They so Want to Believe It

Paul Graham, writing to undo the meme that he would fund anyone who looked like Mark Zuckerberg:

How could he have done so badly? He looked so much like Zuck!

It was not only a joking reference to a single incident, but the fact that we joked about it shows we knew that looking like Zuck had no predictive value.

As if anyone would think it did. Could anyone be so naive as to think that resembling Zuck would be enough to make a founder succeed? And is it plausible that we, of all people, who’d interviewed thousands of founders, would think such a thing?

So why have so many people since believed I was serious? For the same reason, presumably, that others cling so tenaciously to the idea that Obama was born outside the US: because they so want to believe it.

This last point is an absolutely essential truth of human nature that’s so often either not understood or is simply ignored. It is, however, why political arguments often ignore any “objective truth” that might exist (though often in politics, no objective truth does exist), why Scientologists can believe that L. Ron Hubbard is continuing his research on another planet, and why racists believe ridiculous stereotypes about people that don’t look like them. It is, in my ways, a root cause of the human condition.