This becomes clear when you ask people questions that include both a moral and factual element, such as: “Is forceful interrogation of terrorist suspects morally wrong, even when it produces useful information?” or “Is distributing condoms as part of a sex-education programme morally wrong, even when it reduces rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs? People who answer “yes” to such questions are also likely to dispute the facts or produce their own alternative facts to support their belief. Opponents of condom distribution, for example, often state that condoms don’t work so distributing them won’t do any good anyway.
What feels right to believe is also powerfully shaped by the culture we grow up in. Many of our fundamental beliefs are formed during childhood. According to Krueger, the process begins as soon as we are born, based initially on sensory perception – that objects fall downwards, for example – and later expands to more abstract ideas and propositions. Not surprisingly, the outcome depends on the beliefs you encounter. “We are social beings. Beliefs are learned from the people you are closest to,” says Krueger. It couldn’t be any other way. If we all had to construct a belief system from scratch based on direct experience, we wouldn’t get very far.