I always had a problem swallowing the positive-thinking, if-you-believe-it-you-can-achieve-it philosophy—and not just because it bears more resemblance to a sale pitch than a genuine philosophy. Mark Evanier at news from me puts his finger on the real reason:
But then I’ve never believed there’s a lot of value in blind optimism. The few times I watched Fear Factor, I was repulsed way before they got to the part where the contestants eat fried mule anus. At the beginning, six contestants are all saying over and over, “I will win, I will win, failure in not an option.” Well, it’s not only an option…it’s the future for five of them. Five of them are going to lose. I’m all for positive thinking but I’ve never felt there was any value to believing your victory is predestined. I’ve always found that if you’re aware of the possibility of failure and realistic about its probability, you can do more to avoid it.
Yeah, it’s all about how firm you like your grip on reality. Most people don’t seem to care for reality much, and I can’t say I blame them; I’m not all that crazy about it myself. But you ignore reality at your peril, since by definition—well, one definition anyway—it doesn’t go away because you stop believing it.
I’ll bet a lot of people first lose their taste for the sciences when they realize that science keeps you from believing stuff that you might well prefer to believe. Same goes for math, and probabilities in particular.