I came across her again the other day in a TEDx talk talking about what she called Scout Mindset - an alternative term for Science Curiosity.
And then I found a blog post explaining why she engages in online arguments with people, even if there's no real hope of changing their minds:
- To change the minds of less committed onlookers.
- To give relief and comfort to onlookers who share your view and wish someone would stick up for it.
- To set an example of "sharing one's opinion even if it's controversial", a valuable norm to reinforce even if you don't exchange anyone's mind on that particular issue.
- To set an example of "polite and reasonable argumentation" again a valuable norm in its own right.
And this was her fascinating response:
I think that "trying to change your mind" is a great goal we should be striving for, but that most debates have a pretty low probability of succeeding at that, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise. Here are some examples to illustrate the difference: 1) Arguments I engage with in hopes of changing my own mind
2) Arguments I probably just wouldn't bother with, if my main goal was changing my own mind
- Arguments that sound wrong, but the person making them seems smart and intellectually honest, so maybe I'm missing something
- Arguments that sound wrong but were shared approvingly by people whose judgment I respect
- Novel arguments I haven't heard before, that sound wrong on first pass but are interesting and worth considering more
- Arguments I've already heard a bunch of times
- Arguments that seem obviously fallacious, and there's nothing promising about the source to suggest I might be missing something
- Arguments by someone who gives signs of being a bad thinker. For example, if they're being rude and twisting other people's words uncharitably, that's not an encouraging sign that I can learn from them
- Arguments by people who don't share some of my core premises (like, I'm secular and they're making a religious argument about ethics)
Credit: Julia Galef
This thinking overlaps somewhat with this post in my blook on disagreeing constructively.