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  1. #1
    Registered User jaxqen's Avatar
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    Why do smart people disagree?

    Noam Chomsky vs Thomas Sowell comes to mind when it comes to politics/social stuff/basic economy.
    Both are authorities, one in the left camp, the other in the right camp, both are highly intelligent and yet, both have opposite opinions.

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    Registered User chrup's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by jaxqen View Post
    Noam Chomsky vs Thomas Sowell comes to mind when it comes to politics/social stuff/basic economy.
    Both are authorities, one in the left camp, the other in the right camp, both are highly intelligent and yet, both have opposite opinions.
    Your choices and opinions are shaped by all your life experiences. Even the most intelligent people, who have different backgrounds (family/home/school/work/social experiences) may be looking at the same topic differently. Your history shape the way you percieve things.
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    The most interesting questions revolve around predicting what will happen if something is changed - and predictions of the future of complex systems is way beyond any person - smart or not. But we have to form hypotheses and then test them with evidence - there are plenty of ways to form such opinions. You shouldn't be afraid of being wrong or penalise others for being wrong because that just shows you are guilty of oversimplifying the process of making progress with knowledge.

    Even after the fact, attributing causation is an imprecise activity. There is always uncertainty caused by the sheer number of variables. We can only say we have evidence that this particular setup of an experiment with these factors held constant had this outcome with this confidence interval.
    Last edited by SuffolkPunch; 05-25-2022 at 12:23 AM.
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    Registered User EliKoehn's Avatar
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    I'm surprised that you mention Sowell, OP. Didn't think he was particularly influential outside of conservative intellectual circles in the US.

    Completely agree with Suffolk, but will add that I think it has more to do with the ego gratification of "being right" (or rather being perceived to be right) than it does with a sincere desire to arrive at the truth of something, else I think there'd be a lot more ecumenism. "Smart" (what a multi-faceted description) people are usually arrogant and some of the most intelligent people I know, amusingly, almost pathologically cannot be wrong, and will twist terms out of parlance or deny the patently obvious just to avoid this.
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    I disagree. Smart people will agree. Those people will form a majority and then call the other "smart" people that disagreed dumbazzes.
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    "Smart" (what a multi-faceted description) people are usually arrogant and some of the most intelligent people I know, amusingly, almost pathologically cannot be wrong, and will twist terms out of parlance or deny the patently obvious just to avoid this.
    Not all smart people are like this, but I suspect the "smart" and arrogant ones are way more vocal and therefore much easier to notice.

    Some of the most intelligent people I've met are very humble.

    Concerning why smart people disagree, I think people tend to overestimate how freely we form our opinions. For instance, twin studies show a sizeable heritable component to one's political views.
    Last edited by EiFit91; 05-25-2022 at 08:52 AM.
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    When it comes to political things I think it revolves to some degree around the fact that there are multiple different social/law structures that can accomplish similar goals. Meaning, there is no one way to construct a society. Even if there was one "ideal" way for a set of conditions, at least in the US different states and different counties/cities within states have many different underlying variables (ie, weather, population density, access to grocery stores, etc). Easy to have disagreement when you aren't talking about the exact same things.

    When it comes to more fundamental questions of life/physics/etc, such as "Does free will exist?" or "Is the universe all a computer simulation", these topics are inherently difficult to prove or disprove and you can make legitimate arguments either way that match the current evidence we have, so it's not surprising there is disagreement there.

    And then you have published research, where ideally and in theory, anyone who publishes on a specific topic should be somewhat of an expert or at least "smart" regarding that topic, yet published literature contradicts other published literature all the time. When this is due to new/refined experiments or larger datasets that allow greater statistical power, that is great. However, we know a lot of it is due to poor methodology, shady statistics, obvious biases, etc. That stems in part from a "publish or perish" culture of academia, as well as the fact that people tend to find it easier to publish "new" things then replication of "old" studies. This creates disagreements.

    All that aside, a lot of it will come down to one's own experience. Remember the blue/black or white/gold dress? If two people observe the same entity differently then that can lead to disagreements. The dress is a striking example, but people interpret things they encounter all the time in light of past experiences, and as so much of the human experience is "subjective" in some manner this is going to also lead to many differing views.

    However, underlying biology will certainly play a role, and I have not looked into all of the various known brain differences between people on different sides of the political spectrum but I suspect there are some significant disparities.
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    Train hard play harder Tommy W.'s Avatar
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    "Smart" is a relative term. Someone can SOUND smart however that doesn't make them so. I have a family member with a Masters that uses big words and expounds eloquently on ways of the world and sounds smart but is dumber than a bag of hammers.
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    Registered User jaxqen's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    I'm surprised that you mention Sowell, OP. Didn't think he was particularly influential outside of conservative intellectual circles in the US.

    Completely agree with Suffolk, but will add that I think it has more to do with the ego gratification of "being right" (or rather being perceived to be right) than it does with a sincere desire to arrive at the truth of something, else I think there'd be a lot more ecumenism. "Smart" (what a multi-faceted description) people are usually arrogant and some of the most intelligent people I know, amusingly, almost pathologically cannot be wrong, and will twist terms out of parlance or deny the patently obvious just to avoid this.
    He isn't influential here, except a handfull of but I know about him, since I'm somewhat interested in this stuff.
    Unlike Chomsky, I haven't read any of his books, I've only seen some interviews.


    " the ego gratification of "being right"" - that's what I think too
    There are some who shifted from left to right and viceversa, but it's difficult to know if they did it because they realized they were being wrong and because they had some financial advantage from this.

    Originally Posted by Tommy W. View Post
    "Smart" is a relative term. Someone can SOUND smart however that doesn't make them so. I have a family member with a Masters that uses big words and expounds eloquently on ways of the world and sounds smart but is dumber than a bag of hammers.
    smart = people who are considered the best in their fields
    Maybe I shouldn't have used the term "smart"
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