• Mikie
    6.1k
    It’s well known that people who would say they’re part of one political party, right or left, are generally very skeptical of information and motives of the “other guys.”

    Once it’s known that the “other guys” are the ones saying or doing something, suddenly they become extreme skeptical philosophers, resorting even to doubting the most basic premises rather than capitulate.

    This is now ubiquitous in the United States. All of us have read about it and probably have seen it in real life — including here on the forum.
    Reveal
    (Incidentally, though I haven’t gone as far as others — in my opinion — given that I don’t identify with either political party, I’ve still succumbed to the instinct to reactively doubt what is said if I have reason to believe the person is, for example, a staunch Trump supporter or “woke” liberal.)


    It has really gotten ridiculous in the last few years. I wonder what kind of a role sports has played in this development, or even things like the WWE. In either case, we’re left as spectators who cheer our team or our favorite character, jeer the enemy and, more importantly, castigate the referees whenever an unfavorable call is made to our team.

    It’s that last part that has now generalized to every institution we can think of: the church, government, education, medicine, media, and science. Extreme skepticism is often used to undermine any information coming out of said institutions — provided that information is somehow damaging to our team.

    I wonder if pausing and questioning one’s skepticism would be a beneficial endeavor.

    A few current examples come to mind.

    When sensible gun regulations are suggested, for example, question why you’re selectively skeptical of the proposals (which is often claimed to be a slippery slope to complete gun confiscation and eventual totalitarianism) but not skeptical or conspiratorial about the gun manufacturing lobby.

    When someone voices opposition to trans folk being “truly” male or female, question whether they are truly bigoted and propagandized, or whether perhaps you have been to an equal and opposite degree.

    When you hear people speak of climate change, ask whether it’s all part of an elaborate plot to control people as part of the New World Order, or whether the science is as sound— as much as in any other field you know next to nothing about is.

    The last case is particularly relevant, as it encroaches on science.

    I’m not suggesting we not question authority, experts, or laypeople who disagree with us. Skepticism is good. But cheap, selective skepticism isn’t. Especially when it’s only employed against our perceived enemies.

    If you haven’t subjected all your beliefs to a skeptical eye at one time or another, you just may be dogmatic and/or brainwashed.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    When you hear people speak of climate change, ask whether it’s all part of an elaborate plot to control people as part of the New World Order, or whether the science is as sound— as much as in any other field you know next to nothing about is.Mikie

    Odd, isn't it? The same people who keep saying, "It's not conclusively proven that changes in wind pattern are caused by human activity." will submit without a murmur to the scalpel of a thoracic surgeon.
    You think maybe short term self-interest plays a part?
  • noAxioms
    1.3k
    A few current examples come to mind.Mikie
    All your examples are from a left point of view. There should be some from both sides.

    Somewhere in the middle seems to be the abortion issue, where neither party seems willing to consider for even a moment that the opposing side may have some points.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    Somewhere in the middle seems to be the abortion issue, where neither party seems willing to consider for even a moment that the opposing side may have some points.noAxioms

    We did all that, back in 1955-1970. And at least twice more since. In the US, it seems to come around every couple of political cycles - and each time with more acrimony and resentment caused by wins and losses of the previous battle. That's not about the issue anymore.
    Same with gun control and climate change. The issue has been laid out exhaustively and repeatedly; there is no debate left, just the fight.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.5k
    "Motivated reasoning"

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivated_reasoning

    "Motivated reasoning (motivational reasoning bias) is a cognitive and social response in which individuals, consciously or unconsciously, allow emotion-loaded motivational biases to affect how new information is perceived. Individuals tend to favor evidence that coincides with their current beliefs and reject new information that contradicts them, despite contrary evidence."

    It can affect anyone.
  • Mikie
    6.1k
    You think maybe short term self-interest plays a part?Vera Mont

    Sure, but also that mostly these things involve deep beliefs tied into a persons sense of self— their values, their life narrative and social persona, etc.

    Hard to examine and harder to change.

    All your examples are from a left point of view. There should be some from both sides.noAxioms

    I don’t consider the trans example to be left wing.

    the abortion issuenoAxioms

    Another example, yes. Been around a while, but has gotten even more extreme. Believe it or not, I don’t have strong views about it myself, so it didn’t stand out to me. Plus it’s not as obvious — the question on when life begins, when a human is fully human, and so on. I’m much more pro choice, but I’m not unsympathetic to those who don’t want to see what they consider babies killed. Mostly it’s just legislating Christian dogma.



    Definitely describes what I’m getting at. However, I’m being more specific. Selective skepticism is definitely a kind of motivated reasoning though.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    Sure, but also that mostly these things involve deep beliefs tied into a persons sense of self— their values, their life narrative and social persona, etc.Mikie

    Some do. Many are echoes from the echo-chamber of partisanship and would evaporate if they were ever examined in the light of honest reflection. Which is why the partisan propaganda-machine so strenuously opposes reading, critical thinking and contemplation.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.5k
    I cannot empathise with people who become aligned to one set of doctrines and cannot defend any other position or question their own.

    Some discourse is just so stupid and shallow and defensive that it seems there is no real intention to debate or rationality involved.

    I have found self proclaimed skeptics are often selective skeptics whose skepticism is one directional. The skeptic movement itself may have entrenched division by its own rhetoric and sense of superiority.

    Individuals that want power and influence seem to require a schism and people who display blind allegiance and will defend them no matter what.
    Sometimes it is tactical to support the opposing side on some issues where they have more influence making for uneasy bedfellows.
  • Mikie
    6.1k
    Many are echoes from the echo-chamber of partisanship and would evaporate if they were ever examined in the light of honest reflection. Which is why the partisan propaganda-machine so strenuously opposes reading, critical thinking and contemplation.Vera Mont

    A good point. Education and media seem to work in lockstep when it comes to certain aspects of society.

    I cannot empathise with people who become aligned to one set of doctrines and cannot defend any other position or question their own.Andrew4Handel

    That’s probably part of the problem, but I agree it’s difficult.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    I cannot empathise with people who become aligned to one set of doctrines and cannot defend any other position or question their own.Andrew4Handel

    I'll take that with a grain of salt. I tend to respect conviction and consistency more than vacillation and expedient coat-turning. Having listened to all the arguments put forth by someone with an agenda I consider wrong, I become impatient with repeating the same debate and retrying the same case over and over.
    I don't decide on a position on any issue until I have informed myself reasonably well and thought about it long and hard. Having formed a conviction, I am not easily influence by the opinions of other people. I don't take sides until I'm convinced that one is more in line with my own convictions and sympathies than the other, and once declared, I retain my allegiance - unless the side lets me down, or the situation changes - in which case I have to reconsider.
    And there are some positions I could not possibly entertain, due to my own inclinations.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.5k
    (...)and thought about it long and hard.Vera Mont

    What does this entail?

    I feel like a lot of thinking does not necessarily resolve an issue. I tend to be agnostic about things that don't have an answer and on some issues I just have to gamble that my viewpoint is the right one.

    I feel like the agnostic position is least likely to be wrong unless it is an issue which involves a clear fact like that the heart pumps blood around the body.

    Some issues just seem to involve entrenched positions and hyperbole. I feel like we don't make process without truly constructive honest debate that can get us out of entrenched positions and tribalism.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.5k
    I think claims like "abortion is murder" or "The unborn baby is a parasite" are hyperbole and the chances of a reasoned debate is already sabotaged.
    So Then we rely on experts, ethicists, the government and jurisprudence to make the best legal decisions on behalf of the masses.

    Even then people won't be happy and can reject the law.

    The government will be unfortunately thinking of their electoral chances when making some policies. So the government needs to face effective campaigns for the positions you support.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    What does this entail?Andrew4Handel

    I told you. Getting all the information I can, listening to all the arguments presented, and then matching up the arguments with the facts and the summary of the valid arguments with my sense of what's right, decent and fair.

    I feel like a lot of thinking does not necessarily resolve an issue.Andrew4Handel

    It might not resolve the issue; it's the only viable tool I have for taking a position. When action - especially action that potentially hurts victims - will be taken, and I'm required to vote on it, I can't just keep blithering "...on the other hand...." Maybe I should, but it's not in my nature.

    I feel like we don't make process without truly constructive honest debate that can get us out of entrenched positions and tribalism.Andrew4Handel
    That horse done sailed away on a dead ship, circa 1972.

    So Then we rely on experts, ethicists, the government and jurisprudence to make the best legal decisions on behalf of the masses.Andrew4Handel

    Unfortunately, we don't. We rely on voters to pay attention and understand the realities, the possibilities and the available options.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.5k
    I find it hard to believe that people really believe extreme positions.

    Like saying abortion is murder. As people have pointed out many pregnancies end in miscarriage (10 to 20%) and people don't tend to hold funerals.

    And sometimes the pregnancy fails very early on and I don't believe people think that the fertilised egg a few days after conception is equivalent to a nearly full term baby.

    I don't believe gun advocates feel they need guns to protect against a corrupt government.

    It is hard to tell how serious people are about some positions but unfortunately when they are serious that is a problem.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    I find it hard to believe that people really believe extreme positions.Andrew4Handel

    They don't need to believe - or even know - the particulars, just the central tenet. If the God of the Jews in 1500 BCE said it was wrong, according to the pastor who teaches from that book, then it's wrong. And that makes it okay to blow up community clinics suspected of supplying birth control devices to poor people. And that will keep the wimmin under men's control, as Jehovah intended. (A little ego-stroking and self-interest was never a bad investment for propagandists.)

    I don't believe gun advocates feel they need guns to protect against a corrupt government.Andrew4Handel

    That's different: they very well might. A lot of them have been hyped to an extreme paranoia. Remember, essentially the same political entity has been influencing them for nine generations (counting 20 years a turnover). And now it has - and now equipped with lavish financial resources, an extensive lobby and a far-reaching communication network.
  • Andrew4Handel
    2.5k
    If the God of the Jews in 1500 BCE said it was wrongVera Mont

    The bible doesn't mention abortion as far I can remember nor does it mention paedophilia. It is morally and in other ways very contradictory. The bible is also not as sexist as you might imagine. I have found that some religious positions seems to originate from culture rather than religion or were probably invented as a source of power and control.

    From my experience I think beliefs are maintained by schisms that create new churches based on minor as well as major disagreements. So everyone in the immediate circle confirms or supports each others beliefs.

    As a child I think it is hard to believe that your parents would constantly lie to you about reality so you tend to accept their religious beliefs until it becomes untenable. So in a sense I suppose their could be an emotional component to strong beliefs motivating them.

    I hope that there are more complex psychological mechanisms at work to explain human beliefs rather than come to a misanthropic appraisal of peoples character.
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    The bible doesn't mention abortion as far I can remember nor does it mention paedophilia.Andrew4Handel

    So what?
    according to the pastor who teaches from that bookVera Mont
    They just keep thumping on "Thou shalt not kill!" and fail to mention the slaughter of peoples that same god didn't like, or all the other wars, the witch hunts, the death penalty... My computer has two compartments - and sometimes a plug-in peripheral. The human mind has as many as it needs to create in order to accommodate all these incompatible categories of thinking. Remember Alice in Wonderland?
    "Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

    As a child I think it is hard to believe that your parents would constantly lie to you about realityAndrew4Handel
    It's deeper than that. You absolutely depend on them for your survival. You are, long before you have any choice or control, invested in trusting them. In a sense, we're all born with Stockholm syndrome.
    so you tend to accept their religious beliefs until it becomes untenable.
    You also have no reason to doubt it, until you have reason to doubt it. And in religious (or partisan) communities, the whole social infrastructure supports their version of reality and conspires to keep any alternate versions from reaching you.
    So in a sense I suppose their could be an emotional component to strong beliefs motivating them.
    A HUGE one - and I do not use caps lightly.

    It takes a great deal of courage and self-esteem to express doubt in those conditions. People do, and often take much punishment and abuse for doing so - the up-side of which is to confirm their suspicion regarding the coercive and oppressive nature of their programming, and motivate them to fight harder. it's a long, costly, difficult road, overcoming early indoctrination in a dogmatic belief system. Not everyone is equal to it; not everyone will even attempt it.
  • Wayfarer
    20.7k
    It’s well known that people who would say they’re part of one political party, right or left, are generally very skeptical of information and motives of the “other guys.”Mikie

    In Australia, this is generally much less visible than the USA. I say 'generally' because there are some cases - a Murdoch-owned (natch!) media outlet that propogates climate-change denial and what nowadays is called 'conservativism'. There are outbreaks of neo-nazism and white supremacy here and there (particularly in Melbourne, for some reason) and there was some serious civil strife over COVID lockdowns. But overall, Australian society is far less polarized than American in this regard. Politics is comparatively genteel with a few outliers at each end of the spectrum, but overall with at least a modicum of civility. Seems a lot more polarised in the disunited states.
  • Bylaw
    526
    I’m not suggesting we not question authority, experts, or laypeople who disagree with us. Skepticism is good. But cheap, selective skepticism isn’t. Especially when it’s only employed against our perceived enemies.Mikie
    Treat power with skepticism. So, both the Republicans and Democrats have managed to convince people that there are two sources of approaches and one of them is right. It's a neat binary system, they agree about this, yet disagree about which one of the two sanctioned positions (set of positions) is right. Be skeptical about that binariness. Be skeptical about both teams. Be skeptical about corporations. Be skeptical of government. Note conflicts of interest, Apply Cui bono? Don't even assume they know why they are doing what they are doing? Lying to yourself first can be helpful before lying to others.

    Of course this is easier for me than it might be for someone who thinks generally Republicans are right or that generally Democrats are right. Or who thinks generally, for example, the pharmaceutical industry means well and tests its products responsibly.

    So, I am agreeing, but I want to shift it to a meta-level. Not 'also be skeptical about what "your" team is telling you' but be skeptical you have a team and that there are two teams/approaches. Be skeptical about the bad apple theory of problems. Be very skeptical about what powerful entities tell you that X has to be done. Regardless of whom you might feel comfortable sitting next to at a dinner gathering.
  • Ludwig V
    775


    Excuse me for butting in, but may I ask whether there is a reason why you only recommend scepticism about powerful large entities - not that that's inappropriate. But surely we also ought to be sceptical about individuals as well?

    I would suggest that one at least reins in the scepticism about people one loves. Love surely means trust means minimal scepticism. It's about the amount of evidence needed before one switches off the trust and switches on the scepticism.
  • Bylaw
    526
    Excuse me for butting in, but may I ask whether there is a reason why you only recommend scepticism about powerful large entities - not that that's inappropriateLudwig V
    What you're calling butting in seems to me part of normal posting here, so butt-in away.

    That said, I focused on scepticism about powerful entities because politics was the context in the OP which I was responding to. I do think it's perhaps more important to practice regular scepticism in relation to entities with a lot of power, given what they are capable of. I think of that as a kind of healthy chore, done regularly, like cleaning one's bathroom and throwing out old prescription medicines. Personally I rely on intuition with most individuals and so my sense that we should have a kind of standing skepticism of all powerful entities doesn't carry over into my dealings with individuals. IOW not regularly in the kind of chore or healthy habit I suggest with powerful entities.

    I have nothing against skepticism regarding individuals, and should they have any power over me -bureaucrat, boss, landlord, etc. - then it rises to chore level. Something that I think should be done. I meet someone at a party, well, I don't give them the keys to my house, but I might not be skeptical, even casually meeting them a number of times.

    If I love someone they've got to deal with my skepticism of them. Not because of power but because of how important the effects are, and then usually we spend a lot of time together and the process of building trust means overcoming caution, which is a sort of skepticism. I release intimate information slowly. If they make a disgusted face over one of my dear interests, are condescending if I mention a problem, skepticism will arise all by itself. So, for me the process of coming to love entails a kind of gauntlet of skepticism people go through. Immediate family from childhood are a different story.

    I'm not recommending this or saying it's right. Just admitting it. I think this is natural for most people, though I can't be sure. I'm not especially skeptical about stories people tell me as I get to know them - unless something is setting off warning bells. If I like someone I tend to trust them about many basic things: if they say they are sick and can't come over, I tend to believe it. If they say they work as a dentist, I will believe it. And so on. The skepticism is more like...is this really a person I can get even closer to? Is this really a person I can admit my foibles, faults, failures, weaknesses, confusions, problems to? How much of my shadow can I show this person? or the odd things I believe or feel?
  • Vera Mont
    3.2k
    Excuse me for butting in, but may I ask whether there is a reason why you only recommend scepticism about powerful large entities - not that that's inappropriate.Ludwig V

    It mainly applies to entities that have some power to affect our lives, environment, economic interactions, safety, etc.

    But surely we also ought to be sceptical about individuals as well?Ludwig V

    Individual strangers rarely have enough effect on us to merit the kind of scrutiny that institutions do. It takes effort and time to investigate the validity of any statement, so, when it doesn't really matter, you might as well believe it as not - and believing what someone says about themselves, their occupation or other things they know about is more likely to be the correct interpretation than rejecting it. It's also the more sociable attitude, leading to a complaisant atmosphere.
    Where you need to be skeptical in person-to-person communications is in the case of legal or financial transactions; where being fooled can be costly or damaging to yourself.

    I would suggest that one at least reins in the scepticism about people one loves.Ludwig V

    We generally come to love someone gradually, and trust is usually built up along with affection as a relationship develops. So of course you get to know what the other knows well, what they get wrong or confuse, what they're self-deluded about, what they're sensitive about - we make the small, necessary adjustments along the way. With a child, parents have a good deal of influence over how truthful they are as they're growing up : what examples they're exposed to, how much they're trusted, whether they're rewarded for dishonest behaviour.
    Some kinds of emotion-caused skepticism, however - sexual jealousy, sibling rivalry, envy, attention-seeking, distrust of praise etc. - are not necessarily within our control.
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