Opinion

True faith and fake facts

"Maybe there will be positives to Brexit, maybe there won’t. It’s hard to tell – but we need to be open to beliefs other than the blinkered one we each hold"

Some facts are great. Like we only use 10 per cent of our brain. Ten per cent! Think of the possibilities. Think what wonders we could unleash as technology marches.

The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object viewable from space. Those ancient engineers charting that work, and it’s lasted until it could be viewed from beyond. Incredible. Really quite spine-tingling. I can feel the hairs standing.

It’s not true. In fact, neither of these pieces of information are true. They’re bunkum, received notions that we’ve allowed to become hardwired without a challenge. Scientists know that head injuries to any part of the brain, that incredible complex mass, could lead to huge impairment.

These ‘facts’ are bunkum, received notions that we’ve allowed to become hardwired without a challenge

The idea that we only use 10 per cent is crazy. As for the Great Wall, it can barely be seen from low orbit, and only when conditions are really perfect. Instead, many roads, and bridges and even greenhouses can be seen from up there.

And yet, we have somehow convinced ourselves that these falsehoods are realities. It’s an act of faith. Which is ironic, of course, as accusing people of faith of huge credulity is a standard brickbat.

We’re all guilty of picking the truth that suits our system and then off we gallop.

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Brexit is an act of faith, clearly. Those who favour it speak of the opposition talking it down, remoaners who just need to believe that things will be better. There aren’t a lot of proveable  figures to the pro-Brexit position, but the belief in its benefit is thundering. It’s why Brexiteers see those they think are against it as apostates, to be exposed and then, what? Humiliated? Embarrassed? Tickled?

I suspect Chris Heaton-Harris’ letter to university tutors asking what they are teaching about Brexit came from this place. A former MEP, he’s no fan of the European experiment. His letter felt ominous, but in truth it wasn’t as Orwellian as critics claim.

Don’t we want free-thinkers, a challenge to orthodoxy, a different way of looking by amassing new facts?

It left the door open for funny responses, which would immediately cut legs from under any sinister movement. And we need to beware of crying wolf every time such things arise, as genuinely troubling events may follow.

Maybe there will be positives to Brexit. Maybe there won’t. It’s hard to tell. The idea of being open to beliefs other than the blinkered one we each hold is a really dangerous component to where we find ourselves at present.

The Daily Telegraph misrepresenting an old letter that some students wrote asking for the English syllabus at Cambridge to include more non-white authors is a part of this. They broke the story on the front page carrying a big photo of Lola Olufemi, a young black woman, under the headline ‘Student forces Cambridge to drop white authors’. Their tiny apology and correction the next day – she hadn’t and they aren’t going to anyway – does nothing to address the key point.

What is wrong with other points of view that aren’t the norm? What if she had brought a change? Isn’t that what we want, free-thinkers, a challenge to orthodoxy, a different way of looking by amassing new facts.

We must welcome other points of view, whether we like them or not, learn from them, see if they alter our own entrenched views, or learn more to counter them.

Let’s open that other 90 per cent of our brains and get busy…

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