The Woeful State of Modern Debate
|March 18, 2017||Posted by William J Murray under Intelligent Design|
In debate after debate I’m sure we’ve all noticed that some people continually recycle the same statements over and over as if those statements represent something more than emotion-laden rhetoric that hasn’t already been factually and logically refuted or otherwise sufficiently responded to. While this is hardly surprising, what has piqued my interest are discussions involving the election of Donald J. Trump and abortion, I suppose because those subjects carry a great deal of emotional weight for many people. I think the reaction to these subjects reveals something extremely interesting and dangerous to society.
I’m not just talking about atheists/materialists here, but people in general. In every single discussion I had with anyone not supporting Trump, their reaction to Trump was not one of cool political discourse, but of outright hate. They hated Trump. However, not a single one of them could give me even a single policy position of the candidate. Not a single one of them could tell me anything whatsoever about his history other than that he was a rich businessman and star of The Apprentice. None of them had ever even watched a single, whole Trump rally video. Having a discussion with them brought out all the negative characterizations of Trump you find/found everywhere in various media outlets, including comments about his “orange” skin and comb-over hair.
Similarly, when having a “debate” about abortion, the same emotion-laden polemic is used over and over. Recently, on this blog, some commenters offer supposed “righteous indignation” about how pro-life advocates act (or rather, in their eyes, refuse to act appropriately) in response to what they refer to as a “holocaust” – the mass-murder of the unborn. Others react with emotional, “shaming” and “virtue-signalling” talking points about “reproductive rights” and “patriarchical oppression”. Ignoring the scientific fact that human life is known to begin at conception, they talk about other points of the growth of a human from conception that they personally feel would be better marks for granting human right protections – like where they think the fetus might be self-aware, or feel pain, or upon birth. While birth, unlike the other points, is not a vague marker, it suffers from other, logical problems as far as being the best marker fo application of human rights, rendering it simply an arbitrary point after conception with respect to application of human rights.
Now, what do these rhetorical responses and positions have in common? They are all based on subjective feelings and arbitrary points of factual reference that support those arbitrary feelings. In other words, it is the personal, subjective feeling that grounds many views, not relevant facts, grounded principles and logical examination.
For example, attacks on Trump and protests against him are not based upon substantive principles, relevant facts and logical examination; if they were, one would realize that unless they have known a person for many years, they are not likely to have a good understanding of that person’s character or views. Certainly, there is no logical or principled basis for taking a few minutes of snippets of what anyone says – especially in private in certain situations – and using those snippets to form a supposedly valid opinion of a person’s entire history or character. Also, ignoring the relevant facts – the actual entire history of that person in word and deed, and their official statements and policy points unfiltered by perhaps biased interpretation – is at best an unconscious effort to protect one’s negative feelings about that person.
In our other example, some here have made the claim that making abortion illegal might not, in the long term, reduce the number of abortions. If we assume it is a fact (and it is hardly that), it is an irrelevant one with respect to the arguments actually being made about abortion – that accepting and promoting the killing of innocent human life is corrosive to a decent culture based on unalienable human rights. Pointing out that they themselves would act violently to stop the killing of an innocent and so pro-lifers cannot actually consider abortion the killing of an innocent because they are not reacting violently is nothing more than emotional, self-righteous rhetoric and a false comparison.
There is a principle involved here: that all humans have unalienable rights. Defenders of abortion make the claim that there are some situations where humans should not have such rights. This reasoning necessarily opens the door to the subjective view that this group of humans or that group of humans are not protected by human rights. One might say that a human without apparent self-awareness doesn’t deserve that right; but what is the “self-awareness” marker other than an arbitrarily-assigned category? Post-birth humans – another arbitrarily assigned category. How about the comatose? Severely autistic? Deformed? One can make the case that if you are missing a limb, then you aren’t “fully” human. Who gets to define what is “human” enough to be deserving of human rights? Whatever government is in power? Whatever the majority decides?
If we go down that path of reasoning, then the holocaust is – according to that line of reasoning – no different than abortion; government and society defining a category of human life as “not human enough to deserve the basic protection of their right to life” and thus creating the legal and moral freedom to exterminate that class of human life. Moral subjectivism only exacerbates the hypocrisy of the abortionist argument; if it is society that decides what is and is not human life, then abortion is exactly like the holocaust.
This post-modernist moral relativism renders all “social justice” positions inherently absurd and hypocritical; if I can identify as anything and expect acceptance and tolerance for my position, how then does one justify spewing hate and intolerance for those who self-identify even as racists, misogynists and homophobes? If they can hate Trump, I can hate Clinton. If they can hate patriarchy, I can hate equality. If they can hate homophobes, then by post-modernist moral subjectivism I am certainly entitled to hate homosexuals.
If there are no fundamental principles or relevant facts from we all agree to submit to and from which we agree to draw rational conclusions, all one is left with is the whim of subjective feelings and arbitrarily organized references to support those feelings. What that ends up looking like is reliance upon rhetoric, invective, intimidation and, ultimately, violence. It also ends up looking like what we have on this site – a plethora of people utterly incapable of making a rational argument based upon logical inference derived from principle and relevant fact, ending up in self-conflicting absurdities and hypocrisies.
I’m at a loss at how to begin debating those who have absolutely no understanding of critical reasoning; it’s not like you can educate them in such skill during the debate; they have no idea what you are objecting to. They don’t comprehend arguments based on principle. They think any fact that feels like it supports their view actually helps their argument or actually rebuts the other person’s. They think a comparison of feelings and hypothetical personal reactions is a valid argument. They think mockery and personal insult is a valid form of debate. They think shaming and virtue-signalling is the be-all and end-all of public discourse. They think some ideas should not be discussed and actually think free speech is “hate” speech. IOW, as soon as you argue for Trump, or against abortion, you are automatically beyond the realm of civil discourse and the only appropriate response is shaming and ridiculing.
It’s bizarre. At times, the responses are so orthogonal to rational debate that it requires a massive effort just to explain how their point is entirely irrelevant, but doing so makes no difference because their position is entirely rooted in subjective feelings and arbitrary associations.
Armand Jacks and RVB8 don’t even understand that they have just shown, by their own reasoning, under their own worldview, and according to their own subjective, post-conception, arbitrary ideas about the application of human rights, that the Holocaust and abortion are morally, ethically and legally the same exact thing, even while insisting (because of their feelings) that they are not. This is the woeful state of modern debate.