Waking the Draco

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.

One thought on “Waking the Draco

  1. Waking the Draco
    by davidrichelson
    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.

    At first I thought the question was asking about Trump supporters, but I kept reading. I think Draco and his ilk are comforted by their prejudice. Prejudice is circular reasoning. Firstly, by definition, it is a preconceived notion. Draco has a preconceived notion about mudbloods. He agrees with his own notion, and the sensation is pleasing ( to anyone ) to have a perception that is being validated. Even if the validation is from his own prejudice. Thus the circularity of the reasoning and the element of stupidity that encompasses prejudice. To Draco, mudbloods are inferior per se and Hermoine is a mudblood. He thus presumes and deems Hermoine to be inferior, which only validates and confirms his preconceived notion about mudbloods — a pleasing, self-empowering experience for Draco. And comforting, in that it helps him better understand and cope with his world. (That there is no factual basis for the prejudice is a discussion for another time. Feeling comforted is an emotion, and as any therapist will tell you, there are no incorrect emotions).
    That’s my theory for why so many people are wrong. They get screwed up by their emotions.

What do you think? Right? Wrong? Pure poppycock?