Friday, February 10, 2012

Please, tell me I'm wrong

I really appreciate your comments. And as much as I like to have people agree with me, I actually prefer comments when my readers disagree.

Why? Well, I value the truth. I mean, I really value the truth. I want my beliefs to reflect reality. I don't care so much about comfort. If my feelings get hurt, that's the price I'm willing to pay. If I'm wrong, I want to know about it. I'm serious.

If no one ever disagrees with me, my opinions won't get challenged. And when it comes to beliefs, challenge is a good thing. If my opinions, if my beliefs, if my facts can't withstand a challenge, what good are they?

I find blogs, sometimes, where comments are censored. Anyone who disagrees with the blogger is likely to see his comments disappear. That's the sign of a guy who doesn't care about the truth.* That kind of blogger just wants to massage his ego. (OK, admittedly, all of us kind of want to massage our egos, I suppose, or we wouldn't be blogging in the first place.)

I see it on YouTube videos, too, where comments or ratings - or both - are disabled. You might think that's understandable on YouTube, because there are a lot of crazy people there. But I don't think so. That problem tends to be self-corrective, as the really crazy comments accumulate negative votes, until YouTube eventually identifies them as spam.* (Note that I will remove spam here, although Blogger almost always does that automatically.)

Here, at least, I want to know if you disagree with me, even in part. In fact, the best thing you could do for me is convince me that I'm wrong. As I say, if I'm wrong, I want to know about it. I value the truth too much to want to believe falsehoods. And I know I'm not infallible. I've been wrong before, and I'll be wrong again.

Sometimes, commenters do convince me that I was wrong about something. It's doesn't happen very often, and I won't claim that it's easy, but it does happen. And I'm profoundly grateful every time it does.

If you're familiar with my blog at all, you'll probably know that I'm a real devil's advocate. Even if I'm not sure what I think, I might challenge your position. Well, how else to determine the truth? As I say, the truth can withstand a little challenge, don't you think? It's only falsehood that needs to be sheltered from such things.

And if I disagree with your comment in any way, I'll challenge that part of it. I might agree with you about almost everything, but it's the part where we disagree - or even where we might disagree - that will always catch my attention. Face it, that's just me. It doesn't mean that I think you're stupid. If you're stupid, what's the point of arguing with you?

And I expect you to do the same in return. If you agree with most, but not all, of a post, then point out where you disagree. Let's have a vigorous discussion about it. Because, if I'm wrong, I want to know about it. Don't you?

Most of the time, we'll probably end up agreeing to disagree. So what? I don't have to agree with everyone about everything. And the truth is not always easy to discern (and not always black and white, either). We probably wouldn't ever disagree, if every question was easy to answer.

But never doubt that I'm opinionated. I have strong opinions and I'm always willing to defend them. I've thought about these things, and I generally think that I have good reasons for my beliefs. I try to be evidence-based. You're unlikely to convince me I'm wrong just on your say-so.

I try to use logic, too, and reason. But those need to be grounded in evidence. Faith, on the other hand, is just believing what you want to believe. Faith-based thinking is the reverse of truth-seeking.

But hey, if you think I'm wrong about that, tell me so. Convince me otherwise. That's my point. If you disagree, tell me why.

Thanks for commenting!

* Note: It's been three years since I wrote this post, and I've changed my mind about part of it (marked with asterisks above). For one thing, YouTube has changed its comment system, so trolls now rise to the top.

You can't down-vote a comment these days - not and have the effect you want, at least. Any notice at all now causes a comment to rise in the relative standings, so that self-corrective mechanism I mentioned is completely gone. The result is of benefit to trolls and no one else.

Thus, I no longer have a big problem with YouTube channels which prohibit comments. It's a poor solution to the problem, but it seems to be the only solution left. Now, most channels don't have a big problem with trolls, and very few actually prohibit comments. But I have no problem with it, if they do.

Note that I do object to channels which censor comments. Some allow comments they like, while prohibiting the others. Sorry, but that's too easily abused. You can block specific people, if you want, or eliminate comments altogether. Neither may be perfect solutions, but they're better than that kind of censorship.

Likewise, on blogs, I still dislike censorship. But now, I have little problem with blocking specific people. Trolls have become an enormous problem on the Internet, as anonymity brings out the worst in some people. Even those who have something to say can become obsessive about it.

Besides, if you want to talk forever, you can always start your own blog. I did. :)  I still welcome comments, and I still enjoy talking with people who disagree with me. But I don't have the patience I once did. I don't even blog like I once did - just too many other things to do.

So I'm not going to worry if I have to block someone. I never have, but it could happen. Thus, I can't really play the holier-than-thou card about this, either.


Jim Harris said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you and say I agree with you too much to disagree with you.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with both of you. But then, I'm pretty disagreeable. My wife will agree to that.

Anonymous said...

Guess we all have to agree to disagree then!

Anonymous said...

I, too, disagree. Not just with Garthright, but with all of you as well, and I highly disagree with your disagreeing.

Anonymous said...

I also disagree -- but for different reasons.

Anonymous said...

you say that you apportion your belief according to the evidence. The evidence shows that humans don't do that . Sensible people try, but humans just aren't capable of defeating the belief mechanism that is built into us. We believe what we know, and disbelieve anything that contradicts what we know. Reality bites us in the ass sometimes, and we are forced to change our beliefs. The more interesting question is "why". The answer is that belief protects us from knowing things that will make us emotionally unstable. And we need emotions, because it is impossible to know everything, but any idiot can have a feeling about anything. As ridiculous as are construction sounds, it works.....

WCG said...

"You say that you apportion your belief according to the evidence."

Well, it's more precise to say that I try. In a few short sentences to introduce this blog, it's hard to go into detail.

I do go into more detail in this post, Anonymous, and you'll note I say "I generally think that I have good reasons for my beliefs," and "I try to be evidence-based." [emphasis added]

And it works - maybe not always, but we are "capable of defeating the belief mechanism that is built into us." Scientists do it all the time - maybe not all of them, but most, and maybe not easily, but it does happen.

That's how they come to a consensus about what's real and what isn't. And that's how new discoveries can be built on a secure foundation of reality.

"The more interesting question is "why". The answer is that belief protects us from knowing things that will make us emotionally unstable."

Do you have any evidence of that? I'm trying to imagine something I could know that would make me emotionally unstable, just for the knowing of it. It's hard to believe, just on an off-hand claim. Do you have an example?

PS. I see I'll have to edit this post, anyway, just a bit, because I've changed my mind since I wrote it - not hugely, and nothing to do with this particular issue, but still significantly.