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Posted by on Oct 2, 2012 in Art, Freethought Blogs, Music, Skepticism, Uncategorized | 4 comments

You’re Fooling Yourself

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
— Richard P. Feynman

Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things

Before we endeavor to adopt a rational, evidence-based world view, the most important thing to realize is our own fallibility; our own susceptibility to various biases.  Unless we’re able to do this, our perception of the world will forever remain skewed. In fact, even if we’re able to do this better than most, we’ll still be biased in some ways about some things. This is why it’s so important to remain open to dissenting views and to give them a fair hearing, even if a particular point of view seems offensive. In fact, especially if a particular point of view seems offensive. Because our biases are at our strongest when our feelings and emotions are engaged.

Human beings are not computers (and yet we create them!) How amazing is that? But because we’re not machines, our mental processes are colored by emotions, a rainbow palette that gives each one of us personality, individuality, and charm. For this, we sometimes sacrifice the ability to be rational. But in my opinion, the trade-off is more than worthwhile, as long as we remember that even when we’re certain about something, we can still be wrong.  And a touch of humility goes a long way toward building bridges between distant shores.

  • Hambil

    While I am a big fan of being open minded I don’t think I need to consider every opinion. Many have already been proven false (such as anti-climate change nuts). You cannot advance your own thinking, let alone the worlds, if you are busy arguing against obvious falsehoods.

    • You cannot advance your own thinking, let alone the worlds, if you are busy arguing against obvious falsehoods.

      On the other hand, one of the worst things you can do in this world is to fight fervently for an ‘non-obvious’ falsehood that you believe is ‘obviously’ true, without taking the necessary steps of self-skepticism, such as asking oneself, “How do I really know this is true? Really, *really* know it? What if I could be wrong?”

      And, indeed, to the contrary, one of the *best* ways to debunk an ‘obvious’ falsehood that is nevertheless believed by many people is to dig deep into one’s own beliefs and find the real *foundations* of what one takes as ‘obviously’ true. When you know *how* you know something, this is one of the strongest ways to communicate to other people why they should agree with you (assuming they are interested in reality, of course).

  • bluharmony

    The common quote is, “Don’t open your mind so much that your brain falls out.” And this is generally practical advice for everyday living. As for global warming, even if it weren’t occurring, which I’m quite certain it is, it would still be best to proceed as if it were. But occasionally it doesn’t hurt to question the very foundation of one’s beliefs and existence, because a lot of what we accept as truth will eventually be proven false. History tells us that.

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