Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why don't we question everything?

Today, in two WhatsApp groups, I received a "cure" for swine flu. The "remedy" claims to kill swine flu "bacteria." And as always is the case with such forwards, it has bothered me all day.

What is it about us that we accept (and propagate) such information without stopping to ask if it is true, or whether it is possible, or whether the information in the message is likely to be accurate? Why don't we say, "Who told you this?" or "How did you come to know about this?" or "Did you look it up?" or "Are you sure this is not a hoax?" or "Are you sure swine flu is caused by bacteria and not viruses?" or "Is there any evidence for this?" or "Do you think it is scientifically possible?" or any variation of the above?

Is it the same attitude that makes us implicitly believe and accept traditional rituals and "our ancestors' wisdom?" Is it ingrained in us? Are we socially conditioned to accept without questioning? Has it got something to do with ignorance/illiteracy? Is it our education system that makes us accept information without asking why and what and how?

Do you have an explanation for this?

10 comments:

Gowri advani said...

It looks like you have gone into my head captured my thoughts especially about swine flu and written this post... Even I have received that forward so many times....its unbelievable that educated people are just forwarding this information without any thought...thanks shruti for your marathon...its very nice to read your writings everyday...

Chitra said...

We do question things but in a way that perpetuates more hatred and disturbance. The rest, we simply forward!

In fact just today, one yuxtremely intelligent guy questioned on FB about Obama's right to question about religious intolerance in India when US had so many race/racism issues. I went back to the article and although I did find a reference to religious intolerance, it wasn't at all what this guy had imagined to be. I went back and explained the same and guess what - his comment was "You made me laugh today".

Long comment but slightly related to your post!

Nagraj Rao said...

Most of us avoid coming out of our 'comfort zone' as long as it does not directly hurt us.Unfortunately,by following this route,we are indirectly perpetuating the status quo.

Shammi said...

My sister's biggest bugbear!

Anonymous said...

I wonder too.
I think because , as people we are terribly scared. we lack any courage whatsoever to live life accepting all its possible catastrophes. So forever we are trying to save ourselves by appealing to some illogical force - negative or positive. we want some one, something to save us. [ us meaning self and family only ] Hence so many miracle cures, vaastu, maata mantra...etc. We are game for ANYTHING.
just my hypothesis. :-)
J. atte.

Jayashree Jagannatha said...

I wonder too.
I think because , as people we are terribly scared. we lack any courage whatsoever to live life accepting all its possible catastrophes. So forever we are trying to save ourselves by appealing to some illogical force - negative or positive. we want some one, something to save us. [ us meaning self and family only ] Hence so many miracle cures, vaastu, maata mantra...etc. We are game for ANYTHING.
just my hypothesis. :-)
J. atte.

Anonymous said...

The question you raised in not really a question. You are seeking facts either to falsify or confirm the statement.
We do, however, question many of our beliefs, thoughts, but sometimes we know there are NO answers, or such questioning itself is ridiculous.
For example, if your daughter asks you this question...Mom, how do I know I am your daughter? This is a pertinent question, but how do you prove it (not all genetic material comes from both parents, and therefore, it may be construed as inconclusive)....the point is, our reasoning ability lets us question everything, except that we can't have answers for every question we ask...

Saravanan said...

Most of the time I know those messages are not true and are just forward. I end the loop by not forwarding it further. Annoying it is..

Suchithra said...

To answer the "is it ingrained in us?" ..
You probably meant it in a socio-cultural sense, but from a biological/scientific standpoint, it IS ingrained in us in some sense.
"not questioning authority", "listening to older people or other memmbers of one's subgroup" etc. are very useful for children in their first few years of life. If a parent or any adult says "Don't touch the fire" the child would benefit from it by blindly following it. Since this is so important for the survival of very young children, we are actually genetically programmed to not question too much.
Of course, we learn to question beliefs from our own parents, teachers and society as we grow up, but it is a "learned trait" for the most part. One might even say that believing comes much more naturally to us than questioning (like "confirmation bias"). So not many people are motivated to do it unless they have to , or they have been trained very well to do so.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Suchitra's comment... our behaviour, verbal as well as others, in someway, are genetically coded and transmitted from our parents and grandparents (this might sound surprising to many, but it is true). This area of study is called 'Epigenetics' and it is a hot field right now in US.

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