I have incontrovertible proof that UFOs exist. I was there. There is photographic evidence. Pictures don’t lie.
There was even a witness. How can you doubt me?
Most of you will realize that this is a mock-up from the museum at Roswell NM. But what if you had never seen a staged photo before? What if you really wanted to believe that aliens had landed in New Mexico? What if you were CERTAIN of it? How would you perceive the image then?
I’m not putting down people who believe in aliens. They are just as likely as a thousand other things human beings want to believe in: ghosts, vampires, world peace, common sense in politicians. And, for most of us, something that “proves” what we want to exist is snatched up without much analysis. Someone once explained to me that people gravitate to things that confirm their prejudices. This is why some watch Fox News and others PBS news. Not enough of us (and I include myself) watch both.
This is not a Good Thing. It is especially not good when we are trying to decide the best course for keeping the world from falling apart. So many disasters have been the result of decisions made based on inaccurate information. And often that information was what the decision makers wanted to hear. “Smoking is good for the digestion.” “There are no bears in the woods this time of year.” “The settlers on the other side of the hill want to kill us, so we’d better kill them first.” “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” “You can take those Indians, General Custer.”
What if someone had told Custer that he was out-numbered and out-gunned? Would he have believed them? He likely wouldn’t have wanted to. Even if he had known, he might have believed himself so superior that he might have charged in anyway. Lately it seems to me that this is exactly what we are doing. We are all so certain about all sorts of things, important things, that we don’t stop to consider that there might be something worth listening to from the other side. One thing I’ve learned as an historian is that there are no clear lines. Everything changes according to perspective. I look at events of the past and think how easy it would have been to avoid doom. In the Crusades, if Louis VII and Emperor Conrad hadn’t decided to attack Damascus in 1148, the city might have stayed allied with Jerusalem against the fundamentalist Nur-ad-Din. Damascus and Jerusalem might still be allies. There were those who advised against the attack at the time, but the rulers only wanted to hear that they could easily conquer the wealthy Muslim city.
Events may not repeat themselves, but human nature seems pretty constant. How can we break this chain of making short-sighted decisions based on bias and ignorance? I almost wrote, it beats me. However, I do think it would help if there were a source that every one (Ok most everyone) could trust for information. And then it would be up to us to watch/read/listen to it with open minds and a bit of healthy doubt, just in case.
That is about as unlikely as proving to a true believer that UFOs don’t exist.
By the way, in case you didn’t notice, the world didn’t end on October 21st. But we’ll have another chance soon. I’ll keep you posted.