La-la-la: Willfully ignoring facts about our health allows us to avoid taking responsibility for our lives
04/16/2018 // Cassie B. // Views

If you are concerned about your health, you’ve probably had to explain your eating choices to family members or friends at some point. Most of us know the feeling of having to tell someone we’re passing on the bacon because of the connection between processed meats and cancer, only to be greeted with a response like, “Everything causes cancer these days. I don’t believe it.” Or perhaps you’re familiar with this variation: “My grandfather ate bacon every Sunday of his life and he lived to be 99.”

People who say these things want to eat bacon, plain and simple. Honestly, it’s hard to blame them, with its smoky flavor and satisfying crunch. They don’t want to believe that modern bacon ingredients like sodium nitrite can cause cancer because that would mean giving it up. The reason this conversation is familiar to so many of us is that people are wired to willfully ignore facts that go against beliefs they’ve held for a long time.

Our beliefs are hard-wired into our brains. It’s easy to keep believing the same thing; it’s passive and requires no particular effort on our part. It’s far more difficult to logically evaluate evidence that goes against our beliefs. Indeed, people are twice as likely to look for information supporting their belief as they are to give opposing ideas serious consideration.

This is particularly damaging when you consider the fact that that many people’s beliefs have been heavily shaped by the media and corporations, as Anna Hunt points out in the Waking Times. Young minds are naturally easy to mold, and everyone from the producers and advertisers on the TV shows they watch to their teachers and the government has an agenda.


Step outside your comfort zone

We are lucky to live in a time when we can access unprecedented amounts of information, but this wealth of knowledge can’t really be used to its fullest potential if people are not willing to consider opposing points of view. It’s uncomfortable to think that something you learned in school could be totally wrong, and it’s even worse to think that your daily habits might need to change. People find comfort in routine and the familiar.

There’s also the social pressure component. People like to be accepted by others, and the desire to conform can override our instincts. Everyone else is eating the bacon, so maybe you’re going to take some, too, just to avoid being labeled the “difficult” one of the bunch. You don’t want your co-workers to think you’re a downer or your friends to think you don’t know how to have fun. This is how teenagers start smoking despite piles of evidence of the harm it causes, and it’s one reason many otherwise reasonable adults continue to engage in habits and actions that we now know are damaging.

It takes significant effort to change your ways. It’s indisputable that inactivity and an unhealthy diet can cause obesity and all the horrible diseases it spurs, like cancer and diabetes, but it takes a lot of effort to work out regularly and give up the foods you’ve always eaten. Avoiding disposable plastics is just too much of a hassle; who can remember to bring reusable bags every time they go grocery shopping?

Willful ignorance is easy, and it lets people maintain the status quo. No one wants to think about their kids eating food doused in pesticides or massive marine life die-offs because of plastic pollution, so they just pretend those things don’t happen. They just pile the bacon on their plate and go about their lives. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

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