Argumentative Theory of Reasoning

I posted a web comic poking fun at the irrational fear of the ocean. My carefulness last weekend maybe kept me from getting stung by jellyfish and definitely from stepping on a stingray or skate. There were no sharks that I saw. But then, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” ūüôā

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Dr. Jonathan Haidt, NYU — Bob Howard, Village Square

After some comments, I eventually deleted the post because I was tired of the arguing whether fear is rational or irrational. (It is both which is why I thought the comic funny and posted it, but obviously this was not the correct audience.) I keep to myself more these days to keep from arguing about politics. There has been a temptation to leave Facebook altogether in order to get away from the madness. Something I will not tolerate is that kind of thing on my own posts. I tell people to stop and if anyone eggs it on, then I delete the post.

In Jonathan Haidt‘s Edge talk¬†A New Science of Morality (Part 1), he alerts us to:

According to Mercier and Sperber reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments. That’s why they call it The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning. [1]

My own Confirmation Bias screams that this absolutely must be the most true thing I have read this decade. Several posts on this blog demonstrate my fascination with people trusting their ideology over the facts. But this makes sense in an environment where people are mainly looking to prove themselves correct. Someone can be completely reasonable, but if the other has made up their mind there is no changing it. The flow of information only serves to eventually serve up something that supports their view which they will seize upon.

As Behavioral Economics fanboy, I very much am all about humans are not extremely imperfect reasoners. To label anyone, even Neil deGrasse Tyson, as very rational strikes me as irrational. It will be difficult to refrain from not using reasonable as pejorative to mean someone who has stopped thinking beyond only supporting their own view.

Research BEFORE reacting

A friend posted this article on Facebook, Everything wrong with this country happened this morning on my Facebook page, which showed an image with the original erroneous claim. The reactions to it were agreement with the bogus claim. Which was extremely sad because the originator of the claim now refutes it. The whole point of the article seems to be that people seem to have lost the ability to see something, research for themselves the accuracy of the information, and make a decision about it. Instead people see things which evoke a feeling and react to the emotions instead of taking the time to verify. Even when that thing is trying to point out they are falling for stupid things corrected over a decade, but the false version resonates so strongly people perpetuate it because ideology trumps facts.

You need evidence. ¬†You must go back somewhere in our objective world of definable objects and time frames and get EVIDENCE before you have an emotional reaction to something. ¬†Not ONE SINGLE PERSON went and researched. ¬†They had their opinions ready when the manufactured reality presented itself. ¬†They gained more satisfaction from expressing their world view than searching for the truth. ¬†This is the problem we’re having. ¬†This is the core of the problem America is having. ¬†If we just searched for objective truth, if we stopped our anger or our emotions for a singular second we wouldn’t have Iraq wars and Afghanistan wars and we’d have an equitable economic system that brought about prosperity to all.

I think a lot about this kind of thing. Some of my posts:

P.S. Snopes and Google are your friends.

The Enemy’s POV

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves.¬†For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

From the Martin Luther King, Jr. entry on wikiquote.

At brunch yesterday, the point was being made to me over and over that if climate change advocates could ask deniers, “What would it take to convince you?” and give that data or answers, then that would spark the necessary dialogue to help both sides understand each other. Running across the quote above, it struck me as quite funny and unsurprising that I would be on the wrong side of MLK.

As though proving my point, my repeated argument that ideology trumps facts according to studies fell on deaf ears. False information (such as a misleading negative campaign ad) agreeing with a person’s ideology followed by a retraction or fact checking tends to result in strengthening the false info. The recalled “facts” are those necessary to defend conclusions. It appears to work this way for both liberals and conservatives. The mechanics appear to include remembering the false information because they agree and not the correction because they disagree.

Even before I ran across this through to the present, I try to expose my self to Libertarian, Republican, Green, and Democrat information sources. I find myself dismissing some things and then armed with the ideas above feel bad about having done so. So I dig for more information and sometimes find I was wrong. Doing this is hard. It is far easier to just assume I was already correct. But then I am an information glutton.