Sometimes facts aren’t pleasant. Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes what we wish to be true simply isn’t, and no amount of wishing will ever change it.
Often times the facts are in direct conflict with our feelings. Knowing the truth makes us uneasy, it triggers feelings we don’t like, perhaps guilt, disgust, frustration or any number of other undesirable emotions.
Fact: In some parts of Africa, albinos are murdered so that witch doctors can drink their blood and eat their body parts, in the belief it will provide magic powers and health benefits.
Having read that, I would imagine a good portion of my audience will immediately have their jaw drop open in disbelief. Maybe they think that saying such a thing is racist, unkind, cruel, or intolerant. Maybe they will rush over to Google or Snopes and madly type in some search words to prove to themselves that it’s just an urban legend and that I am out to lunch.
Sorry to tell you, but I am not. I haven’t even exaggerated for dramatic effect. I don’t have to. The truth is outrageous enough, and as unpalatable as it may be, it is still the truth.
My great-aunt is a holocaust denier.
As a child she lived very near a concentration camp. She saw everything that went on there, and what she couldn’t see she certainly knew about. It would have been impossible for her not to.
She’s not a bad person. In fact she is a very sweet, kind lady, and to my knowledge has never intentionally hurt anyone in her lifetime. She has certainly always been a positive person in my life.
And yet she denies that the holocaust, one of most despicable events in human history, and one that she witnessed first hand, ever happened. Why?
Does she truly believe that it did not happen? Doubtful.
More likely it is because the truth of what happened so close to her home is too painful to accept. The fact that her countrymen brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the most barbaric ways imaginable triggers feelings and emotions within her that challenge everything she knows to be true, or wishes to be true about herself, and her people. As a result she now denies the facts that create such unpleasant feelings and chooses to remember only the pretty little flower gardens planted outside the camp.
Creating “facts” to support conclusions.
It’s a little known fact that almost every scientific study is designed with a certain conclusion in mind.
- Ask a question. What do you want to know?
- Do research. What do we already know?
- Form hypothesis. What do we believe?
- Test with experiment. Put our belief to the test.
- Draw conclusion. Do the results confirm our belief?
- Report results. Share our belief with others.
Pretty straight forward, eh?. What this chart doesn’t tell us however is anything about the human factor. The human factor can easily invalidate any scientific study.
As an example, consider a study on the health effects of butter. The question is simple enough: Is butter healthier than margarine? The scientists hypothesize that butter, being more natural, will be healthier than margarine. The study itself lasts a couple of years and uses many test subjects, and in the end the conclusion is drawn that indeed butter *is* healthier than margarine.
So far so good. But suppose this study was funded by a margarine company that has a vested interest in margarine being considered healthier than butter. The scientists face financial pressure to alter their findings in favour of margarine, or risk losing their funding source. Some of them have no problem with this, other take longer to come around, some never do, but the majority rules and in the end most of the scientists have managed to agree that margarine is the healthier alternative, so that becomes the reported result.