I love, love, love this presentation by Michael Huemer at a recent TEDX Talk. For those of you not familiar with TEDX, it is essentially a gathering of 15 minute (ish) speeches of the best and brightest people in various fields that are great ways to learn how experts in other fields think.
This is one of my favorites I've watched from TED. In the talk, Huemer focuses on the irrationality of politics -- and it has a wide variety of practial applications for the purpose of this blog.
First off, Huemer talks about the "War on terror". He displays charts that show the number of US Citizens killed in terrorist attacks by year. He then overlays a chart of the number of people killed by other people who are non-terrorists in those same years.
The difference is pretty astonishing. And while there is much talk politically about the "War on Terror" there is little discussion (especially nationally) about combating a much bigger societal issue -- US Citizens killing each other -- which make up over 99% of the total people killed by other people in this country.
I've talked about this before -- how media reporting can prey on our emotions and make us fearful of things that we are statistically safe from, while ignoring "every day" threats.
Huemer then goes on to note the actual cost (both financially and in terms of lives) our policy FIGHTING the war on terror -- and notes that our policy for fighting the war on terror has cost 70x more lives (and more than double US lives) than the terrorism we are fighting. He notes that this evidence makes it very much irrational policy.
Huemer also has some really great insights on why we, as a nation, are irrational -- primarily that political information is costly with negligable rewards for being knowledgable about particular policies.
Part of the "cost" of being rational is that you no longer get to believe what you want to believe. If you're truly wanting to be rational, you are taking in new information every day and may have to challenge your belief system.
Huemer warns though, that it is easy to convince people that other people are irrational -- and that people believe that - -and quickly dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as "irrational". That's most certainly not the point of his speech. But he does give some advice to acknowledge when you have biases and are being irrational. Here are a couple:
- If you have strong opinions about a subject before aquiring relevant evidence about it
- If your opinions do not change as you gather evidence
- If you think the people who disagree with you must be evil -- if you are under the impression that a large part of the population is evil, so if you're under that impression then you are most likely being irrational
And one of my favorite quotes:
"If you think the community of experts on this subject are wrong, particularly if you are unable to state their arguments, then you are almost certainly the one that is wrong"
Obviously this has a huge play in peope who support Breed Bans. In spite of the reality that virtually every bit of professional, expert opinion on the topic of breed specific legislation is OPPOSED to breed specific laws because it based on bad science and is ineffective there are still a select few who strongly support such laws. And in the process, are very keen on saying that all of these groups oppose breed specific laws because they are dog fighters, or breeders, or somehow profiting off of the dogs.
But when you're the only one with your point of view, inspite of all of the experts being opposed to breed-specific laws, you're almost certainly the irrational one.
Enjoy the video.
H/T: Marginal Revolution