Joined: Oct 2004 Posts: 5825 Location: California
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Emotions are a powerful influence on belief. I have a bit of wisdom on this, but it requires an analogy that may be hard to understand. Every now and then I'll go on a workout spree to lose some extra baggage I've accumulated over the previous few months. The only way it works, along with a diet, is if you have complete commitment. I never cheat once, never take one single break, etc. To do this, I put myself in a certain state of mind where my thinking grows cold and absolute, resolute. It's hard to render what I do into words.
This is the state of mind I use when I find myself thinking of things from a biased perspective when I think deeply. Not all the time, but mostly when I find I'm being biased or not covering all the logical bases on both sides of the debate. It's an interesting thing, how when you try to consider things from the oppositional perspective, you still are only doing so to further reinforce your current perspective. This is only an illusory way of being fair to both sides, and isn't truly fair. To be truly fair, you have to be absolute, resolute, and actually become a proponent of the oppositional perspective. This is the only way to be without a little voice talking in the back door of your brain about how you can use your current thoughts to support your long held stance(whatever that may be).
Most people have strong opinions on many different things, which is to say they have an emotional involvement in the subject. I think most claims of objectivity for such people on those subjects are illusory. To have a truly objective stance is very difficult, and requires quelling any and all emotional attachments to the subject you're currently discussing or thinking. There's no other way to perceive the side of the opposition with clarity.
Joined: Jun 2009 Posts: 158 Location: Austin, Texas
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I wonder if it is possible to be completely indifferent to emotions when you're discussing things or thinking. After all, there is so much baggage attached to where we learned the information that we're using. Also, let's not discount the limbic system which affects both memory and emotional responses.
So, while it may be possible to divest one's self from most biases, I'm not entirely certain that the same can be said for all of them.
_________________ "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never say a common place thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..." ~ Jack Kerouac
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The author does a pretty good job describing how Arthur Doyle and his wife became interested in spiritualism for emotional reasons and then, as Houdini says, would not listen to reason even when presented with hard evidence (related to the Fox sisters). It seems to me that Jenny McCarthy and husband Jim Carey have similarly become emotionally vested with the idea that vaccinations cause autism. In fact, this issue is very emotionally charged all around. Much of it is related to distrust of the government which I can certainly relate to, but it seems that once the irrational idea takes hold, it is very, very difficult to dissuade. It simply doesn't matter how much evidence you provide, the person sticks with the belief as if his life depends on it.
I'm also reminded of that guy who came on Booktalk some time ago and insisted that the 9/11 attacks were done by the government. His belief seemed emotionally-based as well, and equally immovable.
addendum: By the way, in Wednesday's NYTimes crossword puzzle, one of the questions was 'Like Piltdown Man.' The answer was 'hoax.
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