How levers of influence trick us into mistaking belief for knowledge
Knowledge is always true. Belief may or may not be true. The most time-tested beliefs are built on a foundation of knowledge that itself is repaired and remodeled. But there are also deep-seated beliefs that stand on nothing true but are treated as treasures to be protected.
Political oratory has the power to change beliefs of entire populations. But it rarely does so by sharing knowledge–that’s hard to do quickly. It changes minds by rhetoric and stories, by selling belief packages (conservatives, liberals, right, left, etc.), by putting you in fight or flight mode for these packages.
Science also tries to change minds. But its tools are less glamorous: experiments, falsifiability, and a language for story-telling that is free from emotion.
Taking the long view, knowledge is a fountain for updating beliefs. But this fountain is often sat on. Knowledge washes the bum of the elephant of inertia and misaligned incentives.
It took Hitler a few years to change a general population’s belief about race. It took Dr Alice Stewart more than two decades, starting in the 1950s, to convince the medical population of the dangers of X-raying the abdomen of pregnant women to check the position of the baby.
None of this is new to the reader of this post. Yet, you think it fit to only use this knowledge to influence others. You forget that you’re not exempt from being targets of such levers of influence.