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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

In the last 200,000 years, man has evolved from a common hominid to that of a god among all animals. We have accomplished what the dinosaurs could not in more than 165 million years. We have conquered all other animals, save those at the most isolated depths of the ocean. We have been to space, to our moon and are planning a trip to Mars, yet people live in fear of truth.

How can man be strong enough to wage war with Mother Nature and so weak as to run from basic facts?

We all do it, whether it's the NCAA ignoring the problems with the BCS or Christians claiming the benevolence of their own religion, even when a trek through history shows horrors committed by devout Christian believers rivaling, and surpassing, the cruelty with which Rome treated their own savior. I run from the truth that I'm not as smart as I believe I am.

Why do we fear the truth? For each of us, there's a different reason. Ultimately the cause of the fear is irrelevant; what is relevant is the predictability of it. Each of us has constructed our own world based on the facts around us. We admit some of the facts, and we deny others so we may further construct the world according to our wishes.

Thankfully, rationalists are extremely rare for our purposes.

When confronted by a reality that shakes their constructed worldview, the vast majority of people undergo a process called cognitive dissonance.

It's when we're trying to hold two contradictory ideas simultaneously: Either one idea wins out, or we commit a sin against thought and fail to recognize the contradiction.

What happens during the process of cognitive dissonance? Primarily, people become angry. Some become cruel and violent, either through actions or through words, but most just get angry.

It's a useful phenomenon and easily predicted. I knew last week's article assaulting the value that people put in college degrees would make people angry.

My friends, who read it before it was published, told me without hesitation it would. A dozen people decided to tell me I was wrong because I was confronting them with the idea that the degree into which they have put so much money, time, effort and emotion ultimately won't mean as much as they want to believe it will.

We see this phenomenon at work in the election, too.

As die-hard anti-liberals are confronted with the popularity of Sen. Barack Obama and failing neoconservative ideology, they are being forced to accept the destruction of their own worldview, and it's making them angry and irrational.

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The problem is that this anger and irrationality is not born from a physical hardship. It comes from pigheadedness and pride. Get over yourselves, people. Election results will not cue the American apocalypse, so there's no point in clinging to outdated ideals and contradictory beliefs.

We can all benefit from predicting and recognizing cognitive dissonance. We should help others work their way through it, as it can be difficult and painful. Doing so would force people to become more discerning in their judgment of reality and more accepting of the process as part of developing of one's understanding of the world.

Then, maybe, we can stop being afraid of the truth.

Wes Hunt is a history senior.

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