The Danger of Certainty

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain

It’s hard to change somebody’s mind. It’s even harder to change our own. We are constantly bombarded by information, which morphs and shifts, adding and losing convenient and inconvenient details according to the storyteller’s perspective. Truth is lost when it’s perceived as lies, and fiction is accepted at face value with little or no scrutiny, if it aligns with the listeners preconceived point of view.

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him. ”

Tolstoy

I would hope that every person could look back upon opinions they’ve held in the past and recognize those opinions have changed with time. So many beliefs and opinions are shaped with partial information, it only stands to reason, that over time, when new information emerges, some of those beliefs would change when confronted by information disproving the original belief.

We struggle to admit we were wrong… about anything. We should actually celebrate when we change our minds about a long-held opinion because it suggests we were open to new information and willing to adjust our beliefs accordingly. We are smarter for it. That should be seen as a very good thing.

Somewhere, in some corner of your mind, you have an opinion or belief you hold to be true that isn’t. What do you know for sure that just ain’t so?

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