Debate - 18

Everyone likes to debate, right? It's an innate human characteristic, I think. Debate plays into the human desire for outrage - the same thing that has made twitter so successful, I'd endeavor - and that coveted feeling of self-righteousness and correctness, however toxic it may be. Debate tends to be something that we use to make ourselves feel good about our own views, or in the case of politicians make the base feel good about its candidate, so it's natural that it's not very effective at changing people's minds. Actually, it doesn't do a very good job of making us feel good, either... so what's it useful for? It's fun when we keep it lighthearted, but when genuine views and set opinions are expressed and challenged, debate tends to just leave us hollow and frustrated.

As I write this, I am listening to people close to me having a post-dinner debate about religion, science, truth, philosophy... essentially all the topics that don't really have convincing resolutions but are fundamental parts of the human condition. There is a group taking the side of science and science alone, building their entire worldview on what we believe to be true through (you guessed it) the scientific method. On the other side of this metaphorical (and literal, I guess) table, there is the other group. It's hard to articulate well the philosophy that they are expressing, but it's something along the lines of "science and spirituality complement each other, and there are things that one cannot explain that the other can/there is more to the universe than what we view as science". There's a lot more nuance to it, but that's the way that I've interpreted it generally. Actually, I think it's more of a pro/con debate over the resolution "science explains everything in the universe and it's all we need" (or something of the sort - you get the gist). Listening to these two groups is frustrating, not because of the viewpoints that they are expressing, but because I can tell that it's not actually getting anywhere. The pro group ridicules a member of the con group for not understanding Einstein's theory of relativity (and bringing it up anyway) and the con group talks down to the pro group when they seem to not have an open mind. It's obvious that the 'discussion', as it was called initially, has turned into an argument. No one is actually listening for ideas that they might find useful; they are listening to points they can pounce on when their now-opponent has stopped talking.

I just heard someone say "it comes down to a basic difference in how we approach the world". I find this funny, since it perfectly exhibits the mentality that has been held throughout this conversation: it's Us vs. Them, we have no common ground, our differences are irreconcilable. Looking out at the world in general, I guess this is how it's always been. Wars, nationalism, political polarization, discrimination, tribalism - maybe this mentality comes with a hyper-competitive world, and debate is just a manifestation of society's organization nowadays. Or maybe I'm looking too far into it. Further thought is requred.


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