This morning I woke up and found myself humming a song which frequently gets stuck in my head, Selling the News by Switchfoot. Is it the best song? No, not even the best Switchfoot Song, but it is catchy nonetheless. I particular I get stuck on the hook bit. The line goes like this:
I wanna believe you, I wanna believe
But everything is in-between
The fact is fiction
Suspicion is the new religion
And while I Know that this songs primarily meant to entertain and not to enlighten or educate, I can’t help but feel that there must be a lot who share this line of thinking and find encouragement from this song.
I consider myself to be a skeptic, that is to say that I trust science first and anecdotes last. It does not mean, however, that I am a cynic. I do not walk around disagreeing with every bit of good or hopeful sounding information. In fact I would say that I am very much an optimist. I believe that we as people will do many great things and that at the rate technology is progressing we are going to paradoxically make magic real, and kill magic at the same time.
I think that with the mastery of nanotechnology trust around the corner we will be able to perform miracles. We will be able to solar energy a reality, we will be able to make clean healthy water available to everyone. we will be able to repair skin instantly and even cure cancer. And for most people this will mean the death of the spiritual, alternative healers everywhere will find themselves without a client base. Because when you can perform the miraculous without magic then what do you need the magician for?
So when I hear those words “the fact is fiction”, something in my head screams. The fact is fact. Now I know that the overall sentiment of the song is basically a criticism of the commercialization of the media, which is something that I happen to agree with, but the truth of the matter is that while the news industry has become… well, an industry instead of a public service. everything that they report has happened, though they tend to use liberal amounts of hyperbole and selective reporting they do, to their knowledge, lie. they couldn’t afford to, no one can shut them down for deciding to report something scary instead of something upbeat, but they could shut you down for making the stuff up all together.
Its the mental of always questioning one body of information or another that leads people down terrible trains of thought. After all just because the owners of hospitals are interested in making money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to a doctor’s medical opinion. The fact is that the world is not run my monsters and it certainly isn’t populated by them.
Whenever I hear about some sort of conspiracy theory, I remind myself that the supposed perpetrators of the conspiracy are human beings, and then I ask my self which is more likely? that a groups of humans has become so powerful and so ruthlessly brilliant that they can perform unspeakable deeds on untold millions with no repercussions, or that a group of human were so incompetent that something really bad happened and now everyone involved wants to pass the buck as far from themselves as possible.
I use the same sort of approach when I hear about some supposedly paranormal event. Given the fact that our senses are so easily fooled that children can do it; impressions of animals. We have even built whole industries around optical illusions, three dimensional movies and video games are specifically design to fool us. About half of the worlds entertainment professions rely of the fact that humans have a flawed and weak system for observing the world around us. So taking all this into consideration, is it any wonder at all that human beings are capable of fooling ourselves into believing we saw something unbelievable. Honestly its a scary thought how easy it is and often it happens. What if something incredible actually happened one day? I would be like the boy who cry UFO.
Anyways, what I am saying is that what really should be trusted, is not figures of authority or your friends anecdotes or even the news. The only source of information that should be taken as truth is Science. Science as a whole system developed specifically to eliminate the weaknesses of human perception, and while it is not always perfect, it is self correcting which more than can be said for most other sources of information.
And that’s my take of being suspicious.