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The power of the considered opinion

As scientists, we seek to comprehend the nature of things in a way that is truthful and factual, and this requires extraordinary discipline.  We defer our judgment on matters for which there is insufficient evidence.  We attempt to aggressively develop models to account for all that we observe, and we attempt to aggressively observe so as to leave no stone unturned.  We adopt models that are most effective at predicting new observations, and give up on less useful models.

It may be fair to say that scientists are attracted to this way of adopting and discarding ideas because we feel that there is strength in it.  This approach may be the very basis of intelligence.  However, with more frequency that I'd like, I run into people who try very hard to convince me of ideas that the wealth of evidence, collected in honest inquiry, must judge as false.  They have their reasons, but reason is not one of them.

How can we interact with those who don't share the value of evidence-based thought?

There is an approach that may not be obvious.  I'll call it 'the considered opinion'.

All 'facts' are structured through human thought processes, and as such are potentially flawed.  I can simply admit this from the start, and say, \This is just my opinion, but...\" and explain what I think, and the reasoning behind it. Some opinions, of course, are better than others, and it's okay to say so. That is also an opinion. By softening communications in this way, and not representing my own thoughts as facts from the start, it may be easier to recruit honest consideration from others.

Importantly, scientific truth is not a matter of consensus... everyone can agree and be wrong.  Not worrying that someone disagrees may empower your own investigations, and perhaps paradoxically, make you more persuasive.


The author's affiliation with The MITRE Corporation is provided for identification purposes only, and is not intended to convey or imply MITRE's concurrence with, or support for, the positions, opinions or viewpoints expressed by the author.

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