Combatting the absurdity heuristic by reversal
By dkl9, written 2023-213, revised 2023-213 (0 revisions)
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When presented with unusual-at-the-time propositions for reform — believing evolutionary theory, believing modern physics, transhumanism, teaching predictive history, not wearing shoes, etc — people tend to reject them based on their weirdness without proper evaluation (whether or not a proper evaluation would show them to be reasonable), as a subset of a pattern known as the absurdity heuristic.
(This may not exactly be the absurdity heuristic, but the exact term isn't important here.)
We could think more accurately about reform if we could avoid this error.
Here, then, is another heuristic to stack in response to the absurdity response.
Imagine a world in which the absurd proposal was taken seriously and followed.
Consider the response, in that world, to a proposal taking society back to how things are in current reality.
- If people of the alternate world would think such a regression absurd (as in the case of telling evolutionary biologists to consider creationism), the absurdity heuristic applies well in both directions, suggesting that the original proposal (in that case, evolutionary theory) may be a good idea, and should be considered further.
- If the regression is not just absurd but justifiably a bad move (as in the case of telling transhumanists to revert to biological limitations), the original proposal (in that case, transhumanist enhancements) is probably a good idea (but should be considered further and not recklessly accepted).
- If the regression looks reasonable and advantageous from the alternate world, the original proposal is probably a bad idea (but should be considered further and not recklessly ignored).