Reactions to «I have occupied myself with the topic» (mostly during a discussion)

King sighed. «Mister; I sometimes wonder why I got into this business. Well, are you willing to venture a best guess? Long time? Short time?»
«Uh … a long time, sir. Years.»
«So? Well, I’ve sweated it out in worse ships. Years, eh? Play any chess?»
«I have, sir.» Libby did not mention that he had given up the game long ago for lack of adequate competition.
«Methuselahs Children» by Robert A. Heinlein

One thing I have noticed recently is a particular reaction to the assertion that «I have occupied myself with the topic».

And yeah, I do have a strong position on some things. Because I have looked at the pro’s and cons. I have read some scientific papers, I did talk to people involved. I considered my values and what my position is. And given that «freedom» is my moral foundation (above all others), I do get in conflict with other people quite often.

But I guess my position, and how I defend it, can appear rigid and inflexible to others.

What was striking during the last time I did say «I have occupied myself with the topic.» was the reaction along the lines of «Why do you assume that others did not?» (Well, it would have been, giving a reasonable guess, if the person had not cut off her immediate reply. Yeah, I noticed that.)

And frankly, I had to replay that moment a few times to notice what was strange about it.

Not that I did not assume that other people had thought about their position as well. Because let’s be honest first, most people follow their emotions (i.e., what sounds good, not what is good, especially in the long term), or they use top-down reasoning, or they claim they «follow science», when in fact, they only follow the mainstream media’s summary of science. But hey, some will actually form their own opinion. And those people, the ones who count, should not feel threatened by my position.

And yeah, if people do feel threatened by that assertion, then, well, perhaps it did strike a chord. Perhaps that person is not as strong in their believe as they wish to be. Because if others actually thought about the issue, they can state their position, and then we can have a discussion about the arguments, about whether the position is actually supported by the evidence and arguments. Because that’s how you can check whether you have actually thought about it, and it’s fun to debate, or even to discuss. And who knows, I might be wrong on some or all counts as well. It has happened, more often than I like, but still better to see which arguments and evidence I haven’t seen — and why.

But that wasn’t what took me a while to notice.

It was the underlying assumption that if people think about something, they have to end up at the same position.

It’s something you see a lot in the media these days, especially with Covid and people rejecting vaccinations. The underlying assumption seems to be: «If they only knew the facts and stop listening to ‹fake news›, they would come to the same conclusion.»

And here’s something that is true no matter the issue: If people cannot see other sides (usually there is more than one other side), if they cannot understand that people can — without being stupid, without being uninformed, without being mislead — come to a different conclusion … then these people are wrong.

Dangerously wrong.

Because the evidence rarely is absolutely unambiguous. Hell, even science can only deliver information that is strongly supported, but it can never be sure that information is «true». And then there are personal preferences, personal decisions on which risks to take/accept, underlying moral foundations of what the person cherishes (e.g., care, freedom, fairness, etc.).

In short, two people can have the same information, but still come to completely different conclusions. That is not a flaw in humanity, it’s a strength.

The question is: How do we make this … «simple» fact general knowledge?


Update: Some minor edits.