Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

We All Believe In Bullshit

Almost everyone sees themselves as an independent thinker who doesn’t accept ideas without sufficient proof. But that’s false. Countless studies suggest that we’re suckers for a good story.

It’s why we believe in so many things that have little to no evidence.

Ghosts, aliens, horoscopes, bigfoot, fate, karma, palm readers and stories about awakening giants within. We just find it terribly difficult to say no to a good story.

Especially if it confirms that the world makes sense to our peanut-sized brains. (Don’t worry, mine is the size of a lentil.)

And that’s the thing. None of us know enough about the world to back up all the stuff we believe.

Your microwave, does it heat food through electromagnetic waves or magic? And what about the sea? Does it rise and fall through the power of the moon or is it caused by primordial sea creatures?

You probably can’t explain how it works even if your idea of it is right.

And that applies to most of our ideas that we see as facts: we can barely explain any of it. 

Luckily, we don’t need to!

Thanks to language and writing, we don’t have to just think for ourselves. We think collectively.

Instead of everyone trying to learn everything, we divide roles and we each become experts of a fraction of the whole. Then we pool our knowledge and presto, we have a shared understanding of it all. Plus, a wicked free online encyclopedia

Here’s where so many of us go wrong.

Because we have access to all the information, we feel as if we understand everything and fortify our beliefs, forgetting that they are (to our amateur minds) beliefs.

Of course, this overconfidence isn’t a problem as long as what we believe matches reality. But since we have so much faith in our ability to find the truth, we easily take on new ideas. Ideas that are sketchy or completely bogus.

“After all,” we reckon, “I can just fact check it later.” Except we often don’t. And if we do, we usually fail to put in the effort to understand what’s right.

That’s how millions of people can believe things that aren’t true.

Which is bad. But that’s not even the worst of it all. The real downer is how we treat others who hold different beliefs from ours.

We often treat them with scorn. “Only an idiot would believe that. You clearly didn’t research how it actually works!”

But odds are, neither did you. 

An evening on the internet isn’t enough to make you an expert in climate change. So even if you’re following the leading theory, doesn’t mean that you can condemn non-believers for being on the wrong side of the fence.

You’re probably both equally ignorant of the core issues. And you probably both got your information from someone else. The difference is that one of you simply bet on the right team.

No one has it all figured out. And thinking that you do is arrogant.

You’re reliant on the expertise of others, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, sometimes you put your trust in the wrong expert. 

That’s okay.

Because as long as we realise just how little we know, we won’t overvalue our bullshit beliefs.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach