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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCV–We All Believe What We Want To Believe

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh XCV

January 31, 2023 (original posting date)

Monte Alban, Mexico. (1988) Photo by author.

We All Believe What We Want To Believe

The following Contemplation is my comment in response to a thought-provoking post I read by Dave Pollard at his site How to Save the World.

Great read, thanks for sharing. A couple of quick thoughts.

If you’ve not stumbled across Erik Michaels work at Problems, Predicaments, and Technology you might find it confirming with regard to the notion that we have no free will. One of his major theses is that humans have no agency, and thus his motto to Live Now in the face of the consequences of human ecological overshoot.

Second, I’ve come to hold very similar thoughts as you on the idea that “we believe what we want to believe” and I think, perhaps, this is one of our primary reasons we grasp for hopeful narratives; along with the desire to believe we have agency/free will.

There are so many psychological mechanisms driving our behaviour and beliefs that it’s difficult to parse which is the most impactful — but perhaps it is our denial of reality in the face of our mortality as Ajit Varki argues. Not wanting to face the fact of death, we craft (using a lot of magical thinking) some rather complex narratives to deal with this reality. Throw in how we mitigate/reduce the stress of cognitive dissonance, and our tendencies toward deferring to authority and groupthink, and we have a recipe for clinging to stories — especially if weaved by smooth-talking snake oil salesmen — that provide ‘hope’.

Reality, facts, evidence…none of it matters. In fact, it appears we create our own reality based on ‘facts/evidence’ that tends to confirm our beliefs. As the lyrics of a song I recently heard suggest: “This is where I want to be, so this is where I go.”

Some want to believe there is an after-life. Others that human ingenuity and complex technologies will solve our existential predicaments. The laundry list of hopeful narratives is long and humans tend to want to confirm their beliefs rather than have them challenged. Denial and bargaining in the face of significant contrary evidence seems to be hard-wired in these walking, talking apes that have been able to leverage their cognitive abilities and tool-making skills to extend their ‘control’ over Nature and create the reality they wish; at least in their minds, and that seems to be all that matters for most.

If you’ve made it to the end of this contemplation and have got something out of my writing, please consider ordering the trilogy of my ‘fictional’ novel series, Olduvai (PDF files; only $9.99 Canadian), via my website — the ‘profits’ of which help me to keep my internet presence alive and first book available in print (and is available via various online retailers). Encouraging others to read my work is also much appreciated.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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