Sunday, May 27, 2007

Clear Sound Reason

My blood is at a slightly elevated temperature this fine morning, so forgive me if I come across as slightly harsh or absolute in what I'm about to say. I may reconsider and edit after church, but it's not likely because I tend to find my own prose too beautiful to edit. I'm just warning you in advance, I might come across as a little steamed because, well, I am.

Sometimes, people in the church who are untrained in logic and other systems of reasoning get themselves into debates that they cannot win, mostly because their arguments are based on absolutely nothing, bad research (as in, a source that analyzed five anecdotes and called itself a study), false statistics, or a baseless presumption (these ones usually proceed to make many more baseless presumptions throughout the argument, with no attempt at logically justifying any of them.) As soon as you take the right block out of their Jenga tower, their entire case falls apart because they really only had one contention (with many sub-points) to begin with instead of multiple separate ones.

So what do they do when they realize that they have gotten themselves in over their heads? They have a few options to choose from.

My personal favorite is to pull out a scripture or saying from the prophets and abuse it until it fits into the situation at hand, acting as though it had always been meant to be used in exactly such circumstances. I was once told that because the D&C says we had (at the time of writing) "enough and to spare" of natural resources that we shouldn't worry about things like conservation and Recycling, and that it was OK to waste.

Some people like to say, "Well, I've enjoyed talking about this with you, but I can see that you are just trying to silence my opinion!" or "I'm really not interested in re-evaluating my position on this issue." I'm not trying to silence your opinion, I'm trying to get you to re-evaluate. And if you weren't interested in re-evaluating, you shouldn't have gotten into the debate in the first place. What do you think the point of a debate is?

The one that frustrates me the most is this one. "I think that this conversation is just bringing a spirit of contention, and I don't like the way it makes me feel. We need to stop now." This argument is fair if the conversation hasn't gotten very far and neither side has built a solid case yet. I understand that a lot of people are made uncomfortable by what they perceive to be contention. As a debater, I had to learn that if you get mad at everybody who says that you're wrong and points out holes in your reasoning and the logic in your cases, you won't have anybody to hang out with at tournaments. But I can still see how others get unhappy and feel attacked. Even so, you know how it makes you feel at the beginning. Stop it at the beginning, not deep into the debate when all the points are out on the table and you see how ridiculous/hopeless your case was to begin with.

Of course, there will always be other tricks, but these methods of pulling out of a debate you're losing continually make me want to hurt people. I mean, come on. If you can't hack it, don't get involved is all I'm saying. If you're going to get into a debate, be prepared to stick it all the way out. And if your case isn't built on clear sound reason, then maybe you really do need to re-evaluate. I promise, it doesn't hurt much. Just a quick sting when you realize that something you may have taken for granted your whole life might not be true, and that's all the pain there is.

I finally beat FFXII! Now I'm debating whether to (re)play through IX (my favorite) or V, or Chrono Trigger. Or anything else that I have lying around. Yay for video game culture.


iwonder said...

Yeah, it is incredibly aggravating when the other side refuses to acknowledge that you won.

It seems that they are too afraid to entertain anything that might go make them have to re-evaluate something that is more convenient than true.

Abelard Enigma said...

Back when I was a young whippersnapper, a wise gentleman gave me some very sage advice: Choose your battles carefully.

There are some people who are set in their ways and you're not going to convince them otherwise no matter how ridiculous their reasoning. Debating them is only going to leave you frustrated (like you seem to be now) and them angry (nobody likes to be made a fool of, especially if they are a fool)

playasinmar said...

Nice post. You really seem to be singing my song.

You should go get Shadow of the Colossus. It's only $20. You won't be disappointed!

Brady said...

After I first read this I was going to comment something about "choosing your battles carefully" but then saw that AE beat me to the punch. Oh well.

Choose your battles carefully. That especially means pick your opponents wisely. Some people are just too stubborn to convince. Eventually you have to give up on them. Any good missionary knows this. =)