Monday, July 30, 2012

Argument Clinic

Recently I've been trying to spread the good word to a variety of theistic blogs and have hit a wall. It's a firewall of the mind. My comments are met with an equal and opposite response--regardless of my comment. Once I identify as an atheist, a point I agree with is suddenly morphed into something, anything, I don't. The author disagrees with his past self in order to disagree with me. While this opens up a world of reverse psychology, it's a frustrating trend.

I would guess the average Joe, like myself, skipped debate club in high school. Our arguing skills were first gleamed from our parents, and, depending on the family, this could be very bad thing. Let's ask Google what it means to argue.
ar·gue /ˈärgyo͞o/  verb:
Give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one's view.
This is the first definition of argue from the big G. In terms of linguistic pagerank, that makes it credible. Notice that argue does not mean simply "to disagree." One can be a master debater (heh) and not a contrarian.

YouTube also has something to say on the subject. Below is a Monty Python sketch that illustrated exactly what I'm dealing with. Exhibit A: John Cleese.


  1. I hear what you are saying Grundy. It seems like most of my conversations with theists go down that road. It is quite frustrating. In situations like that I try to apply Occam's razor to the argument if I can. It is much easier to keep things on track and call out contradictions in logic if we can keep the subject to one thing at a time. I find debates get much more murky when several topics and trains of thought are introduced.

    Lastly--I had not seen that video before. It has made my day!

  2. "The author disagrees with his past self in order to disagree with me."

    When this happens, have you tried simply pointing out the fact. "you said 'A' but then later you said 'not A'"?

    1. Then they pull a John Cleese and say "no I didn't."

      Even when there is a written record, it's amazing.

    2. I hate that. I guess you can only hope that someone watching the discussion can see that they are being dishonest. Sometimes it's not about the person you are arguing with, but the people who are watching.

      I've had that happen on a few blogs, I just took them off my feed. Too frustrating. Finding a Christian blog where you can actually have a conversation is so freaking difficult.

    3. I think this is why I like arguing on the internet. It reminds me of why my girlfriend says that she likes contacting parents of the kids she teaches via email since it is all documented. A few times, she's had the parent say one thing or she will tell them something and then the parent will say that she said something else, which is usually absurd.

      Maybe this plays into confirmation bias a bit. Sometimes, our knee jerk reaction when we see something we don't agree with is to just disagree. I think its a really hard habit to break. Growing up, I was a very conservative catholic. When I say conservative, I mean I listed to Michael Savage on the radio and read books by Ann Coulter. Please don't judge me. I decided to read some books from the other side of the isle. This helped me take off my "glasses" and get another perspective. I think it's always a really good idea to look for criticism of any belief or stance you have. The world is not black and white. I don't know where I was going with that.. I apologize for rambling.

  3. I think it is dispiriting to try and use reason to argue with people who are at heart anti-rationalists. Someone who says, "I believe," rather than "These facts show ...," during a debate can seldom be convinced of anything, even if your logic is pristine.

    1. There are 2 points I'd like to make in response to this, one is that in a public forum like the web, you never know who is watching. Even if you don't convince the person you are arguing with, there could be someone who sees it and changes their mind. Second, even if you don't convince someone on the spot, you never know if you have planted a seed in their mind. When I was still a Christian I had the occasional debate with people and I never backed down at the time. But the ideas did get into my brain. Having those debates did contribute to my mind being changed, but I bet the people I talked to at the time walked away saying "that idiot is a lost cause"