Amidst the Covid pandemic, we’re all concerned about catching Covid and we’re aware how it’s propagated. But seeing how conspiracy theories propagate, what if we thought of some ideas like viruses. They infect hosts, harm them, and spread?
Let’s push the metaphor: in a healthy body, we can encounter pathogens and the body either does not become infected, or it can deal with the infection with minimal suffering.
In less healthy bodies, there are vulnerabilities that are exploited, that allow the pathogen in, to wreck havoc.
This, incidentally, is what happens with computer viruses. There’s a vulnerability in the code, a virus infects the host, then an antivirus must be used to clean the system and a patch installed to close the vulnerability.
In a healthy system, we can deal with new ideas. Many are helpful and help us expand our mind. And some are like trojan horses, we let them in, under the guise of being healthy, but once inside, they morph and pollute us, transform us for the worse.
Rejecting all new ideas is both unnecessary and unhealthy. Without new ideas, our minds don’t evolve – and we cannot learn from our errors, we cannot uncover existing unhealthy ideas.
But accepting all ideas uncritically makes us vulnerable. Furthermore, any ideas that make us reject them based on who says them, rather than the idea itself, is an indication of an infected mind.
So, how do we navigate an ocean of ideas, some helpful, and some toxic?
An idea, or a view of the world, to be helpful should answer at least one of three criteria:
It should be falsifiable.
If we can’t prove that it’s wrong, it is dogmatic. Every scientific idea should be falsified, and we should test them to ensure they are robust.
It should be accurate, and therefore be good at predicting the future
If it matches observations, then it is reliable in predicting what will happen. If it can’t adequately predict what will happen, then it possibly isn’t helpful.
Even if it fails the first two, it should are least make us happy.
Believing in angels pretty much fails on the first two accounts. But the belief in angels tends to make the believers happy, or even very happy.
When ideas are not falsifiable or accurate, they do not help us navigate the world more effectively. Falsifiable and accurate ideas might not make us happy, but part of life is dealing with reality.
But is they are neither accurate nor falsifiable and do not make us happy, then we clearly are dealing with toxic ideas.
If you believe you’re infected, do the following:
Identify the idea that infected you
Identify the source
Stop helping the idea spread
Cut ties with the source
Disinfect your mind, i.e. deconstruct the idea, find its flaws
Identify the weakness it exploited
Breach this weakness
Gradually open yourself up for new ideas, testing each of them to assess the toxicity
Accept that polluted people in your entourage, who possibly contaminated you, will resent your reluctance to feed the toxicity – that is their choice. And remember that by improving your life, respecting yourself, you will demonstrate that a life free of toxicity is preferable. This may inspire others.
Remember, you are under no obligation to save anyone other than yourself – and few people are willing to let go of their ideas, regardless how toxic they are, as long as they identify with them.
Good luck and reach out if you need support!