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Critical Thinking

05 - Subjective Objectivity


In the previous 4 pages I wrote about:

-What scepticism is vs what people typically think it is

-How “sceptics” often fail to apply scepticism to their own opinions

-How ignorance leads people to develop opinions regardless of knowledge

-How biases enforce ignorance, and how ignorance enforces biases

-How the left and right both fall victim to snowflakery

-How some mainstream and alternative media perpetuates tribalism


Sticking it together

What happens when you mix these things together? You get people putting themselves into groups (patriots, anarchists, supremacists, Trumpists, alternative-thinker), who through their own ignorances and biases: 

-Reject the opposing viewpoint regardless of what it is

-Refuse to question or apply scepticism to their own viewpoints

-Protect their opinions from attack to preserve the worldview

-Get upset when their opinions are criticised while pretending to question everything

-Consume media that enforces their worldviews and rejecting anything that doesn’t


If this sounds incredibly one-sided and messy, then there’s a good reason for that. It is. How do you reason with someone who not only doesn’t want to give up their position without a fight, but will downplay and outright reject the authenticity of anything to the contrary simply because it’s not what they want to hear? 


Some people are simply beyond approach and will never change their minds. The concept of being incorrect isn’t in their consciousness whatsoever. Some people find more comfort in their reliable beliefs than the unreliability and chaotic unknown of reviewing shifting evidence on subjects they know little about. The void of the unknown and needing to learn before understanding is less desirable than choosing to believe how the world works. 


This is the crux of the issue in my mind. When someone settles into a group and actively pushes back against anything that doesn’t align with their worldview, you get a very dangerous, infectious, and problematic thing: the erosion of the concept of objectivity, evidence, and facts.

When we’re talking about something subjective such as what dessert tastes nicest, or which celebrity is more attractive, they’re up to interpretation. Your opinion and your own thoughts and feelings will bring you to a different outcome than someone else looking at the same thing. The nature of subjective subjects is that there is no right or wrong answer, there is only your view on it. This is the very definition of subjective. From Cambridge dictionary:

“influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts”


The real danger presents itself when objective subjects such as science, data, whether something causes harm or something is effective such as vaccines, they’re objective subjects. Whether or not components in vaccines cause harm outside of obscure allergic reactions is objective - it has a definitive answer. 


Whether or not whole grain foods raise blood sugar faster than their white flour counterparts is an objective thing. It has an answer. We have evidence and data, and the data reveals that objectively, whole grains do not. This isn’t up for debate, there is no aspect of subjective reasoning that can be applied here.


The definition of objective is the polar opposite of subjective. From Cambridge dictionary:

“based on real facts and not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings“


This brings me to the massive issue facing people all over the world:


Biases, ignorance, and tribalism, have people treating objective subjects subjectively. 


I’ve talked with alternative-thinkers who when questioned on their opinions resort to “it’s my belief”, or project their system of belief into you: “believe what you want to believe, then” - beliefs are subjective. They cannot be used to debate objective subjects. Regardless of my feelings towards the moon, it will never be made of cheese because I believe it is. There is an objective assessment to be made by collecting material and performing experiments. Those results are objective - they don’t change based on our beliefs. We can have variation in our accuracy of understanding the objective evidence, but you can't choose to believe what it is.

This is why creationists often deny evolution by natural selection - they’re treating an objective science the same way they treat their subjective faith. It’s not a matter of belief. The facts will remain the facts regardless of how you feel about them. Not understanding how something works is not an excuse to insert subjectivity. That's the essence of the personal incredulity fallacy. When you can simply choose to make up your own reality by treating objective subjects subjectively, you can believe whatever you like.


The erosion of the concept of facts, of evidence, of objectivity, is degrading our ability to think clearly. This is extremely problematic as it reaches from the common voter, to the leaders of countries.


Facts matter. Evidence matters. Quality of evidence matters. Without these things - anything can be whatever you want it to be and the world descends into chaos as the reality of situations no longer matters because things are just as you say they are because you believe it.

This thinking gave us the infamous concept of "alternative facts" where lying and being wrong isn't incorrect, it's simply another kind of fact.

When you allow facts and evidence to be degraded when this world of alternative facts takes over, you explicitly allow politicians to lie and spread falsehoods as truth. The tribalism of playing for a team, ignorance of the objective truth, and the bias of your in-group will have you believing whatever you want and it will be legitimised. Subjectiveness has no place in the world of objective evidence.


You should be very concerned when someone says "I believe that..." because it shows their opinions are driven by subjective processes such as their biases, emotional instinct, and their intuition. The human brain has a number of ways of being unreliable as I've wrote about on the page: The Human Brain.

Belief is a term virtually exclusively reserved for subjective views. If the objective evidence supported the opinion, then it wouldn't be a belief. By definition, you have to believe it for it to be true. It is the world of religion, of the paranormal, or the spiritual. It has no place or impact on the world of objective evidence.

If your world-view requires a belief, then you would benefit from reevaluating your world-view. I've spoken to people who when challenged, just claim that I'm believing what I choose to believe, or that we have different beliefs. These people say this because they don't understand non-belief-based views - they're projecting. They aren't driven by evidence or by objectivity. Perhaps they don't even know how to be.

The people I've seen exhibit this behaviour often rely on what others say. The notion that facts are rooted in data and evidence isn't something they strive for in my observations. They gravitate to what this person said, or that person said. They rarely cite data to back up their beliefs, and even then they haven't read it.

If you have a stupid monkey brain as we do, you're prone to biases you don't recognise, you're ignorant to science but don't know, have a strong triablistic tendancy through your anti-government belief-system, and rely on hearsay - you're going to fall down the pit of confirmation bias sharply. You're going to think uncritically, with denialism to counterpoints labelled scepticism, and information you agree with going unchecked. You will make any and all excuses for your tribal group and demonise the opposing faction when the opportunity arises. Not only that, but subjective world-views will have you projecting the same onto others, making the world of facts and evidence purely up to interpretation where anyone can believe what they like, you're right, everyone else is wrong, and nothing truly matters anymore.

"I have an opinion" and beliefs somehow matter more than informed expert opinion because the world of facts has been downgraded to the realm of subjectivity, where everyone's opinion is theirs and that's the end of it. If something doesn't make sense, it's not because you don't understand it, it's because something weird is going on. Things not adding up aren't because you lack the knowledge and insight to recognise what's going on - it's because it's a badly fabricated story to keep you under control.

People have a tendancy when confident in their world-view to think they're always right. If you're convinced that everyone else is wrong, you'll end up looking down on the world and miss everything above you.

I originally planned to move onto acceptance and centrism next, but when writing this, Trump supporters charged and occupied Capitol Hill to attempt to overturn the election. The next page is on the danger of tribalism and conspiracy theories, debunking the conspiracy theories which immediately attempted to avert blame, and document what happened.

Next page: The Danger of Tribalism

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