Ethernight (ethernight) wrote,
Ethernight
ethernight

contradiction

I tend to disagree with people a lot.

I don't mean that I often find myself in disagreement with "normal" people, or that I tend to have alternate view points from the majority. While both of these things are true, what I actually mean is that for almost everyone in my life, there is at least one fundamental and conspicuous part of our worldviews that are intractably opposed.

This has pretty much always been the case. When I was young and a devout Christian, my view of reality had me believing the whole world was against me. Among my Christian friends though, it wasn't as though I had sanctuary -- we had wildly different value systems, diverging on pesky issues like "sin" and black nail polish.

The people and issues change over the years, but the pattern remains the same. A non-dancer among ravers. Having skeptical leanings among hippies. An atheist among pagans. Fairly vanilla among kink and poly folk. A Libertarian in San Francisco.

Because it is the status quo for me to fundamentally disagree with the people that I am closest to and have a great deal of respect for, it has given me an unusual disposition towards strangers I encounter that I disagree with.

I tend to start out with the assumption that while someone may be incorrect, they came upon this belief for a good reason. They may have insufficient data, their particular values may lead them to weigh some evidence more strongly than others -- that their collective life experience has made this particular conclusion, which just happens to be incorrect, seem compelling and entirely reasonable.

In short -- I don't think that just because someone disagrees with me, they must be either stupid or evil.

Over time, in a rather self-referential manner, I have come to realize that I can not expect this same perspective from everyone. Most people are not accustomed to being surrounded by people that are both dramatically different from them in some way who they also have a great deal of respect for. It makes it easy to assume that people who think things that seem stupid must in fact be stupid.

What bothers me though is when I see disdain and dismissal of the opposition from those who would call themselves skeptics, scientists and critical thinkers. For those who seek objective truth, flippantly writing off the opposition as "idiots" or "scum bags" is simply lazy. This cop-out avoids fully exploring the reasons that might lead a perfectly reasonable human being to a conclusion different from your own. In doing so, you cheat yourself out of a full understanding of the issue, and in turn compromise the basis of your own position.

You just can't really know you are right unless you completely understand, and can therefore confidently reject, the reasons people think you are wrong.
Tags: contains.musings
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