by Niall Doherty

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Remember when the Earth was the center of the Universe? Me neither, because I wasn’t alive then. But apparently everyone back in the day believed that the Earth stood still and everything else revolved around it. Then along came a chap named Nicky Copernicus in the early 1500’s, with the audacity to suggest that the Earth actually revolved around the Sun while spinning on its own axis. Of course, everyone thought he was insane and the holy men told him not to be contradicting the good book or he’d go to the bad place.

But of course, Nicky turned out to be right.

About 350 years later, a Frenchman by the name of Louis Pasteur discovered that it was tiny little airborne organisms that caused beer to go sour and spread disease among humans. Poor Louis was ridiculed by his peers, some refusing to believe him even after he demonstrated his findings to a gathering of famous scientists at the University of Paris in 1864.

But of course, Louis turned out to be right.

In the 1940’s, some weirdos started speculating that cigarettes might not be all that healthy for you, and could even lead to bad things like cancer. The cigarette companies laughed off those ridiculous claims. Lucky Strike said their cigarettes didn’t make you cough because they “toasted” the badness out of them, while Camel found that their brand of cigarettes were the most popular among doctors, so how bad could they really be?

But of course, those weirdos turned out to be right.

Stories like that make me step back and question my beliefs regularly. I’ve given just a few examples, but history is filled with such stories of people thinking they knew an absolute truth, only to eventually be proven very wrong. I try to keep that in mind when I meet someone with a viewpoint different to my own. Rather than clinging to my pre-existing beliefs, I allow myself to consider alternative truths. In doing this, I often gain a better understanding of both the person and the subject. I’ve found that everyone can offer some truth; nobody is 100 percent wrong.

Back to another example…

These days, professional athletes and other good-looking famous types tell you to drink three glasses of milk a day so you’ll grow to be big and strong and oh-so healthy. If you don’t drink the cow juice, you won’t get enough calcium and then you’ll get osteoporosis and nobody wants that.

But wait! They’re saying we’ll suffer if we don’t drink what comes out of the giant boob things dangling from the female of another species? That doesn’t sound right. And look, here’s some craziness saying that cow’s milk actually does humans more harm than good, even going so far as to reference in-depth scientific studies from Harvard and the like.

I wonder, how will we look back on those claims ten, twenty, or a few hundred years from now?