January 29, 2007
As usual, Dr. Gilligan showed up completely unprepared. He started the debate saying that he would "ignore the rhetorical question" about whether or not the UN matters. He then proceeded to ramble for 20 minutes, not bothering to present any facts, but simply broad assertions about how the UN is effective at some poorly defined task called "peacekeeping" and only then when conditions are absolutely perfect.
After Dr. Brook presented his arguments and the Q&A session ensued, Dr. Gilligan's conduct was shameful.
First, he resorted openly to the logical fallacy of the appeal to the mob. He sat there with a straight face and actually attempted to counter Dr. Brook's argument by simply saying that "no American president has ever agreed" with Dr. Brook. He even said that the majority of people in the word don't agree with him. "3 million Frenchmen..."
But, by far, the most shameful thing Dr. Gilligan did was to insult both Dr. Brook and the audience in saying that we are not interested in facts. Given that he presented few to none, it's hard to say which facts he thinks we're disinterested in.
I did want to discuss one argument that Dr. Gilligan presented this evening. He said that he is baffled when people claim that the UN is both ineffectual but also detrimental to US interests and an enemy of our freedom. How can the UN fail to muster the requisite support and resources to deal effectively with a third-world dictatorship like Iran, but it can, somehow, impede the US at accomplishing its goals. Apparently, the UN cannot be both ineffectual and effective at producing these horrible results for the US.
Let me draw an analogy between the UN and a homeless person who is dressed in rags, soaked in their own feces and urine, stinking of that and body odor, begging for money. Such a person is ineffectual when it comes to getting a job and earning a living. They are quite effective, however, at compromising their own health and annoying the hell out of every person who passes by.
The question that Dr. Gilligan fails to ask himself is "at what?" What is it that the UN seeks to accomplish? It is completely possible for an organization to fail at one particular goal and work to the detriment of some other goal.
There's another argument against this specious argument and Dr. Brooks employed it instead of the one I just presented. Instead, he agreed. The UN is ineffectual AND it does not actually hurt the US in itself. No, it's the US that hurts itself by agreeing to participate in the UN. This is certainly the stronger argument although it does not have the same rhetorical appeal.
Anyway, it was fun to see Dr. Brook in action. I just wish he would debate someone worthy of his skill and intelligence. Dr. Gilligan was simply not up to the task. Dr. Gilligan embarrassed himself and wasted my time this evening.
January 26, 2007
Well, the other night I was talking to my mom about my new apartment and how I will save a lot of money on rent.
She suggested that with the extra money, I could do all kinds of stuff including take classes.
I agreed and said that I might like to take some cooking classes or something like that.
But she followed it with, "But you could find somewhere to take some philosophy classes. You enjoy it and philosophy will help you in anything."
I was so surprised, that I really didn't respond. She wasn't very supportive of the notion of me going back to school, so for her to suggest that I take classes was really unexpected. I know that her primary concern is my career. Her lack of enthusiasm for going to back to school was largely a response to the idea of me not having a job. Even so, this was a pleasant, apparent change in direction.
She's right, though. I've wanted to take classes from ARI for a while. Perhaps I will take that up this year... We'll see.
January 08, 2007
The conflict in this episode revolves around religion as the mothers try to influence the families to depart from their pre-existing ideas on the matter.
The problem with the atheist dad is that he values being "open-minded" and "respect for other people's beliefs" and other such nonsense.
The problem with this is that the question at hand is that these people have no identified the primary conflict at hand which is faith versus reason as a meand of knowing reality. Instead, they're trying to focus on the mere fact of the question: does God exist. But because they failed the first question, they're failing the second.
The Christian mother wants everyone to respect her belief. She wants the atheists to be open-minded about her faith. And the atheists -- at least implicitly -- accept this.
If we restrain ourselves to the mere fact of the question, how can we respect something that amounts to nothing more than a chosen delusion?
If I claimed to believe that I am invisible, would you respect me or would you laugh out loud? The fact is that I'm not invisible. I can't offer you any evidence that I'm invisible, but you can easily defend the opposite.
But if you want to be open-minded about my beliefs, you aren't allowed to present your evidence against my beliefs. According to the popular meaning of the word "respect', you're not allowed to even bring up the fact that you don't believe me.
I think it's possible that once upon a time "open-minded" didn't mean what it means today. I think maybe it started as just an argument to ask people to be polite and stop talking while others are presenting the evidence for their argument. It seems that it could be an innocent call to stop with the Fox News style of debate.
"Respect" implies that the object in question is virtuous and worthy of admiration. I think that if ever the term was misapplied in innocence it had to have been another call for people to mind their manners. It's not appropriate to announce when your beliefs conflict with someone else's and launch into your arguments that support your position without regard to context.
I'm going to attend a wedding this weekend and it will be in a church. There will be references to God and all of that foolishness. There will be prayers. It would be inappropriate for me to storm out during the prayer or for me to sit out on the steps of the church in protest. My friends are aware of my thoughts on the matter and they know I'm willing to discuss it with them, but their wedding ceremony is not the time and the place.
So, in that regard we "respect" people of different beliefs by not behaving like a jackass.
But by today's standards being "open-minded" basically means agreeing with anything and everything. Showing "respect" means taking it a step further and actually admiring any foolishness that comes by.
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