by Judith Curry
“That’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being — to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.” – Malcolm Gladwell
Brainpickings reports on a recent interview with Malcolm Gladwell, author of such bestselling books as The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking , Outliers: The Story of Success , and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. I’ve read Blink; seems like I need to read David and Goliath also, although its not available on Kindle.
The entire interview can be linked to on the Brainpickings site, below are some excerpts from the interview:
Criticism is a privilege that you earn — it shouldn’t be your opening move in an interaction…
The notion that the only way you can critically engage with a person’s ideas is to take a shot at them, is to be openly critical — this is actually nonsense. Some of the most effective ways in which you deal with someone’s idea are to treat them completely at face value, and with an enormous amount of respect. That’s actually a faster way to engage with what they’re getting at than to lob grenades in their direction…
If you’re going to hold someone to what they believe, make sure you accurately represent what they believe.
JC comment: some lessons here for blogospheric discussion.
What we call tolerance in this country, and pat ourselves on the back for, is the lamest kind of tolerance. What we call tolerance in this country is when people who are unlike us want to be like us, and when we decide to accept someone who is not like us and wants to be like us, we pat ourselves on the back… So when gays want to be like us and get married, we finally get around and say, “Oh, isn’t that courageous of me, to accept gay people for finally wanting to be like us.”
Sorry — you don’t get points for accepting someone who wants to be just like you. You get points for accepting someone who doesn’t want to be like you — that’s where the difficulty lies.
JC comment: The lack of tolerance for opposing perspectives in the climate debate is just staggering. Even more worrisome is that it is regarded as a ‘virtue’ to attack people with an opposing perspective.
I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being — to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.
If you create a system where you make it impossible, politically, for people to change [their] mind, then you’re in trouble.
In politics, candidates who change their minds are denigrated as ‘flip floppers’. Personally, I’m fine with candidates who change their mind as a result of new evidence and/or actually thinking; changing opinions in response to political expediency is something that is rightfully criticized.
In science, changing your mind is arguably a virtue – it reflects consideration of new evidence and active reasoning about the new evidence. However, there are numerous sociopsychological factors in science that discourage changing your mind, since egos and reputations get tied up in a particular interpretation.
When politics and ‘consensus’ enforcement come into play, it becomes very difficult for scientists to publicly change their mind. To say that we are in trouble in the climate debate because of this is an understatement.
There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to conform to the so-called consensus. This pressure comes not only from politicians, but from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies, and scientists themselves who are green activists and advocates. Reinforcing this consensus are are strong monetary, reputational, and authority interests.
The closing of minds on the climate change issue is a tragedy for both science and society.