“This is the best cheesecake ever,” you say. “Without doubt.”
Your friends watch as you take a bite and then you wince. “It’s not as good as usual,” you growl. “I’ll have to try it on another day.”
Certainty. It’s the unshakable belief that something is true and irrefutable. David Rock in Psychology Today writes that “your brain craves certainty and avoids uncertainty like its pain.” In other words, you’re attracted to certainty even when uncertainty might be better.
Being sure or certain is comfortable, safe, and predictable. You know what time your favorite shows air; where to get the tastiest burger in town; and the best playground for your grandkids. You’re certain that the cheesecake just had a bad day.
Real life is not so cozy.
Temple University Mathematics Professor, John Allen Paulos, said it best: “uncertainty is the only certainty.”
Like life in the New Normal.
Certainty can be tricky. “The more certain people are of their attitudes, the more they cling to and defend those attitudes, the more they advocate on behalf of those attitudes,” writes Zachary L. Tormala in Science Direct.
Ask the 30-year old who died of Covid-19 because he was certain the virus was a hoax.
Ask Senator Rand Paul who called face masks “theater,” refused to wear one, and subsequently tested positive.
Certainty can be both powerful and wrong.
It’s easier to depend on a “predictable” world. Your brain wants that. Questioning certainties can cause stress and anxiety. It’s far more comfortable to ignore contradictions. “Your survival brain is constantly updating your world, making judgments about what’s safe and what isn’t,” writes Bryan E. Robinson in Psychology Today. Avoiding uncertainties can lead to “all sorts of untested stories.”
“Untested stories” are in the news, online, social media, and from fringe groups every day. There are lots of stories – from little green men and the Deep State to the “fake” moon landing and microchips injected with the vaccine.
Maybe your cheesecake is a victim of Deep State?
You need to think clearly.
On the other hand, uncertainty can be stressful. Uncomfortable questions lead to doubts about what’s really true. Studies have shown that certainty can compel people to act while uncertainty gets people to think. A person totally sure of themselves can be very convincing.
Do you act first and think later? Or never think at all?
Certainties tend to stick like The Big Lie and QAnon’s claim that Democrats are a shadowy group of pedophiles. Certainties can drag people into action before they think through to truth.
For example, are the western wildfires caused by uncertain events like drought, wind patterns, and climate change or are they caused by Zionists using space lasers? Can we trust “Cyber Ninjas” to show the 2020 election was stolen when over 50 courts, all 50 states, and Congress proved the opposite?
Maybe uncertainty isn’t such a bad idea. In fact, uncertainty can be a lot better for your health. Thinking beats blind allegiance. After all, does your cheesecake always have to be the best?
Consider Copernicus, the 16th century astronomer who had to wait until he was dying to publish his theory that the planets revolved around the sun. The church condemned Copernicus as “a fool who went against holy writ.”
Martin Luther observed, “That is how things are nowadays [in the 16th century]: when a man wishes to be clever he needs to invent something special . . . it must be the best!”
Some things never change.
I’m the best. Nobody knows more than me.
Dr. Fauci was labeled by the former White House as a disaster and an idiot. Covid was a Democratic hoax.
What would have happened if you didn’t believe Dr. Fauci and drank bleach? If you took hydroxychloroquine instead of a vaccination? Or if history tossed out Copernicus’ truth?
Whether you believe in stolen elections, vaccinations, and bleach, look for truth in the uncertainties. Question who you support, what politics you follow, and which conspiracy theories and leaders mimic Copernicus’ enemies.
Think before you act.
Are you sure your cheesecake is the best ever?