The ancient Greeks, as usual, had a word for it,
ου με πείσεις καν με πείσης — “You are not going to persuade me, even if you give me evidence to persuade me.”
Established beliefs bring comfort and a sense of emotional certainty. They persist long after proven false and harmful by new evidence.
Here are three tragic examples, two from the past and one recent.
First, a scholarly brilliant monk during the 16th century Italy whose name was Giordano Bruno proposed that the distant stars are just like our sun with the planets orbiting around. In fact, later with evidence this was proven truth. He finally proposed that each distant sun had it’s own planets that may contain life. And again that is a fact. His views were contrary to the prevailing opinion of his time, especially in the organized and powerful church, and its branch of inquisition tried him and burned him at the stake in 1600.
Second, there was a man in Europe named Ignaz Semelweis, an obstetrician who in the beginning of the 19th century discovered that you should not deliver a baby with dirty hands. In fact, the medical students did just that, as they worked a few hours earlier with cadavers. He ordered them to wash their hands before they attempted to deliver a baby. The enormous number of women that were dying as a result of the doctors’ dirty hands was promptly stopped. He advised his colleagues to do the same. They were offended in spite of the evidence and they continued to deliver babies with unwashed hands resulting in deaths of their patients. Dr. Ignaz Semelweis loudly protested and they kicked him out of the hospital. He continued to protest, and they went ahead and put him in a mental hospital where they literally beat him to death.
The third example is taken from our times. For the last hundred years, in a practice accelerated recently, humans have been using the atmosphere of our planet as a sewer, pouring enormous amounts of both CO2 and methane — due to burning fossil fuels and the enormous number of cows passing methane from both front and behind, contributing to 14% of global pollution! Both CO2 and methane are gasses we have proven scientifically are able — in their molecule — to hold an enormous amount of heat from the sun, especially infrared spectrum and methane, preventing the heat from escaping back to space.
As a result, and scientifically proven, our planet is rapidly warming up and moving towards conditions similar to that of the ones prevailing several million years ago. The harmful consequences in their details are studied scientifically, at the same time and unfortunately and tragically, the issue is being politicized and being denied — especially in our country. In addition, we deny the possible catastrophic events to follow. These denials are being promoted energetically by self-serving politicians and the fossil industry in order to protect their profits by burning fossil fuel.
The morale of the story: as ingenious and rational as humans often can be, we also can be duped to stubbornly believe in faulty “realities” — to often catastrophic detriment to ourselves.