Am I in an Echo Chamber? Are You? Are We?
A powerful way to discover the truth is to deeply challenge our own assumptions of what we believe, proactively seek out competing information and perspectives from the strongest people, groups, and institutions, and invite the strongest arguments against our own.
A conversation and comparison between the best arguments for and against something is how we can deeply understand all facets, and learn to discern what is most true, as we make the best decision we can.
The thing you believe strongly… Have you identified and challenged your underlying assumptions?
Have you sought out information that would challenge your assumptions?
Have you invited people to challenge your arguments?
Do you maintain friendships with people of different beliefs and perspectives?
Can you state your opponent's argument in its strongest form?
Have you integrated the insights from this process into your concluding claims?
If not, you may have a fragile belief (or your version of it is fragile). You may believe something not true or, at least, incomplete.
Don't stand on a shaky foundation. Make sure what you believe is grounded in bedrock. Leverage invited scrutiny, and embrace vulnerability to test what you hold most dearly.
This is part of why freedom of speech is such an important value for our society. We need a wider arena to stumble our way to truth.
Holding Tight & Breaking My Echo Chambers
I'll put myself out there with an example.
As a Christian, the fundamental basis of our belief is the resurrection of Jesus. So the key question is, did that actually happen? What evidence do we have? And what are the best alternative explanations? I've spent a great deal of time exploring this fact from different angles and competing points of view.
While it was scary to explore this, because of the unknowns and the personal stakes evaluating the belief, I’m glad I did because I discovered the strength of the foundation I had built my house.
The flip-side example of this is my college graduation. In my senior year, first semester, I failed a course (advanced figure drawing 2) that I had to retake my final semester before graduating. If I didn’t pass it, I couldn’t graduate. I did not want to know my grade. I actively avoided this truth. I just hoped I passed. No one ever came to me to tell me I could not graduate. To my frightful delight, I passed and graduated (the nightmares continued until we paid off the student loans). Sometimes ignoring the truth worked out, but in most other experiences, it did not and I was left to deal with delaying the consequences. Sometimes I was deceptive to others or myself to buy myself more time to avoid the truth.
It’s better to know the truth quickly because the alternative can be much worse. I experienced those consequences enough to believe this deeply.
Echo chambers lead to delusions. Seeking truth requires community, healthy conflict, and disagreement. I want to actively cultivate this, how about you?
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