Addictions are kind of like phobias. Many people think they have a phobia and tell everyone, when really, they just have a strong fear response – me and spiders for example (or anything with more than 4 legs). But those who know they have a phobia or could be addicted, don’t talk about it. I think the word addiction is in danger of being over used sometimes, much like phobia.
My friend Philip blogged about the addiction to certainty and how opening up to uncertainty is a way we can perhaps start to create a different culture that is open and flexible. I think there is an addiction that is similar, the addiction to being right. This is slightly different to the fear of being wrong that Kathryn Schulz talks about, but is more of a commitment to obliterating anyone who has an alternative version of something. I’ve noticed ‘right addicts’ in my own life and think I might have nearly become an addict myself – it kind of runs in my family. Right addicts in my personal experience never consider the harm their addiction causes to others. Speaking for myself, I found being around this form of addiction ate away at my confidence and sense of worth as nothing I said was valued.
I’ve noticed this in other contexts such as the rise in the use of the term ‘conspiracy theorist’. This is a relatively recent phrase, first coined in the early 20th Century but picking up it’s negative meaning in the 1960’s with the CIA deploying it in response to anyone questioning who shot then President John F Kennedy. Since then however it seems that the term conspiracy theory is used to mock, put down, and attack anyone who doesn’t agree with you.
The addictive aspect of being right also drives people to search online for evidence to back their case – ‘I must prove I am right’. It can set up a ‘them and us’ mentality bringing people together in ‘like minded’ groups to get high on taking down or attacking someone elses ideas. I’ve seen it on social media and it’s pretty ugly. But like most addicts, they don’t see any harm in what they are doing, and insist on their right to be right.
There are some groups who will see their addiction as healthy and important in terms of knowing The Truth. Two groups who have been trying to win over more users of their version of being right are scientists and those who are religious (I’m generalising). I’m not sure I want to get caught in their turf war, but sometimes I think how amazing it would be to hear either of these groups say ‘we need to revisit this idea it might not be quite as it seems’.
Maybe quantum physicists are like the addiction clinic, helping those from strong points of view on reality to understand both could be right. Me, I’m happy to be a conspiracy theorist, I find it more interesting to consider there could be more to something than what I first believed. I don’t mind getting new information that challenges my thinking or perspective. But to even question how do we know what we know, or don’t know – that is a real rush.