I was listening to the Very Bad Wizards podcast episode #97 on how we really change our minds. They discuss a manifesto for a new virtual country called Rationalia that was initially shared on social media by Neil Degrasse Tyson. Here’s a very good reflection from Neil on the controversy triggered by his suggestion.
In The Land of Rationalia
In Rationalia, all decisions are taken because scientific data is collected and the evidence supports the law. If you want to change a law, you suggest an experiment. If the experiment produces evidence that the new law improves the conditions of Rationalia, then the law is passed.
In this land, reason wins.
This is not a country that we are living in now.
This post is not going to get into the pros and cons of the nation of Rationalia.
How Do Politicians try to Change our Minds?
If I listen to political debate (Trump vs Hillary, UK Labour party, Brexit referendum) I do not hear rational arguments being put forward for a range of proposed policies.
I hear arguments that go to credibility (or Ethos, for those followers of Aristotle amongst you):
- “You can’t trust her”,
- “She doesn’t have the energy”,
- “It was just locker-room banter”,
- “He says it does not represent who he is, but I think we all know that it really does represent exactly who he is”
There is nothing here about policies. There is nothing here about the danger of the other’s flawed policies. There is only raising of my trustworthiness and decreasing of the other’s trustworthiness.
Why has Reason disappeared from political debate?
I understand this shift. I see three big reasons:
- People hold a wider range of beliefs
- more sources and types of data and
- more channels for experts to spread their views.
There has been such a broadening of accepted beliefs over the last half-century that there are few value systems that can be assumed to apply to the whole electorate. There are few symbols that represent the same value to the whole electorate. There are few bases for logical argument that starts from a widely held truth.
There is much more data, in many more forms (graphics, reports, video, analyst reports…), there are many more experts, there are many more sources for information. The experts come at us through new channels – online, cable, satellite, podcasts, blogs, facebook, twitter…
It is confusing.
What do we do when we are Confused?
In this environment we seek voices we can trust. (Check out The Trust Equation for an in-depth analysis of the 4 components of trust in relationships)
It is only a trusted voice that can open our eyes to a new perspective.
If you want to persuade someone, build a relationship. If there is no relationship, there is little chance of persuasion.
We only really change our minds when a trusted friend who knows us finally asks a question in a private conversation “Hey, why is that so important to you? What effect do you think it is having on your life? on those around you?…”
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