Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is the truth relative?

Have you stopped to ask your self: Why do people believe crazy, outlandish theories? In an interesting article in Newsweek, Sharon Begley takes on the mental state of the "Bush knew about 9/11, Obama was born in Kenya, Death Panel/Book" crowd.

The heart of the piece:

For an explanation of this behavior, look no further than the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance. This theory holds that when people are presented with information that contradicts preexisting beliefs, they try to relieve the cognitive tension one way or another. They process and respond to information defensively, for instance: their belief challenged by fact, they ignore the latter. They also accept and seek out confirming information but ignore, discredit the source of, or argue against contrary information, studies have shown.

Which brings us back to health-care reform—in particular, the apoplexy at town-hall meetings and the effectiveness of the lies being spread about health-care reform proposals. First of all, let's remember that 59,934,814 voters cast their ballot for John McCain, so we can assume that tens of millions of Americans believe the wrong guy is in the White House. To justify that belief, they need to find evidence that he's leading the country astray. What better evidence of that than to seize on the misinformation about Obama's health-care reform ideas and believe that he wants to insure illegal aliens, for example, and give the Feds electronic access to doctors' bank accounts?

I have found this as a major frustration in my debates with friends and readers. If you come to an debate unwilling to concede that your opponent has good, reasoned, and well though out points that you may need to incorporate into your thinking, then you won't learn very much and you'll just frustrate each other.

It is my hope that anyone I converse with on subjects of wildly differing opinion will feel like I considered their point of view fairly and without prejudice. And I hope the same courtesy will be returned back to me.

We'll all be better for it.

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