We all know that most people are pretty good at calling a deer a horse – pretending that the Emperor really is wearing uncommonly fine clothes that are only invisible to stupid or unfit people, etc.
Most of the time, the penalty for calling a deer a deer is not as drastic as that exacted by Zhao Gao. Most of the people saying instantly falsifiable things about current issues are not doing it because someone is holding a gun to their head. Sometimes negative career consequences are a possibility, more often social penalties, but it seems to me that most people want to go along – outside threats are not the biggest drivers.
Now we all know that going along with horseshit can be a bad thing for society as a whole, sometimes even at the individual level. It is good for society to avoid marching off a cliff, and that is also good at the individual level, even if everyone else is doing so.
But being right when nearly everyone else is wrong does not necessarily confer a net benefit.
Sure, you avoid walking on air – but the penalty for conformity is not always that dramatic, while the penalties for _nonconformity_ are almost always there. They happen even if you’re proved right – maybe especially if you’re proved right.
Still, there are some people that prefer the truth to the trend and have enough mental horsepower to get there fairly often.
The question is, is this a bug or a feature? Is it bad for fitness, or is it some kind of minority genetic strategy? Sure, it has some social utility, but that doesn’t pay the genetic bills.