Clear thinking does not come easy for us, and we make little effort to do better. For example, we have trouble balancing risks. Some suburbanites do not hesitate to jump into their automobile without fastening their seat belts, and as they talk on their cell phones spend several hours every day driving along busy freeways listening to broadcasts reporting current accidents on those very freeways. Some of these people are afraid to visit “downtown” even when statistics tell them that it is safe. They do not see the real danger is in getting there.
Irrationality erupts in many ways on an international level. In October 1988 the United States, the Soviet Union, and 150 journalist spent $5,795,000 to cover the story of three grey wales caught in rapidly closing hole in the Arctic ice. During this event people around the world empathized with the whales and followed the situation on television daily as it unfolded. Unnoticed, during the same three-week period the world population increased by nearly 5,000,000 people and half a million children died as a result of malnutrition. And ironically during an average three-week period in 1987, approximately 600 whales were commercially slaughtered with little public outcry.
Although many things remain a mystery, science has given us insight that help us better understand the universe, our planet, and ourselves. Nonetheless, in spite of considerable evidence, many people are not satisfied with, or are even perturbed by scientific findings. The popularity of astrology, fraudulent gurus, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories attest to this. Many individuals and powerful leaders refuse to consider scientific evidence. We just cannot believe that the kind of world evidence shows we are headed for can actually come about. Special interests have taken advantage of and promoted this confusion for their own benefit. Rational public discussion of topics such as birth control and climate change become impossible. Information can produce anxiety, so people may react with denial or with blind faith that leaders or technology and business will deal with the problem without requiring them to make sacrifices.
In order to get the economy growing, which they insist is essential, Republicans repeatedly say we must keep taxes down for the rich in order to enable them to create jobs. They are not publicly challenge to explain how that works when huge numbers of people are put out of work to save money instead of eliminating tax loopholes and raising taxes on people rapidly growing richer. A high percentage of political campaigning consists of repeating, repeating, and repeating slogans. Most public issue are dealt with by appealing to our most primitive instincts with little honest backup data and rational thought, and the public accepts it that way.
Consequences of fuzzy thinking. We often find ourselves in positions we cannot tolerate, where what we see challenges our wishes, beliefs we hold ear, and our way of life. A trait psychologists call “motivated reasoning” impels us to cling to erroneous beliefs in spite of overwhelming evidence against them. Instead of objectively searching for accurate information that either confirms or dispels a particular belief, we tend to see information, true or false, that confirms what we already believe. This way of thinking is widespread and has a devastating effect on how we live on this planet. People who see climate change as threatening the way of life or their income embrace ideas and individuals who deny that humanity has any effect on it, or that eating beef contributes to it.
Ignoring or distorting our view of reality becomes more dangerous as our impact on the planet increases and our world becomes more complex. Our attraction to quick, easy, simplistic solutions to complex problems, and failure to think about their side effects, is pervasive. For example, many people think we do not need to concern our selves with environmental problems. “Nature, God, human ingenuity have always taken care of us and will again.” Looking at evidence an a little clear thinking would show that by counting on this, we are entrusting our future to hope rather than evidence. It should be clear to us that while we have removed constraints on our ecological niche, we have not assumed responsibility for restoring stability.
It would seem that our inability to think logically would disturb us, and that we would work hard to overcome it. For most of us, this is not the case. In fact we do a poor job using the limited abilities we have, and we are quite satisfied to let it go at that. – Peter Seidel, Excerpt from Book; ‘THERE IS STILL TIME!’