Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
Recommended by: Bill Roos
Posted in: Social PsychologyPurchase →
“Of all the strife in the world . . . a staggering amount of it arises from the clash of mutually incompatible, entirely unshakable feelings of rightness.” But: “Our tricky senses, our limited intellects, our fickle memories, the veil of emotions, the tug of allegiances, the complexity of the world around us: all of this conspires to ensure that we get things wrong again and again.”
One Review for “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error”
This should be required reading for every Braver Angel. Or at least, every Braver Angel should watch the author’s short TED Talk summarizing the concepts in her book:
For starters, learning and applying the lessons of this book can help all of us have a little more humility about ourselves and our beliefs, including our political beliefs. Consider: “[B]ecause even the most seemingly bulletproof scientific theories of times past eventually proved wrong, we must assume that today’s theories will someday prove wrong as well. And what goes for science goes in general—for politics, economics, technology, law, religion, medicine, child-rearing, education. No matter the domain of life, one generation’s verities so often become the next generation’s falsehoods . . . .”
Further, our relationship to being wrong affects our behavior: “[T]he relationship we cultivate with error affects how we think about and treat our fellow human beings—and how we think about and treat our fellow human beings is the alpha and omega of ethics. Do we have an obligation to others to contemplate the possibility that we are wrong?”
Schulz’ explanation of how we deal with people who disagree with us is particularly noteworthy (and cringeworthy):
“We look into our hearts and see objectivity; we look into our minds and see rationality; we look at our beliefs and see reality.
“If some people disagree with us, we conclude that they just haven’t been exposed to the right information. They are ignorant. If we educate them as to the true facts they will agree with us.
“If they stubbornly persist in disagreeing with us even after we try to educate them, then they must be idiots – they know the facts but don’t have the brains to comprehend them.
“If they know the facts and are actually pretty smart, so that they could understand the truth we’re trying to explain to them, then they must be evil because they are rejecting the truth.”
Once we label someone “evil” we’re on the road to some bad places, including violent conflict.
In addition to imparting some important lessons about political conflict, Schulz’ description of the sometimes surprising ways the human brain works, and the evolutionary benefits of the often subconscious processes that sometimes lead us astray, is entertaining and enlightening.
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