There was once a family of squirrels who lived in a tall oak tree. At the bottom of the tree lived a family of rabbits. Neither family trusted the other: the squirrels complained that the rabbits, in chewing the roots of the tree, made it unhealthy, and the rabbits complained about the leaves and dead twigs which fell on them as the squirrels scampered from branch to branch overhead.
One day, a young squirrel, exploring the highest branches of the tree, saw a great fire coming from far off. He immediately called out to the other squirrels, warning them of the impending danger, and soon all the squirrels were shouting to anyone who would listen: “Fire! Fire! Run away, run for your lives!”
However, the rabbits, hearing that the warning of fire came from the squirrels, said to each other: “We know we cannot trust squirrels – they are our sworn enemies! Certainly, this must be a false alarm.” By the time they realized that the young squirrel had been telling the truth, it was too late, and all the rabbits perished in the blaze.
Like the rabbits in this fable, we too often dismiss a viewpoint or opinion just because we dislike the person who voices it. Similarly, we may decide that all the information given in a certain journal or podcast is suspect, or even worthless, because we disagree with something else the author or presenter has said in the past.
This particular form of “tunnel vision” is a danger to anyone who wishes to practice healthy skepticism; just as we should not trust everything someone we like says without testing it, so we should also not dismiss anything said by someone whom we dislike, but instead examine it as carefully as any other evidence. Just as a broken clock is right twice a day, so even the most untrustworthy of sources might hold some truth, and even those we detest might have information that could save our lives.
What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Spike’s dystopian novel? Do you have a story about dismissing evidence that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!