The essence of science is that “truth” is never fixed. Years ago, most people believed
- the Earth was flat,
- fevers were caused by “humor” imbalances,
- cigarettes were healthy (even doctors said so in TV and magazine ads!) and
- many other things we now know to be false.
It was the diligent work of skeptics–sometimes at great peril to themselves–that changed these perceptions.
Especially in our current time, when “fake news” is rampant, it pays to be a skeptic. We can’t believe much of what we see or hear; it may be from an unreputable source or have been manipulated.
Once upon a time, illness was thought to be caused by witches. Now we prevent it, treat it or cure it with knowledge, not the burning of innocent people. Questions were asked; new answers were found, and different actions were taken.
“Tell a Lie Enough Times and People will Believe It”
This is the MO of a number of business leaders and politicians for example, who convince their followers of many damaging untruths. People in power have been known to lie, and pay others to promote those lies, to increase their wealth and influence.
Asking questions and insisting on evidence is the strongest weapon against such falsehoods.
Everything changes, all the time. Asking questions, even questions most of us assume have been answered once and for all, helps us react, adapt, change the direction of change—and survive.
Our Future Depends on those Asking Questions
When most of us were children, we had maybe heard of air or water pollution, but we didn’t realize human activities were actually irreparably altering the functioning of our planet. Thanks to the work of thousands of scientists, we now understand this crisis and many people are taking steps to slow or even reverse the damage.
Companies and governments are joining in. Some island nations, knowing they will be underwater within another decade or two, are moving their populations or putting island functioning online.
If you aren’t open, you can get stuck insisting you are right, against all evidence to the contrary, and feel quite foolish when the truth becomes clear to you (and it may come too late in the case of climate change).
Leaders Question, Followers Blindly Believe
Good leaders don’t take things at face value; they learn the context and ‘the rest of the story’ to make up their own minds. That’s good, because almost everything is more complex than the news soundbite makes it seem.
We will never solve big societal problems until we are willing to look at the whole picture. For instance, is poverty caused by
- poor parenting,
- low expectations,
- policies that intentionally keep certain groups in substandard housing and schools
or all of the above…and more?
After decades of fighting a “War on Poverty,” the answers—and even the questions—are obviously extremely complicated.
Social conditioning teaches us as children that it is rude to ask questions, especially of authority figures. But history proves inquisitive leaders are the ones who drive progress.
Be Open to the Possibility that Lifelong Assumptions are Untrue
Challenge ideas, critique sources, find out for yourself. Decide what is right for you and your life—a trusted mentor or coach can help–even if those around you have other ideas.
Be open to the possibility that facts or opinions presented to you may be partially or fully incorrect. When new information contradicts something you think you know, question both the new information and your previous working hypothesis.
You’ll be part of the change you wish to see. (By the way, Ghandi may not have originated this quote. Just another example of how we believe things often-repeated!
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