By Letter to the Editor on February 28, 2020.
“No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot,” said Mark Twain. What troubles me is what’s called “Post-Truth” culture. Facts are called “fake news.” Scary scientific evidence is dismissed as “unbalanced.” “Guilty or innocent” is determined by partisan votes.
After Japan was defeated in 1945, the United States Information Service sent agents to the schools to explain what democracy was. So, a bunch of cheeky boys in Grade 7 voted for a motion, “Cheating in exams is acceptable.” That kind of idiocy is nothing new. A tragic example: Hitler was democratically elected. Independence of executive, judiciary and legislative branches is extremely important. Checks and balances are an integral part of a democratic system to make sure it works.
Yuval Harari said, “Humans think in stories, not in facts…” Animals see only facts and not beyond. Humans write a scenario for themselves and act on it. This is how we make art and music and come up with ideas and ideologies, create systems beyond the visible reality. Animals do not. In other words, we write scripts and have faith in and act on the story we have created. And it works. Money is such an artificial system that works. The value of money is nothing but the trust in the mechanics of exchange we have agreed on. Without the trust, money is a mere IOU on paper. “In God we trust,” says the U.S. “greenback.”
Science is another one; it is the efforts by humans who try to prove hypothesis with factual evidence. Building blocks of human society are institutions, organizations, systems and structures imagination created, and the trust in what has been imagined. They can be called ethics, ideals or ideologies. This is also the reason for the problems caused by what’s created in the brain. It can easily be an instrument of deception, since imagination is invisible. Greed and hubris can easily fool the public for the benefit of a few.
However, deception fails eventually. The famous saying has it: “You can fool some people all the time; you can fool all the people some of the time; but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” The time will come when deception is exposed. Humans think beyond facts. We think and behave according to the common stories we share. Trust works when there is evidence of truth in the story. If there isn’t, it fails, often tragically.
Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui