Speculation & Power: The Case of Paul Pelosi

Scientists make speculations to generate ideas to test empirically. Their speculations are within the bounds of what is already known. The rest of us, not so much. Our motives are generally not to seek the truth of anything.

Now there are people making public speculations on why Paul Pelosi was attacked in his own home. Why would they do that?

Speculation is a form of motivated reasoning.    

  1. Public speculation hurts people we want to hurt. We care more about that than about the truth. “I’m just saying….”
  2. One motive is to exert power. It sends the message that I can do the same thing to you, so don’t get out of line.
  3. Public speculation demonstrates how smart we are, that we don’t just accept the official word about something like the sheep do. So, if you want to know what is really going on, listen to me, not to them.
  4. We speculate to avoid feeling stupid, that we don’t know the answer to something. We can catch ourselves in this when we hear ourselves saying, “I don’t know, but….” The ethical alternative is to just say, “I don’t know,” and leave it at that. Better to feel stupid than to hurt someone.

We could identify others, but you get the idea.

So why would the likes of Elon Musk, Donald and Donald Jr. publicly speculate on why someone was attacked when they are in no position to actually know anything about it?

I won’t speculate.