THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
We have become a very polarized country. The level of hostility is much higher than it was 50 years ago. Still, 40% of the eligible population has not been vaccinated, when we know that the disease is being kept alive, reproducing, and mutating in the unvaccinated. This was not an issue during the Polio epidemic. Everyone was eager to get vaccinated. Now there is distrust, fear, and issues such as personal freedom and constitutional rights getting into the mix, despite what Dr. Fauci says about science.
Just like the global warming issue, being pressured into poorly thought-out wrong choices is not wise. Much of the population is not convinced, despite what Al Gore says, about the 97% consensus regarding global warming. Voter ID is another subject of disagreement. I, too, have my own ideas on those subjects that do not necessarily agree with the majority, but I do see the problem.
I, like all humans, have a good dose of confirmation bias in my heart and soul. That is, I read and accept that with which I agree and ignore that with which I don’t. Part of the problem is that we are further apart philosophically now than we were in the past (aka the “good old days”!) Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy were not all that far apart politically. It was easier to compromise when the distance you needed to walk to meet halfway was closer. The distances have become longer, and meeting halfway seems to be an insurmountable task. What can we do to overcome our differences? That is one of those questions that seems to have no answers. But I do think we could make fewer thinking errors.
In my job of the last half-century, General Surgery, I have seen my share of disagreements. In that job, a mistake can do some serious damage. Mistakes are often related to several factors that come to mind, which I will enumerate.
1. Ignorance – not knowing all the facts, all the data, and all that should be known. To correct that study, reading, thinking, and looking at all the data go a long way to correct that flaw.
2. Confirmation Bias – just looking at your opinion, your assessment, your biases is not enough. A broader outlook is needed to avoid an error. This takes wisdom and courage.
3. Stubbornness – we all like to be right, but we all make errors and are not always right. Do not defend your point of view just because it is your point of view. You must have solid evidence and reliable knowledge to stick to your side of the story.
4. Moral Superiority – This is a dangerous emotion. Once you consider yourself morally superior, you discount your opponent as inferior or stupid. Your argument becomes flawed by your own nitwittedness. This I have often observed when a younger physician points out a mistake to an older “more experienced physician.” Experience can be overrated.
5. Lack of Respect and Civility – Any disagreement needs discussion that is respectful and avoids ad hominem attacks. Aristotle pointed out that finding flaws with an opponent because of how he looks or acts is not a legitimate part of the argument. Stick to the facts! I see this flawed thinking often on social media.
6. Truth is Essential – You need to be rooted in what is correct. Untruth will come back to haunt you!
7. Logic – Also essential because it is easy to fall into the trap not seen by you. Just because something has not been proven to be false does not mean it is not true. The slippery slope may or may not happen. Circular arguments are exactly that, circular. The tu quoque fallacy tries to divert blame. Just because Joe jumped off the cliff does not mean you should! This is similar to the Bandwagon Fallacy. If 97% think one way, this should ring alarm bells in your head. Be careful when someone trots out the straw man or the red herring fallacy instead of the real argument. Post hoc ergo proper hoc (this happened because of that) is another deception used in many arguments. Focusing on two extreme options when more possibilities exist creates a false dilemma, another trap into which not to fall.
8. Misinterpretation – carelessness, misunderstanding, and plain stupidity have led to some colossal errors in thinking.
We all could do better if we tried harder to understand each other’s points of view, find the whole truth, and not make illogical stupid choices.