Dé Máirt, Meán Fómhair 28, 2010

Shout Out:http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/09/opinion-warning-signs.html

Signs that your opinions function more to signal loyalty and ability than to estimate truth:

1. You find it hard to be enthusiastic for something until you know that others oppose it.
2. You have little interest in getting clear on what exactly is the position being argued.
3. Realizing that a topic is important and neglected doesn’t make you much interested.
4. You have little interest in digging to bigger topics behind commonly argued topics.
5. You are less interested in a topic when you don’t foresee being able to talk about it.
6. You are uncomfortable taking a position near the middle of the opinion distribution.
7. You are uncomfortable taking a position of high uncertainty about who is right.
8. You care far more about current nearby events than similar distant or past/future events.
9. You find it easy to conclude that those who disagree with you are insincere or stupid.
10. You are reluctant to change your publicly stated positions in response to new info.
11. You are reluctant to agree a rival’s claim, even if you had no prior opinion on the topic.
12. You are reluctant to take a position that raises the status of rivals.
13. You care more about consistency between your beliefs than about belief accuracy.
14. You go easy on sloppy arguments by folks on “your side.”
15. You have little interest in practical concrete implications of commonly argued topics.
16. Your opinion doesn’t much change after talking with smart folks who know more.
17. You are especially eager to drop names when explaining positions and arguments.
18. You find it hard to list weak points and counter-arguments on your positions.
19. You feel passionately about at topic, but haven’t sought out much evidence.
20. You are reluctant to not have an opinion on commonly discussed topics.
21. More?
-Robin Hanson

Most of these points describe several people I know.

For some reason I'm reminded in particular of this time back in 2004. I was at a family gathering and; was called upon to describe the details of Jenna Cooper's slaying. I recited the known facts as dryly as I could and as soon as I was done a male relative of mine; without saying a thing about this particular case, regally stated his belief that convicted murderers should always get the death penalty.

I was struck by how he obviously considered the chance to assert this belief as the essential point of the conversation; and I'd even say that some part of him believes that murder exists for the purpose of giving others the chance to affirm their anti-murderer credentials. And while this sort of moral vanity has never been uncommon and expresses itself in various ways more harmful than this it was still a damned tawdry display all the same.

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