According to Terry Goodkind, the Wizard's First Rule is: People are stupid. That is, they'll believe anything. I'm not necessarily convinced of this (although the examples he gives are fairly compelling). However, I have recently begun to note that people do believe a whole pile of stuff that ain't true.
For example, why does your leg go dead or go tingly or get pins-and-needles when you've been leaning on something? Because you cut off the blood supply to it, right?
I'd have sworn blind that that's why it was. But no. It's apparently because you're putting pressure on a nerve; it commonly happens to arms or legs because there are nerves close to the surface and vulnerable to this sort of thing there. So your leg isn't going to go black and fall off if you get pins-and-needles. This is a relief to me, since every time I get a numb leg I start worrying about where I'm going to find a parrot and a black eyepatch.
Next: sumo wrestlers retracting their testicles. They can do that, right? They have such exquisite control over their bodily functions that they can ingest their testicles up into the body, in order that they don't inadvertently catch what might be described as the wrong sort of blow to that rather vulnerable area. They can do that, right? Loads of people have told me about. Of course, this story is all pony. Not a bit of it. Apparently it may have been popularised by an Ian Fleming book, among other sources.
The third example, which everyone (including me, until recently) seemed to believe is that women have one more rib than men. If you're a creationist, then this is contributory evidence for Genesis, where God takes one of Adam's ribs and from it crafts Woman. It is, however, complete lies. Both women and men have twelve pairs of ribs. No idea where this one got started.
Is there a general inclination to just not query this sort of thing? All these examples I've come across fairly recently, and I'd have sworn that the popular perception was right. Weird. If insignificant facts like this are accepted at face value without a problem, what important events go past unquestioned, I wonder?
© Aquarius, August 2001