Thursday, February 23, 2012

Want to be right all the time? Then stick to the evidence.

Everyone likes to be right. We all engage in discussions at some point in which we disagree with someone else's point of view. Depending on how well we know or like the person might determine the flow of the argument and how heated it gets. But one thing seems to be consistent in arguments; most people don't change their mind part way through. They want to be right. They want the other person to eventually come around and see things from their point of view and acknowledge that they are indeed right about whatever the issue is. This, of course, rarely happens. Sometimes it is painfully obvious who is right, but even then the person who is shown to be wrong will often still claim that some part of their position is correct, or they may subtly adjust their position to fit with the right position. We see these kinds of discussions in public all the time, especially in politics. Two politicians arguing over who has the right vision for the country, or whose policies have benefited the citizens, is a common scene.

Wouldn't it be great if you knew what the trick was to always being right? What if you could go into any argument knowing that you are always going to be right, and anyone who opposes you is wrong? Many people behave as if this is the case, but in reality are only showing their stubborness and close-mindedness and their refusal to acknowledge when they are wrong. But there is in fact one simple thing that anyone can do to ensure that they are always right in any argument. There is one simple trick you can engage in a discussion that will ensure that you are never wrong. Seem to good to be true? It's actually very straight forward. But, unfortunately, most people are not willing to do it.

Build your argument on evidence, not on an agenda or preconception.

If you do that, you will always be right. (Assuming the argument is something for which there is evidence. You're not going to win an argument about what colour fairies are by always engaging the evidence). But, most people find it impossible to do so because they don't want to give up their preconceived idea about something. There are numerous examples of issues that are debated today in which people are unwilling to give up their entrenched position despite the evidence to the contrary. An obvious example is the religious debate over creationism vs. evolution. There is no way to be correct about creationism since the evidence doesn't support it. If you go into any discussion about evolution vs. creationism in support of evolution, you will always be right, because the evidence supports evolution. You may be outwitted by someone who is more clever than you, or someone who has more knowledge than you, and tries to twist the facts to suit their needs, but in the end you will still be right even if they think they've won the argument. You are still right, because your position is supported by the evidence. Simple as that.

Examples of political arguments abound. Conservative vs. liberal tax theory...which one is right? This is a more complex example because the answer likely depends partly on the particular situation that the economy finds itself in. There are times when either may be correct. But, as an example, an economy that finds itself in a huge debt and deficit is not correct to lower taxes indefinitely and increase spending indefinitely The evidence shows that this policy is unsustainable. Therefore it is wrong.

Evidence is a wonderful tool because it shows you the answers to many of life's questions. The sad thing is that most people, even when they are aware of what I've written above, will simply go about things backwards and approach an argument with an agenda and try to find some evidence in support of that agenda. Every politician does that. Then they attempt to claim that the facts support their position simply because they've found a few facts that do support their position, even if 99% of the evidence is opposing their position.

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