Is it true that it is possible to cook up a lot of logical arguments on any given topic?

Speaking to what I think is the heart of your question, let me relate a story from my early twenties….

I was trying to do research on something and sought resources at a university library. This was back in the 1980s when most periodicals, research journals and abstracts were put on microfiche for longterm storage. When I asked about available research, I was led down to a very large basement room full of filing cabinets, with a narrow isle down the middle of the room. I explained to my guide (a graduate student working at the library) what I was looking for: some data on the environmental impacts of various common chemicals on wildlife, ecosystems, habitats and so forth. He then asked, without any hint of sarcasm, “What kind of data are you looking for?” I was confused. I said I was trying to understand what the actual impacts were over time. He shrugged and pointed first to one side of the room, then to the other, saying, “On that side of the room you will find all of the government-funded academic research, and on this side of the room you will find all of the privately-funded research.” He began to walk away, and being young and naive, I still didn’t understand what was going on. I laughed nervously and asked, “Why is it set up this way, instead of just by research topic?” The grad student paused on the way back up the steps and said, “If you want research to support one side of the argument, stick to the stacks on one side of the room. Each side will provide different conclusions that…basically contradict each other.” And with that he was off.

In this case, it wasn’t just logical arguments, it was decades of “scientific research” that supported opposing conclusions. How was this possible?

I think that may be what your psychologist was getting at. Once we begin to frame a given topic a certain way, it is very easy to cherry-pick new information to conform with our frame. This is sometimes called post-rationalization or confirmation bias, but it’s really just “wanting to see what we want to see.” And humans are very good at this. So what for one person is a “logical” justification for their beliefs simply doesn’t hold the same sway for someone else; the logic isn’t persuasive. Nevertheless, it is quite easy - and common - for people to accumulate gobs of “logical” arguments to support whatever position they have decided to take, and then resist any “logic” that opposes their position. A close friend to this pattern of self-justification is cognitive dissonance - for which we humans also can have a very high tolerance.

I think this is one reason why the concept of “discernment” was developed over time - to counter what may seem logical at first, but really doesn’t make any sense. Discernment…and ultimately wisdom…combines different modes of perception, intelligence and assessment to reach a tentative conclusion about something that logic alone may not be able to reach. It is a skill that takes time to develop, and is supported by certain innate abilities like empathy, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, somatic intuition, social intelligence, general intelligence, and analytical skills.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-it-is-possible-to-cook-up-a-lot-of-logical-arguments-on-any-given-topic/answer/T-Collins-Logan
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