After years of reading about crazy people and their crazy beliefs, I was beginning to wonder if I was wasting my time. Did it really matter if some people believed the earth was being visited by space aliens? Was it a big deal that some people follow astrology so closely? Should I just shrug it off when people tell me that witches with magic powers, or ghosts, or shapeshifters walk among us? People believe crazy things. I imagine that every single person believes at least one thing that is completely unhinged from reality, and the most interesting part is that we are really good at it. It seems we are hardwired by evolution to believe things that make no sense.
I should just get over it.
Or I thought so for a while. That was before crazy went mainstream. Today when you read or hear the news — the actual current-events type news — it’s full of controversies and conflicts of interest that have at their heart a belief by somebody that (a) bears no resemblance to reality and (b) is doing someone tangible harm.
I have a few favorite cases in mind:
The state of Texas is trying to systematically scrub their school textbooks clean of science and historical facts when they create an uncomfortable contrast with the school board’s political beliefs.
People have allowed their children to die from lack of medical treatment because their religious beliefs don’t allow it.
People spend piles of money on homeopathic remedies and chiropractic treatments when there’s no evidence they work (and therefore no reason to believe they do). Some people will try to argue about this and cite evidence, even though there isn’t any.
And politics … oh jeez. Politics is a special case. Being a politician means you are required to form an opinion on an assortment of topics that you may or may not be completely ignorant about. For many politicans that is not so much a requirement as a natural inclination. And it doesn’t help that so much of the news comes from TV, and TV is very crazy-friendly.
So as it turns out, The Crazy does matter. It matters that people are wasting time and energy ghost-chasing, giving money to psychics, looking for Bigfoot, and waiting for the saucers. Because The Crazy propagates. It spreads over the popular culture and it soaks in like a stain. People suffer because of it.
It is not a waste of time to keep an eye on The Crazy.
Here’s a simple guideline to follow. When the facts clash with your beliefs, think about what that says about your beliefs, and consider whether it’s time to drop your beliefs and stick to the facts.