Thursday, August 25, 2011

Be Like the Water

I have a list of two topics, the likelihood of which i will talk to you about them is directly proportional to how well i know you, multiplied by how likely i am to ever see you again.

Or something like that.

You see, i really don't like discussing religion or politics with people. It's not that i don't have anything to say on the subjects, either, (although i am far from passionate about them) it's just that i have found that such conversations are very rarely worthwhile, for various reasons of varying importance. Here are a couple of them:

In general, people don't know how to have a civil exchange of ideas without becoming offended. Whether this is due to the inherent personal nature of the topics, the relatively thin skin of modern arguers, or the average lack of formal rhetorical training, i have no idea, but the fact remains that when you start giving reasons for why you don't believe that which your buddy does, they often take it personally. This is unfortunate and i am often just as guilty as anyone else, but i don't let it linger; people have different opinions and if i know the person cares about me, i'm not gonna think less of them for having a *gasp* different view. It makes sense, when you think about it.

The second - and in my mind, far more influential - reason is called the Illusion of Asymmetric Insight. Put simply, everyone (EVERYONE) believes that they are smarter and more insightful than their opposition. See what that means, though? It means that everyone (EVERYONE) is also wrong.

Even you.

Evolution vs. Creationism. Liberals vs. Conservatives. Keynes vs. Hayek. I really don't care, it's all the same when it comes down to it: you think you're well-informed and supremely logical in your opinion and think your opposition is a naive simpleton. Both sides are equally close-minded and arrogant in their beliefs.

It's not really anyone's fault, though; it's human nature. We're social creatures and it is beneficial to the continued existence of the group to ostracize and vilify members of any group we see as outsiders. (those familiar with the concept of the Monkey Sphere should already recognize this phenomenon) This incredibly powerful instinct is currently at odds with the popular opinion that all of humanity should just drop their disagreements and hug it out. We all want to get along and believe that everybody's equal and beautiful and all that, but it goes against a fundamental engine of self-preservation.

Religion and politics are volatile, but they're not empirical facts. No one is ever going to be able to prove that one view point is more valid than another. Hell, even the things we do consider empirical facts get turned on their heads sometimes. That's just the nature of this thing called Life.

So until the next big headline comes out, let's all just follow Wheaton's Law, huh?

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