"Information Is Useless To Those Determined Not To Read It"

It would be nice to think that people are rational and can be persuaded to change their minds when presented with evidence. In reality, we're often irrational and cling to our prejudices despite voluminous information to the contrary — and when that happens, the most sensible strategy is just to walk away.

Urban legend site Snopes provides a neat demonstration of this principle with an account of how they received numerous emails accusing them of bias and inaccurate research after they debunked a news story relating to the appointment of a judge by US President Barack Obama. In every case, it was evident that the complainants had not actually read the article in question: they'd just taken at face value claims by others that the research was biased and inaccurate. As Snopes concludes:

A good many people are determined to believe whatever they want to believe, and no collection of contradictory factual information, no matter how large or authoritative or impressive it might be, is ever going to dissuade them from their beliefs.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to remember this, and to spend less time trying to persuade people that they've got the wrong end of the stick. If they're determined to be ignorant, it's wasting everybody's time to try and change their minds.

No, Virginia, There Is No Obama/Kagan Connection [Snopes]


    I didn't read this but I do like to comment ;-)

    Angus, I could not have said it better!

    I've spent years surrounded by a family of arrogant people "determined to be ignorant".

    I regret having wasted so much of my life trying to stop them messing up their lives.

    Another New Years resolution everyone should make is be to ensure that *you* never ignore evidence to the contrary of your current viewpoint on an issue. That you are always able to be convinced by good evidence your opinion is incorrect or no longer valid.

    How about when you "Just Know" something stinks, contrary to all evidence, most of which one is not in a real position to analyze properly in any case, WMD and AGW being two cases in point.

      Yes, let's give up reasoning for emotion.

    My take on this philosophy has always been the following ...

    "It doesn't matter how impeccable one's logic is to an established point of fact, you can't (and probably shouldn't) argue with an idiot".

    Well, you CAN argue with an idiot if you want to, but it will become an immense waste of your time, effort and sanity in the end. Why bother trying to convince lesser minds that part/all of their belief system may be flawed?

    Only the people with even less brain-cells would openly, willingly and blindingly follow any such ill-concieved concepts just on presentation alone, really. This then makes me worried that we would ultimately be over-run on-masse by ill-informed ingrates.

    Hmm, I can already think of a few things in this world that eerily relate to the above :).

    It can still be worth debating the irrational in public fora, not because you will convince them but simply to prevent their misconceptions passing unchallenged into the minds of the bystanders.

    I remember a quote from Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister where he says "the People have the right to be ignorant".

    One of my favorite quotes.

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