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Predestination Was Doomed From The Start - The Cover Story
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Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 03:29 pm
Predestination Was Doomed From The Start

If somebody has a gross misconception about something not directly significant to getting on with their life, and fiercely defends it (the Holocaust never happened, Disco is alive and well, the Book of John is a receipe for cream of mushroom soup), is it worth the time to countermand them?

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sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 01:34 pm (UTC)
Is it worth it

1) He or she is your friend, and you want your friends to have intellectual integrity -- and would expect them to do the same for you.

or

2) You're worried that his misinformation will spread.

or

3) You've already initiated a conversation with the person, and it would be rude and/or spineless not to correct him or her.

or

4) You've got this character flaw where you like ineffectually railing against the ignorance of the masses when you're bored.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 01:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it worth it

Two questions:

1) What is intellectual integrity? Is this just a fancy way of saying "knowledge of the way things are" (factual knowledge), or does this simply imply a self-consistent set of ideas (something akin to referential integrity)?

2) Unless I misunderstand you use off the word "spineless", isn't it more polite to not correct somebody?


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 03:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it worth it

1)
A: Inconsistency
Yes, if a person's reasoning process demonstrates an unacknowledged inconsistency, it is flawed.

B: Highly Localized Analysis
If a person's reasoning process unduly gravitates towards a single conclusion or set of assumptions, it is flawed.
You see, John, while our brains are massively parallel, our reasoning process is not; a single mental model morphs in useful ways, and we hope it will start giving us intelligible answers. If we allow our preferences to unduly influence our reasoning process, then our mental model will conveniently morph into a shape we desire. It's highly analogous to having an algorithm that is only capable of finding a local optimum while "solving" the traveling salesman problem.
The desire to be right is something any serious academic must seek to purge from his being. Sure, you can choose to operate within a set of useful assumptions, (e.g. objects fall at 9.8m/s^2, sturdy-looking chairs will support your weight, stabbing people is not something I should do), but that's wholly divorced from the desire to be right. People tend to miss that distinction. It's an artifact, not just of modern education, but of our evolutionary heritage.

2) In the case where I mentioned spinelessness, I'm referring to an instance where a person has engaged you on this topic. The general implication is that the person is interested in your thoughts. However, if the notion that you find incorrect is secondary to the topic discussion, then letting the correction go unsaid is often the only appropriate thing to do. So yeah, my blanket statement wasn't strictly correct.
Spinelessness comes into play when you know that the person is interested in your thoughts, but you don't want to share them for fear that they might not be liked.


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 05:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it worth it

So let me see if I can encapsulate your statements:

1) A person's beliefs are only valid if they are connected in a web of logic that contains no directly or indirectly contradictory statements.

2) People tend to come up with a theory as to how something works, then attempt to fit the available data to their theory.

3) It is a matter of [moral|ethical|absolutist] principle to state your view point if you are asked for it, regardless of how it might be accepted.

Do you feel this accurately summarizes what you were trying to communicate?


ReplyThread Parent
sirroxton
sirroxton
Adam Augusta
Sat, Dec. 18th, 2004 09:56 am (UTC)
Re: Is it worth it

You've got the right ideas.

Contradictions are acceptable if acknowledged.

#2 is a symptom of the flawed mental paradigm I described. The desire to be right can cause more problems than that, I think.

#3: All other things being equal, in my favored model of human relationships, yes.


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ultimatepsi
ultimatepsi
Kate Nineteen
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 01:45 pm (UTC)

In my book, it worth the time to correct them once, perhaps with a brief explanation. This is mostly for the sake of your own self-respect. A prolonged argument is likely to just frustrate both parties, and not accomplish anything, and therefore not worth the effort.


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moozeale
moozeale
Julia
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 03:09 pm (UTC)

Unfortunately it my experience gross ignorance isn't likely to be corrected. People who believe the Holocaust never happened I simply can't talk to because of how it indirectly affected my life. Also unfortunately, I have tried to correct people's misconceptions about the moon landing and it became a matter of family pride for me (my grandfather worked on it behind the scenes and prevented my aunt from getting her Bat Mitzvah when her Hebrew school teacher that year told the class it was a Holleywood act) vs sheer ignorance on the other person's part that was about as useful to correct as if they'd been 100% convinced that the following day the sun would rise in the west. You can't do anything to help those kind of people.


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bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 05:38 pm (UTC)

I don't usually find major movements to rewrite history to be the most bothersome to me -- they're largely concerned with "reeducating" people who know better, winning professors and teachers to their point of view. But the other day I had somebody try to argue that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because the United States was blockading Japan's oil supply, which is, of course, ridiculous to somebody who has been studying world history, and particularly World War II, as much as I have. It did make me realize, though, how these sorts of things get started.
Today the United States is the bully of the World, able to exercise our will as we see fit until somebody snaps. For my generation, it has been the only world we have ever known, and so there is the implicit assumption among people that we were always that way, even though we didn't gain that illustrious station until 1945, and didn't solidify it until 1991. So today we have the Holocaust faked, since people couldn't believe Germans would do such a thing, the Moon Landing faked, because it was too convienent, and an American aided and abedded Pearl Harbor.
So I wonder what will happen in the future, if someday I, or my children, will read books telling a very different story of the first half of the twentieth century than we have now, once all the people alive during that period are gone, and the credibility of the books written on the subject can be openly attacked. I can't help but wonder if there's some way to create an unforgable, undeniable record of history...


ReplyThread Parent
moozeale
moozeale
Julia
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 06:11 pm (UTC)

I really hope you're wrong. The thought just scares me horribly. I realize that there will always be ignorant people who don't want to know the truth about history. The moon landing being faked and Pearl Harbor having been aided by the Americans are horrible enough, but masses of people "forgetting" that the Holocaust was real terrifies me. If schools were to start teaching all of the above conspiracy theories, that's when I leave the country. I'd rather die in a war zone than have my children be taught any of that.


ReplyThread Parent
bronzite
bronzite
Robert Bronzite
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC)

Yeah. The logical derivative of this line of thought is to wonder how many genocides, how many holocausts, how many cultures have been forever blotted from history by Rome, Babylon, Shanghai, Kiev, Gaul, London, Athens, Cairo, or any of the other major empires of the past, and how many of those cultures had destroyed others? How many cities sank into the sea, or beneath hundreds of feet of soft sand? How many nations became vassals of the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Zulu, the Huns, the Mongols, and lost their entire histories before they had the written word to store it? I don't think our history will suffer the same fate, but I wonder still.


ReplyThread Parent
ultimatepsi
ultimatepsi
Kate Nineteen
Fri, Dec. 17th, 2004 07:26 pm (UTC)

It seems to me with the amount of first person records that are out there for modern events, the truth isn't going to be forgotten. That is assuming civilization doesn't collapse, or a truly concerted effort occurs by a large fraction of people to rewrite things. In my observation, most people think the rewritings you've mentioned are out-there conspiracy theories.

In regards to classroom teaching, I remember when I took world history. The teacher mentioned the "Holocaust never happened" theory and showed us some evidence for it, but only to then show how the evidence was being skewed. Sort of an immunization against conspiracy theory.


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