couple arguing about beliefs

What? You’re a Climate Change Sceptic????

I had an argument with someone I care about the other day…It was an argument about the facts…the facts about climate change…or was it? I said, “What? You’re a climate change sceptic???? The argument did not end well, and I reflected on why we hadn’t been able to resolve our conflict better.


Our beliefs impact our thinking

On reflection, I was reminded of Chris Argyris’ seminal and important work in the way our beliefs impact our thinking. I wondered how my and his beliefs were impacting on our argument. 

Argyris says that “”We see the world not as it is, but as we believe it to be“”. I believe in a world where science is a rational process of testing hypotheses. Where results are accepted once a group of peers, equally trained in the scientific method, review and verify the work. My friend believes in a world where science can’t be trusted. And where groups of peers trained in the scientific method work together to suppress ideas that don’t fit into a conservative norm. 


We create stereotypes as shortcuts to thinking

We both generalise and create stereotypes because these ‘shortcuts’ are easier for our brains to manage as we try to make sense of the barrage of information we need to process in the real world. These ‘shortcuts’ blind us, and the more narrow our beliefs become, the smaller our filtered or selected reality becomes. We interpret actions based on these generalisations which then reinforce our beliefs. 

So my friend interprets my defense of the scientific method around climate change science as a defense against ‘the truth’ that scientists want to hide from us, or perhaps ignore. And I interpret his denial of climate change science as an emotional and irrational defense that is frustratingly circular and therefore cannot be proven. Then I remember that, in fact, he is highly intelligent and curious, like most of the people that adhere to conspiracy theories. So how do I reconcile that with my stereotype?


Critical thinking is important

Critical thinking becomes more important as ‘fake’ news is delivered on mediums people trust and a google search is the default fact-finding method for most of us. We need to be aware of our own biases more than ever and go back to some of the philosophers that are no longer part of the school and university curriculum to re-learn critical thinking and the art of good questioning. 

And coming back to my friend? I need to be more curious about his beliefs, and ask him good questions about that, than getting stuck in a loop about ‘the facts’.


Understand your biases

If you’d like a deeper understanding of  your own biases, ask me about individual and team coaching here.