For What It’s Worth

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

–Buffalo Springfield

When was the last time you really changed someone’s mind? I’m talking about something you did or said that resulted in another person changing a deeply held belief or opinion.

Folks, it does… not… happen. Or so rarely it’s the same as never (see Meteor Destroys Cincinnati).

And if you do hear the words, “I’ve been thinking about what you said and you’re right,” it’s far more likely the person saying those words is trying to patch up some rift based on a heated discussion.

Our beliefs are the results of years of programming. They make up who we (think we) are. We don’t throw these out the window because of something a friend said over a beer.

Few of us honestly challenge our own ideas and beliefs. Most of us read books and web sites, and watch cable channels that reinforce and support the things we already believe.

What the fuck are you talking about

I’m talking about the futility and pointlessness of discussing (polite arguments) things like religion and politics, which –it now occurs to me– involve one group of people telling another group of people what they must do or should believe. Where was I?

ArmwrestlingwithscienceSounds like you’re saying we should only take part in discussions with people who share our views?

I think I’m challenging you to be honest with yourself about your motivation. The next time you find yourself in a “debate” about religion or the economy or who puts whose willie where… stop for a second and ask yourself why you care what the other person believes.

Intellectual curiosity? If that were the case, the discussion would be over as soon as opinions were exchanged.

The answer, I believe, is that if they are RIGHT… then you must be WRONG. And that just won’t do. [Cartoon by B. Kliban]

[Bell rings]

I’ll see you all tomorrow. Read chapters 8, 9 and 10. Don’t forget, book reports are due by Friday.

2 thoughts on “For What It’s Worth

  1. Steve, I can honestly say that I have changed my strongly held convictions based on conversations (not debates) with another. That person once also held those same strongly held convictions as I did and was able to influence me from a perspective that they were intimately familiar with. They knew all the arguements inside and out and were able to point out the flaws of the position I claimed.
    I have since moved away from that postion (of beliefs and convictions) that I once held. I have shared my newly held convictions with others, but havent found many takers.
    So while I believe it CAN happen occassionally, you’re right, it doesn’t happen alot.
    But the motivator for me, was not to prevent myself from being wrong, but was to know what the truth of the matter was. I was shown (and saw) how my position was flawed and wanted to correct that, which meant accepting a truth I had previously rejected.
    My strength is admitting I’m wrong, it makes it so much easier to be right about SOMETHING.
    BTW- I wont have my book report completed by Friday, cause I’m pretty sure my dog is going to eat it.

  2. Sunday best: The very nature of adversarial debate tends to activate the digging in of heels. Peaceful resolve in the truth of one’s convictions is sometimes “disarming”, and can ultimately change minds. This effect can seem imperceptibly slow, though. Meanwhile, immediacy stimulates the adversarial debate.

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