I recently read a book that I really enjoyed called A more beautiful question. Toward the end of the book in a chapter called “Questioning for life”, the author (Warren Berger) recommends a question (attributed to Michael Corning) that he claims we should be asking ourselves more often:
What are the odds I’m wrong?
Maybe it’s due to the increasingly argumentative nature of so many conversions on social media. Maybe it has more to do with the fact that I work in an industry that can sometimes be a bit ego driven. Maybe it’s just that I’m human.
Whatever the reason, this question jumped out at me as something worth a bit of consideration. How often do we ask ourselves this question? Do we ever stop to reflect on the depth of our own understanding before we charge full steam ahead and try to railroad anyone and everyone who disagrees with us?
We have a natural tendency to be convinced of our beliefs. After all, if we didn’t, we would constantly second guess our decisions. This bias serves us well in our every day lives by giving us a mental frameworks to rely on.
They help us decide whether new information is relevant, true, or inflammatory. The problem is that these frameworks aren’t perfect. They often include partial truths or misconceptions.
Take the commonly held belief that the great wall of China can be seen from outer space. If you stop to think about it, it’s absurd! The wall is no wider than your average highway and we certainly can’t see those from space.
How about the “fact” that fish have a three second memory?
Nope. Wrong again.
Or if you went to Sunday school (or celebrate Christmas), you may have heard that the Bible speaks of three wise men visiting the baby Jesus. In reality there’s no mention of how many wise men there were, only that they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh .
You get my point.
We take in an unbelievable amount of information throughout our lives. We generally accept as truth the things we learn, especially from the people we trust and look to as authority figures.
I’m not suggesting that we stop and thoroughly research every last detail around anything new we learn. It’s not practical. There’s a reason our minds are designed the way they are.
If we take just a minute to ask ourselves why we’re so convinced of our position before launching into battle, maybe we could avoid a few. Maybe we could learn a thing or two. At the very least we might end up with a better understanding of why we believe what we do and why someone else might dissagree.
I guess all I’m saying is this:
Of course I think I’m right.
But maybe, just maybe, and probably more often than I realize…