I wrote, a while back, about my confusion with the crowd of people who use the excuse, “I don’t believe that,” as an argument against facts, logic, experience, and objective observation. Many of these people have interpreted a variety of religions (Islam and Christianity, can’t tell ‘em apart from their fundamentalists.) or by their self-limited world views in ways that prevent them from absorbing information or new skills. As if being uninformed was a credential, too many Americans are convinced their lack of education, skills, or insight makes them specially suited for evaluating the accuracy of science, historical research, sociology and psychology, and politics. This weird worship of stupidity seems to be raising its moronic little head in every area of American life. To the absurd point that one of the least talented, educated, capable, moral or honest people who has ever lived is not only The Party of Stupid’s presidential candidate but who has accumulated a hoard of uneducated, thoughtless, violent and destructive whacko minions large enough to threaten the US political, social, and economic systems.
The problem with going with “I don’t believe that” as a personal philosophy is that it limits every aspect of your life. Lots of difficult-to-swallow things are true: science and engineering history is packed with ideas that were practically worshipped for centuries and, later, proved wrong. A scientist or engineer who hangs on to wrong ideas quickly becomes unemployed and unemployable. An individual who clings to old ideas and skills becomes the human equivalent of a buggy whip. You might be the absolute best buggy whip ever made, but there aren’t enough buggies around to support a hobbyist, let alone a professional. People in the Midwest are waiting for the family owned farm economy to come back; along with the small businesses and services once needed to support that economy. People in West Virginia are waiting for coal to make a resurgance; regardless of the fact that if coal does come back it won’t employ miners but a few huge equipment operators who will decimate the Appalachian Mountains so that the area will be unlivable for centuries. The problem isn’t that these people are incapable of adapting. The problem is that they refuse to admit that they need to adapt. They desperately want to believe the world will return to how it was “when America was great” and time, technology, international trade, and their own skills will revert to a simpler day. It is never gonna happen, but they refuse to “believe that” and they may continue to refuse until they either die or break the bank.
As long as these long-suffering people insist on clinging to their own past, they can’t be retrained for new work because their philosophy over-rides the scientific method and logic. Worse, possibly, is the fact that the few people living in those places who can adapt tend to simply move away rather than fight the tide. I know. I’m one of those who moved away.