On False Choices

Don't you hate it when you're forced into a false choice?

Republican or Democrat?
Coke or Pepsi?
Attractive or Intelligent?
Raise taxes or cut spending?
Complementarian or Egalitarian?
Conservative or Liberal?
Science or faith?
Duke or UNC?
Justice or mercy?
Diet or exercise?
Edward or Jacob?
Friend or enemy?

False choices attempt to eliminate the middle ground, to ignore choices beyond the dichotomy.  It's possible to be neither a Republican nor a Democrat, to prefer Ironbeer over Coke and Pepsi, to be both attractive and intelligent (see my wife).

Our lives are full of false choices.  For the most part, this is because we need efficient ways of navigating the world.  Restricting our options (even arbitrarily), allows us to preserve mental space for more necessary tasks.  Psychologists call these false restrictions "heuristics" (see my post on generalizations for more on this).

But heuristics fail us.  They free us from expending the energy it takes to create new options and the exhaustion that comes from belonging to multiple tribes, but they also entrap and enslave us, are also used to manipulate us.  And some people present false choices for exactly this reason ... they benefit from our restricted pool of options.

What do you do when you are presented with a false choice?


  1. Heh, I'm considering going to grad school in North Carolina.

    So, Duke or UNC?


  2. Duke! Duke! Duke!

    (But, seriously, it's a complex decision. Factor in the specific program, scholarship package and school fit. Get advice and talk to God about it. And, then, pray that everything leads you to Duke.)