When we think we know something, we cease to explore. We cease to be curious. And we find abundant “evidence” to support our preconceived notions.
If I believe, for instance, that all Irishmen are heavy drinkers, I can find “evidence” for this in any bar in Dublin, neglecting the obvious fact that non-heavy-drinking Irishmen are more likely to be found in other locations. If I do come across a sober Irishman, I dismiss this as the “exception that proves the rule,” which is inane. Exceptions disprove the rule.
Prior to the late 1800’s, it was widely believed by scientists that sperm cells consisted of miniature people (homunculi). These homunculi were considered to be whole and complete, and needed only to be implanted in the womb, where they grew into birth-sized babies.
Now one might imagine that the invention of the microscope would have put paid to this erroneous notion. But no. The microscope was invented about 1600, and was developed and improved throughout the 1600’s. In 1695 Nicolaas Hartsoeker drew an image of a tiny person which he claimed to have “seen” through his microscope. Other researchers claimed to have seen miniature animals in eggs and tiny plants in seeds.
Psychiatrists today believe that all dysfunctional behavior is a “symptom” of a “mental illness.” So when they encounter a person who is troubled or not dealing with life’s issues too well, they have only one agenda – find the “diagnosis.” Everything else is irrelevant and dismissed.
Not surprisingly, all they find is a “diagnosis.” All of the individual’s intertwined troubles, concerns, missteps, heartaches, failings, hopes, relationships, etc., are condensed into the naively simplistic and spurious caricature of a psychiatric “diagnosis,” and attempts to genuinely understand the individual simply don’t occur. When we are convinced that we know what we’re looking for, that’s usually all we find.
Erroneous certainty is the great barrier to understanding.