The Reverse-Negative Feedback Loop
Sometimes I think it’s fair to say that some positions are really hard to defend, even ones that are based on opinions. For example many people believe that homosexuality is immoral. I would say that this is a hard position to defend without appealing to religion or other dogmatic beliefs. Lots of people have attempted to defend this view with statistics, anecdotes and other assertions, but most of these defenses don’t hold up to even a small amount of scrutiny. And after a while, one may quite reasonably assume that there are no good defenses of this argument after hearing so many bad ones.
Normally when we talk about feedback loops in terms of social behavior, we mean in terms of self-fulfilling prophecies. If an idea is propagated to a sufficient degree, it could happen that the idea could come true as a result of itself being proposed. A hypothetical example of this is if a bunch of people invest in a business and then are led to believe that business is failing, they might all start pulling their investments out, which could then cause the business to actually fail. However when it comes to discussions and debates, we see sort of a reverse reaction to feedback. Negative ideas and criticisms provided to a certain degree often has the effect of emboldening the very argument they are condemning.
As I implied above, this could be argued as reasonable. If you’ve never heard a decent argument against an idea you have, or if you’ve heard very few, are you not justified in thinking your argument is a good one? Perhaps. The problem arises when we are in a space where bad arguments are the norm.
I’ve talked a lot about the state of discourse today, particularly on the internet, and how it leaves much to be desired. And I noticed recently that this sort of anti-feedback loop can be problematic for people like me who are interested in forming and evolving good arguments. Fallacious, emotional, and mean-spirited arguments seem to be the norm right now, and its easy to find myself more assured of myself after being bombarded with these terrible notions. Like the homosexuality example, surely if there are few if any good arguments against my position, perhaps my position is quite solid? I’m really not so sure–it could just be that the good arguments are being drowned out by all the nonsense.