The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.
Watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth WP a couple of days ago. Besides being astonished by the quality of the presentation that is the core of the documentary, he did manage to intrigue me, if not convince me, about global warming — I’m definitely reading Skeptical Environmentalist^ AM, E^ soon.
At any rate, what surprised me most was Gore’s evident hubris and mocking towards skeptics. I thought of a question for him then,
And it hit me that it was too good a question not to ask ourselves.
That’s the game I’m proposing today. It’s like when they asked you in high school to take the other side of a debate only this time it’s not about arguments, it’s about reasons — the difference here being that a reason is a fact you yourself are forced to accept while an argument is a verbal tool you use to to try to convince others. This is not about others, posing or fighting, this is about you and truth.
You know there have to be reasons for both sides, don’t you? Anything of more than trivial complexity is inherently ambiguous. If you can’t find them it’s probably because your knowledge of the subject is, well, trivial and superficial.
So take one of your most entrenched beliefs — say, in my case, that government is evil or that there is no god — and find a reason — a reason you can do nothing but accept — for disbelieving it. It is not about you abandoning that belief, it’s about letting doubt back inside your cramped head.
Personally, I’m losing so far. It’s incredibly easy to come up with plausible, convincing arguments that would be good weapons and yet you personally know are ultimately flawed and phony. But to come with true reasons — well, it’s much, much harder than I thought…