the biggest communication problem is listening (or not listening)

ODD THE WAY THINGS WORK OUT: I was cruising Face­book ear­lier this morning and stum­bled over a poster. This was be­fore my caf­feine in­take, usu­ally a bad prac­tice: two mugs of Trader Joe’s Dark French Roast with a dollop of honey is how I jump­start the day!

It was a rather well-known state­ment by a fa­mous sci­en­tist to which I took a wee ex­cep­tion: The good thing about sci­ence is that it’s true whether or not you be­lieve in it.

So I com­mented and got a re­sponse from the man (let’s call him DPB) who had up­loaded the poster to his Face­book page. DPB and I had a couple of back-and-forths that left me un­cer­tain as to his in­tent: was DPB making a point be­yond my ability to grasp it, or was DPB just one of those con­fronta­tional people that found his place in the sun (where there’s hope for everyone) on the Internet?

So I vis­ited his Face­book page and I found what ap­pears to be a kin­dred spirit in DPB!

I agreed with most of the is­sues that he ad­dressed on his page and also found the poster that sits at the top of his page: “The biggest com­mu­ni­ca­tion problem is we do not listen to un­der­stand. We listen to reply.”


Here’s the Face­book con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the two of us:

NU: Hmm, if all sci­en­tific hy­poth­esis and theory re­quire fal­si­fi­a­bility, then at any given mo­ment every­thing we think is true about any given topic may not be so, so then how can it al­ways be “true”?

DPB: ‘Truth’ here is an in­cred­ibly scru­ti­nized and highly ob­jec­tive re­ality. Any no­tion of truth re­quires as­sump­tion and lan­guage and no truths have been as honest and pure as the pur­suit of science.

NU: A “highly ob­jec­tive re­ality” that changes with the ac­qui­si­tion of new knowledge.

DPB: That would be the em­phasis on ‘highly’. Can anyone name any­thing that re­motely rep­re­sents an ob­jec­tivity so uni­ver­sally? Not even any­thing close.

NU: Okay, we elim­i­nate one word and the state­ment re­mains so: An “ob­jec­tive re­ality” that changes with the ac­qui­si­tion of new knowledge.

DPB: Can you nail down what con­sti­tutes re­ality in a sharper more con­nec­tive way?

DPB: You can’t elim­i­nate that one word and com­pare it, that is en­tirely the point!!

NU: Um, (1) I may not un­der­stand your ques­tion; (2) if I do, I think we may agree on every­thing but the choice of Mr. Tyson’s words.

DPB: His words are over­sim­pli­fied to make the same point. He does not have much pa­tience for peo­ple’s bizarre dis­tancing from sci­ence and the shared search for shared ‘truths’. His words in the meme need in­ter­pre­ta­tion, kinda like our di­a­logue. 

The point of this post is to il­lus­trate that two people who ini­tially dis­agree on Face­book need not nec­es­sarily lock horns in eternal battle or re­duce one an­other to name-calling …

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