Just Another Blog

The principle of this blog is curiosity.

Lot's of lip-service is payed to curiosity, but it seems to most people don't actually seek out evidence on which to base their beliefs.

Take, for instance the belief most people have, that women make 70 cents for every dollar men make. Reading just the first three paragraphs of the relevant wikipedia page demonstrates that this is false, as the ratio between the sexes' median weekly income of full-time works is 0.82, not 0.70 (the 72% figure occassionally cited includes all workers including part time and seasonal, a true but less relevant figure, but I digress...).

Of course, from an individual's perspective, it makes perfect sense to not spend hours of time coming to accurate beliefs for these issues. While the precise extent and causes of the gender income gap is very important both to individuals and society, the knowledge of the extent and causes doesn't help an individual person.

If history has shown us anything, its that when beliefs don't have practical consequences, people feel free to ignore the evidence. Thus, we see stats like

Bill Nye the Science Guy once said

When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in [evolution], it holds everybody back. Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science. ... And I say to the grown ups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine. But don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.

I see where he's coming from, but I think he's being a tad unfair. You can pay taxes, vote for good political candidates, and be an engineer, while still believing Earth is 6,000 years old. The belief in evolution or creationism isn't a belief with practical consequences for the vast majority of people.

However, it does point to a broader phenomenon that affects us all. All of us grew up in a group of friends and family that believed certain things. Most of us (rationally) never took the time to check whether all those beliefs were actually true. Thus, we grew up with a web of beliefs - some true, some false.

To the extent that people do fact-check their beliefs, it comes in the form of news articles and blog posts meant for the lay audience, meaning that you pretty much only get expert testimony (and occasionally uninterpreted or poorly interpreted statistics).

So, it makes sense that people seldom change their beliefs. The vast majority of new evidence we get is weak (expert testimony) and must overcome the vast web of beliefs we've been inculcated with.

However, in this blog, I do the irrational. I take the time to learn about the "unpractical" parts of reality that affect millions of people, and check the beliefs I hold. Why? Curiosity.

I hope you'll join me.

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."
- Albert Einstein