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The (d)evolution of argument

March 6, 2013

Contrary to popular opinion, I love argument. I love the process, the exchange of ideas, the evidentiary support, the dissection of information and the swaying of opinions. I love how heated people get, because they drop their facades and tell you how they really feel and think about a subject. It’s one of the few times you can really judge someone’s character outside of their colorful and carefully crafted metaphors of desirable qualities. It also speaks to their intellectual integrity and subjective biases. To steal a quote for a moment; “The only way you can truly know someone is to fight them.”

When it comes to arguing for ideologies or beliefs, I’ve seen arguments go one of two ways. Either it evolves, or it devolves.

Example of evolution…

I saw something interesting in Wikipedia recently, the discussion regarding the “violence against men” article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Violence_against_men_%283rd_nomination%29

It was a page that was deleted because it was… a rant? Most of the votes supported its deletion. Not really sure, just from what I’m gathering on the situation.

It came back.

It was deleted again because it was more point of view than academic. The majority of the votes supported its deletion.

It came back.

Now there’s another discussion about deleting it again. The majority of votes support keeping it.

The discussion is evolving. It starts with one angry man being upset about something that happened to him. It continues with another man discussing his perspective a little less angrily. It continues with a few more men comparing their issues. It continues to the point where statistical evidence for their grievances becomes apparent.

But while the proponents of a position may evolve their arguments, the opponents might not do so. The discussion has evolved to the point where it’s obvious enough the counter-arguments subvert the issue by claiming the opposing ideology is the only solution (odd to say the least). Or that, to quote one of the commenters; “The subject is so broad as to be meaningless” and another; “This article’s existence only serves to detract from women who are victims of violence. This would do better as a subsection of Violence Against Women rather than its own article. Men as victims of violence is not an issue, as it is human nature.

First of all, how is “violence against men” so broad as to be meaningless, when “violence” has its own article? Surely “violence” is even more broad than “violence against men”? What about “violence against women”; surely by this commenter’s logic it’s too broad a topic as to be utterly meaningless?

And the second comment… I think it speaks for itself. The level of logical fallacies it uses measure into the double digits. It pains me to know this person is an “editor” of what’s supposed to be ‘unbiased’ information.

I expect every argument to demonstrate its merit. If it fails in doing so, it is welcome to reassess the grounds it was built upon and try it again. Good positions are capable of withstanding inquiry, easily provide evidence to support itself, and adjusts accordingly based on new information (especially contrary). Logical argument very much functions the same way the scientific method does. Logic and Science pretty much go hand in hand.

But when you encounter something that was never logical to begin with, you can see the devolution of argument through other examples…

The virgin birth was a miracle of god!

Actually, there’s an explanation for that; http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2007/12/can_a_virgin_give_birth.html but more probable; http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Can_you_get_pregnant_if_you_are_a_virgin

But that was a pretty quick example wasn’t it? I admit it, but it demonstrates the mindset that people use to create reasons for something beyond their understanding (seriously though; *that* was the explanation they came up with at the time? How gullible can you be… oh, right… http://www.geekologie.com/2010/05/woman-tells-husband-she-got-pr.php ).

Ok, here’s a really quick and dirty example…

Ra’s will rises the sun from the East.
That’s actually the rotation of the Earth.
Ra’s will makes the Earth rotate!
That’s actually the gravitational forces being exerted from the sun.
Ra’s will creates gravity!
Gravity is actually created by mass (one theory anyway).
Ra created mass!
Actually mass is merely the measurement of a collection(or single) of particles forming to something of a determinant size.
Ra created the building blocks of reality!
And how do you know this?
Because Ra is all-powerful!
Ok, I think were done here.
Ra wills it!

So… commonly known as ‘shifting the goal posts’; the “argument” (and I stretch to call it such) continually moves into positions which eventually reach the unfalsifiable territory. Which makes them purely theoretical, and should be treated as such. Something prevented without evidence, can be rejected without evidence.

This isn’t just a religious thing; you can find this in politics of all sorts. Pretty much anywhere where there is opposing or alternative ideologies this will exist. Sometimes at the exact same time (take a gander as *any* political debate).

It’s certainly not the only way a position devolves. But they always entail some kind of logical fallacy. It’s why we call them “fallacies”; because they’re bullshit. And they should be treated like the bullshit they are.

Going back to my love of argument; people hate to be proven wrong. It’s so engrained onto the human psyche that it devastates us on not just the psychological, but emotional and even physical levels. Often times people will die (and have died) to preserve an ideology that is so entwined with their reality. The fear of the unknown is so potent that various fantasies are concocted to placate the insignificance of our ability to understand the world we live in. How true that people fear what they do not understand.

It is OK to be wrong. I’ve been wrong many, *many* times. And I’m sure I will be wrong many times to come in my life. Sure I’ll be stubborn about certain things, but good argument and evidence will almost always sway my opinion to support what makes the most scientific sense. Other times I’ll probably just admit to not giving a shit and ask you to let me have my little slice of fire breathing Dragons; because I like fire breathing Dragons.

I kind of also dig Ra (but my heart still belongs to Anubis); I just don’t go around spreading doctrine about him in the face of *overwhelming* evidence contrary to claims about him. A lot of people do with their own versions of Ra. Something they dreamed up into a position that can’t be disproved to prove it’s validity; which isn’t just fallacious, which isn’t just contradictory, but it’s just plain stupid.

And what really gets me, is not that people will believe this kind of shit, but that we have this overwhelming need to get over people to believe in the same shit; just so we can validate our beliefs! “Say’s the man writing a blog.” Quiz time folks, what fallacy is that?

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