December 1st, 2008


Please Prove Me Wrong

Thanksgiving brought with it a timely example of how living with Warren has ruined me for talking to almost anyone else. I remember an argument where Warren once stated that when he had an argument with someone he wanted to be proved wrong. I immediately pounced on that because I didn’t believe it. Who would want to be wrong? Doesn’t everyone want to be right? Warren then explained that if he is wrong he wants someone to prove it to him so that he can change his mind and be right. If someone proves him wrong, then he gets to learn something. This made utterly too much sense to me, and thus began my increasing frustration with talking to most other people.

The Thanksgiving example of frustrating conversation took place between Warren, George (Warren’s brother), and George’s father-in-law, with some small contributions from me. The topic was the proposed bailout of the big three US auto makers. George’s FIL thinks bailing out the big three is necessary and the rest of us think it’s a terrible idea. What was frustrating was not that George’s FIL disagreed with my position, it was that he would not back his own up in anything that resembled a logical, factual manner. He didn't offer any facts at all to back up his position and when I asked for examples to back up a point he ignored me. When Warren and George brought up facts that supported their position he countered with statements that did not follow logically at all, as if he were trying to change the sub-topic. He seemed to think that if he just restated enough sound bites he would win the argument and he did not seem interested in exploring the facts that we were presenting in support of our opinion. I've tried to reproduce a sample of the conversation, but I can't really do it justice because when recalling it from memory my mind wants to impose more logical order on his responses than there was.

I have been noticing this sort of thing more and more. Generally I encounter somewhat more subtle versions of this, mostly because I generally encounter somewhat smarter people. Even so, it bugs me. I really would like to talk to people and figure stuff out by arguing points with them, but very few people seem to actually do that any more. People don’t seem to talk about things like this with an open mind. By an open mind, I mean actually being open to the idea that you might be wrong. Mostly people nowadays seem to say they are ‘open minded’, but they seem to think that means not saying anything that might contradict the other person or hurt their feelings. That’s not what I think being open minded means. I would like it if someone contradicted me if they could back it up with facts or logic. Even if I disagree on what the facts mean, I have more respect for someone who presents a factual argument than someone who just blindly asserts their position or changes the subject, and if someone does present a factual argument I might just change my mind, and if that happened I would be more likely to be right about more things rather than just thinking I am right.