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Strong beliefs, loosely held (lisacharlotterost.github.io)
47 points by ingve on May 10, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments

This doesn't address the problem of how to deal with someone who doesn't WANT to correct their worldview.

That's the real problem.

I start off too many conversations with: "Look, if you want to talk about <position>, fine. However, you have to tell me up front what evidence you will accept that your position is wrong. If you can't do that, then this is a harangue and not a debate or discussion."

Oh sure, no doubt others are so wrong and the struggle is so real.

It is easy to see the flaw in others' arguments, but the true challenge is to identify your own biases and irrational worldviews.

> Oh sure, no doubt others are so wrong and the struggle is so real.

And sometimes you ARE objectively right. Truth DOES exist.

This false equivalence that social validation is equivalent to being correct is what got us to this point.

And that's the trick to finding your own biases. Which of your beliefs are based on "social validation" rather than any notion of evidence? Which of your beliefs requires you to dismiss actual facts to the contrary?

And what if you wouldn't be able to interpret evidence (either way) correctly because you don't have the skill for that ?

Because that's the case in 99.99% of topics, at least for me.

Additionally, what if one's education would, if honestly evaluated, conflict with widely held political views ? What if it is perceived that they may lead to policy changes ?

For instance, taking two points that are sure to be controversial here:

Among psychologists there was a long drawn-out fight about whether being shown violence (tv, video games) causes people to be more violent. That fight is over (there are extremely thorough and long duration studies available). The answer is yes, being shown violence, especially as a child, makes you more violent. Participating in violence does the same, but more so (ie. video games, and keep in mind these are decade long studies. We're talking about things like duke nukem (NON-3d version), and other ancient games, including believe it or not tetris. Not that one game was studied in isolation) (It also seems rather unclear how someone could honestly believe at this point that games like DOOM aren't worse). Participating, or being victimized, in real violence (ie. living in a bad neighbourhood) even more. Exposure to criminal acts makes people more criminal. And yes, that includes the victims.

> but the true challenge is to identify your own biases and irrational worldviews

You're right.

But it's been my experience that the people who harp on this point are the same people who insist that:

  - there is no such thing as objective truth
  - it is not possible to be unbiased or objective
They almost universally hold that those "truths" constitute grounds for dismissing inconvenient facts, as well as for denying incoherence/inconsistencies in their belief systems.

>However, you have to tell me up front what evidence you will accept that your position is wrong.

Do you reciprocate and state ahead of this what evidence will make you accept that your position is wrong?

This is a pretty ironic comment though. The article is basically arguing that our views, to a large degree, are based on our previous held ideas and that the way to remedy that is by taking a more complex and serious view of things. And now you're essentially saying "ignore that, here's what I think" in reference to the article.

Except that this doesn't work. Or, perhaps more appropriately, it doesn't work faster than the forces spewing misinformation work. Converting people one at a time doesn't work when the opposition is converting them via mass media.

> This doesn't address the problem of how to deal with someone who doesn't WANT to correct their worldview.

I found the article went to great lengths to explain why someone might not want to correct their world view. It then proceeded to give some examples of how you might work around that (avoid tribalism, change your own attitude, demonstrate that you're invested in/impacted by the question at hand). Empathy for the other person seems to be the general approach.

I found How to Win Friends and Influence People to be a good read for more examples. https://www.amazon.ca/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/06...

Sometimes I think bridging the gap is important. People rarely get offended when you talk about Humans causing an increase in carbon dioxide. It's not something they need to get offended about and the cause > result is obvious.

Them talk about effects of CO2. Does it help plants grow or hurt athletic performance.

People mostly get offended when you start demonizing them by comparing them to holocaust deniers. The problem I see is that people are more interested in convincing people that climate change will have apocalyptic consequences than they are in discussing solutions to the problem.

I don't nessisarily think we need to do anything. It's like NYC gets flooded, well ok sucks for them, but not exactly a life or death issue for 100's of millions. Perhaps the will build a dike, perhaps they will move, or perhaps someone is going to dredge the oceans making artificial mountains to side step that problem whatever not going to affect me much.

People get really wound up in these ideas, but the existence or non existence of the moon landing has no real impact on me. It's like sure people are dumb, at what point did you assume people where intelegent and rational because that's clearly not the case.

Interesting, the author uses the 97% of scientists agree the human activity has caused climate change statistic. I do think we have but that stat is terrible and misleading. The paper it comes from is dubious at best. Referring to that in an article like this is a little ironic.

I just skimmed through this paper that supports the 97% consensus and nothing jumped out at me to suspect the paper is "dubious". It seemed like a strong conclusion to me. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048...

What issues are there with that paper?

Thanks you, I was only aware of the problems raised with Cooks 2013 paper. I was not aware that new research backing it up. You have changed my opinion.

But I would say that it's worth noting there is criticism of the original paper http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048....

But as I said you've changed my mind, the 97% figure seems to be accurate.

In addressing the question of 97% consensus of blah (where blah varies)..., and not the paper specifically, this article provides a good summary of the quality of this figure: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425232/climate-change-...

The “97 percent” statistic first appeared prominently in a 2009 study by University of Illinois master’s student Kendall Zimmerman and her adviser, Peter Doran. Based on a two-question online survey, Zimmerman and Doran concluded that “the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific bases of long-term climate processes” — even though only 5 percent of respondents, or about 160 scientists, were climate scientists. In fact, the “97 percent” statistic was drawn from an even smaller subset: the 79 respondents who were both self-reported climate scientists and had “published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change.” These 77 scientists agreed that global temperatures had generally risen since 1800, and that human activity is a “significant contributing factor.”

I see, but there have now been several more papers on this question with increasingly better methodology. The meta review paper that I linked above seems conclusive on the question.

This article doesn't address what I believe to be the actual problem: why should you "believe" in facts to begin with? Despite popular belief, there's no inherent reason to believe in facts. You could argue that factual information can make you money, however that's not necessary true. One can become quite rich by spreading lies, actually.

So... why believe in facts at all? The answer to this will generally include some intellectual elitism, driving away the group I describe in the first paragraph even further. People might use words such as correct and right, but those words already impose a value judgement to begin with, only further begging the question.

The value in having (true) beliefs comes in being able to predict the future more accurately and therefore make better decisions.

Tbpfh, that is only true for people of above average ability to remain calm in the face of failure.

I've seen many, many people make dumb decision after dumb decision despite having all the facts because of emotions.

When irrational actors are the ones making decisions, knowing facts won't necessarily help you and may end up coming back to bite you. As they say, the world around you can stay irrational longer than you can stay sane.

I was referring to you, the individual as being the decision maker. If you are irrational there's nothing I can do to help you. The reason we should want to believe true beliefs is the same reason we should want to not be irrational.

Knowing that fact sounds very useful...

> why should you "believe" in facts to begin with?

I'm not really sure what you're asking here, especially since you put believe in quotes.

Facts are - by definition - things that are true, indisputable, regardless of whether you believe them or not. As such, a refusal to believe facts makes one wrong - at least about that particular thing.

If a person insists on being wrong about a particular thing, in the face of facts proving such wrongness, it is probable that that person is:

  - wrong about other things
  - unable or unwilling to reason correctly (at least in certain circumstances)
I don't know about you, but wherever possible, I try to avoid having to rely in any way, or otherwise be affected by the actions of people who can't or won't act rationally

I agree that facts by definition are things that are true. I disagree that refusing to believe said facts makes you wrong, unless the discussion was solely centered around asserting said fact to be true or not. In my experience that's rarely the case.

Even in your example you said that it is probable that the person is wrong about other things or unable or unwilling to reason correctly if they insist on being wrong about a particular thing. However, facts are only defined by the present state of knowledge one possesses. In other words, facts can change to conjecture with the introduction of new evidence. How do you know someone who refuses to believe what you think is a fact is not just more enlightened than you?

> However, facts are only defined by the present state of knowledge one possesses. In other words, facts can change to conjecture with the introduction of new evidence.

What you are alluding to here are not facts, they are hypotheses, guesses, theories, conjecture...

I wrote this comment. That is a fact. It will never change, regardless of any evidence you may speculate. It will be a fact until the heat death of the universe.

Anybody who refuses to believe this fact is not more enlightened than me, they are someone who does not understand what a fact is.

To extend Moynihan - everybody is entitled to their own opinions, hypotheses, guesses, theories, conjecture, etc. But they are not entitled to their own facts.

If it were factually not a good idea to believe facts, then why shouldn't you simply disbelieve that fact? Your argument here is blatantly self-contradictory and demonstrably useless.

Facts should be believed because they are - by by definition and in practice - necessary to avoiding failure. Those things that cause failure are factual components of reality. If you don't believe in them, how can you hope to avoid them? Those things that lead to success are factual components of reality. If you don't believe in them, how can you hope to understand them? Etc., ad infinitum for all things.

Your premise -- that [facts] are necessary to avoiding failure -- is false. What dictionary are you reading that defines a fact as being something necessary to avoid failure?

Your argument for it not being important to believe facts has as it's premise certain fact claims, including "one can get quite rich by spreading lies".

In order to even evaluate your argument (aside from just addressing it's logical flaws which are independent of facts), then, I must first bother to believe something about facts (maybe what you claim, maybe the opposite.)

> One can become quite rich by spreading lies, actually.

Belief and spreading are two different things.

One, of many reasons, is to be able to make informed voting decisions.

I'm afraid this is too abstract for the intended audience.

Who is the intended audience?

I liked the content, but I didn't like the conclusion. If you have a strong belief I feel like you should be able to strongly hold (i.e. defend) it. The philosophy "strong beliefs, loosely held" will just breed rabid dogs that obey whomever has the most convincing evidence (note that convincing evidence is not necessarily strong evidence).

For example, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag4HN_jeYV4

Purple is obviously the villain here, right? Grab your pitchforks!

Now read this: https://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/69xqxh/reviewer_ask...

Now it seems clear that the video creator was hiding something and that Purple is justified in their actions. Lynch the youtuber!

Now read the youtuber's response to that and be prepared to grab your pitchforks again...

I'm of the opinion that weak beliefs should be weakly held and strong beliefs should be strongly held. Something that you haven't studied yourself should be a weak belief, weakly held. Something that's only been on the news for a few days with very few actual facts should be a weak belief, weakly held (i.e. Ahmed Mohammed, Michael Brown, etc). Something you've studied or experienced over an extensive period should be a strong belief, strongly held since you are an expert.

That's an interesting point. For most beliefs, they are pretty long held and tend to move slowly (morality), but it's interesting to consider how science changes and what people's thoughts on that are, and recent quick changes in beliefs.

Example, diet fads, or what new thing causes or prevents cancer (red wine/chocolate/low carb/high carb). Some people really strongly hold these beliefs, and they do get moved around when new beliefs come out. To their detriment, usually (especially with diet fads).

I'd rather have someone have a strongly questioned strong belief, a weakly held weak belief, and the ability to know that just because you believe something doesn't make it exist.

None of that is enough to get to a strong belief. Weak beliefs weakly held is a common and perfectly reasonable stance. The important part of weak beliefs is to not make major changes based on them.

Now some things like gravity are very strong beliefs. But, you should be open to the possibility that something else is going on even with gravity. That does not mean you should stop believing in gravity based on a slick YouTube video, but rather accept that with solid evedince something else might be going on.

I can still change my mind with a strong belief, strongly held, it's just much more difficult.

For example, one strongly held strong belief that I have is that the speed of light is the maximum speed of matter. So when CERN publishes a report that they discovered superluminal particles, I don't instantly switch beliefs - that would be weakly held. Instead I stand my ground and wait to see if it's reproducible, etc.

The cern thing was not presented as solid evidence just we don't understand what's going on. The question is how much evidence it would take you to change that belief vs someone to change their stance on global warming. Supose, the consensus in 3 years was they where going faster than the speed of light would you have updated your beliefs then? Because that's not even close to enough evedence for say global worming opponents.

Further many people disagreed with QM even with a lot of evedence backing it because it was so different from what they where used to. They essentially had not threshold to update their beliefs.

> Suppose, the consensus in 3 years was they where going faster than the speed of light would you have updated your beliefs then?

Yes I would have updated my beliefs, but my new beliefs would be both weak and weakly held. If in 20 years the consensus was still solid they would become both strong and strongly held.

> Because that's not even close to enough evidence for say global worming opponents.

For them the evidence they need to see is perceptibly rising temperatures or sea levels. A lot of people view climate change as highly politicized/hyped science (which it is) and are therefore skeptical if not of climate science of the apocalyptic predictions (which are not universally agreed upon by climate scientists). They will change their minds if they see that it hasn't snowed in 10 years or if their beach front properties are getting swallowed by the ocean.

We have perceptibly rising temperatures that's not enough for these people, because it's not rising everywhere evenly and people don't really have great memories.

Well, demonizing them doesn't help. Most people are willing to talk solutions, not a lot of people like being insulted. For example, I've had lots of discussions with climate skeptics about nuclear power and I can usually get them on board by the end of the conversation.

I don't mean to demonize just be realistic.

Changes that are obvious and massive to the CEO of a company which owns ski resorts around the world may seem meaningless to people living at those same locations. I like most people don't recall the date of each snowfall over the last 50 years, because it has little real impact on me, but keeping accurate track of those same storms can be of vital importance for some people who see these trends as both obvious and critical.

I've seen people mention this concept before. But how strong is a belief really, if you're not sure whether it's worth holding on to?

I mean come on, is an article with pictures such as:


worth discussing? What's next, the right-wing field sharing articles of IQ across racial groups?

What do you think that picture is meant to say? To me, it is meant to convey that regardless of political affiliation, more "intelligence" makes you believe in your convictions more strongly, whereas - regardless of political affiliation - being more curious barely affects your beliefs, except to make you less skeptical of global warming.

So I didn't see that image as bigoted.

You apparently found it interesting enough to get to that picture, which is pretty far down in a fairly long article. That would indicate that it has some worth.

It isn't claiming that one side is more intelligent than the other. It's talking about curiosity vs. intelligence and how that affects how people of different belief-sets agree or disagree with a given statement.

You're really inferring a lot from this image that isn't there. It is clear there isn't an intent for this image to be "Dems are smarter than Repubs", but it's very telling that that is all you get from it.

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