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GoatLord

Weighing polarizations: An experimental approach to debate

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Recently I began experimenting with a thought process that can be helpful with debating a given subject matter. Let us use global climate change as an example. If we're going for a binary yes/no answer to whether or not it's s a real, tangible problem, we can first start with a hyperbolic version of the yes/no dichotomy:

 

A) There are absolutely no climate-related issues caused by man; the entire thing is a hoax. We're fine.

B) We've done irreversible damage and it's only a matter of time before a manmade, weather-based apocalypse takes over.

 

You'd have to be pretty unreasonable to take either stance. And the exact middle is unlikely to be true either. So you inch a bit to the left of the spectrum (conspiratorial hoax) or to the right (absolute unavoidable devastation) and you start to get more nuanced ways to look at it. It doesn't exactly clear up the politicizing of science, and by proxy the tendency for scientists to twist what's true because a lobbyist or a major industry wants to come out on top... But it does indicate, upon scrutinization, that manmade alterations to weather conditions do happen, and that with enough meddling it will likely cause major upsets to ecosystems and the general sustainability of life. This is a less alarmist view than the assumption some make that we're ultimately screwed, and it's more cautious than the assumption that there's nothing to worry about.

 

By applying this polarization and averaging/spectrum sliding thought process to debate, it's become a bit easier to understand multiple perspectives, as well as hold multiple (even contradictory) assessments about a given topic.

Edited by GoatLord

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You're assuming those "opposites" have comparable merits. They often do not. Like you want to discuss what the core of our moon consists of, and you need to give equal attention to the crazies that insist it's made of cheese. Same shit for the anti-vaxxers, or the creationists.

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I'm not necessarily assuming the merits are comparable. What's being assumed is that if one claim is x and one is y, but are both about subject A, then there could be benefit in playing with the slider, so to speak, and seeing what results. There could also be a multi-dimensional binary process whereby the question could be answered in terms of various types of yes/no responses, meaning you would have multiple sliders to account for different variables as they pertain to the original question or assessment.

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Maybe you should try having more than two massive political parties in your country. Two party systems suck. You'll even see it in videogames. If you want to balance an MMO, you introduce three factions.

 

Also climate change is a horrid subject to debate on, just like evolution. Science doesn't lie, you don't get to have an opinion on science. Reality is what it is, science shows what it is, and thinking reality is different from what it is won't get you anywhere except living in lalaland.

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I agree that having a partisanship here has been disastrous. It creates a binary worldview whereby most people will generally fall into either A or B ideological camp, which is dismissive of the subtlety of conviction and the fact that numerous other countries have non-binary political systems.

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3 hours ago, GoatLord said:

If we're going for a binary yes/no answer to whether or not it's s a real, tangible problem

lolwut there is loads of scientific evidence that suggests we have heavily damaged it. The human race has been putting shit like coal emissions into the atmosphere for two centuries. You think that has no major consequences and the era we're going into is mostly natural?

 

I know the cultural zeitgeist has changed since 2012 and people have become more conservative but that doesn't change climate change as an issue of the environment.

Quote

 

 

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27 minutes ago, MeetyourUnmaker said:

You think that has no major consequences and the era we're going into is mostly natural?

He was using an example, this doesn’t reflect Goatlord’s actual opinion. The point of this thread is to come up with a mutually beneficial method of debate, not climate change itself.

 

I agree with Mordeth that, once something is demonstrated to be absurd beyond a reasonable doubt that it shouldn’t be paid any credence, unfortunately many people hold absurd views as absolute truths so in real-world debates we’re often bogged down by nonsense and substantive discussion is left on the back burner.

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I remember this was something the BBC was struggling with a few years back.  They had a policy of giving both sides of a debate equal merit to allow the viewer/reader to make an informed decision in the middle.  But what happened in practice is that fringe viewpoints were given equal platform as accepted truths, and it ended up resulting in less accurate public perception. 

 

There was a big public review about it, and the corporation ended up changing their stance to give credit weight to the viewpoints with the most scientific merit.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Mordeth said:

You're assuming those "opposites" have comparable merits. They often do not. Like you want to discuss what the core of our moon consists of, and you need to give equal attention to the crazies that insist it's made of cheese. Same shit for the anti-vaxxers, or the creationists.

 

Can you explain why creationism is considered a crazy view if billions of people believe in it and evolution isn't a rock solid theory actually?

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Evolution is a rock solid theory. What isn't rock solid is the details about how it happened. So whether birds stopped having dinosaur-like teeth 67 million years ago or 68 million years ago. Or whether the first land-crawling fish crawled on their front limbs or their back limbs.

 

Yes, there's controversy about evolution. But only about the boring minute little details no one except biologists and kids that watched Jurassic Park too many times care about.

 

And we're getting dangerously offtopic here, so I'll just drop the magic word...

 

d i a l e c t i c s

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2 hours ago, MeetyourUnmaker said:

Can you explain why creationism is considered a crazy view if billions of people believe in it and evolution isn't a rock solid theory actually?

Believing isn't knowing. And just because a million parrots sing the same song without providing any sort of evidence, it doesn't make it real. Evidence for evolution has been provided time and time again over decades, evidence that supports intelligent design is non-existent. And that's the end of that discussion as far as I'm concerned. For the record I am a religious person, believe it or not, but trying to force the idea of a celestial diety into fields of science is something I find preposterous.

Also, for future discussions here's some good advice:

If somebody tells you that intelligent design is fact, just because science can't explain absolutely every little detail about what happened when during evolution, said somebody - who constructs arguments like that - is full of shit.

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That animals evolve is a rock solid theory.  Most (sensible) religions don't debate evolution. It's where life came from originally that no-one has necessarily proven yet. 

 

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14 hours ago, FractalBeast said:

Maybe you should try having more than two massive political parties in your country. Two party systems suck. You'll even see it in videogames. If you want to balance an MMO, you introduce three factions.

 

Also climate change is a horrid subject to debate on, just like evolution. Science doesn't lie, you don't get to have an opinion on science. Reality is what it is, science shows what it is, and thinking reality is different from what it is won't get you anywhere except living in lalaland.

 

Science ≠ Reality.

Science merely consists of models to help describing how our world works. Those are very helpful tools, but they are not the reality. They are at best, strongly simplified versions of reality. More often than not, models get falsified and replaced with better models.

 

Example, from describing the way atoms work:

-Someone postulated that you can't divide atoms into even tinier parts. Turns out he was wrong….

-Niels Bohr postulated some kind off random but also some reasoned stuff about atoms. He was able to describe the character traits of Hydrogen. Turns out his model isn't good enough to describe more complicated atoms… and even gives false/not-accurate results.

-At some point Erwin Schroedinger appeared with his model and you know what happened then.

-...

 

Science isn't a static thing. Science is dynamic in every aspect. Unfortunately, that's why we can AND cannot rely solely on science.

Edited by rodster

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33 minutes ago, rodster said:

At some point Erwin Schroedinger appeared with his model and you know what happened then.

It should be noted that Schroedinger made the "Shroedinger's Cat" thought experiment not to explain the way that particles act by themselves (the purview of Quantum Physics), but to showcase the blatant absurdity of the "existing in a superposition of multiple states until observed" thought process.

 

Unfortunately, many people latch onto Shroedinger's Cat and use that as evidence that humans have some unexplainable power to force things into existence the same way every time.

 

To the topic at hand, I am in agreement with Mordeth and Doomkid. I like the idea of weighing two opposites against each other, but the issue arises with how much real credibility one side or the other has (moon made of rock versus made of cheese). This style of debate seems better warranted to debate two credible ideas, instead of general topics, and I could see it being used to debate something scientifically, such as economics, which wouldn't have the debate be a waste of time, ultimately.

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2 hours ago, rodster said:

 

Science ≠ Reality.

Science merely consists of models to help describing how our world works. Those are very helpful tools, but they are not the reality. They are at best, strongly simplified versions of reality. More often than not, models get falsified and replaced with better models.

 

Example, from describing the way atoms work:

-Someone postulated that you can't divide atoms into even tinier parts. Turns out he was wrong….

-Niels Bohr postulated some kind off random but also some reasoned stuff about atoms. He was able to describe the character traits of Hydrogen. Turns out his model isn't good enough to describe more complicated atoms… and even gives false/not-accurate results.

-At some point Erwin Schroedinger appeared with his model and you know what happened then.

-...

 

Science isn't a static thing. Science is dynamic in every aspect. Unfortunately, that's why we can AND cannot rely solely on science.

That's true, yes. But that still means that in this moment, science is the best explanation for reality.

 

Best not to dwell on such paralyzing thoughts like the inability to properly model reality or whether it's even possible to figure out "everything" because that makes existential dread set in on my part.

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Just dropping in to say that the reason I chose climate change is because there HAVE been (from my knowledge) falsified papers, inaccurate modeling, narrative twisting from lobbyists, and alarmist sentiments, which complicates the objective truth, that being man has contributed negatively to chemical/weather alterations and it needs be addressed immediately.

 

So if it's simultaneously true that we have negatively affected our environment AND science isn't 100% foolproof, then you slide around the spectrum and hopefully come to a reasonable conclusion. In this case it would be that scientific data is mostly trustworthy, but we shouldn't get hysterical and panicky over something that is likely fixable, and we should assume man is having a real impact on climate.

 

EDIT: Quick extra note, the "realness" of climate change is not being debated here; of course it's real. What's being debated is how much we understand about the phenomenon. Because there's a lot of missing pieces to the model, I felt it was a good example to use. You could also use it in debates about the existence of God, gender roles, the feasibility of superhuman AI, abortion, immigration, or whatever hot button issue you like. I don't think it necessarily guarantees a logical conclusion, but I think this polarizing model of debate might be interesting to use here.

Edited by GoatLord

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22 hours ago, MeetyourUnmaker said:

Can you explain why creationism is considered a crazy view if billions of people believe in it and evolution isn't a rock solid theory actually?

 

Billions of people don't believe in that. The USA simply doesn't have that many inhabitants.

 

Secondly, evolution is pretty much rock solid as things go. Putting in this way: science understands evolution better than gravity. And "evolution" is not just a theory based on looking at fossils. Evolution is observed on ANY level in ANY biological lifeform. Physiology, morphology to individual proteins and DNA: all show the exact same evolutionary patterns. it's EVERYWHERE. Even the gestation period of humans beings mimics our evolution, from the egg's abnormal salt content that mimics that salt content of ancient oceans, to the embryo developing gills and tails belonging to our fishy ancestors before those features are absorbed or transformed into ears and vestigial bones and whatnot.

 

And sure, science has gaps and undiscovered terrain. But that doesn't mean that entitles you to sneak in your own opinions concerning a moon with a cheesy core.

 

Also, take note: I'm not telling you this to demonstrate you're stupid or an ignorant hillbilly or whatever. I'm telling you because I care. I'm telling you this to free your mind. People who want you to believe in creationism are LYING to you, in order to preserve their own world view and chain you up to it as well. You need to free yourself from those shackles, in order to become the person you deserve to be.

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12 hours ago, Mordeth said:

Also, take note: I'm not telling you this to demonstrate you're stupid or an ignorant hillbilly or whatever. I'm telling you because I care. I'm telling you this to free your mind. People who want you to believe in creationism are LYING to you, in order to preserve their own world view and chain you up to it as well. You need to free yourself from those shackles, in order to become the person you deserve to be.

Maybe you are lying to him. Or I am lying to you all. Hey! It's a possibility after all. :D

 

I guess, at the end of the day it boils down to what you want to believe. I see no problem with each viewpoint as long as we are not hurting each other. I just wanted to say that the possibility existed.

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It isn't even a debate when one side is opinions and the other is facts. It is more of a dumb show where idiots embarrass everyone who know anything about that field.

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4 hours ago, rodster said:

I see no problem with each viewpoint as long as we are not hurting each other.

 

The problem arises when someone thinks his ignorant opinions ought to countenance actual verifiable facts, and ought to be treated with the same respect as those facts. They do not, we should not, and this is no longer a debate.

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That is why I've been using this slider system. If we take the creationist argument, the extremes become:

A) There was no intelligent entity involved in the development of the universe.

B) There absolutely was an intelligent entity involved in the development of the universe, based on Christian teachings.

 

A isn't particularly reasonable; we do not understand the limits of intelligence, consciousness, propagation, causality or technology. So we cannot at this time determine how much of a role intelligent entities play in the development of spacetime topology. B isn't particularly reasonable either, not only because of A's reasoning, but because pre-scientific literature such as the Christian Bible should not be seen as describing objective facts about physical/quantum reality.

 

This more nuanced approach does not preclude the possibility of high-technology beings that can generate their own universes (or at least universe-sized simulations), but it does assert that the Christian perspective is culturally relative and not indicative of objectivity; only that the concept of a "god" may relate to something physical or quantum that we discover somewhere down the road. I like this view because it allows for an unproven idea to be given a chance, without that idea being taken as literal.

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This is an interesting approach, trying to balance on a middle line. That's good. This way you won't miss both sides. You take every positive thing you can and you hare happy with it, as far as I can see.

 

What I also see is, that at the end of the day, it all boils down to the same topic God lol.

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Keep in mind, that this is not a "right down the middle" approach. The idea is that the extremes and the middle are unlikely to be true in most cases. The nuanced conclusion will likely be a bit right or left of center.

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yes, I agree, nuance is important. considering all sides of a controversy, and weighing them according to merit, can go a long way in achieving intellectual clarity. however, it takes discipline and rigor to do this. most people don't want to critically analyze their perspectives -- instead, they seek echo-chambers which support their assumptions. combine this with the tribal instinct of us vs. them, and controversial topics quickly degenerate into bickering, flame-wars, or even violence. for example, I've spouted unpopular political views on this very site, and was greeted with a fair amount of hostility for my wrongthink -- not that I was totally innocent, I did exacerbate it, but I still think that serves as an example.

 

getting back to my first point, you must consider all sides, but also give them due weight. if one side is supported by consistent and reliable evidence, and the other side is flimsy, irrational, or unfalsifiable, they should not be given equal consideration. at the same time, we should not use this weighted approach to commit other fallacies, such as straw-manning the other side and dismissing unpopular ideas which may have merit. and so, there should be a sliding scale, but it should be weighted according to evidence and reason.

 

global warming is a tricky topic. there is a scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change, but uncertainties still abound. the earth's climate is a vast, complex system, with interlocking feedback loops, and it can be difficult for even our best minds to model it accurately. we know for sure that we've released alot of co2 via fossil fuel combustion over the past 200 years, and especially the past 50, and this is bound to have some sort of impact. on the other hand, there's the natural oscillation of climate (roman warm period, dark ages cooling period, medieval warm period, little ice age...) which indicates that we're due for a Modern Warm Period. there's also the possibility that an increase in the earth's albedo may offset global warming, as would the carbon cycle. will these offsets be enough to prevent the worst of global warming? it's not certain.

 

given the scientific consensus, weight must be placed on the current models of global warming. but is the scientific consensus the absolute truth? no, because science is not based on authority; it's simply the best tool and method we have for making sense of the reality around us. in fact, science is anti-authority, in that anything can be questioned, tested, or overturned. that doesn't mean that some youtuber should be given the same credence as peer-reviewed publications -- once again, due weight should be applied -- but science is not Scripture. this is relevant to a phenomenon I've observed, which I call 'science-ism': the belief that anything a scientist says must be true, and that questioning science is akin to heresy. that's simply not the case, and goes against the whole spirit of science in the first place. we place greater credence on stronger evidence and people with greater knowledge and experience, sometimes that can be a very heavy emphasis, but it's not absolute.

 

the theory of evolution is built on much firmer ground than current speculations on the climate (and the long-term influence of our co2 output). evolution presents a unified system which accounts for the entire history of all life on earth. yes, there are gaps and uncertainties here and there, the structure may be unfinished and unpolished in places, but the structure as a whole demonstrates rock-solid stability, consistency, and comprehensiveness. the only reason for denying such a well-entrenched, supported idea is to cling to a literalist interpretation of mythology written a few thousand years ago (that and just playing devils advocate I guess). anyone who 'reverse cherry-picks' an established concept and attempts to deny the whole thing on the basis of minor issues, while ignoring the mountain of evidence in favor, is almost certainly biased and agenda-driven. Holocaust Denialism is another example of this, it's like a crash course in logical fallacies, even moreso than Creationism (which already does quite a bit of mental gymnastics).

 

this got pretty darn long. so,

tl;dr: all views should be considered on a sliding scale, but the scale should be weighted in accordance with evidence/facts/logic. science is a great tool which deserves respect and due weight, but not unquestioning obedience.

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I agree. This idea that some notions or assertions have literally zero weight in debate is exceedingly ignorant and arrogant.  Scrutinizing a shaky assertion is far preferable to assigning it a value of zero and therefore dismissing it entirely. 

 

There are some who think it logical to say, assign white nationalism a zero value in debate. While it's obviously a crappy attitude that ought not be held, if I allow myself to examine it using the polarization approach (as well as sincerely listen to my opponent, ugly as their words may be), I can at least understand the "why" of my opponent's view, even though I know I'm not going to agree with it. Comprehending the "why" can, I think, help prevent us from dehumanizing a bad actor, and may even provide psychological avenues to travel, for the purposes of convincing said bad actor that they picked a poor ideology.

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It's always important that debating something doesn't mean you legitimize something, or give it a platform.

 

Given how history played out, certain ideologies (mainly fascist ideologies, whether it's good old European fascism or militant nationalistic "anti-imperial" Islamic movements) that are actively hostile to democracy must never be given the ability to broadcast their anti-democratic views within a democratic system - with violence if it has to be.

 

And debating creationists, intelligent-designers or conspiracy theorists can have averse results, making them appear more legit than just fringe beliefs.
 

Edited by FractalBeast : Forgot some things.

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7 minutes ago, FractalBeast said:

It's always important that debating something doesn't mean you legitimize something, or give it a platform.

When debating politically charged people, it becomes very difficult for them to understand this. My sister—although she's backed off recently—has repeatedly accused me of Nazi sympathizing (despite us both having Jewish ancestry on our mother's side) because I don't have the deep, venomous hatred for neo-Nazis, Trump, alt-righters and such that she does. The fact that I disagree with their ideology isn't enough, so I'm dismissed as an opponent. Now, by contrast, I have been called a libtard and SJW by some, because I had the audacity to humanize transgenders, fetishists, cucks, etc., rather than just see them as fucked-up weirdos. Even when speaking on technology or the mind, I have had my mental health put into question for simply discussing a peculiar idea, despite not claiming it to be true. It's a frustrating experience at times, because you'll be thrown under the bus for not fitting into some else's ideal model of academia or morality.

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Well, @GoatLord I assume you live in the USA. Given the American two-party system and the current heightened polarization in the USA, your Jewish ancestry, the rise of anti-semitism in the USA and simply the fact that the USA historically just isn't as aware of how easily it is to slip into genocide like we over here in Europe (what with many of us living essentially right on top of WW2 mass graves - hell, I live sandwiched between a former German transportation camp and a partially dismantled German railroad used to transport Dutch jews to destruction camps in East-Europe), I can understand why your sister would react so strongly.

 

Not saying it's good or bad, but it's understandable.

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59 minutes ago, FractalBeast said:

Given how history played out, certain ideologies [...] must never be given the ability to broadcast their anti-democratic views within a democratic system - with violence if it has to be

You can kill people, but you can't kill ideas. Violence always, yes I mean fucking always, has to be the last resort. Last thing you wanna do is give radical movements another reason to radicalize themselves even more.

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