In a recent post I talked about a book I read called Being Wrong:  Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz.  In the book, she mentions the 3 assumptions we use to explain why other people are wrong (and yet don’t apply those same assumptions to ourselves).  As I contemplated these 3 assumptions, I thought about the reasons I’ve read that TBMs claim non-TBMs are wrong, and the reasons ex-Mos use to claim TBMs are wrong.  Interestingly, they are pretty much the same reasons.

  1. Ignorance.  “They don’t know what I know.  If they knew what I know, they’d come to the same conclusions.”
    • TBM example:  It’s unfathomable to a TBM that someone can reach different conclusions about the church if they are exposed to the same set of facts and/or experiences.
    • Ex-Mo example:  Likewise, it’s unfathomable to an ex-Mo that someone could be exposed to the facts that have led to his/her disaffection and come to a different conclusion.
  2. Idiocy.  Once you establish that the other person is in possession of the same facts you are the next assumption to explain why they are wrong is that the person with the opposing view is just too stupid to process the facts accurately.
    • TBM example:  Sometimes a TBM will say that the ex-Mo has been “duped” or led astray by simplistic arguments that undermine faith.
    • Ex-Mo example:  An ex-Mo might say that the TBM never really examined his/her beliefs or that s/he was sucked in by the anti-questioning, authoritarian view of the church.  There is a criticism that church members “turn off their brain.”
  3. Evil.  If you accept that the person with the other view is aware of the same set of facts and is not a stupid person incapable of processing the information, usually the last assumption is that they are arguing in bad faith.  IOW, they are evil or dishonest about their conclusions.
    • TBM example:  There is a tendency to criticize an ex-Mo as having left because of “wanting to sin.”  I have also heard some say, “Oh, s/he knows it’s true, but just won’t admit it.”
    • Ex-Mo example:  There are some Ex-Mos who would accuse leaders and others of being disingenuous in their claims about the church or of deliberately covering up.

Of course, these 3 assumptions can apply to really any situation in which 2 people disagree.  Consider politics – you can quite easily see Republicans and Democrats making these same sorts of claims about each other’s cluelessness, stupidity and impure motives.  Or consider arguments between scientists and religionists.  These 3 assumptions rear their ugly heads time and time again.

Name-calling aside, how do we bridge the divide?  I think the key is to question those 3 assumptions we make about others.  Ask ourselves:

  • What am I ignoring?  Am I lacking some information that I want to ignore because it differs from my view?  Am I aware of all the facts?
  • What am I assuming?  Am I thinking through things correctly and logically, questioning my assumptions?  Am I open-minded about the facts?
  • What do I get from holding this viewpoint (WIIFM)?  Am I genuine in my motives?  Am I being completely honest with myself about my biases?

What do you think?  Which of these do you see others doing?  Which are you prone to do?  Discuss.