If you are human, you make false assumptions. We all do it. It’s just part of life.
Unfortunately, when our false assumptions go unnoticed, we are at their mercy. Sometimes the subsequent outcome is benign, other times it leads to a catastrophe. Making false assumptions in our political considerations is particularly problematic.
Suppose we assume that most politicians are sincere and intend to make good on campaign promises. Thus, we vote for the best sounding idea, for the most polished pitch. What could possibly go wrong? I’m glad you asked.
First, the politician may prove to be utterly dishonest and self-serving, pocket the campaign contributions, leverage political clout for personal gain, and totally ignore the campaign promises. Do you think that ever happens?
Or, assuming a more earnest sincerity, this politician may roll into Washington DC only to watch their bundle of good intentions go up in smoke, thanks to the incendiary ambiance of bitter partisanship. Political naivety must have the whiff of prey to those predators lurking on the hill.
Worse yet, what if all the good ideas, all the campaign promises, were actually illogical, impractical, or literally impossible to implement?
It is clear that even the simplest false assumptions can have a wide range of unintended consequences. That alone should give us cause to pause and assess the infiltration of assumptions into our own political convictions.
Further contemplation unearths a disturbing truth. There are several false assumptions that feed perniciously on our genetic predispositions. We are highly susceptible to self-deception.
Here’s a look at a few of the most destructive and pervasive false assumptions:
The Assumption of Superior Knowledge
It easy to assume that we have the most accurate perspective because we have facts to back it up. We allow the assumption of superior knowledge to validate our opinions. Obviously we would think the way we think if we knew we were wrong.
There are several problems here. One is that we seldom questions the source of our facts when they align with our emotional convictions. Another is that we seldom evaluate our facts within the context of macro level considerations. That is, some facts may be right, but they may also be completely irrelevant.
The fact is, most facts are slippery. It’s way easier to fling a spoon-fed fact in someone’s face, than it is to examine the validity of our own assumptions.
The outcome of this assumption is that everyone else is wrong and their facts are inaccurate, because our facts are right. This effectively shuts down critical thinking and brings productive conversation to a screeching halt.
It is essential that we shed the assumption of superior knowledge in order to engage in difficult conversations that can potentially help lead us toward logical conclusions.
The Assumption of Moral Supremacy
What’s worse than assuming superior knowledge? How about infusing the assumption with a passionate sense of moral supremacy.
There are two contrasting facets to this fallacy.
On the one side, there are those who claim to stand on divine authority when dictating their moral demands. On the other, there are those claiming intellectual authority, so convinced of their own infallibility they cannot see the flaws of their moral mandates.
Both sides feverishly defend their justifications without proper application of rational thinking. Arguments for or against moral supremacy are inherently flawed. The chasm between these contrasting concepts reflects the diversity of humanity.
Morals are a sense of right and wrong. Philosophers and religious leaders have been mulling over these concepts for eons. Consensus comes and goes. At the end of the day, individual definitions vary beyond the scope of this post.
Applying logic, we should acknowledge the wedge of emotionally driven ideologies (concepts of morality) and seek to circumvent the impact of this assumption in political debate.
The Assumption of Inevitability
We might suppose that it is inevitable for political common sense to prevail, but is this safe assumption? Similarly, it would be nice to assume that human progress will eventually lead us into a utopian society, but is this really a safe assumption?
To assume inevitability means to extend speculation beyond the horizon of certainty. Change is inevitable. So is chaos. Taken together, these two cosmic ingredients are a recipe for disaster when it comes to the assuming the inevitability of any outcome.
We might assume the victory of a particular candidate is inevitable and decide not to vote. We might assume that some ideas are such a lost cause, there’s no point in trying. We might assume the inevitable acceptance of some new idea, only to be shocked by the rejection from the general public.
The assumption of inevitability is an insidious beast.
There’s more to say, but I’m out of time for today.