Human beings would rather die than admit they are wrong, and sometimes do.
Stuck in Rightness
I worked in social services for twenty years, with inmates, at-risk youth, and others whose lives were not going well. They were stuck, they had stopped growing, and they had a wicked time admitting they might be wrong-about anything. Occasionally, I’d ask the group to repeat out loud, “I can be wrong.” The nervous laughter and mumbled responses showed the difficulty of that simple request.
I thought I had stumbled on to the key to helping them get unstuck. They just had to make peace with the obvious truth that they could sometimes be wrong. Then I found out that this extraordinary reluctance to admit the possibility of being wrong was universal. This also amazed me. What is more self-evidently true than the fact that an individual human being could sometimes be wrong? I knew I could be wrong, and forced myself to say so when I was. But the fact that I had to force myself shows that I, too, was reluctant. (We’re All Biased)
Mistakes were Made, but Not by Me
We want to be certain, we want to feel safe, and admitting we might be wrong feels very dangerous. Most would prefer to cling to their wrong ideas as they circle the drain, than let them go and swim to freedom. (Why It’s Hard to Admit We Are Wrong) There was a time when we thought science would save us, that science followed a method that established certainty.
Strangely, science found, like the philosophers, that the more you learn, the more you see you don’t know. In an ultimate irony, some extraordinary scientific geniuses proved that some things can NEVER be proven. For this, they were roundly rejected by their colleagues, who are just as prone to bias as any other human beings. (Scientific Bias)
In these polarized times, I am distressed by bat frass-crazy statements made by otherwise intelligent people. I’m giving up on asking them questions, such as, “Is it true? What is the source of that information? ” These are rational questions that do not suit our irrational times.
But why are we so irrational now? We are very fearful and fear trumps thinking. Fear causes us to circle the wagons and gather our allies in one group and push all others into the other group which we label “enemies.” There is only room for two groups in minds crowded with fear. No sense pruning away at the branches of this polarization tree; it’s going to have to ripped up by its fear-roots.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43: 1,2