2008-08-23

Opposing views

I recently suggested to a podcaster (whom I am not going to name) that they should have a discussion about an important topic and that I thought it was important to invite people from both sides of the issue. In part because I think it is important to understand why people I disagree with hold the views they do -- and in part because a one-sided discussion isn't really all that interesting. It is mere masturbation.

The podcaster in question didn't seem to be interested in bringing on someone with views opposite of those held by the podcaster and the majority of his audience. The impression I got was that he didn't want to give the opposing view airtime.

How can one defend one's position when one is afraid, or unwilling, to let people who hold different beliefs have their say in an open debate? Indeed, I agree with the positon of the podcaster on the issue in question -- but I still think it is pretty gutless to rule out any dialogue with people one disagrees with.

Belief in humanity today: -1

2 comments:

  1. I think this to some extent depends on the topic. If the topic was "Intelligent Design", I actually agree with the scientist's view that engaging in a discussion with the opposition gives them a level of legitimacy that is not desired nor merited. Also, on some topics people are so entrenched that little good can come of the discussion, viz. "vi vs. emacs" (although that particular one may actually have turned into just "the generic entrenched discussion", while not enlisting the same passion as before; today everybody knows there are better IDEs out there...)

    It would be fascinating to hear what the topic was in your case :)

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  2. The only danger when engaging in discussions where you don't want to legitimize the opposing view is that you might get suckered into arguing on their terms. Whatever the topic of discussion there will always be people who are good at tricking you into a line of arguing where you end up accepting some preposterous premise.

    As for the intelligent design-crowd their preferred tactic seems to be exploiting ignorance (intermediate forms, irreducible complexity, misrepresentations of what we do know versus what we do not know etc) and an all-or-nothing view which has no place in science and thus forms an invalid starting point for scientific reasoning. Science by definition has no room for dogma. Even axioms, which would be the closest thing to dogma, are regarded as highly suspect entities.

    As for Emacs versus VI, everything that needs to be said has been said a thousand times over, so the problem isn't that you don't want to legitimize the opposition (whichever camp that may be), but that nothing further can possibly be added to the discussion :-).

    Actually, the discussion was about photography. Specifically the ever increasing hysteria that leads to photographers rights being violated by overzealous law-enforcement, security guards and the like. My argument was that in order to make any progress you need to bring the people who see photography as a threat into the debate. My suspicion is that hostility towards photographers stem from knee-jerk reactions and faulty reasoning about security and if you force people to present a coherent argument they will either realize how unreasonable their fears are, or failing that, their faulty reasoning can be dismantled to the point where they would be ashamed to support nonsensical positions.

    I can understand that some people choose to embrace the romantic notion of being a "rebel" rather than engaging in the ardous task of actually proving someone wrong in an open discussion.

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