Why are so many people wrong? It’s painful to watch them bumble about and wreak havoc on their lives and the lives of others.
I read this absolutely wonderful book, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, which helped illustrate some of the reasons why so many people are wrong. In this fanfiction, Harry becomes best friends with Hermione and Draco (his sworn nemesis in the original content). Draco is incredibly smart, but he hates “mudbloods”. Hermione is a “mudblood” (a witch or wizard with non-wizard parents), the equivalent of being black in America. There’s no biological downside, only a social disadvantage. Draco is nothing more than a racist. Harry drives them, serruptitiously, to work together. How is this possible? How can you convince someone they’re wrong, when they view you as the one who is, in fact, wrong?
This plan is two long steps:
- Teach the fundamentals of the scientific method, how to conduct a valid experiment. Harry convinces Draco to do some role playing. Draco is the Chief Editor of a science magazine, and Harry submitting his experimental results. Draco is instructed to reject Harry’s results. Initially Draco would dismiss Harry’s submissions for trivial reasons such as, “the ink was the wrong color,” or “submissions are only accepted on Tuesdays.” In other words, Draco was hiding behind bureaucracy instead of giving the imaginary results real thought. Ultimately he learned that an experiment requires a hypothesis and an earnest effort to falsify that hypothesis.
- Test those beliefs they hold as true. Draco’s assumption was that magical ability was passed down through blood lines. Harry had Draco conduct data-experiments in genealogy.
The plan works, not just on racists, but also on people who are scared of plane crashes, and people who buy snake oil. Ask them what they know and how they know it.