Chosing the right battles

“The boy on trial is probably guilty, but … I want to hear more. The vote is ten to two. [another juror leaves the room] I’m talking! You have no right to leave this room!”
“He can’t hear you. He never will.”
12 Angry Men (1957)

On the one hand, the Internet is brilliant. You have easy access to countless people with completely different backgrounds and opinions, ideal to learn more about serious issues — other people’s perspectives, their arguments, how they think and feel. On the other hand, it’s easy to encounter ideologists, whose opinions are not amendable to any arguments and evidence.

Let me put this again: There are people whose opinions you cannot change, no matter how well-thought out or emotionally stirring your arguments are or how strong your evidence is.

It just wont happen.

And it does not matter.

While those on the ends of the spectrum might scream the loudest, they are actually not that relevant. What matters is the middle ground. The people who have not decided yet. While it is really hard to get a hard-core public believer in changing his/her mind — this person has just too much invested in it and his/her public commitment is just too high — the middle ground is much easier to convince.

And that’s where any battle for change is won.

So, if you start a conversation, personally, I find it really helpful to start the conversation with a few questions, finding out whether the person is amendable to change.

If you then realize that this person cannot even see the issue … well, then perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere. Perhaps they do not understand skeptical or critical thinking. Perhaps they see the issue not as something where arguments and evidence count, but as a wholly self-reinforcing ideological issue. An “the end justifies the mean” situation. A need to “balance the scales” is more important than truth. Or perhaps they do not have evaluativist epistemological beliefs, but absolutist or multiplist.

Point being, there is no good reason to waste previous life-time on conversation that lead no-where.

So chose your battles with care, and don’t argue with a stone.