Monday, July 18, 2011

Credibility comes from majority vote.

Imagine that one day you meet a person who believes that there are monsters living under his or her bed. They tell you all about them, and explain all their theories. Also, they claim that if one eats apples, the monsters under the bed grow larger. And furthermore, they tell you that there are monsters under your bed too, as well as everybody else’s.
I don’t need to ask you how you would view this person, and what your internal reaction to their claims would be. But before we run off with the assumption that people are willing to say “you’re insane and childish” if someone is, there’s an important fact we have to realize about recognizing insanity in other people.
The reality is, a lot of people wouldn’t be finding that person’s story crazy because it’s crazy, but they’d be finding it crazy because that person is in a tiny minority, if not alone, with their crazy story. See, imagine that that person’s best friend begins to subscribe to the monster story, and then a few more friends, and it begins to spread out in a small community. Imagine then that within a few years, one billion people on earth believe that there are monsters under our beds, and that they grow larger when we eat apples.
Suddenly, the idea would have credibility, regardless of how insane it is. It would be rude to say “you’re an insane child” to someone who believes in the monsters. There would be intelligent scientists and philosophers discussing the possibility of the monsters, and coming up with stories of evidence for it.
What people consider normal, weird, crazy, sane, etc, just has to do with how many people believe it. One of the first defenses a person will have when you point out how crazy something they think is, is that “lots of people feel this way!” They feel that that gives them credibility, because, if so many others feel the same way, there must be something to it.
The monster example was taking an idea that we all agree is crazy, and showing how it could gain credibility if enough people believed it. The reverse example would be taking something like religion, which is currently accepted as a valid belief system, and reducing the number of believers down until the majority of people would feel that it is insane. If there were only five christians on earth, or even fifty, or five hundred, they would be laughed and scoffed at, and be labeled insane children.

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