UPDATED for clarity. The original final example was really confusing – tried to fix it, hope it’s better.
We’re all familiar, I hope, with the misuse of relativity in popular culture, how, because Einstein found certain highly defined conditions under which the observer’s frame of reference defines what the observer sees and even can see, modern deep thinkers blithely assert that everything is relative, all observation is merely a manifestation of the frame of reference of the observer. There is no truth. We’ll call this the Einstein Trap.
Similarly, and perhaps even worse in practice, it the application of the concepts of evolution and natural selection to anything other than biology. No – as individuals, we are not ‘evolving’. There is no dead hand of natural selection that ensures ideas and cultures get ‘better’. The self-appointed intelligentsia are not higher life forms that are more evolved than us peons. The rich do not get to herd us inferior peoples around to their benefit. This is the Darwin Trap.
I think there’s one more trap, perhaps not as obvious but every bit as stupid and destructive. Let’s call it the Galileo Trap. It is the belief that whatever is obvious must be wrong. Only counterintuitive and off-putting theories can be true. The mythological Galileo is the archetype.
Using every unaided sense and all logic, we reasonably conclude that the earth seems to be sitting perfectly still, excepting the occasional earthquake or volcano. Yet – Yet! – we now KNOW that it’s spinning around its axis at ridiculous speeds, and whizzing around the Sun at even more ridiculous speeds! All those ancient thinkers were WRONG! (Wrong then morphs into ‘stupid’ with nary a twitch). We, who KNOW it moves are brave and disruptive, like our patron saint, Galileo, who would not bow to all that stupid direct evidence of the senses and logic crap!
The Trap: the true explanation will contradict what seems obvious, will be subtle and hidden, and does not rely on logic or direct observation.
This belief underlies modern Comparative Lit classes, for example. I remember once being told by an unfortunate student that the surest way to get an ‘A’ in the CompLit class she was in was to concoct a explanatory theory of the object under dissection that contradicted everything the story seemed to be trying to make clear. Fortunately, familiarity with any of the popular modern isms allows the student to put the brain in neutral and spew out an appropriate essay under the gentle tug of gravity: Is a couple portrayed as in love? Misogyny! Does the married woman seem happy? False consciousness! Does the hero save the day? Betrayal of the class struggle. And so mindlessly on.
This is merely an example among many. The Galileo Trap is so deeply ingrained that it allows the afflicted to ignore anything said by anyone that might be in any way unsettling, as being NOT what they’re REALLY saying. Arguments from reality are mistrusted – what seems to be happening cannot be what is truly happening. For example, I say that market economics is based on free, mutually beneficial exchanges of goods and services, because that’s sure what it looks like. No, I’m answered, it’s based on a capitalist power dynamic of exploitation, and what am REALLY saying is capitalist propaganda, as I am clearly a tool laboring under false consciousness. That anyone can *see* people everywhere voluntarily exchanging good and services through the medium of money, and see that exploitation, while real, is neither necessary nor unique to market economics – this is irrelevant, just as how the earth seems to be stationary is irrelevant. The subtle, counterintuitive and irrational explanation is the true one. All that is left is to explain why anyone would fail to believe this.
The Galileo Trap is evidently really hard to escape, even though it is no more based in reality than the Einstein or Darwin Traps. They all destroy the possibility of fruitful discussion before it has even begun.