The past couple of years have been loaded with anger, fear, hostility, and divisiveness. People have decided to believe one thing or another, dig their heals in, and hold to those beliefs no matter what. No amount of reason, data, facts, or common sense could rattle their position.
The problem with digging in on any belief is that it eliminates the possibility for change. As new information emerges, it simply bounces off an already made up mind. Without any chance of shifting your views, philosophies, or beliefs, you run the risk of stagnating your mind, stunting your growth, and putting yourself (and others) in harm’s way.
I’ve noticed that when two people engage in conversation (personally or online), they do so with more of an effort to try to change the other person’s mind, rather than to continue gathering information to help ensure they hold a solid, sensible, and true position. It has become a difference between having a discussion and having a debate.
In a discussion, one shows up to share opinions and thoughts, but remains open to new ideas and insights. They are there to learn, to grow, and to ultimately become better. In a debate, however, one does not show up to learn or share, but to make an effort to get another person to believe what they believe. They think they have the answers and know the truth, and they come armed with facts, figures, stats, and data to ensure whomever is on the other side, comes to believe what they believe. Those in a debate come to win.
The scientific process, by definition, is one that is ever evolving. We do not know everything. New data continues to show up. Discoveries are being made all the time, in all fields. To not allow an ounce of openness in something you believe is extremely dangerous.
One of my biggest grievances about the pandemic that we just endured is the lack of discussion. Everything was a debate. Beliefs were being pushed hard. And when someone wants you to believe what they believe, they will quote authoritative figures, highlight numerous sources, and will speak with absolute certainty. And it is the scientific data, the decorated and experienced experts, and the well-known sources that we need when making tough, and sometimes life-altering, decisions.
What scares me is that many very credible, highly intelligent, experienced experts were left out. Doctors, scientists, researchers, and other credible experts would not be seen or heard. Why? Well… because it wasn’t a discussion, it was a debate. And if you want to win a debate, you certainly want to avoid as many counterpoints, as much conflicting data, and as many alternative points of view as possible.
When my mind wasn’t made up about many of the pandemic policies, procedures, and mandates, it would have been good to hear from these other sources. It would have been helpful (and powerful) to hear the alternative points of view, then hear the rebuttals. Why block out the others, why censor them, if you could take what those others were saying, break it down, and explain why those positions, thoughts, theories, or beliefs were wrong. Not only was that unscientific, it made many people more suspicious.
I’m only using the pandemic here as an example. The point I want to make is that we have to maintain discussions, not debates. We have to seek out the truth through open-mindedness, genuine curiosity, and the ability to listen to others. Oh… and we have to maintain the ability to be wrong.
As humans, we love being right. It may be that we hate being wrong. Either way, we will argue our position, often at whatever cost, to ensure that we are right. This happens when we decide on something and refuse to leave room for alternative positions. This is why we tend to debate, rather than discuss these days. If we open ourselves to the possibility of new ideas, we will let everyone speak. And in the midst of these discussions, our views and beliefs will either be bolstered or altered… but done so in a way that it should move us closer to the truth.