Christophe Cop

Data Scientist, Infofarm


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If a runner can run faster than you, are you going to deny that? Then why can't people accept they have less knowledge than other people?

(I'm struggling with this question as I write this)
As I see conversations on this forum, I see a lot of problematic arguments and logical fallacies..
As I don't agree that 'authority' is a good argument, I can't say "just accept it, because I know it to be likely to be true"
I do however think not everybody has the same body of knowledge... And I do have the audacity to say I'm probably more knowledge-able about certain aspects than others.

Still, opinions of uninformed people are accepted as valid... or as an acceptance of freedom of speech.

I know that I don't like being wrong, certainly not the moment I get opposed (This is a psychological thing we are all prone to I guess).
Knowing that, how can people's opinions shift?

I think people need at least allow doubt of their on opinions in order to be able to change them.
Depending on the persons knowledge, it takes more or less time to convince the m with facts...
But we humans accept logical fallacies as arguments... and that impedes the problem of belief revision... So as a premise, we need to learn to recognize them as fallacies first before we can continue debates.
This takes time and effort, and we can't demand that of people (or can we?)

I think that one can start to make a personal paradigm shift by going through the Cartesian doubt, and building from that. (Unlearn what you have learned) Not to go to the conclusions of Descartes (which were false), but to come to the fundamental recognition that often you just don't know.

Being agnostic about anything is not a bad thing. It's completely natural.
But learning to know what you don't know (towards accepting your ignorance) is, in my opinion crucially under-valuated.

So I would like to have some suggestions concerning this topic.

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    Sep 4 2011: We can only recognize what is already a part of ourselves, in some sense. We only see a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, for example, yet people don't often think of the vast swaths of reality to which we are naturally oblivious.
    See David Eagleman's point about the "umwelt":

    This natural obliviousness manifests itself in, among other forms, the Dunning-Kruger effect and narcissism. People who lack the ability to even see or recognize a quality/competence are completely oblivious to their own incompetence, so they think they're great, while at the same time they are unable to appreciate the qualities or competencies of others.

    "Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." - Voltaire
    "When the student is ready, the master will appear."

    (Obviously, the master was there all along, but the student lacked the capacity to recognize competence.)

    So once we understand that other people do experience the world in fundamentally different ways, then the more useful and enlightening game than convincing other people that they are mistaken, becomes to discover the capacities for experiencing the world that are developed in others and potentially dormant in ourselves. And once the game becomes trying to find the parts of other people that are also within us, then other people become really interesting all of a sudden.

    I consider myself extremely logical by nature - but the real question is, do you win the argument and prove you're smart without likely convincing anyone of anything? Or do you imagine yourself in the other person's body, try to experience the world as they experience it, and become more fully human as a result?

    All that said, I take strong issue with Jonathan Haidt's claims that liberals lack certain moral capacities - I think conservatives have underdeveloped capacities for empathy and imagination. But I will save that for another TED conversation.
  • Sep 4 2011: I think we are all here to learn, not to merely make our voices heard. If a statement is wrong, it is okay to correct the author, and I welcome that personally. I have always believed that if I cannot defend a thought, then it is open to change. But it is not about 'winning an argument' as such - it is about ending up in a place further along than where you were before, and taking others with us. We get to do that through interaction and discussion, certainly in an open forum like these. We cannot bludgeon what we think is the truth into people, even if we are certain we are right. Always, our experience and our instinct will form our opinion, and we cannot hope that ours will match anothers, so we must be mindful of that and operate with compassion when putting our own ideas across.

    Sometimes the best way to test the water is to make a statement, and see how it floats. A lot of what goes on here is 'thinking out loud'. That doesn't mean it isn't considered, but when we verbalise an idea, we can really see what it looks like, how it rolls around the mind, and then decide what about it needs to change. You can shoot those people down, but such demonstrations are heavy handed and likely to cause more problems than they solve (I am prone to being defensive in such situations, as I perceive them to be more a battle of wills than a battle for the truth). I am also becoming more aware of the bias toward english native speakers on here (most conversations are, after all, in english), and I hope is isn't patronizing to say that what may be perceived as forceful or defensive, or just plain wrong might be a result of a less than perfect command of the language, and simple cultural differences.

    On a related but side note, I would be fascinated to see how Hofstede's research and ideas support/undermine the passage of discussions on TED. A diverse cultural mix of people like this is a rich test bed, don't you think?
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    Sep 6 2011: The problem is that in order to learn anything, we have to make a non-trivial and ego destroying subconscious assumption that we must, in some sense, be previously stupid. It's a form of infant narcissism. We carry a lot of infancy around between our ears, a lot more than we care to admit. Our personal identities do not take shortcomings lightly. The recognition of the need for learning is the recognition that we are inadequate. I'm not talking about the recognized benefits of going to school, learning the ABC's and so on. I'm talking about the inability to update and upgrade knowledge if it conflicts with presumed survival beliefs- beliefs contained within religion, ideology, methodology, cultural mores and taboos, fixated logic processes, fear-based cognition, etc.

    Our minds take in information and draw conclusions from that intake. These are two separate processes of mind, tho they occur simultaneously. Taking in info is INDUCTION. Drawing conclusions from it is DEDUCTION. They need to work in balance, but they most often don't. Deduction creates our sets of principles from which we act. The trouble is that these principles become fused to our sense of survival and the more threatened we feel, the tighter we grip them. This makes it impossible for new data intake to be incorporated and to modify the existing rules of action and thought, and the person begins to wear a straight jacket of fixated thought. This is what is wrong with the world.

    Scientific method is the deductive mind attempting to reassert that necessary balance for sanity, good judgement, accurate futures modeling. Science depends on the recognition of HYPOTHESIS as its operative framework. In science, ALL data interpretation is THEORY, not fact, and all data presumably has a chance of modifying all theories. In practice, it's not such a focused image. Fixated thought occurs in science with alarming regularity and strength, given it's rules of logic.
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      Sep 6 2011: I really like your first two paragraphs...

      I would claim science is essentially inductive though...
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        Sep 7 2011: Yes, gathering data is primary. Basically we don't need to argue conclusions when there is enough data. In that case the data speaks for itself and conclusions are a no brainer. We generally have two cases in which science is done badly- when data is filtered for ideological or egotistical reasons and when old hypotheses are clung to. The history of medicine is instructive on this topic.
  • J Ali

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    Sep 4 2011: ''I know that I don't like being wrong, certainly not the moment I get opposed.''

    Why consider yourself opposed?...... consider yourself a truth neutral...and then logic will be the one opposing one side or the other...maybe then we can all get along much better. Be free...
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      Sep 4 2011: I was trying to convey that I have that experience sometimes. I don't claim I have it all the time when debating.
      I just experience it, even though I know it is not just...

      I do tell it sometimes in heated debate. More often I tell it afterwards ;-)
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    Sep 4 2011: I do not think it's holding onto wrong ideas that's the issue. I feel it's the intellectual laziness of not attempting to understand the propositions presented and do so in a manner that's logical. This generally means put the feelings aside and "truth search". Lots of people perhaps feel it easier to disagree than the more apparently aggressive approach of taking the small steps at a time and demolishing the other persons belief.

    Weird I know but I think true. Until we can readily accept most of (am likely all) of our own first principles are incorrect and yearn to find out if they are in a scientific manner then this will be the ill mankind lives with for a lot longer.
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    Sep 4 2011: And furthermore all of those levels operate in the frame work of.
    a. Materialism - balance matter with soul.

    b. Hedonism - balance pleasure with purpose.

    c. Existentialism - balance will with reason.

    d. Rationalism - balance reason with emotions.

    e. Postmodernism - balance language with reality.

    f. Naturalism - balance imminence with transcendence
    That being said this is quite an ardous task for anyone so in the meantime we can all benefit from being a bit more merciful and accepting of one anothers forgivable and very understandable mistakes.
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      Sep 4 2011: Sources please. That cognitive analysis of handling information is near accurate and spectacular. The other part about "operating" it is far more in-depth than 3 stages. Pragmatic would be constant in handling information, emotionally and analytically. We have two sides of a mind, and now THIS is noted to be a difference in sex, and variable based on individual. Women are simply more emotional then men, thus they need a different route to accepting information as a genuine fact or not.

      Example: Woman loves God, due to she having believed her whole life in God and is an active church member. A. B. C. D. and E. are already on the side of emotion thus equaling the truth.

      Woman use both sides of their brain more often being equally emotion and logical at the same time. Men use the logic portion more actively, normally. Individually this can tend to prove false, men can easily be entirely too emotional. The neuron development to want to procreate is where the emotional response is active.

      So right now we have a biological difference (nature).. Emotions and awareness come from environment (nurture).

      The example woman, has no chance with reason. This list of 6. are how you handle information in general! You are right to believe you can't get 3... but the numbering is incomplete... 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3.... You learn with your emotions more often than your analytical mind, cognitively... man or female.. however this can be manipulated... you can practice anti-emotion. Lack of emotion, creates great logical determinism. But to be heartless? Is it worth such a thing as to break nature? Or can they work in-tuned? Of course.

      Naturally, emotion does come prior to reason or accepted thoughts, knowledge, what ever.. However you can train, you can practice to avoid such obstacles. To control your emotions with your logic...

      Great analysis overall Jacob. Pragmatism would go under existentialism in my opinion.
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        Sep 4 2011: This is awesome Nicholas and I want to respond a bit later. Speaking of women -if I dont watch this movie with my girlfriend soon Im not sure there is even an example for what order of mind numbing coginitve analysis will take place. It will defy anyhting human and be very bad for me. :)
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          Sep 4 2011: LOL!
          Better hurry up and get to that movie and girlfriend or you'll have to become a very fast runner:>)
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        Sep 4 2011: Meh.

        I guess it's my womanly emotionalism that makes me irritated with essentialist statements like this.
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          Sep 4 2011: Ha, well Gisela I can tell you in all sincerity that I do not care whether or not my joke irritated you. Essentialist or not. Moving on...
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        Sep 5 2011: @Jacob: did that even make sense as a response to your post?

        Hint: the number of arrows indicates the level of nesting of a post - except in cases of four or more levels down - like this where I put your name.

        You don't have to care because I wasn't speaking to you.
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      Sep 4 2011: Great comment Jacob!

      The most important thing I got out of it is BALANCE:>)

      Nice use of a lot of words Nicholas...I LOVE IT:>)
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    Sep 4 2011: QUOTE:I think people need at least allow doubt of their on opinions in order to be able to change them.
    Depending on the persons knowledge, it takes more or less time to convince the m with facts...
    But we humans accept logical fallacies as arguments... and that impedes the problem of belief revision... So as a premise, we need to learn to recognize them as fallacies first before we can continue debates.

    I agree but it sometimes isnt as simple as changing your mind about what the true "facts" are. In my experience people operate on 3 levels. 1. Pragmatic 2. Experiential / Emotional and (the crowd favorite) 3. Philosophical / Intellectual. You cant expect people to rush on to number 3 without dealing with 1 and 2 first.
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    Sep 4 2011: Dear Christophe,
    I like to think that rather than having "less knowledge", people have "different" knowledge. I will never deny that a runner can run faster or slower than me, and I will always recognize that we both may make it to the finish line:>)

    It is clear Christophe, that you percieve yourself to be "more knowledge-able about certain aspects than others". Unfortunately, as soon as we percieve ourselves to be "more knowledge-able", we stop listening to others' perception, and in so doing, we deny ourselves the opportunity to actually be "more knowledge-able".

    It is clear Christophe that you "don't like being wrong", and that keeps you in your own perception/argument most of the time...thereby preventing yourself from getting more information.

    I offer this with a great deal of respect and appreciation for you and your knowledge. It appears that you are doing a wonderful evaluation of your "self" and your perceptions with this topic. Kudos to you my friend:>)
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      Sep 4 2011: I disagree Colleen, I find it is most common "less knowledge" is accurate to analyze the difference in perception that are created based on either the topic and/or decision of choices. A lot of people suffer from illusionary superiority based on achieving a super ego then will be able to base all on "correct" due to the level of self confidence. Confidence based on ignorance is deadly. Indeed I have more knowledge than others, I do not want to digress, but the fact I know people think emotions first, I will be able to manipulate more people more often if I so choose too. Unless they are aware of the same relative information I am more knowledge-able. Not smarter, not wiser, not better. More knowledge. Chris is most accurate on the idea/topic of knowledge.

      Child loves "such" I provide "such"... "such" is related to me... child loves me, due to "such" and "such"-correlation...

      Knowledge (awareness) is EASILY interrupted by emotions. Which I would wager Chris has little of when philosophy is at stack. But at the same time a very high level of emotional awareness. This is a common factor in men, let alone men who study science, math, and/or philosophy. I will gladly source.
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        Sep 4 2011: I think you might want to rethink the suggestion that it is strictly the domain of men.

        The difference being that women are 'thought less of' for not being soft and fuzzy when debating from a foundation of strict logic.

        I would have said that others attempt to diminish or penalize women for it, it just doesn't work with some of us.
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          Sep 4 2011: I did declare individually this can tend to be false. And to repeat, if you can use your logic to control your emotions that is all the more of a clear minded person overall.. I allows believed women are not different naturally, but that is not the case.

          This book is an entertaining read on the emotional and structural development and overall thought process of a woman.

          And I will repeat, there are men who can be more emotional than women.

          Overall, we all think emotions first. And the epic "nature vs. nurture" battle of the centuries.. these questions are too large for modern science, but they are becoming more transparent everyday.

          And that final critique was an analysis of Chris as a thinker in response to Colleens perspective of Chris... I am aware that Chris and I tend to be on the same page (except about monetary politics). Takes one to know one, ya know?

          There is no gender difference (in careers) in the fields of science studies. Except in academia. Intelligence, is all equal, usually, but the thought processes are simply not.

          I do not mean to offend.
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        Sep 4 2011: It's ok if you disagree Nicholas, although, I'm not really sure which part you're disagreeing with!

        How we interact in any discussion is colored by many factors...intent being one of them. If our intention is to "manipulate" others, we can probably do that if we are at all intelligent. If our intent is to learn, we can do that by opening our hearts and minds to information. Intent is really important, and to honestly know our intent, we need to know our "self" well.

        People with science/math backgrounds (left brain dominant) definetely discuss things differently than those of us who are more right brain dominant. I think it used to be more common in men Nicholas, because more men were in the science/math fields. I wouldn't say that is true any more....ask my daughter the engineer!!! LOL:>) We have some GREAT discussions. Actually, I'm finding that as we age, and hopefully become more wise, we are both crossing over from left to right brain more often, and meeting in the middle...gotta love it:>)
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      Sep 4 2011: Dear Colleen, I prefer to talk about myself when it comes to feelings, rather than assume others have it too (leaving it up to them to identify with it or not)

      I feel the negative emotions (during a debate, most often in live debates, only rarely in online debates) hen my opinions get opposed.
      When they subside (let's say after a day), I can admit my errors much easier, and during a next debate, I do often admit it...

      So in the end I do absorb (what I think) valid arguments...
      Though I notice it does not happen in the same way in other people (my question is then: how come?-

      @ Nicholas:
      Great contribution! TY
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        Sep 4 2011: Hi Christophe,
        I agree that to talk about our own thoughts/feelings and not assume that others feel the same way is good:>)

        I don't percieve emotions as "negative" or "positive". To me, it is how we use the emotion that is important. If you percieve a "negative", when your "opinions get opposed", that is actually reinforcing your feeling that you don't like to be wrong...correct?

        Since you ask the question..."how come"? These are simply my observations...take it or leave it:>)
        I've noticed times when someone is not actually "opposing" you, but not going along with you, that you seem to express negative emotions? I've also noticed that you do indeed come back after awhile in a different frame of mind/heart...more open:>) How would it feel to suspend your need to be "right" while you're in the discussion?

        It doesn't really matter how much time it takes us to absorb information, but why spend the time and energy going through that extra step, when we can go directly to the information? We don't have to feel "negative" because someone doesn't agree with's a choice:>) And I'm not suggesting accepting all information as truth...I'm suggesting simply being open to listening...hearing. To do this, we simply need to let go of our own need to be "right" for a little while:>)
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          Sep 4 2011: Thanks for the thoughts...

          As for not having to feel it: true, but I don't feel like I can control my emotions...I can choose to not enact upon them though... But a feeling is (from my experience) hard to undo or ignore
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        Sep 4 2011: Thoughts and feelings are very closely connected. Sometimes if we change our thoughts (re-program the brain) we can change the feelings which are produced from the thought process.
        If you can convince your brain that people have different thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions, and you don't have to be "right" all the time, then you may cease to feel "negative" when you percieve opposition. Try to detach from the outcome of a discussion:>) It's kind of fun to play around with this theory, and I know you like exploring:>)
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          Sep 4 2011: True, I have some experience with that... though it might be a good idea to do some more mental practicing. (but that might be a new discussion altogether)
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        Sep 4 2011: Could be a new discussion...could be a new, or revived practice. Have fun with it:>)

        "One of the great difficulties in the new order of thought is that we are likely to indulge in too much theory and too little practice".
        ("The Science of Mind" - Ernest Holmes)
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    Sep 4 2011: In this world there are people that are scientist, and people that can't be bothered to use the scientific method.

    Use of the scientific method typically does away with the use of logical fallacies as arguments. Unfortunately, some people consider the word "fallacy" a "big word" and can't be bothered to understand it!

    We label these people as unreasonable b/c it often takes an unreasonable amount of time to show them that they have presented an argument that makes no logical sense. In all likelihood they have the capacity to accept it... It just takes time for them to understand long phrases like "you've never been correct!" lol

    I see being wrong as a learning experience. An excruciatingly humiliating learning experience! lol.
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    Sep 4 2011: Chris,

    The problem with simplicity of ideas, is that you still need the other people to have relative thoughts already preexisting to convey the same simple ideas... "Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world." When I come along to tell a Christian "Your idea of God belittles what is relative to the reality and proportion of the universe.." They are not going to take kindly to the phrasing... Now if one would say "The feelings you receive when thinking about God, are the same feelings as many feel during "enlightenment" and indeed it is ALL ABOUT feelings..." The conversation will get "deep" after that I promise.

    Another example of cognitive biases created from "emotional determinism" would be if I told you Jesus was like another of the ten and more "saviors" in the past, but you deny it, why? Because you are unaware of "reality" - the truth of the matter. Thus agreeing with you. Knowledge is key. Having more knowledge goes hand in hand with abilities of logic and critical thinking. But that person who believes, FEELS it, they do not break it down into thought...

    I love using the Christian religion as it is most evident to my environment.. The Christian enlightenment is accepting the fact if they do good now God will be rewarded in death, how naive and unsettling, I rather receive see and enjoy them alive

    Anyways Chris,

    If there is anything my summer of cognitive studies has taught me it is two major points. 1. Logic is foul to use on a human being. 2. Perception is key.

    1. When you look at a person, they are a multitude. The amount of cognitive information you receive from nurture (environment) in a life time would take lifetimes... to read and analyze if it were to be written down. Your emotions, your grounds for openness, your curiosity is created.. Then you have nature, and the quantum numbers of possible personalities. Man puts emotion first (women more often) into their "logic" naturally
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      Sep 4 2011: Nicholas,
      You are a wise young man. If I may simplify what you have exquisitely written...
      Sometimes, how we say something is as important, or maybe more important than what we say?
      "Perception is key". Our realization that another person's perception, is as valuable to him/her, as our perception is to our "self":>)

      p.s. Haven't crossed paths with you for awhile, and I've missed you:>)
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        Sep 4 2011: Thanks Colleen,

        Been working/reading a lot lately.

        Plus, haven't seen that many good conversations lately.

        It's not so much wisdom as much as the material read really, if I were truly wise I would of already made a simple solution to the problems relative to "philosophy of mind" but lacking in awareness I am to the neurological components and the vast vocabulary of terms needed to fully explain even what I'm talking about, time is of the essence, and it is not even my field of study.. The field of cognitive science is exploding! I recommend keeping up with the culture Colleen as you are just as interested as I am in the human mind set.

        The "big 5" personality traits are very interesting to consider in the "personality" debate. Indeed, what is a personality? How is it relative to perception?!

        Thanks again Colleen.

        P.S - if you want citations of my material resd I would love to share!
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          Sep 4 2011: Dear Nicholas,
          You're only've got lots of time for your exploration:>)

          I have always been fascinated with human behavior (mine included), so I do my best to keep up:>)

          I would love to read your have my e-mail right?
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      Sep 4 2011: Nicholas,

      Just as a side-notice: I do not want to get this discussion another religious debate, as the problem also can be seen in politics and pseudo science for example (but I assume you use Christianity as an example)
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        Sep 4 2011: I can easily replace Jesus with the philosophies of "Karma" "Zen", or the preachings of Abraham. The religion wasn't the example, the relationship of emotions tied to those ideas were.

        No matter the mind set, when emotions are first to the claim, the claim is a truth.
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    Sep 4 2011: If a runner could run faster than me, I would not deny. I would learn how to run even faster and overcome him.