Hello, my awesome humans,
Remember that questioning everything you’re told can lead to unhappiness by guiding you to doubt essential truths and making you reject aspects of life that are beneficial to your wellbeing and happiness.
Science is, by definition, a method to examine, test, and observe the world and understand it better. Most responsible scientists and good philosophers spend their careers questioning and challenging established truths and norms to improve upon the knowledge they offer the world. It seems at times that they do question everything.
But they don’t.
First, let’s talk objectivity.
You cannot change the chemical composition of water, for example, or the fact that two plus two is four, regardless of how committed your objections about it are. And while these examples might come across as frivolous, they are indicators of the objective nature of some truths.
Water gets most things wet, and fire burns them, and that’s the end of it.
But let’s talk about subjectivity.
I know that if you’ve read this far, you likely think, “that’s not what it means.” And you’d be correct to an extent.
No one ever questions everything, only the things they want to question.
I’ll write this again here because it is subjectively true, and it points to an objective threat to the wellbeing of society.
The “question everything” mantra, as adopted by conspiracy theorists and other pseudo-intellectuals on the Internet, is not virtuous. Quite to the contrary, it is vicious. It is an excuse for cynical denial of well-established truths. It is a toxic attempt to justify the dismissal of evidence for how the world truly works.
The problem with how the facets I mention above use the proclamation of questioning everything is that it is not an intellectual commitment to discovering the truth or improving existing knowledge. Rather a warrant to throw out any information that contradicts their worldview.
If the Earth is flat, flat-earthers must challenge gravity, as explained by Newtonian principles and both iterations of relativity theory, to make sense of their nonsense.
What’s worse about this approach is that it promotes a profoundly dishonest level of arrogance. It pushes obscene solipsism in which its proponents feel that their right to question everything entitles their opinion to respect or intellectual merit.
But it doesn’t.
And as it pertains to happiness, questioning everything from a conspiratorial perspective is a fear-based response to complex systems. Systems that are often too large for human senses to perceive properly.
How can a person who is scared of the world in which they live be happy?
Data shows that the majority of people who embrace radical conspiracy ideas are dissatisfied with their personal lives. Many of them engage in a (kind of) emotional and psychological extortion when they invent a powerful enemy only they can identify and fight. This projection of a boogieman onto external systems, and their heroic resistance against it, give them a contrived sense of value in a world that otherwise sees them as valueless.
In her TEDx talk, Elise Wang, PhD from Princeton and professor at Duke University, explains the role of personal suffering on the perversity of the corrosive question everything mantra.
You can watch her video here: https://youtu.be/QjVNcAAf7pA
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And the dangers of this vile dictum are further-reaching than personal unhappiness – they can affect society in general. In his article for The Guardian, Denialism: what drives people to reject the truth, Keith Kahn-Harris says the following:
“Denialism can also create an environment of hate and suspicion. Forms of genocide denialism are not just attempts to overthrow irrefutable historical facts; they are an assault on those who survive genocide, and their descendants. The implacable denialism that has led the Turkish state to refuse to admit that the 1915 Armenian genocide occurred is also an attack on today’s Armenians, and on any other minority that would dare to raise troubling questions about the status of minorities in Turkey.”https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/03/denialism-what-drives-people-to-reject-the-truth
The article is long but worth the read.
consider that Questioning everything isn’t a practical approach to science; it would take a hundred years for a researcher in current medical science to question all the relevant facts that came before him.
In life, questioning everything promotes doubt where it may not be necessary. Remember that healthy scepticism and critical thinking must follow specific rules to remain honest. Without those rules, your conclusions are no more than mere opinions born from your inalienable right to free expression but utterly intellectually meaningless.
Yes, the essence of good philosophy is challenging the world as humans know it, but if you are to be happy about your place in the world and the decisions you make about it, the challenge must start with you. It all starts with taking a critical look at yourself to understand the limits of my
Radical doubt and cynicism will erode the bonds that bind you to your tribe and eventually to society at large. Questioning everything will lead you to unhappiness by causing unnecessary conflict with your surroundings and hurt you in the end.
— The Devil Unbound
It’s plain tiring and no apparent benefits. Just a waste of time, mind, and energy. Yet people still do it. They are really dissatisfied with themselves. Shifting the focus to other topics.
The idea of questioning everything for the benefit of knowledge has shifted to questioning anything that people don’t want to be true.
I don’t blame people for being unhappy, but I have a problem with those who prey on their confusion and grief for financial or political advancement.
Thank you, as always, for your comments. I’ve just started this and it’s good to have minds like yours around.