Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
Today's episode of Rationally Speaking is brought to you by give well, charities vary widely in how effective they are and it's hard for a donor to tell the difference. Give well, spends 20000 hours each year researching which charities can do the most with your money. Learn what your donation could do by visiting.
Give all agree, rationally speaking, to get a short list of the best charities they've found with the strongest empirical case for impact charities that work to prevent children from dying of cheaply preventable disease and help people in dire poverty. The recommendations are free for anyone to use and give all doesn't take a cut of your donation. And now first time donors will have their donation matched up to one thousand dollars if they donate through give weblogs rationally speaking.
Welcome to, rationally speaking, the podcast, where we explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense. I'm your host, Julia Gillard, and I'm trying something a little different for this episode.
Instead of one conversation, I have two separate guests on a similar topic. I got the idea from the fact that I like to read two or three books at the same time on the same topic to get kind of a 3D look at it like binocular vision. So our topic today is changing your mind or shifting your perspective. And both of my guests approach the topic from a position of unusual compassion and empathy. I'm delighted to introduce Stephanie Leape. She is the creator and host of the Reckonings podcast, which I suspect listeners of rationally speaking, will greatly enjoy.
It's about reckonings, which is Stephanus, great word for really significant changes of mind, the kind of changes that force you to reckon with your life, your identity, maybe your sense of right and wrong.
Her guests include a former neo-Nazi former climate change skeptic turned climate change activist, Facebook executive who came to see social media as harmful. So it's a really wide range, but every interview is really thoughtful and in-depth and approached with compassion and empathy.
So, Stephanie, welcome to rationally speaking. It's so great to have you. Thank you. Thank you, Julia. It's great to be here.
I you know, I always like to look for patterns in data. And I was wondering in the examples of the reckonings that you've explored so far, have you noticed any patterns in the kind of trajectory that that people go through in a reckoning? Is it like gradual evolutions? Are these sudden changes or is it like do they tend to be sparked by anything in particular, like meeting new people or hitting rock bottom?
What would even you noticed?
Yeah, so I mean, I went into this podcast in the first place to to answer this exact question, how do people actually change their hearts and minds in really fundamental ways? And before starting the show, I kind of had this running list of this highly unscientific running list of things that I thought, you know, radically transformed people. So, you know, falling in love, near-death experiences, psychedelics rarely but sometimes, but extremely rarely information, because, as you well know, we usually only trust information that confirms what we already believe.
And and from what I've seen now, let's say three hundred hours of interviews later, it's not that those things kind of make us change what those things have in common or what they do from what I've seen, is that they reveal to us the difference between who we think we are and who we actually are or the difference between the impact that we think we're having on the world and the impact we're actually having on the world. And it's it's really it's seeing that difference or seeing that gap.
That is what initiates the process of transformation. Could you give in in terms of. Oh, yeah. So so you mentioned the neo-Nazi. So Franck's transformation process actually started in jail when he started playing sports with black inmates and really just started to get to know black people for the first time in his life. And it was coming from that experience that he then had this he so he gets out of jail. He's looking for a job. He can't get a job.
He's got swastika tattoos all over him. And he ends up getting a gig at a trade show with a Jewish antique dealer. And and the antique dealer knows that Frank is a neo-Nazi, but he says, you know, I don't I don't care what you believe as long as you don't break my furniture. And at the end of this gig, he thought that this, you know, because of his stereotypes about Jewish people, he thought that this Jewish antique dealer was going to not pay him like the full amount that he owed him.
And instead, this Jewish antique dealer offered him a full time job. And so it was, you know, coming from this confusion in jail that he had this experience with a Jewish person. And that revealed to him the difference between who he thought he was.
He thought he was kind of this defender of the white race, you know, this righteous defender of the right race and the person he actually was, which was just this extraordinarily bigoted and violent individual. And it was yeah, I was seeing that gap that that that revealed to him kind of the bankruptcy of his ideology. It prompted his transformation.
But do you have any sense I mean, other neo-Nazis have presumably met nice Jewish people in nice black people and they've, you know, probably written those off as exceptions or or maybe they've interpreted their experiences in a way that makes the black and Jewish. People actually not nice or they've, you know, there's some way they've not changed as a result.
But I do know how it usually begins. It usually begins with, oh, OK, fine, black people are fine. But but Jewish people are the problem.
And after doing that enough after going through this process or this this pattern, enough times of saying, you know, oh, well, actually, you know, this this little part of the ideology, you know, maybe was wrong.
But but the rest of it is still intact. You know, after doing that enough times, you start to wonder, wait a second, I'm noticing a pattern here. Maybe the entire ideology itself is broken. And it's I don't know if there's like a secret number of times you have to go through that. I do think, though, that time for critical self reflection, like time and space to reflect on who you are and how you affect other people or these these anomalies, quote unquote, that keep showing up.
And oftentimes you have a lot of time to reflect in jail. So jail can actually.
But it's it's it's enough examples of that combined with really critical self reflection that I would say gives rise to a reckoning that's I know this is a tough question to answer without a comparison group, but do you see does there seem to be anything about the people themselves, your guests you've talked to, you have had these reckonings, any, like personality traits you see that might explain why they're the exception to the rule of people not not changing their mind?
Are they unusually self reflective? Are they unusually? Yeah. Do they care about consistency? Lots of like. Well, if I if this is true, then I can't logically believe this other thing. And woe like House of Cards tumbling down. Yeah.
And yeah. And this is I mean, I think there's an amazing scientific investigation to be done here. But for from the specific trait I look for really more for the purposes of storytelling is someone who has the capacity to, you know, to be critically self reflective, to look inwards and be fluent about what is going on, be able to articulate that to someone who can say, I did this thing. And to the best of my knowledge, here's why I did it.
Here's what I was wanting. Here's here's what was motivating me. Because in a lot of these cases, you know, the burning question before how did you change is why did that why did you do that thing to begin with? And so someone who can actually look inwards and say, here's why. Here's why I here's what was driving.
Some of my guests have gone through, you know, processes with with therapists or counselors, you know, who have who have helped them kind of put language around their transformation. So, for example, one of my episodes features a perpetrator and survivor of sexual assault who managed to work through it using restorative justice.
And when you sit back and watch Survivor, that's two separate people, both the perpetrator and the survivor. Yes, the perpetrator and the survivor of the same incident, sexual assault, both incidents on both sides. Yeah. And because they went through this restorative justice process, the the perpetrator has really developed language. He really understands what he did and why he did it. And he's kind of fluent in that. Whereas, you know, for a lot of people, they're verbalizing this journey for the first time with me, you know, so so the Facebook executive that you were just mentioning, so he he built Facebook's business model and then had a reckoning.
And you can listen to the episode to find out what happened. But he you know, it's not like he was necessarily, I don't think like seeing a therapist, you know, to talk through, you know, what he did at Facebook. You know, I think it was kind of like maybe here and there, like in his mind or maybe in conversations with his wife. I mean, I actually don't know. But I get the sense that he was actually kind of articulating this, like understanding it, seeing it and articulating it for the first time in his interview with me.
So what I'm looking for for the purposes of storytelling is just someone who has the capacity to do that, whether they've done it before with a therapist or whether they're doing it for the first time. But who can who can take in the look a look in the mirror and speak fluently about what they see.
Do you ever doubt your guests story about why they did what they did or why they believed what they believed?
Or are you just kind of inhabiting the role of the midwife of this reckoning?
So all of the above and there have been many interviews that have not aired, partly because I just couldn't I could not I couldn't feel. I couldn't I couldn't feel what was going on in there. Now, whether that's because it wasn't there or because I just couldn't feel it is up for debate. But in some cases, I like the the the perpetrator and survivor is a perfect example. It's it's as long as I have heard the survivor on board, then, you know, it's not about whether I it not so much about whether I believe him or believe he really changed.
The point is he did enough for her. The point is he is working to repair the harm he did to her. And she and she you know, she she I don't know what the word is approves of that or is on board with that or can get down with that. And so it's not so much about whether I you know, I do what I can with myself, you know, with with my heart. But in many of these cases, it's also about the people who they hurt or the people who they affected and have those people, you know, forgiving this person or acknowledge that this person has made enough of a change.
So it's it's not only up to me, I guess.
Do you ever have difficulty being empathetic towards your guests, given their past views or or past deeds? So I have assumed that before talking to the person that I'm not going to be able to hear them and hear their story and have kind of surprised almost every time, I mean, the person the episode that I would have never in a million years, I would have never even thought to look for an ex offender priest. And when you say to me, it's like.
You mean the priest. Yes. I would have never thought to even look for that person because there's I how could I possibly empathize?
I mean, the person that, you know, there's no way think not a heartwarming story. Exactly. And yet this it kind of fell in my lap and it was a how did I find them? It was because I was I so I I have this wish list of guests, you know, who you know, I would love to be on the show like the pope and but the pope never called me. And so I thought, well, you know, if the pope isn't going to come on reckonings, why not write his reckoning for him?
And so I wrote an imaginary reckoning with Pope Francis, and I had it performed via voice actor. And I was looking for someone to give me feedback on this imaginary reckoning. And it was like, OK, this person has to be a survivor of clergy sex abuse, but also someone who, I don't know, just has the capacity to think in a more expanded way about how this is going to sound extremely blasphemous, but about under the right circumstances, letting perpetrators become allies or as the has the capacity to think in and at least someone who is a survivor, but also can kind of get down with an imaginary reckoning with Pope Francis, with what I'm trying to do.
Yeah. And I found a woman who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse and she collaborates with a perpetrator of clergy sex abuse. And what they are doing is working together to bring restorative justice to the church. To the Catholic Church. And so I first found her thinking, oh, you can give me feedback on this piece. And I was like, wait a minute. Yeah, maybe we should actually do an episode together. And that that is a perfect example.
I would have never I was scared to talk to him for the first time. Were you scared?
Because just for the reason that talking to a villain is scary or scared, that you might get scared that I won't be able to hear him.
Scared that I will? Yeah. Yeah. Both scenarios are a little bit unnerving for different reasons. Yeah.
And they're and I mean, there's definitely some blowback from that. I mean, there are probably people that just based on the title of the piece, would refuse to listen to it. Yeah.
Or think that you're doing a bad thing by airing it or. Yeah.
And that's always, you know, it's like I'm not here to create a soapbox for perpetrators of bad. You know, that's not that's not.
But, you know, if if we are interested in changing public opinion, you know, if we are interested in culture shifting, it behooves us to understand how people actually change. And and this is not about, you know, whether it's justified to give a voice to perpetrate like is it justified to give perpetrators a voice? There's no yes or no answer to that question. The question is, you know, under what circumstances is it is it helpful?
I would say, to to hear the story of perpetrators in the circumstances, I would say are, you know, when the survivor is involved or has like, you know, there are a set of circumstances that I have for myself. You know, I call myself a promiscuous, pragmatic, pluralist. I say I'm so open minded. I'm even open to being closed minded sometimes. And, you know, restorative justice in traditional criminal justice are not mutually exclusive.
You know, just because you're sitting in jail doesn't mean you can't work to repair the harm you caused. So I don't think it's necessarily like consequences or compassion. You know, I it's all of the above, depending on the circumstance, you know, in service of what it is we're trying to achieve here.
Could you say a little more about this particular sex offender priest? What made you more sympathetic or just more? I don't know. How does that open to him than you had expected to be?
It will it was actually just hearing his story, because I had this idea in my mind of, you know, we I imagine most of us have ideas in our minds of what a perpetrator priest is like.
He's like this perverted older man who, you know, and it was really just hearing this hearing the story and that it kind of shocked me that it just felt like there was no well and I did not have this corroborated. All I have is the woman he collaborates with who is like a fierce, you know, activist against clergy sex abuse and had her own experiences when she was young. And they have developed like a very strong bond. So I just want to put out that I did not have this corroborated, but there was no there was no violence.
There was no there was no physical force involved. It and this is not excuse it, but it but it does challenge my ideas about it, do complicate my ideas about it. Did it seem like it was easier for him to view it as not bad or like rationalize it to himself?
Because there was no other I guess I should mention another, that he turned himself in. But also it makes it a little key. Yeah, he well, he said that he was found out and he was brought in to meet with his I guess it was the bishop of his area. And he they they they just asked and they showed him a letter that the parents of the young boy he had abused had sent in actually with a letter that the boy had written and the parents found it and sent it in.
And they said to him, I don't remember exactly how they phrase the question, but it was open ended. It was basically like, did you do this or not? And he could have easily said no. He could have so easily said no. The church would have been ready to protect him. It's his word against some young 13 year old boy. He could have easily said no. And he just said he was he was ready to be done with it.
And he said, you know, he just said, you know what, I want, whatever the consequences are, I need to face them. So, yes, this is through. And the other obviously makes it a lot easier to. That's I mean, these kinds of details in all of these episodes, I find I go in with some idea, even after having done this for a while, I go in with some idea of some stereotype or some whatever I have.
And every time I am surprised.
Are all of the reckonings that you've covered so far, are they all in, quote unquote, the right direction? Like, are there any where you don't agree with the end view of the guest? Yes, so, yeah, so the kinds of change I'm interested in aren't necessarily from right to left or wrong to right or, you know, it's a direction I agree. And with to one, I you know, it's it's I I'm interested in the certainty to uncertainty or from dogma to ideological liberty, you know, from being, you know, really attached to my views and the way that I think about the world, too, to feeling more free to to reflect on my views and be critical of of my views and consciously change them to adapt to the reality around me.
You know, most of the conservatives I have featured on the show, which I'm certainly on the more progressive side of the spectrum, although I find the spectrum itself somewhat problematic so we can get into that later. Most of the conservatives I featured on the show did not become less conservative. They just happened to change their views on some some issue climate change, gun control, abortion, whatever it was, and are now pursuing, kind of like a conservative approach to that issue.
And so, yeah, it's not what's exciting to me isn't just like a change in views, but really a change in the way that we relate to our views or a meta change or what I would call a reckoning. Now that I guess I would give two caveats to that. One is that, you know, these kinds of changes do tend to move in, you know, a more progressive direction. I mean, the word or a more liberal direction in the traditional sense of liberal.
The word liberal literally means open, you know, open to newness and change. So if you're becoming less fearfully attached to your views and more, you know, capable of reflecting on them and changing them, then I mean, there's kind of like a leftward movement to that in and of itself. I guess the second caveat, those you know, of course, I have I have my own limits in terms of what I'm able to even recognize as an authentic reckoning because of my own views.
You know, I have interviewed people who have shifted from pro-choice to anti-abortion, but I was kind of unable to to to recognize the reckoning in there and whether that's because it wasn't there or because I just couldn't see it. You know, myself, this is up for debate and kind of a moving target.
Stephanie, thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been a pleasure having you. And just usually remind our listeners that's reckonings dot show. Yes. Reckonings show to follow Stephanie's work going forward.
Welcome to, rationally speaking, the podcast, where we explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, I'm your host, Julia Gillard, and my guest today is Buster Benson. Buster has been a product manager at companies including Amazon, Twitter and Slark for 20 years now. You may know him. He's probably most famous for being the creator of the Cognitive Bias Codex, which is this beautifully laid out kind of wheel of cataloging Texana flying over 150 cognitive biases in different categories that kind of went viral a few years ago.
And he's just come out with his first book titled Why Are We Yelling The Art of ProductID Disagreement, which is full of thoughts on how to make disagreements go well, how to learn from them and grow along with a lot of very charming illustrations. So that's what we're going to talk about today. Buster, welcome to rationally speaking. Thank you. I'm really happy to be here. So the idea of a productive disagreement, as you know, because we follow each other on Twitter and we've talked a little bit about this before, this is also a topic I'm very interested in.
And I've talked to a lot of people about it. Yeah, very much so. And one thing that has come up a lot for me in conversations with people is that people have different ideas of what it means to have a productive disagreement, like what makes a disagreement productive. So just for example, some people are thinking in terms of sort of epistemically like disagreement is productive. If you come away kind of having updated your world, your model of some issue you've like, learned something you were mistaken about or, you know, something you were misunderstanding, etc.
, your view of the world is more accurate than it was.
And then other people are interpreting productive disagreement, more sort of socially than epistemically. And they're thinking in terms of, you know, it was productive if we went away feeling kind of like in harmony with each other, like we've resolve the conflict, we've reached some compromise. We feel kind of aligned. And those two things can go together, but they also can not go together.
And I guess some people think of a productive disagreement in terms of like, did I win the argument? So I just wanted to start off by asking what what you mean when you talk about making disagreements productive? Yeah. Yeah, that's definitely the first sticking point that we tend to get into when we think about what is the purpose of arguing. If you don't have the same purpose, then clearly it's not going to work out. I go back to like just the intuitive feeling of productive, like I think of productive in the sense of like a tree is the fruit tree is productive, like it's producing fruit and less in the like the the outcomes of it.
Like in order for a tree to produce fruit, it has to be healthy. It has to be like the timing has to be in the right place. It has to sort of be thriving. And so for a productive disagreement, I think in an ideal world it can do it can produce lots of things. One of them is alignment. You know, alignment is a thing that can come out of it, but also insight or knowledge or wisdom can come out of it.
A better relationship can come out of a productive disagreement. And the first one is just like enjoyment and fun and excitement and awe. Wonder can also come out of it. And all four of those things, I think, are like different fruits of disagreement and the interplay. Sometimes they conflict, sometimes they work together. But overall, you know, the end goal of all of that productive, you know, sort of conversation, I think ultimately is that you as a human become a little bit more alive, a little bit more human, a little bit more thriving because you've learned something you've enjoyed something you've connected with someone, something that's gotten a little bit better.
You've grown, and that's how I think of it.
So in the book, you describe this argument you've got into with your wife where when you discovered that one of you had to take care of your son because the the place you were going to take him for the day wasn't was the school was closed the school. And so you got into an argument that was kind of literally over. Is it legal to leave our son home alone? And your wife is saying it's not legal and you were saying it is.
And what you realised, you say in the book is that for your wife, the disagreement was not really about it was never about is it legal? It was about like, is Buster willing to pick up the slack to pick up the slack in this case by staying home and taking care of our son?
And just in general, it seemed like the kind of partner who's willing to pick up the slack. And you kind of chided yourself, at least implicitly in describing this instance, like I should have realized that, you know, discussing the literal fact of is it legal or not? It was not really the important thing. And in one sense, I it's commendable.
I think that you're willing to, like, realize that you you know, you should try to really get at the heart of the issue for someone instead of just arguing about facts.
But in another sense, it does seem not great to me if someone is arguing something that's literally false and they don't care that it's literally false, like your wife. Was wrong about the fact, the legal fact of the matter, right, and it it seems not great for someone to be saying it's illegal when what they really mean is, I wish you would like pick up more of the slack, you know?
Right. I mean, it's not that's not you know, I think if it was something that none of us did and or only some of us did, we could we could say it's bad. But I think we all do this. And it's sort of the same thing with the ghost thing. Like I forced her in that corner. I brought up the legal aspect because I in my, you know, sort of attempt to win or my attempt to sort of resolve the arguments.
I introduced this new argument that I could win. Yeah. And then she fell for it and then I won. But by winning, I only proved more so that I was not, you know, because, you know, so I think it's all my responsibility as well to not necessarily force people to have arguments that I'm an advantage winning. And, you know, after the fact, we can sort of resolve that because it wasn't really critical to the our lives.
Even if it was legal or not legal, it wouldn't have really changed whether or not we should leave them at home.
But I have to take responsibility for the fact that, you know, I collapsed to something that I was better at winning. And I think that's what was hard for me to see until I saw it and I saw it everywhere that we do this all the time.
So you think that people you don't have to make it about your wife in particular in this particular argument, but do you think that in general people. They'll argue something that's literally false without necessarily admitting to themselves or even thinking about whether it's literally false or not, because it. They're trying to make a bigger point. Do you think your wife on some level felt that if she conceded that it was legal, then she would be kind of obliged to say, OK, fine, we have to do that?
And she didn't realize that she had the option of saying, like, I don't care if it's legal or not. It's like, you're right, that's legal. But that doesn't mean that I'm comfortable with that.
She might have had some piece of information or had that sort of made her think that it might be true. You know, we we know that motivated reasoning is really good at pulling evidence that supports her argument, especially in the moment when her heart rate is up and our blood pressure is up and we're trying to win. We're just going to like, OK, I vaguely remember hearing something about this. She's from Delaware, a complete different state. So it might have been from Delaware, it might not have been California.
And, you know, then you can sort of get entrenched in that and fight from there. So I don't I don't know if she it's not a conscious thing. I think it's something that we all do when we're losing. You know, we're going to either pull up some confirmation by us to make us right in confidence or we're going to pull in the new arguments that we know we can win. You know, there's all these strategies that we use to sort of support ourselves.
And it's not necessarily I wouldn't say it's evidence of that arguing. It's just, you know, what our brains do and be both. It can be burdensome. Yeah. And, you know, we do have responsibility to sort of improve those skills. And I think that's what the art of collective disagreement is. It's like noticing when that spark of anxiety starts influencing you and making you want to pull in all these other things to to win, you know.
You know, I remember, like in college, my college roommate, Chris, he was a terrible driver. Well, he's a really good driver, but he was a really dangerous driver and he got in accidents all the time. But he was the other driver is always to blame because he's always, like, doing just the right thing to cause the accidents to happen. And I think there's a way to argue that's similar, where you're recklessly driving within the law within rationalities sort of rules and causing everyone else to make many mistakes, making them look foolish and winning.
I don't think that's a great way to go about it.
You described in the book how difficult it was to cope with Trump's victory in 2016 and how part of the difficulty for you was feeling kind of alienated from some of your close friends who may have voted differently or didn't vote and feeling kind of frustrated not knowing what to do with that. Where did you end up landing on that issue?
Well, we're friends again. I mean, that's great. Yeah, but, you know, I think we're still we're still building up for the next round of this. I mean, 2020. Yeah. I mean, really, this whole book is like, how can I be more prepared than I was last time for this? Because these are some of my closest friends, people that I've known. I know them, you know as well as I know myself and my family, you know, and I you know, we I index too much on the being polite and nice and considerate angle and not on the like.
What is the how do I get to the bottom of what their real perspective is? Because I didn't do that and I didn't. And in hindsight, I realized how big of a mistake that was for me to do. How come? Because they ended up being right about a lot of stuff. And I, I, I was wrong. And so I needed to know what did I not do? What did I miss? I thought it was, you know, going to be much smoother than it was.
What can you lecture. But like just like how the world was feeling, how different parts of the country were feeling. Oh, I think. And how you know what you know that everything wasn't fine and things weren't getting better for a lot of people and all that stuff that, you know, they experienced way more firsthand than I do. And I didn't really dive into that with them, even though I had them right there in front of me.
Great relationships. And I didn't ask the right questions.
Interesting. I guess to me, what seems it seems like it would be especially hard to deal with disagreements over how things should be like if you had a friend who wanted the country to go in a very different direction than you did, that seemed like it would be an especially challenging disagreement, a disagreement about like.
How does the descriptive facts about, you know, are things getting better or not for people in these demographics or these parts of the country, that seems like it would be easier to navigate emotionally? Did it feel challenging? Because it was like bound up with the normative questions. Yeah, because, like most of the conversation was, you know, a few levels above that about what to do about the problems and not about the poems themselves. And so I just never dug deep enough to really sort of see it from that perspective.
And so I don't think they were they weren't trying to offer it to me necessarily. It was my fault for not asking and not trying to figure it out from them, because, you know, at the surface we were talking about like, oh, can you believe Ted Cruz just said that or did this really happen? You know, what did Alex Jones, you know, what's his evidence? You know, all that stuff. Yeah. And that stuff was, you know.
Ninety percent of the conversation when it could have been flipped for, it could have been like, you know, let's talk about, you know, what what your community is like and what people are feeling and how how they're responding to it and what kinds of things they need for help and all these other things. You know, in hindsight, I think that would have been a more enjoyable conversation and it might have led to, you know, it might even have led to changing actions and voting patterns, you know, amongst that tiny little group more than talking about the evidence and all that stuff.
I think, again, and like a recurring theme in my conversation with you today, is that I keep asking questions with the assumption that we're talking about, like epistemic. Right. You know, reasons for believing something.
I'm trying to think if I have any argument against approaching these disagreements socially, emotionally, or if it's just like not my, you know, the thing that I'm most drawn to. I guess one potential concern that has come up for me is. I worry that it's kind of patronising or something like the person, you know, gives an argument and I'm like, what in your life caused you to feel that this was important or something? And and like, if someone does that to me, I get annoyed because I'm like, look, I just want to tell you what I think and why I think it's true.
Stop trying to psychoanalyze me, you know?
Right. But I guess I'm sort of in the middle because I. I am obsessed with belief. I think belief has always been, you know, I was I was an atheist growing up. And then I very briefly became like a Christian high school for a couple of years. I converted a lot of my friends and my mom. No way. Oh, my God. And I'm sorry.
I'm just curious, how did you convert your friends and your mom to Christianity?
I think because I'm just a skeptic and. But if a skeptic is moving over, oh, my God, I have to do the thinking myself. I could do it in no way.
Did you make arguments to them or did you just say, like, hey, I've decided this is true? And they're like, cool, were with you?
I don't know. It was a weird time. I mean, it was a time to say, oh, wow, I'm graduating college or high school and moving away. And so a lot of things were happening that could have like sort of generated this. But it was like, you know, it was a movement of my friends, but. Ultimately, I came back to belief it's like, OK, well, does this hinge on belief because I don't even know what belief is belief.
When I look at it, there's nothing there. I don't have a choice about what I believe. I can't point it to a thing that I think exists. And how can an entire, you know, universe be hinging on this kind of thing? And so I feel like I tend to be OK with and so and I've been tracking my beliefs, track it in GitHub so I can, like, see the changes over time. And oftentimes they start big and get more fleshed out.
But like the amount of effort it takes to go from a vague feeling to a fleshed out belief is huge. Sure, it's makes you think that like these these aren't there until, you know, doing the work of, like, such an amount is useful. But I'm not if I'm I'm a fairly, you know, abstract and rational person generally. And if I don't have this, I don't know how I can expect other people to have it as much.
So I don't think it's patronising in the sense of like, I have this thing that you don't have, but do you think they think they have it? I think we all think we have it. But then why wouldn't it be patronising for them to to make I mean.
All right. About everything, too. So but we might be right. We might have.
Well, yeah, no, I'm just I'm just curious and like, slightly surprised that if if the people who are giving you their opinion or saying what they think is true, if if they're then met with like. You know what I would call psycho analysis or something? Why do you think they how are you doing that process such that they don't feel patronized? Huh, I've never gotten that I mean, I think maybe I'm just, like, overreacting to the risk of patronizing someone.
I mean, I'm sure I do. I think there is a risk and maybe it comes I can come across as smug, I think, because I don't I don't if I don't get angry at the right time. So it can be like, oh, yeah, but you don't have to get angry. You think you're better than me, that kind of thing. Oh, interesting.
Like, do you mean like in an argument where the person is angry at you or they're angry about an issue in the world they want you to be angry about too.
Yeah, both. Both. Yeah.
Oh man that's oh that seems really difficult. If if a person interprets lack of.
Anger, as you know, a sign that you think they're better than them or yeah, yeah, I mean, you have experienced experience that I think I just choose people you might have in my life, but I just like have various picky, idiosyncratic criteria for the kind of people who I would be close enough to to get in an argument with. Um.
Yeah. Yeah. So I think that I'm definitely surrounded by people that are not identified as being rational, logical people. And so for me to hold them to that standard, sort of like saying like, I mean, to go into a basketball court and be like, hey, who wants to play chess? And, you know, that's sort of patronising. It's like forcing them to play my game versus playing their game is sort of I think it's a lot easier for me to switch games than to get people to switch to my game.
Oh, you know, go ahead. I just realized we never heard the end of the story of what happened when you converted to Christianity and took your friends and and mom with you and then you converted. What did they did, convert with you again, or were they annoyed or was it awkward to tell them, hey, never mind, half of them slowly faded out and half of them are still Christians?
I think. Wow. Yeah. How did they process your conversion?
I think a lot of things can be explained as just like writing me off as a, you know, weird person, sort of even though you had been like an important part of their conversion in the first place.
Yeah, you know, I I was a catalyst, I guess, versus the the boat I see you, like, got them thinking about it, but their decision felt like their own and.
Yes, I see.
So I think and then we all know now we argue about it all the time and we can we can sort of poke fun at it. But I mean how it all happened, how it all happened, how like our lives have all just like gone into different directions and we all still, you know, can, you know, be very sort of critical of each other while respecting each other. I think that's a great sort of place to to keep a friendship.
If we resolved all of our differences, we would have less of a friendship in some cases. Fascinating. Well, Buster, thank you so much for coming on. Rationally speaking, we'll link to why are we yelling the art of having productive disagreements?
Do you have any, like, call to action? You want to encourage people to do like are there.
Well, websites they should go to or Buster Bentson dot com is where the book is.
If you find me on Twitter at Buster, I'm still trying to build best case arguments for things that I don't agree with. And so anyone that wants to help, you know, I would love that.
That's case like like Steelman, the strongest version of the opposing perspective.
Great. I think that's a fun, fun thing to do. Like we can steal mental outworld and sort of post-modernism and all these other fun things that don't sound like a time.
Yes. All right. Thanks again. This concludes another episode of rationally speaking. Join us next time for more explorations on the borderlands between reason and nonsense.