Someone on Facebook with whom I often have disagreements recently opened with ” Oh good God, Wendell! Why do you want to argue about everything.” . It occurred to me that that is an interesting question so here is my answer.
In short it is that I only argue about things that you post which are factually and or logically incorrect. In more detail I ‘discuss’ these things for three reasons;
1) I personally want to live my life taking actions that create the result I desire as much as possible. To do this it is essential that my understanding of the world (my beliefs) be as accurate possible. I have over the years accumulated a set of things that I believe to be true. Because of confirmation bias and selective reading (things all humans do ) the only effective way for me to eliminate my false beliefs is to discuss them with others. I do this with many people but the most important discussions are the ones with those who disagree with me. Those that agree and I will unconsciously ‘conspire’ to keep us in ignorance while my ‘enemies’ will do everything they can to prove me wrong. The net result of extended talks with people trying to ‘catch’ me is that I am incrementally able to advance my knowledge (when they are correct in proving me mistaken) and move closer toward my goal (which I will never 100% achieve) of believing in only things that are true.
2) As humans are social animals I live in a society with thousands, millions, billions of other humans. I and my family and loved ones and progeny are affected by the actions of those others and the everyone bases their decisions on their beliefs. Thus it is vitally important that I do all I can to indicate when other people hold beliefs which are not correct. When someone posts something indicating that GMO’s are bad it influences other people to take actions which are harmful to society and eventually myself and my own. I counter their posts with evidence to help other readers make an informed and more accurate decision as to their own beliefs.
3) I enjoy the intellectual challenge of the debate. I am not sure why exactly perhaps it is my competitive nature? I also get satisfaction from solving intellectual puzzles and sometimes it takes considerable thought to understand what logically is incorrect about some beliefs.
Recently I see that some massage parlors have been raided because apparently the massages went further than what is strictly allowed of a sexual nature. I must ask simply, why? Why do we have laws on the books limiting what services an adult is allowed to sell? It cannot be for the protection of the ‘seller’ since we allow people to work in coal mines and other dangerous places (like the NFL or MMA). It cannot be for forcing people to work against their nature (trafficking) because no one has been charged with that admittedly horrible crime. Could it be that the people in charge people know the best way to control a population is to control their sexuality? If the problem is that the people running them tend to be criminals or that there are health issues, then the answer is to stop forcing only criminals to run such businesses and to regulate the health issues just as we do in other bushiness. Please will someone explain to me a single rational reason that adults are not allowed to freely choose to choose whatever work they wish as long as doing so harms no one.
In the abortion debates much time is spent discussing personhood. While I do not agree that a fetus is a person, even if it is, abortion must be allowed. In our society no person may use another’s body without consent. If for example you are dying and only my blood will save you I can refuse for religious reasons and I will not be prosecuted. My right to determine the use my body is inviolate. Thus to be intellectually honest we must allow a woman the complete right to determine the use of her body. If we cannot force her to allow a 2 or 12 or 60 year old person to use her body against her will we CANNOT do so for a fetus.
Despite all the rhetoric concerning religious organizations and the ACA, I find that almost no one knows the facts of what the groups are being asked to do. First please understand that actual churches are exempt. The other groups are being asked to do one thing and one thing only. They are being asked to fill in a form indicating that they are religiously affiliated and opposed to their insurance plan providing contraception. Once that is done their insurance company (or another party) will contact their employees. If the employee want coverage it will be provided from the third party directly to the employee. There is no further requirement/cost/action required from the religious organization. After the form filing They are not involved in any manner. The process will be identical to the employee getting a separate policy on their own. Is it reasonable to deny the employee even the right to get their own coverage? That is exactly what those who are against this are suggesting. I repeat there is no violation of any church policy because the religious group is not being required to do anything except verify that they want to not have coverage. For the life of me I cannot figure out what the anti-coverage people are even upset about, there literally is no there, there!
Here in the USA there is no ‘War on Christmas’, no ‘War on Christians’, and no ‘War on Religion’. There is only a war on inequality and in support of the Constitution. This is the time of year when we see many stories about how the horrible Atheists and Secularists are fighting to destroy everything the religious hold sacred.
The problem to me seems to be that if one group (the Christians) have been abusing their power by doing things which are unfair and illegal for a long enough time, they forget that what they are doing is wrong. It is as if your neighbor built a fence that encroaches on your property. For years he enjoys his extra large yard and then when you have the property surveyed and his fence torn down he throws a fit over your ‘taking’ away his land.
The truth is
- Religious displays on government property are illegal unless any group that wants can add their own display so the Satanists are in the right in Oklahoma
- Any group that wants can advertise that Christmas without religion (no Christ) is still a lot of fun and in fact almost everything we do at Xmas was ‘borrowed’ by the Christians (the sign in New York)
- Any private organization can instruct it’s employs to greet shoppers however they wish (“Happy Holidays”).
None of this is taking anything away from anyone that was rightfully theirs in the first place. So can we all just relax and admit that the whole thing is only a manufactured conflict to raise Fox News’ and others’ ratings?
Since at least 2008 I have participated in a wonderful and moving event at the Renascence Center in Dickson. As part of the world wide recognition of the horror of AIDS they display some sections of the AIDS quilt and my choir Nashville In Harmony performs. Pausing to read the quilts and remember those who have passed is an important part of my Christmas Season. This year we (NIH) have not been invited to perform and it appears from a web search that no event is scheduled for World Aids Day. I had wondered why and then I read in this morning’s paper that the center is now owned by a college affiliated with the Churches of Christ. This denomination in my experience and Wikipedia’s is complete against homosexuality in all cases and consider it a sin against God. While I cannot prove that the two events are related it is hard to imagine that they are not. Furthermore I must say that I am very concerned that a center devoted to Technology/Science/Art is now owned by an institution affiliated with a group which teaches that the earth was created in 7 days, women should be subservient to men and musical instruments are banned from church services. I am hoping that I will be proven wrong but at this point I feel that Science and equality have just suffered a setback.
A blogger whom I respect greatly (PZ Meyers Pharyngula ) asks “Who Deserves Honor” . His piece is so well written I can do no better than to restate his opening line “Today is the day when nations around the world pause to celebrate their most colossal failures, the events that killed the greatest numbers of their citizens, that broke and crippled their men after they’d been intentionally trained to dehumanize other human beings”. Yesterday (11/11) I thanked my father for his sacrifice in WWII and that is truth. Even more true is that the most honor should fall to those who have dedicated their lives to stopping the madness that swallowed up my father’s generation. A popular phrase these days is “American Exceptionalism” . Along with “My Country Right or Wrong” or “America Love it Or Leave it” these memes and the emotional attachments that we (and those in other countries) have to them are at the root of the horrors. Are we exceptional? Yes sometimes, but so are people all around the world and sometimes we are much much worse than average. It is time for us to stop pretending that Patriotism is following whatever path the leaders say is ‘right’ without regard to details and recognize that those who are willing to endue the hate of their fellows in order to demonstrate the truth about wars and the reasons we fight them, those are the real Patriots.
The overriding question is simple. Are there aspects that are so intrinsic to a person’s being (physically or mentally) and irrelevant to their ability to do a job that the fact of such aspects should not be allowed to affect that person’s employment? As a culture we have answered this question yes and established race, age, sex and religion as such. Now the Senate has passed ENDA and determined that sexual orientation and presentation should be included. By all predictions our illustrious House of Representatives does not have the guts to even take a vote on this, why? Either they do not believe in the principle stated above (and thus the current laws) or they are acting just to satisfy their own irrational prejudices or those of their constituents. Since I hear no one calling for repeal of the current laws concerning job discrimination I must deduce that prejudice and it’s accompanying fear are the driving forces behind their actions. While I am certainly not surprised at this , it is extremely disheartening to see how many people continue to act without logic because of their non fact based emotional responses. While some social issues can be complex (abortion) this one is so clear cut that anyone who is against it (again without being against established law) has no reasonable defense and must admit (at least to themselves), their irrationality.
With the recent developments in Iran I have been more optimistic about our relations and the problems that their nuclear program causes. Today I heard a news report about the conservative fundamentalists in Iran who are practically rioting in the streets to protest any improved relations with the West. Wow, I thought, those Muslim conservative are always the problem (9/11, Benghazi, Egypt, Terrorism in general…). Then on second thought I realized that it is not just a Muslim issue but that fundamentalist Christians prevent my gay friends from marrying and some have killed doctors, Jewish Ultraconservatives spit at little girls who are going to school because their skirts are too short, Buddhist Fundamentalists burn down Hindu temples (and vice versa), and on and on. As a general statement it is always the conservative fundamentalists everywhere and for all times who are doing the things I consider evil. When are we going to finally throw off the shackles of our brutish uneducated history and realize that liberal (in the dictionary definition not the political one) progressive and humanistic approaches are the only path to happier and healthier humans?
The DK effect is a cognitive error where those who are less skilled have a more definite unshakable conviction in their opinions than the experts. This is likely caused by the unskilled not being skilled enough to see their mistakes while the skilled understand the full complexity of the issue and recognize the possibility of mistakes. In our culture excellent examples (among hundreds) are the anti ACA people who are certain it will destroy the budget and health-care while the experts say it will save money, the anti GMO protesters who call GMO crops poison while the biologists and food professionals indicate that there is no danger, and those who demand that, despite the complete consensus by all trained biologists and scientists in every field, biblical creation (or some variation thereof) be taught at least along side of evolution. In our complex world we can not all know everything. If we are to live in a society where we have made the best choices, we cannot afford to let our personal preferences get in the way of the truth. When the skilled agree, making decisions based on our unskilled opinions is detrimental to our health.