Tag Archives: debate

In God We Trust?


I watched this documentary yesterday and I thought it would make for a great discussion. Since we have both Christians (and I’m sure some theists who are not Christian) and atheists following this blog, I thought it might be worthwhile to see what you lot have to say about this documentary.

If you have the time, please watch the documentary and tell us your thoughts on it in the comment section.

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I’m At a Loss


I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.


That’s Not A Real Feminist Issue


I see this comment made a lot in the comment sections of feminist pages. If a woman says that she was blamed for an accident because she’s a woman and the man who hit her was in the military, people will say “That’s not a feminist issue, it’s an issue with military power.” Yes, it is an issue with military power. People act as if people in the military can do no wrong. People in the military do have privileges that the rest of us don’t have (though I’ll happily keep my lack of military privilege in exchange for not having PTSD). But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a feminist issue. People don’t automatically assume that the bad driver ahead of them is male. They don’t tell women “you drive like a man” in a mocking tone when they mean “you’re a bad driver.” The perception that women are bad drivers because they are women is a feminist issue because the assumption is sexist and leads people to treat women differently than they treat men.

Likewise, other “not real issues” are in fact real issues, and they really are important if we want to create a world that is equal for everybody. Men taking up to much space is a real issue. Why? Because your dick does not need so much room that you get to take up two seats worth of space while I’m forced to squeeze into half a seat. I used to ride the train for an hour to school and an hour back home again 5 days a week for two years and yes, I did experience this issue. Transit seats are already too close together. On a full train, I’m already forced to sit of stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers. When I have some asshole sitting next to me putting his leg over the line dividing his seat from mine, that’s infringing on my space. And it’s something men do. Don’t believe me? Go take a ride on a bus or a train and look around. Most of the women will have their legs crossed and their arms resting over their laps. Why? Because women are taught from a young age that this is polite and this is how ladies sit. The men, however, will often have their legs spread out crossing the line dividing their seat from another, regardless of whether or not someone else is sitting in the seat. Men and women also behave differently regarding where they put their bags and how they talk to their friends on transit. Women put their bags on their lap unless they are too big. Men almost always put their bags between their legs, which is often in the way of people getting on and off. Men shout over top of people to continue talking to their friends, but women generally stop talking if they are separated from their friends in the train or bus. So why is this a feminist issue? Because it’s a matter of entitlement. Men feel entitled to the space even if they are negatively affecting someone else to use it. Women feel as though they must make themselves small so as to have as little effect on others as possible. This is how we are raised, and it is a problem. Men shouldn’t feel entitled to the space other people are in, and women shouldn’t feel as though they should disappear in order to make room for others.

Are these minor issues? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they have no roll to play in larger issues. The same issues that lead grown men to not realise how much space they are actually taking also play a role in the “boys will be boys” attitude that people use to ignore a boy’s aggression and in the belief that men can’t control themselves when women dress provocatively. It’s all the same issue of “men are aggressive wild beasts that need to be tamed” that hurt both men and women. And the military privilege is much the same. Women in the military are treated like infiltrators who shouldn’t be there. The privilege is mostly enjoyed by men because they fit the strong warrior trope that all men are supposed to fit (even if they actually don’t). So yes, these are real feminist issues. They are feminist issues because they are yet more privileges that men get to enjoy that are denied to women. They are feminist issues because they help create a world of inequality. And they are feminist issues because size doesn’t matter when it comes to inequality. If something is unequal, it’s unequal. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little bit unequal. And it doesn’t matter if other people have it worse elsewhere. African women being raped because they want to go to university doesn’t mean that the inequality I face here doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. My inequality is still inequality. To say otherwise is to allow systematic inequality to persist. And small issues add up to create major issues. Personally, I’d rather deal with them while they are small.

Oh, and I can oppose that rape of African women, and other major inequalities faced by women, at the same time as I oppose the minor issues. So why would I have to pick one or the other? To say I should ignore minor inequalities because they are small is beyond ignorant. So, before you use the “that’s not real feminism” line, actually think about the issue. Think about what the person is saying about it, listen to their reasoning, and think about how that issue can play into other issues. And stop telling me that my experiences and my issues don’t matter.


Just Thought I Should Remind You All About My Surveys


I haven’t done an update on my surveys in a while, so here it is. For those of you who don’t know about my surveys, I am trying to do a couple of independent studies for some future blog posts. The first study will be on Religious discrimination, and I will be focusing on how people view discrimination aimed at atheists vs. how they view it aimed at Christians. The second study will be on feminism’s reputation. Namely on how people perceive it’s reputation. Please help me out by doing and sharing my survey. It will be greatly appreciated. And for those of you who have already done my survey, please share it wherever you can. I would like to write those blog posts this summer.

Here is how I’m doing so far:
Religion Surveys:
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Atheists:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=vvaqodd0equ2y21474850 – 4% complete
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Christians:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=pi387nzvmo8dklc474867 – 2% complete
This survey looks at whether or not the respondent feels they have been discriminated against for their religion:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=3zolzpi3k1lwc7s470898 – 8% complete
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Atheists are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=t2k9uo23mlnmklk470896 – 7% complete
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Christians are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=85koff95iqwpme3470893 – 7% complete
Feminism Surveys:
Situations that may or may not be considered Feminist issues:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=xxiz033c05yo72v472614 – 3% complete
Are various Feminist causes helpful or hurtful for the Feminist movement?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=i8d3kq6z73ems49471695 – 7% complete
How do you perceive Feminism?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=4p48z0rwjwooxpf471689 – 7% complete
Does Feminist have a bad reputation?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=r4t8nurh0tyxvqt470762 – 11% complete
Please help me out by doing my surveys, if you haven’t already, so that I can write my posts on the responses. And please share my surveys as well.


Of Truth and Persuasion


socrates

The philosopher Socrates was greatly interested in knowledge. The Socratic method is all about determining whether or not a claim is true. But, in his day, he was often compared to the Sophists. The Sophists weren’t so much interested in truth as they were in arguing persuasively. One of Plato’s many writings on Socrates involved a debate he had with a man named Gorgias, who was a popular orator known for teaching others how to be persuasive. This work has gotten me thinking about persuasiveness and truth. Personally, I care more about what is true than what is persuasive, but it seems as though a lot of people aren’t so interested in truth and are more concerned about whether a claim is persuasive.
I’ll begin this post by discussing the idea that truth can’t be refuted. What does this mean? Well, to refute something is to show it is untrue. If something is true, then it cannot be shown to be untrue, so it cannot be refuted. But a lot of people confuse refuting with rebutting. To argue that something is untrue is not to refute it, it is to rebut it. Arguing against something is not the same as showing it to be untrue. You can show something to be untrue while arguing against it, but, more often than not, arguing against something is not meant to refute it, it is meant to persuade others to disagree with it. This says nothing about truth, but it is a very important point to keep in mind. Truth matters, and, if you care about truth, it is important to think about the arguments you are given carefully. It is important to consider whether they are convincing because they are true, or if they are simply convincing because the speaker is persuasive.

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But when do you know you’ve got the truth? According to Socrates, you will know because the truth will survive any attempted rebuttal. This is why he uses the Socratic method as he does, and why he is so against the Sophists. I strongly disagree with this idea. Liars are often more persuasive than those who speak truthfully. If this weren’t the case, then scam artists wouldn’t be able to steal so much money. And we wouldn’t have to worry about the spread of misinformation. But both of those things are major concerns. It would be a lot easier to hold only true beliefs if it were impossible to rebut true claims. So now we have the issue of belief versus truth. All the true things that we believe are beliefs, but not everything we believe is true. Everybody holds at least one false belief. After all, we don’t have access to all the knowledge of the world, and it is impossible to be completely unbiased. So how do we know the difference? That’s not an easy question to answer. We can never know for certain whether a belief we hold is true or not, but we can be pretty sure. This is why I often speak about evidence: you cannot be pretty sure without evidence. It is the evidence that gives us the ability to be pretty sure that our beliefs are true.
But can you force someone to believe something? We believe something is true when we are persuaded, but persuasion is a type of force. What do I mean by this? Well, it is rare that we come to believe something without anyone persuading us (other than ourselves). We usually come to hold beliefs because they were taught to us. This way of coming to a belief may not be physically painful, and it may not seem forceful, but it is still a type of force. This is because we are not really given a choice about these beliefs. As small children, we are given a number of our beliefs in school. We are never told that what we are taught might not be true, and we are taught to view our teachers as the authority, so it is rare to find a child willing to question what they are told in school. We do not view these beliefs as a choice. In this sense, these beliefs were forced on us. As adults, we often continue to hold these beliefs. Is this a bad thing? To a large extent, the things we are taught in grade school are wrong, and our teachers are often unaware of what is wrong and how wrong it is. But we are taught things inaccurately often because we need to learn things in phases. We can’t understand quantum physics as kids, so we learn less accurate versions of physics that eventually give us the building blocks we need to understand (kind of) quantum physics. So I don’t see how it is a bad thing. However, as Gorgias points out, these forced beliefs can be a bad thing, because we can be persuaded to believe something that is untrue (in its purest form) very easily.

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So how do we keep ourselves from being convinced of things that aren’t true (to the greatest degree possible)? I feel as though Descartes says it best: “But the indifference I feel when there is no reason pushing me in one direction rather that another is the lowest grade of freedom; it is evidence not of any perfection of freedom, but rather of a defect in knowledge or a kind of negation. For if I always saw clearly what was true and good, I should never have to deliberate about the right judgement or choice; in that case, although I should be wholly free, it would be impossible for me ever to be in a state of indifference.” What does this mean? It means you should care. If you care about what is true, and if you think deeply about what you’re told, using reason and evidence, then, while you may not always be right, you will at least be more likely to hold true beliefs than false ones. I, obviously, don’t agree with Descartes about everything, and I don’t think he was willing to go deep enough in his meditations, since he was never willing to put aside all of his assumptions, but on this point I agree with him. One should never be indifferent where the truth is concerned, and one should never be willing to accept what they are told without thinking critically about it.
I find the Socratic method very useful when discussing belief, and I enjoy reading the work of Plato. However, I believe that Socrates is mistaken about truth being impossible to rebut. People are persuasive, and we can be good liars, so this cannot be the case. But there are ways to avoid being taken in with falsehoods. With any luck, we can hold more true beliefs than false beliefs, even if we can’t avoid holding some false beliefs.

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More on Debates


I am listening to the debate between Matt Dillahunty and Sye Ten Bruggencate. This debate is the perfect example of why I don’t really like debates. The debate started off with Sye straw-manning Matt. It was very obvious that Sye didn’t want to allow Matt to respond. He wanted to use videos of things that Matt had said in the past in order to predict what Matt would say and thus shut him up on stage. That is incredibly dishonest and rude. 

Matt did a better job of sticking to the rules of engagement, but he was clearly impatient. He talked very fast and sounded annoyed. I can’t say as I blame him, but tone carries a lot of meaning to those who are listening. 

Sye seemed to ignore what Matt was actually saying and kept attacking past (straw) Matt. He repeatedly mocked Matt as well. He then went on to the discussion period and demanded that Matt answer a question while refusing to clarify it for Matt. When Matt was given the opportunity to ask a question, Sye refused to answer it claiming that it was irrelevant because Matt couldn’t prove that “he’s not a brain in a vat.” 

The most brilliant part of the debate was Matt’s rebuttal. Matt wrote his rebuttal ahead of time and was able to predict exactly what Sye was going to say in the debate. It was brilliant because it made a great point. 

While I believe that Matt did a great job in the debate, I do not believe that it was a useful exercise. The people who were watching were obviously either on Matt’s side or Sye’s. You can determine this because of who would clap for who. And, since people will clap just to be polite, you can also tell based on the laughing and the whispered comment. You can tell when someone thought that a persons comment was ridiculous because they’d laugh at something clearly meant to be taken seriously.

I have no doubt that some of the people there were on the fence. But what were they to take away from the event? Sye was insulting and went out of his way to attack his opponent. Matt sounded annoyed. Neither one seemed to really respect the other. If we could ignore emotion and take their words at face value, then it would be possible to support one over the other. But keeping emotion in mind, how can someone who doesn’t already support one person over the other determine who they support? 

This isn’t to say that a debate doesn’t have a time and a place. Even getting annoyed, I enjoyed the debate. But these debates show me that debates aren’t enough. We aren’t going to convince many of the fence-sitters with debates. I never would have been convinced with a debate. 


My Generation


Today I listened to a debate about the millennials. A number of ideas were brought up, some I agreed with and some I didn’t. One debater kept referring to the boomers as “the greatest generation.” How are they the greatest? What have they done that is so much better than any other generation? I don’t ask this because I think that my generation is better. I ask this because I don’t think that any generation is significantly better than any other. 
One debater brought up how long we live with our parents as a sign of immaturity. But housing prices have risen significantly more than wages have. It seems obvious that it would take longer to be able to afford to move out. And more people are going to university now than did in the past. University is expensive, so living at home is an obvious choice. Personally, I moved out when I was 22 and I was happy to get out on my own. I didn’t want to live at home for so long, but I only moved out because I couldn’t get my degree in the city I lived in.
That same debater also claimed that our generation is more narcissistic than previous generations. One of the people he was debating argued that the millennials volunteer more than previous generations so are actually more giving. Are millennials more giving or more narcissistic? Or neither?
The other debater claimed that millennials don’t have any noticeable traits that will help us in the future. She argued that we’re not significantly better with technology than generations X and Y and will be replaced with machines thus making finding a job impossible. How true is this? 
The final debater argued that our generation is an entrepreneurial generation. We are starting businesses and creating jobs on a larger scale than any previous scale. Is this accurate?
What do you think of these claims? Do you agree or disagree with them? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a millennial?


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