Who am I arguing with now?
Jan 28th, 2011 by Unamused
I’m certain this will become a regular feature here. I love to argue — debate, that is, not fight verbally. It’s like how playing sports feels for normal people. It satisfies the same need. It’s action; without it, we stagnate. I can’t help that I’m not into hockey. Let me have my games of deductive reasoning — at least nobody’s getting their teeth knocked out (usually).
Way too many people associate vigorous debate with anger and general unpleasantness. I never get angry when I’m arguing, and I never find it unpleasant. That is, unless my opponent is unwilling or unable to follow the Rules of Engagement:
- Don’t make it personal. Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on your opponent’s receding hairline, mismatched socks, or history of sexual congress with barn animals.
- Don’t be a jerk. Never be the first to bring out the insults, coarse language, and snide remarks. They add nothing to the argument and they put everyone in a bad mood. Your opponent is not “stupid,” he “may be mistaken.” His claim isn’t “a bunch of crap,” it’s “flawed for the following reasons.” Once you’ve said that, go ahead and tear it apart.
- Be reasonable, i.e. rational. If you have no counter-argument, you lose — go away. You don’t get to invent new rules of logic: Aristotle’s got you covered. You don’t get to deny inconvenient facts: just because a study disagrees with your opinion, doesn’t make it flawed. I could go on, but you get the point.
For example, one of the most egregious violations of all three rules is illustrated by a female/gay/minority opponent who sneers at any mention of discrimination against men/heterosexuals/whites: “Yeah, right! Like that could ever happen!” (It should go without saying that anyone may commit this violation, but I’m a white heterosexual man, so this is the form I’m most familiar with.)
So that’s my system. I think it’s pretty solid. It’s not perfect and neither am I, but we try our best.
And yet, whenever I get really into an interesting discussion, some bystander, with no ideas of his own to contribute, is always ready to jump in to remind everyone to calm down, relax (I’m feeling fine, thanks), it’s not that big a deal (nothing is, to some people), and just agree with him so he’ll stop arguing! That might be the most insulting of all. Don’t pretend you’re taking the high road to save me the humiliation of defeat; have the decency to admit you’re running away.
To be clear, I’m not talking about interrupting dinner parties with abortion debates. That’s not fun, for obvious reasons; one of them is that it’s inconsiderate (see 2). (Incidentally, I don’t debate abortion or religion.) I’m talking about ordinary, typically private conversations, where any uninterested parties can walk away at any time.
Okay, that’s enough of that. Who am I arguing with now?
First up, dissention is “pissing on white notions about black criminality.” I respectfully disagree. Patric Paramedic has many insightful remarks I wish I’d thought of first, but at least we both seem to equally annoy the hell out of A is A. Personal highlights:
- Africa is now “a vague concept,”
- I attempt to set new world records for fastest, sloppiest research, and
- explorers discover the fabled least racist man alive — apparently it’s Patric, who knew.
Second, and sadly last, Hank Campbell doesn’t think much of evolutionary biology. Apparently, men are more likely to forgive their girlfriends for cheating with other girls than with other men. Campbell scoffs:
Lead author Jaime Confer, doctoral candidate in evolutionary psychology, and Professor Mark Cloud, of Lock Haven University bizarrely try to make a biology case that men are more distressed by infidelity that could threaten their paternity of offspring. College age men. Offspring. Yeah, instead of the obvious “it’s a porn movie” thing that has nothing at all to do with evolution, no matter [how] much evolutionary psychologists want everything about sex to be biology.
There are plenty of other snide remarks in the same vein, like
evolutionary psychologists insist men have an inborn need to sleep with the planet
Machismo college age men may regard gay male sex as icky but not female gay sex, as long as the women are hot. Science has no explanation for that, try as evolutionary psychology might try to make one. Because it isn’t a biology issue.
Isn’t it, though? A biology issue, that is. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll give it my best shot:
Am I missing some incredibly subtle sarcasm? If not, your entire article is one big fallacy. To be precise: you are confusing proximate cause with ultimate cause.
No one, least of all evolutionary biologists, is suggesting that college age men consciously consider paternity of offspring before they decide whether or not to break up with their girlfriends. (“Hmm, what are the chances I’m raising another man’s son? Let’s get out the statistics textbooks.”) Obviously, they do not choose to feel or not feel sexual jealousy.
What the scientists are suggesting is that, over the many millions of years of human evolution, there was a reproductive advantage to getting mad about your girlfriend cheating with a man — because you might have to raise his offspring, not yours; but there was no reproductive advantage when it’s girl-on-girl, because… well, duh. No babies to raise.
It’s quite reasonable to conclude that men have probably evolved (again, not by choice) to feel sexual jealousy toward other men, but not nearly as much toward other women. The actual response is completely instinctual. They don’t look at their evolutionary past and make decisions based on differential reproduction rates, which is the straw-man argument you’ve set up [in order to] take cheap shots at evolutionary psychology/biology.
As for the “porn movie” explanation: well, yes, that’s why men like it, or at least like the thought of it (as opposed to merely being neutral). In the absence of strong sexual jealousy toward women, there’s not much reason for men not to like it. It’s sex, right?
- a fallacy is dragged out to article length
- the term girl-on-girl is used in a serious discussion of evo-biology
- prehistoric man gazes in awe at the colossal straw-man, which Campbell (sadly, not Joseph Campbell) has so laboriously erected