Biden’s VP Debate Performance: Effective or Disrespectful?

I’ve read all the negative responses to Biden by Republicans. My parents are Republicans and they too responded extremely negative. They thought Biden was disrespectful, but beyond just that.

I never saw the video of the debate. So, I can’t speak for the full experience of Biden’s animated performance. But I didn’t get the sense that Biden was being an asshole or acting like a maniac, as Republicans portray him.

I suspect that if Ryan had acted as aggressively Republicans wouldn’t have the same response. Democrats didn’t blame Romney when Obama didn’t perform well. Is Ryan’s relatively lackluster or, if you prefer, subdued performance the fault of Biden or just the fault of Ryan himself?

Does anyone who isn’t a Republican think that Republicans have any valid reason for judging Biden? Or are they just being sore losers? I’m not a big fan of partisan politics, but I don’t mind assertiveness such as Biden’s performance if it serves the useful purpose. Did it serve a useful purpose? I’d really like to know how moderates and independents perceived the debate.

Joe Biden’s laugh in debate: Was he a happy warrior or … a boor?

Joe Biden’s smiling: Was there method to his madness?

An Amusing Example of Hypocrisy

I comment on a lot of videos, but I feel particularly compelled to comment when someone states something that is misinformed, is illogical, is a bad example, et cetera. That was the case yesterday when I responded to a video by MrHerrIQ (Why Leftists do not debate rightwingers even when they attempt to?).

He seems like he might have the capacity for making a good argument, but he wasn’t making one in this video (to be fair, he does admit that he is ranting). I pointed out some problems with his argument. For example, he said that leftists just repeat themselves (which he bases on his claim of having debated a thousand leftists and having won all of these debates in recent years). I pointed out my own experience that, yes, I do often repeat myself in arguments with rightwingers (I’m not talking about the average conservative) because it often seems they don’t understand or acknowledge anything only stated once. I also pointed out that the data shows that liberals (the same as his ‘leftist’?) are the most educated demographic and that most scientists identify as liberals… by which I was implying that there might be an intellectual inequality between liberals and rightwingers which might explain communication difficulties.

By the way, if I sound condescending, please realize I’m responding to a video that was condescending to all leftists. Take note that I usually don’t generalize about all conservatives. Instead, I try to speak about specific demographics such as ‘rightwingers’ (to be more specific, US ‘rightwingers’)… which I often define in the context of the psychological research about Right-Wing Authoritarians (RWAs) or, in other contexts, as the far right which in the US population usually means the social conservatives and fundamentalists (anyway, the research shows a correlation in the US population between RWAs and social conservatives), although the label ‘rightwingers’ can sometimes be used to more loosely apply to the radical right such as anarcho-capitalists, objectivists, and militant libertarians (these latter groups often don’t identify as conservatives). However, it would appear MrHerrIQ is using the ‘rightwinger’ more generally to refer to all right-leaning people (in all countries?) which isn’t how it’s typically used in the US. Also, his use of ‘leftist’ leaves me uncertain since to me that implies someone on the far left. So, I don’t know if he means all people who lean left or if he means the far left (Communists? Marxists? Anarchists?). My sense is he means the former because he is speaking very generally, but some of his comments could be interpreted as specifically referring to just social liberals (which isn’t how I would define ‘leftist’). I think in one of his videos he mentioned English isn’t his first language and so maybe he doesn’t understand the US context for these words… which might explain some of his frustration considering the YouTube viewership is a largely American audience.

Another commenter pointed out an even more obvious flaw to the argument: It was just a straw man from start to finish, although it’s hard to know if he was making a straw man argument as I’m not sure exactly that he was presenting a false argument or just a false portrayal (he seemed to conflate his idea of a liberal with his perception of the behavior and arguments of liberals; and, so, his dismissive portrayal of how liberals supposedly argue was seemingly being presented as a disproving of the argument of liberalism in general)… to put it simply, I was confused by what he was even trying to communicate. He presented his argument using only his personal experience which he didn’t even go into detail about… and then using these vague references he made a generalized portrayal of all leftists (Are these self-identified ‘leftists’ or his he assuming to know who is and isn’t a ‘leftist’?). To put it in simpler terms, his argument was that leftists suck at argument because he doesn’t like leftists and they’re stupid losers.

If the straw man fallacy doesn’t apply, there are potentially many other fallacies that could be applied to various aspects of the presentation of his argument (as well to my interaction with him in comments and private messages): appeal to ridicule, fallacy of distribution, psychologist’s fallacy, reification fallacy, accident fallacy, cherry picking, fallacy of composition, hasty generalization, association fallacy, sampling bias, ad hominem, appeal to emotion, weasel words, poisoning the well, et cetera. I don’t know. It would be difficult trying to analyze in detail (sentence by sentence) the precise logic or lack thereof within his argument… and I don’t feel that motivated.

He is free to have his opinion, but I was hoping he would expand on his argument using more objective evidence (and, of course, a more clear presentation). In particular, a simple definition of terms would’ve been helpful along with maybe some demographic data to clarify exactly the group of people he is talking about (I’m assuming the demographic labeled as ‘leftist’ would be different depending on the cultural context of different regions of the world… and I don’t know the country this guy lives in or what his personal experience has been with so-called ‘leftists’).

I was wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. I realized he might only be referring to leftists from his own country, although he seemed to be generalizing about some hypothetical ‘leftist’ that exists beyond any specific context (which I might accept if he was speaking about liberals in more psychological terms in reference to scientific research). I’m fairly sure that what he thinks of as ‘leftist’ isn’t how most US liberals think of themselves. So, I was prepared to have a debate about possible cultural differences of how we perceive labels and how we interact with those who are different.

Alas, that wasn’t to happen. I noticed today he had left a response to me:

@MarmaladeINFP
“I don’t exactly follow the argument being made,”
1)This is my experience with leftists in debates, 2) What is yours? 3) Why do you think this is?
“I know that the research shows that liberals are on average higher IQ and higher educated.”
Since the 1960’s cultural-revolution, education has gotten liberal so this could be a chicken and the egg scenario with a-political high IQ individual being influenced by leftists. However if high IQ select against itself, it lacking in value.

So, I clicked on the link to the comments page. He had removed all of my comments along with all of the comments of those who disagreed with him. I just had to laugh. I hadn’t seen such blatant hypocrisy in a long while. He was making an argument about why leftists don’t debate rightwingers. And, when leftists try to debate him, he removes their comments. I wonder if he has enough self-awareness to even realize the hypocrisy of this.

After laughing, it did make me feel a bit sad. He obviously is frustrated about not being able to communicate to those who are different than him. But, because of this frustration, he has given up trying to communicate those who are different than him. So, he has resigned to find comfort in his preferred reality tunnel and block out all the voices that disturb him.

If he just seemed mean-spirited or uneducated, I could dismiss him. But he seems intelligent. I always find it sad when I meet someone (even a stranger) with potential for intelligence who is afraid of intelligent debate. I’m not sure why it makes me sad, but it does. Maybe it’s just a matter of seeing yet another example of wasted human potential. We humans have so much potential and yet look at the world we collectively create with all of its conflict and suffering.

I’m included in this. I too waste potential. I wish I was a better person. I wish I knew how to debate rightwingers, how to communicate to communicate well to people in general. But I fail at this as most people fail.

– – –

I would share my comments to him on his video, but he deleted them. In order to add some more context, here is a message he sent me:

Put yourself in my situation.
I’ve debated a thousend leftists and the last 300 has not impressed me enough for me to find that it’s a netgain for me. If you want to debate me, you have to somehow ensure to me, you’re legitt.
You wont lose your face, your facade wont break.
You will be honest and admitt your shortcommings.
You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.
You will abide by the rules of logic.
No red herrings.
You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.
Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.

If you can do this, I will have a yellow card, red card system. I tolerate 1, possibly 2 fuck ups. Nothing more. I used to but not anymore.

What is it that you would like to argue about?
Leave a PM on youtube and I will get into contact with you when Im available.

Perhaps you’re the one, who knows.
From where Im standing I doubt it, but if the shoe was on the other foot, you wouldn’t blame me.

My response:

You’ve debated many people. So what? I’ve debated many people. Many people all over the web have debated many other people. It happens all the time. You aren’t special.

I have to ensure you? (By the way, you probably mean ‘assure’. I think I heard you say that English isn’t your first language.) Why don’t you assure me? You are the one who deleted my comments. I didn’t delete your comments. As an outside observer, your actions look like hypocrisy. But you claim you aren’t a hypocrite. Why should I trust your words when your actions imply otherwise? How do you accidentally delete that many comments (something like 10 or 20 of them)? It doesn’t seem possible. So, unless you can explain that to me I don’t feel assured.

Yet, your tone here is that of condescension. You will condescend to allow me to debate you if I follow your rules. So, should I condescend to overlook your apparent act of hypocrisy?

Anyway, your rules seem to only serve the purpose of your trying to avoid debate. Why are you afraid of open and fair discussion?

For example, one of your rules is: “You will not repeat youself and reconstruct your argument.” This would be a difficult rule to follow. English isn’t your first language. So, there might be many miscommunications. Also, does it count as repeating if I state again comments you’ve deleted?

Another example of one of your rules is: “You will not be passive aggressive, sarcism could be argued to be appealing to ridicule and it’s just mere autosuggestion at most.” This is purely subjective. Do you have to prove I’m being passive aggressive or sarcastic? Or is it merely your personal perception? Why do I have to conform my behavior to your subjective biases? Also, once again, what about miscommunications? I assume you come from a different culture than I do. How am I supposed to know what is considered passive aggressive or sarcastic in your culture?

And yet another example is your last rule: “Make your own points, I shouldn’t have to dragg them out of you or ask of you what assumptions you are basing your argument on.” This rule is utter nonsense. Every single comment any person makes has an infinite number of assumptions it’s based on. This also comes back to the issue of culture and language. How am I supposed to know what assumptions you care about or what assumptions you are or aren’t aware of? Do you hold yourself to this same standard? How am I supposed to know all the assumptions you are holding in the context of all your rules?

All in all, your rules are unrealistic and unfair expectations. I suspect that is their purpose. No one could follow all those rules. Or, rather, one could only follow all those rules to your satisfaction if they happened to share all your assumptions, all your values, all your beliefs, and all your cultural biases. Have you considered that this might be at the bottom of your frustration with interacting with those who are different from you? You seem to want others to conform to your expectations and your worldview. Have you considered that it might be more fruitful if you were willing to meet people in the middle, willing to compromise, willing to understand new perspectives?

I have no doubt that, from where you’re standing, you doubt it. You’re frustrated because you’ve set yourself up for frustration. And then you blame others for your frustration. It seems like a no-win situation. From where I’m standing, I have plenty of doubts about both your actions and your words. I don’t know you and so I don’t really care who is to blame. I’m not blaming you for anything, but you do seem to be blaming others. Why do you keep telling me to see things from your perspective? Why don’t you try to see things from the perspective of others? If you actually understood the liberal view, you wouldn’t be blaming liberals. So, why are you blaming liberals for your lack of understanding of the liberal view?

I’m being honest with you here. I’m not attacking you. I’m just calling them as I see them. I’d love to try to have a fair and rational discussion with you (I’ve never liked to ‘debate’ per se), but you’ve so far given me no assurance that you’re even interested in trying. All your comments seems to show that you see everything in terms of being about you. That isn’t a helpful attitude. Even so, if you’re willing to seek a middle ground of understanding, I’m all game. But if you just want a battle of egos, a pissing match, a game of rhetoric, then no thanks.

On a side note, I suspect your real frustration has nothing to do with liberal vs conservative, nothing to do with politics or ideology of any kind. I’ve studied psychology for years, specifically personality types. I’ve seen these kinds of communication difficulties many times. If I had to make a quick (and, of course, rather superficial) guess, I’d say you are probably what is called in MBTI an NT (iNtuition Thinking) or to be more exact I’d guess an INTJ (Introverted iNtuition Thinking Judging). I’ve found most conflicts of communication are at least partly if not mostly grounded in psychological issues. I learned a lot about myself and about others by studying personality types and trait research. It’s easy to blame others. It’s much more difficult to come to self-awareness and self-understanding.

After that, he sent me a message that was pages long and so I won’t quote it here, but it was just a continuation of what he had already said. Basically, he was saying that going by his own experience he knew that he was intellectually superior to most people and that he had grown tired of debating the lowly leftist masses. Here is my response to that long message:

Reading this new message, I feel even less assured. You believe you are right and you believe you are intellectually superior to almost everyone. I don’t hold such arrogant assumptions about myself. And I tend to not like to interact with people who are that arrogant.

Also, your arrogance seems naive. You say you’ve won all these debates. But how do you know? Did you declare your own victory? Maybe those you debated also had the exact same opinion about themselves. Maybe even others told them that they had won.

The only thing that you’ve made clear is this. No matter what I say, you will claim I broke one of your rules. No matter how well I argue, you will simply claim you won. It’s not that you’re tired of debating. It seems you’re tired of even trying to debate.

Why not drop the arrogance? Just relax. You seem to be taking everything too seriously. The reason I don’t like debate is because I’ve found closed-minded people love debate. I like people who enjoy learning. In particular, I like people who like learning new perspectives. But you’ve given no inkling that you actually understand others or want to understand others. In such a situation, how can useful or pleasant communication even be possible?

Just the fact that you generalize about all ‘leftists’ shows a lazy intellect. It also demonstrates that you are unlikely to treat respectfully anything I present. You assume you’ve already got my type figured out, but going by your own words I’m not sure you understand leftists at all. If I tried to discuss/debate anything with you, I’d probably just end up being more fodder for your self-fulfilling prophecies. Think about it. Who will decide who wins the debate? You will, of course. And, since you haven’t admitted to losing a debate in years, why would you admit any such thing now? In your eyes, I can’t win for losing.

You seem intelligent, but there is something about you that seems self-enclosed almost to the point of narcissism or something. I don’t know if I’d be able to break through the protective barrier you are hiding behind. Honestly, I don’t at the moment see it’s worth the effort.

You say I came to you. Yes, I did. And then you deleted my comments. You responded that it was an accident and that it was only 8 comments. I still don’t see how 8 comments could be deleted accidentally. It just doesn’t seem logically possible. I could understand accidentally deleting 1 comment, but 8 comments is no accident. My allegation of hypocrisy still stands and you have yet to refute it. From my perspective, such hypocrisy is a sign of your character. I can only assume that if I were to discuss/debate with you that I’d expect more of the same underhanded behavior.

If you hadn’t deleted my comments, we could already be having a discussion/debate. I offered you evidence in those comments. You dismissed that evidence and you didn’t even offer any evidence in return. I just don’t know. meh


Controlling the Narrative: Part 2

I just posted about a discussion I’m involved with. In the post, I shared some of my comments from the discussion and explained some introductory thoughts about controlling the narrative.

Controlling the Narrative: Part 1

I had no clear intentions when I first posted in that discussion, but once I was engaged I wanted to follow it to the end. I don’t easily give up on a discussion or a topic when something catches my curiosity, when something gets caught in my craw.

The discussion thread is interesting for a number of reasons. It’s a textbook example of how to deal with different kinds of commenters. I’ve been in online discussions for years now and I know how to play any game anyone wants to play. I know how to handle the trolls, the ideologues, the apologists, the ranters, the nitpickers, the name-callers or what ever else. I’m not above anything. If I deem it necessary (or if I’m just irritated), I’ll call names and be rude, I’ll ridicule and cajole. But I’ll also provide data and make extensive arguments, be objective or share personal anecdotes. It’s important to always be ready to shift gears and meet any person on their terms or else force them to meet you on your terms.

  • One of my strengths is that I have stamina. Few people can outlast me in a discussion, few will do more research than I will. That isn’t a boast. It’s a fact.
  • Another important ability is to be clever (if only to keep the discussion lively and entertaining). I almost always can turn around any personal attack or intellectual argument. No mercy! Take nothing personal.
  • Last but not least, try to gain control of the rules of the game, try to enforce your own narrative. Don’t necessarily hijack a thread, but don’t be afraid of hijacking a thread if it serves some purpose.

The rules are very much different if you have regular discussions with the same people (assuming you want to remain friends), but dealing with random strangers on the internet demands guerilla warfare. I’m not in that discussion to make friends. I fully realized the people in that discussion were a mix. Some more smart, some less so. Some willing to play fair, some not. I was mostly just attacked and called names. My arguments were mostly just dismissed. But I did finally force a couple of people to take my view seriously once they realized I couldn’t be scared away or ridiculed into silence.

I had my ducks in a row and not even those arguing against me could deny that. I usually begin a discussion with by listening respectfully and gaging the atmosphere. I then present my view fairly and hopefully I get a fair response. If that fails…

I pull out the big guns and I bludgeon my opponent. I will offer fact after fact, source after source, argument after argument. As long as I’m dealing with someone above the level of idiot, I will persist. And if they start treating me fairly…

I’m more than happy respond in kind. Depending on my mood, I might even apologize. If I read negative intentions that weren’t there or that they claim weren’t there, then I’ll let it go and try to seek civil discussion. I’d always rather look for common ground just as long as the other person is willing to cooperate in this endeavor.

The problem with the discussion in question is that apparently no one wanted to seek common ground with me. I entered the disucssion in the middle of it. Another commenter had linked my blog and so I went to check it out, but already my views were being attacked. So, I immediately felt on the defensive. It didn’t seem that anyone actually wanted to have a rational debate of ideas and facts. Instead, it was an ideological attack-fest with most of the people on the opposite side of my own view.

Since I couldn’t force anyone to take my view seriously, the main thing I decided to do was to seek control of the narrative and so shift the power imbalance.  I pointed out this issue of narrative in my post about the movie Avatar (Avatar: Imagination & Culture). Conservatives have in the past been very good at controlling the narrative. Even now, Fox News has dominated political discourse by various means (Fox News Channel controversies). They don’t just report the news but actively create it. They promoted the Tea Party movement by (besides Beck’s 9/12) having Fox employees cheer on crowds as they filmed or even by using footage from entirely different events to make the crowd look larger. They’ve also been so devious as to alter pictures of Democrats and liberals by, for example, yellowing teeth or broadening the nose (to make the person look like a minority).

Fox News best strategy is latching onto a story and repeating it relentlessly until the rest of the media picks it up. For example, ACORN was given the Fox News treatment and by doing so they destroyed ACORN. Later on, it was investigated and it turned out to have been a fake scandal made up out of thin air, but ACORN was still destroyed and so mission accomplished. Even now, if you ask many people, they still think the ACORN scandal was real because innocence doesn’t make for as exciting of news as does scandal.

It’s all about controlling the story. I personally prefer truth, but I respect the power of story. Truth is great and story is powerful. Combined, they can lead to new visions of society.

This is where liberals come in. Conservatives are starting to lose control of the narrative. The culture wars have lost clarity and momentum. The faux patriotism from the Bush years has soured. This is why there has been a mass exodus from the Republican party. This past year Republicans have become the party of No and nothing else. Obama’s relentless preaching of bipartisanship (even if fruitless on the practical level) led to his controlling the narrative.

Liberals have an opening here. There are many narratives that can be chosen. In the discussion I’m involved with, I was using the narrative of shifting demographics and of generational cycles. Strauss and Howe are the guys who first told this story which they’ve titled The Fourth Turning and it has gained a fair amount of traction in the media and culture. Another narrative I like to use is that of Spiral Dynamics which presents an evolutionary view of human culture and it’s a very potent vision of what society can become (Bill Clinton was familiar with it).  George Lakoff has spent a lot of time putting forth his ideas about framing and politics which are insightful, but I don’t know that they’re ultimately compelling. Michael Moore has been one of the greatest proponents of the story about working class progressivism which has struck a major blow to the self-identity of the conservative movement.

Another area of liberal narrative is the New Age (which has incorporated many narratives into its own meta-narrative). I was raised in New Thought Christianity (which was a precursor of the New Age) and I’ve been delighted to see how New Thought theology has slipped into both evangelical Christianity and even into the mainstream culture in general by way of the New Age. Oprah has been a great proponent of the New Age vision (and I suppose she can be seen as a manifestation of the feminist narrative). A bit earlier than Oprah, Joseph Campbell helped introduce a new vision of religion and culture (his Hero’s Journey having inspired Star Wars).

Avatar is, of course, a great narrative and goes along with liberal narrative of many other movies (Star Wars, The Matrix, etc). In this time of burgeoning technology (3-d, internet, etc), movies are becoming more powerful and more widespread. Some other liberal narratives come from the comic book tradition (which was oppressed by the rightwing comic books code for decades). Some notable examples are X-Men and Watchmen. The greatest narrative of any entertainment might very well be Star Trek: The Next Generation which portrayed a future liberal utopian society.

Liberals have an opening here. The conservative narrative has been slowly waning and the liberal narrative has been slowly waxing. With Obama’s message of hope and change and his vision of bipartisanship (which the Millennials resonate with), liberals finally have the upper hand. The story that gets heard now will be the story that dominates for the next few decades (as the culture war narrative dominate the last few decades). I base that prediction on the narrative of The Fourth Turning. In a 1997 interview (Strauss’ Prophetic Words), Strauss forecast that:

“What could happen right at the start of the Fourth Turning is whichever dominant cultural view is in power when the emergency strikes that group could be out of power for a whole generation.”

Controlling the Narrative: Part 1

Below are some comments from a discussion thread I’m involved in at the moment. I thought it interesting because my purpose in participating has two parts.

On the surface, I’m just having a debate. I’m not all that concerned about winning the debate per se, but I am trying to make a good argument and clear up misinformation. My original purpose was merely to defend the research I had done since someone linked to my blog in the discussion (which is what made me notice the discussion).

However, once fully invested, my central motive switched to gaining control of the narrative. The whole discussion is an experiment of sorts. Those involved don’t quite grasp my real agenda and so they don’t know how to counter it. The reason I chose to seek control of the narrative is because, at first, no one wanted to fully engage the facts of my argument.

In more recent comments, one commenter in particular is trying to persuade me to play the opinion game. That is a fair game to play, but it isn’t the game I want to play. The reason I don’t want to play it is because it generally is a fruitless game which sometimes is the point. This commenter isn’t presenting any compelling narrative and so his best strategy is to distract me from my narrative… not that I think he is consciously strategizing. 

The opinion game is not too dissimilar from how Republicans have been playing the obstructionist game. This past year, Republicans were obsessing over and complaining about every little nitpicking detail. It’s the game one plays when one is out of power, when one isn’t in control of the narrative.

If you’re simply interested to read more about my views on controlling the narrative and how it relates to public/political discourse, here is the link:

Controlling the Narrative: Part 2

And below are my comments from the discussion:

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post195

cjrian wrote:
Media Matters as an unbiased reference?
NPR ?
Air America (now defunct)??
Media Matters recieves its funding indirectly from George Soros via the Tides Foundation, the Arca Foundation, the Peninsula Community Foundation, and the San Francisco Foundation. MM is a total tool of the Left, willing to push-poll, lie, and consults OganizingforAmerica (Obamas info site) for so-called “truth”.
NPR has a VERY Left leaning bent and always has. Garrison Keillor, “All Things Considered”, Daniel Schorr.
Air America was ONLY formed to counter Rightwing talk radio. It was so far Left, it was falling off the edge of the Earth.
These are not unbiased sources!!

Still with the liberal bias? I showed you the study about NPR. You just deny the study based on no counter evidence. Show me a study that shows NPR has a strong liberal bias. NPR may once have been liberal because it used to do real investigative reporting, but ever since it began to get large corporate funding it hasn’t been liberal beyond a few minor exceptions of moderate liberals.

Air America was a response to rightwing media. That was part of my argument. Rightwing media is very powerful. Air America and other liberal radio have shown high ratings in certain markets, but radio stations are mostly now owned by large conservative corporations rather than by local people and community groups. I’m surprised you didn’t notice this explanation as it was in the blog post I linked earler.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010…

Part of the problem is definition of terms. What conservatives call “liberal” would be considered moderate, centrist or even slightly conservative in European countries. I’m willing to concede that, according to your conservative definition of liberal, most of the media migth be liberal, but that doesn’t really mean much of anything. It’s similar when conservatives call Obama a progressive, a socialist and/or a communist. Sure, according to the conservative worldview, almost everything is to the left. However, real progressives, socialists and communists are probably more critical of Obama than most conservatives.

Some of the media has a liberal bias and some of the media has a conservative bias. According to mainstream US political ideologies, I don’t think mainstream media overall is biased in any particular direction. But, relative to Europe, US media probably has a conservative bias. More importantly, I’d look at the biases in different markets. I don’t know about tv and cable, but Fox News has been very successful in controlling the narrative. Radio of course is dominated by conservatives and one study shows op-ed columns are dominated by conservatives.

The only place where liberals have a clear and strong dominance is on the internet. Liberals use the internet for news more than any other demographic and so you find liberal news sources online. A favorite “liberal” news source of mine is The Young Turks which is hosted by Cenk Uygur who is a former Republican who voted for Obama and yet is constantly critical of Obama for not being progressive enough. Cenk started his independent news company online and has remained online. His show is one of the most popular on the web. He doesn’t accept advertising money and relies entirely on subscribers.

It’s true that reporters and journalists lean left, but not radically left. On the other hand, editors, management and owners of news organizations lean right. The reporters and journalists are employees who are hired and fired by those who lean right. Pew shows the most strong Republican demographic has the highest rates of business ownership and highest rates of those who trade stocks and bonds.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post197

cjrian wrote:
Now, if Conservatives dominate newspapers how was their reporting so sympatheric towards Obama/Biden and negative towards McCain/Palin?

Why did the media focus on Obama? Many reasons. He was young, photogenic, energetic, charismatic, inspiring, great speaker, first black candiate, etc. Most importantly, the American public liked him more which was demonstrated by his winning the popular vote. I was just looking at poll data that shows that at the time even Libertarians liked Obama.

So, the media focuses on what happens to be popular. During Bush’s administration, when patriotism and war-mongering was popular, the media focused on that. Initially, the media didn’t strongly questione or criticize the reasons for the war in Iraq or the constitutionality of the Patriot Act. Any liberal who stepped out of line, such as Bill Maher, was attacked and vilified. This is just the way mainstream media operates.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post209

raysmom wrote:
Crier, that was a good one about the “Madoff numbers”, hehehe. But I think when you take the number of registered voters, the Dem & Republican numbers, and weigh them with certain variables it comes out pretty even in undergraduate education, the Dems having more advanced degrees.
But frankly, I don’t even think that formal education means more politically knowledgable. Take my neighbors (please, lol). A nice cross section of educated people. The liberal Christian psychologist, the liberal “spiritualist” MBA, the moderate IV specialist nurse, the liberal ex-Catholic pharmacist married to an ex-Army doc who now works for Kaiser, the uneducated King Soopers lifer. They all have strong opinions about Obama and ObamaCare, two for and three against. But NONE of them read the local paper in it’s entirety, let alone the WSJ or any diversity of publications, and none of them know the first thing about the bill or about any political issues, really, just stuff they pick up along the way, mostly from their peers who are equally ignorant! This is for both sides of the issue, remember. I think most people vote the way they do more from basic ideology, party politics, and personal experience/situation than from knowledge of the issues, no matter how educated they are.
The whole “I’m smarter than you are” thing is way overblown in estimating who the “better” party is. And there is no real way to prove it. Just as there is no real way to prove that someone’s intentions are bad becuase of ideology. A useless and divisive endeavor, in my mind.

There are several reasons why I think it matters. Conservatives have attacked climatology scientists because 97% of them support anthropogenic global warming. It’s rather meaningless considering only 6% of scientists are Republican. Since Republicans lack higher education and professional experience in the scienes, then who cares what most Republicans think about science.

Most professors and most with graduate degrees are liberal. So, liberals and Democrats are generally more well-educated. That is important. Some counter with, “But they don’t have real world experience.” Pew shows Liberals as having the second highest rate (after Enterprisers who are approximately equivalent to Neocons) of business ownership and second highest rate of trading stocks and bonds. Liberals are well educated and they’re well informed in that they follow the news closely.

Even though Democrats include the poorest and least well educated, they still on average have higher IQs than Republicans. That is important considering that during the Reagan years Republicans had the highest average IQ, but that was the only period that Republicans have ever shown a higher average IQ. It was the high point of the GOP. No wonder conservatives like to reminisce about the glory of the Reagan era. So, why did a majority of the most intelligent and well educated people stop joining the GOP and instead became Democrats?

If I were a Republican or independent conservative, I’d be a bit concerned. This isn’t just an abstract idea. Polls show that Fox News viewers are the least well informed about health reform. Maybe there is a connection here. Also, the Millennials are the most liberal, most well educated and largest generation in US history. When you look at the Millennials, you’re looking at the future.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post210

cjrian wrote:
<quoted text>
Undoubtedly, some of that is true, but that doesn’t explain the chills up their leg(s). One of the PRIMARY tenets to good reporting to to remain objective. The Press behaved in more of a rah-rah squad fashion. This also does not explain the uproarious cheering when Obama was nominated and when he won the election. The Press was highly Partisan.

There was a brief period earlier last century when the Fairness Doctrine forced the news business to be fair and ethical. Over the decades, newsrooms lost independent control of their reporting. Upper management and ownership began meddling in the news business. Advertisers started to have great influence and news became more about entertainment and telling people what they want to hear. Straight news reporting never made much money and so the financing of it was cut which led to reporters doing less investigative journalism.

Obama was popular. At the time, everyone loved Obama, loved to hear him speak, loved the very idea of him. News corporations are primarily concerned about making money and reporting on what is popular is how money is made.

Everyone was swayed, the whole nation, including reporters. It’s no different than how the whole nation was swayed including reporters after 9/11. Humans are social animals. We’re like a school of fish who sway together in the same direction. Those working for news media (reporters, journalists, op-ed columnists, editors, management, owners, etc) are all just human like the rest of us.

Besides, the media is like an echo chamber. The story that becomes popular gets reported more and becomes more popular. News people listen to other news people. It goes across the ideological divide. It’s humorous to watch the back and forth between Fox News and those on the left (or what is considered the left in the US mainstream). Climategate, ACORN, Swiftboat… all of those started with a single report somewhere and then all the media jumped on the bandwagon. It turns out, for example, that the entire ACORN scandal was made up out of thin air.

This is why I don’t watch mainstream news to any great degree. I occasionally catch a video of mainstream news on Youtube or some other random site. But, like a good Liberal, I prefer sources outside the mainstream such as The Young Turnks. The young generation doesn’t watch mainstream news hardly at all. I suppose it’s older Democrats who watch the mainstream left-leaning media.

http://www.topix.net/forum/source/kdvr/TA3MUPB6NGSBEJ7QK/post212

Becky wrote:
Also I would not talk so much about the younger generation. I am a part of it and even I admit there is a lot of ignorance in the liberally brainwashed people of our younger generation.
Difference is I have lived on my own since I was 18, put myself through school, and don’t just blindly take whatever the news or some narcissistic presidential candidate said without looking beyond the smoke screens and crap.

I’m less interested in these ups and downs. Instead, what I try to understand are the larger trends. If you were familiar with the writings of Strauss and Howe (The Fourth Turning, Millennials Rising) or Spiral Dynamics as explained by the likes of Wilber, you’d understand what I’m talking about. It’s the broader context that matters the most when speaking about where the country (and society in general) is heading. This is why it’s a fairly safe bet to claim that Obama’s health reform and Millennials liberalism aren’t just flukes that will disappear.

During the last cycle of progressivism, there were paranoid pundits like Beck (Father Coughlin), communist fear-mongering, race-baiting, promotion of “white culture”, anti-immigrant sentiment (“Hyphenated Americans” which always makes me think of Palin’s opposite notion of “Real Americans”), patriotic fervor, Christian fundamentalism, preaching of family values, etc. It’s proof, when the rightwingers become loud, that a new progressive era has begun.

This is where my interest in health reform comes in. It is an important issue on its own terms, but it’s hard to understand it’s relevance in isolation. Only in the beginnings of a progressive era could a president spend a year fighting (using the 3d chess of bipartisandship) for health reform and get a bill passed. Obama may be fairly mild on the scale of progressivism, but he does understand the progressive vision and he knows how to preach it. In doing so, he has creating the ideological vision of an entire generation. All Obama has to do is pass a bill, any bill and there is no turning back. The first steps will be akward, but resistance will fade away.

During the Fourth Turning, the new institutions are implemented and established for the rest of the following cycle. This is why the New Deal programs are mostly still with us after all this time. Even Republicans won’t try to take away farm subsidies or medicare. You can later on bust the unions, but the victories of the unions remain (child labor laws, 40 hr week, minimum wage, overtime, safe working conditions, unemployment, disability, etc). Once put into place, all of society embraces the progressive policies and they then become the new status quo (which conservatives will defend in the next cycle).

So, the specifics of the health bill do matter, but not as much as the act of passing reform. One thing is clear is that if McCain had been elected no reform would’ve happened or even have been considered. By Obama being elected, the coming progressive era gets an early push.

First, the Republicans played hard ball by trying to obstruct all progress.

Second, when progress was becoming inevitable, Republicans started scrambling with their own hobbled together “proposals”.

Third, Republicans try to save face by pretending to still fight even when it’s clear that Obama will pass a bill.

Fourth, Republicans become resigned their loss and try to get some of what they want into the bill.

Fifth, Republicans accept Obama’s health reform and turn their attention elsewhere.

Darn Apologists!

Darn Apologists!

Posted on Dec 26th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
*begin rant*

I did a really silly thing.  I just made a brief comment on a Christian’s Youtube video.  I really didn’t want to discuss anything, but he responded and I responded.  I knew from the get-go that I desired not such a “discussion” (if an exchange with an apologist could be called that). 

I quickly disentangled myself from the pointless spiderweb of verbiage that apologists are so capable of tirelessly weaving.  I’ve dealt with enough of them to instantly realize when its not going anywhere.  I’m a person of curiosity and I find myself utterly bewildered by someone who has made up their mind before I even say anything.  They just know they’re right.

Shouldn’t apologists have better things to do on Christmas than argue about Jesus?  Shouldn’t they be spreading Christ’s Good message of Love or maybe ladling soup to the homeless while preaching to them about their sinful souls?

This particular apologist was one of the worst varieties.  I’ve come across this exact type many times before, and they’re all very predictable.  Its almost a personality type.  This type of apologist doesn’t tend to rant unless you really get them riled up.  They’re actually very intellectual with an aloof self-certainty.  They’re mostly harmless in that they’re not that annoying except if you’re ever experienced banging your head against their brickwall.  They have this intellectual inner certainty that reminds me of Introverted Intuition, but they have this outwardly congenial nature that doesn’t allow them to ruffle easily which makes me think of an INFJ Christian I know from another site… mostly a nice guy if a bit difficult to connect with.

If you’re feeling patient, you can sometimes have a good discussion with this type as they’ve tended to read a lot and they think very deeply.  The problem is that their thinking is somewhat narrow and plodding, and they have strong beliefs which at least tend to be somewhat interesting in their uniqueness.  They usually have some favorite obscure Christian philosopher, but it won’t bother them that you’ve never heard of the person.  They’re used to not being understood even by other Christians. 
They might secretly pride themselves on their idiosyncracies somewhat, but mostly they seem humble in a laid back way.  Its hard to unsettle them or change their minds.  If you try to have a debate with them, you’ll just go round and round.  In certain ways, they’re very conventional in that they just don’t see or don’t care about what exists outside of their narrow focus (definitely no sign of Extraverted Intuition).  You’re more likely to have an interesting conversation with them if you simply limit yourself to their interests. 

They can keep up an argument if necessary, but they don’t really care to get worked up.  Even though their beliefs are strong, they keep them mostly to themselves.  They’ll often talk about more peripheral issues because that which truly matters to them is such a deep and profound experience for them.

They’re very scholarly with a typical pedantic attitude.  Even though they like certain obscure writers, they put a fair amount of weight on tradition.  They’re the type that would make a great Catholic theologian who knows the entire history of the Church.  Their thinking is very abstract and they feel safest keeping theology away from practical affairs and thus keeping themselves away from getting mired in politics.  They’re very understanding people and capable of relating well, but they’re also wary of the risks of complex social dynamics.  They’re very good at reading others and also at hiding their own inner thoughts.

To be specific, this guy I was talking to on Youtube was quick to dismiss (dispute is the word he preferred) Robert M. Price.  I briefly defended Price as he is as about as respectable as you can get, but its true that he doesn’t toe the party line of Biblical scholarship (ie conventional belief of mainstream Christianity).  This guy definitely valued the theistic majority perspective of Biblical scholarship.  People in Biblical scholarship tend to be Christians and so its no great surprise that belief in the historical Jesus is just assumed.  One would have to be extremely naive to claim that this field was one of the more objective fields in academia.

Okay… so, I knew that if I tried to defend Price any further, this Christian would just nitpick and it would ultimately be just a battle of opinons.  This kind of person can be very willful in having great intellectual stamina in going over and over the same little detail.  I imagine that he would continually demand quotes and references all the while offering few of his own… or, anyways, that is a technique many apologists use… they just assume their position doesn’t need to be proved that its so obviously true.

In some ways, I prefer the ranting apologists more… the way an INFP apologist would act. lol  There is an honesty about in-your-face prosyletizing.  On the other hand, these more pedantic types lure you in with an appearance of being reasonable, but no amount of rationality will sway them.  They just enjoy discussing ideas even though they’ve stated the exact same ideas a million times before.  I’m fine with belief as long as someone is willing to admit that their views are beliefs.  However, this type has this intricate facade of rationalization that you can’t even pierce through to the actual person behind it all.

*end rant*

I suspect this is a conflict that I experience when my Ne confronts the Ni of another.  This might go back to my dad having auxiliary Ni.  Anyways, its a challenge for me.  The Ni is hiding away from the view of my Ne, but my Fi can sense it behind the social facade (especially in INFJs).  I want to force to the surface which is exactly where Ni doesn’t want to be, where it can’t be in fact.  My Ne gets bored with the narrow focus even though I can be momentarily impressed by the depth of insight that Ni sometimes proffers forth.  I just don’t have the patience waiting around for that inisight that may or may not show itself.  My Ne has thousand directions to go in and time is a’wasting.  Curiosity beckons.

I think this is particularly magnified when Ni is the dominant for the other person as my Ne is auxiliary.  I don’t identify with my thinking per se.  Its simply how I try to relate to the world.  My auxiliary Ne holds ideas very lightly.  I too have an inner certainty but it just ain’t involving ideas for sure.  Also, my inner certainty is less aloof as INFPs are more likely to get worked up than an INFJ.  The burning passion of an idealistic core (Fi) manifests through the ungrounded infinitude of wonder and possibility (Ne).  Simply put, Ne hates conventional thinking with a passion.  It chafes against more plodding thought processes, and it mistrusts the aloof congenial nature (or facade as Fi judges it) of an INFJ.

Don’t get me started about NTs.  🙂

Access_public Access: Public 11 Comments Print Post this!views (270)  
Tagged with: apologist, Christianity, debate, MBTI, Ni, Ne, Fi, Fe, INFP

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

14 minutes later

Marmalade said

I realize I was projecting to a great degree. I don’t really know that guy on Youtube beyond my very brief interaction. I just have this sore point when it comes to apologists… or really with anyone who has strong beliefs. The only thing I’m righteous about is in relation to the righteousness of others. I’m a millitant agnostic afterall.

This does go back to my dad and my recent interaction with him. I’ll be seeing him tomorrow. I hope it goes well. I’ll steer away from all serious discussion… oh, who am I kidding… I’ll have to not say anything at all if I try to avoid serious comments. Oh well, such is my fate.

There should be a rule against INFPs becoming intellectuals. We’re just too sensitive of souls. We should be kept ensconsed in walled gardens and distant mountain retreats far from the maddening crowd. Of course, we must be permitted a library but maybe only stock it with poetry and fiction… oh yeah, and be sure to give us plenty of art supplies.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 3 hours later

Marmalade said

Actually, there is a big difference between a Ni dominant person and a Ni auxiliary person like my dad. My dad really isn’t an aloof person at all, but he does have a bit of that quality in that he is so focused outward that he often hides his true opinions. He has this deep side that rarely shows, and when it does show its filtered through Te: principles, analysis, practical evaluation, etc. He is very capable of open-minded philosophizing fueled by a sense of wonder… amd he even lets others see this side of him when you catch him in a relaxed mood.

Its kind of funny how opinionated INFPs can be (or can appear to be), but you have to give us credit in that we change our opinions somewhat easily (except for our few cherished ideals). INFPs can have a way of stating things as if they were strong opinions (when feeling worked up or defensive), but it really has nothing to do with core values.

Dominant Fi can be hidden in the way its not easily verbilized. However, Fi is so blatantly obvious compared to Ni. Or even compare the Fi of an INFP with the Ti of an INTP. When an INFP gets there Fi panties in a bunch, they can be downright annoying… very messy emotions will be splattered all over the place.

Ni is very interesting. Ni talks around an idea, but does so in a very focused way. Its like knowing a blackhole exists by its gravity alone. Ni writing style can be very convoluted and meandering. Both Ni and Ne can lead to verbosity, but Ni comes off as more philosophical and abstract somehow… maybe because it exists solely in the inner world.

Ni, by definition, can never be directly expressed and so can only be known via an Extraverted function. OTOH Ne is just there trying to get your attention. Ne is also more playful in that it wants to interact, and if one is not careful Ne can lead to superficiality and flakiness (ie being a dilettante).

I sometimes have a bit of the dilettante in me jumping from one temporary interest to the next. I have a hard time committing myself fully to anything, but of course I idealize this tendency in order to put a positive spin on my Achilles’ Heel. People who actually have strong opinions and stick to them are just plain righteous idiots… whereas I am “flexible” and able to see multiple perspectives. rotfl

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 13 hours later

Marmalade said

The interesting thing about the internet is that you get the opportunity to interact with more Introverts in a way you’d never do in everyday life.  Online interactions encourage Introverts to show the side of themselves they normally hide.  This is good and bad because its the side of them that is least socially adapted.

So, an Ni type might seem even more intellectual or detached.  And an Fi type might become even more passionate… or, yes, righteous.  An Fi type might go so far relying on their dominant that they feel they have people figured out… ahem… not that I’d ever fall into such low behavior.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 14 hours later

Marmalade said

There is another blog of mine that has very similar subject matter.  Its about a specific archetypes that are related: Trickster, the Primal Man, the Titan/Giant, the Hero, and the Savior… also, the Divine Child and Shadow.  These archetypes are especially central to the Monomyth.

Myth, Religion, and Social Development

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

How did it go with your Dad? I’ve been thinking about this for a while but haven’t discussed it yet with you, sorry.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

That is funny! I put that last comment in the wrong blog apparently. It really doesn’t fit here.

Hello Nicole. Enjoy the holidays?

You might be able to tell from my plethora of blogging that I spent a lot of time at home. I had 3 days off in a row, but because of weather conditions haven’t yet visited with any family. Hopefully, I’ll see my parents tomorrow. We’re planning to visit one of my brothers in a nearby town.

The roads have been very icy this week. Strange weather. There was thunder and lightning last night and rain all today which was of course supposed to freeze.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

thanks, I have been having a very relaxing holiday, just what I wanted!

we just had some very high winds but everything seems normal this time of year – snow, freezing rain, rain, sunny weather – we get a little of it all…

Marmalade : Gaia Child

2 days later

Marmalade said

Relaxing holidays always are good for me. So, what was relaxing about your holidays. Did you stay at home?

I was thinking about some other things when I mentioned strange weather. There has been some very warm weather in the Midwest. Along with that, there have been some tornoado watches (not in my area), but I don’t know if any tornadoes have been spotted.

I finally spent some time with my parents today. It was nice to see them, but they’ll be gone tomorrow and so is a short visit. It was all the family together today which isn’t my favorite way of experiencing family. It wasn’t stressful though because everyone seemed in a good mood.

I guess everything went fine with my dad. I don’t think my dad understood why I was annoyed at him and I didn’t feel like explaining. I really didn’t see any advantage to having a discussion about it. I more or less kept conversation light.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

5 days later

Nicole said

I’m glad things went well with your dad.

Yes, it was relaxing because of being at home, but especially because I didn’t answer the phone or spend time on the computer, and playing games like Munchkin and Carcassonne with my kids. Do you know of Munchkin? Seems like it would appeal to your sense of humour 🙂

It was wonderful to have my oldest daughter Julia home for a few days.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

5 days later

Marmalade said

Munchkin? No, I don’t believe I’ve heard of it. Nor does Carcassonne sound familiar. My niece doesn’t seem too excited about games. She is more into imaginative play-acting. She probably doesn’t enjoy games because she dislikes losing. She was an only child the first 4 yrs of her life and she is used to getting her own way.

Is Munchkin a board game? I used to play a lot of games growing up. My friends and I would play almost any kind of game… board games, card games, video games. I don’t play games as much anymore. Occasionally I play a video game with my friend. Until recent years, I used to love playing Rummy but I finally became annoyed with the luck factor which is the largest part of the game.

Its interesting, though, that many kids games have large luck factors. I wonder what that teaches kids. Historically-speaking, the luck factor of games relates to divinization. The connection is lost to most of us moderns, but games have a strong connection to religion. They’re a ritual of sorts. The ritual itself is more important than the outcome of the game.

I’ll have to blog about that sometime. I’ve come across some fascinating info when studying the symbolism of numbers as it relates to games.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

5 days later

Nicole said

I used to play a lot of board games with my friends growing up, but we didn’t have many video games back them 🙂

Munchkin is a types of special card game – the other is a sort of card/board game… Munchkin is unfortunately very luck oriented (you’re right, that can get very annoying!) but Carcassonne is strategic.

That’s an interesting philosophical point about the large luck factors. You’re right this all could make a cool blog 🙂

Online Debates: Ideology, Education & Psychology

Internet discussions more often than not drive me bonkers.  I’ll mention some data and immediately someone will question and criticize the data.  If they’re a more worthy opponent, they’ll ask for specific sources.  I usually comply and then add even more data just to further support my argument.  The other person may offer data too, but they rarely cite the data and it’s even more rare for them to offer multiple sources.  Most “debates” never get past mere opinionated nitpicking.

I mentioned one example in a previous post.  I gave specific data and quotes from specific sources and framed it within the larger context of scientific consensus… and the other person acted like it meant nothing at all.  As a person who respects facts, I find it odd that many adults (who are potential voters) have such a dubious relationship to facts.  If someone shares facts with me that prove I’m wrong, I accept my being wrong and I do further research to better inform myself.  This attitude of intellectual humility and curiosity seems not to be shared by many people… or at least not many people I meet online which may or may not be a representative example of the American public (but if I had to guess, I’d think that the average internet user is more intelligent and better informed than the average non-internet user).

I just experienced another example.  This one was on Youtube and it was also about the scientific consensus of climatology experts.  Youtube has very limited word count for comments which makes intelligent debate a bit constrained, but I was up for the challenge.  I first mentioned some facts withou citing them, partly because Youtube doesn’t allow comments with url addresses in them.  Some person questioned the validity of my data and offered some other data which they didn’t cite either.  I felt lazy and didn’t want to try to figure out where he was getting his data, and I wasn’t in a mood for debating to any great extent.  So, I just offered the url addresses (by replacing the “.” with “DOT” which Youtube allows) of several scientific articles and Wikipedia articles (and the Wikipedia articles cited many scientific articles). 

My “debate” partner responded by saying that what I was referring to wasn’t peer reviewed and I assumed he must be talking about the first set of data I mentioned.  I had been looking at this data recently and I knew it came from the University of Illinois, but I didn’t know if it was or wasn’t peer reviewed.  I did a quick websearch and found it had been peer reviewed.  This is so typical.  If you look at people’s nitpicking, it is often unfounded.  I suppose people like this just hope you won’t actually check it out for yourself.  Why would this person lie to me just to try to win a debate?  It only took me maybe a minute or so to disprove his claim.  Does this person normally get away with such lies?  Are most people unwilling to check the facts for themselves?  Do most people not know how to use a search engine to find information quickly?

The ironic part was this person said the media is always lying.  So, I pointed out to him that, whether or not the media was lying, it appeared that he was lying or else uninformed.  He never responded back to further challenge me nor to admit to being wrong.  His only objective was to “win” the debate at all costs.  When it became apparent he wasn’t going to “win”, he simply abandoned ship.

I have an online “debate” like this probably on average of once a week (sometimes less when I’m not in a commenting mood).  I don’t go looking for idiots.  It’s just that the idiots are often the ones most willing to brazenly challenge any opinion (no matter how factual) that disagrees with their opinion.  To be fair, there are also many reasonable people online.  My experience, though, that the line between idiotic and reasonable often becomes rather thin when it comes to political and religious ideology.  Even when faced with the facts, few people are willing (or able?) to change their mind.

Why is this?  I’ve studied psychology enough to realize that humans are mostly irrational creatures, but I’m constantly amazed by how irrational certain people can be.  I seem unwilling and unable to accept the fact that most people aren’t capable of intelligent debate.  Part of me thinks that if I present the facts in a fair manner and make a reasonable argument that I can expect the same in return.  Apparently, I’m the irrational one for feeling frustrated by the inevitable irrationality of human nature.

But I do have reason for my irrational hope for rationality.  I occasionally have very intelligent debates with people online and these people even sometimes change their minds when offered new information… I even change my mind sometimes when presented with new information by an intelligent person.  Most often these people seem to be more liberal, libertarian or independent-minded. 

I’ve found that the only subjects that regularly attract intelligent conservatives are economics and sometimes philosophy/theology, but these are subjects that aren’t as easily determined factually according to scientific research (including psychological research).  Conservatives tend to argue more from a perspective of principles that they support with historical examples.  To conservatives, the past is where they look to verify a theory or claim.  I guess that is fine as far as it goes, but it makes for difficult debating because the attempt to understand principles and history is easily swayed by subjective biases.

For example, many libertarians and fiscal conservatives like to talk about free markets.  The problem is that it’s almost impossible to ascertain what this means.  The idea of a “free market” is highly theoretical if not outright idealistic.  No free market has ever existed.  Furthermore, no free market could ever exist because it’s merely a relative label of a market being more free than some other market.  There is no ultimate freedom of markets.  So, these debates lead off in all kinds of directions such as referencing “experts”.  The issue I have with experts in fields such as economics is that expertise is much more subjective in that there is less hard data.  Many of the economic models that have been relied upon have been proven wrong.  It’s almost impossible to scientifically study markets in that confounding factors can’t be easily controlled.

But even intelligent libertarians sometimes are wary of actual scientific data.  Libertarians don’t trust government.  Since scientists sometimes get government grants, scientists can’t be entirely trusted either.  For some reason, libertarians think corporate sponsored scientists would be more trustworthy.

Conservatives in general are more mistrusting of objectivity.  I’m not quite sure what is the reasoning behind this.  Some intelligent conservatives I’ve met actually agree with me about humans being irrational and that seems to be their reason for mistrusting objectivity, but this is a more intelligent argument and probably doesn’t represent the opinion of average conservatives.

To be fair, the smartest people of all probably are independents.  From the data I’ve seen, independents (and the American public in general) are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  The question is which is the cause?  Do smart people tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative?  OR do social liberals and fiscal conservatives tend to be smart?  Or is there a third causal factor?  MBTI iNtuition and FFM “openness to experience” correlate with testing high on intelligence and correlate with high representation in college.  Also, these psychological functions/traits correlate to liberal attitudes, but I’m not sure how they may or may not correlate to fiscal conservatism.  (There is a nice site about politics and psychological types: http://www.politicaltypes.com.)

Some of the most intelligent debaters will be the MBTI NT types (iNtuition Thinking).  I know that INTPs tend to be self-identify as politically independent and I suspect the same would be true for INTJs.  NTs probably either vote with Democrats for reasons of social liberalism or with libertarians for reasons of it being a third party, but I some NTs might vote Republican for reasons of fiscal conservatism or else for reasons of principles.  I’m not sure how many NTs vote Republican, but polls I’ve seen show that ENTJs are more conservative (probably because TJ – Extraverted Thinking – is their primary function).

So, I can presume that most often, when I’m enjoying an intelligent discussion, I’m probably interacting with a socially liberal iNtuition type.  I don’t know what good this knowledge does for me.  Maybe it helps me to be more forgivng (this person sure is stupid… it’s too bad they were born that way). 

To be more optimistic, psychological research doesn’t show that most people fit in absolute categories.  Most people can learn non-preferred thinking styles and learn to develop weak traits.  Education should teach people how to use all parts of their mind.  The fact that so many people lack critical thinking skills is a failure of our education system and shouldn’t be blamed on individuals.  College favors iNtuition types.  Most professors and college-level teachers are iNtuition types and most of the coursework is more appealing to iNtuitive types.  It’s hard for a strong Sensation type to do well in traditional schooling.  Who can blame them that they don’t go to college or have bad experiences at college?  Who can blame them for falling prey to the notion that college is controlled by liberal elites?

Considering that the MBTI shows Sensation types represent the largest portion of the population, it is quite sad that our education system has the hardest time reaching this category of person.  Sensation types don’t have as much natural talent for abstract thinking and critical thinking.  Sensation types are better with concrete information and concrete learning.  Too much of higher education deals with abstractions and theories.  Dumbing down higher education isn’t the answer.  I think we should have more alternative routes of education. 

When I was in highschool, my best friend was very much a Sensation type who took many alternative classes involving technology.  He was good working with machines and with computers, but he wasn’t extremely smart in terms of intellectuality.  Alternative classes served him well in terms of preparing him for a job in the real world.  The potential criticism, though, is whether he was prepared for being a well-rounded and well-informed citizen.  I suspect not.  The highschool I went to didn’t require students take classes in logic and critical thinking.  The classes in general seemed rather dumbed down.  Unless you were taking college prep classes, you wouldn’t be intellectually challenged.

I feel frustrated.  I don’t want to blame the average person for not being well educated, but I do feel pissed off that our education system has failed these people and so created an intellectually inferior society.  Even news reporting seems dumbed down for the masses.  Shouldn’t the education system and the media, instead, serve the ideal of uplifting the masses by informing them?

Even with intelligent people, I think the education system has often failed.  College is less focused on providing a liberal education and created well informed citizens.  College has merely become a career path.  Many have talked about the problem of specialization of knowledge.  People go to college only to become isolated in some particular field and outside that field they may be largely ignorant. 

People, whether well educated or not, seem less capable of understanding the larger context.  Maybe it’s always been that way.  If so, I hope it’s changing.  I probably shouldn’t expect the education system to do anything more than create good workers… as that seems to be its primary purpose.  My hope is more in the realm of media technology.  The traditional media has been failing for a long time, but the new media has been very successful.  The most well informed people are those who use the new media to inform themselves.  And, because of the new media, the uninformed (be they the average public or the average politician) can no longer spout misinformation without being challenged.

So, to return to the original topic of online debates, maybe a purpose is served by all of the ideological conflict found in the forums and comments sections around the web.  The people who weren’t educated well in school get confronted, whether they like it or not, with new information and with actual critical thinking skills.  Some people might just become even more ideological in response, but many others will learn to be more intelligent debaters.  Even debates where people deny expert opinions may serve a purpose in that a discussion then ensues about the definition of ‘expert’.  The question about the new media is whether the positives will outweigh the negatives.  The uninformed have the opportunity to become even more polarized and entrenched in their views by isolating themselves in forums of the likeminded, but those who want to be informed have more opportunity than ever to do so… and there are many in the middle who are neither extremely ideological nor extremely motivated to learn.

My hope is that the internet remains an open resource and open platform for public debate.  My other hope is that the internet my force the education system to improve by offering both teachers and students to become more well informed.  Students now no longer have to solely rely on the information given by teachers, and teachers no longer have to solely rely on the information that was given to them when they were students.

Debate b/t Religion and Science: Theists, Atheists, Agnostics, Integralists

 – – –

FIRST COMMENT

This response profoundly misunderstands Karen Armstrong’s arguments.  This isn’t a fair portrayal.  As far as I understand her arguments, the criticisms presented here don’t seem to touch upon what she actually writes about.

Armstrong’s books are very scholarly.  She isn’t against rationality and science.  What she supports is making subtle intellectual distinctions in order to create a rational context to discuss otherwise non-rational issues.  She backs her arguments with historical evidence which is the best one can do when trying to analyze the development of religion and society.  And nothing she states contradicts any known scientific facts or theories.

Armstrong offers great insight into the religious mind.  Her explanation of the origins of literalist fundamentalism make more sense to me than any argument I’ve come across.

Her argument is that a new way of thinking about religion arose with the Axial Age.  In particular, this involved the ability to think metaphorically.  But I don’t think she disagrees that it was initially (and for many centuries to come) a style of thinking limited mostly to elite theologians.  It was only with the Enlightenment that the the Axial Age ideals started to take hold more clearly and science provided a new paradigm by which metaphorical thinking could be contrasted.

In response to science, the idea of religious literalism arose as entirely distinct from allegorical interpretation.  It’s not that literalist thinking didn’t exist to an extent earlier, but it only became an ideology unto itself in modern times.

Armstrong isn’t an enemy of atheism.  The only thing she is an enemy of is closed-mindedeness and simplistic thinking.  Her criticism of the New Atheists isn’t a criticism of atheism in general.  She is simply pointing out that certain arguments made by some popular atheists aren’t the best arguments to be made.  Her main issue is that, by talking about religion in literalist terms, the atheist just plays into the hands of literalist fundamentalists.  She wants to undermine religious literalism at it’s base.  She wants to show fundamentalism for what it is by showing how it developed.

 – – –

SECOND COMMENT

We seem to be talking past each other or something.

And you apparently have me mistaken for someone else.  I’m far from being a religious apologist.  I can’t stand apologetics and I harshly criticize anyone who uses it.  I do have some interest in religion and I study religious scholarship, but I’m not an overly religious person as I usually think of myself as an agnostic.  I look for insight where ever I can find it whether from religion, science, psychology or whatever.  But I especially appreciate quality scholarship.
 
Straw-men arguments? I have no clue what you’re talking about.  My basic argument was that you didn’t understand Armstrong’s ideas, and I then explained my own understanding of her work.  Have you read her books?  If you haven’t, then I don’t know why you have such strong opinions based on such limited info.  Or if you have, you need to reinforce your argument with more specifically quoted examples.
 
“Of course, Armstrong doesn’t say she is against science. I never claimed this. She is completely misrepresenting it’s place in history, that’s all.”
 
Well, so far, you’ve mentioned science 25 times and mostly in reference to Armstrong.  Going by your own words: Your argument is that she undermines and blames and ignores science, that she doesn’t care about scientfic facts, and that she is dangerously usurping science for a liberal anti-scientific agenda.  If this isn’t your true opinion, then you need to edit your previous statements or else better explain what you actually meant by these words.
 
“I am amused at how you built your assumptions into the statement while cloaking Armstrong’s revisionism in the language of tolerance.”
 
All statements have assumptions built into them.  My argument was fairly simple and straightforward.  I wasn’t cloaking anything.
 
“Firstly, she is not so much making ‘intellectual distinctions’ as she is making stuff up.”
 
Generalized judgments and dismissals aren’t helpful.  Give me precise quoted examples of her making stuff.   Show in detail that your allegation is correct.  Explain how her supposed “making stuff up” disproves her entire argument and undermines all of her scholarly respectability.
 
“Secondly, your implicit assumption that there is no other rational context to discuss such issues is wrong.”
 
No such assumption was implied.  I’m fond of many other rational contexts.  I wasn’t arguing that Armstrong has the market cornered on rational contexts.  She isn’t even an author I obsessively read or even think about that much.
 
“There is one very powerful rational context that is always relevant- objective reality.”
 
I like objective reality.  Are you implying that my arguments or Armstrong’s arguments deny or contradict objective reality?
 
“No preferential treatment of facts is necessary, thanks a lot (read up on sociobiology- really read- to get a rational context for understanding religious fundamentalism).”
 
I don’t understand your complaint.  Preferential treatment of facts isn’t necessary, but emphasizing the importance of facts is always a nice thing.  And, yes, I do read up on many fields of study.  In particular, the relationship between biology and behavior is a topic I often read about.
 
“Literalist fundamentalism was always there.”
 
It seems we’re defining literalism differently.  I can’t assess your definition as I don’t know what facts and theories you’re basing it on.  As far as I can tell, you seem to be using a very general and vague sense of literalism.  In terms of cognitive ability, however, literalistic thinking is more narrowly defined.
 
“Religion is the political remnant of a system of belief that told a narrative of factual events. For modern religious moderates, when it comes to everyday issues they can understand that there is such a thing as the real world and there is the emotional world, but when it comes to religion they forgo this distinction.”
 
It’s not that all fundamentalists dismiss this distinction.  Many of them simply don’t understand it.
 
The definition of literalism I’m using is from a developmental perspective.  On the personal level, people have the potential to learn how to make clear rational distinctions at a particular stage of development, but this depends on the person’s intelligence and their social environment.  As such, development can be stalled or even permanently stunted.  Plus, integrating this ability into all aspects of one’s life involves even further stages of cognitive development that are even less common.  There are also theories that discern stages of development in societies.  A person is only likely to develop to the extent that most others have developed in their society.  Our modern understanding of literal facts didn’t exist thousands of years ago.  Even when this understanding began to develop, it was a minority of the population that grasped it.
 
I openly admit that it’s hard to figure out the cognitive processes of ancient people.  But plausible theories can be formed using historical data, anthropology, psychology and neurology.  Anyways, my main point isn’t that all ancient people didn’t have some basic sense of an external reality that they perceived as being separate from their own subjectivity.  I’m simply pointing out that religious literalism as we know it today has become influenced by a scientific worldview which wasn’t the case in the past.
 
“Please spare me the Axial age BS. It is a half-baked hypothesis that relies on amateurish post hoc reasoning. Such ideas are designed to appeal to those who have already made up their minds. In this case, it is the mind of the religious moderate who desires above all to find a way to make all the religions work together in harmony.”
 
You have many biased assumptions about many things.  Half-baked?  Amateurish post hoc reasoning?  Please do explain!
 
Armstrong didn’t simply invent the idea of the Axial Age as it (along with similar ideas) has been discussed by many scholars.  It’s common for scholars to analyze history according to ages of socio-cultural development such as tool-making, agriculture, city-states, etc.  In terms of the Axial Age, there was a specific time period when many cultures were developing written language and when certain new ideas arose such as monotheism/monism and variations of the golden rule. 
 
The term Axial Age is merely a way of labelling and describing a broad period of cultural transformation.  That such a transformation happened is a matter of historical record, but the cause of it is a complex issue.  Even though cultural transmission is one possibility, it’s implausible as being the sole cause as there were many separate cultures experiencing similar changes at around the same time.  It is true that correlation doesn’t prove causation, but obviously something was causing massive change.
 
“To understand cultural patterns on such large scales one needs to take into account a lot more real variables that Armstrong can grasp.”
 
Why do you presume what Armstrong can grasp?  Do you personally know her and have you scientifically tested her cognitive abilities? 
 
She is a religious scholar.  That is what she is an expert in and so that is what she focuses on.  Why would you expect a scholar of a specific field to take into account all possible variables including those outside their field?  Yes, there are other areas of scholarship that are relevant.  So what?  That doesn’t disprove Armstrong’s contribution to her area of scholarship. 
 
Her ideas are just another possible piece of the puzzle, but I’m all for trying to understand the whole puzzle.  For that reason, I turn to such things as Integral theory in order to get a conceptual framework to put the pieces together.  Even so, you can never know that you’ve completely figured it out because theories about human cultural development are impossible to scientifically prove beyond all doubt.
 
“For example, briefly, the ‘ability’ to think metaphorically evolved at least 70,000 years ago, but possibly up to 300,000 years ago. However, the ability to perceive our world around us evolved with the first intelligent ancestors we ever had. For intelligent biological organisms to survive, they needed to be convinced that certain things were true. Metaphor as a semantic tool is pointless when faced with a hungry lion. Literalism is the default setting.”
 
I’m not using literalism as referring to the perception of external reality, though there are theories that propose that early humans didn’t clearly distinguish between internal and external experience (such as Julian Jaynes’ theory of bicameralism or Lloyd deMause’s theory of schizotypal personality).  Instead, what I am focusing on here is the cognitive ability to think in terms of black and white absolutes.  This is how a person cognitively processes perceptual experience rather than the process of perception itself.  So, metaphor as you are using it seems to be equated with mythological thinking which according to some theories of development represents an earlier stage of development.
 
“It is an insult to say that these people did not believe that stuff literally.”
 
I’m not saying that and I don’t think that Armstrong comes to that conclusion.  For example, consider Christianity.  Some of the earliest theologians relied heavily on allegorical interpretations.  Yes, they believed they were true but not necessarily true in a physical sense.  Christianity arose at the end of the Axial Age when the distinction between allegorical truth and objective facts was becoming more common.
 
In a sense, even these early Christians believed their allegorical interpretations were literally true for they conceived the spiritual realm as being the highest truth.  Still, they were making a distinction which is different than the earliest religions where the spiritual and physical were inseparable (and so mind and world were connected through magical thinking).  Nonetheless, even this conflation doesn’t deny that they may have had some understanding of reality as external to them.  If a hungry lion attacked, they would defend themselves against it.  But afterwards they probably would interpret it as an animistic encounter with a spiritual being.
 
I don’t know if I’m communicating this in a way that you understand.  I’ve been studying these kinds of ideas for years and I can’t claim to have it all figured out.  It’s a very complex topic involving many different theories by many different scholars in many different fields.  However, I often return to Ken Wilber’s Integral theory as it connects more of the puzzle pieces together than any other theory I’ve come across, though I don’t agree with everything he claims.  It’s first and foremost a descriptive model, but to the degree it accurately explains objective facts it can be considered potentially predictive in that all individuals and all societies tend to follow certain patterns of development.  According to Wilber’s use of Spiral Dynamics (which represents only one line of development), there are distinct stages.
 
 – The earliest stages see the world in terms of animism and magical thinking, and so mythology is “literally” a part of the world.
 – After the earliest stages, humans began to develop a more individual sense of consciousness meaning that that the mind was showing some independence from the environment (i.e., people could think about rather than merely react to the world).  Likewise, spiritual beings also were perceived as being more clearly distinct from the world and from human individuality.  The sense of something being “literally” true meant that it existed outside of mere human experience.
 – The stage where “literal” thinking shows itself most clearly is when humans start emphasizing binary opposites that are polarized into absolute right and wrong, absolute true and false.  Self and other become absolutely distinct.
 – After this stage, experiential data and evidence take on greater value.  Standards and methods are developed to ascertain what is objectively true.  What is “literally” true is what is verifiable.  
 – This is where postmodernism and cultural relativism come in.  “Literal” truth becomes just one perspective and what is considered true is whatever allows for and includes the most perspectives.  As such, science and religion are perspectives and there is neither is inherently superior to the other in that there simply separate paradigms of reality.  However, within multiple perspectives there is a sense that some things are universally true and I suppose that this might be taken as “literally” true in some way.  This is primarily where Armstrong is arguing from, but I don’t know if this is where her thinking ends.
 – Beyond all of this, further stages of development are proposed where inclusion of different perspectives is allowed while maintaining a meta-perspective to discern the value of different perspectives.  These higher stages supposedly emphasize the ability to understand the different stages and different perspectives toward practical ends.  Something is “literally” true to the extent that it effectively works towards some clearly defined goal.  So, there would be no singular truth per se as there are many goals.  These goals aren’t seen as necessarily in conflict for it would be considered most optimal to find where lesser goals can be directed towards more encompassing goals.
 
By the way, this isn’t mere theory.  Spiral Dynamics was formulated according to research Clare Graves did, and Ken Wilber correlated it with other research and other models.  My point being that Armstrong’s arguments can be placed in this larger context of diverse scholarship.  Whether it’s absolutely true or not, time will tell.  But for certain this does offer a plausible explanation of cultural development that clarifies the relationship between religion and science.
 
– – –
 
THIRD COMMENT

 “After the publishing of this response,the commenter responded by ignoring my entire rational argument in favor of more confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias simply means that people tend to seek confirmation to their own view which is something everyone does to an extent, but it’s generally used to describe extreme examples of someone biased thinking.  However, making this allegation against an opponent can just as well be used polemically to dismiss another person’s view and evidence.  In this case, Kamal’s allegation of confirmation bias appears to be an example of confirmation bias.

“My statements were twisted in typical religious fashion, using the all-too-common religious dance between objective and subjective concepts in order to obscure naturalistic truth.”

Twisted?  I merely pointed out Kamal’s exact words.  I didn’t even take them out of context.  Anyone can look at his comments and see for themselves what he wrote (assuming he hasn’t since edited out these statements).

Typical religious fashion?  I presented carefully explained rational arguments supported by diverse theories and evidence.  All of the references I made can be found within the mainstream intellectual tradition.  Many of the ideas I was using for context are taught in universities and in some cases are based on social sciences research.  If Kamal considers this “typical religious fashion”, he must interact with some very intelligent and well-read religious people.  I wish he would give me their contact details because I’d love to meet such intellectually respectable believers.

“I am not interested in arguing with religious people since there are plenty of more useful things that I can occupy myself with.”

I explained to him that I’m not religious.  Some atheists can’t differentiate being interested in religion and believing in religion.  Anyone who has studied religious scholarship in any depth would quickly realize that many religious scholars aren’t religious believers.

“The writing of this article, contrary to what religious folk may think, has nothing to do with actually arguing against religious folk and everything to do with ridiculing Armstrong’s incoherent religious apologetics.”

He states his true intentions.  He isn’t interested in actual debate no matter how intelligent.  His main (and maybe only) purpose is to ridicule Armstrong because he has categorized her as a mere believer.  As his perception of her opposes his atheistic ideology, she must be attacked at all costs even if it means sacrificing intellectual honesty.  Polemically winning the debate by silencing one’s opponent is more important than the open puruit of truth.

“Such ridicule is well within my right, and I believe it is essential to the process of developing a strong freethought response to institutionalized superstition.”

Free speech is definitely everyone’s right, and it’s his right to choose whose comments he wants to post.  However, if his purpose is genuinely to promote freethought, then he should support the free speech of others rather than attempting to silence disagreement.  New understanding comes from the meeting of different perspectives.  Freethought isn’t about any particular ideology or theory.  Freethought is dependent on respect for open discussion and respect for all rational viewpoints.  His opinion that my viewpoint is wrong simply doesn’t matter from the perspective of freethought.  An intellectual argument deserves an intellectual response… which is what Kamal refused to do and so he loses any rational justification for calling himself a defender of freethought.

“In view of this, I have decided to not publish any further comments form religious folk. If you think you have won the debate, good for you. Please continue to feel good about yourself.”

Thank you.  I do feel good about offering you opportunity to have a rational discussion, but it saddens me that you apparently have embraced pseudo-intellectualism.

“We rationalists have our hands full trying to build real moral alternatives to religion and I would rather not waste my time arguing with those who cannot let go of primitive superstitions.”

Primitive superstitions?  Is that the best you can do?

Oh well… 

 – – –

NOTE ON COMMENTS

I posted the first two comments to Ajita Kamal’s blog.

However, the second comment apparently wasn’t allowed to be posted.  I can only assume that Ajita Kamal had no rational response to my dismantling of his argument.  I don’t know if Ajita Kamal is an example of a pseudo-intellectual, but his actions seem to show a lack of intellectual humility and maybe honesty.  After my comment was posted there and not approved, an earlier commenter returned to praise his writing.  He accepted this praise, but didn’t mention my having refuted his criticisms of Karen Armstrong.  Ajita Kamal is the type of ideologue of the New Atheist variety who gives atheism a bad name.

For obvious reasons, I made no attempt to post the third comment to Ajita Kamal’s blog.  Kamal did finally acknowledge in his blog the existence of my comment, but he still didn’t offer any rational response.

 – – –

ABOUT KAREN ARMSTRONG

I’m no expert on Armstrong’s scholarschip, but she is someone I refer to on occasion.  She is highly influential and probably can be considered to have taken up the position of authority that Joseph Campbell once held.  If you don’t like or understand Campbell, then you’ll probably have the same attitude about Armstrong.  Both began as Catholics and both sought a non-literal understanding of religion.

As for Armstrong, she was a nun who became an angry atheist and then later came to accept the label of “freelance monotheist“. 

I usually describe myself, perhaps flippantly, as a freelance monotheist I draw sustenance from all three of the faiths of Abraham.  I can’t see any one of them as having the monopoly of truth, any one of them as superior to any of the others. Each has its own particular genius and each its own particular pitfalls and Achilles heels. But recently, I’ve just written a short life [story] of the Buddha and I’ve been enthralled by what he has to say about spirituality, about the ultimate, about compassion and about the necessary loss of ego before you can encounter the divine. And all the great traditions are, in my view, saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences.

My sense is that she just means that she has the sense of something profoundly true, but she is unwilling to making any ideological claims about it.  She separates her scholarship from her experience, but at the same time sees scholarship as a way of exploring possible universal aspects of human experience.  From what I can tell, she isn’t trying to apologetically convince anyone of a particular position.  Her own position is an attitude of openness and acceptance (which I would deem intellectual humility).  She takes her role as scholar very seriously and so her attitude of openness is also an attitude of intellectual curiosity.  She doesn’t seem to start with the position of having anything figured out (either theistically or atheistically), but neither is she resigned to relativism.

What is interesting about Armstrong is how differently people react to her ideas.  Some religious believers agree with ideological atheists in their belief that she is the ultimate enemy (whether of “faith” or of “reason”).  On the other hand, many religious believers, agnostics, atheists, and generally open-minded curious people consider her to be a proponent of freethought and religious insight.  What is clear is that those who disagree with her are forced to come to terms with her very popular scholarship.

FURTHER INFORMATION

If you’re interested in further criticisms of the New Atheists, see these other posts of mine:

Here is a thoughtful criticism of the atheist response to religion:

A Mission to Convert
By H. Allen Orr
The New York Review of Books

And some other interesting blogs, articles, and videos:

http://fora.tv/2008/02/27/Karen_Armstrong_in_Conversation_with_Alan_Jones

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya64kx1U2r8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsZF8I6lrdQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtpF94Fjue4&feature=related

http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/05/30/armstrong/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574405030643556324.html

http://www.newsweek.com/id/215180

http://300dollarwonder.blogspot.com/2007/01/karen-armstrong-why-atheism-is-in-vouge.html

http://www.religiondispatches.org/blog/religionandtheology/2026/is_karen_armstrong_right_was_religion_always_about_belief_or_not

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relationship_between_science_and_religion

http://www.examiner.com/x-8637-Sacramento-Spirituality-Examiner~y2009m6d9-Theism-and-Skepticism

http://hokai.info/2006/11/where-atheist-revolution-went-wrong.html

http://rationalmorality.info/?p=132

http://karmabuster.gaia.com/blog/2009/5/dennett-dawkins-metaphor-and-much-more

http://julianwalkeryoga.gaia.com/blog/2008/2/interesting_conversation

http://coolmel.gaia.com/blog/2007/12/the_new_atheists_are_people_too

http://sunwalked.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/dawkins-the-fundamentalist-takes-a-left-and-a-right-to-the-chin/

http://www.northernway.org/weblog/?p=301

http://anamchara.com/2009/07/15/the-epistemology-of-post-fundamentalism/

http://anamchara.com/2008/01/04/holy-agnosis/

http://godisnot3guyscom-jeanette.blogspot.com/2009/11/trinity-by-ken-wilber.html

http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2007/09/more-on-why-new-atheists-will-fail.html

http://integral-options.blogspot.com/search?q=new+atheists

Intelligence & Curiosity

I want to speak about intellectual ability.  Some of it’s inborn intelligence and some of it’s learned habits such as memory tricks or reading comprehension.  However, those aspects aren’t necessarily the most central or most important.  Without intellectual curiosity and a desire to learn, all the ability in the world is useless.

In online discussions, I’m surprised how often someone asks a question when a five second websearch would’ve given them an answer.  So much time gets spent on explaining (sometimes very basic ideas and facts) to people who lack any motivation to learn.

I’m surprised how often people don’t read a link when I post it explaining what it is and why it’s relevant.  I’ve even cited a link as a basis of an argument and the argument itself was straight from the article, but the other person disagrees with me demonstrating they didn’t even read the article.  If I’m citing an article by an expert or which quotes an expert, then any disagreement anyone has should be with the expert or the article.  But do they quote another expert or link another article?  No.  They just disagree with some magical power of intuition.  They just know your wrong.

It’s a rare person who goes to the effort of actually backing up their opinions with logic and facts.  And I really hate it when people pull the ‘experience’ card.  Someone may be a mother but it doesn’t mean they understand every mother.  Certainly, a survey or scientific research of thousands of people has at least equal or greater worth than the anecdotal experience of one person.  Another stupid tactic is when someone argues, for example, that since you take a liberal position that therefore you don’t know what it’s like to be fighting on the frontline… as if all soldiers are conservatives.

Then there are the nitpickers who either are trolls or simply lack inter-personal skills.  There comments can seem stupid as the person never adds anything of intelligence, but the person might actually have some hidden intelligence.  It really annoys me when I sense or suspect they’re intelligent because I keep waiting for an intelligent response which never comes.  What is the point of having intelligence if you don’t like using it?  I’d rather deal with a well-intentioned idiot than a halfway intelligent troll… a little bit of intelligence can be a dangerous thing.

The most typical variety of intellectually challenged debater is the person who simply repeats the same statement or belief or supposed fact.  They’ll rarely back up what they say with any cited source and if they offer a link it’s probably a ranting blog, a conspiracy website, apologetics or whatever.  If this person is also a nitpicker, they can be extremely annoying because they’ll demand that you cite sources for every minor statement.  This kind of person if they’re subtle enough (as some intelligent apologists are), they can lead you on for hours.  They make you think they actually care about the discussion, but they just want to make you run around.  They already have their mind made up before you wrote your first word.

It’s not that most people are stupid, but most definitely the average person tends to under-utilize their intelligence to an extreme degree.  What is lacking is curiosity.  How sad!  😦

I realize people are busy with more “important” things, but I still think it’s sad.

Love of Truth: Discussing vs Arguing

It’s kind odd that I don’t like direct conflict but I enjoy debate.

I blame my parents.  Both my mom and dad taught me to idealize truth and honesty.  My dad gave me the debating skills to pick apart any argument and he taught me the love of wisdom.  My mom gave me an irritable disposition that leads me to being very upfront with my opinions.  Also, my mom gave me a non-intellectual interest in human nature.  Combined together, I have an equal ability to analyze both the argument and the person making the argument.  Furthermore, my mom gave me a stubborn streak that goes directly with an ability to obsessively think about something for endless hours.  To mix metaphors, when something gets caught in my craw I don’t let go until every stone is turned.

But I can’t entirely blame my parents.  The MBTI personality type that I am is INFP which is fairly different from my parents’ personalities.  INFPs are idealists to the extreme.  In a sense, I took too seriously the lessons my parents taught me.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I see every side to every argument, I could almost make a good zealot.  Sometimes when an INFP gets hold of an issue or idea that they consider of great value, they hold on like pitbulls.  We INFPs may look like fluffy teddy bears, but we often have sharp teeth.

My intellectual side is partly a genuine aspect of my identity and is partly learned behavior.  I have an inner sense of self that is sensitive and non-rational to an extreme.  I live more by imagination than by thought, but it’s thought that I often use to relate to the world.  Right or wrong, I tend to use my intellect to justify my existence.  I just want the world to make sense.  And because of this I’m hard on myself (and everyone else) for failing to make perfect sense.  It’s kinda sad, but it’s my life and that is just the way it is.

So, when I’m in an irritable mood or when a value of mine is challenged, I can be a tireless debating opponent.  However, I’m usually only aggressive to people who deserve it.  I call them like I see them.  If someone is being mean-spirited or if someone is flaunting their ignorance, then I’ve been known to clearly point it out to them.  As I see it, either discuss intelligently and politely or don’t say anything at all.  If you have nothing relevant to add but still feel you must throw in your baseless opinion, then I will tear your view apart until you either shut up or start crying like a little sissy girl.  But as long as your comments are minimally relevant and rational, I’m perfectly fine with disagreement.  In fact, I love disagreement of the intelligent variety because it means I can learn something new.  And when learning something new I’m in a very good mood.

I realize I should be nicer than I am sometimes.  But the fact of the matter is that I’ve always valued honesty above almost everything else.  I worship at the altar of truth.  And if you get in the way of my ideal of truth, I can’t be held responsible for my behavior.  Let me just say sorry in advance.  If you ever catch me in an irritable and defensive mood, just let me vent and afterwards I’ll quite likely be one of the most warm and understanding people you’ve ever met.  As long as you’re willing to be honest and considerate with me, I’ll do the same for you.  So, be open and upfront in how you express yourself and I’ll do my best to understand your view.  Talk straight with me and don’t play psychological games.  There is no point to it.  You’re wasting my time and your own.

If all you want to do is argue, I’ll sometimes concede to that way of relating… until I become too emotioanlly drained (which can take a long time as my obsessive persistence usually lasts longer than that of most people).  If you want conflict, I can be a worthy debate opponent.  Sadly, though, it seems to me that those who seek conflict the most are the very people who aren’t talented debaters.  Be argumentative if you must but at least be interesting rather than simply annoying.  In particular, I’d rather not deal with the condescending snarkiness of know-it-all intellectual wannabes.

I should add that what I love most in life is seeking and sharing knowledge.  When I get obsessed with some idea or topic, I can spend enormous amounts of time doing nothing but research. I dig deep to find every interesting connection and every significant detail.

If I don’t know something, I admit it.  But I’m not content to simply admit my ignorance.  If it’s important enough to voice an opinion about, then it’s important enough to inform myself about.  If you ever find yourself debating me, don’t pretend to know what you don’t actually know.  I will check every fact you claim and I will look up precise definitions.  I don’t care if you have a college degree and are an expert in your field, don’t try to bullshit me.

Most importantly, don’t present opinions as facts (and the same goes for beliefs).  That is just plain wrong in my book.  Opinions are fine.  I have plenty of my own.  Just be humble enough to admit that it’s just an opinion.  If you lie to me about a fact or simply talk ignorantly, I will throw it back in your face and will publicly humiliate you with glee.  Or if you try to hide your true intentions behind facts and logic, I’ll pick at them like scabs until your motives start to show.  Don’t mess with the truth and I won’t mess with you.

All that said, I’m a pretty easygoing guy.  You have to be trying hard to get me rattled.  Basically, I really really do enjoy a good discussion and I’d rather have a friendly exchange than a heated argument.  I get excited about exploring new possibilities and I’m happy as can be when I meet someone who knows something I don’t.  As I see it, the quest for truth is an endless quest because truth is a mystery best understood in terms of questions rather than conclusions.  If like me you are a lover of truth, then we shall get along like best pals.