The Uncertainty Principle

The Uncertainty Principle holds that, by recognizing and correcting three fallacies—by being a little less sure that we’re right, we can communicate across divides and navigate many difficult conversations.

There are all kinds of ideas out there about why the level of political polarization is so high, why constructive engagement is so difficult, and why mutual understanding often feels impossible. At DPC, we know that viewing these challenges—as many often do—as solely a function of social media, biased news media, information silos, and mis- or disinformation, is to see only the tip of the iceberg.

The solution is not about convincing this person or that group to face up to what we know about the world. A better culture—and better communication—lies in seeing the importance of questioning what it is we think we know in the first place. This is especially relevant for many of the most controversial and sensitive issues we face. These include topics that touch identity, fairness, intent, and equality. In a word, the solution is uncertainty. When certainty is unwarranted (which is far more often than many of us would like to think), progress, discourse, free expression, and democracy itself can quickly become imperiled. 

The Three Fallacies That Make Up The Uncertainty Principle

Uncertainty about what we know

Uncertainty about why people do what they do

The Settled Question Fallacy

The Fallacy of Known Intent

Uncertainty about the role of information

The Fallacy of Equal Knowledge

Because the question isn’t simply: Can we admit we’re wrong? The question is: Can we be a little less sure we’re right?