We Disagree. Are You Ignorant, Immoral, or Stupid?

in relationships •  2 years ago

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We often believe those we disagree with are either ignorant, immoral, or stupid. We enjoy seeing ourselves as above average and completely rational. If our ideas weren't right, we wouldn't hold on to them (or so we to tell ourselves). If their views are so obviously wrong, confusion sets in as to why they don't see reality "as it is" (according to us). It’s so painfully obvious, right?

Unfortunately, no. Though jumping to conclusions is easy, I’m going to argue we should consider other options. The conflict in our brains wants to be resolved. How we resolve it matters.

They’re Just Stupid.

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This is the quickest and easiest conclusion. If something is so obvious to me, and they don’t see it my way, then they must be stupid. Though it’s tempting to believe this, in many cases it’s simply not true. Stupidity requires mental deficiency. Their brains have to be operating at such a slow pace they couldn’t possibly understand what we know, no matter what new information they get or experience they gain. The problem with this judgment is, if it’s true, we end up being the asshole. Assuming for a moment they actually are stupid, is that their fault? If our physical brains are superior due to nature, nurture, luck, or some other magic dust we haven’t figured out yet, how is it their fault to have less? A bit of empathy and compassion on our part would be required.

With a little bit of effort, we can usually move past this one pretty quickly. We can find other things they’ve done or said which require intelligence. So if they aren’t stupid...

Maybe They’re Just Ignorant.

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This is the most common explanation for why people see things so differently than we do. They didn’t read that book, watch that documentary, or read that scientific paper’s abstract (while pretending to have read the whole thing). They just need to be enlightened! Surely if they had the wealth of knowledge we have, they’d completely agree with us!

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve thought this way, only to find out later I was the ignorant one. There's always more to the story. Always another side I wasn't aware of. It's humbling to think you understand something and the other person is ignorant only to get a new bit of information which changes everything.

Ignorance is a tricky claim to justify because we all have completely unique experiences in life. We all have different cultural backgrounds, childhoods, genetics, temperaments, learning styles, religious frameworks, and educational experiences. Once a “fact” hits our unique brains, it gets stored and interpreted by different frames and neuron groups connected to different memories, metaphors, and understanding. Maybe people aren’t ignorant, they are just different. So different, in fact, that maybe they are...

Completely Immoral.

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If they are smart enough to understand, and they have the facts at their disposal to rationally come to the “correct” conclusion (ours, of course), then maybe they are purposefully and willingly denying the obvious truth. They have no moral framework and are simply evil.

This conclusion comes up often between intelligent people because it solves a lot of cognitive dissonance issues in a neat little package. For a smart, informed person to disagree with my conclusion, I have to have a justified reason to reject them outright and what better way to do that than from the moral high ground? If I’m on the “good” side and they are on the “bad” side, I don’t need to dig too deep into their rebuttals or counter arguments because they are evil and would lie or trick me to get what they want. Not only that, the negative emotion which has been rising due to the conflict in my mind can now be turned into primal anger and even violent action. This person I disagree with can now be vanquished for everything that’s good and right in the world with the added benefit of me no longer being confused!

Simple, right?

Hopefully you picked up all my sarcasm here.

Clearly, there are many more options as to why people disagree. The biggest often being different epistemologies. Our epistemology makes up the mechanisms we use to distinguish justified belief from opinion. So many aspects of our lives go into our epistemology, and it’s something few people deeply engage with and work to improve. Sometimes the answer isn’t figuring out why the other person is wrong (or we are wrong), but instead embracing both ideas and letting our mind chew on them.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

This willingness to embrace contradictions and conflicting perspectives is what the world needs more of. Few ideas are black or white, left or right, good or evil, progressive or conservative. The real world we live in is far more nuanced. If we want to live in this world peacefully with those around us, building meaningful relationships, we’re going to have to level up our thinking. We’re going to have to purposefully engage with smart, informed, moral people who completely disagree with us. Engaging there is where we can grow the most and, if we’re persistent and lucky, become wise.

The next time you immediately dismiss someone's view you don't agree with, ask yourself if you put them in the ignorant, immoral, or stupid category. Challenge yourself to justify your conclusions and consider alternatives. They deserve the same benefit of the doubt you expect from them.

The more we can do this, the more we can build a world we all want to live in.

Steem On!
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P.S. This post goes along with a rant I wrote recently.


Image Sources
1: @kevinwong 2, 3: CC0 Pixabay modified 4: Comedy Central (Southpark) via Giphy

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There are several great lines in this article. I'll highlight one:

We’re going to have to purposefully engage with smart, informed, moral people who completely disagree with us.

I think many people do not seek out information unless if agrees with what they already believe. Confirmation bias is rampant today, with the great availability of information. It might be wise to take a little time to read up on other points of view besides one's own.

Resteemed and shared; great article!

Great post, Luke. It got me thinking:

What should we call someone who builds their argument/position upon a logical fallacy, or worse a whole string of logical fallacies, and yet refuses to abandon the reasoning once the logical fallacy is pointed out to them?

Are they ignorant? No, for the fallacy upon which their argument depends has been pointed out.

That leaves either immoral or stupid. Can you think of any other options? I can't off hand. Clinging to a fallacious argument (let's say a non sequitur) is immoral if done just to be a troll or stupid if done otherwise.

For instance suppose someone argues as follows:

All dogs are animals therefore all animals are dogs.

You come along and explain why such an argument is a logical fallacy and therefore isn't sound. The person nonetheless clings to the argument and insists that it is sound and they are right.

What are they? Ignorant? No. Immoral? Possibly. Stupid? Possibly. I can't really think of any other options.

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Great comment, Sean. I mentioned it in a comment below, but there is another large category I didn't cover here (and probably many more): the fundamentalist dogmatic. That's a really, really tricky one to figure out. I was fundamentally dogmatic for most of my life. Within that frame, the "logic" works well enough to keep the cognitive dissonance low. You "feel" smart with your ability to defend and justify your position (often, unfortunately, using logically fallacies which "feel" good, but are ultimately flawed).

I don't think it's stupidity or immorality. In some case, people hold to their dogmatic beliefs for what could be considered very nobel, moral reasons. I had a conversation recently with a friend who mentioned his marriage might be threatened if he were ever to give in to his doubts and abandon his faith as it exists today. For him, a moral decision would be to continue to find justifying evidence for his position (as to not be ignorant) while at the same time not digging in too deeply to threaten the foundations of his family.

It's a tough situation indeed. I agree with your "Immoral? Possibly." comment. For some people (not my friend, mind you), they know they are lying to themselves but choose to do so anyway for other reasons. It's a cost/benefit analysis. Since I consider "lying" immoral, I could make that argument. At the same time, causing people harm and breaking up families could also create some very real victims and be considered immoral. It's tough stuff. It's a reason I hope we, as a species, move beyond dogmatic thinking.

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I believe that what you're seeing when this happens is fear. There is literally a fear that death may come if they acknowledge the truth, because it would contradict their tribal instincts. Exclusion from the tribe in ancient times was a death sentence, and so our brains evolved a way to conform to tribal norms in response to taboo subjects, ensuring safety within the group. Most people are affected by this at times, and they almost never know it's happening. That's my theory anyway.

If everyone would agree with me it would be a damned boring world. No room for debates and discussions.

Actually, I am more than happy to find opponents. Finding someone disagreeing with us is good as we may get a different standpoint, and possibly more valuable new pieces of information (that would maybe implies that we will have to upgrade our black/white vision of a problem to a more greyish one).

So in short: debates debates debates (which is sometimes missing on Steemit, although there is room for them).

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Very well said, @lemouth! I too like debates. I learn and grow through them, but I also recognize not everyone thinks the same way I do. Some people avoid conflict like the plague and they can't view debate in any other framework but conflict.

Great thoughts, Luke.
We've all experienced a degree of cognitive dissonance. Our mind races to find the answer, sometimes glossing over the truth with some sort of logic gymnastics so we can carry on without facing the possibility that our framework needs some serious adjusting. That's hard work, made harder as we age.
At other times, we recognize the tension but learn to be comfortable with it because we're convinced that the truth will explain the tension. We see our perspective as the right answer, even with the tension.
And, sometimes, we just know that we're right and the opposition is wrong. The challenge, IMO, is to attempt to see things as they see them well enough so that we can have empathy, as you mentioned. Regardless, unless they are rude in their opposition, we should show them respect and compassion, even if they refuse to consider another possibility.
I faced opposition on the same subject with two people recently, at different times. One was a complete jackass, like a playground bully who thought he knew everything and denigrated anyone who didn't agree. The other was firm in his position, and a bit blunt, but quick to offer respect and affirmation that he was not looking down on my for disagreeing. The first one I wrote off and won't bother with again. But I actually have developed a little more of a relationship with the other, developing respect because we agree on so many other things and had cordial disagreement on the one.
Sorry, that turned into more of a rant than I intended. :P

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No need to apologize! I loved your comment.

so we can carry on without facing the possibility that our framework needs some serious adjusting.

That's so true. Getting around that is difficult, but I think it's worth it in the long term.

The playground bullies really bother me. It seems so primitive, from my perspective, and I want to believe we're evolving past that as a species. I wish everyone understood NVC and used it effectively.

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Good explanation tension and anxiety
Please check my last reply to luke

Well written! I think this post addresses the heart of decentralisation pretty well. I mean, most early-adopter folks in the blockchain that are into decentralisation and all, those that "get it", usually just hover around similar ideas. But when differing ideas come into the picture, I've seen outright rejection with no space for debate / discussion.. which is quite antithesis to the whole concept of decentralisation, since it seemed like everything must be uniform (same beliefs). Well, there are various different pockets of beliefs, standing their ground, which is a good thing as well, but what I'm saying is people should anticipate differences and be ready to have a civil, critical conversation about things without making too many assumptions about the other side.

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Interesting analogy. The thing about blockchain decentralization (and computer protocols in general) is the requirement for agreement. If everything isn't in agreement, we get hard forks and problems or we get failing programs which don't properly follow the protocol.

Then there's social decentralization, which I think you're talking about also. The outright rejection part is confusing/sad since it really cuts off our ability to learn and grow.

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Yeah, I was talking about the social aspect of it! Interesting that you brought up agreement in protocols, which is quite something else altogether since there must be a winner to continue running the chain. What would you say about the Steem blockchain in its support of its social, community layer that's built on top of it, like Steemit? Is it "neutral" enough for all? Quite an open question.

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That's a good question. Many seem to think it's not neutral or decentralized enough and a very few people with the Steem Power get to call all the shots. For now, they may have a point. Will that change in the future? Maybe. Will that make Steem more useful along with the social, community layers on top of it? Possibly. It's also possible the future will see Steem being used in ways we can't currently imagine.

Great post Luke. At the heart of humility is the ability to hold loosely what you think you know while also buying in fully to your own convictions. Not easy to do. Love the Fitzgerald quote.

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Thanks Jason! I'm working through the "buying in fully to your own convictions" part. I think I've done that much of my life, and I'm not sure it has served me or the people I love very well. I can be passionate about my justified beliefs, but even then, I want to hold them with an open hand based on my ability to justify them. To the point I hold a strong conviction, that, to me, seems like an area I'd be less willing to learn something new. I always want to be learning something new.

Hi Luke

I normally try to use what i learned wit Piaget and I keep that frame in thought when there is disagreement

When two people start talking each one has begins with his/her/ permanent values, attitudes and beliefs

As soon as people start to communicate they create a virtual interspace where both will have to virtualize their permanet values and expose them in a virtual territory that generates anguish, because your permanent valued living world is being scrambled and questioned

As soon as the conversation stops there is a way in wich anxiety dilutes itself as soon as you go back to your permanent values
The more the virtual shock was strong in anguish , the more time you take to dilute and go back to equilibrium (it can sometimes take weeks or years)

Well with this we have to retain the concept of elasticity of your values, correlated with your anxiety meaning authoritarian people suffer more of this "sickness" in communication

Better expalined if you go to Africa and you are caucasian and you have a permanent value of beeing racist, if you stay there and talk a lot to local people your values will became so elastic that someday you can forget that you where a racist
It's not true your permanent value is racist but it became so elastic you almost can't feel it

So life is travelling as much as you can between Virtual and Permanet and became the "Elastic Man"

With this as a conscient process always in your mind it helps to cool down the engine of anxiety generated by "Virtualizing"

I will have to post about this subject

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Sorry I missed this comment earlier. It's a great one! I thought I voted it up from my phone. I'm a huge fan of neuroplasticity and argue often that human beings can and do change! It's a wonderful thing. Travel (along with reading and new relationships) can be hugely beneficial and transformative. I really like your idea of a "virtual interspace." I think that will become more "real" (via VR) within our lifetimes. How interesting would that be to have a VR conversation with facts and figures being retrieved in real time as the conversation is happening?

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My Next post is BCI Direct brain-computer interfacing - EEG & ECG Biosensor and Brainware, in connection with artificial intelligence will bring this possibility in a few years, the current ones can already be programmed in part for that

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YEEESSS.... Followed so I hopefully won't miss that one. :)

I like where you're coming from on this post @lukestokes. There's always more to a story than meets the eye. I particularly enjoyed the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote and your writing style.

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Thank you! That Fitzgerald quote has been a favorite of mine for a while now. I think about it often.

Last time I felt that way was in debates with OneCoin true believers. What exactly am I supposed to "embrace" there? Feel the greed? Accept the buyer beware? I feel sooo guilty for thinking these people are stupid, ignorant and greedy. 😂

PS: Joking a bit here, great article and I agree.

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Greed is a powerful bias creator. I think can even trick us into thinking something is good. I didn't get into dogmatic fundamentalism either (which I have a lot of experience with). It's tricky stuff. Sometimes there is a moral difference and when the downsides are spelled out in terms of harm done to others, that can be shown I feel they've are honest.

Reminds me of a conversation I had with someone about a Bitcoin arbitration scam they were promoting. Eventually he admitted he knew it could be a scam, but was promoting it anyway for his own gain. That helped me realize how different our moral frameworks really were which I later confirmed via direct discussion about moral frameworks.

Very timely piece, thanks for sharing!

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You're welcome!

This is the quickest and easiest conclusion. If something is so obvious to me, and they don’t see it my way, then they must be stupid. Though it’s tempting to believe this, in many cases it’s simply not true. Stupidity requires mental deficiency. Their brains have to be operating at such a slow pace they couldn’t possibly understand what we know, no matter what new information they get or experience they gain. The problem with this judgment is, if it’s true, we end up being the asshole. Assuming for a moment they actually are stupid, is that their fault? If our physical brains are superior due to nature, nurture, luck, or some other magic dust we haven’t figured out yet, how is it their fault to have less?

A very good explanation why most people find me to be an "a-hole".
And "no" I do not blame them for being stupid... I just feel lonely and sad, I am not as stupid as them.
Being smarter (less stupid if you wish) is a very lonely place...
In popular culture probably "House, MD" is the prime example of how someone CAN struggle for just being a bit smarter than the other guys in the room... and how unbearably painful this usually is. And 'yes', you are right, he/one becomes an asshole for having to live with what the extra smarts live has served him!

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By what mechanism do you conclude you are smarter than someone else? IQ test scores? Your opinion? Some epistemology framework you can rely on and convince others of?

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Do not give me this BS.
By this piece alone I can see that you are smarter than 80% of the population. So I am damn sure your know and understand the pain I am talking about. The pain of being smarter...and that you can do next to nothing to change that, nothing to change the fact that you see just a tiny bit more of the truth that surrounds you/us!!!

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Being so smart, why did you call my questions BS instead of answering them? You also claim to know not only my understanding but my emotional state caused by that understanding (pain), yet you and I don't know each other very well. That's confusing to me.

There are many, many different types of "smart." Emotional intelligence, social intelligence, book smarts, street smarts, etc, etc. I'm confused why you see it so clearly and can put a number like 80% on it.

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You asked me to explain (politically correctly) 'Why I consider myself smarter than XX% of the population"
Nice! Thanks for asking!
... But You Do realize that even the smartest one (whoever it is in your view - Einstein, Moses or Newton), will be a total and utter joke trying to prove that for himself... and you asked a pure mortal as me to do it??????

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You're making a claim you know you can't prove (and maybe very few people can), but you're still confident in your claim? I'm trying to understand where that confidence comes from and why you seem so justified in it based on the language you're using here.

Most of the smartest people I've ever met understand just how little they know and are the last person to claim to be smarter than others. Every professional scientist I've talked with, as an example, falls in this category because though they may be incredibly well versed on a very specific focus, they realize how much there is know on even the smallest niche and therefore conclude they know very little and really aren't all that smart because so many people all over the world know so much more than they do given how many different niches exist.

I guess what I'm hoping for is a little humility. Maybe your loneliness and sadness doesn't come from your supposed position of superior intelligence, but your lack of humility which makes you unapproachable to others. Most people appreciate others who are vulnerable and willing to be corrected. Again, there are many types of smarts and intelligence. Emotional and social intelligence may be areas you could learn more from others on. That's not a criticism of you, it's just my opinion based on the interactions I've personally had with you.

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  • Where did I claim to KNOW more than other people? "Professional Scientist " or not?
    -" Emotional and social intelligence may be areas you could learn more" - sure, you are the doctor here (in this post/comments realm I mean)
  • "based on the interactions I've personally had with you." - remind me - where have we met???
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Where did I claim to KNOW more than other people? "Professional Scientist " or not?

@james-show: Did I misunderstand these comments?

I am not as stupid as them.
Being smarter

As for this:

"based on the interactions I've personally had with you." - remind me - where have we met???

We've only met here on Steemit, as far as I know. By "I've personally had with you" I mean on comment threads like this one. I could dig through the blockchain to find other comment threads which have led to my opinion, but it's probably not worth it.

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Totally not worth you time, doctor!
It is you your thread (sorry for daring to post in it) and you already have formed you expert opinion.... even if you do not quite remember how, when or why...

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@james-show

Totally not worth you time, doctor!

I'm not a doctor. I think everyone is worth time until they show otherwise.

you already have formed you expert opinion.... even if you do not quite remember how, when or why...

No, I haven't. If you recall, I started my dialogue with asking questions so I could better understand you and your perspective to better inform my opinion (which is not an expert one). You have not answered my questions which is something most intelligent people I know are happy to do because they enjoy teaching others.

sorry for daring to post in it

Please don't feel sorry for posting. Everyone should feel comfortable engaging, even with people who may not agree with or understand them. That was the point of my post.

Great piece, now what I think is you have to be open minded, there are a lot of things even the most versed person doesn't know, and of course no one knows everything. I'll give you an example of this, a friend of mine is sure that dogs aren't capable of seeing up, just straight ahead, sideways and down. I don't know if this is true, and i'm not going to google it. Lately I have been looking at some dogs and have not once caught one of them looking up, but I just don't believe they can't look up, maybe they are tricking me into believing they can't . So in this case I can't even tell my friend he is wrong because I can't prove it, what does that make me or maybe him? Stupid, ignorant or just plain evil? Or maybe as @james-show says in his comment am I just an a-hole?

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and i'm not going to google it

Why not? Why not engage the smartest minds and the best research the world of human knowledge has to offer in order to come to a justified belief? This is where my own epistemology shines through a bit. I think reason, logic, evidence, the scientific method, skepticism, and the like came form a pretty reliable justified belief system. Others may feel an epistemology based on personal experiences is better, but I see that as too limiting since one single human can only experience so much. Together we can learn a lot more (IMO).

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No, I want to make sure by seeing if they can, I don't think I have to use Google to figure this one out. Just haven't had the luck too see one look up yet so it's still an iffy thing.

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You don't see a conflict in "making sure" just based on your own subjective sensory input? Eyewitness testimony, as an example, is a provably bad way to determine truth. A quick google search for "can dogs look up" (sorry, couldn't resist) brings some interesting results to show it's a nuanced discussion, and it even explains a little bit about why people have differing opinions on the topic. Hint: you both might be somewhat right.

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You did look it up? Well I'll tell you something I will continue doing my research (just looking at dogs) for a week, if after a week I haven't seen one looking up I will Google it.

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Hahah. Nice. :)

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One more thing, you had me with epistemology, I had to Google it (I do use Google, especially in cases like this) turns out it means knowledge, not all of us have English as their native tongue and I had never heard that word before.

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@gduran: it's a really powerful word. It's not just knowledge, but more specifically the mechanisms we use to obtain knowledge and know that it is in fact knowledge, not just our personal, subjective opinion. Few English speakers know that word either. I linked to the Wikipedia page there to help "spread the word." :)

3 for 3 here! The rest of you losers!