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Will the Sun Rise Tomorrow - Commentary on Hopeless Arguments

Updated on October 9, 2010

Lost causes

Reading the reply to a post I made it struck me how utterly pointless the idea behind commenting on an article somebody else wrote in order to change their mind really is. Now this is going to turn into a bit of a ramble rather than a directed article but I’m going to write it anyhow.

The first scenario for this type of thing is where, as I saw recently on a fellow hubbers article, you have a good article on a contentious subject closely followed by a series of posts all about how the other person is wrong. Some of them were a little moronic along the lines of ‘you’re wrong cos I say you are’ but most were relatively reasoned arguments on both sides. Here’s the thing – from the point of view of convincing the other person – this is a giant failure.

When I want your opinion...

The guy who wrote the article (here on the topic of Global Warming) clearly knows enough and has read enough to be able to write the article and in doing so clearly believes the arguments he puts forth. So why oh why, on the strength of one minor counter-argument, is he going to go ‘oh yeah! You’re right, I’ll change my mind!’ – Its never going to happen! And yet we still do it, I did it. His replies could in fairness be classed as courtesy, but they carried a little bit more persuasion.

Why do we do this? He wasn’t going to convince me of his argument and I wasn’t going to convince him of mine. The only purpose this exchange has is to air each viewpoint. I suppose this staves off apathy, but thinking about this, the real target is not the person to whom the post is address, they are already a lost cause. Instead, it’s to convince the person who has not yet taken a side, the early bombardment in preparation for the going over the top.

You're entitled to your wrong opinion
You're entitled to your wrong opinion

Agreement frenzy

The second scenario is the more bewildering of the two. This is where all the participants share a common view but insist in telling everybody their own little version of it. What they’re trying to say is ‘yes I agree with you’. Instead what you get is two dozen stories of how they came to this view point and what it means for them, their sisters, cousins and aunts.

It goes round and round in a re-enforcement frenzy as if each one has to prove they do indeed hold this view. From the outside it’s utterly ridiculous; there is no need for all that excitement when everybody agrees with each other.

To this end I postulate that the only discussions worth holding are between people who know very little on a subject, where reference to a higher authority can be made and accepted and also over subjects which are abstract and of little importance.

This last type is because one can happily concede the argument or even change your view simply because it is not inconvenient to do so and the outcome doesn’t bother you one way or another.

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    • Lymond profile imageAUTHOR

      Lymond 

      8 years ago from UK

      Joer4x4: thanks for your comment, I recall seeing some of your others on Williams hub. I'd imagine that the people concerned about global warming are because they like humans. It's less the fault of the humans and more that we have the possibility of doing something about it. Having said that, we do seem to stumble from one potential 'catastrophe' to the next with a certain amount of arrogant certainty that we are at the centre of it all.

    • joer4x4 profile image

      joer4x4 

      8 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Nice insight.

      From my point of view people have short memories. There is always something. We're going to run out of oil, then the ozone, then it was DDT, now CO2 just to name a few. None of it came true and no one seems to connect the dots. What's next?

      And it always the fault of the human. How can one be human and dislike a human?

    • Lymond profile imageAUTHOR

      Lymond 

      8 years ago from UK

      William, thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

      At the moment I’m not going to change my mind, partly because I don't like the way the information is used (making a distinction between people who work at institutes such as NASA and people like Al Gore), partly because I still think the information is incomplete, partly because the strict maths and physics of the available data is way way over my head meaning I would distrust a simple conclusion drawn from it but mostly because if the graphs inferred from the geological record stretching back 500 million years are correct or even in the general ballpark, both atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures are among the lowest they've ever been. Aside from a few notable points in the late Palaeozoic of course. At that point I have to wonder whether we are currently enjoying, as oxygen breathing creatures, an imbalance in CO2. At any rate, the temperature has been higher in the past but the earth is still here. This all, I suppose is food for your hub rather than this one.

      As for you changing your mind I rather think you will never in your life time be presented with an opposite theory with sufficient evidence to back it. I accept that global warming is happening, I question, not thinking that 1000 years is a particularly long time, the predicted scale of it and I certainly question the human factor input into that scale. Quite frankly I'm always puzzled why people latch on to CO2 and global warming when I would imaging that breathing in micro and nano carbon particles, especially cities such as LA and Tokyo, who's long term effects we have surprisingly little data on is a far quicker way to end the human race. I also work in the Oil industry.

      Other than that, I suppose in contrast to the slightly rhetorical hub above, I would say continue (!) with the debate!

    • William R. Wilson profile image

      William R. Wilson 

      8 years ago from Knoxville, TN

      Lymond - I enjoyed your comments on my hub, they were among the most thoughtful of the skeptical viewpoints and courteous as well.

      In this hub, are you saying that you'll never change your mind about global warming? Because you seem to thoughtful of a person to ignore evidence.

      I would change my mind if presented with a compelling alternative theory but I have yet to see one. I can see that there are uncertainties in our ability to predict future climate change, as we discussed on the hub, but the basic theory of global warming caused by CO2 seems to me as sound as we could hope for, and solid enough to take action on based on the potential catastrophes ahead.

      I agree though, with your basic premise here. Most arguments/debates about this sort of thing are more for other peoples benefit rather than the people arguing.

      That's not to say that I didn't get some benefit from your comments. I like to engage in debates actually because it forces me to think about different things.

      Take care, thanks for the link and thoughtful comments.

    • Lymond profile imageAUTHOR

      Lymond 

      8 years ago from UK

      Very astute oneputt, I was once told " you cannot change somebody else, you can only change yourself."

    • oneputt profile image

      oneputt 

      8 years ago from Phillipsburg, Ks.

      This is a comment from one who "knows" very little. It seems you have stumbled on to a potential truth. In all subjects of importance, to seek agreement in order to validate is probably not in the best interest of the Truth student.

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