Bad Thinking, Part 3: The SI Jinx

missouri chase daniels SI jinx
Not Pete Rose

Pete Rose, infamous Cincinnati Reds baseball player, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August of 1978, in the midst of a 44-game hitting streak. That same week, his streak ended. Numerous other examples over the years foster the belief that players or teams who achieve SI cover-status will experience the “SI Jinx” soon thereafter. A pair of local favorites: the University of Kansas football program appeared on the November 2007 cover after an 11-0 start, and lost the following week to rival Missouri; Missouri then graced the cover in December 2007 after reaching their first #1 ranking, and lost the following week to Oklahoma. The SI Jinx strikes again!

Coincidence or curse?

SI jinx sports thinkingTo this day, many athletes shun appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In January 2002, Kurt Warner declined to pose for the cover, so the magazine ran a photo of a black cat instead. The headline: “The Cover that No One Would Pose For.” Are their fears well-founded? If it isn’t a curse, then what explains the bizarre coincidence?

Thankfully, Daniel Kahneman provides enlightenment. In Thinking, Kahneman describes a statistical phenomenon called “regression to the mean.” (Ch. 17) According to Wikipedia,

Regression to the mean is the phenomenon that if a variable is extreme on its first measurement, it will tend to be closer to the average on its second measurement—and if it is extreme on its second measurement, it will tend to have been closer to the average on its first.

In other words, if an athlete performs at a remarkably high level one week or one season, the following week or season is very likely to be worse, and vice versa. I imagine that if SI started featuring especially low-performing athletes on their magazine cover, we would soon discover a SI Cover Miracle!

Getting Lucky

regression to the mean kahneman jinxOne reason for our error in judgment here: we fail to account for luck. In many endeavors, luck plays a huge role, including sports, academic testing, and business success. Our performance in these areas tends to follow a curve, with frequent average performances (relative to personal skill), and few examples of either really awful or amazing performances. Luck (or the lack) is usually what accounts for the “outlier” performances on the edges of the curve. But we attribute this to skill or other non-causal factors instead.

dice luck jinx thinkingKahneman relates an interesting anecdote about a flight instructor who claimed that praise for good performances was detrimental, but intense criticism for bad performances was helpful. Why? Because when he yelled at a pilot for an especially poor flight, the pilot performed better the next time out. And when he praised him for “clean execution,” he got worse. The instructor failed to realize that this was statistically predictable and probably attributable to pilot luck. A classic example of regression to the mean.

The Upshot

happy luck jinx regression to the mean kahnemanIn my daily life, identifying regression to the mean can help me avoid emotional whiplash. I know that an amazing day is likely to be followed by an average day, so I’m not as disappointed when this occurs. Similarly, a really horrendous day will probably be succeeded by a better day, so there’s hope! Substitute whatever professional metrics you like for “day,” and you can apply the same truth in your life: sales figures, enrollment, attendance, stock performance, child behavior, or team wins.

I also remember to include luck, or perhaps unpredictable Divine intervention, in my evaluation of performance. This means that my absolute best and worst performances are probably not solely attributable to my skill. I should look at my average as a better gauge for evaluation, rather than taking the “outlier” as the norm.

bad luck jinx thinking kahnemanFinally, we can do away with belief in jinxes. Even if you could show a high correlation between some odd event and bad performance, this would not prove causation. Interestingly, while 37% of SI cover stars were “jinxed,” 58% maintained or improved their performance following their cover appearance, according to an 1984 study. The jinx myth endures because of yet another kind of “bad thinking:” the negativity bias! We tend to remember negative events and give them more weight in our reasoning.

I still plan to give away a copy of Kahneman’s book to a lucky subscriber! Sign up for Ground Belief updates with your email for a very high chance to win (I only have 2 subscribers as of yesterday).

Bad Thinking, Part 2: Mood Matters

Law and Order: SVU. (Start the video at 9:36, but you may have to watch some ads.) Notice the shift in mood.

Scene: detectives asking a restaurant owner (Lyla) to look at the photographs of two criminal suspects, a man and a woman. Seemingly frustrated, she looks at them but doesn’t recognize either.

Lyla: I’m not really good with faces. I’m more of a word person.

Detective #1: Here’s a word. Focus.

[Lyla abruptly hands the photos back to the detective and walks away, obviously offended.]

Detective #2: What my partner means to say is that maybe you’re just underestimating yourself.

Lyla: [still mad] I don’t think so.

[Detective #2 turns on the charm and gets her to smile.]

Detective #2: Take a look at these photos one more time. Please.

Lyla: [sighs, smiling] This guy I’ve never seen before. Yeah, I’m pretty sure she was here that night.

This scene illustrates beautifully what scientists have discovered through tools like the Remote Association Test. A good mood raises intuitive abilities, but lowers logical attentiveness. A bad mood makes us less prone to errors in logic, but it’s like a wet blanket over intuition and creativity. Feeling nervous and criticized by the first detective shut down the intuition of the restaurant owner. But after her mood brightened, she easily recalled the face of the woman in the photo, because this is a function of intuitive System 1.

Implications

So what does this mean for us, as thinkers? Being aware of your mood can help you maximize your cognitive abilities. First, when you’re engaging in a creative or intuitive task, you’ll perform better if you’re in good spirits. If, prior to such a task, you find yourself in a foul mood, it would be wise to either, (a) put off the task (if possible) until your mood lightens, or (b) take some steps to improve your mood. Here’s one of my favorite TED talks on this subject that includes some very practical suggestions at the 10:56 mark.

 

Second, when you’re engaging in a System 2 task—analysis, problem solving, etc.—you’re likely to perform better if you don’t stroll into it casually. If you’re a more happy-go-lucky or optimistic person, it might be wise to stop and shift gears. Try some cognitive warm ups to crank up your System 2 and heighten your concentration. Work two or three simple multiplication problems, count backward from 100, or pick a word and find as many rhyming words as you can. (More “warm ups” here and here.)

Faith and Cognitive Modes

What about religion? Does mood matter when contemplating religious and metaphysical ideas? Yes. It matters because it affects which System is predominant. So which mode— intuitive System 1 or analytical System 2—is most appropriate for religious thinking? I’ve often wrestled with this question myself and I think it depends on your goals and on your context. If you’re already committed to a faith tradition like Christianity, System 2 is helpful when studying theology or when discussing religion with someone outside the faith, to give two examples. But worship, by contrast, requires shifting away from skepticism and toward openness. I find that praying and listening to a sermon are activities best done with a sense of receptivity, seasoned with a pinch of healthy skepticism, putting off the bulk of analysis for later.

skeptic faith thinkingFor those who identify as atheist or agnostic, it may not be as appropriate to suspend your skeptical guard, unless you find yourself desiring to believe. You should always leave open a small window of possibility, regardless, as I have written about elsewhere. But I have met atheists and agnostics who find belief unattainable given their current set of evidence. When I share about my own experience of God, they sometimes express a desire to have such an experience, in the hope that it would finally allow them to believe. For them, I would suggest partially lowering their System 2 defenses and cultivating an intuitive System 1 mind-set. Relationships, even between oneself and God, are best experienced through this mode, rather than by logical analysis.

Faith and Mood

What this implies for mood management is that religious believers will probably experience the full benefits of worship when their mood is good. Grief and lament remain important aspects of a full-orbed Christian faith, and perhaps research may eventually tell us how those moods affect our cognitive mode. But in general, I’m inclined to believe that a positive outlook enhances prayer and openness to hearing from God. On the other hand, if you only ever approach religion with your analytical System 2 on full alert, you may actually be blocking out the evidence needed to support belief. I recognize that there are some conundrums here, but despite this, there can still be good reasons for belief or for deciding on a course of action.

(On October 23, I will conclude the series by giving away a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow to one lucky subscriber to my blog. So, sign up with your email (on your right at the top of this post) before the 23rd to be eligible.’)

How To Avoid Bad Thinking, Part 1

Fast and Wrong?

thinking fast slow chessNobody likes being wrong. It’s embarrassing, it gives rise to regret, and sometimes it even places us in harm’s way. In my own experience, I’ve learned that I can avoid mistakes by slowing down and thinking things through before making a move. Sometimes I spend a good fifteen minutes analyzing my options. Unfortunately, when I do this in a chess match with my son, he starts expressing his frustration in various forms of body language. This slow-approach also causes problems in most sports, especially those involving high-speed projectiles.

But in many contexts, slowing down and concentrating on the problem at hand increases our success dramatically. This truth came into crystal-clear focus when I read Daniel Kahneman’s brilliant book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. In it, Kahneman (winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics) shares the fruit of his decades-long research program on the cognitive machinery of our minds, revealing insights into the natural flaws in kahneman thinking fast slowour thinking.

This post launches a series based on Kahneman’s book. On October 23, I will conclude the series by giving away a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow to one lucky subscriber to my blog. So, sign up with your email (on your right at the top of this post) before the 23rd to be eligible. I’ll select someone at random and have the book delivered to your home with the magic of 2-day shipping. (Or the audio book, if you prefer.)

The Two Systems

anger "system 1" thinking intuitiveKahneman talks about the mind possessing two “systems,” or modes of thought: one fast, one slow. Imagine a recent conflict you’ve had with a friend or spouse. Your recognition that they are angry by the shape of their mouth and eyebrows is instantaneous. This is “System 1” at work—the fast, intuitive mode of thought. Now try this problem: 17 x 24. When you buckle down and concentrate on this, it is “System 2” at work—the slow, analytical mode. System 1 gives us instant cues about our surroundings and makes quick judgments when we simply don’t have time for analysis, as when a baseball is hurling toward you at 80 mph. System 2 allows us to tackle harder, more complicated problems that require careful attention to details that are not obvious.

bat ball problem thinkingThe rest of the book describes the manifold ways in which System 1 gets fooled. System 1 simply tries to do too much, and lazy System 2 won’t pitch in without quite a bit of cajoling. Here’s an example—go head and try it.

A bat and ball cost $1.10
The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?

If you’re like most people, your first thought was that the ball is 10 cents. Kahneman writes that this easy puzzle “evokes an answer that is intuitive, appealing, and wrong.” (44)* Check the math, maybe using pencil and paper. The correct answer is that the ball is 5 cents and the bat is $1.05. But System 1 doesn’t have the chops for this kind of work, and your System 2 was probably napping. When this puzzle was used in an experiment, 50% of students from Harvard, MIT, and Princeton gave the wrong answer!

But even System 2 has its limitations. Watch the video below.

How did you do? You may have correctly counted the passes, but did you notice the gorilla? About half of all viewers don’t notice the gorilla, says Kahneman.(24) This demonstrates that System 2 has limited resources. When you “pay attention” to one task that requires high-level concentration, you have less attention to spend on other things. And even intuitive System 1 seems unable to pick up the slack.

Better Thinking

hammer thinking The helpful take-away from Kahneman’s research is this: you’re far more prone to errors in reasoning than you realize. Most of us are like bad carpenters. We use our hammer on everything, simply because it is the tool we are currently holding. Only when we realize that we’ve gone wrong do we stop and look in our tool-belt for something more appropriate. This applies to politics, faith, morality—just about anything. System 1 is the easy default, but it just can’t handle serious thinking. And now that you know this, you’ve got to kick System 2 in the butt and put it to work.

*I will refer to Kahneman’s book (I believe there is only the one 2011 edition) with page numbers in parentheses.

Fast Judgment, Slow Heart

jumping thinkingWe’ve always been good at jumping to conclusions and letting our prejudices run away with our reason, but now things are different. Our dumb ideas don’t just fizzle out, dying quietly in some back alley of our brain. We violently extract them from our imagination, like undeveloped offspring, and send them careening through cyberspace to assault everyone who will listen. Why? Because we can.

In the classic sci-fi film, Forbidden Planet, we encounter a world where a massive machine empowers people to telepathically create anything by the power of thought alone. “Creation without instrumentality.” But they forgot that not all the products of thought are worth creating. Some of them are forbidden planet thinking judgmentdown-right scary. Just imagine Stephen King on that planet! In our current reality, instead of a miraculous machine, we created social media–the place where all your thoughts, even the ones better left unsaid, can be broadcast instantly across the world. And like the murderous creature in the film, our tweets run amok, destroying whatever upsets us.

Some of the best advice I’ve heard about social media came from sports radio. Former NFL player and coach, Herm Edwards, commented on irresponsible posts made by current players. His advice: Don’t press send! Wait a while and let your emotions subside. There’s even an entire organization that goes by this moniker. They seek to promote “kind and careful online communication, in the hope of preventing [young people] from harming themselves or others.” But telling people to restrain their baser impulses as a strategy against their baser impulses seems futile to me. Noble, but futile.

So, as an alternative strategy, set a policy now, ahead of time, about what you will do then. Decide now that you simply won’t post or tweet about anything without a 24 hour waiting period. Let me give a few solid reasons for this policy.

1) Your first take on things is probably wrong.

kahneman thinking fast slowDaniel Kahneman, in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, describes two parallel “systems” at work in our brain: “system 1” and “system 2.” System 1 is fast and less accurate. System 2 is slow but more accurate. (I’m waaayyy oversimplifying here.) If you want your understanding and your response to be more accurate, take the time to engage system 2–your more analytical nature.

2) The s#!t-storm is doing just fine without you.

I know it feels so important to get your take out there, to show everyone how smart and passionate and righteous you are, but you’re more likely to contribute to the problem than the solution. You might feel better, but the world won’t. Just because you can’t see the mob, with their pitchforks and torches, doesn’t mean you aren’t walking into it. Social media is an angry mob. Don’t join in.

angry mob

3) Regret sucks.

You’ll probably end up saying something you’ll have to apologize for later or at least feel really bad about. (I have experience with this.) Better to wait, let your reaction cook for a while, boiling away the crud. You might find that the whole thing has soon boiled away, leaving an empty pot. You’ll be glad you didn’t serve it to anyone.

So for the love of good thinking and the world and everything that’s holy, slow down. Unlike the freeway, the internet is a place where it is good to go slow and let everyone else fly by you, honking and screaming. Let your “system 2” engage. Social media is power, and remember what Uncle Ben said.

Is It Arrogant to Think You’re Right?

baseball scoreArrogance stinks. I’ve been accused of it, sometimes guilty of it. And I’ve seen the effects of it—even in my relationship with my dad. A year before he died, we attended our first and only baseball game together. My father loved baseball. When he offered to show me how to “keep score,” I scoffed, informing him that I wasn’t stupid and knew how to keep score. He tried to explain, but I had felt my intelligence insulted and wouldn’t have it. He didn’t force the issue. Years later, after he was gone, I realized what he was saying. I still haven’t learned how to do it.

So I’m under no illusions about the potential ethical consequences of arrogance. I know what it is and what it can do. Arrogance can damage relationships when others feel looked down upon or devalued, it can close you off to new ideas and crucial evidence, it can keep you from the truth. But being malfoy arrogantfamiliar with arrogance means I also know what arrogance isn’t. There is certainly nothing inherently arrogant about thinking you are right, even about important things. In fact, it is logically impossible to believe something is true and not think you are right about it. Arrogance is something extra, an added attitude that intermingles with our beliefs.

So what is that something extra? I think a person is being arrogant when they assert something beyond what their reasons can support. Typically, this assertion takes the form of a value-claim about themselves. But I think it is the epistemic status (whether it is well-supported) of the claim that grounds the charge of arrogance. For example, if I sincerely claimed to be the greatest Scrabble player in Missouri, this would be arrogant because I have no good reason to believe it. But if I were to win the Missouri state Scrabble championship five years in a row, then I might be able to make such a claim without being arrogant.

Arrogance and Religion

What about claims regarding ultimate reality? If someone says, “there are no gods,” or “Jesus is the only way to God,” sparks can fly because they threaten the deeply cherished beliefs of others. But I think the same principle applies here: if you have adequate support for your claim, it isn’t necessarily arrogant. Granted, it is hard to determine what amount of evidence or support is “adequate,” but that is another discussion. The key is to avoid making the assertions without any good reasons at all.

Let me address two worries about the case of religion. First, many religious skeptics will insist that there simply isn’t sufficient evidence to ever make an exclusive religious claim. Religious claims are hopelessly unjustified and therefore inescapably arrogant. Ironically, this objection is itself an unnecessarily strong statement that would require a significant assemblage of evidence and argument to avoid the arrogance charge itself. I think skeptics would be better off simply asking the believer to present their evidence.

lottery probabilitySecondly, religious skeptics and religious pluralists (those who think all religions are true) might say something like this: “Look at all the religions in the world! Do you really think you’ve won the religious lottery and just happened to choose the right one?” Skeptics and pluralists, in this case, think of religion like a game of chance. There are many religions, like numbers in a lottery, and every number is equally likely to win. The probability of being “right” is evenly distributed among all religions. So even if there were only 20 religions, each religion would have only a 5% chance of being right, and this isn’t enough to justify belief or ward off the charge of arrogance. To be justified in believing your religion is true, you’d need at least a 51% likelihood – slightly better than a coin flip. But since there are so many religions, no religious exclusivist can have adequate support for their view, and thus their assertions are arrogant.

But I think this is the wrong model of probability when it comes to religion. It would be better to think of the religion question the same way we think of a murder investigation. Suppose you had 20 suspects. You wouldn’t simply divide the probability evenly among them. You would begin investigating and gathering evidence, and as the evidence mounted, you would eliminate some suspects and narrow the pool. Eventually you might only have 2 or 3 suspects, and hopefully the evidence would point more strongly at one particular suspect. You might say that there’s a 70% likelihood that this particular suspect is guilty, and there’s a small chance that the other remaining suspects are guilty. That may not yet be sufficient for conviction, but it would certainly be adequate to justify a belief in the guilt of that suspect. I think the same is true with religion. As we gather more and more evidence and arguments, we can eliminate certain “suspects” and narrow the field to a few candidates. Eventually, we may find that there is much more evidence in support of a particular religion, raising its likelihood above that of the others and providing sufficient support for belief.

Are We All Exclusive?

us and them arroganceLet me offer one additional thought about arrogance and religion. Exclusivists get a bad rap because they draw a line separating “us” (those who are correct) from “them” (those who are incorrect). Pluralists argue that it is better to avoid drawing lines and think of all religions as true. But whether they realize it or not, pluralists are also drawing a line. On one side are the pluralists (those who are correct) and on the other side is everyone who disagrees (those who are incorrect, which would include most of the Abrahamic traditions). No matter what your position, you will have to draw a line between your group and everyone who disagrees with your group. We are all exclusivists! So, if being an exclusivist makes you arrogant, we are all arrogant. Alternatively, maybe it isn’t arrogant to be an exclusivist.

In conclusion, if you claim to be right about something, and you have good reasons for your claim, then I don’t think you are necessarily arrogant. You should still exercise prudence in how you present your claim—attitude, tone of voice, body language, etc.—because you can still appear (or be) arrogant even if your belief is justified (and even true!). This applies to politics, science, religion and just about anything.

Changing People’s Minds

blaise pascal persuade

I came across this article about Blaise Pascal’s persuasion “trick” a few months ago and loved it. (The title is a bit click-baity, but the principle is sound.) Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian. (Check out his wiki here.) An impressive fellow, to say the least.

I won’t try to summarize the article, but if you enjoy engaging in lively discussions about important things with people who disagree with you (and actually hope to persuade), then this is worth a read! Groundbelief.com exists to help people learn how to communicate with each other about religion, politics, etc. without resorting to emotional outbursts, alienation and violence. This essay about Pascal exemplifies this spirit. You may also be interested in reading about Pascal’s famous argument for belief in God: Pascal’s Wager. For an easy primer, go here. For a more challenging and detailed discussion, go here.

 

Dealing with Dissonance

psycho dissonanceWho can forget the menacingly repetitive theme from the film “Psycho.” Sonic dissonance creating tension and setting our teeth on edge. Extreme dissonance is useful for horror films and car horns, but it’s not the sort of thing you can listen to for long. Ideas can be dissonant as well. Ideas or thoughts in the mind that contradict or conflict in some way can cause mental and psychological irritation. We want to press ‘mute’ on them, as we do with disturbing music.

fight even matchA frequent cause of this cognitive dissonance is disagreement with others—especially someone we consider to be an intellectual peer. A person is my ‘intellectual peer,’ roughly, when they are just as smart as me and have the same information I have. The other day, I read a story about a well-known atheist blogger who would be considered an intellectual peer by most atheists. The story explained how this blogger had recently converted from atheism to Christian theism.  I’ve encountered stories like hers before, including my own, and when I talk to my atheist friends about these stories, they typically insist that the conversion must be due to some failure of reason. Why insist this? Often, it is a way to “mute” the cognitive dissonance that arises when you are faced with the following two ideas:

  • There are no good reasons to believe in God.
  • Fiona is an intellectual peer who believes in God for good reasons.

Understand, though, that this problem plagues humans indiscriminately. Religious believers as well as atheists are susceptible. We can generalize it to apply to anyone:

(1*)  There are no good reasons to believe X.

(2*)  Tom is an intellectual peer who believes X for good reasons.

“X” can be Christian theism, or atheism, or flat-earth theory. The point being that these two incompatible thoughts grate against each other like nails on a chalkboard in our mind. We need to resolve the tension, so what do we do? We can revise (2*) and simply “downgrade” the other person, saying to ourselves, thinking hard“they just aren’t as smart or well-informed as I am.” This can alleviate the cognitive dissonance. But if we had trusted them as an intellectual peer in the past, it isn’t reasonable to downgrade them simply because they now disagree with you. After all, if you are peers (as you had every reason to believe), then you’re just as likely to get things wrong as they are. To downgrade due to disagreement is intellectual hubris.

Instead, consider withholding on or revising (1*). A more reasonable and stable position to hold would be

(1**) I have no good reasons to believe X.

Consider that there may be good reasons to believe X that you don’t know about. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your own worldview—it simply means you investigate further. You can justifiably maintain your theism or atheism (or agnosticism) and take some time to look into the reasons given for the person’s conversion. But one must be prepared to adjust one’s beliefs depending on the outcome of that investigation.

music composition

Cognitive dissonance is, ultimately, an inescapable part of being human. Instead of trying to instantly quash its unpleasantness, recognize it as a friend that pushes us toward the truth and keeps us from becoming intellectually stagnant. We should learn to appreciate it just as we appreciate musical dissonance (not necessarily the “Psycho” variety) and its capacity to create movement and beauty by elevating tension and releasing it into a (more) harmonious conclusion. When we respond patiently and thoughtfully to dissonance, we improve our ability to resolve it into something constructive and beautiful.

Cromwell’s Rule

CromwellI beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

~Oliver Cromwell, in a letter to the Synod of Scotland

I remember the day I first learned to ask a crucial question during a conversational argument. Locked in a fervent discussion about religion, my interlocutor and I had logged hours of circling around the same issues. I despaired of making any headway. Then it dawned on me—the question! It was this: “Do you think it is possible that you’re wrong?” He answered “no,” and I politely ended the conversation.

Of course, I’ve put the same question to myself: “Is it possible that I’m wrong on this issue?” And I have to say, “yes.” Doesn’t this seem reasonable? After all, the evidence of my fallibility grows daily. I think this assumption, that one could be wrong, is crucial to any productive argument. The only exception being an argument about the fact of my own current existence—if I’m wrong about that one, then all (my) bets are off. Literally.

Cromwell’s Rule

Dennis Lindley (1923-2013), a British statistician, coined the term “Cromwell’s Rule” regarding this crucial assumption. Lindley was concerned about formally calculating probabilities rather than persuasive argument, but his “rule” helps make a good point. You should never assume (unless something is true by definition, like “2+2=4” or “all unmarried men are bachelors”) that something is impossible (or necessarily true), because it renders you practically immune to new evidence to the contrary. Rather, you should leave a little epistemic space for even extremely unlikely scenarios

Doctor WhoHere’s an illustration. In an episode of the popular sci-fi TV show Doctor Who (“Midnight”), a group of tourists travel via ground shuttle to visit the famed emerald waterfalls of the planet Midnight. When the shuttle stalls and knocking sounds are heard on the hull, a scientist on board (Hobbes) tries to reassure them that no living thing could be knocking on the hull because no living thing could survive the lethal “galvanic radiation” that bathes the planet’s surface. As the evidence mounts that the shuttle is under attack by an intelligent being, the scientist simply cannot bring himself to even admit this possibility, despite its being obvious to everyone else aboard. Hobbes remains trapped in his fundamental assumption about life on Midnight, unable to assimilate even the evidence of his own eyes and ears.

Sandy Heads

Religious skeptics, believers and political pundits often fall prey to this same mistake. We could call it intellectual pride, hubris, or plain old stubbornness. Utterly convinced of our position, we blockade ourselves against new evidence like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the stand. Even if it turns out that our belief is true in this instance, the habit of ignoring Cromwell’s Rule makes us vulnerable to error in the future. Good thinking and arguing, for those who are genuine truth-seekers, must include some openness to our own fallibility.