By David Decoteau
Let's face it: your opinion is obviously the correct opinion.
- You are of average or better intelligence.
- You've spent years researching these topics.
- There are studies that support your findings.
- There are scholars who support your positions.
- Your personal experiences support your positions.
- All your conclusions are grounded in logic and then generously sprinkled with empathy, and love for humanity.
So how is it possible, that some seemingly equally intelligent folks see things so differently than you?
How do they continue to disagree, when faced with your obviously superior logic, data, opinions and studies? How it is possible, that educated people can be so divided on certain subjects? How can my peers be so obviously misguided?
No way you are wrong.
Based on your rational reasons listed above: why doesn't everyone agree with you? In today's social media days, it seems like it would be easy to get global agreement simply by using all the data available and having a discussion that honestly puts all the data on the table for consideration.
Why can't others see the obvious facts as you see them? It's so obvious that your conclusions are correct. It seem like with just a few conversations, everyone should be able to see the logic of your stance, and quickly be convinced by the facts. It's astonishing that they don't immediately join you in your obviously correct conclusions. Right?
the balance of this article will be spent, explaining why we can never agree based in only two factors. ONce you understand...
Agreement is no longer important to you.
Factor 1: Duality of Input
opinions are shaped by two things:
- Empirical Evidence - this is the Input from communications. The news. Conversations. Listening to media or reading. This form of input includes scholarly studies.
- Personal Experience - Input from personal experience, sometimes called antidotal evidence. These are the things that you see with your own eyes, hear with your own years, and experience on a personal level.
Put these two things together and you have the basis for people's opinions, positions and conclusions. The problem is: how to balance these two inputs. Or is it even possible for the human mind to balance these factors as it exists today?
Factor 2: People seek truth
Truth is a basic need. This is a fact because actual, truthful experiences increase our chances of being successful in life. Success, can be the difference between life and death.
For example: if there are two buckets of water that you can use to wash your hands, and one contains warm water, and the other contains boiling water: you will seek to determine the truth of which bucket contains which liquid.
- If you successfully determine the truth, you can wash your hands in nice warm water.
- If you do not determine the truth, you could scald all the skin from your hands.
Therefore, determining the truth is imperative in a situation like this, and being correct improves your chances of injury free life and survival. It's a core behavior, that goes to the cellular level of survival of the species.
The math of your reality:
Factor 1 + Factor 2 = Your Reality.
So, with only these two factors, combining to make a person's reality: finding ways to agree should still be pretty easy, right?
The problem with this simple equation: it has infinite combinations. Each factor can be weighted differently. For example:
Empirical Evidence: Some communicated factors ring true. Usually evidence can convince you of the truth of emprical arguments. But sometimes Empirical arguments can be easily discounted or dismissed. Some call this your "bullshit detector". You can hear something and immediately conclude (or at least suspect) that it's complete bullshit. Sometimes even in the face of convincing evidence.
Personal Experience: First hand experiences are less easy to dismiss, and may in fact never be completely disregarded. This is possible even if the person knows their personal exerience is counter to all other existing proven empriical data. We'll get into this a bit more later.
The art of reality: it's complicated
The equation for reality is real. It's quantifiable. It adds up. There is a reality. Unfortunately, there is also an "artsy" side of YOUR reality. This is where the equation turns away from science, and more towards a complicated stew of arbitrarily weighted inputs arrangable in infinite orientations.
When we are on the trail of truth, we have certain experiences. Some of those experience we encounter as part of our "fact finding" on a specific issue. Other experiences we accumulate before, during and after the journey. The sum total of all these parts makes up our experience, and our conclusions. Those conclusions are valuable, as they make us more prepared for our next journey to find truth.
For example, if I want to find the truth about a topic like global warming, I might do the following:
- Read articles on the subject.
- Consume media on the subject.
- Consider scholarly studies of the subject.
- Talk to other people with opinions I respect, on the subject.
After doing all these things, I might have some opinions about the subject. Some of those opinions might be very strong (as it has a potential direct effect on my life and well being).
These explorations into the topic will begin to separate the explorer from the pedestrian citizen, because your exploration has armed you with more information than the typical opinionated human.
At this point, the first division of agreement begins to form. But the first division leads to the second division, and before long, you have an infinite number of divisions - all stemming from just the two factors I mentioned above.
As mentioned above, this first division can be a tough one, as every single person you talk to will bring a unique amount of education to your discussion. Education on subjects will range from expert level to completely ignorant and potentially unconcerned. All are valid viewpoints.
In reality, there will be very few true "experts". People who have read and understand all there is to understand on a subject. Unfortunately, most people consider themselves an "almost expert" on many subjects. This is the most dangerous education level, because you think you know enough to have an informed opinon, but you really haven't got a core understanding or mastery of the subject. This level of education seems to be enough to allow you to believe you are "right", and begin to close off your mind from others. This level of education makes you believe your mission is to convince others of your correct position and superioritiy (based on a few internet article you read).
Ignorance is at the other end of the education spectrum. Either a complete obliviousness to the subject, or passing knowledge, and a purposeful determination that this subject does not warrant anymore of your time or attention. As I said above, this is an equally valid position as the "expert" level discussed above. And if you think about it, it may be superior to the expert level in that it's a pragmatic approach to time management - as no person has the intellectual capacity to be a true "expert" at all subjects. Therefore: picking and choosing what gets your attention is perfectly logical and proper.
...but you have to talk to all of these folks, and they don't come with a sign or chart that shows you what you are dealing with, when you initiate contact. Buyer beware!
Contradictory Antidotal experiences variable
For example, you can read all the scientific journals, and scholarly papers you want about the flu shot. You can rightfully conclude that all evidence indicates that there is NO CONNECTION between the flu shot and getting the flu.
However...if after every time you take the flu shot, you get the flu: it's hard to completely dismiss that personal evidence. And with each successive experience that is contrary to your emperical evidence, the antidotal evidence becomes harder and harder to ignore.
In the end, what you wind up with is a troubling stew of education mixed with personal experiences that is as unique as you are. It's your intellectual fingerprint: and gloriously - no two are the same.
Wouldn't 100% logical be better?
Imagine how boring it would be if we were completely logical? We'd be a nation of Mr. Spocks. We'd lose our humanity. Everything and everyone would have a tangible value.
If we were logical, we could make accurate quantifilable rationalizations based in data and averages that would allow you to say things like, "Each person is worth $7.57." And by showing data - you could prove it. Can you envision how dangerous it would be if we could make a statement like that, and feel completely sure we were correct, logical and ethical in our conclusions?
Is that where we want to be?
Would that be better?
I'm not sure?
Conclusions and Strategies
So when you wonder about why people seem so unsettled, quarrelsome and angry all the time: don't worry.
Disagreement is natural and right.
Feeling unsettled, a little miffed, and annoyed means you are thinking, and trying to figure it out to the best possible solution. To feel otherwise would seem to mean that you have a piece of your humanity missing.
We each have a complex equation of influences that is almost infinite in it's complexity. We are the sum of our parent, everyone we know and have known. All we have read, seen and felt. We are completely unique, and to this point in our history: the most advanced and complicated species to ever have existed in the known galaxy. And you think that thing would be easy to get along with?
The simple solution to disagreement is expectation.
Expect to disagree, and the inevitable argument is no longer frustrating.
It's now expected and was the anticipated destination from the inception of the discussion. So in effect: you got what you wanted. And if you get what you want...YOU WIN!