Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Truth Reflex

My sister sent me the story about how you shouldn't use cruise control in the rain because if your car hydroplanes, you'll suddenly go flying out of control and smash into something. It smacked of an urban legend the second I read it, so I replied to her e-mail with why the scenario as laid out didn't make any sense, and, for good measure, I found and included a link to a article, that somewhat debunked the story.

Later, I found myself asking why I'd bothered. The fact that using cruise control in the rain is bad idea is something of a given - you should never use cruise control in any situation where you think you might need fine control over you car's speed. Okay, so my sister had come to that conclusion as the result of reading a possibly fictional account of an accident that someone had sent her in an e-mail. The e-mail that I'd sent back told her the same thing - I agreed with her that one shouldn't use cruise control in the rain - I simply had a different rationale for not doing so. So even if she read my e-mail, and followed the link, all that she was going to learn was that she'd adopted a safe practice for a possibly erroneous reason.

Part of it might be that I dislike a focus on orthopraxy, feeling that it leads people to play fast and loose with the facts. (I think that many people knock activists for this tendency.) There's a part of me that doesn't want to be the type that would rather have people ignorantly doing the right thing, rather than giving them enough information to make an intelligently informed choice.

But I think in this case, it was a simple reflex. I was told something that I didn't think was true, and so I set out to educate someone as to the straight dope. I know that I have a tendency to do that, even in situations that I find to be completely trivial. I'm a bit disappointed with myself - I've tried to suppress the urge to always "correct" people - especially when it doesn't actually matter what they believe. Maybe next time I'll do a better job of catching myself before the fact.

1 comment:

ben said...

The Truth Reflex is something that many of us need to rediscover. This idea that it's ok to "let things slide" is proving to be quite disastrous in our society. There is, of course, a line... but I really feel we've set it WAY too high. Our tolerance for stupidity needs to be brought down numerous notches.

As an aside - you shouldn't ever use cruise control. If driving an incredibly dangerous object at high speeds is too taxing, please, get the fuck off the road and feel free to skip the "brick on the accelerator" option. :)