Take the example of the guy who started thinking that his CRT bedroom TV is affecting him through its radiation. As hard I as tried to explain the effect it would have on him is miniscule and can’t compare to the radiation absorbed by merely being alive, nothing made the difference. He went and bought an LCD TV instead, probably one offering an inferior experience given LCD’s sensitivity to the angle of viewing.
Another example is to do with the moon. You must have heard, a few weeks ago, about the “super moon” phenomenon: apparently, the moon was at its closest to earth in a couple of decades or so. This guy told me he saw the moon and it was bigger than he ever remembered; telling him this is all to do with optical illusions (the lower the moon is in the horizon the larger it seems) and not with distance (the variation in the moon’s distance to the earth is pretty small when you look at percentages), the guy kept on insisting on his point. Fine, he doesn’t have to take my word for it; but surely he can easily verify things (check a fine explanation from Bad Astronomer here and here). He didn’t.
Then there’s this guy who was convinced by his workmates that he’s suffering from issues with his heart. Despite tests indicating otherwise he went and had himself hospitalized; by the time he realize the horrors of hospitalization the doctors wouldn’t let him out before reverifying he’s alright, so he was stuck there for five days.
My problem is that the guys in all of the above three cases is just one guy, my father. I don’t know whether his behaviour is the result of a life devoid of skepticism and critical thinking coming back to bite him, or whether succumbing to ideas regardless of evidence and being too impressionable is the result of old age; I suspect it’s a mix of the two. What I do know is that I’m worried.
If an entire life time is not enough for a person to get a sense of what is right and what is bullshit, what hope can I have of helping him find the right track?
Image by Tjflex2, Creative Commons license