I’m a big fan of the show Shark Tank. As a entrepreneur, I can relate to the highs and lows that these companies face. I love and appreciate seeing different business models and seeing the Shark’s reactions to them. One common theme on Shark Tank is the Business Owner who invested their life savings into a clearly terrible idea. It’s hard to watch as the Shark’s sink their teeth into the desperate entrepreneur’s baby. Often times the Shark’s plead with the business owner to quit and move on. They explain why putting another dime into this idea will only put them further into debt and make the situation worse. They insist that the business owner should cut his or her losses and move on. But all-too-often the entrepreneurs do not heed their advice. The business owner vows to persevere and push on with their idea. Most are never heard from again.
The problem is that people count their past investment into an idea towards its present and future value. While this may make sense if that past investment has produced an asset that has value on it’s own, its utterly senseless when the present state of that idea has no value after the investment.
People make the same mistake with their ideological investments. The more one has invested into their beliefs, the harder it is for them to part ways with those beliefs and the less open minded they are apt to be when evaluating new ideas. They feel that the past investment they made into an ideology contributes to its current Truth Value.
For example, an Orthodox Rabbi in his 60’s who has raised his entire family based on a core belief system, who makes a living on those beliefs, and who has made every choice in his life for 60 years based on that system, is unlikely to be swayed by any form of new information he may come across about the truth of his religion. In fact, he’s unlikely to even pay them much attention. He has invested his whole life (and the lives of his family members) in one ideology and changing his ideology now would mean accepting 60 years worth of wasted investment. A person in that situation no longer seeks truth but rather seeks to reaffirm what they already believe. However, if we were to present the same exact information to that same person when he was in his teens or twenties, there is a much greater likelihood that he would be swayed.
This is the reason why I think it is so important for people to have the opportunity to evaluate new ideas and information that conflicts their religious doctrine when they are younger. This is when people have made the least ideological investment and they are not as tightly bound by their past investment in any ideology. Sure, there are still exterior pressures that make it harder for people to change their minds (social pressures, family pressures, psychological pressures, etc.), but there is far less pressure from your past ideological investment.
This is also one of the reasons I have far less desire to discuss theology with older people (parents, grandparents, older rabbis, etc.), as they are up against a lifetime of ideological investment that they are not about to abandon. Keep that in mind as you discuss religion or politics with anyone, try and assess the investment they have made to their particular belief system and recognize that it will be a barrier to open-mindedness in proportion to the investment.
Additionally, this shows how science differs from theology or other forms of ideology. Science places very little (if any) weight in past investment into an idea. Science (at least good science) only evaluates an idea based on it’s present Truth Value, as determined by objective experimentation and results. Ideas that are hundreds of years old can be changed based on new data and results. This is why science is so important to the advancement of society as a whole.