Sunday, January 30

The Wealthy Peasants

Another 1 month and I'm back with another post. Read on..

Note: To avoid comments like "An argument wins over the situation but loses the person", I shall be using the word 'argument' in this post as the logical points of view two persons were trying to establish in course of a friendly impersonal discussion, after which there's no screw-up of the relationship between them.

Lately, I'm not able to restrain myself from refuting people's arguments whenever I find them nonsense. Earlier, I would never bother how everyone else is thinking as far as it doesn't affect me directly. I dunno if I'm getting philanthropic or over-assertive gradually, but I'm not able to let go if people have an opinion that doesn't make any sense and I'm trying to give them counter-arguments from various points of view refuting the rationale on their opinion. This is definitely not the typical white-man's burden and I don't really have any metaphysical motivation for doing this.

When I started these arguments, I observed that people were not able to get convinced by some points of view and they get persuaded with some points of view. Some get convinced by analogies, some rebuke analogies as fallacies in the strictest definition of the argument; Some get convinced by scientific argument and some completely discard scientific argument; Some need further references to get convinced and some don't even try to look up other references. I would be discussing the reasons I observed why people don't get convinced for various arguments

# Bad Analogy
I dunno what the deal with people and analogies is. Most of us don't agree to anything unless we find some analogy for the argument. These people get convinced only by analogies. They just want a familiar story with a conclusion logically agreeable to the argument. They cannot comprehend the logic behind the argument, and they would rather get convinced by a story with hypothetical scenario. This is the case with most of us. One must use creativity extensively to discuss with these people

May be that's the reason why mythological epics are so popular compared to philosophical works. I would say analogies help us understand the basic argument, but we shouldn't confine ourselves to learning from analogies. Analogies are overwhelmingly persuasive, but it's really difficult to derive a proper analogy for many arguments.

# The Scientific Argument
I think scientific argument is the most convincing argument for any disagreement. Philosophical arguments rely more on the way the argument is articulated whereas scientific argument is persuading without the need of any smart articulation. In spite of this, I observed many people not getting convinced by the scientific argument. I might classify the reasons behind this as follows

1. Unable to apply general science: I think, to understand most of the scientific arguments, one needs to have a basic knowledge of how things work. A higher-secondary school level knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology would do the job. Even though many of us have studied these subjects and got good grades, we have a tendency to forget them when we drift to a different field of profession. 

I have seen many engineering grads who believe in "Cosmic vibrations (nice word) emitted from gems affecting (non-existent) human aura" and "Undetectable (non-existent) forces exerted by distant planets effecting human psychology on earth" in spite of their IIT-JEE standard knowledge on heat transfer and fundamental forces in the universe. Also, many believe that "1 molecule remedy diluted in 1030 moles of water homeopathic remedies" work in spite of good knowledge in chemistry. Medical stigmas on aids patients in general public in spite of basic knowledge in biology is another example

The problem here is that, we try to separate everything as distinct entities and we don't apply our general science knowledge in our beliefs/opinions. When we practise this everyday, we gradually tend to refute any scientific argument, however obvious it might be.

2. Quasi-scientific arguments: In addition to the conclusive factual scientific arguments, we also have an equal (in fact, more) number of arguments that "sound scientific" but necessarily are not so. For eg., I can say the reason why we have seasons is due to the elliptical orbit of earth, and summer comes when earth is closest to sun and winter comes when it's farthest. This argument is considerably persuasive, but most of us (ironically, not everyone) know that that's not the reason why we have seasons. "Water memory" claimed by homeopathic doctors is another example of a quasi-scientific argument.

Generally, people get confused by these contradicting scientific arguments and fail to understand which one's evident and which one's not. This is also one reason why people stop getting convinced by scientific arguments thinking they are not reliable.

# The Wiki Taboo
Whenever I give external references to people rather than hear the argument from me, most of them go through those and verify their argument. But there are some who think it's totally "uncool". They would refute encyclopedias and stick to their non-evident and non-referable argument. They say they would google it themselves if they ever want to verify. I would say if they ever googled it, they won't be sticking to the same irrational argument they have now. 
So, they never googled/wikied it, and when I  give an external reference, they say "I'll google it when I wanna verify". Hence the bottom line is that they never want to verify.

It makes me conclude this as a typical "resistance to change" behavior and unable to shift from their comfort-zone.

# I simply don't care
Saying "I simply don't care to know what's the fact" is really a powerful defense to stop the argument from further proceeding. I would say we really don't have a choice to care or not about the fact. It's a fact, and we have to know it.

If we don't care about knowing that earth is round, we might make a fool out of ourselves by joining 'Flat earth society'; If we don't care about  knowing that gems and stones don't affect human behavior and luck, we might be spending hard-earned money on getting the gems and wearing 2 rings on each finger. If we don't care about knowing homeopathic remedies are not medicines but just plain water/alcohol, we might end up using them for long periods of time and getting chronic for our ailments.

So "I simply don't care" means "I don't wanna verify and I don't mind getting screwed up for my belief"

Finally, concluding the post, I think this constant refutation of logic and evidence to change our opinion/belief would make us, as Noam Chomsky calls it, "a bunch of shattered wealthy peasants". There are many things which we inherently believe without reasoning to ourselves why we do it or just because of authoritative indoctrination. We tend to assert those beliefs/opinions to ourselves by false conclusions from what we observe without questioning it and without thinking if an alternate evident, logical argument exists for it. After a point, we stop changing our opinions, however irrational they might sound, as we don't like to realize that we spent the rest of our life believing in nonsense.

I hope most of us won't become these "Wealthy Peasants" over a period of time!!

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Anonymous said...

Nice one... :)
Giving analogies is really difficult. Not every situation has a parallel in the Wizard of Oz. it would be wonderful if it did :)

I have heard my share of excuses
Ignorance is bliss. i want to live in my own happy fancy world. Who is it hurting if i wear a ring? my aunt was cured of osteoporosis by homeo. statistics can be made to mean anything. Not everything in wiki is 'correct'. If you start questioning everything, you'll become insane. The ancient people of Harappa did it that way.

As we grow old, we do get 'hardened' and 'closed' as we begin to (wrongly) assume that we are what we believe in and changing that is changing who we are and that is *bad*.

Sarath Teja Somina said...

@Irfan (above): Thank you.. yea everything dat's in wiki is not 'correct'. But it's open for discussion and changes, and it's the best among existing encyclopedias..

Anonymous said...

from whr did u ctrl-C ctrl-V..Cant imagine the pain u have to undergo to rite all those things


Anonymous said...

@praneeth: I think it'd be worth the pain if it was able to provoke even 1 person to question the absurdities they encounter everyday... :)
-Oscar Wilde

Sarath Teja Somina said...

@Praneeth: You need not ask me.. u can search for the source from where I did Ctrl+C (if any) from the below link

Subbu said...

Good one Sarath..

Thing is most of the people like to talk rather than listen. In case of such people, if they start listening, they won't be able to talk. To avoid themselves from listening (rather i wud say, not to miss the chance of talking) people give vague ok, ya, alright, I agrees to initiate their point of view irrespective of the relevance to the point of discussion.

Regarding scientific explanation: It might be the case that people don't understand the underlying scientific principle in relevance to the context. To avoid more such explanations from the counterpart they convey their agreement. Almost like raising a White flag (submission).
Second case, the person understands the scientific explanation given. No problems.
Third case, the person doesn't believe the other one primarily and wants to prove for himself. For the time being he might accept or reject the idea presented.

The above cases occur to almost everyone including self. Further more.....
1. I don't want to hear further discussion because I don't like the counterpart personally. Don't ask me why!!!
2.I don't want to lose to him. (People consider their point being disproved an insult, submission).
Ultimately, the person's agreement or disagreement to a counterpoint depends on how he values his counterpart. This is definitely not generalization!!


Sarath Teja Somina said...

@Subbu: :D