Why Bob is always right

Meet Bob. He could be anyone, certainly including a woman, but I want to call him Bob.

Bob is a flat character and  pretty boring, but his life story is fascinating. His history is such that, no matter what, he always knows he’s right.

First, Bob was born. After that, he started learning stuff. First, he learnt it from his parents. As he grew up, he may have even rebelled against their teachings. But anyhow, as he grew up, he learnt a lot of things and a certain world view.

Now, Bob was living in a world where people had lots of different views and disagreed about a lot of things. Of course, Bob didn’t hear all the views at first. He learnt certain things from his parents or whoever or whatever group he happened to decide to hang out with. He also heard a few things about the people who disagreed with them, but those were pretty poor versions, because he mostly heard them from people who didn’t support those opinions.

Bob liked hanging out with people who had the same opinions as he did, since they seemed smart and agreeable. He kept hearing the same things over and over again, and as he learnt new things about the world, he assimilated them into the existing view of things he had — not perfectly, but anyhow so that they fit somewhat. He also tended to remember things that confirmed his preconceptions. So if he believed the poor were mostly victims of society, that’s what he saw; and if he thought they were lazy parasites, he saw how that was true.

As a result of this, the views Bob held started to seem very obvious. First, he’d kept heard them repeated because he hung out with people like that and believed them. Second, because he made everything else made sense in the framework of his earlier beliefs, everything seemed to support his beliefs.

But of course, inevitably, Bob would run into people who disagreed with him. This was a bit shocking. Often, these people seemed fabulously ignorant. There were these things that Bob knew everyone knew, and these people didn’t even know them. Besides, he’d heard about some of them as unfair strawmen from people who agreed with him before. So he was instantly mistrustful of these people.

But perhaps Bob did get into arguments with them. He even learnt a little more about what their beliefs really were. But Bob knew they were wrong and he was right. Even when they gave him all kinds of “proof”, he knew it couldn’t be right.

How did Bob get to be such a good critical thinker that he knew he was always right and they were always wrong? There were a lot of reasons.

First, none of it sounded right, and these people didn’t even know the basics, like I said above.

Second, their sources were suspect. When they showed him sources that claimed he was wrong, he could see they were all sources that claimed things that he didn’t believe. That also got the basics wrong, too. The sources argued for the claims he didn’t believe, so obviously they were biased. It’s not that he just rejected everything that disagreed with his views, of course. But he knew a bunch of things already, and he could see that the sources representing the opposite view were generally unreliable because they generally got all the facts wrong and were generally biased.

Of course, all of this only applied the rare times Bob even bothered to look into the sources. Mostly, he just didn’t have the time and the energy. He could already tell something almost certainly wasn’t true, so why bother checking it? And also, if some source was notoriously suspect, you could just ignore it. Maybe he would think he didn’t need to listen to “science” from the Discovery Institute because he knew it was an unscientific creationist think tank. Maybe he would think he shouldn’t trust the alleged fact-checking site Snopes because it was clearly biased because it had claimed Obama’s birth certificate was genuine. (Genuine example, by the way.)

A third reason was that his story made sense and theirs didn’t. He’d been seeing confirming instances everywhere all the time, because the story he believed in had an explanation for most things, just like all the other stories. So in balance, what the others were saying just didn’t seem at all reasonable. He could have cited all kinds of cases as proof for his own view, and the fact that the people disagreeing had explanations for those as well just showed that they were desperately shoehorning and their theories could “explain” anything.

The fourth reason was that there was plenty of evidence for Bob’s views, on the web and elsewhere. Since people had been disagreeing for quite a while, they had been developing their arguments and alleged evidence, too. So no matter what your view, you could find arguments for it, alleged proof, and counterarguments against the other side. Not all of them were good, but the important thing was that they were there. So if Bob really wanted to get into it in depth, he could always find the arguments to support himself. And whereas he would pick the opposite side’s arguments apart for any flaw real or imaginary, that is assuming he even bothered to look at them, he certainly didn’t need to do that with the arguments for his own side, which he could see were reasonable.

A fifth reason was smaller and subtler. Bob liked to read stuff that agreed with him and found it tiresome to look into the opposite side’s arguments. So even without all of the above, and without the fact that his friends mostly exposed him to arguments from his own side, even then he was more likely to read those ones and get his views reinforced. This made it again all the more possible to dismiss opposing arguments, and for it to look all the more clear the world fit his own established view.

Sixth, other people were so stupid. Bob might give clear evidence for something and expect people to agree because it was obvious, but they’d have all these stupid excuses and argue from their deluded world view against it. Meanwhile, they gave arguments that they expected him to believe which had stupid obvious flaws.

In fact, Bob began to see there was a whole web of deceit and delusion on the other side. The people who disagreed with him would never accept anything that contradicted their established beliefs. Their side had also accumulated all this fake data to support their implausible views. You couldn’t talk to them; they never listened. It was like they were in a cult or something. This was because they were just like Bob. Anyhow, Bob began to understand this perverse way of thinking, of clinging to your own delusional beliefs at any cost and the almost conspiratorial way the other side spun its world view. Bob was wise now, understanding why other people were so wrong. An intelligent critical thinker, he could only shake his head at this delusion while he held fast to his own beliefs, which he knew were always right for very good reasons.

This was all very well for Bob, since he was also emotionally invested in his current beliefs and would have felt threatened if they were questioned. Truth be told, even if he couldn’t find an excuse, even if it looked like he should change his mind, he likely would have kept any old opinion that was questioned. But never mind that. He could always find an excuse.

Bob now stands tall above the foolish masses, knowing he is always right. Of course, he would not claim that. He is a critical thinker, after all, and doesn’t accept anything without proof. But the proof is always on his side, forever, no matter what exactly it is that he believes and what exactly is the truth. It is obvious to him.

Indeed, Bob understands it all so well that he could read this very article and realise that it is sarcastically satirising other people, especially those the people who disagree with him. He would smirk derisively at their stupidity, and obviously not change his own habits one bit, since he is the real critical thinker. He’s not like this.

***

(For the record, as far as I know: Snopes good, Discovery Institute bad.)

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