The Insufficiency Of Proof Postulate

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“Regarding human affairs, the expectation that you can heal someone’s inability to be open to new information is among the most foolish.”

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Recently, I’ve watched and listened as an otherwise intelligent person has descended into obstinate ridiculousness. The specific subject isn’t the issue.  (It’s not politics, though.)

It’s important to note that I don’t claim to be devoid of blind spots and outright ignorance. It’s human nature. I sometimes fall short but try to remind myself that opinions can and should change with new information. Facts, if verified, should not bend to opinion.

Because of the hysteria of the issue, my acquaintance has a new series of stories to tell me each day: new videos, facts, and opinions. Fairly early in the development of his obsession and the story, I had doubts as to the legitimacy of many of his claims. Because I’m naturally inquisitive, I noted the videos and claims he mentioned. I realized that simply telling him he was mistaken would not yield any change in his ideas. I listened over several days as he told me stories related to his new obsession. I did so without mocking him or challenging his assertions. (Which damn near killed me.)

Today, I brought a summation of the ‘great debunking.’ I had sources showing that the videos weren’t real – and for those that were, they were misattributions. Some of them were brilliantly done. As for the facts my acquaintance had amassed, none of them were entirely accurate, and most were outright fabrications designed to grab headlines.

After my acquaintance mentioned yet another ‘fact,’ I decided to forego handing him the summation and sources. Instead, I explained in less than thirty seconds that all the initial videos he’d recommended for me to watch were not actually what he thought they were. I briefly told him what the actual circumstance was and that the videos had been misattributed either due to ignorance on the part of the source or willful deceit for gaining viewers, readers, and dollars.

“What? No! You’re wrong, X.” His face had turned red.

“Listen, I’m not trying to put you on the spot. It’s just that this thing is easily explained,” I told him, trying to soften the blow and get him to accept the idea that he might have taken a wrong turn.

“That’s stupid. Of course it’s true,” he replied, getting ready to launch an ad hominem attack.

“Slow down. Look, here’s a link to a source you’ve said you trusted in the past.” I held up my phone and pressed the saved bookmark on the home screen of my phone.

Even by reading the headline on my acquaintance’s trusted news source, it was obvious that the video wasn’t ‘real.’

“See? I’ll send you the link so you can decide for yourself. Don’t stay mad at me. All of us get boxed in sometimes by our presumptions and ideas, me included.” I hoped that would appease him.

“Don’t send me that link. I know what I know and no amount of proof otherwise will sway me.” He looked at me, defensive and upset.

I let his own words hang in the air for a moment.

I know anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, people who believe horoscopes, weirdos who insist Hillary killed people, and Illuminati. I’ve never given up hope that each person could let a demonstration of each idea reveal a new truth to them.

Today, though, that hope diminished a bit.

Welcome to 2020.

 

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