Re: Opinions as Evidence

Robin Hanson (
Wed, 26 Mar 1997 15:21:49 -0800 (PST)

Time limits suggest I better wrap up my conversation with Lee Crocker.

Initially, I advocated that most people, especially those (such as
extropians) with extreme views, should

>take the opinions of others seriously as an important source
>of information, and only take an extreme position when they think
>they have a particularly unique source of info on the subject

Lee responded:
>But why must I let their judgements affect me? Why must I personally
>give in to their intellectual pathology that judges ideas by their
>holders rather than by their actual merits?

and later:
>If you ask how many people whose opinions--in the absence of any
>direct experience of mine--I value so highly that I might actually
>re-examine my own ideas in light of their disagreement, then yes,
>there are very few of those indeed.

and today:
>Why do you simply refuse to accept the fact that in all periods of
>human history, the vast hordes of people--including the best minds of
>each generation--were simply wrong about most things? ...
>I honestly believe that I am more capable of reliable evaluation of
>evidence than almost everyone I have ever met or read ...
>it is an evaluation I make without reservation.

Yes, if you are confident that most people in history were especially
sloppy thinkers, and if you are one of the rare careful thinkers, then
you shouldn't give other's opinions much weight. But this can be good
advice for at most very few people.

Regarding the claim that most people in history were wrong about most
things, the question is what other cognitive strategy would have
enabled them to be wrong less often. I claim that for the vast
majority of them, ignoring the opinions of their comtemporaries would
have just made things worse.

Robin D. Hanson