Category Archives: intellectual honesty

10 signs of Intellectual Honesty.

When it comes to just about any topic, it seems as if the public discourse on the internet is dominated by rhetoric and propaganda. People are either selling products or ideology. In fact, just because someone may come across as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty. Let me therefore propose 10 signs of intellectual honesty.

1. Do not overstate the power of your argument. One’s sense of conviction should be in proportion to the level of clear evidence assessable by most. If someone portrays their opponents as being either stupid or dishonest for disagreeing, intellectual dishonesty is probably in play. Intellectual honesty is most often associated with humility, not arrogance.

2. Show a willingness to publicly acknowledge that reasonable alternative viewpoints exist. The alternative views do not have to be treated as equally valid or powerful, but rarely is it the case that one and only one viewpoint has a complete monopoly on reason and evidence.

3. Be willing to publicly acknowledge and question one’s own assumptions and biases. All of us rely on assumptions when applying our world view to make sense of the data about the world. And all of us bring various biases to the table.

4. Be willing to publicly acknowledge where your argument is weak. Almost all arguments have weak spots, but those who are trying to sell an ideology will have great difficulty with this point and would rather obscure or downplay any weak points.

5. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when you are wrong. Those selling an ideology likewise have great difficulty admitting to being wrong, as this undercuts the rhetoric and image that is being sold. You get small points for admitting to being wrong on trivial matters and big points for admitting to being wrong on substantive points. You lose big points for failing to admit being wrong on something trivial.

6. Demonstrate consistency. A clear sign of intellectual dishonesty is when someone extensively relies on double standards. Typically, an excessively high standard is applied to the perceived opponent(s), while a very low standard is applied to the ideologues’ allies.

7. Address the argument instead of attacking the person making the argument. Ad hominem arguments are a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty. However, often times, the dishonesty is more subtle. For example, someone might make a token effort at debunking an argument and then turn significant attention to the person making the argument, relying on stereotypes, guilt-by-association, and innocent-sounding gotcha questions.

8. When addressing an argument, do not misrepresent it. A common tactic of the intellectually dishonest is to portray their opponent’s argument in straw man terms. In politics, this is called spin. Typically, such tactics eschew quoting the person in context, but instead rely heavily on out-of-context quotes, paraphrasing and impression. When addressing an argument, one should shows signs of having made a serious effort to first understand the argument and then accurately represent it in its strongest form.

9. Show a commitment to critical thinking. ‘Nuff said.

10. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when a point or criticism is good. If someone is unable or unwilling to admit when their opponent raises a good point or makes a good criticism, it demonstrates an unwillingness to participate in the give-and-take that characterizes an honest exchange.

While no one is perfect, and even those who strive for intellectual honesty can have a bad day, simply be on the look out for how many and how often these criteria apply to someone. In the arena of public discourse, it is not intelligence or knowledge that matters most – it is whether you can trust the intelligence or knowledge of another. After all, intelligence and knowledge can sometimes be the best tools of an intellectually dishonest approach.

 

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Ten Signs of Intellectual Honesty

It’s been awhile since I reposted this….

When it comes to just about any topic, it seems as if the public discourse on the internet is dominated by rhetoric and propaganda. People are either selling products or ideology. In fact, just because someone may come across as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty. Let me therefore propose 10 signs of intellectual honesty.

1. Do not overstate the power of your argument. One’s sense of conviction should be in proportion to the level of clear evidence assessable by most. If someone portrays their opponents as being either stupid or dishonest for disagreeing, intellectual dishonesty is probably in play. Intellectual honesty is most often associated with humility, not arrogance.

2. Show a willingness to publicly acknowledge that reasonable alternative viewpoints exist. The alternative views do not have to be treated as equally valid or powerful, but rarely is it the case that one and only one viewpoint has a complete monopoly on reason and evidence.

3. Be willing to publicly acknowledge and question one’s own assumptions and biases. All of us rely on assumptions when applying our world view to make sense of the data about the world. And all of us bring various biases to the table.

4. Be willing to publicly acknowledge where your argument is weak. Almost all arguments have weak spots, but those who are trying to sell an ideology will have great difficulty with this point and would rather obscure or downplay any weak points.

5. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when you are wrong. Those selling an ideology likewise have great difficulty admitting to being wrong, as this undercuts the rhetoric and image that is being sold. You get small points for admitting to being wrong on trivial matters and big points for admitting to being wrong on substantive points. You lose big points for failing to admit being wrong on something trivial.

6. Demonstrate consistency. A clear sign of intellectual dishonesty is when someone extensively relies on double standards. Typically, an excessively high standard is applied to the perceived opponent(s), while a very low standard is applied to the ideologues’ allies.

7. Address the argument instead of attacking the person making the argument. Ad hominem arguments are a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty. However, often times, the dishonesty is more subtle. For example, someone might make a token effort at debunking an argument and then turn significant attention to the person making the argument, relying on stereotypes, guilt-by-association, and innocent-sounding gotcha questions.

8. When addressing an argument, do not misrepresent it. A common tactic of the intellectually dishonest is to portray their opponent’s argument in straw man terms. In politics, this is called spin. Typically, such tactics eschew quoting the person in context, but instead rely heavily on out-of-context quotes, paraphrasing and impression. When addressing an argument, one should shows signs of having made a serious effort to first understand the argument and then accurately represent it in its strongest form.

9. Show a commitment to critical thinking. ‘Nuff said.

10. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when a point or criticism is good. If someone is unable or unwilling to admit when their opponent raises a good point or makes a good criticism, it demonstrates an unwillingness to participate in the give-and-take that characterizes an honest exchange.

While no one is perfect, and even those who strive for intellectual honesty can have a bad day, simply be on the look out for how many and how often these criteria apply to someone. In the arena of public discourse, it is not intelligence or knowledge that matters most – it is whether you can trust the intelligence or knowledge of another. After all, intelligence and knowledge can sometimes be the best tools of an intellectually dishonest approach.

– Mike Gene

10 Signs of Intellectual DIShonesty

A new blog by A.robustus takes a very interesting twist on the Ten Signs of Intellectual Honesty.  A. robustus writes:

I did a search of the web to see what information was available to an inquisitive reader trying to learn more about the intellectual honesty concept.  There’s quite a lot – much of it, unsurprisingly, from colleges and universities from all over the world.  The stand-out candidate appears to be 10 Signs of Intellectual Honesty available from the website of one Mike Gene.

While Mike Gene is an intelligent design apologist (who is bound to become the focus of future posts!), I have to admit that his 10 Signs post is splendid.  Looking at the number of others who have linked to this particular page I am not alone in that assessment.  I recommend it to anybody who is searching for a checklist to ensure that their argument is developed and progresses from a foundation of intellectual honesty.

A. robustus then offers his/her clever twist by outlining the 10 Signs of Intellectual Dishonesty:

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Ten Signs of Intellectual Honesty

I can never post this too much…

When it comes to just about any topic, it seems as if the public discourse on the internet is dominated by rhetoric and propaganda. People are either selling products or ideology. In fact, just because someone may come across as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty. Let me therefore propose 10 signs of intellectual honesty.

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Pick a Number

Economist Rob Hanson quoted Tyler Cowen from George Mason University:

We often like to ask lunch visitors what is their most absurd view (in the eyes of others). Alas I have so many choices. On BloggingHeads, Tyler Cowen answers this for Will Wilkinson:

Tyler: My most absurd belief, perhaps, is the extent to which I think people should be truly uncertain about almost all of their beliefs. And it doesn’t sound absurd when you say it but I don’t on the other hand know anyone who agrees with it. … Take whatever your political beliefs happen to be. Obviously the view you hold you think is most likely to be true, but I think you should give that something like 60-40, whereas in reality most people will give it 95 to 5 or 99 to 1 in terms of probability that it is correct. Or if you ask people what is the chance this view of yours is wrong, very few people are willing to assign it any number at all. Or if you ask people who believe in God or are atheists, what’s the chance you’re wrong – I’ve asked atheists what’s the chance you’re wrong and they’ll say something like a trillion to one, and that to me is absurd, that even if you think all of the strongest arguments for atheism are correct, your estimate that atheism is in fact the correct point of view shouldn’t be that high, maybe you know 90-10 or 95 to 5, at most. So that maybe is my most absurd view. Most things are much more up for grabs than we like to say they are.

Will: I agree with you that things are more up for grabs than people think they are, but I have real problems with the idea that it’s either possible or desirable that people assign probabilities to all of their beliefs. I think it’s a weird violation of the actual computational constraints of the human mind, that we just don’t.

Tyler: Here, you are more of a philosopher than I am, and I’m more a Bayesian. I’m sure it’s possible. Now I’m not saying it’s desirable, I’m just saying I want people to do it in a lot of instances, maybe just for my aesthetic pleasure. I want to pin people down and get a sense for how sure they are, and interpret these probabilities as betting odds, if you want. Let’s say there’s a lot of dying starving children in India or sub-Saharan Africa, and you are offered to bet, and you know that the money won on these bets will go to feed these children and save their lives, and you have to name what odds you are going to bet at. And you can name a number. You want to name the best number you can because you want to save the lives of these children, so I’m not going to allow any evasion here. I don’t see why there is not always some pick of a number that’s better than a lot of other picks. You are not going to get it right so computationally of course it’s hopeless. But look, you’ve got to give it your best guess. (emphasis added)

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Ten Signs of Intellectual Honesty

I can never post this too much…

When it comes to just about any topic, it seems as if the public discourse on the internet is dominated by rhetoric and propaganda. People are either selling products or ideology. In fact, just because someone may come across as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty. Let me therefore propose 10 signs of intellectual honesty.

Continue reading

Intellectual honesty, misinformation, and cognitive dissonance

Previously I noted that my essay on intellectual honesty is still working its way through cyberspace. Today, I took the time to more carefully scan the replies/comments at Democratic Underground.  And while the overwhelming response was positive, there are a couple of comments worth responding to.

In one comment, a user with the handle RufusTFirefly spread some misinformation:

List originates (apparently) from a Web site called “Above Top Secret”

Here:
Above Top Secret

Further disseminated through a Web site called The Design Matrix (as in Intelligent Design) here:
The Design Matrix

RufusTFirefly has it backwards.  I wrote the essay and it was posted on my original Design Matrix blog and “Above Top Secret” was just one of the sites that further disseminated it.

Unfortunately, I cannot prove this simply and quickly because my original blog was hacked about a year ago and is now gone.  Nevertheless, there is more than enough evidence to establish I am correct.

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