HOW TO AVOID BEING GORED BY UNICORNS
The difference between knowledge and belief is one worthy of
serious consideration. The importance of a proper understanding of
this difference is that the behavior of any individual is largely
determined by his beliefs. If one's beliefs are correct then one's
behavior will agree with the nature of reality. If an individual's
beliefs are incorrect, however, then that person's behavior will
not be in accord with the demands of reality.
For example: Suppose one believes that there are unicorns hiding
behind the trees. Suppose further one believes that if one does
not hop up and down on one foot the unicorns will rush out from
behind the trees and impale one on their long horns. Given those
beliefs, one will spend one's time hopping on one foot. The person
doing the hopping may believe that his hopping prevents him from
being skewered by unicorns, but if in fact unicorns do not lie in
wait behind trees, the hopping serves no real purpose.
It is easy enough to look behind trees and discover for oneself
whether or not unicorns are lurking there. But let us assume that
a very powerful and perverted force controls the news media of a
vast country. Assume also that this force utilizes the media to
spread the false story that there are unicorns behind the trees.
If it is repeated long and loud enough, invariably there will be
many who unquestioningly accept the myth, and begin hopping without
ever bothering to look behind the trees for themselves.
If it is true that one must build thermo-nuclear weapons to prevent
demons from forcing one to work long hours at low wages in the
uranium mines, then building thermo-nuclear weapons is rational
behavior. On the other hand, if the belief in these demons is
incorrect, then the behavior is irrational.
Action based on knowledge is preferable to action motivated by
Looking behind trees is better than hopping around like an