Sometimes, in the course of a debate or discussion, a secondhand statement comes under consideration. The actors in the debate must then evaluate how relevant that statement is to the their discussion. This happens in media during interviews, in class discussions, on the internet, with friends and family, and beyond. Wherever it happens, you are as likely as not to hear a particular phrase—“no reason to lie.”
“Look, he has no reason to lie.”
“Why would he lie?”
“She doesn’t get anything out of lying about this—she has no reason to.”
However it arises, the implication of the argument that someone “has no reason to lie” is that having no reason to lie is, itself, evidence for truth.
And our understanding of logic and evidence is so bad that we often accept that.
The echo-chambers are echoing loudly of late. Crisis and fear always seem to pick off the scabs of history. In our media and our minds, a slurry of racist, sexist, xenophobic, and islamophobic ideas ooze back to the surface and spill out into the world around us.
I want to write people off when they say such things, and certainly it becomes harder to believe that people can change. I want to write them off because enemies are simple. But people are complicated; we can change, and we do. We just tend to forget that we have, and thus to judge that other people can’t. Simplifying ourselves encourages us to simplify others, reducing them slowly and surely to enemies.
I think a part of the way forward is to look back: to remember our own changes. To talk about them. To wear changing our minds as a badge of honor rather than shame.