Two Wrong Ideas the Same Way

San Bernadino.

It is the morning after and we already know everything we need to assert the following: this tragedy will be used to justify more restrictive gun laws and this tragedy will also be used to demonize Islam. Both of these perspectives have already come to a conclusion and are looking for evidence to confirm it. This approach to thought has a name. It is called “confirmation bias

Now, it is silly to think that we should wait for all the evidence to come in before we start thinking about it. It is entirely reasonable to see things happening and to get an idea. In some circles this is called forming a hypothesis. You then look to see whether there is further information that supports or undermines that idea.

That is not what we see happening with this. We have people devoted to ideas rather than devoted to the truth. The way things are is the way things are. If we want to change the way things are we need to engage reality as honestly as possible.

The “anti-gun” folks, by and large, want a good thing i.e. let’s not kill each other so much. While the “anti-Islam” folks too want a good thing i.e. let’s not be killed as much.

The problem is that good intentions will not accomplish either of these goals. These problems exist in a system and without changing that system the problems will remain. What folks don’t like about systemic change is that it is often uncomfortable and sometimes takes a while for the change to be visible. Add to this that there are people, bad people in my opinion, who profit from calling for simple linear solutions to these systemic problems (and so look like they are working for improvement but are actually interfering with it and so preserve their jobs while “claiming a halo for their dishonesty”) and people get distracted from meaningful work that will make things better.

There is no easy solution. One thing we can do is ask ourselves when presented with these problems, Are we protecting ourselves from uncomfortable ideas? Are we placing our biases ahead of problem solving? Our ideals inform our objectives but if our beliefs are not subject to change by reality they become dogma and actively interfere with changing our situation for the better.

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