The Question

Consider any proposition that you believe is true. Any proposition at all. For example…

Apple products are superior to Microsoft products.
Human carbon emissions are increasing global temperature.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Herbal remedies are as effectual as industrial pharmaceuticals.
Lower tax rates spur economic development.

These are just examples. Maybe you actually believe the opposite of those statements. That’s fine too.

All that is required is a simple declaration: “I believe that…”

Now, the Question: What would it take to prove to you that your belief is wrong?

The moments that follow the Question are crucial.

If the Question leaves you utterly perplexed, what is the nature of your belief? What does it mean if you cannot even imagine a shred of evidence that would force you to re-evaluate your position? If you cannot hypothesize the existence of a compelling counterargument, then have you even considered that contrary evidence might exist? Does dumbfounded confusion betray the likelihood that alternative ways of thinking have not been honestly considered?

On the other hand, suppose you respond to the Question with a ready list of hypothetical proofs that, if demonstrated, would admittedly force you to reconsider your convictions (and, if necessary, renegotiate your understanding). Such a response suggests a high degree of intentional, constructive self-criticism. The stated belief, in this case, is a tentative assent to the truth, an openness to do the work of re-evaluation if new evidence emerges.

Today, when you hear yourself declare a proposition, ask what it would take to change your mind.

The only remedy to dialectic gridlock and self-delusion is to not insist on proving your point at the expense of learning from the counterarguments. When questioning is muted, when critical inquiry is brushed off, and when only the established answer will suffice, then beliefs morph into dogma.

You only care about the truth itself to the extent that you are willing to jettison your present beliefs if you find it.

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