The Timeless Art of Debate

The timeless art of debate. At its greatest, it is a showcase of two opposing views finding mutual respect for each other’s perspectives and in the end each walks away not only swelling with pride at the affirmation of their own beliefs, but able to further understand the rationale behind their opponents differing opinions. At its worst, people call each other doody-head and stick their tongues out whenever they hear something they don’t agree with.

Oh, how I wish that second half wasn’t true. Sadly, even though that juvenile behavior is a shameful thing to see displayed amongst first graders, we adults haven’t evolved much past that either. Sure we gussy it up some and cover it in anger, but that’s all just smoke and mirrors to the reality that when we don’t get our way, some of us become assholes.

I’ve recently been noticing more and more that someone, let’s call him Joey, will start a conversation (either in person or on Facebook — that wonderful venue for open discussion) that promotes an idea that differs from what someone else, let’s call her Monica (I may have watched some Friends re-runs recently, don’t judge), believes. The back and forth starts and for some reason instead of staying civil, it turns into an all-out argument where both Joey and Monica are getting defensive and trying to cut down each other’s arguments by calling them unsubstantiated. Why can’t we all seem to remember that, hey, it’s FINE if someone believes something different from you? It’s not the end of the world people and I hate to break it to you, but what you believe is not always the only right answer.

Now, if we’re talking about a fact-based argument then it gets a little murkier, but it still boils down to the same thing: belief. Joey can substantiate his viewpoint and provide BBC links and NPR interviews and whatnot, but if it’s something Monica really doesn’t want to believe then all that “proof” doesn’t mean anything. She’ll just find her own proof or take the ace from her sleeve and point out that not everything that is printed is actually true (shocking, I know) and then we’re right at the beginning again.

I can speak from personal experience. Recently I was giving someone a little industry info that’s been gathered from years of extensive research, investigations and inside information. You know, the things I’ve seen with my own two eyes and talked about with people who were actually on-site. But I was re-buffed, doubted, and scoffed at because what I was saying hadn’t been published in the paper. “How can it be true if it’s not in the newspaper?” was the look I got in return.  Because the newspapers didn’t pick up the story it might as well have been a fairy tale.

Facts are still facts even though they don’t show up in the press. A tree still makes a sound when it falls and no one’s around to hear it.

Since when does public accessibility mean that something must be true? That’s like saying that just because Katherine Heigl has been in movies she must be a good actress. Visibility should not automatically bestow validity. Watch an episode of Friday Night Lights or Almost Human and try to tell me that Minka Kelly can act. Sure, she’s on screen but that doesn’t mean jack. Just because something can be seen doesn’t mean it should automatically be believed. Especially when dealing with the press.

So these debates keep driving and driving and driving themselves towards a cliff where both sides shut off from hearing what the other has to say. That’s when posts get deleted or comments dismissed that have anything whatsoever to do with a perspective that differs. It’s just so incredibly frustrating to talk to people who are hunkered down in their ideals and resist taking the blinders off.

Let’s really think about that metaphor. What if you actually had blinders on that only allowed you to see what’s directly in front of you? Sure, you may like what you see so why change? I get that. But think about how much you’d be missing without any peripheral vision. It’s like our mental peripheral vision is slowly going and we need to get it back before our tunnel vision steers us in the wrong direction.

nifty argument techniques

nifty argument techniques from the ever hilarious Dave Barry — sadly too many people take these ideas to heart

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