Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)
Charles Darwin once said: "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge." This sounds like a strange idea. Is it true that confidence sometimes signals ignorance? Is it true that people who are very confident about their opinions may actually be more ignorant than people who are less confident? Is there evidence that confidence and ignorance may go hand in hand?
What might this mean? When disagreeing with someone who is very confident about his point of view, it may work counter-productively to argue directly against his views. After all, the person is very confident about being right. In other words, he is ignorant about his ignorance.
I recall when I was working in the lumber camps in Northern Ontario during the summers when I was a teenager, if I raised questions about a view expressed by a coworker it would commonly be interpreted as questioning his integrity resulting in an angry outburst and on occasion a challenge to fight. It was 1947 and 48 when the work was labour intensive and a few hours on the job sufficed to gain the skills required. The average level of education was much lower than it is today and illiteracy was common in the workforce. This in no way limited their confidence in their many convictions. Just don't humiliate them by asking them for an explanation. In the dining room the tradition in the camps was to eat quickly and to remain silent throughout the meal. The reason for this was the history of fights breaking out when views expressed at the table were challenged.
Darwin of course was right; ignorance begets a confidence that cannot be challenged.
Much of what we interpret as political discourse is nothing more than rigid positions taken by mentally limited politicians expressing a fanatical confidence that cannot be challenged. Nothing changes but it is an opportunity for endless babble.