
All of us have some of this, I have no doubt. But under pressure, say if our world view is threatened, we slide down a stress tunnel. Under stress, materials and minds become rigid. May I suggest that we treat this as a fear response? Ask: “what are they afraid of?” Maybe.
I remember a 9/11 Truther who believed the Twin Towers had been brought down with alien technology. She was a smart lady who was semi-homeless, emotionally scrambled, who had been married to a smart guy who swore he had a method of extracting free energy from the environment, but that the world was conspiring against them. So terribly sad. I’d watched her self-destructive behavior for decades, one false step at a time. She had slowly come apart, and the ultimate revelation of how she explains an impossibly complex demolition task with zero witnesses (alien tech) broke my heart.
What do you do when someone says something you have calm certainty is…evidence of a damaged logic system? I mean, is it POSSIBLE that alien tech exists, and was used in 9/11? More possible than time running backwards or entropy reversing, sure. But it is folly to chase such uber-long odds theories when much simpler explanations are available. Sigh.
What do you do? Just yesterday, a thread was hopping with Birther conspiracy theories. From people who still believe it to be true (“he was adopted in Indonesia!”) to believe Obama caused the controversy himself, to those who claim “Hillary started it” to those who want to believe no one ever really believed it…and have to deal with people on the exact same thread who still claim he is a foreign national.
IMO, from insanity to conspiracy to deeply slanted interpretations of events. Not all nut-ball, but all thinking arguing backwards from toxic or at the least HIGHLY politicized world views.
What do you do? I’m not going to lie. I have a bias toward being as polite as possible. I also do not argue with fools, trolls, or sleeping children. If someone begins to speak from premises I have already decided are Flat Earth level nuttiness, yes, I risk being “closed minded” if I reject it out of hand. And this is where it is critical to have ways to evaluate your thought processes that have NOTHING to do with a specific situation.
Are you healthy/fit physically?
Are you happily bonded to another adult human being in a healthy romantic/sexual relationship?
Are you gainfully employed doing something legal that would support yourself and two others, doing something you find joyful and satisfying?
I submit that the closer you are to all three, the more certain you can be that your basic perceptions of the world are accurate. Your “map” is accurate, and your journey has been true.
You can trust your perceptions. And when you’re wrong? You’ll get feedback RAPIDLY, and your data collection apparatus will know it, and your sense of dynamic life balance will make corrections.
That’s the theory. And yes, there will be people who still disagree, who also have these characteristics. But you know what? When I see equal health and balance on both sides of an issue…I suspect that issue isn’t as black-and-white as I thought, and look more closely.
What do I do?
- Love myself. Enough to labor for my own dynamic balance
- Love another. Which forces me to learn compromise and perspective: one of Niven’s Laws: there are people who think just as well as you…but different.
- Understand history. That the majority can be wrong. And crazy ideas can turn out to be right. And that EVERYONE makes such errors. The trick is to detect and admit them as swiftly as possible. We cannot be 100% certain about anything, but we still have to make choices.
- Don’t argue with Sleepers, snakes, and monsters. Once you have decided that something (“Flat Earth” is the gold standard) is nuts, STAND YOUR GROUND. If arguing, present your reasons for believing as you do. But then, if they continue…bow out politely. They are asleep, or damaged. Or…they are correct, and you missed a trick.
- Win, with integrity. Gather and nurture the tribe of people who see the same world, avoid the attitudes and pathways held by toxic, imbalanced, frightened people. But…if the people on the other side are about as healthy and balanced as those on yours? LOOK MORE CAREFULLY. Be courteous. You’ve been wrong before, and might be again, and can ONLY be sure if you are willing to look at evidence when presented by sane, reasonable people.
Of course, once you’ve seen the evidence, you have no obligation to look at it again, or even to whole families of similar evidence, if it is all of a piece. And ultimately, you will have to discount people who reason or argue in certain ways, as your alarms will go off.
But…there is never a reason to be cruel. They may be asleep, or ignorant. Or so damaged they cannot synthesize a holistic accurate world view. Or so politicized that they are deep in “herd-think” and can’t free themselves.
Be kind, because YOU have been there. I have been there. And it is the people who were kind but firm who helped me wake up.
Can you walk that balance? It’s worth it. We are all asleep in some ways. All “awake” to things our neighbors do not see. And must find ways to communicate and test ideas, if we are to continue sharing and growing as a species.