In regard of an exam tomorrow, I've published a poll about the sources of knowledge, and this text.
According to a textbook I'm currently reading, people gain knowledge about the environment mainly through four different ways: authority, observation, logic, and intuition. One may argue that some are better than the others but I'm not here to judge. Much.
The four ways of knowing may be used simultaneously as well as separately, or one may put a higher priority on some, that is, put things on top of other things.
I had to do it.
For example, belief systems such as religion and government mainly value authority and intuition over observation and logic, whereas the priorities are quite the opposite for science. Philosophy, on the other hand, resembles science in many ways, except it values logic over observation. To make things more clear:
In conclusion, the ways in which we gather information are principally quite few and that different belief systems rely on different sources of information. It's up to people to judge what to accept as valid information, and the different variations in priorities are many in number. I do realise that this post might bias the outcomes of the poll but honestly I don't give a flying fudge.
Despite my indubitable insight in Social Psychology (Sarcasm, where's the goddamn sarcasm button?), I feel that today's exam didn't quite go as well as I predicted. Anyhow, here's some photos from The Netherlands...
Milgram's obedience experiment was by far one of the most interesting experiments in Social Psychology, showing that perfectly normal human beings are capable of extremely destructive behaviour if they are ordered so by an authoritarian figure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment). The experiment could thus explain for example, how the Nazis or Hutus could have gone through such systematic and cruel genocidal deeds.
I have no free will.
Authorities are everywhere. We follow them quite automatically, simply trusting that they are right. How other could they be in such a position if they weren't, right? This is what most people think. That to hold an authoritarian position is the cause of being rightful. Simple logic however, proves this to be wrong. Popularity and dominance are not risen from rightfulness, but of one's skills to maintain a high status. Like the time the school bully stole your lunch money and/or your bike and/or your books and returned them the next day in an unnervingly useless condition (save for the money), and nobody could stop him.
The school bully, pictured. Tribute to cracked.com.
He didn't gain his power through morally rightful behaviour, in fact quite the opposite. Now, would you trust him to be right if he were running for a political candidate or not? I don't know, depends on his opinions, right? Right. What?
Referring to Social Psychology, a textbook by R. A. Baron et co. people are more likely to submiss to destructive obedience when they are not responsible for their actions, the authoritarian figure possesses symbols of power (insignia, titles), the severity of the demanded actions is gradually risen, and when the orders come in a fast pace so that the capability of systematic thought is decreased.
The point is, authoritarian figures shouldn't be followed in crucial decisions without thinking by yourself. You may presume that they don't lie to you, say, about the color of the sky or the nuclear warheads (sarcasm), but you should keep your eyes open; or rather, your brain active (sarcasm).
In conclusion, we have seen what a blind trust of the authorities may lead to and what are the causes of it. We are all humans, and thus vulnerable to the traps of our own behaviour. Nevertheless, by raising the awareness of our weaknesses, we might be able to counter the most obvious falsehoods.