Throughout history, one of the greatest problems encountered by academics of all kinds in revealing new information has been the very human tendency create narratives. These narratives are necessary to human being – we use them to explain the world around us and arrange the cosmos in a way that makes some semblance of sense. The trouble is that new information often requires the creation of a new narrative, a new worldview, and the preexisting ones must be fundamentally altered or gotten rid of entirely. More often than not, people are more than willing to simply ignore fact to preserve the way they see the world.
Take, for instance, heliocentrism. It does not seem, to the modern person, to matter all that much to the daily life of any given person whether Earth orbits the sun or the other way around. When heliocentrism was first conceived of, however, it was difficult for people to accept because the idea that the earth was the center of the universe was an important part of their narrative for existence. If the earth was just a proximal part of even our solar system, then humanity might not be what everything is all about after all. It’s very easy for people to accept this today because we were taught it from birth, but when it contradicts a preexisting worldview, controversy ensues in the face of facts. This happened not only with heliocentrism, but also with evolution, the origin of ancient monuments like the pyramids, the debunking of scientific racism, and the gradual realization of people all over the world that their kingdom/nation/city was not the center of the world.
The sad part about this is that so often it seems like variations of the same narrative need to be broken over and over again. Almost every time science, history, or archaeology run up against a worldview, the basic problem is that accepting the necessary changes to that worldview would somehow take the holder’s ego down a peg. People, it seems, almost always form narratives in which the world is in some way about them. Therefore they cannot accept that the earth is not the center of the solar system, or that humans are descended from a common ancestor with great apes, or that non-Europeans are not inherently less intelligent than their white counterparts and could even have built the pyramids. The good news is that this means that when narratives are rewritten, in spite of what might be said about violating the sanctity of whatever or lowering whoever to whomever else’s level, the world is becoming a gradually less egocentric place. We must simply remember to always keep an open mind and never reject fact for the sake of sentiment.