Centrism, Features, Free Speech, Politics

Our Tribes and Tribulations

Disagreement has made disagreeable individuals of us all. News channels are littered with platitudes masquerading as thoughtful discussions. Individuals, convinced that the volume of their speech corresponds to the correctness of their arguments, contribute to the cacophony of tirades. The print media publish headlines assassinating opponents’ characters rather than their ideas. Swipes and scrolls lead us to trivial online quarrels which bleed into our personal conversations. Research from the Pew Research Centre suggests that 91 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats hold unfavourable views of the other. It would be unfair but tempting to lay the blame at the feet of politicians, public intellectuals, and journalists. But we, the people, are also complicit in this potentially slippery slope.

Gathering by the campfire in our ideological tribes, we bask in the warm glow of unchallenged beliefs. We caricature arguments that do not fit neatly into our canonical jigsaw. Foregoing uncomfortable rumination in favour of rhetoric, we have helped to create and perpetuate a climate in which dissent is tolerated only for as long as it is a heresy we find palatable. And because the sacred cow revered by one tribe could be butchered by another, both worship and slaughter are seen as barbaric. Our immune system, fearful the body may contract moral anaemia by merely engaging with opposing viewpoints, triggers a defensive response that renders us allergic (and deaf) to opinions outside our personalised Overton windows. The ultra-networked age leaves us distant and disconnected and facilitates the rapid transmission of viral partisanship.

In a famous Indian parable, a group of blind men encounter an elephant, a creature of which they have no previous knowledge. Each of the men arrives at wildly differing conclusions about what this animal is, depending on which part of the elephant they are feeling. The disagreement escalates as each suspects the other of dishonesty. This fable has disseminated across cultures and reverberates in John Stuart Mill’s iconic words, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Misleading partial experiences and the limitations of subjective perspectives stress the importance of honest dialogue in pursuit of objective truth.

Named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece, the ‘Rashomon effect‘ refers to the contradictory interpretations of a single event offered by different witnesses. In the film, events are narrated by four unreliable characters. In an attempt to explain the script to his assistant directors, Kurosawa offered a somewhat mordant commentary on human nature. He referred to the inability of people to be honest in their introspections, choosing instead to believe their own lies so they might convince themselves that they’re “better people than they really are.” Kurosawa advised his assistants to re-read the script while bearing in mind the “impossibility of truly understanding human psychology.”

In their oft quoted study “Why do humans reason?”1 French cognitive scientists Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier reviewed the social and cognitive psychology literature and concluded that our reasoning faculties evolved not to pursue truth but to provide arguments supporting views we already hold. The comfort seeking behaviour of confirmation bias suggests we are all unreliable narrators in Kurosawa’s universe. While reason sharpens the lawyerly reflexes required for ideological dodgeball, it has little interest in comprehending the whole elephant.

Instead, the ‘homophily principle’2 has clustered likeminded individuals together in the realm of social media. In their 2017 study, Professor William Brady and his colleagues from New York University found that the use of emotional language is pivotal in increasing the circulation of tweets expressing political ideas. Furthermore, dissemination of such tweets was greater within liberal and conservative circles but lower between them. This digital balkanisation has created echo chambers insulated from each others’ viewpoints. When tweets fly outside their locus of comfort, a reflexive charge of moral exhibitionism awaits them, rather than nuanced critique. Performative condemnation wrapped in soundbites reigns supreme in the attention economy.

Confined within ideological silos and betrayed by reason, is there any way to avoid the nights that turned into mornings as friends turned into foes because political discussions turned into personal diatribes? Before contesting an opponent’s argument, psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport suggested taking two essential and universally applicable steps in the interests of honest and constructive discussion. First, reiterate your opponent’s position in a coherent and fair-minded manner to ensure that you are tackling the strongest version of their argument. Second, itemise any points of agreement and explain what these have taught you. Once these conditions have been satisfied, only then can you critique their position.

Step one has been termed as ‘steel manning,’ and it is both the antonym and the antidote to ‘straw manning.’ Successfully attacking a lacklustre idea should not be confused with a demonstration of the strength of one’s own position. Steel manning is a necessary requirement for intellectual honesty in any battle of ideas. Charitably articulating any points of agreement allows for common ground to be located, however fractured that ground may be. Listing learning points orientates the discussion so that it may proceed fruitfully and in a spirit of generosity and decorum. If we pre-judge our ideological opponents to be morally bankrupt whilst blithely assuming the unimpeachable virtue of our own motives, we forgo the pursuit of truth for the practice of hypocrisy. Ideas and cognitive biases are what ought to be on trial, not moral character.

Readers of the New York Times should also make time to read the National Review. Those who read The Telegraph should extend that courtesy to The Guardian. Every Brexiteer should be able to articulate a Remainer’s strongest case (and vice versa) before rejecting it. Even Trump deserves an admission (however difficult) of his achievements (however few) from his most strident critics. It is worth noting that the most airtight and scathing criticism of an ideology is usually delivered by those who once espoused it – for they have been psychologically intimate with both its appeal and its flaws.

The realisation and acceptance of error can be akin to a mystical experience, the intensity of which correlates with the sacredness of the cow in question. If dialogue is to be constructive, we should ruminate on the sacred before we surrender to the excitement of the slaughter.


Jaspreet Gill is a Trainee Doctor in Psychiatry working in London.



1 Mercier, H., & Sperber, D. (2011). Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(2), 57-74. doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000968
2 M. McPherson, L. Smith-Lovin, and J. M. Cook. Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27(1):415-444, 2001.




  1. A nice essay – until the end when you fail to take your own advice.

    “Even Trump deserves an admission (however difficult) of his achievements(however few)…”

    Somehow toppling the entire establishment, in the face of overwhelming odds isn’t much of an achevement.

    Neither is emerging from an attempt to frame him with a bogus collusion narrative in one piece, with his accusers in far, far deeper legal jeaperdy than him, while also exposing the extraordonary criminal rot that was the Obama DOJ and the Clinton campain, and also saving us all from their clutches.

    No. No achievements to see there.

    How’s that for tribal thinking? It just feels so good, pondering what Hillary was feeling around 10 PM on Nov 8, that your advice is hard to implement.

    Maybe after Trump, Hillary, and the entire cabal of seditious Obama holdovers have left the scene we can all be friends again. Doubt it, though.

    • I was so disappointed when he abandoned his own advice. Almost made it to the end without a petty jab at the other side. In a way, it just supports the point of how difficult it is to carry out the excellent advice in the article.

      Equally as valuable as considering honestly the strengths of opposing arguments is openly considering the weaknesses of your own.

    • WILLIAM R DAVIS says

      How much do you think you are influenced by your own tribalism? If you think you aren’t at all, that’s a problem. Tell me, if the Obama administration was as sedition as you claim, why didn’t it make the investigation of Trump and Russia public before the election? Why did Comey admit that Clinton was back under investigation, this really did hurt her. I am by no means saying the Obama administration handled everything well (I’m skeptical of the surveillance state in principle, this is just a symptom of how easy the surveillance state is to abuse) but if the Obama admin were trying to inflict maximum damage on the Trump candidacy, I would have expected leaks about the investigation of Trump, and no comment about the investigation of Hillary.
      Personally, I think everyone is behaving terrible in politics these days, including the media. I was suspicious of Russia hacking the DNC when it happened (I follow hacking and it fit Russia’s MO), but I assumed it was because of Putin’s grudge against Hillary (a very understandable grudge). There was a lot of circumstantial evidence to make one suspicious of Trump (I can go into detail) and considering the gravity of the situation, I can hardly blame anyone for investigating. That said, it’s quite clear the Democrats are abusing this (Trump very well be innocent, and I think it’s a serious mistake to assume guilt based on suspicion) and the media has a made a fool out of itself peddling poorly evidence conspiracy theories. Of course I see the right peddling poorly evidence conspiracy theories too. The only solution to the problem is a commitment to critical thinking and objectivity over tribal alliance. If you are hyper partisan, you will regard this comment unfavorably because I call out both sides, but that would be because you only attend to criticism of your side (negativity bias) and just take criticism of the other side for granted. I get attacked by right and left, depending on the issue, and I think that’s an indication I’m being fair and moderate. Be careful of confirmation and selection bias as well, this are powerful things. Also be wary when you are feeling angry, one can’t really be objective at all when angry (and I admit it’s often very hard not to get angry).

      • Re: “if the Obama administration was as seditious as you claim, why didn’t it make the investigation of Trump and Russia public before the election”

        Because, at the time, they knew the case against Trump was as weak as we now all understand to be. What were they going to do, announce that they had it on good word from Sidney Blumenthal via Christopher Steele that Trump was up to no good? They were too busy producing a sham FISA application to cover for all the spying and unmasking they had already engaged in. (Speculation, but would you bet the farm against it? What did Evelin Farkas tell us?)

        Re: “Why did Comey admit that Clinton was back under investigation, this really did hurt her.”

        Comey and McCabe sat on it for several weeks, attempting to run out the clock. But they were not the only ones aware of the discovery of classified infornation on Wiener’s laptop. They decided they couldn’t completely run out the clock without grave personal risk should it get leaked. Also, everybody knew Clinton would win anyway, so better to inoculate her before the election.

        Those not getting their news from CNN have an understanding that the heads of the FBI and DOJ did all they could to get hillary over the line, but the Wiener facts were just too widly known at the FBI for Comey and McCabe to die on that particular hill, so they bailed after nearly a month to save their own skins. It doesn’t mean they didn’t do their best for her in the email “matter”. It is probably why McCabe is out.

    • Basically the article is “do as I say not as I do”. It’s not easy to steel-man that.

      If we talk Kurosawa, the author starts as Yojimbo but then reveals to be firmly on the side which has the pistol (money, mass media, academia).

    • Spot on! The parenthetical comment about Trump is unnecessary, stupid and undercuts the otherwise reasonable piece.

      • In fairness, he may in fact be using the deluge of relentlessly negative coverage of Trump as exemplifying the wider point he’s making. I read the parenthetical content as a gently sarcastic dig at the anti-Trumpers, if anything. In the context, it’s not a given that he’s stating a personal view about Trump either way.

    • Richard Mahony says

      Chamberlain prided himself on his willingness to conciliate, empathise and compromise. Look at the result. When, despite Chamberlain’s desperate efforts at diplomacy, the Germans went ahead anyway and invaded Poland, we did not need to see this act from the point of view of the invaders. Rather, we needed to respond decisively.

  2. All that ranting bring done, you make good points. Politically active people are addicted to superlatives. Worst ____ since _____. The Hannity/Maddow parallel universes are unbridgable. In a social media world there seems to be no solution. We’re doomed. Literally.

    • WILLIAM R DAVIS says

      Unfortunately something bad probably has to happen to snap people out of their stupor. I hope it’s not worse than it has to be.

  3. Ken H says

    Cass Sunstein (U Chicago and Obama adviser) covered very similar ground (Going to Extremes, Oxford U Press).

  4. Well said sir! In a media analysis podcast I follow (No Agenda Show) they refer to the mindsets of American partisans as being alternate universes. For many of the politically engaged they quite literally agree on no facts whatsoever.

    I’m not quite sure how this ends/changes/evolves. Perhaps others will reach the same point I did recently: delete social media accounts out of disgust/revulsion.

  5. Iain Alexander says

    This seems as good a place as any to dump some thoughts I’ve had on this subject:

    More and more people are supporting this notion of seeking the other side of the case and breaking out of one’s echo chamber. I’m sympathetic to this, but I wonder how far can we or should expect to take it?

    To what degree is it possible to escape our bias and see things objectively? Can we ever escape interpretation?

    How exhaustively should we search for counterarguments and positions? For a while, I attempted to read a variety of news sources, representing a variety of political perspectives, even a variety of nationalities (British, American, Spanish, Japanese etc.). But it became so time consuming that it soon compromised my overall productivity!

    For philosophy or politics, should we all try to read all the major texts of every viewpoint? Should we read every major religious text and theologian or atheist, just in case they’re right and we’re wrong? Again, where do we draw the line? How do we select what we read?

    One notable advocate of seeing the other side of the case is, obviously, Jordan Peterson. He also makes the case that political sensibilities are substantially conditioned by personality. So how mutable are our personalities? Presumably they are conditioned by external (social/environmental) and internal (biological) factors. It seems more likely that we can change the aspects of our personalities that are externally conditioned (through exposure to new ideas? through thought and reflection, experience?), but otherwise, I suppose, we can alter our personalities through discipline and action (such as practising traits we are not naturally inclined to, whether that be conscientiousness, disagreeableness etc.)

    There is also the idea that different personalities have their own niches. They are part of a natural process. They can be more or less healthy or pathological, I suppose, relative to how they affect the harmony of the system as a whole. Again, can we and should we expect to be able to maximise health and minimise pathology? Perhaps pathological personalities (and their corresponding political viewpoints) are part of the overall harmony of human societies, just as disease and decay are in nature generally. If certain (non-progressive) philosophers of history are correct, such as Spengler, it may be that pathological personality types naturally increase over time until there is a sort of collapse. Perhaps it can at best be delayed, not prevented.

    I’m now experimenting with a more minimalist approach to news. I get the daily news digest email from the BBC, keeping its bias in mind. I read more in-depth sources that are more aligned to my way of thinking (such as Quillette) and the same goes for watching/listening to Youtube/podcasts. I do all this bearing in mind that my perspective or the perspectives of those I follow more closely could be wrong.

    Otherwise, I use my own successes or failures in life to let me know when I should update my knowledge, perspective and behaviour. I don’t actively seek counterarguments, but listen out for them.

    • Rafael says

      I’ve ran into similar problems. Steel-manning sounds good in theory, but in practice is a very big workload. Straw-manning, on the other hand, requires just a bit of imagination and sometimes we do it unconsciously.

      For now, my conclusion is along the lines of “choosing well your battles”. Even if I dislike the political/ideological opinion of someone, I tend to not open my mouth, acting indifferently. There are very few subjects on which I’d dare to expound my opinion confidently.

      Nonetheless, the end result is unsatisfactory. It would be good if everyone did it, but then who controls the conversation are the people who talk the loudest and generally these people are using the most base tricks in the rhetorical toolkit (strawmanning being one of them).

  6. defmn says

    // Misleading partial experiences and the limitations of subjective perspectives stress the importance of honest dialogue in pursuit of objective truth.//

    The problem with this is that there is no consensus that there is such a thing as an ‘objective truth’ since Nietzsche – at least.

    And there is a segment of society that believes that words are not to be used in the service of seeking answers so much as seeking power.

    And then there is the peculiar attitude towards politics that has basically disappeared from every other field of knowledge which is the belief that you can become an expert on the subject by watching TV or reading newspapers. I suppose that is understandable since it is a quirk of democracy that we elect those with no training in governing to govern us but there it is. Everybody is an expert regardless of having no education or experience in the field.

    The article is well intentioned, I am sure, but the difference between dialectic and eristic arguments traces to Socrates’ discussion with Thrasymachus in Book One of Plato’s ‘Republic’ where the techniques mentioned are on display for anybody interested.

    And in the end political disagreements are not about ‘objective truth’ so much as teleological in nature. Why the west rejected teleology in favour of objectivity is a fascinating journey through the writings of our political philosophers but I doubt it can compete with the more entertaining polemics of moral outrage that characterizes contemporary political discourse.

  7. cacambo says

    Unfortunately, the author hasn’t read Sperber and Mercier thoroughly enough. In their book, The Engima of Reason, they lay out an interactionist theory of reason that does indeed question the accuracy of our individual reasoning, but then goes on to provide lots of evidence that we’re actually quite good at assessing the persuasiveness of reasons when making decisions collectively.

  8. Bubblecar says

    Like a lot of ordinary, middle class, moderately centre-left liberals, I’m somewhat mystified by the current surge of right-wing populism, and what it actually stands for. The support for Trump, Brexit, the “alt-right” etc amongst working class people is particularly puzzling, since none of these things would appear to offer much in the way of helpful policy or outcomes for the problems of the working class.

    It’s very difficult to argue with working class supporters of Trump when it’s clear his policies will make them worse off, but they apparently refuse to acknowledge that; they tell us it’s “fake news”. Where can any dialogue go from there?

    There’s apparently a lot of anger directed at “educated elites”, but it’s hard to discern why and wherefore. What are we “doing wrong”? When you bear in mind that “educated elites” are responsible for most of what we all take for granted in modern civilization – science, arts, technology, the health and education systems, modern transport, engineering and communication systems etc, it would seem that this much-hated group is actually indispensable, and it’s hard to understand the source of all the hostility.

    Much of the anger seems directed at what our opponents call “political correctness”, as this relates to matters such as sex, race and sexual orientation.

    Again, what is that we “educated elites” are supposedly “doing wrong” in relation to these matters? How do our opponents think that society should treat women, gays and people of colour, and how does that differ from what currently prevails?

    If my right-wing opponents could provide a helpful list of what changes they would make to Western culture and society as it currently stands, and explain how the “educated elites” are currently failing them, I’d have a better idea of what their complaints are actually all about, and how my life would be affected if the current surge of right-wing populism survives long enough to achieve its “goals”.

    • Bubblecar — what do the terms even mean? The political Left has taken terms, made them envisioned as the epitome of evil, and then assigned to any person or group to the right of them. For example, “alt-right” — the visual is the Nazi white supremacist yelling death to blacks/jews/etc…yet that label is placed on any person who voted for Trump including those in the “groups” the Nazis are purported to hate.

      What does “right wing populism” mean anymore? My spouse’s family, ardent hard-left types…5 years ago were all “buy american…buy your local vegetables, screw walmart buy from the locally owned grocer!” — uh, those are POPULIST views which are verboten when someone who voted for Trump wants to see American companies succeed and blue collar/rust belt workers and young black males find jobs?

      • Bubblecar says

        As far as I’m aware, the term “alt-right” was coined by the um, “alt-right”. I’d never heard of them until a couple years ago, when the term started popping up in various MSM articles, so I looked them up in Wikipedia. They’ve since been fairly prominent in the Trump administration in the form of Steve Bannon and others.

        I was equally unfamiliar with other exotic denizens of internet culture, such as “MRAs”. I think you’ll find in real life very few people actually encounter any of these types, yet their “movements” apparently exert a strong influence on various aspects of today’s conservative agenda.

        Look at Milo Yiannopoulos, a very eccentric critter whose views would be regarded as outlandish by most people of any political hue, but who is upheld as some sort of guru by many on today’s Right. When he visited Australia recently his talk was attended by Cory Bernardi of the Australian Consertive Party – a typical old-school homophobic Catholic, who was cheered by the assembled audience. And they were there to listen intently to a self-styled homosexual supremacist who regards the ancient Spartans as a highlight of human civilization.

        Weird, but this is the sort of thing that’s going on in what’s widely described as a resurgence of right-wing populism, and as far as I’m aware, there are few enthusiasts on that side of politics who take issue with the term “right-wing populism”.

        As for blue collar workers voting for Trump to get their old manufacturing jobs back, how is that going to work? Those jobs have largely gone forever, not just due to economic globalism but to the ever-stronger rise of automation and robotics.

        These sort of problems will need long-term solutions that place a higher value on people than on money, and you’re highly unlikely to get that from the likes of Donald Trump.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      Is it not the case, Bublecar, that if you can identify the set called ‘my right-wing opponents then you must have some idea of who they are and what they stand for? Otherwise, what could make you imagine that they exist?

      • Bubblecar says

        I encounter them in the Comments section of the Guardian and elsewhere, but they’re seldom very articulate. They seem to inhabit a world that has been “ruined” by the “politically correct elites”, but what exactly they mean by that in terms of the realities of everyday life, and what their overall plan is to rectify this situation (beyond Brexit and ending immigration) is usually left to the imagination.

    • Hi Bubblecar, I think that if you genuinely don’t understand why millions of people hold certain views then that’d be a good example of the author’s point about the need to escape from echo chambers. It does seem likely to me that if large numbers of people hold opposing views on an issue then there’s probably merit on both sides.

      It would be convenient if someone from the opposing side set out their case clearly in a forum of our choosing, but assuming that’s not always going to happen then it’s up to us to seek out opposite views.

      Regarding one of your specific queries, the obvious reason for working-class people to support Brexit is to end the free movement of cheap labour from Europe, hence boosting wages and employment rates.

    • “If my right-wing opponents could provide a helpful list of what changes they would make to Western culture and society as it currently stands,”

      For starters, defund en toto all public university departments and programs that seek to inculcate the most privileged group of young people that have ever lived with the idea that they are victims; while destroying their character in the process.


      -Your academic program name ends in the word “studies”.
      -The words intersectionality or microaggression have ever passed your lips other than in jest
      -Your administrative job title includes the word “diversity”.
      -Your graduates are consistently unemployable outside of academe, Starbucks, HR and rent-a-mob.

      …then you can fund your own propaganda sans direct federal/state support or student loans, rather than living comfortably in a parasitic relationship with the society you condemn and seek to destroy. .

      Let’s see if all the “studies” academics can feed themselves and spread their gibberish laden gospel of division as effectively without our tax and loan support.

      Is that a good start to your list?

    • Nicolaas Stempels says

      At least in Europe it is quite clear why the populists are doing well. There is a huge or small (depending on where one stands) immigration of Muslims into Europe. A group that will not adapt to the local customs and values in a majority of cases. The centre and left appear to be blind to the problems caused. The Cologne epics in Germany, rape epidemic in Sweden or the Rotherhams are but the tip of the Iceberg. As long as the problem is not recognised by the left and centre, and any attempt to address it is countered with ‘Islamophobia!’, the populist right wing is going to grow.
      I do not like that situation, but it is how things are.

  9. Thatguy says

    Bubblecar you say “It’s very difficult to argue with working class supporters of Trump when it’s clear his policies will make them worse off, but they apparently refuse to acknowledge that; they tell us it’s “fake news”. Where can any dialogue go from there?”

    Why would they engage in dialogue with you when you summarily dismiss their opinions and experiences? The stock market has reached record highs, individuals are paying less in taxes, wages have gone up, and unemployment levels in several demographics are at their lowest levels in decades. When you tell people these things are “clearly making them worse off”, it doesn’t create much desire for continued dialogue.

    Your condescension towards the working class is precisely why populist politicians like Trump are experiencing success.

  10. “alt-right” is recognized as a generic “slur” against what are viewed as “Fringe” conservative groups. It includes far more than just “neo Nazis” but also includes the Tea Party, for example, which are fiscal conservatives as opposed to evangelicals (social conservatives). The parallel would be to call all the Blue Dog democrats & radical communists “alt-left.” See where this leads? By creating a generic slanderous tag where the MSM uses the most extreme and heinous examples to label the entire group they are intentionally skewing their audience from any sort of relation to the audience. It’s ironic that the Blue Dog democrats are now alt-Right, and how Antifa is using fascist tactics against their enemy the “facist Trumpers”

  11. Ben Fisher says

    I don’t necessarily agree that someone with my ideological bent needs to start reading the National Review as I think it’s a substandard publication in the service of a particular ideological bent. Outside of its editorial section, I do not believe that the New York Times exists to serve a particular ideological bent.

    I’m less concerned with applying this writer’s to the Left/Right dichotomy than I am with applying this principle to disagreement WITHIN the Left. I believe that the Left needs to be a lot less concerned with ideological purity and more concerned with bringing people into the fold. Give people a chance to learn rather than expecting perfection from the outset, and don’t assume bad faith.

    • RE: “I do not believe that the New York Times exists to serve a particular ideological bent.”

      Walter Duranty would have surely agreed with you.

      One thing you have to say in defense of their opinion section, they offer a broad and ideologically diverse variety of Trump hating columnists. What does it say about the organization as a whole that employing even one columnist that doesn’t viscerally hate the President of the United States is unthinkable? National Review is pretty much split down the middle. How is it again that NR is in service of an ideology, but the NYT isn’t?

  12. Andrew Roddy says

    This is an article worth reading and the comments broadly reflect that. I was becoming tired of Quillette and its weary, juvenile tropes. Does Quillette know what it is and what it aspires to be? Surely not boring? This plot-twist will keep me turned in for a few more episodes. Maybe if you banned the use of ‘post-modern neo-Marxism’ you might at least challenge your contributors to find some entertaining euphemisms.

  13. I think the U.S. and perhaps the whole world is having an epistemological crisis. Even in science, there’s great concern over the lack of reproducibility of studies.

    There are some experts who say that everyone has their own verson of reality. E.g., here is Dr Julia Shaw discussing her book “The Memory Illusion”.

    At minute 1:10, she says “It challenges the idea of what truth means. I don’t like the idea of a single reality. To be is to perceive. The only thing you can really be certain of, is that this is your version of the truth.”

    Also, Scott Adams is a well-known critic of our ability to be rational.

    08:20 – What’s the evidence that humans are not rational and not swayed by facts and argumentation? We are irrational 90% of the time, but we don’t even know it. We do have the capacity to be rational, but only about stuff we don’t care about. If you add just a little bit of emotion to any decision, then rationality goes out the window. There are books like Influence by Robert Childini, Thinking Fast and Slow, and Habit, which provides the science that backs up my point of view that I learned from studying hypnosis.

    10:10 – In the Trump phenomenon, you surely know people who have high IQs, but who completely disagree. In the old days, I used to say, well one of these people is wrong. There’s a right one and a wrong one. And I was always quite lucky, because I was always the right one, no matter what the situation. And then I realized everyone thinks that about themselves. So, it turns out a clear picture of human existence is that we are rationalizing, but we are not rational. And we are indeed creating a movie in our head to explain the facts. But here’s the interesting thing: we can look at the same facts, and support two completely different movies.

    15:00 – You can see things through a different filter or movie and you can still eat and get to work. You can still do all your stuff. If I say that my version of reality is true, then I’m probably an idiot. The best you can say is that you’ve got a filter on reality that either does a good job at predicting and making you happy or it doesn’t. In other words, the best filter on the world is one that does two things: 1) Makes you feel good. 2) Accurately predicts the future.

    The idea of giving up on rationality would lead many to despair, but Scott Adams somehow has great optimism. He seems to think that we can collectively discover the best ideas in this unprecedented communication age, and that process has only just begun.

    41:00 – Communication is the best thing that currently exists for improving the world. We can quickly share ideas. And in the marketplace of ideas, the good ideas can eat the bad ideas, more efficiently than they could when you had to write a letter. I’d say that the communication ability that we have really drives everything.

    39:00 – Over the next 3 years, I’m predicting a golden age. I’m defining that as a point when everything is moving in the right direction. So, I think we will have a strong economy. I think there’s a non-zero chance that North Korea will lead to a shared Nobel Prize. We’ve already seen ISIS defeated. So, the economy, North Korea under control, technology is doing wonderful things. I think it’s a golden age. I think people are going to say it was the best time of their lives.

    Sometimes, it just feels like events are in the driver seat and we are just passengers. It’s like the rollercoaster Space Mountain, with its twists and turn in the dark, except we have no idea if the ride will end pleasantly in the light or fatally in the dark.

    I do believe the truth matters and there is truth (at least as far predictive truth), but there’s just very little incentive for people to give up on feel-good ideas and spend the time to get to the truth about the big issues, when you’re just one person. I once saw Joe Scarborough on MSNBC mumbling under his breath that the reason why he quit his position as a member of the House of Representatives, was because he didn’t really feel like he was able to get much done there. How do the rest of us feel?

    Finally, one quote from Stefan Molyneux:

    ??:?? – History tragically repeats, because we learn the truth too late and what we learn doesn’t seem to help prevent the next tragedy. We cannot send the truth back in time, and learning the truth after a devastating and unnecessary war cannot undo the loss. If the ancient Romans had only known the causes of their fall, then maybe they could have stopped it.

    ??:?? – Power hides behind lies. The truth exposes the lies, which causes people to recoil. With the internet, there is hope of finding the truth more quickly than ever and spreading it more widely than ever. We may just be able to stave off the next collapse or revolution, if we get the truth soon enough and spread wide enough. It would be the first time in human history that this was done. In any case, the outcome will be for today, as it always has been in the past, one of the following: collapse, revolution, or the truth.

  14. Richard Mahony says

    To defeat evil, it’s not enough to think. It’s not enough to analyse, to reflect, to ponder, to research, to marshal carefully and scrupulously one’s facts and arguments. It does not suffice to sympathise, to empathise or to understand. To defeat evil, one must act.

  15. Rebecca Jones says

    I would argue that the main problem is that we are completely stuck in our thinking. For one thing, there are not just two sides. The perspective of a native american, a young black man, a poor white woman or a rich white man are each going to vary–for instance. But more important, I think we have settled into blaming each other for The Problem so we don’t have to give up our comfort. If we cynically declare that there is just the Right and the Left, I would say it’s not so much we are arguing about ideology as we are arguing to deflect blame. We are trading, as MLK said, comfort for justice.

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