SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 27, 2012

Watson: How we decide what to believe

(Continued)

At almost any age, but increasingly as we get older, before you or I witness a new event, or receive a new piece of information, we already have ideas and preconceptions about how the world works and how it should work. We know how we have lived, we have observed how others have lived, and we’ve drawn conclusions about what is effective, fair, sane, dangerous, and healthy. In short, whether we are aware of it or not, we’ve got a big set of strong opinions and coping strategies with which we navigate the world.

To some extent, we are prisoners of our own experiences. We are all apt to generalize, assume, and project, based on our experiences. And we’re apt to push new information into narratives that we already hold. Or worse, ignore it.

This is all relative, of course. If we can accept that we’re always seeing only pieces of the full reality, and if we make a conscious effort to not be stunted and defined by the natural limitations of our own experiences, then we can find ways to grow, learn more, better comprehend the lives and viewpoints of others, and develop larger capacities to consider ideas and possibilities far outside of our experiences.

This brings us back to my first questions — what to believe, and how to sort through contradictory claims and competing analyses.

There is no short answer. Examining beliefs and events is a life-long process. The world is not static, and it will never stop challenging what we think we know. But like the best scientists, we can be aware of our biases, set them aside periodically, then pose hypotheses, gather and observe data and evidence, and then test and compare and process new information against the backdrop of our opinions and belief systems.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man Seth Meyers Rolls Out Emmy Red Carpet Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium