Buckethead wrote a post on denialism that’s worth reading.

I’ve always admired, but never really trusted, people who think in a very questioning manner – i.e. people who are always questioning their beliefs.

That sort of thinking has never really worked for me. I have to try on new ideas. I’ve had better luck believing in ideas without reservation, finding someone smart who disagrees, and arguing with them a lot. Of course, one still has to be open to changing one’s position after the argument.

10 Responses to Denialism

  1. Koanic says:

    Exactly. The human brain doesn’t naturally hold more than one opinion on a subject. Our emotional brains always have an opinion and don’t process negatives or partial truths or percentages of belief. It’s useless to pretend otherwise, or attempt to change this. And it’s downright detrimental to forgo or interfere with the subconscious processing power of the emotional mind.

    The only solution is a non-solution: realize this is your hardwiring and that it can’t be changed, and view your probability of being correct on a subject as completely separate from your certainty on a subject. Also, phrase that probability as a frequency in base 10 or 100, not a percentage.

    We don’t trust people who take their efforts at objectivity or bayesianism to the extremes of neutrality precisely because this is not how the emotional brain operates, and we know they’re not being genuine with us and possibly themselves.

    • Foseti says:

      Well said, I particularly like: “We don’t trust people who take their efforts at objectivity or bayesianism to the extremes of neutrality precisely because this is not how the emotional brain operates, and we know they’re not being genuine with us and possibly themselves.”

      • Koanic says:

        To simplify even further, we could make the bifurcation explicit and thus solve the whole problem of statistical cognitive biases.

        Emotionally, I am x% vehement in belief A.

        Rationally, I predict I will be wrong about A-class beliefs y times out of 10. (Tracking one’s prediction record helps here tremendously, and does knowledge of cognitive biases is also useful.)

        Then, if justified by the cost of deliberate effort, one can attempt to rationally map out the consequences of alternative viewpoints. One will probably need to do this in writing, just like a difficult statistics problem. By default one will only perform that integrative, webbing, worldview formation for one’s primary emotional belief. The dissonance of attempting to hypothetically integrate a belief one does not emotionally accept into one’s worldview is almost painful.

  2. Buckethead says:

    Of course, questioning my own views on democracy is how I came to be a reactionary, and agree with you. So there has to be something to it, right?

    • Foseti says:

      Did you actively set out to question your beliefs? Or did you just read a few things that were very persuasive?

      I’ve changed my viewpoints repeatedly, but never through a process of “being open to everything equally” or whatever is required by questioning my own views.

      • Buckethead says:

        Interesting question. I think honestly that it is a combination of both. I have a skeptical turn of mind (which should be obvious) and I try as a matter of policy not to dismiss things out of hand. And I’m skeptical in part because I’ve been successfully skeptical.

        I’ve looked at enough things and said, wtf? to the consensus view and had my skepticism justified by subsequent research enough times that I do pretty much question everything it occurs to me to question. I realize how often people are wrong (including me) and I do distrust authority. Most people never examine their beliefs at all, ever.

        Of course, time constraints prohibit questioning everything.

        That’s how I went down the plasma cosmology road. But while I had been nursing a growing discontent with the way things are politically, it was unfocused. Moldbug was the persuasive agent that got me on the path to reaction and formalism.

        If you’re not open to new ideas, skeptical or at least pissed off, I don’t think that the persuasive thinker could make you change your mind. You wouldn’t accept it, you’d dismiss it or ignore it.

        What left you open to being seduced by Moldbug?

      • Foseti says:

        I think I’m open to new ideas, but I still prefer arguing against them at first – that’s how I learn.

        I remember reading Moldbug’s “Why I’m not a libertarian” post having no rebuttal.

      • Koanic says:

        I make it a policy to give a fair day in court to viewpoints in which I observe the following pattern:
        1. The advocate is clearly intelligent and may also be civil. He’s winning debates.
        2. The opponents’ arguments are 1+ SD weaker and usually ad hominem.
        3. The advocate’s position is insane.

        I do this because this is how red-pill positions have repeatedly appeared to me initially.

  3. Buckethead says:

    His characterization of conservatism left me with no reply. The first post I read was the How I Stopped Believing in Democracy one. It was just so crazy – compared to a lifetime of thinking – I was entranced. But along with the crazy, he made good points, or it wouldn’t have sunk in. I think I dive into new ideas, and use them to argue against my old position. If they loose, I move on. If it’s a tie, I think on it more.

    • Koanic says:

      When I cannot resolve two beliefs in a situation like you just described, my emotional belief becomes that both positions have value, and that some synthesis which I cannot yet foresee is needed. I trust myself to sit on it and let things gestate while I read further. I deliberately suspend rationality to permit the cognitive dissonance of holding both beliefs more or less simultaneously, without attempting to resolve the contradictions between them.

      It is not an natural practice but usually a synthesis presents itself quickly. However this is nothing like what the Bayesians do, attempting to assign relative probabilities to the two beliefs – an emotionally impossible act.

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