You are no different than a Trump supporter
Andrew Patricio

You left out a very important part of the piece: a way to make a good decision. You suggest that we have all sorts of cognitive biases and so on that make it difficult for us to change each others’ minds. That’s all true enough — it’s been documented extensively indirectly and in experiments in psychology and related disciplines.

But to embrace this state of affairs is wrong. It’s a logical fallacy (the “naturalistic fallacy”) and a social disaster. It expects no better from our fellow adult humans than you would expect from a three-year-old. Let us not practice understanding and manipulating each others’ emotions as you suggest. Understand, sure. But if one cares about objective reality — and let’s face it, most of people’s fears and loves and other emotions are driven by objective reality — emotions do not provide any path forward. Our world today is too complex politically and technologically and even socially for our emotions to be a good guide. They can help, but it’s got to be a team effort.

Fortunately, we can learn. That is our niche, after all. We’re the thinking animal — the animal who more than any other can understand complex objective realities and use them to sculpt our behavior. When we fear or hate or love or are indifferent and someone tells us, “No! That is wrong!”, we shouldn’t do a Bill Clinton, “I feel you.” (We should if we want to get elected. Not if we want to make a good decision.) We should say: “Oh? Let’s understand why.”

That is, rather than ascribing equal validation to each others’ feelings, we should allot equal empathy. But we should invite each other to step aside from them and examine the situation. Then we might discover that I am wrong or you are wrong or they are wrong or that everyone is wrong or that nobody knows enough to really tell who is right and who is wrong.

In the words of Galileo: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

A sentiment worth taking to heart, even if one ascribes our capabilities to evolution.

Let us care about what is, not what we imagine. If a three-year-old runs along with delight flapping her arms and crying, “I’m a butterfly, I’m a butterfly!” I will play along, but I will not let her jump off a building. Reality matters. And reason is our best tool for understanding it.

Lemon squares are tasty. But they are acidic and sugary, and they’re not nutritionally balanced. So make sure to get a reasonable amount of protein and nutrients from other foods, and brush your teeth.

Fear plays a key role in keeping us safe. Let’s give it what it needs to work by explaining to it that sometimes it needs to step aside, give us space to think and understand, and then weigh in again once we’re informed.

When some stupid comment incenses you, imagine not knowing that the comment was stupid, and making it yourself. How would things have to be for that to happen? How could someone help you to see that it’s stupid? What if it you’re mistaken and it actually is you this time? How would you know?

To empathize is essential. To think is essential too, or you will battle the wrong lions, or kill the lions only to be eaten by hyenas.

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