Due to the current state of affairs around this place, a lot of debates and political discussions have bloomed (or festered) around the local haunts. Often enough I’ll hear some wonderful ideas, but sometimes there’s a moment that makes everyone stare in bewilderment. It’s at a time like this when I just want to cover the offending party with a blanket and hope they forget where they were, perhaps have a nice nap.
A good debate can be a wonderful way to hear differing viewpoints, and perhaps enrich your own or theirs. It’s always helpful, if you have a very strong stance on an issue, to ensure that you’re open to discussion or the ideas of others. If you don’t, you’ll end up looking like a rigid prick.
So you have a strong opinion and you’d like to share that with the world. Awesome! People like a strong willed individual that will stand up for themselves. That does not extend to a person that is adverse to accept anything else, even facts. Especially one that will refuse to even look into it.
Let’s take politics. Yeah, touchy damn subject. But if you’d like to express an opinion on it, knowing both sides to your argument is the best way to make a valid, intelligent point. Saying “Obama took my job and is a Muslim that watches my wife undress at night” better have some really good evidence to back it up. Stating that something has never occurred in history before, shortly before admitting you’ve never checked the history of it– then refusing to ever do so– is not the ticket to credibility. It’s a ticket to filthy, filthy communism, or something.
It’s like sitting down with an oncologist and insisting to him you can beat cancer with more cigarettes because uncle Frank smoked when he had cancer, and he totally lived. Maybe it was gas, not cancer, but that’s not the point. You’ll be fine. Maybe you read about it somewhere or heard it on the radio. Point is, it’s true, man, so shut up.
I once knew a wonderful teacher with wonderful ideas, and we had a lovely argument about a particular psychological study. In the end, after some very heated arm waving and a pack of smoked cigarettes, we realized we were basically arguing the same side. This is where wording is terribly important, and one double-negative can make everyone have a case of confused brain. I’ve seen this happen a lot, too, and I love being there to watch it happen. People get so wrapped up in the idea that the other person is wrong that they miss the point entirely.
I will never run around pretending to know everything. I’ll freely admit when I don’t, and ask for details so I can understand. Some folks try to argue with a half-formed idea, and get completely mixed up in the end. Solidity of thought is a key, so if you want to fight about a particular subject, know everything you can.
“I was reading about the myriad of experiments conducted at the LHC and think…” blah blah science.
And yes, it’s true that a lot can be conjecture and theory. That’s fine too! But present it as such. If there are limited facts on a subject, just admit it. It’s alright, nobody will judge you. The theoretical existence of something is perfectly awesome for discussion. Hell, the panda was once a mystical creature, purely theoretical, and now look at them… not having sex in zoos. Cool.
Rationality is golden. It’s the difference between sounding like someone with a solid opinion based on good sources versus a raving lunatic. Christians are nice people, but once they go to an extreme there’s little to say to them. Same goes for atheists, conspiracy theorists, protesters and all the other well-known opinionated types. Being open to ideas and intelligent thought will take you very far. Of course, having a strong set of beliefs isn’t a bad thing. Believe in God? Good for you. Believe in evolution? Good! But dismissing everything else because nobody else can possibly be right about anything is a good way to be dismissed yourself. The more you do it, the less people will listen. Present yourself in a thoughtful, researched manner and you’ve got a good chance of being heard.