The blog Overcoming Bias has an insightful post on the idea that folks run into trouble when they voice opinions (consciously or subconsciously) to signal ability or loyalty, instead of as part of a good faith effort to estimate truth. This rings extremely true to me, since it relates to the idea of "weak-sense" versus "strong-sense" critical thinking that Richard Paul espouses, and which I studied and liked in grad school.
At the risk of running afoul of netiquette regading excepting, I am going to post the whole list, with attribution to Robin Hanson...Opinion Warning Signs:
- You find it hard to be enthusiastic for something until you know that others oppose it.
- You have little interest in getting clear on what exactly is the position being argued.
- Realizing that a topic is important and neglected doesn’t make you much interested.
- You have little interest in digging to bigger topics behind commonly argued topics.
- You are less interested in a topic when you don’t foresee being able to talk about it.
- You are uncomfortable taking a position near the middle of the opinion distribution.
- You are uncomfortable taking a position of high uncertainty about who is right.
- You find it easy to conclude that those who disagree with you are insincere or stupid.
- You are reluctant to change your publicly stated positions in response to new info.
- You are reluctant to agree a rival’s claim, even if you had no prior opinion on the topic.
- You are reluctant to take a position that raises the status of rivals.
- You care more about consistency between your beliefs than about belief accuracy.
- You go easy on sloppy arguments by folks on “your side.”
- You have little interest in practical concrete implications of commonly argued topics.
- Your opinion doesn’t much change after talking with smart folks who know more.
- You are especially eager to drop names when explaining positions and arguments.
- You find it hard to list weak points and counter-arguments on your positions.
- You feel passionately about a topic, but haven’t sought out much evidence.
- You are reluctant to not have an opinion on commonly discussed topics.
Thoughts? Since this comes from Robin Hanson, folks who lean liberal are likely to attack it on that basis. In the interest of sidestepping that rut, this post explicitly stipulates that it is possible that he is evil or an a-hole or both, and declares that point irrelevant to the discussion of the merits of the list. In other words, this thread is not interested in what you think about Robin Hanson. Thanks.