30 August 2005

Banging my head up a brick wall!!

I've been arguing with Blimpish and Andrew over at the Sharpener, about their extreme views on abortion. Like 6% of the population they want to ban it!

This went on for 2 days, despite reluctantly agreeing with most of the points that I made, they wouldn't budge an inch.

It's totally worn me out and its made me realise that trying to change people's opinions with facts is like banging your head up a brick wall.

From my experience, I question how much they live up to their claim 'Debate without dogma, arguments with edge. Politics without the party lines'.

45 comments:

  1. You won't get much joy from Andrew, I suspect. For someone who seems to believe that 200,000 murders of utterly innocent, completely defenceless humans occur in Britain each year two posts on the subject, out of 250+ total, seems a little lax. Especially as in March he was "not really in favour of legislating on what should be an issue of conscience" (everyone can change their mind, I guess. Just not very much.) In fact on nontrivialsolutions he posted as much about George Galloway as he did abortion - i.e. once.

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  2. Neil: The points you made that I agreed with have nothing to do with abortion, nor my views on it. They're spurious side issues relating to animal rights, capital punishment, God and the ability of men to empathise with women. If you posted something on the subject, I could argue with you.

    Paul: I'm a pragmatist. I recognise the law isn't likely to change. Why waste the effort? As you noted, I've changed my position on this issue through rational debate with sensible people. Sniping about me on someone else's weblog doesn't fit that bill. If you've got something to say, why not come to The Sharpener, and let all of our readers read it?

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  3. Also Neil, for someone so concerned with the selective use of statistics, you don't seem concerned with your own culpability. Like 58% of the population, I want tighter controls on abortion. Are statistics only useful when they back up your prejudice and bigotry?

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  4. Ah, so you packed up your toys and went home, eh?

    We didn't "reluctantly agree" with 'most' of the points you made - we hammered you into the ground and you conveniently lowered your aims to fit what we could agree with, but had no grace to admit it. Bless.

    You are possibly the most pompous, ignorant blogger I've encountered this side of the Atlantic. Your regular self-congratulation as to how wonderfully factual and rational you are is amusing. Re your last point, we weren't the ones who came to the debate with tired caricatures of Left-wing=good, Right-wing=bad; you did.

    As for "extreme views on abortion", you seem to believe there should be no limits whatsoever on abortion. In fact, you think anybody who isn't fully conscious is less valuable than an animal. Extreme? Just a little.

    Paul: I'd guess Andrew, like me, is committed most of all to constitutional democracy, and we accept that this is a long game. You will also see, if you bothered to read the discussion thread, that we're quite aware that putting theory into practice is never a simple matter. (Only a fool would ever think it is.)

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  5. Ah, so you packed up your toys and went home, eh?

    You are possibly the most pompous, ignorant blogger I've encountered this side of the Atlantic


    What happened to playing the ball, not the man?

    Most people would have realised that after 180 or so comments, a blog discussion will be about 99% heat and 1% light, as the above sniping demonstrates.

    Perhaps everyone involved should publish a new post outlining their position, so that we can see if they've learned anything from the discussion?

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  6. b4l: Neil came into the discussion playing the man not the ball, attacking Andrew and I on the basis of a strawman portrayal of eeeevil Right-wingers, and displaying a rather laughable anti-religious bigotry. He didn't quit with that approach.

    Pomposity and ignorance are both fair criticisms, evidenced by Neil's contributions to that thread, and also by his post here. Neil makes regular, flatulent declarations of his own rationality and good sense and dismisses anybody who disagrees as irrational and bigoted. When he can't handle their arguments, he reiterates that smearing. So, pompous - ignorant? Neil amply demonstrated his unwillingness to face up to empirical fact or philosophic logic.

    So the charges stand. As far as I can recall, this is the first time I've ever dismissed a fellow blogger in this way. I don't like it, actually. I prefer to play nicely. But I don't think Neil's kind of behaviour can be allowed to pass. (Worse still, he was thoroughly humourless.)

    Incidentally, I see from a post by Neil at B4L:

    http://www.bloggers4labour.org/2005/08/bloggers4labour-summer-essays-3.jsp

    ... that being rather casual about evidence is a regular pattern with Neil. See also:

    http://devilskitchen.blogspot.com/2005/08/good-harding-fisking.html

    ... for a thorough fisking of the preceding post, which accuses anybody who disagrees with open borders of being a racist.

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  7. Paul, Well said mate!

    Andrew, I'm going to do a post on where we ended up in the 'debate' at the sharpener, soon. I admit I outlined my views and your position in a stark way, but I only said stuff that was true. Offence was taken because you think religion should be above criticism!

    I only brought these 'spurious side issues' into the debate, to highlight the inconsistency of your abortion views and supporting capital punishment and animal experimentation and the lack of rational reasoning of basing arguments on religion.

    Like I say in this post, all surveys have to treated with caution. Which doesn't mean they are not useful but have to closely scrutinised. For instance you can have surveys which 'in their headlines' depending on the bias of the publisher, vary support for legal abortion from 40% as you suggest up to 70% as I would suggest, but when you look at the way the question is worded it tells you why this is so. I'm only interested in surveys that are neutrally worded (as far as that is possible!).

    Blimpish, it is very simple. You got upset because what I said was too close to the knuckle. But it was still true! Its not my problem that stark facts about what you believe offend you.

    If I heard voices in my head, I'd be very worried and go to the doctor, you would think it was instructions from God!

    This is why religion is so dangerous! It obliterates rational debate.

    If a bunch of people went about claiming little green men are going to beam them into the sky, they would be given short shrift, but when its religion claiming equally ridiculous things, we are supposed to 'respect' their beliefs and handle them with kid gloves incase we 'offend' them. Well I find religion deeply offensive!

    I had religion rammed down my throat when I was a kid when I could have been learning something far more useful!

    I think religion should be open to the same rational criticism as anything else!

    I only dismiss people as bigots and irrational if that is what their arguments suggest. (Although I never used the word bigot, Blimpish seems to have called himself this), and I try never to personally abuse people like Andrew and Blimpish did with me.

    B4L I think your comment about 99% heat and 1% light is correct. Cheers.

    As for casual use of evidence, I always try to back up stats with links and most people who complain just disagree with my interpretation of those stats, not the stats themselves.

    By the way, I didn't just leave the debate, after 2 days of arguing, I've just had a rest and gone and done something else for a bit. Banging your head up a brick wall is hard work!

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  8. Neil: I look forward to it. But this is incorrect:

    Offence was taken because you think religion should be above criticism!

    No, I think religion should be subject to criticism. I just didn't think you were doing it very well. Talk of voices in people's heads is just childish.

    I only brought these 'spurious side issues' into the debate, to highlight the inconsistency of your abortion views and supporting capital punishment and animal experimentation and the lack of rational reasoning of basing arguments on religion.

    Which you have so far failed to do, as we've happily explained the points where you claim we're inconsistent. Additionally, my argument isn't based on religion. As I keep saying, I am an atheist.

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  9. Andrew, sorry, the religious argument was for Blimpish not you. I know you are an atheist.

    Although I was crude about religion, I was only stating what they believe.

    Personally I think both you and me should be more crude about religion. As Monty Python showed, the potential for ridicule is enormous!

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  10. Andrew, as for the capital punishment/ abortion consistency discussion, you now say this;

    "The point is that consistency leads to all sorts of logical dead-ends. It doesn’t alter the strength of an argument."

    Which is basically a round about way of saying. 'YES, I am being inconsistent'.

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  11. Not really - just that the 'inconsistency' that you highlight is only from your point of view. As I've said before, I don't see my views as inconsistent. I've also tried to explain why I think that.

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  12. Oh come on, Andrew, please! What do you take people for?

    Why would you point out that consistency doesn't affect your argument, if you weren't admitting you were being inconsistent?

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  13. [sigh]

    "Blimpish, it is very simple. You got upset because what I said was too close to the knuckle. But it was still true! Its not my problem that stark facts about what you believe offend you."

    As we shall see, these 'facts' exist only in the dusty place you call your brain.

    "If I heard voices in my head, I'd be very worried and go to the doctor, you would think it was instructions from God!"

    How so? Just because I accept the potential for a scenario doesn't mean that I think it applies to all examples of the phenomenon. Only somebody who has no grasp of logic could think that. Unless you're being intentionally insulting.

    "This is why religion is so dangerous! It obliterates rational debate."

    Here you present an utter ignorance of history. Rational debate happened first in societies with religion. Socrates lived in a religious Athens. The universities were created by the Churches. That isn't to say that religious fervour hasn't constrained science sometimes; but then I note the impact of atheism on good science in the Soviet Union, too. Have you read any history, aside from a cereal packet?

    "If a bunch of people went about claiming little green men are going to beam them into the sky, they would be given short shrift, but when its religion claiming equally ridiculous things, we are supposed to 'respect' their beliefs and handle them with kid gloves incase we 'offend' them. Well I find religion deeply offensive!"

    At what point did I ask you to respect any of my beliefs about something like that? Or even express beliefs that are like that? Please, point that out to me? In anything I have written? Ever? Look away, because you will find nothing. Again, I would ask that you have the decency to learn a subject before you bother us with the noise of your valueless prejudices. (Valueless because a materialist, incidentally: that's true on your own terms - can you grasp that?)

    "I had religion rammed down my throat when I was a kid when I could have been learning something far more useful!"

    It shows. Believe me, it shows.

    "I think religion should be open to the same rational criticism as anything else!"

    Me too. And I think your incoherent version of atheism should be, too. Like the fact that it supports no moral judgements (therefore undermining any of your criticisms, not that they need it). Etc, etc.

    "I only dismiss people as bigots and irrational if that is what their arguments suggest. (Although I never used the word bigot, Blimpish seems to have called himself this), and I try never to personally abuse people like Andrew and Blimpish did with me."

    Indeed, I have referred to my arguments as bigoted on occasion. First, out of ironic self-awareness, because a bit of fun takes the sting out of a grown-up argument. Second, because I'm always doubting my own position because I'm a very sceptical person. I know that that doesn't fit with your prejudices (atheist=enlightened), but I think our discussions more than prove I'm a far more sceptical person than you are.

    Personal abuse is warranted because you don't know how to accept when you've not just lost, but been smashed to pieces. Not to mention your insulting line of argument. Go figure.

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  14. By the way Neil! Using exclamation marks as much as you do! Is the sign of somebody! Who tries to use exclamation! To make up for! Their lack of! Rhetorical power!

    !

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  15. Blimpish, if I've lost the argument, why has Andrew changed his position on abortion closer to mine?

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  16. You haven't answered any of the points, you've just gone on and on about what you have read. Just answer the points I made.

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  17. Neil: Andrew has not, so far as I'm aware, changed his position in theory; only that in practice he would be pleased by a reduction in time limits. That's prudent, and is consistent with the position I've held about this for a long time, atheist and religious.

    Any passing reader could see that your points have been answered as much as their rather limited coherence allows, Neil my love. If you can't understand the responses, maybe that's your problem. (Incidentally, I didn't say I'd read anything. Again, please try to read things before dismissing them.)

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  18. "If you can't understand the responses, maybe that's your problem."

    This comment just doesn't go anywhere. I'm not going to go down the route of personal abuse.

    You keep throwing these insults, keep 'em coming! It is the arguments that matter to me, I don't need to personally abuse someone to win an argument.

    Andrew has moved closer to my position on abortion since we started the debate, you cannot deny this.

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  19. "I don't need to personally abuse someone to win an argument."

    It'd work better than the other approaches you've taken.

    "Andrew has moved closer to my position on abortion since we started the debate, you cannot deny this."

    You started the debate with a position of (1) abortion presents no moral issues; (2) men have no right to comment on it; (3) religious people are irrational; (4) that opposition to the death penalty could not coincide with a pro-life position.

    Andrew has come no closer to you on any single one of these positions. All he has done, and this is wholly consistent with the position of his original post, is say that he'd be happy with some smaller, practical step forward.

    Andrew is not, and never has been, a bone-headed utopian - for whom the only acceptable progress is the achievement of perfection over night. He still thinks, as do I, that the morally coherent position is a total ban. But ideals are something to aim for; we rarely achieve them.

    Now ple-e-e-e-ease Neil, just this once, deal with the content of this argument, rather than reading over what you prefer.

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  20. Blimpish, this is ridiculous. Apart from mis-representing points. I had many more points than that, that were developed over the 2 day discussion. In all that time you are trying to make out that I come up with no valid points.

    Andrew changes his position (and admits a moral victory for the other side) and yet you still cling to this line of 'no change'.

    If he hasn't gone and deleted even more of my comments, people can clearly see how Andrew has admitted he was inconsistent to argue for capital punishment AND anti-choice on abortion.

    I can understand after calling me an idiot and lots of other insults, why you wouldn't want to admit that you were wrong, but this is ridiculous!

    Another thing, religious people are irrational. There is no evidence for God, but you believe it anyway, how rational is that?

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  21. Neil: Andrew changes his position (and admits a moral victory for the other side).

    If it helps, this comment was flippant. In the course of a fairly sensible discussion with Ilona, it was a reference to being open minded.

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  22. No it wasn't! You were stating you had changed your position on abortion.

    You are trying to re-write history here because you don't want to admit defeat to someone you've labelled an 'idiot'.

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  23. In all that time you are trying to make out that I come up with no valid points.

    Not trying to making out, pointing to the facts of the case, sweetheart.

    I can understand after calling me an idiot and lots of other insults, why you wouldn't want to admit that you were wrong, but this is ridiculous!

    I didn't call you an idiot. Other insults, yes. All of them empirically verifiable, and falsifiable (but not yet falsified). Pay attention, Harding.

    My unwillingness to admit that I wasn't wrong is simply a consequence of the fact that you have yet to prove otherwise, my dear.

    Another thing, religious people are irrational. There is no evidence for God, but you believe it anyway, how rational is that?

    This again. There's no point me rehearsing the Philosophy 101 stuff for the millionth time. Suffice to say, I'm with Einstein, Newton, Kant, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Alfarabi, Arvo Ponzias, Charles Darwin (sometimes), etc, etc. You're with Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Good luck, sugar.

    And anyway, there is no evidence for your being capable of rational discourse, Neil. But we try, dammit. We try.

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  24. Arno Penzias, to correct myself. (Obviously, I'm irrational and dogmatic, so this comment shouldn't be happening.)

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  25. "I'm with Einstein, Newton, Kant, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Alfarabi, Arvo Ponzias, Charles Darwin (sometimes), etc, etc. You're with Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Good luck, sugar"

    Talk about rational argument. How rational is this? To claim Darwin as on your side is ridiculous, because much as he tried to match the idea of a god with the evidence he was finding, he found it impossible.

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  26. You'll note the "sometimes". Darwin lost his faith primarily because of theodicy issues, related to family tragedy. But then, you knew that, right?

    Darwin never became an atheist; in his later life, he said he had "never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God" - he said he was agnostic.

    Further, he said that it was possible to "be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist." Which is good. Because that's precisely what I am. There is nothing in the theory of natural selection that disproves the existence of God.

    So, that's another one to me, right?

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  27. Darwin's revulsion at a parasitic wasp and the inconsistency of such cruelty with any providential design is how I remember him, this seems more relevant.

    But fair play you did say 'sometimes', however ridiculous, you are right. I mean I suppose I 'sometimes' agreed with you as well about the existence of God, in my un-enlightened past.

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  28. No it wasn't! You were stating you had changed your position on abortion.

    But I haven't. I've just changed my position on the law. I still think abortion is morally wrong, equivalent to murder, and should be banned outright as soon as possible. Let me try to explain it in terms you might understand: What did you think of the Iraq war at the time it started?

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  29. Neil: it's fairly clear from the evidence that Darwin never endorsed your position, even if he only sometimes (as you now accept) endorsed mine.

    Darwin never believed, as you do, that the existence of God had been refuted or was necessarily untrue. He certainly saw no conflict between belief in God and being a leader in science. Further, he thought the religious impulse was an achievement of the advanced stages of humanity, rather than a primitive instinct as you do.

    So, on every single count, Darwin was closer to my position than to yours. Not, of course, that he's an unimpeachable authority - but as he's one of your heroes (or rather, your imagined version of him is), we can leave it there.

    Cheers.

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  30. Look, Andrew I know who is being honest here. If you can live with your lies, then fine. Goodbye!

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  31. Blimpish, Darwin was scared to utter his theory for many years because he knew the implications for religion. So don't give me this, 'he was on your side' rubbish. In those days, your lot threatened anyone with serious punishment if they renounced God. In those circumstances even I would keep quiet.

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  32. Neil: Again, you know nothing of history. There was no big-league religious persecution after 1830ish, and before then it was pretty much only R.C.s who got it. There were plenty of Pantheists and Deists allowed to carry on.

    By the time of the mid-19th century, 'freethinking' atheism (you should try it) was a pretty fashionable pursuit, and openly talked about. By the end of the period, the first atheist MP was elected to Parliament - there was some controversy over his refusing to swear an oath to God, but no more.

    Furthermore, these opinions of Darwin's are found primarily in his private correspondence - where he was responding to direct queries.

    Please Neil, do a bit of research before you make these assertions. Shooting fish in a barrel rapidly becomes tiresome.

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  33. Blimpish, It mattered to Darwin what people thought. Especially his devout wife. Thats all that matters. Keep trying to rewrite history and distort argument, but I don't believe a word you say, anymore!

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  34. Ah, so now we've moved on from social persecution to being friendly. Again, explain his private correspondence.

    But more than that, tell me how you know more about what he thought than the evidence suggests? Have you heard his voice in your head Neil? Or are you just clinging on to your pretty obviously daft prejudices?

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  35. Hey, at least I'm not the one hearing voices... Better go do some work now I've reduced you to a spluttering mess.

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  36. Yes, I heard Darwin in my head, Blimpish. And he's telling me to tell you to ***k off!

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  37. Ah, you deleted your own comment - well done!

    Everybody needs to know that Neil's reply was that Darwin was a voice in his head, telling me to ***k off.

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  38. Oh reappeared after mine - maybe you didn't delete it, then, just amended. Fairy nough.

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  39. Better keep your promise and go see the doctor, Neil. Unless you think it might be God?

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  40. You guys, are so funny!! NOT! You think you are so clever, but it is the people in life who don't think they are clever who really are. Think about it.

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  41. Hang on though Neil, by your own logic then, we're the really clever ones in life. After all, you have told us ad nauseam about how you are:

    - enlightened

    - rational

    - open-minded

    - scientific

    We've made none of those claims about ourselves. So, really, you're the one who claims to be clever rather than us.

    Q.E.D.

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  42. Blimpish, you should know by now that I don't censor people's views so I can win an argument, unlike some people.

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  43. You should try it. Beats your other approaches to winning arguments, which all fail.

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  44. Read your own post for your answer as to who claims to be clever, You fell into that trap like a dream.

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  45. ?? Please, 'enlighten' me.

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