Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ignorance as abuse

Ignorance can be a form of abuse; specifically, certain type of it very aptly called "belligerent ignorance." Let me explain with an example.

I was explaining the "Birthday Paradox" to a family member who's never heard of it. As is often done, I started with an assertion that, assuming 366 possible birthdays, if we randomly draw 367 people then the probability of there being at least one pair with the same birthday is exactly 1.

He said "No, that's wrong," and started angrily arguing against it. The reaction rendered me completely speechless.

Here's the kicker: he has a PhD in physics. Obviously it's not like he couldn't see the truth of that which he was so vehemently disputing. No, the problem wasn't that he couldn't see it, but that he didn't want to. The reason being that, as evidenced by so many other similar interactions, he'd rather die than admit I'm right about anything. In fact, I think that part of why he disputed it was because he knew that a flat out, brazen denial of reality tends to make people very upset.

Beware of belligerent ignorance. When you see it, don't try to argue. Run.

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