The seven annoying habits exclusive to stupid people

Stupidity is everywhere, and it seems that people don’t quite get how to think. So here are seven things to NOT do if you want to have some shred of intelligence.

7. “Gathering evidence” by reading a bunch of anecdotes off of the Internet.

The logic of science made a great post about why stories and anecdotes are not really scientific evidence. You can see their article here. That post assumes that the people posting those anecdotes are being honest and not just making those stories up. The truth is that stories can be, and frequently are, completely fabricated by propaganda accounts.

It’s amazing how often people will see a tweet with a story in it that provides no proof or even evidence that the story is true and the replies will be full of people automatically assuming that it must be true. Stories are not proof of wider societal problems. They are propaganda.

If the news posts a story about the president murdering every member of congress and declaring martial law then that’s one thing, but when the media posts ten different stories about school shootings that does not imply that school shootings are a common problem. Ten data points out of 300 million people should not, under any circumstances, be seen as convincing.

6. “Proving” things by looking at a bunch of your “evidence” and the impressions you get from them

I can’t believe I have to point this out, but there are no degrees to how proven something is. It’s either proven or it’s not. Far too many people think that proof comes from gathering anecdotes until it seems convincing enough. It’s so bad that even the legal system uses the word “proof” wrong.

To prove something means you’ve shown that it has to be true, and that there’s no way for it to be wrong (so long as the assumptions we’ve used are correct). One could argue that there’s degrees to how proven something is based on how few assumptions were made to get to that proof, but that’s a very different kind of fuzzy logic from using real world evidence.

We don’t generally prove things about the real world. In order to prove something you need to make assumptions. In math we prove things based on as few assumptions as possible, and sometimes we’ll use math to prove things about the real world based on assumptions about physics (these are called “the laws of physics”). What we generally do to establish truth about the real world is use theories. We come up with explanations for things.

Proving things in Math isn’t easy. You need to come up with arguments that aren’t any kind of logical fallacy, and make as few assumptions as possible. Proving things about the real world is about gathering actual evidence and trying to come up with explanations for said evidence.

5. Arguing with and then blocking anyone who came to a different conclusion

There are quite a few problems with this mentality. For one, the people who came to a different conclusion are typically looking at a different set of anecdotes. Of course they’re going to form a different conclusion. It’s not necessarily them being any more ignorant than you are. It’s them not having heard the “evidence” that you did.

Blocking doesn’t do anything to help. Just because you can’t change someone’s mind over the course of a single conversation doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. All that blocking does is make the problem worse because now neither you nor the person you’re arguing with are able to see any counter-arguments from the opposition.

People often agree that we shouldn’t ignore evidence that we’re wrong, but where do you expect to get the evidence that you’re wrong? The evidence fairy? If you’re not using google to debunk your own views then you don’t have a choice but to rely on people bringing evidence up in conversation.

4. Straw-manning opposing viewpoints based on the snap judgments you’ve made from arguing with people.

Remember earlier when I said that people never see opposing arguments? Well that wasn’t 100% accurate. There are accounts on social media that seek out the dumbest arguments that the opposition makes, take screenshots of them, and then show them to their own side to create the impression that the opposition is stupid.

This is straw-manning. The accounts doing this know damn well that they’re helping to maintain echo chambers. That’s the entire reason they’re doing it. Echo chambers don’t just happen by accident. They’re deliberately created by people who have ambitions of building a cult.

Debunking stupid arguments isn’t a bad thing so long as the people using those arguments can see the debunk, but if you’re not making sure that they see it then you’re just preaching to the choir.

3. Have a mob mentality that tries to punish other people for disagreeing.

Sometimes people will do shitty things like pressuring businesses to fire “racist” employees. These tactics do more to piss people off than persuade, and they also persuade people watching all of this unfold that these “activists” are just a mob (hence the term “the woke mob”).

Another thing they’ll do is block people who don’t agree with the zeitgeist strongly enough. These kinds of pointless purity tests make the group weaker since this is, by definition, infighting. Splitting the group into pieces makes a bunch of small groups that are each less effective at creating helpful change.

2. Never trying to disprove your own conclusions.

Disproving your own conclusions is how critical thinking works. Just because something has been established, that doesn’t mean you should take it as absolute, unquestionable truth. What that means is you should try to disprove it. The more you fail to disprove it, the more certain you can be that it’s true. Scientific evidence is not based on anecdotes, and it’s usually not based on proof. It’s based on disproving things.

1. Wondering why your pointless purity tests don’t do anything.

How on Earth anyone can wonder why these methods don’t work is beyond me. It’s obvious that they don’t work because, since Trump first ran for the 2016 election, there has been almost no progress at all in politics. Trump managed to stay in office for an entire term, and nearly managed to become a dictator, and he’s still got the potential to be a dictator.

If you want to solve the problem then you need to be willing to make sacrifices. I know that breaking these bad habits is a counter-intuitive solution to many people, but counter-intuitive is not the same thing as wrong. The sacrifice you have to be willing to make is that you must give up these idiotic habits. Progress will never happen so long as you’re trapped in the cycle of ineffective problem solving.

You can whine, and moan, and bitch, and complain all you want about how people who disagree slightly on one tiny thing are literally fascists, but that doesn’t do a damn thing to defeat actual fascists.

It’s time to do better.

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