Fish + Fish = 8? Why Belief Without Validation Is Dangerous
The other day, my six year old son came to me and told me, rather matter-of-factly, that fish + fish = 8. At first, I dismissed it as the silliness of a normal six year old child, and immediately corrected him, but then I began to think about what would happen if I had truly believed that fish + fish = 8. There is a chance that I could teach this “fact” to my children, who would then have trouble in school. I could debate my new-found knowledge with mathematical experts, and depending on my debating skills, I might win, or at least turn some heads. I could start a movement, insisting that this unfounded fact be taught in public schools, duping millions of people into donating their hard earned money to my cause. That is the power of blind belief.
There are many people in this world who possess the skills and the knowledge to lead people to believe, without question or validation, anything that they want:
Jim Jones - On November 18, 1978, over 900 followers of American cult leader Jim Jones of the People’s Temple died in a remote South American jungle compound in British Guyana called Jonestown. Some members were shot, others were forced to drink poison, but most willingly participated in what Jones said was an act of "revolutionary suicide."
Charles Manson - Manson was the founder and leader of the "Manson Family," a hippie cult he began in San Francisco in 1967. He was convicted of having commanded certain members of his cult to commit the August, 1969, Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles.
Harold Camping – Camping is an American Christian radio broadcaster, who uses numerology to predict the “End Times”. Camping has unsuccessfully predicted the coming “apocalypse” to occur in 1994, and on May 21, 2011. Camping persuaded thousands of his followers to donate all of their money to this cause. Some followers even quit their jobs to spread word of this impeding judgment day. Camping now insists that May 21st was a spiritual day of judgment, but adamantly claims that the real “rapture” will occur on October, 21, 2011.
How can we avoid becoming victims of these highly manipulative criminals? The answer to that question is simple: Validation. Before you decide to believe that something is true, you need to do a little research. Validation can come in many forms. It doesn’t have to be proven scientifically, or even biblically. Validation can come from observance, life, books, or even from peers. Here are some tips that will help you discern fact from fiction:
Don’t just take someone at their word. Humans are imperfect; they are liable to make mistakes and are prone to poor judgment.
Ask questions. If you can’t get a straight answer, something’s not right.
Pay attention to your feelings. Listen to your heart, your mind and your gut. If something just doesn’t seem right, it’s probably something you should avoid.
Research: look for information in book, on the web, ask your friends, parents, experts, etc.
If you’re wrong, admit it. After a little research on my son’s claim that fish + fish = 8, I actually realized that his statement can be true, if you view it as an algebraic equation, and solve for fish. If fish equals 4, then his statement is true. Fish + fish = 8!
Knowledge is power! By doing your homework, you can gain power of over those who try to take advantage of you.