Wednesday, September 12, 2007

How to Avoid Looking Like a Total Moron, While Arguing a Point. (lesson one)

Don't express ANY opinion that you can not support with facts and evidence. And to be clear, I mean real facts and evidence. I mean, have real facts at your disposal, like statistical data from a seemingly legitimate source which has a reputation for conducting its research in line with the professionally-recognized standards and practices for Statistical Research and Analysis. (Note: all alleged Statistics are not equal; that is why I mentioned 'professionally-recognized standards and practices.') Otherwise, be sure if you make some sort of 'common knowledge' argument, that it really is universal common knowledge based on evidence. Such as saying, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. There seems to be no end to observational evidence that says that statement is true, and not one tiny bit of evidence that it is not true.

Now if your expressed opinion can not be backed up with (citation to) evidence, or is of such a generally-accepted to be true nature that denying it is to deny generally-accepted reality on planet earth? I suggest you hold off on saying -- BUT FOR if you say, right then and there, "Now this is only my opinion . . . . . I could be wrong . . . ," or some other qualifier indicating that you are willing to accept, right at the get-go, that what you say can (if not should) be considered nothing more than runny nasty stinky bullshit.

Of course you can skip the qualifier, and in doing so, risk anyone else pointing out how baseless your opinion is, and call bullshit on you.


It is the act of leaving one's self open to the charge of being Bullshit, that primarily leads to one Looking Like a Total Moron, While Arguing a Point. If you neutralize the chances of anyone else calling bullshit on you you have begun the matter with the claim of being intellectually honest, and you do not in fact look like a moron. You will look like someone who understands the crucial difference between the shit people can believe, and what they have any basis for asserting is "THE TRUTH." Avoid arguing that you know what the truth is unless you can either prove it, or support it with facts and evidence sufficient enough to make your opponent have to concede . . . 'Well ya got a point there." Because people who claim to know the truth about anything who can't prove it, look like total morons.

Hey I am feeling generous. I will give you lesson two, also.

Consider these Three Levels:

likely, possible, and not-impossible.

Learn the meaning of these words/phrase. NEVER EVER blur the difference between:

Likely, as in the sun is likely to rise in the east and set it the west, as it has done so for millions and billions of years with out fail,

Possible, as in well I did not study much for that test, but I did most of the reading and I did not feel totally stupid while trying to answer the questions, so it is possible I did ok, and

Not Impossible, as in, I have never been able to beat my sister, Mensa member, PBK, PhD in Quantum Physics, in chess, but that does not mean it is not impossible. Not Likely sure but not impossible as a rule.

Now when you argue something is likely, and it is so likely it is as likely as the sun unsurprisingly rising in the east again, would be, ok, you are on solid ground (just don't try to pass off a merely possible or worse as a likely. You deserve mockery or insult if you do that!)

Next, is arguing what is possible. If you merely argue that the merely possible is merely possible, and really be sure you limit your meaning to that, well you are ok. Again, don't push your luck. Merely Possible is the land of thin ice, the second you move away from the limits of "merely" as in not a significant chance of it, but not out of law of averages.

Lastly we have Not Impossible. This category exists solely as a borderline between the possible and the clearly beyond a reasonable doubt not ever gonna happen, level. It is the safe zone for them who have pushed their argument beyond the usual boundaries of reasonable discourse, and allows a face-saving exit. "Aww sheeh . . . I did not say it was likely, or even possible but ya know . . . it is not impossible that aliens have landed on earth."

Avoid getting in to the position of using the Not Impossible if you can avoid it. You are definitely on the thin ice if you need to grab for that rope. Savvy?

Last bit of advice: If something is so important to you that you will react negatively to being told that is bullshit, and if you can not back it up and I mean triple back stop it? Don't even say it. I have seen so many arguments between people over the most petty and meaningless religious or theological and even doctrinal points that an objective viewer must think, "Hell if God can see that garbage, see these people get that ugly over the proper meaning of the Trinity, I wonder if He is thinking something like . . . I should have made the dolphins lords of the earth instead of these puny silly humans."

Or some such.

Now if anyone actually bothered to read this blog and were of a olde tyme religion stripe they could post a comment about how I should end up in a lake of fire for the blasphemy of indicating that God could make a mistake. Now I could say prove it, in reply but I would be more likely to argue that was not a matter of saying God makes mistakes, but it was an indication of God's love and patience, that he has let humans have dominion over the earth this long. Oh and all that Armageddon talk? What if the prophets got the nuance wrong -- that what the end times really are all about is the fact that from the get-go God's plan was to give humans time to prove their worth, but . . . if that worth is found to be lacking, just pull the plug?

Well it is possible! Well it is not impossible. Prove it is impossible. I double dare ya!


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