Why it is hard (but not impossible) for me to change my mind

A “Facebook Friend” posted the following:

You know what’s sad?
When someone is presented with a reasonable, fact-based presentation that points out flaws in his or her beliefs or opinions, and rather than change their mind, or at least reserve judgment until they have a chance to do more research, they decide the source is lying and / or flawed.

What do you do with that?

I like to think I’m a reasonable person. If someone presents me with a good case for something, I’ll listen, and I may even change my mind.

I am not going to identify the person as it isn’t my intention to attack a particular individual. But I do want to discuss the idea.

Yes, it is difficult for me to change my mind, though it is far easier for me to change my mind in an area that I am well versed in!

So, here goes:

1. The messenger matters. Lots of people have lots of opinions about many things, and many are very vocal. So there is a lot of “noise” out there; much more “noise” than signal. In fact, I don’t have time to take most of it seriously. So I look at the messenger.

Does this person have a history of making correct arguments? Do they have anything going for them that makes their opinion stand out? What about their sources: are they mostly junk sources (e. g. Natural News, Breitbart, Huffington Post, WND, etc.) or are they more reputable ones? In the past, are they even aware of what their own sources say? (yes, many times, people submit an article to “debunk” something, when in fact the article is a caveat, clarification, or…actually SUPPORTS the point they think is being debunked).

So, much of the time, I just dismiss what is being said without taking the time to investigate.

2. The source matters. Ok, I’ve looked at the source. Who is it written by? IF the author has impressive credentials in that field, are they still respected by that field’s community, or are they regarded as a rogue crackpot? Yes, even science Nobel Laureates go off the rails. Consensus matters.

3. My own knowledge matters. Suppose two top physicists were arguing about competing models in, say, quantum mechanics. There is a good chance that I would not understand the discussion because that isn’t my field. The same goes when, say, you have two top flight economists arguing about an economic theory. If, say, Paul Krugman wanted to fool me with a nonsense argument, I’d be unlikely to detect that his argument is nonsense. So in these matters, I turn to consensus.

Though I have a Ph. D. in mathematics and a modest publication record (enough to have attained the rank of Full Professor), I am painfully aware of how ignorant I am in mathematics. So how ignorant am I in field that I don’t have Ph. D. in?

Nevertheless, I am far less likely to be fooled in mathematically based subjects, hence I have more confidence that I can properly vet arguments in these areas and that I understand the issues at hand. That isn’t true in other areas in which I know far less.

Workout notes weights then an easy 5K walk. The day was chilly and humid; no rain though.
weights: rotator cuff and free squat rests, pull ups (5 sets of 10, strong), bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, incline press: 8 x 150, 10 x 135, military presses: standing 7 x 50 dumbbell, 15 x 50 dumbbell (seated, supported), 10 x 45 dumbbell (standing), 3 sets of 10 x 50 dumbbell single arm row. Abs: 2 sets of 12 twist crunches, 10 yoga leg lifts. Headstand (good today).


November 3, 2016 - Posted by | social/political, Uncategorized, walking, weight training |

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