How to Disagree and always shooting the messenger

I love reading Paul Graham … I’ve read pretty much
everything he has written and while I don’t always agree, I always come away
from his articles with a new thought. In fact, I think he has most insightful blog/column out there.

 
Graham writes a new one entitled How to Disagree:

http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html


this is well worth reading. Many people have trouble disagreeing and the most common way to
discredit an argument is to go after the messenger. Graham points out this is a really a poor
argument as to why the messenger’s point is bad.

but most humans give too much weight to the messenger and not
enough weight to the message. That
makes sense from a purely evolutionary point of view. If Stephen Hawking says something about
physics, you might want to listen. But
if Britney Spears starts discussing string theory, you might think she’s talking
about bikinis and not theoretical physics. This reasoning works most of the time as usually Hawking has interesting
things to say about science and Spears is known for other talents.


But in politics and business, not listening to the messenger
can lead to very bad decisions. Giving
a little more weight to a new opinion of someone you like over those that you
dislike makes sense. But a good
decision maker should only weigh the messenger a little and focus much more on
dissecting the message. The boy who
cries wolf might be right sometime … you shouldn’t just reject the message out
of hand.

 

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