Seeing is not enough to believe: your opinion is not worth as much as you think

Seeing is not enough to believe: your opinion is not worth as much as you think

Carl Sagan said: "What an amazing thing a book is … One look and you are inside the mind of another person, perhaps someone who died thousands of years ago … Books break the shackles of time."

It is a good metaphor for what happens when we read a book. However, not all books are the same. Some are based on mere opinions, others on something more important. For example: which table of the two at the top of this post is the longest?

From irrational faith to experiment

Irrational faith is based on believing without seeing. The next step, advocated by Saint Thomas Aquinas , was "seeing is believing." In fact, many skeptics of any issue are often answered "you have not seen it" or "if you saw it, you would believe it."

However, since the 1640s, there has been another higher level of knowledge: the experiment, the scientific method (indeed, we do not really expect to find reliable science before scientific communities began to take shape in the 1640s. ).

It is such a revolutionary method that it relegates "seeing is believing" to oblivion, and in fact completely turns it upside down. Because if we take a look at the tables in the previous image, we will ensure that the table on the left is longer than the table on the right. However, if we carry out the experiment (measure both tables with a ruler), we will discover that they are both exactly the same . Suddenly, our "seeing is believing" has been relegated to the category of anecdote (and above false).


So the process of reaching an increasingly objective knowledge seems to have already passed through three levels : faith in what is not seen, faith in what I see, faith in what we can explain how we see, guaranteeing that we will always obtain the same explanation. for all people and all things. That is, religion, personal opinion, and science.

So while Sagan’s metaphor is certainly inspiring, not all books are created equal. Because there are religious books. Books in which the author contributes his personal opinion. And books written about years, or decades, of experiments.

If the idea of ​​Grace arises to differentiate human beings from animals (we are on a higher step than them), the idea of ​​culture, as a shared set of ideas, was born to differentiate some peoples from others (some are on a step above others). The next level was the birth of science , of the experiment, which no longer knows borders, which no longer belongs to people, which no longer belongs to peoples … it transcends us all because it is more objective, reliable and accurate than all our individual and collective opinions.

An opinioner’s book would be like the imposture of the typical tweeter who is an anarcho-primitivist, his eyes shine with Thoreau, he winks at neoludism, sings the mea culpa for Pachamama … but 24/7 is the turra in social networks with his smartphone. That is to say, he opines and criticizes what was born from experimentation, science and progress using tools resulting from experience, science and progress.

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In the mythical series Doctor Who , in a double episode divided into two parts, "Silence in the Library" (4×08), the action takes place on a planet called The Library , which has continents divided into genres (the equator is the biographies) . I am convinced in which continent I would like to live without having to appeal to my personal opinion. And in case it is not clear enough yet, in the following video I use another analogy (that of climbing mountains):

The image of the tables , by the way, is the work of Roger Shepard (1990), psychologist and artist.