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Counter-Intuitivity (Pt 2)
February 5th, 2007 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: 1 ]

Previous post on this subject can be found here.

So awhile ago, the BBC ran a story on bicycle helmets, the byline of which read as follows:

Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests.

It turns out that cars tend to give cyclists more room if they wear helmets. It seemed odd to me that no one could have picked this up. I’ve had arguments with people who believe that seatbelts cause more harm then good. While I don’t hold that view, I was not aware that there is a possible increase in injuries in non-vehicle occupants. Here are some other unrelated examples (that I, at least, found surprising):

  1. Sleep longer than 7 hours a day? Your life expectancy goes down.
  2. The murder rate in South Africa has been decreasing since 1994.
  3. The flu death toll in the USA is the same as having a 9/11 every month.

So what am I trying to say here? The simple fact is, everyone readily relies on their own intitution when it comes to matters that they don’t know anything about. People often overlook the fact that they may be wrong. Here’s a quote from Bill Clinton:

“If you have a philosophy, it generally pushes you in a certain direction or another,” he said. When a person is open to discussion, argument, evidence and new learning, he said that individual may end up making a principled agreement with someone of a different philosophy.

“The problem with ideology,” he added, is that “you already have your mind made up. You know all the answers. And that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time. So you tend to govern by assertion and attack.”

Obviously, he’s saying that you must always entertain the possiblity that you are wrong or that there is a different way of doing things. In a world of GPRS/EDGE/3G cellphones and wikipedia, is there any reason not to have up to date information when having a discussion?