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Why does this happen? How can smart people take up positions that defy any reasonable logic? So if nothing else this essay serves as a kind of personal therapy session.
Majoring in logic is not the kind of thing that makes people want to talk to you at parties, or read your essays. But one thing I did learn after years of studying advanced logic theory is that proficiency in argument can easily be used to overpower others, even when you are dead wrong.
If you learn a few tricks of logic and debate, you can refute the obvious, and defend the ridiculous. Opportunities for this are rare: It can be easier for smart people who have a habit of defending bad ideas to change jobs, spouses, or cities rather than honestly examine what is at the core of their psyche and often, their misery.
Short of obtaining a degree in logic, or studying the nuances of debate, remember this one simple rule for defusing those who are skilled at defending bad ideas: Simply because they cannot be proven wrong, does not make them right. Most of the tricks of logic and debate refute questions and attacks, but fail to establish any true justification for a given idea.
Death by homogeny The second stop on our tour of commonly defended bad ideas is the seemingly friendly notion of communal thinking.
The power of peer pressure is that it works on our psychology, not our intellect.
As social animals we are heavily influenced by how the people around us behave, and the quality of our own internal decision making varies widely depending on the environment we currently are in.
Try to write a haiku poem while standing in an elevator with 15 opera singers screaming 15 different operas, in 15 different languages, in falsetto, directly at you vs.
That said, the more homogeneous a group of people are in their thinking, the narrower the range of ideas that the group will openly consider. Some teams of people look to focus groups, consultancies, and research methods to bring in outside ideas, but this rarely improves the quality of thinking in the group itself.
Those outside ideas, however bold or original, are at the mercy of the diversity of thought within the group itself. Focus groups or other outside sources of information can not give a team, or its leaders, a soul.
A bland homogeneous team of people has no real opinions, because it consists of people with same backgrounds, outlooks, and experiences who will only feel comfortable discussing the safe ideas that fit into those constraints. If you want your smart people to be as smart as possible, seek a diversity of ideas.
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