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Reasonable Limits to Debating, Arguing, Rebutting

By Ion Saliu, Founder of Axiomaticism, Founder of Randomness Philosophy

Religious fanaticism has been the hardest to argue-against forever.

Debating and arguing are such favorites for humans! We've had to take the bad with the good. Humans can lose their heads due to debating or arguing in the worst places at the worst times. There is no debater in history greater than Socrates — He still lost his life in the land that gave birth to freedom of speech. The good: The enormous service debating has done to human advancement.

I got a question for you: Are there reasonable limits to debating? Does the reasonable argument have reasonable limits? Let's briefly find the answers together.

The no-beyond-it limit to debating and/or arguing is sanity or lack thereof. You don't have to imagine this. It is common fact of life in all hospices of the world. The doctors endlessly have to deal with unfortunate humans who claim, for the most part, that they are either Julius Caesar or Napoleon. There is no argument whatsoever. Caesar did not leave us with any bones, therefore no DNA (like Moses… Itself). We might be able to extract Napoleon's DNA. You can't argue successfully, however, with the unfortunate barely-human in the sad institution. He is either Caesar or Napoleon - It will be till the end of its life.

That is the extreme limit of debating or arguing. Nobody should even attempt to change such minds - they are afflicted beyond the capacity of reasoning. The next - and virtually as impenetrable - is the Limit of Fanaticism. Who could successfully argue with UFO fanatics? Hardly anyone! And that is one of the mildest cases of Fanatical Debating. Still, they are the easiest to come to terms with reality, based on logical and factual proofs.

I did, however, enter hotheaded debates related to UFO conspiracy theories. I even participated in still harsher debating and arguing in those grotesquely insane 9/11 conspiracy theories regarding the September 11, 2001 tragedy:

Political fanaticism falls in the same easier-to-debate-against fanaticism. Still politics mixed with fanaticism leads too easily and too often to bloodshed. If World War II is an extreme of extremes, the Balkan wars of the 1990s are fresher in our memories. Not to mention that the bloody conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a common occurrence. The debating and arguing have always had the minimum minimorum of chance of success. Very hard to have a dialogue surrounded by the shouting of the weapons!

Religious fanaticism has been the hardest to argue-against forever! Most religions have succumbed to their own immortal deaths, as it were. The deadly-staunch fanatics of Zeus/Jupiter have long died and failed. Yet, other fanatics have risen from their tomb-wombs and have continued the crusades, as it were. For the crusaders are the strongest ones lately, given their superior weaponry and treasuries? They even buy other crusaders amongst themselves, like, exempla gratia, Dollar-American Neo-Protestants buying Petro-Dollar Orthodox-Christian Russians. (Granted, both sides successfully fought that black iron-cross together in WWII.)

How can you successfully argue against religious fanaticism? I saw on the U.S. television a hotheaded religious fanatic (Christian, assuredly) who loudly shouted against the idea of dinosaurs. He was filmed in a museum of natural sciences (on the U.S. Eastern coast). There were lots of dinosaur skeletons around. The fanatical crusader calmed down somehow and "argued" that the skeletons were made out of plastic by Hollywood! The TV guy invited the fanatic to touch the skeletons! The fanatic shivered...almost like touching the skeletons of his (human) ancestors!

So, where have the dinosaurs gone, fanatics? They are not mentioned i(o)n any religious fundamental text! Yet, dinosaur relics are found all over the world, including the Arctic, of all places! It looks like this is the last frontier war for the religious fanatics: Theory of evolution. I live an area where some parents wanted the dismissal of the theory of evolution in the science classes. Instead, they wanted the teaching of...Intelligent Design. The federal judge in charge struck down at the Intelligent Design. The judge...intelligently ruled that the new "theory" was religion in disguise. According to a previous ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court, religion may not be taught in public schools (based on the constitutional provision of the separation of state and religion).

I, and many other people, where shocked to witness an incredible case of religious fanaticism in a place for... computer programmers! The thread dedicated to the... impossibility of evolution lasted for some 1000 posts! To computer programmers, it did look like the advocate of creationism bordered insanity. He, also a self-proclaimed computer programmer, would stick to his guns all the way to the end of the thread. The world is 5000 years old, and there were no dinosaurs on earth - ever!

I realize now, after that "creationism and computer programming" thread that there are lots of public forums where evolution is demolished (just attempts!), while creationism is… worshipped! A few email messages 'invited" me to participate in such forums. I can't publish here how the "invitations" sounded! But, hey, no hard feelings! I am an expert myself at using, sometimes, the harshest and grossest language! I return favors!

• • Which brings me to another point: The modality of debating. Debating can never be perfect. We all, humans, are hard-headed. Some of us are more often than not hot-headed, rather than just hard-headed. It is good to have strong opinions and to defend them strongly. Also, debating from a position of strength assures more security for the debater. Too polite or too shy - most participants would treat you as a weak interlocutor. They might even think they would have an easy way in causing you destruction. The message to others should be: "You ain't gonna get it with impunity! I might as well take you down with me, if not put you down before me!"

We can find an interesting passage in Plato's Republic Dialogue. Socrates debates about the virtues of the State. One of the participants starts yelling at Socrates. The interlocutor blames Socrates for always being critical of the others, while not expressing his opinions clearly. Socrates yells back at his "bully" and does make a clear and comprehensive presentation of his idea of the ideal State. We all know now that Socrates' idea of the ideal state was far from perfect. Actually, such State (form of government) has failed throughout history. Plato himself tried to implement the ideal state in Syracuse (today's Sicily). Plato failed badly in his political project. Fascism and Communism took some inspiration from The Republic. Both political systems failed badly.

Nonetheless, Plato (through Socrates' angry-at-times mouth) argues beautifully the ideas of the ideal State. Many in the audience were impressed and convinced of the validity of the argument of Socrates. Still, other participants were not convinced that Plato had a good philosophical or political point.

• • • And thus my third point is: Validation of debating. How can we definitely say that one point or the other is the right one? Of course, in art such point is inarguable. As the Romans put it so eloquently: "De gustibus non est disputandum". "About tastes there is no disputing". I don't like your music at all...who cares? You don't like my music at all...I don't care! There should never be any arguing when it comes to the arts. Art does not deal with Truth.

Religion does not deal with Truth - although it was believed to be so in the early life of religion. Yet, the "illiterate" form of consciousness, religion, still strongly claims right over the truth. The wise thing to do is to borrow the tactic of art: "About faith there is no disputing". Freedom of religion should always be respected and protected by every state, ideal or not. (I strongly believe that religion will go the dinosaur's way within a few generations.) Yet, religion should remain a personal, private matter. At least, religion should be separated from government in clear-cut fashion.

Do not go public and dispute faith. Bring in room believers of all religious faiths, if that was possible. I know, a NATO task force would be necessary for such a setting! Let every believer make an argument for his/her belief. That believer would be strongly refuted by the rest of the audience. Let them argue one by one. Each and every one of them would be refuted by all others! A logical conclusion would be: No religion is valid! No wonder so many gods and goddesses "descended" on Erath, and then went the dinosaur's way!

Validation of debating is easier to achieve in philosophy and especially in science. Reason, based on logical inquiry, leads more convincingly to Truth. The method based on Reason is what made the philosophy of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to pass the exam of time. Their philosophy has a high degree of validity, despite so many wrong details. Science is even easier to prove validity. C squared equals A squared plus B squared.

But even science has been marred by religious-like debating! Let's only think of Einstein, considered to be the most brilliant scientist of all time! Many humans worship him. Yet, others, yours truly included, think of Einstein as one of the most intelligent mystics of all time. Paradoxical? Me thinx not. Einstein made Light the true God who doesn't play dice with the Universe! How can be the speed of light a constant in a dynamic Universe? Even a car needs a certain distance and time to reach a certain speed. Einstein, however, believed like a cleric that God does His work empirically and doesn't care about our mathematics! Probability does not exist in Einstein's theory; only the absolutely certain laws of God. I swear by the dog in Egypt (the only oath I take) that I do not intend to make argumentum ad hominem. I make no argument against mah man, Einstein!

Another brilliant human, Isaac Newton even argued against himself! His brilliant side discovered the law of gravity (and also calculus in geometrical design). Newton had what some call a "dark side". He was such a strong religious believer that he calculated that the end of the world would come in the year of grace 2060 (based on his "mathematical interpretation" of the Bible)! His own "arguing" was so powerful that he encrypted his writings as an astrologer and alchemist. The mathematician and physicist was afraid that humanity would take away his scientific achievements because of his mystical activities as an astrologer...

We have enjoyed the spectacle of another religious-like debate: Climate. That is, climate change or no change. The debate or arguing used to be called global warming or no global warming. I think it all started in the early 1990s with El Niño. There is a weather phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific around Christmas (not every year). Hence Niño, which means Child in Spanish (one of the diminutives the mystical Christ is also known as). The TV networks in USA surely invested huge amounts of money to make El Niño…El Nightly News! We had huge snow storms? El Niño was the cause! Did we have a lot of rain? The same cause! How about severe drought? The Child was the culprit! Everything unusual in weather was put on the shoulders of El Niño! The TV networks would cover the weather specially, based on the belief that TV viewers are attracted to such reports. I am sure, the TV networks received a huge volume of negative correspondence from their viewers. I remember angry anchormen introducing a report as: "Believe it or not, this bad blizzard/heat wave is due to El Niño!"

Surely, humans have an influence on the environment. The negative effect is especially stronger in some locales. I know it well. I lived for many places in a much polluted place (the heart of the steel industry in Transylvania, a city with a castle where... Dracula was guest of honor, then prisoner, then guest of honor again!) Things became so bad that people started to complain loudly, more loudly than usually. The Communist government solved the issue by... arresting the most hard-headed and hot-headed complainants!

The proponents of climate change and the opponents of the concept of climate change fire shots at one another like the religious fanatics do. For, to be sure, Climate Change (formerly known as the god of Global Warming) has Its staunch fanatics! Me? I look at some real figures. The dry land represents 30% of the area of this wet planet. Of the dry land, only 10% is hospitable to humans. A large part of the dry land is occupied by mountains, deserts, jungles, land that cannot be farmed. Thusly, 30% times 10% equals 3%. This 3% represents the footprint of human civilization on this planet. What if it were 10%? What if the human footprint would have been 50%?

There are also the random cycles of Nature. The humans created the current civilization at the end of the last Ice Age, some 10,000+ years ago. The Earth has constantly (but randomly!) gone through hot, warm, cold cycles...back and forth. Many millions years ago, the Arctic was so warm that dinosaurs were roaming in the area of the North Pole!

On the other hand, humanity needs to be more conscious of the bad effects it has on the environment. Especially the governments must take reasonably stronger measures to assure healthy lives for people living in all places. No government should ever play the Dracula role when their constituents complain about an unhealthy environment!

And thus I bring closure to this debate. I am happy for not destroying anybody in this arguing and nobody destroying me. I wanna take a breath of fresh air. It snowed quite beautifully a few hours ago. It was warmer; it is colder now.

"Isaac Newton, your mind
Came to a halting grind:
You thought Universal God
Would finish us with a nod!"

"Einstein, on your path,
First Wife taught you good math,
But it looked to you like night...
Were you blinded by the Light?"

Debating and arguments reach reasonable limits forced by strong beliefs.

Political fanaticism falls in the same easier-to-debate-against religious bind-faith.

Resources in Philosophy, Humans, Humanities, Religion, Ideas, Truth

Good essay on reason, limit, debate, argument, fanaticism, validity, religion, beliefs, science.

Be careful how we argue with others; fanatics are extremely hard to convince in any argumentation.

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Religion and politics are the most intense forms of arguing, therefore are most prone to fanaticism.