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.
When discussing gay rights I often find myself embroiled in the choice vs ‘born that way’ arguments. I have spent years explaining the biology of genetics and the science which shows strongly that homosexuality is at least strongly influenced by biology (i. e. no or very little choice).
I am now labeling that exercise and those discussions a completely irrelevant waste of time. I no longer care and no one else should. Very simply since I am hetero I can choose to marry whom ever I want to , old/young (within reason, skinny/normal/plump, blond/brunette, brown/black/tan/white/??, bald/brunette/blond, etc. . In exactly the same vein why should my choices be limited due to the sex of the person I choose as long as they consent to the event?
I expect that the counter arguments will center on “well then what if i prefer sheep can I marry one?” and “well what if I want to marry 12 women?”. On the former sheep (as well as the underage) cannot ‘consent’ and therefore are excluded. On the latter because of the legal implications of marriage making a change to allow polygamy or polyandry would be practically complex. If this discussion is one we want to have as a society we could do so and I do not see that it would be impossible to implement in time. The ‘poly’ questions however are independent of the same sex questions, either could be done without the other.
I am utterly amazed at the continual consternation and confusion concerning the question of Same Sex Marriage (SSM). Rationally it is clear and simple.
- In order to prohibit SSM there needs to be some reason
- The reasons must be either social (allowing SSM damages society as a whole or individuals in some manner) or religious
- If the reasons are religious any laws based on them are unconstitutional
- Therefore in order to prohibit SSM there must be societal issues
After years and years of these discussion I have heard only 2 societal reasons
- Marriage is for procreation and SSM does not pair humans who can procreate
- SSM makes some people very upset because they are disturbed by it
#1 is clearly not a valid reason since we allow infertile people to marry and #2 is simply no reason at all
Thus clearly and simply Same Sex Marriage cannot be prohibited in an rational manner and must be allowed.
(link to letter in Tennessean)
In a free country with the kind of diversity that we have we will never have complete agreement on policies and goals. While that is somewhat personally frustrating (hey I am human like anyone and I think my opinions are the ‘right’ ones) I believe that it is our diversity of opinions which allows the creation of great ideas, but not if we are not telling the truth to one another about what we stand for and why. Not if we do not have all the facts before we decide. Not if people are being intellectually dishonest.
While this issue is not limited by belief or point of view (Liberal/Conservative, Democrat/Republican, Theist/Atheist) this article on our Congress voicing an opinion concerning Vanderbilt’s non-discrimination policy is an especially clear example. How can people who are for less government hold this position? How can they look themselves in the mirror and not feel ashamed about their duplicity? Obviously those Republicans (in this case) are being dishonest about their motivations.
To our legislatures and leaders I must say. ”Please please can you just stand for what you honestly believe and act in accordance with those beliefs?” If you do as I ask then we the people can make decisions. As long as you continue to be intellectually dishonest the great wisdom that has made the USA successful is subverted and useless.
Homo Sapiens(us peoples) is the most successful current animal species. While there are many reasons for this, I believe that the most significant is our drive to find patterns in our world. It is this which has allowed us to learn, pass that information down through the generations, and control our world. As with any trait that enhances survivability, this is encoded in our genes as a basic drive and is enforced through the emotions. We naturally feel very uncomfortable when we cannot understand or at least identify what we encounter.
A child is largely a pattern black hole and will accept whatever is presented to it as truth. These early imprints are basic to the child's sense of well being and will be ever present. It is however, the deniers (Holocaust, Evolution, Moon Landing, 9/11) and cults who have learned to effectively apply this to adults. I have noticed that the same method is used regardless or the belief. There is no difference if the goal is to get, Patty Hearst to participate in a bank robbery, a captured US soldier to fight for the North Vietnamese, Intelligent Design to be taught in our public schools.
Step one, Remove the person’s previous beliefs on that subject
For example show that the level of poison gas residue in the gas chambers was less than that required to even de-louse the prisoners so it could not have been a death chamber for humans. Perhaps point out that the Piltdown man was a fake, or that we still do not know exactly how the pyramids were constructed. The key here is in the breaking down of the patterns that the individual previously held to be true. Because no one is an expert in everything it is relatively easy to come up with reasonable sounding factoids that imply an existing pattern is incorrect. It is easy easy to nibble at the edges of science because at the edges there is much speculation that is latter found to be false. The imprinter can even generally accomplish their goal without directly lying. Thus the ID’rs can show that some of the concepts of Darwin were not correct and evolution is fake (since the Piltdown man was) and the Holocaust denier can use the facts about the gas ovens without mentioning that it actually takes much more poison gas to kill a louse than a human.
Step two, provide replacement patterns
Now provide an explanation that makes some kind of sense for primarily emotional reasons (the Jews inflated the numbers killed in order to get more sympathy, since we do not know every detail about Evolution it must be that God Did it). The person subjected to this treatment will be driven to accept the new ideas by their basic need to understand and VOILA! the concept is now accepted as correct.
What these people are doing is simply brainwashing and it works. It works because it uses one of our most basic drives. Inoculation against this technique is available. It is called information. Equip yourselves with the all facts you can afford and use those who have a larger budget. Listen to the experts who have the time and training and believe them even if their information does not make you comfortable. Just as we take bad tasting medicine for our long term benefit, we sometimes must accept that the truth is under no obligation to make us comfortable. Please do not allow our strong natural need to understand to be used to your disadvantage.
I have been listening to the religious station here in Nashville, WCRN and I see a clear method to their style ;
Create a phrase that is made up of reasonable English words each of which taken individually is generally understood and then use that phase repeatedly in a forceful authoritative manner with strong group pressure.
The people listening will not understand what is meant but since it is delivered from a person who is seen as an authority figure. They assume that it means something significant. The peer pressure to understand and normalize behavior is huge and these confused people will not ask questions because;
1)These groups are generally about top down control and questions are not encouraged. 2)No one wants to appear ignorant to the fellow members of the group. 3)The answers are famously vague and confusing and so they cannot be actually ‘understood’ .
The listener eventually internalizes the emotional content of the message without ever understanding the phrase. They feel more powerful since they can appear to understand what others do not while in reality they have added nothing to their ability to understand the world and worse yet have will no longer search for useful answers because they now know the ‘Truth’. While there are thousands of examples, two of my favorites are the The Trinity and “Vibrations”( as used by the new agers).
The Trinity teaches that God is three entities in one being (The Father The Son and The Holy Spirit). There is no firm definition of the Holy Spirit even by normally unusable religious standards. As in math one undefined term immediately make the entire phrase undefined and therefore meaningless. Next we have the term Father. In this context ‘Father’ means God. Using a term that means God to define God is circular and again meaningless. Of course we all know what ‘son’ means, right? But here it cannot mean anything biological or legal so once again we arrive at meaninglessness. I am reminded of a friend who tells the story (perhaps apocryphal) of asking his priest about the Trinity. After some preliminary questions the priest takes him aside, He is excited to be getting the answer finally and the priest bursts his bubble with “It’s a mystery”. Needles to say this person is no longer a practicing Catholic. However, this definition fits perfectly the requirements mentioned above. It seems to mean something, the words are common English, but it is pure gibberish.
I know exactly what the term vibrations means. It represents some object which is periodically doing something(generally oscillating between a small number of states) over a measurement of some sort (almost always time) . The musical note A is defined as the sound made when air vibrates 440 times per second as the result of something else vibrating itself at that rate. The new agers have taken this term and use it ad nauseam for the reasons I mentioned above. However they make no effort to define what it is that is vibrating over what period. The result is a universal word that can be inserted in almost any sentence to support anything without any concern about being incorrect since it has real basis in reality. They have successfully redefined the word to have no meaning whatsoever so that they can use it to manipulate others.
As my anti-hero Russ Limbaugh is fond of saying “WORDS MEAN SOMETHING”. We should all be very suspicious when people of authority create meaningless phrases which they cannot define. Whenever you see this recognize that the emperor has no clothes because purpose is not to inform but to control