It’s 4:28 a.m. and I’m awake. Have been since 2:40 for no good reason that I can tell, and I’m thinking about the truth.
Drove home after dinner tonight with spouse, daughters #2 & #3, & future son-in-law, looking at all the downed trees in Bloomington. Gawking, actually, awestruck at Mama Nature. One thing (climate change) led to another (the new South Park musical about Mormons) that led to another — and we all had a good laugh about the failed end of the world on May 22. We poked fun at the true believers, but it got me to seriously thinking: what must they have felt last Sunday morning when the world was just as they left it the day before? When they weren’t on their way to heaven? When they had used up their retirement savings or kid’s college education money to get ready for the Rapture?
Did they change their minds when faced with the truth? And what makes people believe stuff, anyway?
For your general reading pleasure, I offer several mildly related bits of evidence. That’s the best I can do. I actually feel a yawn coming on.
1. Stephen Colbert’s take on “truthiness,” i.e., the human capacity to confuse thinking with feeling, brain with gut, fact with “knowing”. What I love about this 2 minute & 40 second video is that the word he coined 6 years ago is now in the on-line edition of Merriam Webster.
2. Just in case you think Colbert is being flip, check out this article in Mother Jones on the science of self-delusion. Seems that all of us (no surprise) are hesitant about changing our minds. Fight or flight response? Not only does it apply to predators, but to facts that we deem dangerous to our internal ordering of the world. Seems those who base their politics on fear & innuendo will do far better precisely because rational explanation is too threatening. People really don’t like to be forced to deal with what’s real.
3. Courtesy of my friends at Jewdayo, this tidbit: On this date in 1665 (in Gaza, no less), Shabbatai Zvi revealed himself as the messiah. After suffering the slaughter of tens of thousands of Jews in Poland in 1648, his claim brought a measure of comfort to Jew & their leaders in Cairo, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Venice, Livorno and other cities.Unfortunately, the following year, Zvi was given a choice by the Turkish sultan — convert to Islam or die. He chose the former, along with 300 of his followers’ families. This group, btw, became the ancestors of the “donmeh” of modern Turkey, an economically and politically influential subculture & the subject of many conspiracy theories.
4. As Roger Cohen says in today’s column in the NYT (you read it here first!) on said conspiracy theories, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the fact that large numbers of French – including some of the country’s best known intellectuals – believe charges that DSK (a known philanderer and sexual harasser) assaulted a maid are absurd and a result of anti-French bias: Bin Laden is dead. The Jews went to work (on 9/11). Suite 2806 is just a number. Facts count.
I’m going to sleep.