I will be taking from this very helpful article titled, Our Tribes and Tribulations, written by Jaspreet Grill.
This article was so helpful to me because I engaged in somewhat of a heated debate on Twitter a couple of weeks ago.
What I noticed was that few people are willing to listen on Social Media. If you want to read my experience, I’ve written about it here.
This blog post will elaborate on the “Confirmation Bias” that many of you may be familiar with. This narrative suggests that we are all unreliable because we naturally are inclined to agree with our own opinions and not with those of others.
This comes across with discussions on Religious issues, in my own life.
On this blog post I have been critical of Religious views. Because of this I have been having more & more discussions with the overwhelming amount of my friends that hold these views.
I have found that I tend to be having the same conversations over & over again, despite literally reiterating the same information to them over & over again.
This is not surprising, if we understand the “Confirmation bias” that is prevalent not only in their lives, but in mine also.
Ben Shapiro in an interview with Dave Rubin and Jordan Peterson also says the same, that his biggest stumbling block is the fact that he tends to listen to his own statistics and sources over that of others.
I rarely agree with Shapiro, but let us give him this much: he is 100% right on this issue — it is commendable that he is quick to acknowledge that.
“In the study “Why do humans reason?” French cognitive scientists Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier reviewed the social and cognitive psychology literature and concluded that our reasoning faculties evolved not to pursue truth but to provide arguments supporting views we already hold.”
“In another 2017 study, Professor William Brady and his colleagues from New York University found that the use of emotional language is pivotal in increasing the circulation of tweets expressing political ideas.”
This is something we see over and over on Social Media. We gravitate towards the use of overtly emotional language and verbal slurs.
The article goes on to say that, “dissemination of such tweets was greater within liberal and conservative circles but lower between them.”
Performative condemnation wrapped in soundbites reigns supreme in the attention economy.
How to Argument Well?
They further quote from the theorist Anatol Rapoport, who suggested “two essential and universally applicable steps” in order to engage in “honest and constructive discussion.”
Firstly, you fully reiterate your opponent’s view, so that you do not straw-man the argument and “tackle” the proper/strongest version of their argument, with which they fully agree.
Secondly, “itemise” various different points where you agree and explain their significance to you.
Once you fulfill both of these conditions, you can then proceed to critiquing their argument.
Straw-manning an Argument
If you want to successfully challenge an opposing position, it is not enough to attack a variation of a real idea. Arguments are what should be on trial — not arguments — as is pointed out in the article.
There are full books that are a collection of straw man arguments. Mark Clarke’s book titled, The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity, is one such book. I have written a review on that book here, if you are interested in exactly why that is the case.
Everyone reading liberal views, should challenge themselves with Conservative views. Christians should read literature that is against Christianity. Atheists should be reading Christian Apologetics, on and on we can go.
I realize that not everyone will have the time for this. That is why not everyone is fit for an intellectual lifestyle. The reasoning here is simple: if you are publicly vocal, you need to have read a vast amount of opinions on the topic you choose to critique.
Gill goes on to say what some of us liberals find hard to do:
Even Trump deserves an admission (however difficult) of his achievements (however few) from his most strident critics. It is worth noting that the most airtight and scathing criticism of an ideology is usually delivered by those who once espoused it — for they have been psychologically intimate with both its appeal and its flaws.
I hope that all of us consider these tactics, for the betterment of society and our intellectual pursuits.
Jaspreet Gill is a Trainee Doctor in Psychiatry working in London.
Before you go…
If you want to read more articles like this, check out my publication the Humanists of Our Generation, which is attempting to highlight important voices that the world needs to hear from in order to become a better place.
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I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers cheers cheers and until next time,