Lost Among Europeans

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Common sense and other nonsense

My hard science education has left me many sequels, some of which I like. Mostly, I’m happy it has given me a healthy skepticism of “common sense.” In science, you learn many things that shock you, and that, therefore, you would not have come up with on your own. Someone had to do the experiments, someone had to go deep into the details, or perhaps, someone had a richer imagination than yours.

After you see your intuition challenged again and again, you learn to distrust it, in yourself as well as in others. When learning about something, I ask myself what the evidence is, how clear the foundations are, how valid the reasoning.

Many people portray themselves as moderate, reasonable, thoughtful. They often invoke common sense, or they claim to see shades of grey where “others” see only black and white. I have come to distrust this type of language, and this type of people. In my experience, appeals to common sense very often mask a lack of evidence or solid reasoning.

Those polite, civilized, moderate people, give me pause. They offer a relaxed demeanor, and dialogue over tea. But when you challenge their beliefs, they start losing their composure, or maybe they keep their manners and ask you “surely you can’t be an extremist? Are you not one of us?”

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