TED talk on being wrong

I should watch Kathryn Schulz’ TED talk every time I’m mad about something political. Here is a paraphrase of my favorite part, about 4 minutes in.

How does it feel to be wrong? Most of us are doing everything we can to avoid thinking that we ourselves are wrong. Maybe we get it in the abstract – we’re fallible – but we can’t think in the present tense of something about which we are actually wrong. When we are wrong about something, but before we realize it, we’re like Wyle E Coyote right after he runs off a cliff but before he looks down.  It does feel like something to be wrong: it feels like being right.

Somehow I don’t mind being wrong about science even when I spend most of my life doing it. It feels like being wrong is very normal in science. As Randall Munroe put it, you don’t use science to show that you’re correct about something, you use science to become correct about something. So being wrong is a natural place to start.

But I don’t know about politics. Maybe admitting that I might be wrong is just a weak position in politics. The truth is I don’t know if a socialized medicine system will stifle innovation or if solar and wind really are worth the money. I only have ideals that can never be perfectly realized. I want people to have healthcare and I want the lights to stay on, but I don’t know the future and I can’t say for sure that the plan that makes the most sense to me would really work.

It bothers me when people won’t acknowledge this. Whether they are free market fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists or Green fundamentalists, I hate it when they can’t or won’t acknowledge that they might be wrong. I have to force myself to be honest in recognizing that that as much as I might doubt or disagree, they might be right. I hate doing it, so I guess I can see why they don’t want to admit the same. I wish they would though. Maybe it wouldn’t depress me so much to watch the news.