TED Conversations

Linda Hesthag  Ellwein

Communications, Change, and Photography, Oikonomia, Inc.


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How attached are you to your deeply held beliefs? If solutions to global problems challenge your worldview, how do you react?

Allan Savory's recent TED Talk introduced an unlikely and politically incorrect solution to reversing global desertification and climate change with the use of livestock as a tool, and different decision making.

Well-meaning laws, bureaucracies, and activists at the mercy of public opinion have stifled this work from moving forward on a large scale in the US. Belief systems and the fear of being wrong often prohibits change.

How do you respond to ideas that challenge your belief system? How do we stop our paradigms and prejudices from unfairly shaping decision making, and allowing us to take real risks for lasting change? What's your reaction to cows helping save the world? What idea have you believed and been completely wrong?


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    Mar 13 2013: I like to challenge my beliefs. I like unconventional ideas and using things that are not commonly used like Linux and fountain pens.

    The history of my worldview is not so common in the U.S. I grew up in Soviet Ukraine. At school I believed that I'm very lucky to be born in the greatest country on Earth - the Soviet Union. A mere look at the world map was enough to see how great it was. Not only it was huge, but my country was also leading the world to the better future for humanity - without exploitation, free of economic ups and downs of capitalist economies and free from the "vices of the rotten West". I believed that my country stood for peace in the world, against imperialism and neo-colonialism who sought to destroy the countries of working-class people. I was "free from religion" (opium for the people) and "armed" with Marxism-Leninism as the "most progressive ideology in the world".

    We know what happened later. The "iron curtain" fell. The Berlin wall fell. The "rotten West" turned out to smell pretty good and it turned out that Marxism-Leninism had been used to kill and repress millions of people.

    Lessons? Never be sure that my views are right or the best.

    Later in my life I became interested in religion. I wondered, how this "opium for the people" works. I wondered, how people believe logical paradoxes and obvious absurdities that contradict physical facts. It was an interesting experience. I think, I know now why people have irrational beliefs. I learned to recognize them and appreciate them. I deliberately participated in atheist forums, not proselytizing, but advocating for religion and challenging atheist beliefs while challenging mine. It was, again, a transforming experience. I was exposed to facts that religion which seems to preach love and forgiveness was used for centuries to justify ruthless genocide, inquisition, and atrocities. I did a lot of reading and processing these facts. Lessons? See above...
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      Mar 13 2013: I can well appreciate your experiences. I too came from an isolated community surprisingly located in the USA. But we were a small town and our relative universe extended 20 miles in any direction. Motion pictures were our view of the world. News reels showed views of a raging world war.. . Buck Rogers defends earth from the villains in space. I found books that described wonders that sparked my imagination but were only words on paper. My "wall" fell when I was drafted into the Army and then off to war and differing parts of the world. As you found there is a whole world out there that I had no idea of what it was all about. Yet, for all the differences there were more similarities.
      You mention you exploration of religion and how it was subverted by many atrocities. In my travels, I witnessed a number of what were found to be noble causes that were corrupted by greed and destroyed by vandals. I have no idea what is in the mind of man that so many would destroy a thing of beauty or a noble idea for no other reason then to destroy it. I think it is that flaw in human nature that will really be the cause of our species extinction.
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        Mar 13 2013: I still think, religion is a great thing. I think, science is a great thing too. Communism has many great ideas. It's thinking that either is the greatest thing in the world that is causing the damage. With this in mind, the idea that the only greatest thing is God and he alone is worth of worship, considering that God does not physically exist, but is, perhaps, the most abstract of ideas we may have, makes sense to me.
    • Mar 14 2013: Arkady, thank you for those thoughts. You are an inspiration for people like me who strive to be open-minded.
    • Mar 18 2013: Well said!

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