Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to Lose Arguments and Alienate People

Everyone wants to be right.  It's just human nature.  But, since being right in any given situation actually requires knowledge and the ability to use it, it's therefore difficult to be right about stuff.  So many people just take shortcuts, because they find it inconceivable that they're not already right.

Like when they've been proven wrong, they'll shift the goalposts and pretend they were making a different point than the one they had been making; sometimes even attempting to grab your goalpost, by pretending that the point you were making was what they were trying to say the whole time.  Or they'll change the subject and just pretend as if you hadn't just shoved their stupid logic down their throats.  Or they'll just go back to repeating the point that you had already refuted, like a broken record that just can't get passed a big scratch in the vinyl.  Because that's pretty much the case.

But there are less obvious tricks than these, and one of the most popular is to define the debate from the start so that it's impossible for them to be wrong.  See, they're the open minded ones.  They're the tolerant ones.  They're the ones just asking questions.  They're the ones listening to reason.  And if you doubt them or disagree with them on any point, then you're obviously being closed minded, intolerant, incurious, and unreasonable.  That's by default, because they already established themselves as all the good things.

But alas, it don't work like that.  You're only the open minded, tolerant, and reasonable one if that's really what you're doing.  And no, if you're doubting the official story about 9/11 and know all the in's and out's of why it's wrong, you're no longer asking questions.  Because if you're genuinely asking questions, you're not already supposed to know the answers.  Same goes for if you're "questioning" Obama's birthplace, Oswald's guilt, or the existence of aliens/ghosts.  

When a Question Isn't a Question

I mean, maybe you're right and Oswald gave birth to Obama's alien ghost baby in Kenya, but if you already have all the answers to the questions, then you're *not* just asking questions; no matter how many question marks you use at the end of your sentences.  At that point, you're making an argument.  And when you're making an argument, you're expected to support it.  That's how it works.  And that's why these people insist they're just asking questions: Because if they admitted they were making an argument, they'd have to defend it and they can't.

And so they can give you all the details on the tensile strength of steel, the temperature at which jet fuel burns, and the position of every camera outside the Pentagon that day.  And yet they can't explain: Why the hell would they use jet airplanes if they were going to plant explosives?  I mean, duh. If they were planting bombs anyway, why bother stealing planes when they could just blame the bombs on Al Qaeda far more easily.  So...why jets?  That's the most basic of questions, yet they can't answer it.  

Or...what the hell was Obama's pregnant mom doing in Kenya, when there's no evidence suggesting she was there?  Did she just prefer their healthcare system?

And when you ask these most basic of questions, they'll just say: Hey, I don't have the answers.  I'm just asking the questions.  That's bullshit.  You're just pretending to ask questions because you can't support even the most basic aspect of your theory.  And if I'm expected to answer every detail of how the eyeball evolved, then you need to answer where God came from and how he did all this shit.  That's how it works.

Theories Require Evidence, Always

And here's the rule: If you're the one making the claim, you have to support it, period.  If you claim God exists, you have to support that claim, or admit that you can't support it.  If you claim God doesn't exist, you have to support that claim, or admit that you can't support it.  And if you can't support it and want to be intellectually honest, you'll just say you can't prove it one way or the other, and so you don't have a theory at all.  That's how it works.  Theories require evidence, always.

But instead, you'll have Christians who insist God exists, and demand for you to disprove it.  Disprove it?  Disprove what?  You haven't given me anything to disprove yet.  You have to provide your support before I'll know what I'm even supposed to be disproving.  Similarly, you'll have atheists who insist God doesn't exist, and demand for you to disprove it.  Disprove what?  Again, you haven't told me what your evidence is, so I don't know what to disprove.  

And no, your personal belief in your theory is *NOT* evidence, no matter how firmly you believe it.  And sadly, I've debated quite a few atheists who had trouble with that idea.  Just because you think God is silly doesn't prove that you're right.

And really, this isn't supposed to be a trick.  It's not a game to see who's stuck having to prove their point.  It's the basic fact that you simply shouldn't make any claim unless you can support it.  Not just in an argument, you shouldn't have a theory at all unless you can support it.  I mean, that's just basic logic.  Why would you think something if you don't know why you think it?

I mean, don't get me wrong.  I'm an open minded guy and will consider the possibility of ghosts or aliens or someone being dumb enough to include Bush in a plan involving treason (or any plan, for that matter), but I'm not going to actually adopt the theory in any way or argue in its favor.  It's just something to think about.  Mental exercise.  And even then, there's no pretense to "asking questions" as the whole point is to think about answers.  But once you've crossed over from "What if aliens are real" to "What is the government hiding about aliens," you better have the proof or you're just wasting everyone's time.

Defining the Debate

And really, just about any debate you'll see isn't really a debate about the subject at all, because the vast majority of people don't even know how to make an argument.  The idea of making a claim, supporting it, and then defending it is entirely beyond their abilities.  Instead, they already "know" they're correct, so if they just repeat themselves enough time, it'll finally sink in that you're wrong for disagreeing with them.

So instead, most debates are really just about both sides trying to claim the open-minded argument.  Not because either side is open-minded, per se.  It's just that they can't defend their claims, so instead they'll force their opponent to defend the claim.  And so they'll say anything they need to to prove that it's their opponent who's already made up their mind, while they're the ones staking the higher ground and keeping an open mind.

Like with the Trayvon Martin shooting.  Liberals were upset because Zimmerman wasn't arrested.  And that makes sense, as even the lead investigator thought he should be arrested, to let a jury decide what happened.  And because that made sense, conservatives had to rearrange the debate.  So instead, they posited that liberals were angry because Zimmerman wasn't convicted.  And in fact, because liberals and the media had so poisoned Zimmerman's name, he shouldn't even be arrested because he won't get a fair trial.  Because yeah, conservatives are always concerned with people getting their name smeared and not getting a fair trial.  [/sarcasm]

Fighting for Homefield Advantage

And at that point, there can be no real debate between liberals and conservatives.  Liberals were arguing a sensible position that he should have been arrested.  Conservatives were arguing a sensible position that Zimmerman hadn't been convicted yet, and should be considered innocent until that time.  And so both sides are laying claim to wanting justice served; even if only one side was being honest about what was going on.

Needless to say, these arguments don't match up, because conservatives intentionally picked an argument that they could win at; even if it wasn't the opposing position of the liberals they were attacking.  All they knew was that liberals were doing something and that was good enough for them to take the opposite side, as it's inconceivable that guys like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson could be right about anything.  And sadly, they went ahead and demonized a seventeen year old murder victim because they hate liberals so much.

And that's what almost every debate I see really is.  It's not two sides picking opposing views and defending their position.  It's like two football teams showing up at their home stadium and arguing over which field they're supposed to play at.  Sure, they're playing games, but it sure ain't football.  Because they're really just fighting to see who's turf they're debating on, as their turf is always the open-minded and reasonable one that doesn't require defending, while the other guy's position is close-minded and impossible to defend.  Not because that's true, but because that's the only possible way they could win a debate.  

Because yeah, people really do take untenable positions they can't possibly defend, and they're generally the last people to realize it.  After all, why would they adopt a position unless it was right?

Starting into this, my original point was about intolerance, and why tolerant people aren't required to tolerate intolerance.  Not that it should need to be said, but intolerant people always make that silly argument and insist I'm a hypocrite for not tolerating their intolerance.  But I'm outta time, so that'll have to wait for another day.  Sorry.

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