How to be open and honest, and still never have to change your mind about almost anything.
Tired of spinning the facts to support your position? Here is a new approach that you can use to justify almost any conclusion, and it requires, no lies, no spin, no clever definitions, no cherry picking, and it is so simple almost anyone can do it. It is also great for virtue-signaling your fair-mindedness, as it is almost impossible for anyone to successfully argue against you as you are not disregarding any of the facts. And best of all, you’ll never have to change your mind about almost anything. You can even use this to fool yourself about something, and many do.
Don’t believe me?
Let me demonstrate with some coin flips. I will argue that we will flip more heads than tails, and you, dear reader, are barracking for more tails. I will flip the coins to ensure that there is no bias in the flipping… Oh OK, you can flip the coins then.
Here we go – start flipping the coin, being sure to truthfully record the results each time. After each flip tally up the total number of heads and tails. Wait, let me check the scoreboard…, no, tails still have more tally marks then heads, keep going. In fact, keep flipping until you reach a point where there are more heads than tails. At that point let me check again – OK stop. The argument has been decided, and I won. Cool, would you like to play again?
What do you mean it is unfair?
You flipped each coin and recorded the results. I didn’t spin, lie, or interfere with the results in any way. At the end of the game, there were simply more heads. The weight of the evidence supports my side of the argument. Every piece of evidence was truthfully recorded and tallied.
You can make an honest effort to follow the evidence to the truth, or you can make an honest effort to reach your predetermined conclusion. After determining how you think that things should be, you can then go looking for evidence to support that position, or you can actually look for the truth. There are far more ways of being wrong than right, so the chances of the first thing that one happens upon that sounds right, actually being right is slim, but hey you can probably put forward a very good argument that it is right and use the above method to support your argument. Oh, how clever is that! Who can stand against us?
The problem, of course, is that reality is not persuaded by clever arguments. You may in fact be able to get the whole world to agree with you but reality still won’t be persuaded by your majority consensus and will stubbornly bear witness against you.
This form of mistaken reasoning where we use a combination of motivated stopping1 and motivated continuation to get the results that we want is a form of privileging the hypothesis2,3, and it is the way of darkness. Darkness, because it shuns the light of further inquiry. On the other hand, the truth loves the light of inquiry as the light can only ever make it stronger.
Still don’t believe me, we better keep going then. Here is another example, say that you are looking to buy a house, and you really like it, but want to make a good rational decision. So you start collecting evidence about the house and you keep looking until the balance of evidence supports you buying the house.
Alternatively, if you really don’t want that house – then you keep looking until the balance of evidence supports you not buying the house. As with our coin experiment above, this form of bias works even without the need for you to filter out results that you don’t like – it only requires that you keep going with your investigation until the balance of evidence supports what you had already decided that you wanted to do. You might as well of just done what you wanted to do in the first place, as you are really only using the evidence to justify what you had already decided upon. This kind of thinking leads to darkness – you’ll end up making a foolish decision. It is like moving the finish line while the race is running. You may not be able to make any horse win by moving the finish line, but if you make the race long enough, then most of the horses will at some point be in the lead, and at that point when it is the horse that you just knew was going to win, then you declare that to be the finish line right there, and low and behold your horse won.
It is very hard to argue with a person that has fooled themselves like that, as they have a ton of evidence to support their position – they made an honest effort, but they used their cleverness to deceive themselves.
As soon as they see their horse leading at any point in the race, they say “I knew it” and the race is done – they are not interested in seeing any more evidence.
Fortunately, this kind of flawed thinking is easy to detect as it always ends with motivated stopping – you just suggest more inquiry, and if it shuns the light of inquiry, then there is a very good chance that you have found a case of it.
Finally, before you add this to your arsenal of clever arguments, consider the wise words of P.C. Hodgell when he says “that which can be destroyed by the truth should be”. After all, people can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.
Disclaimer: “When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.” – Robert Pirsig 1991
- 1.Yudkowsky E. Motivated Stopping and Motivated Continuation. LessWrong 2.0. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/L32LHWzy9FzSDazEg/motivated-stopping-and-motivated-continuation. Published October 29, 2007. Accessed October 9, 2019.
- 2.Sabermetric Research. Privileging the null hypothesis. Sabermetric Research. http://blog.philbirnbaum.com/2012/06/privileging-null-hypothesis.html. Published June 5, 2012. Accessed October 9, 2019.
- 3.Yudkowsky Eliezer. Privileging the Hypothesis. LessWrong 2.0. https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/X2AD2LgtKgkRNPj2a/privileging-the-hypothesis. Published September 28, 2009. Accessed October 9, 2019.