We stand on our feet, they ground us, connect us to the rest of the world and no one would suggest taking a walk without them. However, they are the very thing that people forget to ask about when they are constructing their ideas and mental models about the world, where are their feet, what are the foundations of the idea, the first principles? Ideas are by nature heady things, they seem to be independent, ethereal and floaty, drifting like clouds through the universe and once in a while our heads bump into one and absorbs it, like ghosts that possess us and that we pick up as interference on the radio. Due to their translucent nature, we miss that they are not actually separate from the world around us, they need their own feet otherwise they cannot stand on their own, instead they rely and require external authority to impose their reality onto our lives.
When answering a child's question of why, the reply is so often because your mother said so and because of this training, we are indoctrinated into accepting that this is a legitimate reason to think an idea is valid. We can fall into the trap of thinking that every authorities in our lives are always right and not ask upon what feet does this idea rest on. As for an idea or mental model to be truly valid it must have it's basis in the real world, it must be consistent with our reality, if the theory of gravity said that apples floated upwards, it would be ridiculed as inconsistent with our senses.
Indeed the first rule of science is that if an idea is not consistent with your senses it needs extraordinary proof to be true. If you have ever tried to explain quantum theory to a five-year-old, you will see the first rule in action. They simply cannot comprehend something that does not agree with their sense of the world, they know that if you put a cat in a box you will have no doubt about whether it is alive or not, and they are aware it is not going to be happy.
You need a level of sophistication about the world to be able to understand it is not always how you see it. However that sophistication comes with a price, to be able to believe what is not self-evident about the world, opens you up to believing things that are not even true about the world, it means you are able to take things on other people's authority. When you read a book written by scientists for laypeople to understand, you are trusting their authority, that they are not going to say things that are inconsistent with the rest of the scientific community, and to be able to trust another person without meeting them is an extraordinary ability that is unique to human beings.
This ability enables us to learn rapidly without having to redo every experiment and have every thought be original, we are able to borrow the thinking of others and leapfrog towards a new concept. Every scientist will say they are standing on the shoulders of giants, and by that they mean that other people have done the thinking for them, that they have not had to start fresh, they are able to expand past them rather than waste time repeating every foundational piece of thinking and experiment.
And this is fine with many things, we do not have to do become an expert in every aspect of our lives. We do not need to know how Newton came up with this theory of universal gravity, we do not have to struggle for years to come up with those original ideas, instead we can just skip to the end, see the result and appreciate the mathematics without the effort of thinking something for the first time. However we always want to find the feet, it is available to us, you can follow the mathematics that led to his famous for members, you can follow the logic of a human doing experiments to confirm it. Every piece of supporting scaffolding is available for inspection, we can take anything back to first principles, that is the beauty of science and mathematics, anyone can call bullshit on an incorrect theorem, you can argue over mathematical proofs upon the basis of absolute logic.
Though I am not suggesting anyone spends time doing so, for any normal life you can just accept it is true, it is simply not something that is in your area of concern. It does not make a difference to your life whether the theory of gravity is true sure if the laws of physics suddenly changed and we all started floating away it would be a major problem but the problem would not be about whether we had understood the theorem, it would be of the more practical kind. It does not even matter that quantum theory says that this is entirely possible but just statistically unlikely, it has no reason to impact on our areas of concern. No one actually wanders down the street worrying about the quantum possibility of floating up into the air, to do so would require us a psychological condition, in which case your area concern is probably psychiatric rather than a lack of understanding.
Whilst this is not a common problem, it is remarkable how many ideas we just accept on the authorities of others and how we are expected to accept them without asking where their feet are, and these are not just theoretical ideas that have no impact upon our lives. We can in fact live our entire lives according to ideas that have floated into our lives, that we have never sought to question or ask where they came from other then someone else said it first. Whilst it is impossible to question every idea, I would suggest it is well worth putting the microscope onto the areas of concern in your life, whatever is of central importance to you, it is worth examining as to whether they have their feet on the ground or came to you from the clouds and you just accept them.
If you are perfectly happy and living a satisfying and good life, carry on chopping the fire wood and fetching the water. Be content with your family and your relationships with them, live in happy harmony with the world and your place in it, I am pleased for you and want you to rest easy. However if you feel discontent, dissatisfaction, if you have a sense of insecurity and unease, if you feel the future is unstable and you are full of fear of the inevitable change that happen during a lifetime. You are not just entitled to ask where the feet are, what are the foundations upon which you are building your life and whether they are true, but I would suggest that is the only path back to happiness, because to walk such a path requires your feet to be firmly put upon it.
Having a mental model of the world that is just wrong causes distortions in your thinking that will seep into all aspects of your life, and cause the warning signs above. They cause mental disquiet that can lead to poor behaviour, and we have seen in the past just how distorted entire countries can become due to wrong ideas. As distortions in thought can lead to negative thinking and depression in people, so too can whole societies become ill and that can lead to group action of the poorest kind. When force is used instead of logic, it is a sign that something is wrong with the models that govern a society, ultimately force is an admission of failure to persuade, and when governments use it, it is because people are acting in their best interests rather than accepting broken logic that does not apply to them. Though force comes in many forms economic, social, religion, families, it can not change the fact that ideas need their feet or in the end they will fall, the only question for you is will you wait for others to tell you that an idea was poor or will you find it out for yourself?