An Independent Opinion Requires Research
If you find that you have
or want to have a strong opinion about something,
it is worthwhile putting in the effort
to research and to think about
information and arguments
that contradict what you believe.
The common thing is for people to do research
that reinforces what they already believe.
It is safer to avoid information, research,
statistics and studies that support ideas
different from what they believe.
Understand the Opposite Side
My preference is to understand the opposite side
of an argument even better than
the people who actually believe them.
If we only investigate arguments on our side of an issue,
then we are not truly forming an independent opinion.
Finding Weak Arguments is not Research
Even if we look into the weak arguments
on the other side of an issue,
we’re still not really gaining true understanding.
People often do this to use as ammunition when arguing
or to convince themselves of the validity of their own perspective.
A classic example is:
To be clear, I’m not stating any opinion on gun control.
I’m just pointing out that this is the deepest many
pro-gun, or anti-gun control people investigate the
pro-gun control side of the issue.
Independent Thinking Requires Choice
If we want to have an opinion about something
that represents our authentic truth
we need to understand all the different sides of an issue.
Including the strong arguments on both sides.
Only then will we be making a true and free choice
based on what we really feel is the right thing.
If research tends to be entirely around
reinforcing our own beliefs then
what we are actually doing is
parroting what other people have said
or what we have been programmed with.
Argue With Yourself
To think something through deeply and intelligently
requires being able to argue with yourself effectively.
It doesn’t matter how logical your perspective seems
nor how crazy the opposite one seems
if you haven’t done this you are fooling yourself.
For example as you probably know
if you’ve read any of my blogs
I am completely against spanking and
punishing children in any way for anything.
At the same time I understand the pro-spanker
and pro-punishment ideology very deeply.
In conversation with people who are pro-punishment or pro-spanking
I can usually explain their own perspective and ideas to them
better than they even understand them.
This is because I have actually looked into what
the potential benefits are to these ideas
rather than pretend there are none.
Only by truly understanding the thought process
that goes into the opposite of what I believe
do I feel I’m even beginning to make
a free choice of my own opinion.
I Am Grateful When I Hear A New Idea
This also helps very much when I am having
a discussion with someone because it is rare
that they can say something that surprises me.
The great thing is when someone does make
an argument that I haven’t heard before
I am very grateful to them.
Whether I agree or disagree with it,
I will take it into deep consideration
and I will learn from it.
I have also learned over the years to
avoid arguments with people who are
very much invested in maintaining
their belief structure as it is.
They are usually unwilling to hear other ideas
and investigate them intelligently.
Conversations like this usually end up being
duelling monologues and this is something
I am profoundly uninterested in.
I am however very interested in
genuine investigation into ideas.
I find that when the person I am talking with
is also interested in that I always come away enriched
regardless of whether or not they end up
agreeing with me or I end up agreeing with them.
The Challenge of Change
It can be challenging to put real thought
into the opposite idea because
there is always the chance that we will
find something that we agree with on that side
and will then have to change our minds.
If our self-image, our sense of who we are
is tied up in our opinions rather than in
seeking what is most true for us
then we will resist a change in our thought process,
in our minds and in how we see the world.
Set A Priority For The Truth
If we can instead set a priority for the truth,
or at least as close to the truth as we are able to perceive,
then it actually becomes a pleasure to experience change.
But before this experience
becomes a pleasure
it most definitely is a challenge.
As the wise Gloria Steinem said:
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”