Friday, April 19, 2013

Casting Pearls Before Swine

“Don’t give that which is holy to the dogs, neither throw your pearls before the pigs, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
- Matthew 7:6

"Wizard's First Rule: people are stupid." Richard and Kahlan frowned even more. "People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People's heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.
—Chapter 36, p.560, Wizard's First Rule

I've not grown weak as I age, I'd prefer to think I've gained wisdom. The only way to get better insight is to have some bad insight. Then rather than complaining about the results as good or bad, you realize you are successful at producing outcomes. What you do with those outcomes is up to you. If you make a change and try again, you are far ahead of the curve. 

Arguing with idiots is somewhat of a sport on the internet and social media. It's equivalent to a Town Square. Through observation, understanding and actually changing my way of thinking, it gets down to this. There is comfort in being stupid for many people. Willingness to learn new things and be proven wrong is scary. You get challenged. It's like being a fast gun in the Old West. There is always someone younger and faster riding into town. How do we figure out who the idiots are? Here are some indicators. 

1. They adhere to a school of thought, political party, religious group, conspiracy theory, dietary science, training method, vocation, etc. 
2. They really don't understand the concept of evidence. [More on this later]
3. The soak their being in the use of Logical Fallacy. 
4. They are typically followers and not leaders. Free speech and free thought is not all rainbows and unicorns. 

Rather than target any group or just stupid people in general, I'd like to elaborate on points 2 and 3. 

The concept of evidence is a weighty subject and I'm far, far, from an expert. There are different types of evidence from good to bad. For example, there is LOTS of evidence for the Easter Bunny. However it's poor evidence. The most sensational and emotional type of evidence is anecdote or personal testimony. In other words, if you say it, it's real. "An alien spacecraft passed over my car," is an example of this. Sensational but worthless. It doesn't matter who said it. Oddly, this model is the most powerful one in advertising. 

Another type of evidence is "correlation to causation". For example people falsely attribute the increased use of high fructose corn syrup to the increase on obesity. There is an increase in smart phone use, reality TV and hybrid cars. Why aren't these attributed to obesity? It's the same idea. It sounds compelling and dramatic but it's hardly science. Think of Jenny McCarthy and vaccines. We are aware how more versed she is in molecular biology than Jonas Salk.

"Facts won't change beliefs." - Lyle McDonald

With poor evidence such as this people rely on "Logical Fallacies" to leverage opinion and persuade followers. There are many logical fallacies, but here are the most common ones.

The key of course is to invest in discussion with those who are interested. They may not agree with you, but they ask for your input. To simply draw the masses into meaningless discussions is a waste of energy. Nothing to gain and a lot to lose. When you argue evidence versus faith, you end up in a Red Queen's Paradox. One side fortifying their point with logic and evidence, the other with fallacy and belief. Fundamentally, nothing will ever be resolved. 

The people who need the information will not only ask specific, honest, questions,.. they will actually force growth by inquiring with energy that causes you to stretch. The stupid people will repeat the same tired doctrine. At some point in your development it will be come apparent. The problem though, is like Al Pacino in Godfather 3,.. they keep pulling you back in.

So fight the good fight. Ignore the stupid, educate the willing,.. forget the rest. You can't fix it.
In light of the tragic terrorism in Boston it's hard to think there will be 9/11 Truthers claiming an inside job. Yes. People are stupid. The following list is just a wonderful collection of flawed thinking. Read it and see how many you can apply to people you know. 
Fifteen Styles of Distorted Thinking [multiple internet sources on psychology/recovery]
1.       Filtering: Taking the negative components of a situation and magnifying them while filtering out the positive components. People may have a consistent theme such as loss, danger or injustice. Consequently they evaluate everything though that particular lens. 
2.       Polarised Thinking: There is no middle ground or gray area – things are either right or wrong, good or bad. If you aren’t perfect, then you’re a failure. This style of thinking has a significant impact on how people judge themselves and others. 
3.       Overgeneralisation: One single incident or piece of evidence is the foundation for a general conclusion, and so if something bad happens once, it can be expected to happen again and again. If a person has let you down once, they can never be trusted again. 
4.       Mind Reading: Mind readers think that their assumptions about others and what they are thinking are true. They know why people do what they do, and what they are thinking and feeling – especially in relation to themselves. 
5.       Catastrophizing: Disaster is always round the corner, and you expect it. As soon as there is suggestion of a problem, you start with “what-if’s”, assuming that the worst case scenario is on the way. 
6.       Personalisation: You have a tendency to relate everything around you to yourself, and think that everything others say and do is a reaction to you. These people characteristically compare themselves to others. 
7.       Control Fallacy: This usually manifests in one of two ways. You may feel as though the locus of control for your life is outside, and you are a victim of fate. Everything is beyond your control and you can’t influence important outcomes. The other common manifestation of this style of thinking is that you feel excessively responsible, as though everything depends on you. You are responsible for the pain or happiness of those around you. 
8.       Fallacy of Fairness: Fairness and justice are big standards for you, and you think everything should be fair – even though the evidence shows life often isn’t. You feel resentful that you know what is fair, but people won’t believe you. 
9.       Emotional Reasoning: You believe that your feelings are the truth. If you feel stupid, you are stupid. 
10.   Fallacy of Change: Your hopes for happiness depend on others, and so you need to change them to suit your needs. You talk about how people should change, and you give a lot of advice. You expect people will change to suit you if you pressure or cajole them enough. 
11.   Global labelling: You generalise a small number of qualities into a global judgement, for example if you have a negative experience with one person from a company, the rest of the employees are branded accordingly. 
12.   Blaming: Other people are held responsible for your pain, or you are responsible for the pain of others. If a problem occurs then someone must be at fault. Blame is how you respond to difficult situations. 
13.   Shoulds: You have a set of rules about how people “should” act and how things “should” be, that no one could realistically live up to. If you break your own rules you feel guilty, if others break them you become angry with them. 
14.   Being Right: To be wrong is unthinkable, and so you are always out to prove that you are right – and you will go to great lengths to do so. You are defensive and will hang on to your opinions and try to justify your actions. 
15.   Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: You work hard and deny yourself rewards in the hope that some kind of reward will come later. You make sacrifices, and consequently if the expected reward doesn’t come you become upset.

"You can't fix stupid." - Ron White

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