Skip to main content

You're Not as Right as You Think You Are

What does it mean to be so convinced that your opinion, judgment, or intuition is right that you can't conceive of any intelligent person disagreeing?

It means that you lack epistemic humility - regular humility's rarely discussed, mostly abandoned, stepbrother.

Epistemic humility is difficult because it comes with this simple acknowledgment: "I could be wrong." For many, that is an unbearable thought, especially when it relates to the ideas that are near and dear to our hearts. It brings psychological and emotional pain, even to the point of triggering the physiological "fight or flight" instinct designed for life and death situations.

Humans want to believe that we have an accurate and complete perception of how the world works. When that desire for certainty meets the uncertainty of our own fallibility, we are left with a vacuum that we are tempted to fill with dogmatism.

Dogmatism pushes us to devalue others for the sake of elevating our own feelings of certainty. Unwilling to acknowledge the finite limits of our own abilities, when faced with another person who has reached a different conclusion, we default to what is seemingly the only other option - there must be something wrong with them as an individual. Either they are morally or intellectually faulty.

Thus, our motive to shut out other views. We live in ideological silos filled only with people that agree with us. Everyone on the outside must be either stupid or evil, or both. Anyone on the inside that dissents instantly becomes stupid or evil, or both. That's how we end up with some right-leaning Christian leaders thanking God that not all Christians were too self-righteous to vote for Trump and other left-leaning Christians proclaiming that if their fellow believers were truly compassionate they would agree that the only acceptable solutions to society's problems are those proposed by the Democratic party.

However, as Christians, we aren't called to only love those that reside in our ideological silos. We are called to love even our enemies. That means extending to even our enemies the exact same courtesies that we would like extended to us. It means acknowledging that it's possible that a good and intelligent person could look at the facts and come to a different conclusion than myself. I might disagree with that conclusion - even strongly disagree. I might even think that I have good reason to believe that their conclusion is so wrong as to be dangerous and destructive. But always I will treat the person with civility, even if I consider one of their ideas to be undeserving of consideration.

Yes, there are decidedly evil people in this world, but chances are the person you are typing furious replies to on Facebook isn't one of them. There are unintelligent people in this world, but most defective thinking is learned behavior, not the product of low IQ, and as Will Rogers once said (probably), "Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."

There are some things of which we can be almost certain, and one of those certainties is that we are all fallible imperfect humans. While we ought to cling to objective truths, if we are being honest, we will recognize that more than we would like it to be true, we all make wrong conclusions and skewed judgments, all while hoping that we make the right calls on the stuff that matters the most. That shared experience, along with the Biblical imperative to love each other and our enemies, demands that we extend civility and respect especially to those with whom we disagree.

Popular posts from this blog

John Crist Demonstrates the Poor Thinking Skills of Modern Christians

In a recent rant on Instagram , Christian comedian John Crist demonstrated just how bad modern Christians can be at critical thought. Now, to be honest with you, I had no idea who John Crist was until about 5 minutes ago, though a quick check of YouTube showed some of his comedy to be marginally entertaining. But perhaps he should stick with entertaining rather than trying to lecture believers on matters of substance. The subject of Crist’s rant was the criticism Lauren Daigle has received regarding her failure , when questioned, to communicate the clear teaching of Scripture on the issue of homosexuality. There is no doubt that Daigle is wrong. Perhaps she is merely Scripturally illiterate, or she is capitulating to maintain her popularity, but she is wrong. In her interview with radio host Domenick Nati, she repeats the error that so many Christians have accepted – the conclusion that if I get to know someone living in immorality, and they don’t seem like a terrible person, the

20 Years After Columbine: Who do we believe in?

20 years ago today, two dark-hearted young men entered the campus of Columbine High School with the goal of bringing pain and death to as many people as possible. I was 15 at the time, and this is one of the first national events that caught my attention. It left an indelible mark on my life. Shortly after the events of the day, stories began to come out that at least two of the students who were killed were Christians, perhaps targeted for their beliefs by the killers. Eyewitness accounts say that both Cassie Bernall, and Rachel Scott were questioned about their belief in God before they were murdered. These stories of martyrdom struck me heavily - a young person my age who, when asked with a gun pointed at her, affirmed that she believed in God. I wondered if I had the same courage. I was challenged to think about the sort of life I should live. As is often the case with such things, as the investigation began to unfold, more information came forward that threw into question the ma

This Post Isn't About Coronavirus (I promise)

I don't like being told what to do. Or, more precisely, I don't like the way it feels having someone make decisions for me which I think I should be able to make for myself. As you can imagine, the last six months have been a difficult pill to swallow. Let me be blunt: I hate it all.  I hate the stupid masks and the dumb face shields. I particularly hate it when people post pictures and videos on social media of themselves wearing them. It always seems to me that they are either virtue signaling or acquiescing to the "new norm" which makes me want to shout at the top of my lungs "Why would anyone want to normalize this?!"  (Hang on, remember, this post isn't about the virus.) I'm done with all of it. I never want to hear the term "social distancing" again in my life. I'm tired of re-ingesting my own breath-flavored-carbon-dioxide-laced air every time I leave the house while reliving every time my older siblings thought it would be funny