Pick an idea. Any idea. Preferably, choose an idea that you accept as true. It can be an idea about religion, an idea about politics, an idea about relationships, an idea about health, an idea about science, or any other topic that you consider to be interesting or important.
Now conduct the following experiment:
Use Google (or your search engine of choice) to search for resources that are dedicated to showing the world how stupid, wrong, or dangerous your chosen idea is.
For instance, if your idea was “eating less fat is a good strategy for losing weight,” try doing a search for a phrase like “eating fat is good for you” or “eat fat to burn fat” or “avoiding fat is bad for you.”
If your idea was “technology has improved the quality of human life,” try doing a search for a phrase like “technology is ruining our lives” or “beware the dangers of technology.”
If your idea was “think positively,” try doing a search for a phrase like “forget positive thinking” or “The dangers of positive thinking” or “positive thinking is bad for you.”
No matter what your idea was, you will easily find resources dedicated to saving the world from the “mistake” of believing that very idea.
What does this mean? Well, there are several implications of this experiment, but here’s the one that’s most important to me: it means we’re not safe. It means that we can no longer afford to find security in our beliefs by outsourcing our thinking to the power of consensus. It means that we all have to think for ourselves. It means that we will never ever discover the truth about anything by insisting on a source of knowledge that is undisputed or uncontested.
I know a guy who reacts to every bit of advice by Googling for scandals and skeptical articles about any new perspective that promises to make his life better. Without exception, he always finds what he’s looking for. While he usually concludes that his search results are evidence that the idea under question is false, it is more often just evidence that all ideas are controversial relative to some point of view.
Does that mean all ideas are equal? Nope. Does that mean we should believe anything? Nope. Does that mean truth doesn’t matter? Nope. Does that mean truth is unknownable? Nope.
It just means that no one can do your thinking for you. It means that the onus is on you to figure out what you think is true. It means you can’t lazily hide behind someone else’s understanding of life. It means you have to take responsibility for your beliefs and the choices you make based on those beliefs. It means you have to do your own research. And after you’ve done the work necessary to draw conclusions you feel confident about, there will still be people fighting to prove that your beliefs are the enemy.
There’s only one way to be secure in your worldview: Diligently refuse to be a consensus seeker.
There’s no better antidote to the malaise of confusion than the decisiveness of those who choose to be critical thinkers.