An altruistic alien with atmospheric appendages appeared. It told me to save the world. It told me how: 

“Give people reasonable criteria to use to tell if something is true,” it said, with great italics. 

“That’s it?” I asked. 

Yes. Everything else will sort out,” it said.

It then folded into inner space and vanished in a mist of peppermint. I looked down. In my hand was a crystal tablet. It read as follows:

Earthling, ever wonder how many of your firmly held beliefs are completely wrong?

Your species won’t survive unless you learn how to tell what’s true. 

Lesson 1: Case by case, look at the evidence. Does it truly add up?  

If your only reason to believe something could be written as one of the following fifty-five false statements, your mental math has missed the mark.

  1. Lots of other people believe 2+2=3.
  2. It makes me happy to think that 2+2=3.
  3. 2+2=3, therefore, 2+2=3.
  4. 2+2 is less than 5, so 2+2=3.
  5. People fought in wars and millions died defending the truth that 2+2=3.
  6. I’m afraid of what it would mean if 2+2 was not 3, so 2+2=3.
  7. People have believed for thousands of years that 2+2=3.
  8. 3=2+2, therefore 2+2=3.
  9. Experts agree that 2+2=3.
  10. Anyone who thinks other than 2+2=3 is an idiot.
  11. My religion believes that 2+2=3.
  12. A religion I don’t follow says 2+2 is not 3, so I know 2+2=3.
  13. Here are 3 different websites that say 2+2=3.
  14. A very loving person told me that 2+2=3.
  15. A person who said he is a number scientist told me that 2+2=3.
  16. The government is hiding the truth that 2+2=3.
  17. The government is telling the truth that 2+2=3.
  18. Someone said with extreme confidence that 2+2=3.
  19. Someone didn’t sound confident when they said 2+2 equals something else, so 2+2=3.
  20. The people over there with guns say 2+2=3.
  21. It’s impossible to disapprove that 2+2=3.
  22. There are literally thousands of scientific articles, decades of research, showing without a doubt that 2+2=3.
  23. If it wasn’t true that 2+2=3, gravity would not work.
  24. 2+2=3, everything else is fake news.
  25. I know in my heart that 2+2=3, it just feels right.
  26. No one will like you unless you agree that 2+2=3.
  27. I spent $582,000 to find out that 2+2=3.
  28. Business XYZ made $12 billion selling 2+2=3, so 2+2=3.
  29. This textbook says 2+2=3.
  30. A famous person said 2+2=3.
  31. Someone I love told me that 2+2=3.
  32. No one doubts that 2+2=3.
  33. Everything is true, every view has some part of the truth, so 2+2=3.
  34. The universe is infinite, so 2+2=3.
  35. God can do whatever He wants so, 2+2=3.
  36. Each of the twos, if turned sideways, would fit into the nooks of the three, showing a beautiful balance, therefore, 2+2=3.
  37. If you count the things on the left side of the “=”, there are three of them, therefore, 2+2=3
  38. I’m a troll, therefore, 2+2=3.
  39. A wise old respected elder once told me that 2+2=3.
  40. A truthful and innocent child told me 2+2=3, so 2+2=3.
  41. I saw a page full of complicated mathematical formulas I do not understand which proves that 2+2=3.
  42. The latest unpublished research shows that 2+2=3.
  43. A particular news organization says that 2+2=3.
  44. A particular news organization disagrees that 2+2=3, so 2+2=3.
  45. I had a dream that 2+2=3.
  46. My astrologer/psychic friend says 2+2=3.
  47. A very emotional person told me that 2+2=3.
  48. A very calm serious person told me that 2+2=3.
  49. He was right that 1+1=2 and now he says that 2+2=3.
  50. My boss, upon whom my income depends, says that 2+2=3.
  51. You are the only person who doesn’t agree that 2+2=3.
  52. All the cool kids say 2+2=3.
  53. There was a song written about 2+2=3.
  54. Everyone I have talked to agrees with me that 2+2=3.
  55. An alien with atmospheric appendages appeared and gave me a crystal tablet, on which were the symbols “2+2=3,” therefore, 2+2=3.

We could go on. You should.

Love, 

The Aliens

In addition to avoiding logical fallacies like the ones above, ask, is the evidence sufficient, typical, accurate, and relevant? Typical in this case means that you cannot simply cherry-pick evidence to support a preconceived view. 

Next time you hear something that seems hard to believe, ask the person why they believe it. See if the answer really adds up.