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KevenSeven_ On September - 14 - 2010

Hey guys,

It has been quite a while since I have troubled you with my contrarian views.   Sorry to not have stirred things up for a while.   I feel it is good to be challenged.   But perhaps that is me.

I got into a bit of a tussle here a while back referencing Christopher Hitchens, who I rather like, despite the fact that I don’t agree with him entirely on the question of the Civil War in Islam.   Actually, when I put it like that, I do rather agree with him.

Actually, I have a list of contradictions and outright lies authored by Hitchens, but I am not going to do the work of his critics for them…..

But never mind that for now.   And especially never mind silly childish attacks (called ad hominen in logical debate) about what a drunk he was before he fell mortally sick.  And to call an attack that is childish childish is to criticize the attack, not the author, no mater what the children at Free Range Talk will tell you.   Oooops.   There goes my kitty.  She is a nice kitty……

I write today on the subject of debate and opinion, as it happens.   Over at Huff I have been having rather a bash about the question of the value of opinion.    I am developing a rather obnoxious (!) view that opinions deserve no respect.   Which often brings a gasp of intaken breath.   Here in America there is a silly idea that all opinion deserves respect.   I can and will disabuse you of that casual reflex shortly.

But my point is that, aside from the opinion of the internist that diagnosed my abdominal pains as appendicitis, or likewise expertise that I respect (Quark can lecture me all day long on health insurance and health care delivery), I need some Show Me.

I do not know just when it became a social norm that we all needed to sit quietly and allow our fellow fellows to gas off at leisure like some ignorant cretins that must be tolerated.   I recall about 2002 being confronted with a vendor at a business at which I was a mere flunky using the expression “rag heads” and his obvious glee at the idea of brown people getting dead in mass numbers.   I am not ashamed to say that I called him out on it and took the chance of censure from my employer.

I was putting this point in a rather heated argument with a woman recently.    I told her that I have no respect for opinion.   What I respect is facts, logic and argument.

She was at first appalled at my statement.    She tried to tell me that all opini0ns deserved respect.  I wish all debate were this easy…..

I offered her: Blacks are lazy, Latinos are dirty, Jews are cheap and avaricious.   Are those opinions that you respect?  Because those are relatively commonly held “opinions” in America.     Not to say that any other culture is superior, not for half a second.    Mankind loves nothing better than making itself superior by making the rest of itself inferior.    Perfectly timresome.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.

Here is a very interesting clip of Hitchens addressing some questions put to him.   I draw your attention in particular to about 25 minutes in, when he discusses how he was trained to think and debate.     I am certain that America suffers from a lack of similar intellectual training and rigor.   Just look at Congress, for the love of christ.

Hey, I am currently employed getting somebody elected, I may not have much time to chat with you on this.    Hope that some of you contribute to the discussion of the utility of logic and reason.   Opinions are easy, even dull.   How you  got there is the interesting conversation.  For me, at least.

Categories: News & Politics

92 Responses so far.

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  1. KevenSeven says:

    Hey!

    Just opened the mail!

    My second hand copy, (been on a shelf in a store forever) of Hitchens’ “Letters to a young contrarian” just arrived.

    Actually, it has never been opened before. Just some shelf wear and yellowing, published circa 2005. I’ll be back in a few days! Six bucks, with shipping. Yummy!

    C-ya!

  2. whatsthatsound says:

    At the risk of jumping on the bandwagon, I challenge certain specific elements of your style, Keven, as well as that of Mr. Hitchens, whose rhetoric you so admire. You are quick to point out that “pompous gasbag” is an ad hominem attack, and as such is bad form in an argument. I think that I am not alone in my opinion that you, Keven, are as versed in the FORM and structure of argument and debate as well as anyone here. But to what degree do you follow the SUBSTANCE by which those forms come to be there in the first place, I wonder?
    For example, it could easily be argued that the following statements are NOT ad hominem attacks.
    “silly childish attacks”
    “You won’t get cooties by watching it”
    “It did not hurt that much, did it?”
    Nevertheless, stylistically, what, specifically, do they do that an ad hominem attack doesn’t? In the context in which you wrote them, I believe that they come across as, and are indeed meant to come across as, dismissive. The intent behind them is to ridicule, no less than referring to someone as a “pompous gasbag” is intended to ridicule. If you and the person you were writing to when using those terms were engaged in a mutual exchange of banter that included such good natured ribbing, they would be acceptable in the same way that saying to a friend, “Stop being such a pompous gasbag, mate!” would. I strongly believe this is NOT the case in this instance.
    In the same way, Mr. Hitchens’ decision to title his attack on Mother Theresa “The Missionary Position” is NOT an ad hominem. However, it’s effect could not be any more similar to one. He very intentionally insulted the sensibilities of millions of Catholics, and others, who hold her in high esteem. And why do this? So that he, and his fans, can say, “Look at all those uptight religious loons, getting their knickers all bunched up over a JOKE! Ha ha!”
    That’s not fair play, it’s not debate, and it is not, as you assert, “perfectly civil” behavior on the part of Mr. Hitchens toward religious folk.
    In choosing to pepper your arguments with phrases that convey a dismissive and superior tone, my contention is that you, in effect, shoot yourself in the foot. Assuming that your goal is to communicate ideas that you feel strongly about, I fail to see how adopting a tone that alienates a contingent of those you wish to persuade serves you, your arguments, or anyone else. As someone who, as you write, respects argument, I believe it would behoove you to DEMONSTRATE that respect, by according it to those with whom you argue.

  3. peacekitten says:

    hi keven,

    please pardon me for my opinion that a photo of christopher hitchens is most often found next to the phrase “pompous gasbag.”

    one thing i have come to in myself is that i simply cannot and will not tolerate people who spew things that are obviously stupid, willfully so, grounded in nothing that resembles logic or facts. because of this intellectual dishonesty, i feel absolutely no obligation to give their “opinion” any resemblance of respect whatsoever. people are entitled to their opinions, but they are not entitled to their own set of facts.

    political debate in america is as endangered a species as a brain cell in christine o’donnell’s head.

    • AdLib says:

      Heh! Hey Peacekitten, great to see you.

      I agree that the character and track record of someone has everything to do with whether one should choose to be receptive to their opinions.

      I may be wrong and I know K7 will correct me if I am but his proposition seems to be that character and track record should be irrelevant to whether one should be receptive to another’s opinion, whether or not a particular opinion is accurate or not.

      My opinion on opinions 😉 is that being discerning is a hallmark of critical thinking. With so many conflicting opinions that could be accurate, one would seem wiser to consider the source before embracing any opinion.

      • KevenSeven says:

        You are wrong, as it happens. I do not say that character and track record are irrelevant to the strength of an individual’s argument. I do not ask anyone to be bothered to dissect David Duke’s arguments.

        Hitchens is nothing even remotely comparable to Duke. He asserts many positions that the vast majority of this audience would agree with. Who here wants to argue that a religious edict to circumcise women (cut off their clitorises and much of their labia) is acceptable in a modern society? Anyone? Hitchens opposes that. Who wants to say that he is wrong?

        My thesis here is that opinions, flatly stated, without a logic or reason behind them, are not of necessity due respect. It is the path that built the opinion, life experience, education or debate, that is of value. Any fool can have an opinion, consider David Duke.

        Hitchens, I believe, most infuriates the left because he has the most solid argument for the invasion of Iraq. Massively superior to that supplied by BushCo. And the nasty truth? Had BushCo let Hitchens write their argument for invasion? No way would have America permitted it.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Well, I think I would say that “pompus gasbag” is an ad hominen attack and is poor practice in debate. It is a logical fallacy.

      You really don’t win any points by bagging on him. As an example, George Galloway called Hitchens a “drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay”, to which Hitchens quickly replied, “Only some of which is true”.

      Hitchens just thrives on it.

      You know I worship you. You and BSM really must come by someday and have a glass of wine. Perhaps we can get Adlib and his wife to join us. Actually, I’m astonished by how many of the Huff/Planeteers are so adjacent to me.

      Would I be able to improve your opinion of Hitch if I gave you links to him belittling Reagan or Palin?

      • AdLib says:

        How is that a logical fallacy? That invalidating the character of the source of an opinion is not appropriate in a debate? Au contraire, it is indeed appropriate in debates to qualify or disqualify a source. For example, if a person can be proven through their statements to be unreliable, it does undermine the validity and value in a debate of all statements.

        Now, is Peacekitten’s metaphorical opinion of Hitchens as legitimate as your more literal positive one?

        Don’t want to sidetrack this intriguing exploration into opinions into a debate about Hitchens’ character but you know one could list numerous statements by him that would logically support PK’s opinion.

        Just as you have and could continue to present statements by Hitchens that would validate your opinion of him.

        So, either your presenting a positive opinion of Hitchens to support the legitimacy of his opinions is a logical fallacy along with PK’s negative opinion that undermines his legitimacy or neither are. Oui?

        • KevenSeven says:

          Now you know perfectly well the definition of “ad hominen”. To attack the man, and not the argument. It is a classic logical fallacy.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_fallacy

          That Hitchens is or is not a “gasbag” has no relevance to the truth of falsity of his arguments on whatever he is arguing.

          That David Duke is a flat out racist need not be cited to debunk any of his arguments and the defeat of his arguments is stronger and cleaner without such citation. It is just easier to call him a racist and dismiss him. Which would be OK by me. Like arguing with a kitchen table.

          • AdLib says:

            Here again is the nub of our disagreement.

            You express that the character of the source of an opinion is irrelevant to whether their opinion is sensible.

            Theoretically, I agree.

            However, in the real world, people consider the source when deciding whether to even listen to the opinion of another, let alone be open to its credibility.

            So, as I joked, if someone has so damaged their reputation that their opinions are disregarded by many, whether their opinions are accurate or not becomes irrelevant because they are never received by others in the first place.

            There is a difference between expressing an opinion and communicating it.

            If one has damaged their credibility and the ability to successfully communicate thoughts to others, the net result to those others is no different than that person never having that opinion in the first place. So, again, if a truth-filled tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to see it, did it really fall?

            • KevenSeven says:

              Um. I don’t say that a person’s character is irrelevant. I say it is immaterial as to the truth or falsity of their argument.

              I have no problem with people distrusting every word that Limbaugh says.

            • Khirad says:

              Let me try something. George Galloway is a shill for IRI state media, on Press TV.

              Whenever he says anything, I consider the source, and the medium by which he has chosen to communicate.



              Now, I suppose I don’t need this information to rebut anything said, but when it comes to me discerning any omission or tone or any possible motivations of a comment, I will certainly take into account the format in which it is said, and in that person’s past positions. Therefore, a pattern of behavior, especially when connected to their views, can be taken into account, -- in my opinion. 😉

              I don’t consider calling him a shill for IRI propaganda the same as his words against Hitchens. They may be ad hominem, but I DO think it puts his credibility into question.

  4. kesmarn says:

    I watched most of the Hitchens vid (skipped forward from about 16 to the 25 part because I was getting close to departure time) before I left for work. The thing, of course, that struck me was the explanation of the use of Oxford-style debating as his preparation for his career. It occurs to me that there is a difference (I state the obvious, I’m sure) between debate and discussion. Debate, as Hitchens learned it was/is a sport — often a blood sport.

    If I’m not mistaken, there is a scoring system and even a declared “winner” in Oxford-style debate. It’s rather important that someone lose — more or less gracefully — and admit it. He mentions “keeping people on their guard-- hopefully, catching them off guard.” Every euphemism employed is the language of war or, at least, of the duel. He says “thrust and parry” in his description. Humiliating your opponent for his faulty logic and even intellectually annihilating him is part of the game.

    There’s nothing wrong with all that muscle-flexing, as long as it’s between consenting adults.

    I find, though, that I’m more interested in discussion, which is quite a different animal. Often the point of discussion is to learn to comprehend the other person’s point of view and to come to an understanding, if not a consensus. Doesn’t mean things always end up that way, of course. Many a discussion ends in stalemate, with no clearly declared agreement, much less an identifiable winner. But at least the initial goal was different.

    Logic, I see as a tool. Neutral. Like fire, swords, guns, scalpels. Logic can be a wonderful tool for a scientist or a mathematician-- or even a politician. But tools — like fire, swords, guns and scalpels — can be wielded by fools or miscreants, too. I don’t worship logic in itself. Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking owe as much to brilliant “out-of-the-blue” intuitions as they do to painstaking logical mental endeavor. When asked why space travel shouldn’t be undertaken solely by robots in the interest of safety, Hawking replied: “…humans are an adventurous species. We like to explore… Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion.”

    What I do miss in the American approach to debate these days, though, is the recognition of expertise. When any given individual has dedicated years to a given area of study or a certain profession, chances are he/she had learned something worth while. I would trust Chesley Sullenberger to pilot an airplane. John McCain not so much. Both claim to be pilots. The former has expertise. I was once told by a low-education patient that her IV line was sending electricity down her arm and she could feel it travelling out her finger tips. Went I touched her hand and told her this was impossible, her reply was: “That’s just your opinion.” Translation: “My opinion is just as good as yours.” In other words, no matter how many years of study and experience I had, in her view, I had no more expertise than she had. Her opinion was as good as mine. This is what’s getting us into trouble.

    Joe Biden has incredible experience in leadership, foreign affairs, government in general. Sarah Palin does not. And yet, when he “debated” Sarah Palin, we were somehow supposed to pretend that she was seriously somewhere near to being his equal in terms of intelligence, experience and over all expertise. It was laughable.

    Expertise is what lends weight to opinions. And it comes from being logical — yes — but also from being experienced and well-trained. And being able to present your thoughts in a way that can potentially change minds.

    • AdLib says:

      Very incisive, Kes!

      You draw an important distinction between people who engage in discourse to seek enlightenment and those who do so seeking a contest.

      It can be frustrating for both types of people to engage in conversation with each other, they’re at cross purposes.

      I can appreciate both sensibilities and have participated in conversations in both ways but clearly the former has greater intrinsic value while the latter is more trivial and naturally more adversarial.

      You also nicely illustrated the division between those who weigh opinions and anti-intellectuals that see opinions like lottery tickets, anyone can choose them and have an equal chance of being right.

      The anti-intellectualism does piss me off. The whole “Know Nothing” TeaBagger movement is based 100% on emotion and 0% on facts/truth/knowledge. Their opinions that Obama is a Kenyan, Muslim, Marxist, Socialist, etc., based solely on their feelings and racism are equal to proof and facts.

      It is dangerous if people who see intelligence and knowledge as “bad” gain power, there can be no enlightenment when truth is not a necessary component of opinion. Terrible things can take place when one can justify feelings as opinions without regard to reality.

      When you look at the psychological process, the 9/11 terrorists were driven by their anti-intellectual opinions to kill themselves and commit the terrible acts they did against the American government. Are the TeaBaggers who threaten using “2nd Amendment remedies” and vow to overthrow the “evil” U.S. government…based on purely emotional opinions that are removed from truth and facts, really that far removed?

      The ignorant are easily riled up to march but as the GOP found out last night, they can create a monster that they can’t necessarily stop or keep from even attacking them.

      • kesmarn says:

        Thank you all for your kind words! AdLib,I loved your paragraph about the dangers of ignorance:

        It is dangerous if people who see intelligence and knowledge as

    • Khirad says:

      Great post. I too, do not worship solely at the altar of logic. And agree about discussion, too. And perhaps the thing that irks me the most about ‘opinions’ is in the examples of proficiency and knowledge you give and someone else clinging and defending themselves with what they think. Countless bagger posters at HP refer to Palinesque “common sense” (which is often neither) and one even said that they felt what was right ‘in their gut’. Fer chrissakes, they were a real-life Colbert act. Feeling it in your gut sounds folksy, but is not something to decide policy on.

      I also liked the Hitchens part about the debate as duel press conference. He was right, not in any definition can one call those debates. I wish rather than the two parties actually debating during negotiations over the terms, that there was an independent commission which set up actual debates.

      In Britain, PM’s questions are largely for show, too, but one is shamed if they can’t come up with an answer or retort on their feet. Such acuity is in short supply in America, where pols just ignore the question and pivot to what they wanted to spout. And, not to puff up Britain too much, but in America I worry that they still wouldn’t even recognize who lost the exchange as long as a sound byte was gotten from it (although, this can be equally true of PM’s Q’s).

      • kesmarn says:

        Khirad, can you imagine how Palin’s response in the debate with Biden would have gone over in Britain? You know — the one in which she said: “Well you asked that question, but here’s the one I’m going to answer. (And it’s a totally different one, for which I have memorized a canned answer.)” If a British politician ever said something like that in Parliament, he/she would be laughed out of the room…not to mention out of office.

    • bitohistory says:

      And that my friends is not just another nurse. Not just a RN. That is a well thought out “opinion”
      Well done, k’es, I tip my hat ❗

      • kesmarn says:

        Merci, b’ito! If not a well thought out “opinion,” then, at least a strong onion. Either one can be hard to keep down.

        Groannnnnnn! 😳

        Hey, it’s the middle of the night. Whaddya expect?

  5. FrankenPC says:

    I agree with this post. I wouldn’t have agreed a few years ago.

    I think the intellectual base of this country needs to come together and agree to do nothing but bombard places like HufPo with raw, verifiable facts. The dis-information is becoming so thick that people are believing ideas that are absolutely ludicrous in nature. The only way to cancel out that form of ignorance is to combat it with facts.

    Just today, I posted a harmless comment on Jimmy Carter and the downfall of government regulation in response to a post claiming that Clinton was the cause (due to banking deregulation). The response was vapid to the core. The disinformation could not possibly be anymore superficial and ridiculous. I urged everyone to simply read history (Wiki is an easy start) and get the facts before simply passing Carter off as the whole cause of the 70’s oil crisis. No success. No success at all.

  6. boomer1949 says:

    Patsy -- go to OT

  7. msbadger says:

    Thanks for this, Keven. I don’t believe I know you, but I know of you by name. I have always had mixed feelings (and opinions) about Mr. Hitchens, and I liked this a lot. I think it will be a loss when he passes. That said, my opinion is that of the old saying: “Opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one….etc.” Facts matter. Opinions are beliefs, and we all know lots of people who don’t understand that just because you believe something, it does not mean it’s true. Hello, all.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Sorry, I mis-read you there. Got into a double negative thing there.

      We have had some nice chats over at huff, where I am justplainfedup. We’ve had a few laughs together.

      • msbadger says:

        Okay- Hello! Sure, I know you now by that moniker. Happy to make your acquaintance here, Keven. Thanks for your comment below, as well. Hope we can have some more laughs soon!

    • bitohistory says:

      Hello, Badger, nice of you to take some time while pestering the wolverines, thanks, nice of you to pop in.

      • msbadger says:

        Hello, bito. Thanks- I enjoy checking out new posts here. I do tend to be a bit overly devoted to HP, and that’s changing with the current situation there. Nice of you to thank me! :)

    • KevenSeven says:

      We know each other? Or you know who I am? I think we have traded e-mails at some point.

      I prefer “Opinions are like hemorrhoids, sooner or later every asshole gets one”.

      And thank you for engaging at an adult level.

      Yes, it is absurd that people think they are entitled to respect for their opinions. The courtesy on not being attacked? OK. But if someone is going to insist to me that something that is important to me is the opposite of my vies, I claim the right to back up my opinion with facts, logic and reason.

  8. Khirad says:

    Well, I can’t think of anything to disagree with in his argument here. It’s perhaps the most uncontroversial thing he’s ever said.

    Even in my flirtation as part of and hanging out with the debate team in High School, and even before that, in 7th grade, we were taught to debate both sides. I must say, it was a real challenge when I had to argue in favor of an unrestricted 2nd amendment. I was less than convincing. I think another thing that makes this difficult for us, and what Hitchens was touching here, is that our opinions become part of ourselves. Internalized.

    To argue another point of view is difficult. One might feel inauthentic, or as if someone might misjudge who we “really are” (as Oprah as that might sound). Also, I think, judging by a few comments here, I see epistemology cropping up. Which itself is an interesting topic (that I myself can get over my head on).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Classical-Definition-of-Kno.svg

    Nevertheless, one of the strengths I have, that others don’t who can get the most fiercely partisan and Manichaean on both sides, is I can understand -- as wrong as I think they are -- where the other side is coming from on many issues. Not only does it help to anticipate arguments, but the reasons as to why they might have a predisposition to believe them. Too often, however, there are no valid reasons for their opinions.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Hichens also insists that the best blended scotch is Johnny Walker Black, and I don’t know how any controversy could be laid at that assertion.

      • bitohistory says:

        Perhaps if you sipped some of the private stock from me crawler, there my be a differn’ opinion.
        Oh, I get it. there is a differing opinion. Sorry, I’m slow. I have been drinking the other stuff.

  9. AdLib says:

    Seriously now, I think the value of an opinion is based on the reasoning behind it.

    Facts matter but are not synonymous with “opinion”. After all, many people can look at the same facts and have a variety of legitimate opinions that vary greatly.

    Opinions are too often based on emotions or psychological needs, making them very unreliable and even harmful in some cases. All we need to do is consider the entire Tea Party movement and the current polls (and potential results in Nov) that are based almost solely on emotion and are ultimately self-defeating.

    For example, angrily protesting for government to slash spending as a general rant but when it comes to the specifics, they angrily warn government to keep its hands off of cutting spending on SS, Medicare, military, education, police, fire, etc.

    Or being so frustrated with the slow progress on repairing the economy that one would vote for a radicalized Republican majority in Congress which due to having a moderate Dem President, would create gridlock and no progress would be made for the next two years at a minimum.

    Opinions do not deserve consideration or respect simply because they exist any more than a two year old’s water color should be viewed to be as much of a masterpiece as a Monet simply because both were created and both are “paintings”.

    Like anything creative, an opinion is endowed with value based upon the mind behind it, their process of observation and conclusion, insights into life, life experience and vision.

    The opinion that opinions don’t matter is an amusing but obviously self-invalidating proposition.

    It is a subjective matter. Certainly, each of us has no choice but to value our own opinion, even saying, “I don’t trust my own opinions” is trusting in your own opinion that your opinions are untrustworthy. So it would be untrue for anyone to claim they eschew all opinions.

    One may reject or disregard others’ opinions…based upon their respecting their own opinion on “opinions”. Which means necessarily that they do respect opinions…just their own, that is.

    Plenty of narrow minded folks out there like that, they have their opinion and they would never allow anyone or anything to influence it. In my “opinion”, that is a path to ignorance. Wisdom comes from understanding as objectively as possible and that requires being receptive to and enlightened by the thoughts and feelings of other human beings and filtering through them using one’s own reason and common sense as to which should or shouldn’t be adopted.

    What would human beings be if they had no opinions? On politics, art or morality?

    They wouldn’t truly be human…in my opinion.

    • KevenSeven says:

      I’m not sure that anyone said that opinions don’t matter.

      And it was Socrates that said that the mark of an educated man was his understanding of the depths of his own ignorance. Won’t get a bagger to understand that one.

  10. PatsyT says:

    Opinion VS Theory …. and the winner is…… ?


  11. AdLib says:

    It is my opinion that opinions should not be respected and I hope people will both seriously consider my opinion and disrespect it. I feel very strongly about this opinion while also finding it totally irrelevant.

    The strong conviction I have about this opinion grew from my conclusion that opinions don’t matter and are a total waste of time.

    At least, they are in my opinion.

    • bitohistory says:

      It is of my opinion that I have more than one opinion on opinions.

      Main Entry: opinion
      Part of Speech: noun
      Definition: belief
      Synonyms: assessment, assumption, attitude, conception, conclusion, conjecture, estimate, estimation, eye*, fancy, feeling, guess, hypothesis, idea, imagining, impression, inclination, inference, judgment, mind, notion, persuasion, point of view, postulate, presumption, presupposition, reaction, say-so, sentiment, slant, speculation, supposition, surmise, suspicion, take*, theorem, theory, thesis, think*, thought, view, viewpoint

      Why does it feel that when I type “opinion” I keep typing “onion”?

  12. VegasBabe says:

    You may be on to something K7. I’m not going to listen to Mr. Hitchens, I don’t actually care what he has to say. I have noticed however that I have grown exceptionally weary of tolerating “opinions” some of which can really make my blood get to boiling, especially when they are contradictory or just don’t make any sense at all (and I may even be a culprit too). If you aren’t speaking from facts, then maybe I’m just not interested in listening and I might add suffering spew from every corner of society because let’s fact it, who doesn’t have an opinion? But how many of us speak with facts supporting our positions? I don’t see enough of that. Course, the wingnuttery will ultimately dispute facts, they already do.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Go ahead and give the clip a listen, at 25 minutes in. You won’t get cooties. He is explaining how the concept of debate differs in the US vs how he was trained in at Oxford.

  13. boomer1949 says:

    Point taken.

    Opinion, argument, logic, and debate are just words to me. The tone of the message and how it is delivered is what counts.

    I have always suspected that too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. It is a boon to people who don’t have deep feelings; their pleasure comes from what they know about things, and their pride from showing off what they know. But this only emphasizes the difference between the artist and the scholar. Margaret Anderson

    • KevenSeven says:

      The tone is what matters, but the content is meaningless? Could that actually be your view of the matter?

      • boomer1949 says:

        Yes Kevin, to some degree the content is meaningless.

        Why?

        Because although the message can be right-as-rain, if the tone in which it is delivered becomes argumentative, disrespectful, condescending, or dismissive, the original message becomes irrelevant.

        The how becomes the message, and the what is lost in the process.

        • KevenSeven says:

          If you want to say that an obnoxiously presented opinion was ineffective due to the rudeness of its presentation, then I could go along with that.

          The rudeness does not invalidate the truth or falsity of the opinion, 2+2=4 even if someone says fuck you in the middle of it.

          It still equals four.

          • boomer1949 says:

            If you want to say that an obnoxiously presented opinion was ineffective due to the rudeness of its presentation, then I could go along with that.

            Yes, it is exactly what I am saying.

            On the other hand, what is the point of a valid argument (true or false), when rudeness over shadows the validity of the message? How one chooses to make the point determines who is left to hear the final answer.

            A discussion is a discussion, and I enjoy respectful discussions and exchanges.

            A debate is nothing more than a cat and mouse game with the cat usually having the upper paw. Once in awhile though, the mouse rises to the occasion by using humor to make its point, and thus scoring the win.


            • KevenSeven says:

              Again, have you listened to the offered video defining debate? One of his points is that debate sharpens one’s argument. It causes one to set aside flawed or weak debating points.

              And we are in a Socratic debate right now. You are attempting to define debate as an impolite activity. I reject that assertion.

            • boomer1949 says:

              Be my guest.

          • AdLib says:

            Philosophically speaking, if someone like Dick Cheney gave an opinion but 75% of Americans distrust and dislike him and would discount it, wouldn’t it be the same as not giving it?

            It’s the whole, “If a disgusting, corrupt, lying SOB tree gives a rare legit opinion in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, did he really GIVE an opinion?”

            • boomer1949 says:

              YGM

            • bitohistory says:

              I have long admired “Izzy” Stone and his “opinions.” After many challenges of them and him producing background and his research, his opinions were rarely questioned (of course he was “un/non invited” to Meet the Press).
              So what, why do we discuss opinions and who opinion and can they justify, back-up their conclusion?
              Because! Because we have those funny opposite thumb thing, because we like to look at clouds, because we attempt to discern fact from fiction. Because we are human.

              (and now you guys got me being serious today :-) )

            • KevenSeven says:

              Well, that will require some thought.

    • bitohistory says:

      Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.
      Brendan Gill

    • whatsthatsound says:

      That is a fantastic quote, boomer! I have pretty much held the same view, although Ms. Anderson articulates it far better than I ever have.

      • boomer1949 says:

        Thanks WTS, but I must confess I actually went searching for the “message sent, message received” thing and was unable to find it. The Margaret Anderson quote was a lightbulb moment and I decided it worked as well, if not better.

        I was also trying to avoid debate. 😉

  14. Kalima says:

    This post is just your “opinion” I assume, so if I go by your rhetoric I can just take it with a grain of salt, right?

    Most people I know come to hold an opinion due to years of experience, hardships, needs, let downs and everything that life can throw at us. Logic and critical thinking about some things will not bring the same conclusions for everyone. Some will agree with us, some won’t, it doesn’t mean that we have to argue with them to try to persuade them otherwise, or believe that we are right and they are wrong.

    Life is hard enough for most of us without making waves wherever we go. If someone annoys me with their opinion, I’d rather change the subject, and if they become abusive, I will walk away. There are some subjects that will always bring forth differing opinion or thought, like politics and religion. Why do we try so hard to change minds when if we strongly believe in something, it should be important enough that we do believe it ourselves.

    So my point is that I don’t need people like Hitchens telling me that I’m delusional to have my faith, pundits telling me who I should vote for or what to think, or annoying critics telling me why I should/shouldn’t read a book or watch a film. I have my own mind, and prefer to use it to come to my own conclusions. I don’t need anyone to think for me, and if I misjudge or make a mistake, I’ll only have myself to blame.

    Now this might seem like just another boring opinion to some, however as far as I’m concerned, it’s just the way I think and feel, no amount of arguing or taking the piss would ever change this.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Well, first, I was expressing an attitude, not an opinion, I think. And most of what you wrote was an attitude, not an opinion. And you reference your methods of coping with your day, which is valid and all.

      I mean to speak of “opinion” as one’s beliefs in the matters of import in the business of our culture: the extent that govt should regulate, the strategy that the Democratic party should adopt to retain power, the role of religion in a modern society, these are matters worthy of debate an in which I find debate of interest.

      You like cats, a lot. I like cats. Some people despise cats. I don’t see any point in debating any of that. Those are not opinions, those are preferences.

      As for Hitchens: the clip that I offered is him talking about how he was trained to think and debate, he is not discussing his anti-theism. And he does not say that you are delusional. He just wants everybody of faith to keep their religiosity out of his face, especially he does not like to see attempts to teach creationism in US schools.

      Yes, yes. You personally are not trying to force creationism on American children. So, see? You agree with Hichens. It did not hurt that much, did it?

      • Kalima says:

        Ah, but aren’t attitudes and perceptions the cornerstones when forming an opinion for the majority of the human race?

        If you are referring to the wacky opinions of RW politicians and the rants of the TP, then I agree that most of them if asked would have no idea why they have what they might consider to be an opinion, they follow the crowds so that they don’t have to think for themselves. Unfortunately there are quite a few Dem politicians who bow to peer pressure, so their opinions are dishonest and cowardly. Very disappointing for the party with the majority.

        As for watching the video Kevin, thank you, but I tend to lose interest in people who have been shown to harbour distasteful objections to something that has been a part of my life from birth. I’m sorry that the man is sick of course, but it doesn’t give me an incentive to want to watch him speak on anything else he might have to say. I suppose it’s my stubborn Taurus streak, I’m afraid there seems to be no cure.

        • KevenSeven says:

          Well, I think Adlib addresses the emotionality of opinion in his rather annoyingly competent comment above.

          Sure, mindless emotionality underlies many opinions that get spouted everyday. I think that was my original point. I don’t see why I should be expected to accord any great consideration for an opinion formed on nothing but piss and vinegar. Show me the path of logic and reason, and the facts that lead one to an opinion, then I am interested.

          Basically, I am saying: don’t just spout off, prove it.

          I don’t think Hitchens “harbors distasteful objections” to religion. I think he has a reasoned distrust of religion. Or perhaps you don’t “respect his opinions”?

          The video is him talking about how he was trained to debate at Oxford. You won’t get cooties by watching it.

          • AdLib says:

            Thanks Kev.

            I do agree that opinions based purely on emotion are not self-validating nor automatically deserve acceptance.

            I appreciate that your opinion on Hitchens’ statements about religion are that they are reasoned and appropriate.

            Kalima’s opinion that she finds them distasteful is just as valid.

            There is no “right” answer to how anyone should be perceived, just one’s personal opinion.

          • Kalima says:

            Yes that’s my point, I have no respect for the person, therefore no respect for his opinions either.

            We all distrust a lot of things in our lives, but most of us don’t want to make a living out of trashing other people’s beliefs. We leave that to people who always think they are right, people like Hitchens.

            • KevenSeven says:

              Ah, we are back to a Socratic debate here. We are trying to define terms or positions.

              You are absolutely incorrect to assert that Hitchens thinks that he is always right. Nothing could be further from the truth.

              This is an interesting point. Hitchens just LIVES by the Socratic method. He often cites Socrates who said that it is the mark of an educated man that that he knows that he knows almost nothing.

              You may be under the mis-apprehension that atheists BELIEVE or know that there is no god. You miss the point perfectly. We believe that there is no evidence what ever that there IS one. Now evidence is everything in the Socratic method.

              Hitchens is often bashed as being angry at ‘god”, which is a nonsense. How could he be angry at a thing that he doubts exists?

              Religion, on the other hand, clearly exists. And the very multiplicity of religions (what, are there about 5000 currently practiced, or is that the count over the last 5000 years?) is evidence that man created god, and not the other way around.

              Add to that the obvious design of men dominating women in just about all religions and you have a further piece of evidence.

              Hitchens has made it part of his career, not his whole career, to call out the religious bullies who attempt to grab and hold power based on revealed truth.

              Seeing as neither he nor I accept the reality of that truth, why do you find it so astonishing that he resists it? Why are you so offended?

              Richard Dawkins is MUCH ruder on the subject. Hitchens is perfectly civil in his debates with theologians.

              I can assure you, you have the wrong end of the stick. Unless you have determined to close yourself off to all doubters. And why would you do that?

              Put another way, how can you come to this judgement of Hitchens without hearing or reading him?

            • Khirad says:

              It is a bit of a trope by now, but I do find it true still, that one of the reasons, besides the theological, I prefer the self-designation of ‘agnostic’ is in the same arrogant, aggressive behavior I observed from militant atheists as I had always hated from Bible thumpers.

              In Hitchens’ defense, he does say he wishes the religious would keep it to themselves but that he has no problem with people believing what “fairytales” they want to. But then he goes on to say he doesn’t think they can. It’s like he makes a fair point but can’t help himself.

              He also criticized Unitarians for still being at risk of ‘slipping back’ to religion and therefore as some sort of threat. UU’s (of which I number), who are by in large 90-95% atheist, agnostic and humanist. Forgive me, but that is an extreme position.

              I was able to enjoy his book slightly more than Dawkins’ (and I’m more sympathetic to their viewpoints than a believer), but he is out of his depth on some things, and I wouldn’t need to attack his drinking to tear down his absurd attack on Eastern religions. In this case, that he knows he knows nothing is a fair estimation.

              Why he would write on something he clearly had little interest to treat objectively or attain basic foundational knowledge upon, is beyond me. He just attacked hackneyed stereotypes. And in fact, he tends to do that with other religions, too. That is my very real problem with him. He wouldn’t even have been an effective polemicist -- whom actually understood the others’ religion they were attacking.

            • Kalima says:

              Contrary to your assertion that we are having a debate here Kevin, I want to state that I’m only answering your questions as honestly as I can, to me that is not a debate.

              Contrary to your belief that I judge this man by not even having read what he has had to say, then you are mistaken, I have, and because I have, I’ve come to my conclusion that I have no interest to pursue everything he has ever written or said.

              If you have found something admirable in his work, then that is fine with me, I have no problem with that. If you insist that the way I perceive what he writes and says as being in any way misinformed, then I do have a problem with that.

              I also have stated many times that I don’t have negative feelings towards non-believers, we all have a choice, what I do resent is the constant ridiculing of my core beliefs, therefore as I said earlier, I have no interest or respect for this man because he has no respect for people like myself. Why would I need to or even want to go out and buy his books, listen to all of his tv appearances knowing that I won’t agree or even like what I read or hear.

              I can’t prove that there is a higher power, you and Hitchens can’t prove that it doesn’t exist. What I choose to believe in is a private matter, it’s between me and my conscience and quite honestly, I have no need or desire to have anyone inserting their disapproval of my beliefs. I would never think to criticize an atheist, what I do object to strongly is the venom directed at the billions of us who do believe. It’s aggressive, intrusive and very unbalanced, and to me it’s attacking a person’s core beliefs, therefore I view it in the same context as bigotry.

              We could continue this discussion until we are blue in the face, but why, it would serve no purpose, especially for me. Therefore I suggest that we just live and let live. Life seems to function much more smoothly if we learn to accept that as humans we are very different while also being very alike. I don’t feel that I have to prove anything, although you seem to think you do,

    • whatsthatsound says:

      Certainly not “boring” to me, Kalima. I think you make excellent points, and I agree with what you write about making waves. There are enough waves as it is!

      • Kalima says:

        Good evening wts, hasn’t today been a wonderful day, dare we believe it really will be Autumn soon?

        Thank you, and have you ever met a person without opinions, I haven’t, and if we don’t like opinions, maybe we shouldn’t be blogging. Then again, we could always lock ourselves in a room away from any human contact for the remainder of our lives, that would fix it.


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