Re: PSYCHOLOGY: Healing Pathological Belief System Addiction

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 13:03:54 -0800 (PST)

> I used to play the "I'm right and you're wrong!" game quite vigorously,
> having long drawn-out arguments with people. These exchanges were lots
> of fun for me, but it was upsetting to lots of other people, who didn't
> enjoy talking to me very much because I would always draw them into an
> argument. I also realized that the person I was arguing with was trying
> to establish their point just as hard as I was trying to establish mine.

There are lots of dangerous, evil, counterproductive memes floating
around in our society, and the fact that even Extropians can fall prey
to them is a testament to their tenacity. Let me try to find some:

- "Argument is a zero-sum contest"

This meme is present in your paragraph above. The purpose of
argument isn't "to prove yourself right and the other guy wrong";
such a pursuit is bound to result in hostility. The purpose is
to find the truth. One way to do that is to have each participant
take a position and argue for it, and see whose argument best
stands up to criticism. But if you interpret that result as a
"win" for the person who happened to take that position and a
"loss" for the others, you'll naturally come to resent the game
because you often lose. Sometimes all points hold up well;
sometimes none do; sometimes one stands out. But whatever the
result, everyone wins if their purpose is to find the truth.
I consider it a great (albeit rare:) joy when I am proved wrong.

- "You shouldn't offend people"

This is the dangerous meme I've been trying to fight in this
thread. It's dangerous because it supresses open discussion and
free argument, and because it reinforces another bad meme:

- "People can be hurt by words"

The most dangerous one of all. This is the very denial of
reason. It is the insulting idea that minds are not capable of
rational judgment about emotionally charged ideas. It is a
typical instance of Hofstaedter's "opressor/victim" type meme,
and is as tenacious as others of that type. I, for one, refuse
to be a victim of words, and I will not insult others by
paternalistically "protecting" them from my words or others.