Measuring reality – How can people hold extreme views?

These days; everything is political. People make major claims about the world that we live in, that may or may not be true. People readily abandon challenges to their views with whatever rhetorical tools are trendy this week. Why the defense? Shouldn't a person be happy to receive new information? If we value being correct over being right, we value information.

There are types of people that do not honor truth. People are only concerned with being right. No one cares about being correct. There are many reasons for people to get lost in their own rhetoric. In this writing, I hope we can understand some of the mental or emotional traps that prevent the influence of truth in our lives.

Challenge uncovers truth.

What is a view? We say this word often; but I think we need to outline a definition. Are views information? If they were, everyone's views would be correct, since information can prove itself correct. Since not all views are correct, views are not information. Views are our best interpretations of the information we are able to retain.

There is too much going on in the world for everyone to be an expert in everything. We get as close as we can, but we will occasionally misremember or misrepresent information when we communicate it to other people. We occasionally present a flawed view.

This is why we should embrace challenge. If we misrepresent the truth, intentionally or unintentionally, we should be corrected. This is normal and respectful in a conversation. We help each other when we share our knowledge.

In the information age, there is no excuse for ignorance. With a computer in every pocket, correcting information is effortless. With some light digging and a mild amount of empathy, we can come to understand why another person holds their views. We can find an objective truth to measure both arguments, and determine which is correct and which is incorrect.

The beautiful thing about understanding you were wrong, is knowing you will never make this error again. We all hate being proven wrong, but it is the fastest way to discover truth.

Controversial views are necessary.

If a topic is controversial, it is the subject of a debate. If there is a controversy, there are conflicting opinions on the topic. Once truth is discovered and measured by all involved, the topic is no longer controversial; it is measured. Controversy is necessary to discover an objective truth.

It is for this reason that controversial views are not bad. They are necessary to start discussions and share opinions with one another. Without this mechanic, we would not have an ability to share information and see which views hold up to challenge.

Normally, after a challenge, people will understand what is correct, and what is incorrect. Everyone involved shares their knowledge and improves themselves and their views. If a view holds up to an objective measurement, we cannot label it as extreme.

Some however, do not share this journey. There are people that will disregard objectively correct information, and continue with their existing views. This is a difficult task for a person to perform. The mental gymnastics of double-think can be exhausting. This is the foggy area of extremists and their views.

Extreme views are not debated.

An extreme view is one that is not in line with reality, and cannot survive challenge in a discussion. For this reason, people that hold these views must prevent discussion. If someone knows they are wrong, more scrutiny towards their opinions will eventually reveal their errors. People only fear challenge to their views, when they feel those views will crumble under challenge.

It is difficult for us to confess to holding an extreme view. We all have the worldview that we are rational, well thought people. Surely a rational person cannot hold an extreme view. If we do hold an extreme view, how can we measure it? How can we measure something, if our bias prevents us from getting an honest look?

There are two categories of people holding extreme views. The first category does not seek truth. They would rather appease people around them. The second category is emotionally tied to their views. Rebuilding their views, means rebuilding themselves.

The patsy

The person that is perfectly capable of understanding conflicting information, but does not receive it, or does not seek it; is the patsy. I believe this represents the majority of people holding extreme views.

The patsy finds safety in easy opinions, and does not want to make waves or stand out. Unfortunately for the patsy, they usually are the product of their group's opinions. They will find comfort when verified by their echo chamber, and will experience anxiety when challenged to make their own opinions. This person is afraid of standing out. Standing out with 'wrong think' can alienate you from your group. Finding people that already agree with a set of worldviews that you can predict, means you can make easily agreeable statements. We need to feel that we are loved by others.

Have you ever heard the phrase "this show keeps me sane"? Not only does this imply the person felt insane prior to watching, but it is also proof that echo chambers are pleasant. We like being told we are right. We like confirmation that our workings of the world are correct. Insanity is the creeping admission that you do not understand how the world works.

If we get 100 people in a room and ask them for their opinion on a topic, we should get 100 different opinions. We have 100 different perspectives to work with; 100 different sets of priorities to measure. In reality, we will only get two, or three different opinions in a crowd. Most people will even use the exact same wording when communicating their views. In the information age, most people find it easier to have an opinion assigned to them.

When we encounter a new argument, most of us will not fact check using source data, and instead use studies. It is exhaustive work to uncover truth. It sounds reasonable to the patsy to believe the detective work of information authorities. These information gatekeepers pretend to be the all-seeing guardians of truth. We believe what they say, and agree with their conclusions. When you stop finding information for yourself, you can fall victim to spin or lies of the person or group you consider your information authority.

When you use an information authority for your opinions, you are not defending yourself from influence. You are trusting your source to be honest. You are trusting your source to be correct. You are trusting your source to give you the whole story, and not to leave out important information.

Worldview confirmation is not related to worldview accuracy. You are confirmed when a person agrees with you. The patsy can have their worldview confirmed and feel good about it all day without putting forward any effort. Why put forward the exhaustive effort to properly sort through mountains of information, only to stand out from the group? Doing work to alienate yourself does not sound like an effective use of time.

The zealot

When a person is capable of understanding new information, and chooses to discard it, they are doing so for the sake of their beliefs. These people have much invested in how they view the world, and will have much to lose if a core value is challenged.

Some views we hold are more important to us than they seem. Some views of the world reflect back onto how we view ourselves. Challenging these views, means challenging ourselves. This is a difficult process. Some admissions can be painful for us to understand about ourselves. If a person is challenged at a fundamental level, it will be less painful to disregard the new information, than to rework our model of the world. People feel actual pain when core values are challenged.

This is why people can feel they are under attack when their views are challenged. The zealot feels the arguments against their views as insults against their character. They feel pain when challenged. They feel justified to inflict pain on their aggressor in self-defense. To protect themselves, they must use physical force to silence intellectual challenges.

Convincing a zealot their beliefs are incorrect does not work. They mistake your critique for insult, and double down. In the previous writing, we spoke about challenge. Challenge is the worldview reinforcement, or worldview rebuilding tool. If your beliefs hold up to challenge, your view of the world is hardened. If your beliefs collapse when challenged, your worldview is altered and refined. The zealot seeks to avoid this mechanic. It is too painful to question themselves through their beliefs. Instead, the zealot seeks to alter the world to match their beliefs.

In postmodernism, reality is created when your senses are interpreted. If the zealot is looking to change reality to match their beliefs, this can be accomplished by changing as many minds as possible. If more people share the same reality, it becomes more 'real'. There is no better way to prove your actions to be correct, than to convince others to commit the same actions. Zealots create more zealots when they get a person to commit the same mistakes. People can become trapped with the emotional blackmail that holds a zealot's views together.

A zealot is motivated to avoid grieving. If a zealot's extreme view of the world led them to cause damage in their lives, they would need to consider their views harmful. Reevaluating your view of the world and making changes in your life is normal and healthy. Avoiding reflection and avoiding changes in your life however, is not healthy. Since the zealot cannot admit their views are harmful, they cannot admit they were harmed. Grieving is impossible.

It is for this reason, I believe the abortion debate is polarizing. There are 2 sides to this debate, with no middle road. Since this debate hinges on when to consider a child to be alive, the debate is focused only on this difficult measurement. One side considers it a necessary medical procedure to the woman's own body, the other considers it to be termination of a life. If you hold a stance on this issue, you are agreeing with one of the two measurements.

To change your position on this issue, means you need to agree with the opposing measurement. It would be difficult for someone to change their stance after performing or receiving an abortion. Changing your position would mean admitting to murder. Zealots are born when rebuilding a view, means rebuilding themselves. In this situation, most will find it easier to physically fight people, than to allow this opposing view to be said out loud.

Together we can find truth.

A pragmatic person may find themselves defending utilitarian views, and a moral person may find themselves putting morality above practicality. Either method of judging your views is fine, as long as all your views can all be held to the same standard. If you find yourself easily coping with incompatible views to hold your worldview together; your worldview is more important than information.

To understand if a view you hold is extreme, you must subject the view to challenge. Embrace controversy! Make waves! Subject the room to intellectual challenge.

Since Zealots will shut down wrong-think, it is more effective to form your challenges as questions. Ask people why they hold one view over another. Their answers may surprise you. Occasionally, people will realize mid-sentence, the view is not in line with other views they hold, or not in line with reality itself.

If you find yourself only opening up with people that share the same views, you may fear challenge. Ask the important question; "Would changing this view mean changing myself"?

To ensure your views are being challenged; seek out people that disagree with you. Find a way for you both to measure to the same standard. Be empathetic and try to understand where the opposing views are coming from. If you were given new information, take your time. You can research the new information and give yourself time to reflect on it.

Understanding how you handle views that conflict with one another is important to uncovering extremes. Holding your worldview above new information, or holding your worldview above moral consistency, it a sign they are not actually your views. A person cannot logically come to conclusions that conflict with one another.