This week, many people were angry to learn that claims of a miraculous new cure for cancer were, in fact, completely false.
And there’s a lot to be angry about: a bald-face lie that took money, attention and precious time from vulnerable people, the media businesses that jumped on the miracle bandwagon and the inevitable flogging of books, magazines, chatshows and speaking tours.
But perhaps we should aim some of this anger at ourselves… why do we fall for this nonsense?
The simple answer is: because we want to. We believe whatever reassures or pleases us, what confirms or supports what we’ve already decided and anything that’s consistent with the opinions and bias we already have.
We want to believe we can get thin and rich and happy with no effort on our part, that the choices we’ve already made are moral and smart and that we can beat death with an easy, delicious diet.
We desperately want these things to be true, no matter how false.
And fraudsters and con artists know it. Gurus and cult leaders know it. Politicians know it too, which is why they tell us what we want to hear.
They know we disbelieve whatever disturbs or unsettles us, anything that challenges or threatens what we’re already doing or contradicts opinions and bias we already have.
We reject overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change because we don’t want it to be true. We believe in the power of miracles and dreams because we wish it was true.
Like the old saying goes:
The truth is often bitter but lies are always sweet.