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The February, 2018 issue of Scientific American has an article about on-line arguing.  The authors are philosophy and psychology professors at Yale, Carnegie-Mellon, and Jean Nicod in France, and the title is “Are Toxic Political Conversations Changing How We Feel About Objective Truth?” 


It contends that there are two styles of arguing, with each generating its own type of thread.  The first approach, the authors say, is one of arguing to win.  People who argue to win want to score points, tend to be closed-minded, and “objectivist.”


The other style, arguing to learn, results in more open-ended give-and-take.  People who use this method are considered more “relativist,” in that they do not believe in absolute answers. 


The authors conducted an on-line study with participants directed to use one or the other styles.  They gave examples of the types of exchanges resulting from each style.  Abortion and gun control were two examples.


The authors showed a clear preference for the “arguing to learn” style for most situations, but claimed the “arguing to win” tactic may be appropriate in such situations as discussion of climate change.  Here, they claimed, the weight of scientific consensus would make arguing to win understandable, if not preferable.  They conclude that the mode of argument actually changes our understanding of the question itself.


I read the article wondering about the choice of terminology.  The mere use of the word “argue” sets the tone for dissent.  I grew up in a household where arguing was the norm, a habit I picked up and had to un-learn after leaving.  I avoid arguments both on-line and in person.  I prefer the terms “discuss,” “converse,” or even “debate,” which allow room for educating as well as learning, and for bringing in elements that may only be indirectly related to the topic at hand.  Winning or losing do not enter into the equation, because in a good conversation, everyone benefits. 


The idea that the preference for absolute answers is “objectivist,” also seemed arbitrary.  The authors used an example of the cube root of a number as an example of definite right and wrong answers.  When it comes to politics or moral codes, there is no universal agreement on the “correct” answer, so there is no one qualified to be “objective.” 


The authors don’t address personal encounters, which have the advantage of non-verbal cues, like facial expression, tone of voice, and body language.  They focus primarily on social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube commentary.  By their nature, these media are circumscribed to limit words, so they select for emphatic statements that can easily be provocative. 


Presumably the “argue-to-win” types come away feeling even more committed to their point of view. These are the types of people, we are told, who avoid people or perspectives that contradict their fixed opinions.   On the other hand, I believe someone who genuinely wants to learn would most likely ask questions rather than argue. 


I have similar issues with the word “fight.”  I would rather win than fight, but I’m in a minority.  I live in a world that thrives on competition, and “fighting for justice,” “fighting for peace,” or “fighting for equality” share the common denominator of conflict.  Do ends justify the means?  I don’t believe they do. 


If you want peace, justice, or equality, you have to live it.  If you want communication, have a conversation.  If the interaction devolves into a fight—even if you’re fighting an external or abstract enemy—or into an argument—even if you’re arguing to learn—you’ve lost.




Tubularsock Added Feb 23, 2018 - 1:21pm
Katharine, Tubularsock agrees with you conclusion here,”If you want peace, justice, or equality, you have to live it.  If you want communication, have a conversation.”
That is just so true!
Tubularsock has always loved the term “fighting for peace”! And people use it all the time with a straight face!
Amazing really.
People that want to “win” an augment are a lost cause and a waste of one’s time because they only are playing a game. This is fun if you like game playing but if you are out to discuss and learn then you have to avoid the game players.
Great post!
George N Romey Added Feb 23, 2018 - 4:04pm
In the end I don’t really give a rat’s ass. Most topics like the recent school shooting have no impact on my life.
Tom C. Purcell Added Feb 23, 2018 - 5:37pm
Nice article, K.O.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 23, 2018 - 6:21pm
re "When it comes to politics or moral codes, there is no universal agreement on the “correct” answer, so there is no one qualified to be “objective.” 
No, not for those monkeys.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 23, 2018 - 6:31pm
I think that the concept of original sin makes things more clear. We have empiricism and rationalism fighting each other.
  Imagine you are starving and sitting in a room alone. Someone else's sandwich is sitting there, you decide to take a bite.
  Rationally, you know you are wrong. Empirically you must to stay alive so you do it anyways.
  I argue from reason in that I know some things are wrong and I think they should be considered wrong - no crossing that line. Others say current conditions would be better if we jumped over that line. The rationalist and the empiricist are at odds.
  The rationalist argues that gun control is wrong. People who want gun control are willing to give up power for safety. People who do not do not want to depend on gov for safety have a natural right to defend themselves and no empirical observation can take that away.
  Empiricists throw rationality aside to improve current conditions. I say its a compromise with the devil that is unecessary in most cases.
  In the sandwich case there is the law of man - survival and you have to eat to survive. The rational comes from God (it has no empirical basis) and says theft is a form of rented murder since someone had to give up part of their lives to get the sandwich. Life is sacred, you can't take someone else's life, even for a second.
  To an empiricist the end justifies the means, to the rationalist it doesn't. But sometimes it does if there is a really good sandwich involved.
  Christs example was the wedding. *The man and woman not only marry under Gods law, but mans as well, they share resources, supply one another with empirical needs, hence the water mixing with the wine.
  Christ said be careful of those who mix water with wine.
*Explanation from Immanual Kant in Religion Within Boundaries Of Mere Reason.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 23, 2018 - 6:33pm
Everyone wants their views challenged: you put forth a hypothesis and if you are wrong, you learn something - the scientific method in action.
George N Romey Added Feb 23, 2018 - 6:58pm
Most of what we see from Washington is nothing more than political theater. The true Kings and Queens hide in a $5K a night suite at Davos.
Neil Lock Added Feb 24, 2018 - 5:52am
Katharine: Good and thought provoking article.
This professorial research is exactly the kind of stuff that gets my goat. They seem to be expounding a "post-modern" attitude, that pooh-poohs the idea of objective truth. It isn't a big step from there to moral relativism, rejecting the existence of objective right and wrong. That leads very quickly to "rules for thee, but not for me," which is a recipe for tyranny.
If I understand your paraphrase correctly, I think the professors are conflating objectivity of right and wrong with universal agreement on a specific code of rules to delineate right from wrong. From the non-existence of the second (because specific rules of morality are culture dependent), they then deduce the non-existence of the first. I think that's wrong. My own view, for what it's worth, is that there's a core set of ethical rules which are the same for everyone, then individual cultures can add to or vary that list as they see fit.
Personally, I'm willing to "argue to learn" when other parties are willing to do the same in return. But if others are arguing to win, and you try to argue to learn against them, you're not only going to lose the argument, but you risk losing your shirt and maybe even your mind. So I tend towards the "argue to win" mode, at least until I can trust the people I'm talking to.
It's interesting that they give "climate change" as an example of where "arguing to win" is appropriate. I actually agree with that, since the issue (on which I just happened to publish an article at WB yesterday!) is, or should be, a very clear-cut one. Whether or not human emissions of CO2 will cause catastrophe ought to be an entirely objective question, one which can be answered through the use of honest, dispassionate science. But as far as I'm concerned (I'm a skeptic), anyone that needs to introduce "consensus" into that discussion is going in a wrong direction. At the very least, they don't understand how science is supposed to work.
I agree with you that "fighting for peace" is an oxymoron. But there are times (e.g. when we are attacked by "argue to win" types) when we do have to "fight" our corner. Intellectual self-defence is, regrettably, a necessity. So, I'd like to be able to give up using the word "fight," but I haven't been able to - yet!
Even A Broken Clock Added Feb 24, 2018 - 11:22am
Katharine, great post, and let me say that on this forum of WB, we see the various styles play out. It is my opinion that we have far too much arguing to win within forums like social media, where opposing viewpoints do not mix, and the rhetoric regarding the groupthink gets ramped up because everyone is of one mind.
This forum, though, is more of the arguing to learn. We do have differing viewpoints, and for the most part, we have participants who are willing to read and comment viewpoints that differ from our own. I have learned from many on this forum, and just about anyone who posts on multiple topics will have at least one post that I can learn from and even maybe agree with.
I will admit that there are some viewpoints that do set me off, and I will reply in a snarky or curt manner, but those are relatively infrequent.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 24, 2018 - 11:59am
When people lose on facts they bring in the fact that the truth makes people feel bad. That happened on my Florida Conspiracy post. I'm a cold hearted asshole for placing facts above feelings.
 We have a wide range of people on here, with differing backgrounds and very different degrees of effort they have put into learning the subject matter of which they speak.
Dino Manalis Added Feb 24, 2018 - 12:06pm
The game should be played respectfully, we all want to win, but it's good to learn in the process.
Dave Volek Added Feb 24, 2018 - 1:12pm
Nice article Katherine
If we are to move forward in a world society, we have to abandon our attitude that "anyone who disagrees with me must be a fool." To some degree, I am still trying to train myself out of this negative thinking. It is not easy.
One thing I like about WB is that we can put certain positions up there and watch the response. Much of time, the response is quite intelligent on WB---even with those who disagree with us. From there, we can learn things---even if we don't change our positions.
mark henry smith Added Feb 24, 2018 - 1:16pm
I'm not sure where arguing devolves into fighting into winning at all costs, but I would argue that they are all potential learning experiences.
I have repeatedly been pulled into these rag-tag, WWF, back and forth, nothing of value venom spits on writerbeat. I have often been confused about why the person is so hostile. How can a so-called religiously devout follower of Christ wish for me to be more beaten as a child just so I have different viewpoints that they find acceptable?
This taught me something important. People are not rational and with people who aren't rational, rational argument is pointless. Now most of you would say, just stop then. Delete them and they'll eventually go away. I tried this and found it unsatisfactory. Too much was left uncovered, like a corpse with limbs and particular digits sticking out of the ground. I desired to cover them and all I had available was dirt.
Do you see? In so many arenas all we have to throw back is dirt and it all becomes a dirty business in the end. Trump is a dirt thrower. He doesn't ever argue. He doesn't ever learn issues to be able to make more sound judgments. All he wants to know is what strategy will get him the most points on whatever scorecard he's carrying.
We who want to learn, to make more sound judgments want to ignore the dirt since it distracts from the development of better policies, but we can't. If we do, the dirt will become policy. We have to stand up and submit to the slings of meadow muffins and cow pies. We have to try to use the nicknames, the slurs, the attacks as examples of what winning does to some people, so people refuse to glamorize winning at all costs, because the people who use this tactic don't care. Social media is the mecca of don't care communication.
And most of all, we have to stay and finish what we started no matter how ugly it gets.        
Katharine Otto Added Feb 24, 2018 - 3:31pm
I'm flattered by all the interest and support.  No one took an argumentative tone, so I would agree most people on WB want to learn, most of the time, despite differences of opinion.
The "argue-to-win" strategy exhausts me.  When I must deal with people who practice it, I'm learning to change the conversational tone by not responding in kind.  Maybe I'm playing my own game, but it's amazing how quickly it calms people down.  Some people just change the subject, which is okay, too, if you're locked into an unwinnable argument.
Funny you should mention the school shooting,  I don't have a TV but have been visiting my sister some nights since the shooting and am amazed at the media (and public) obsession with it.  
Since you didn't ask, my take is that we live in a culture of violence that selects out for pathological traits like mass murder.  That kid has never known the US in a time of peace, and the people at the top model the "might makes right" attitude.
Your second comment reminds me of the book I'm currently reading, The Land Grabbers, by Fred Pearce.  All about how the super-rich foreigners are buying up vast tracts of land all over the world, destroying habitat, biodiversity, rain forests, and undermining, killing, or absorbing local communities for mono-agriculture and mechanized farming for export.
Thanks for the compliment.  
If I were starving and someone has left an unprotected sandwich in the room, I would rationalize taking a bite (or maybe more), by vowing to make good at the first opportunity.  If the sandwich owner had been present, I would have asked him for a bite.  Obviously, he wasn't starving, or he would have eaten his sandwich.
Issues of right and wrong may be inborn, explaining why just about every religion has a version of the Golden Rule.  However, I believe it is a violation to impose your values on other people who may not share them.  I believe those who do wrong know who they are, and they are their own worst enemies.
As far as people wanting their views challenged, you may be right, because challenge is at least an acknowledgment that they have been heard.  There's so much competition for attention out there, sometimes you have to do something outrageous just to be noticed.
The philosophical question of "objective truth" is a quagmire that has been brewing probably since man became conscious.  Objective truth, to me, is the cube root of eight.  Because math conforms to agreed-upon rules, there are objective answers within that framework.
For me, the only "ethical rule" that applies across the board is the Golden Rule.  Even the ten commandments are vague and certainly not followed, if you consider man's history of war and institutionalized murder.  What, exactly, does "Honor your father and mother" mean?  
There are lots of ways to learn other than arguing, and that was my main point.  Some people just like to fight, and I know some who will change position when I begin to agree with them.  Tone of voice can be deceptive, as people can use an argumentative tone to agree or give examples supporting my claims.  I've often pointed out that they are agreeing.  Stops them short.
The climate change issue is a loaded topic.  Let's just say the issue involves a lot more than CO2 and CH4, such as all the environmental toxins we are dumping willy-nilly into our own nest.  What probably bothers me most about the discussion is that people are simplifying it too much.
I agree with you, which is why I like WriterBeat.  The diverse opinions, backgrounds, and areas of expertise keep it constantly entertaining and informative.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 24, 2018 - 3:46pm
I read your post and didn't really understand it.  I believe the US is quite capable of false flags, as mentioned in books like Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The Secret History of the CIA.  I also contend the Fed is a major banking conspiracy, as asserted in None Dare Call it Conspiracy.  That may be the biggest conspiracy of all, along with its attendant central banks around the world, and, of course, the World Bank and IMF.  They are the major eco-rapists behind the government/Wall Street/super-rich conspiracies to monopolize the Earth for profit.  The Land Grabbers describes this in detail.  I'm not so sure about the school shooter, but the woman who wanted to protect the Everglades would have appreciated The Land Grabbers.
Respect is key, I also believe.  You summed it up.
I've been proved wrong too many times to dig my heels in on many topics.  The harder you "argue" for a position, the more embarrassing it is when you have to admit you're wrong.
Fellow Leo, we can be stubborn, but we are of good intent.  Some people just like to fight, and they love to provoke.  If you can provoke someone, you can control them, to some extent.  
I like the martial arts strategy of using the enemy's energy to overcome them.  The ultimate purpose is to make a friend.  People can get emotionally attached to a particular point of view.  They take disagreement personally, and react with hostility.
Dave Volek Added Feb 24, 2018 - 4:21pm
The key is to never admit that you were wrong. I think that's a good sign of the fight-to-win style.
WB has been a good forum for test driving blog articles. Comments here have helped me decide not to post articles or make serious revisions.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 24, 2018 - 6:11pm
You're right.  Some people can never admit they are wrong, but it blocks forward momentum.  
Also, WB commentary provides good ideas for future articles.  Many benefits.
George N Romey Added Feb 24, 2018 - 6:16pm
Katharine these shootings are not happening in a vacum. They are the real deal. Something is triggering young people to do heinous acts. I think the disjointing and dividing of society is fracturing already troubled minds.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 24, 2018 - 7:46pm
@Katherine re "I read your post and didn't really understand it. "
Which one, the stuff on Original Sin  above - I know its hard to explain it and as usual I'm trying to explain something in three paragraphs that should take three pages. I was considering doing a post on it. This group isn't very philosophical, not that there is anything wrong with that.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 24, 2018 - 7:50pm
re "Katharine these shootings are not happening in a vacum. They are the real deal. Something is triggering young people to do heinous acts. I think the disjointing and dividing of society is fracturing already troubled minds."
I think that the idea that young people go on mass shooting sprees and murder their classmates has been disproven beyond any shadow of doubt if one chooses to look at ALL the evidence available.
  Cognitive dissonance or "double think" run rampant throughout society and both are a symptom of brainwashing propaganda. Past history shows our government to be far more deadly than a small group of angry high schoolers - even if this was in fact the case.
  Cognitive dissonance occurs when people ignore evidence that doesn't fit into their world view. Double think is when people hold two incompatible thoughts.
Neil Lock Added Feb 25, 2018 - 8:46am
Katharine: But eight has three different cube roots! :-)
I agree with you that (some form of) the Golden Rule does apply across the board. I've been thinking recently about the secular (5-10) among the Ten Commandments, and I'm coming towards the view that, suitably interpreted and generalized where necessary, they can actually be a decent first stab at a culture-independent ethical code. That they are not followed, of course, is another matter, and a very interesting one.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 25, 2018 - 10:03am
Eight has one cube root, the rest lie in your imagination. Complex numbers just save us from doing pages of trig, they aren't real.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 12:17pm
Neil and Doug,
Two, two, and two are all cube roots of eight, so agreed that it has three.  Unless you consider negative numbers, in which -2 X -2 X 2 also equals eight.
Neil, perhaps you would explain what you mean, since I don't see three different cube roots.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 12:26pm
I don't believe the cultural "gel" is a vacuum, but it's hard to see it, so immersed are we.  Not having a TV makes me somewhat more detached, but even I am a product of my place and time in history.  I think of violent acts that receive international attention as pressure relief valves on the seething rage underlying entire populations, or the whole world.  Milder forms of acting out are things like road rage, or kicking your dog.  
Whether this kid was part of a sinister plot or not doesn't matter as much as the fact that so many interests are using the event to promote political agendas, such as varying degrees of gun control.  Yes, conspiracies occur all the time, but even the CIA's plots backfire on them.  To suggest that conspirators can control the outcome of their plans is to give them more credit than they deserve.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 12:28pm
The article I didn't understand was the one on the Florida shooting conspiracy.  What would the conspirators be trying to achieve by linking mass murder to the woman who tried to save the Everglades from development?
Doug Plumb Added Feb 25, 2018 - 12:35pm
The Trump administration is draining the swamp. This is a message from the deep state to Trump. The woman that opposed the draining of the swamp just got her school shot up.
  It could be something else, but there is a glaring coincidence here.
George N Romey Added Feb 25, 2018 - 12:37pm
I believe this was a very troubled kid that felt he had no future. We tell kids today that unless they get a fancy degree from a prestigious university they will suffer untold economic horror. So what about the bullied kid that will struggle to make into a community college. He feels life has nothing for him yet we wonder why this same destable kid shoots up the school.
Doug Plumb Added Feb 25, 2018 - 12:38pm
There could be an internal war in the deep state and someone is showing off. The deep state is in serious trouble I think - at least a layer of it. I wonder if its going to be a Bolshevik purge.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 12:41pm
I think it comes down to respect.  The concept of original sin is damaging in that it teaches you're a sinner as soon as you take your first breath.  By extension, it presumes God (if you believe in God) is imperfect because He has made imperfect creations.  But man is the only creature cursed with original sin, apparently, so why does God hate man so much?
To disobey God is an act of free will, or of defying authority.  It is its own punishment, in that you either learn what not to do or you discover something new, maybe God's forgiveness.
I don't happen to believe this mythology, but many people do, so I'm affected by their beliefs, as we all are.  
While the ten commandments offer guidelines, people will interpret them in their own ways, and rationalize them to fight their wars or settle their scores.  I don't believe any ethical code can be imposed from outside and get much respect, unless the imposer lives the strategies he promotes.  That's why people are losing respect for authority in this country, or so I believe.
Nobody's Sweetheart Added Feb 25, 2018 - 1:26pm
One of my favorite Monty Python skits: Argument Clinic:
Neil Lock Added Feb 25, 2018 - 2:00pm
Katharine, I quote from Wikipedia: "the other cube roots of 8 are −1 + √3and −1 − √3i."
And when you say, I don't believe any ethical code can be imposed from outside and get much respect, unless the imposer lives the strategies he promotes, you have it in one. Not three. :-)
Doug Plumb Added Feb 25, 2018 - 2:39pm
Just because those other numbers are in wiki doesn't mean anything, they aren't real.
mark henry smith Added Feb 25, 2018 - 3:03pm
I have decided on my internet pages to be a link between the Trump haters and the Trump lovers. I find things I can agree with on both sides. What you realize in most of these affiliations is a desire for blind adherence to a cult of personality, a completely irrational agenda for a deconstructionist. So to the Trump haters I ask, what would Hillary have done better? To the Trump lovers I ask, what would Hillary have done worse?
There is no answer to these questions, obviously, but it starts a dialogue thinking about the other side's strategic thinking.
As far as preventing these kind of tragedies, I take the view that what we've lost in this country is a sense of duty to a set of standards that promote common decency. You don't litter in places that are not yours, and this earth is not yours. You don't call people names to belittle them just because you don't like their opinions. When wrong is being done in your presence you stand up and fight knowing that the cost could be your life, but because of a sense of duty you understand that life without it is pointless.
If you feel your duty is to play another round, or humiliate another person, or fight wars against phantoms, or make lots of money at the detriment to others, or buy up land to make theme parks for the wealthy so they can safely go anywhere, do anything, kill anything, have anything they want just because they have wealth, I ask you, where is your sense of duty?
Take these kids with the inability to achieve academically and send them to some kind of training facility where they can gain a sense of usefulness and competence. This Cruz kid was a walking shell waiting to crack.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 9:10pm
Michael B.,
I remember that skit but haven't heard it for 40 years.  Thanks for the link.  I always liked Monty Python.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 9:15pm
I stand corrected on the other cube roots of 8, but I'm not sure what check 3i means.  You seem to be saying there are no absolute truths.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 9:17pm
About living beliefs, are you suggesting that is absolute truth?  It seems living beliefs does reveal whether I really believe them.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 25, 2018 - 9:23pm
One thing you can say about Trump is he knows how to get and keep attention.  In contrast, Hillary would probably have been a boring president.
I think tragedies like this galvanize people.  It's hard to remain complacent, but people like me are confused about what action to take.  We live in a crazy-making system.  Things are not as they seem.
Flying Junior Added Feb 26, 2018 - 4:35am
Well, I , for one, certainly would have been willing to give Hillary a chance to bore me.  It did not take very long for the first female Speaker of the House to become boring to many.  I even became tired of silly right-wing captioned pictures of Nancy and Obama trying to vacuum up every available penny of USD in taxes.  Cute, but no longevity.  President Carter was boring at times.  But did you ever hear him sing, "Salt Peanuts," with Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie?
Flying Junior Added Feb 26, 2018 - 4:38am
In the end I don’t really give a rat’s ass. Most topics like the recent school shooting have no impact on my life.
Is that really what you wish to say?
George N Romey Added Feb 26, 2018 - 7:30am
At some point you have divorce yourself from things. Our politicians have proved time and time again they don’t really care about the needs of the masses. This problem goes unanswered now for years. Ultimately if it doesn’t impact I can’t give a rat’s ass. 
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 26, 2018 - 11:38am
You raise good point Katherine, but unfortunately were everybody in online comment threads polite, restrained and open minded the threads would have much less entertainment value.
I have doubts abou the value of the article by Mellon and Nicod however, when they can make a statement such as : "The authors showed a clear preference for the “arguing to learn” style for most situations, but claimed the “arguing to win” tactic may be appropriate in such situations as discussion of climate change," it suggests there is a lack of objectivity in their view of people who challenge their prejudices.
Neil Lock Added Feb 26, 2018 - 12:00pm
Katharine: It's the square root of 3 times ii itself is the square root of minus 1, the foundation of the complex number system. Doug got it right in his comment; but he should have put a smiley on the end.
As to living your beliefs, that's at a different level than whether or not there exist absolute truths. I was merely agreeing with what you said, namely (paraphrased) that for individuals to try to impose on others a moral code they don't follow themselves won't get them a good reputation in the history books.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 26, 2018 - 4:41pm
No, but I'll check it out.  
Today, I heard Avis, some other vehicle rental companies, and Delta Airlines have withdrawn support for the NRA.  Does that mean they supported it before? 
In any case, it occurred to me these boycotters are "shooting" at the wrong target.  The NRA doesn't make guns.  Why aren't these gun control activists targeting the manufacturers?  Does anyone know who makes the guns and adaptations that these killers use?  Are their stocks publicly traded?  Are they being protected by the media?  
That was my thought, too.  In all, I believed it was a shabby piece of research.  I was surprised Scientific American published it.  I only referenced it here because  the whole "argument" issue bugs me, and I have issues with academia already.
Thanks for enlightening me.  I did understand you were approving my idea about living one's beliefs.  However, the more I learn about history, the more doubt I have about whether people lived the beliefs the historians claim they had.
George N Romey Added Feb 26, 2018 - 6:28pm
Katharine it simply meant those companies offered discounts to members of NRA.
Jeff Michka Added Feb 26, 2018 - 7:02pm
The article I didn't understand was the one on the Florida shooting conspiracy.  What would the conspirators be trying to achieve by linking mass murder to the woman who tried to save the Everglades from development-KO, That's the really "funny" stuff behind the conspiracy theorist's madness.  Like Doug has indicated, the conspirators all sat down, looked at each other and said "Can we find a school with the right name to link environmental issues into the gun stuff and stage this?"  Even in "Jeff's Absurdist World", that doesn't even pass a smell test, yet it's what he said, right?  The rest of the conspiracy stuff goes downhill from that.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 27, 2018 - 1:40pm
Well, I don't oppose the NRA, but if I use anything from those companies, I would be subsidizing other people's discounts.  How many discounts to how many organizations do these companies offer?  Not fair.
Jeff Michka,
I agree completely that it's a long shot to connect that school shooting with an Everglades environmentalist under the conspiracy banner. 
It occurs to me that conspiracies are rampant, until they become public or dissipate.  The Council on Foreign Relations was secretive, in the beginning, but is out of the closet now.  Does a plan hatched in secret make it a conspiracy?  If so, the US Constitutional Convention was a conspiracy.
In any case, I don't believe conspirators can control the outcome of their activities.  That's why so many CIA plots--like the one to kill Fidel Castro--backfire. 
Doug Plumb Added Feb 27, 2018 - 4:33pm
The Federal Reserve conspiracy has been very successful. The 9-11 conspiracy was too. No one will ever know who shot JFK.
The study of empirical politics is the study of conspiracy.
Katharine Otto Added Feb 27, 2018 - 6:52pm
I agree about the federal reserve, but it has been successful because everyone is in on it, whether they like it or not, as long as they use money.  
I happen to agree with you that 9/11 was a false flag, to provide an excuse to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  As far as who shot JFK goes, whether it was or wasn't Oswald isn't so much of an issue as why they did it.
Stephen Hunter Added Feb 28, 2018 - 7:49am
Very insightful article Katherine! Language means so much, and not all interpret the word argue the same way as you point out. I think another factor is the pack one is associated with. Some are just so sure that their group is correct and they trust the leader(s) of that group to have it all figured out, and blindly follow the doctrine. "Let Jesus take the Wheel" mentality. (so I do not have to think)
Katharine Otto Added Feb 28, 2018 - 9:59am
The pack mentality, or mob psychology, plays  big role, I agree.  The "peer pressure" leads many people to think, say, or do things they wouldn't do as individuals.  They can blame leaders if things go wrong.  
Also, the "Let Jesus Take the Wheel" concept applies to political leaders, too.  Some people will support and defend anything their chosen leader does, but they subtly manipulate from behind to influence the agenda, sabotage them, or shoot them down if the "leader" doesn't perform as desired.
Thanks for insight.
mark henry smith Added Feb 28, 2018 - 12:46pm
I also think that it's true that people want to pick the winning side in a fight and might not express accurately what they believe to be able to fit in on the winning team, or gain status within it.
Honestly, it has become clear that Trump doesn't believe half of what he says. Or maybe two-thirds. And it appears that his followers now follow his example, and even some on the other side. When I win, I will win clean. I will win because my skills have been developed to the point where there is no strategy that can undermine me. Wait, that should read, if I win. Thank you Katherine.  
Doug Plumb Added Feb 28, 2018 - 1:17pm
re "Also, the "Let Jesus Take the Wheel" concept applies to political leaders, too. " That kind of religion is a religion for six year olds.
Stephen Hunter Added Feb 28, 2018 - 9:43pm
I think though Doug that we may have many who subscribe to that "religion". 
Katharine Otto Added Mar 1, 2018 - 12:58pm
I don't try to second guess Trump.  While I dislike most of what he's doing, I have to admire his unorthodox style and the way he's holding up under pressure.  We are learning from it, if only to learn what not to do.  He draws a lot of fire, but that stimulates much needed discussion about US policy and direction.  It's not just about the federal government anymore but about the people getting involved, with their multi-faceted perspectives.
Doug and Stephen,
Unfortunately, I agree with both of you.  I've been posting comments to the effect that "we" need to grow up.  There's too much focus on personalities and not enough on policies, especially those that are inconsistent with what we claim to stand for.  
I've noticed especially the expectation that government should solve social problems.  This thinking goes back a long way, but it reflects the general immaturity of a populace that has enabled government to move ever closer to becoming a police state.  AG Jeff Sessions is just one example of that, but the DOJ's "boundary creep" predated him.
mark henry smith Added Mar 1, 2018 - 1:46pm
Now wait a second, the idea that I give over control of aspects of my life that I cannot control to a higher power, is not childish thinking at all. It is absolutely rational, even if you don't believe in a higher power known as God. Call it whatever you want, kismet, fate, nature, Gaia, believing that there is something that can control the uncontrollable is soothing to a troubled mind, meaning there is mystery at play here that I wouldn't be held to account for and shouldn't be.
Look, I just heard a report about a burst of light that might have come form one of the first stars to ever form after the big bang, out of the swirling clouds of hydrogen gas and what they theorized was shocking. Before being lit, the hydrogen gas was shockingly cold, colder than it should have been if all forces we know of were in play. Way colder. The theory says that dark energy was pulling heat, energy, out of the system, so dark energy would have a thermodynamic effect as well as a gravitational effect. Cool huh?
So I ask you, do you know what dark energy is doing right now? Do you know where your kismet is?
Katherine, I agree with everything you said about the state being designed to act like a surrogate parent leading people to better outcomes by taking over more and more personal responsibility. It is a slave mentality and one that we have to eliminate if we want a better society. Some things should be provided for all citizens because it just makes sense for the greater good, like health care. The burdens of private healthcare are a public menace. What is the percentage of our economy now being spent on healthcare? And what do we get for that? It's madness.
People have to be taught to be adults, responsible, committed, dutiful, well-prioritized, balanced, it doesn't happen by osmosis. Our drive for economic status has been a great plus in the US, promoting striving to build great enterprises, but it has also led to a current lack of desire for anything else among common people who don't learn the advantages and pleasures of hard work, personal decency, and a sober, but adaptable attitude.    
Katharine Otto Added Mar 2, 2018 - 10:26am
You bring up several profound ideas that are separate but interrelated.  For instance, I can accept the idea of a higher power, or the pervasiveness of consciousness, but I also believe in free will, meaning the ever-present opportunity to make choices, even if they are wrong.  But if you believe you are acting according to the dictates of a higher power, how do you know?  Maybe it's a lower power pretending to be higher.  Think of all the evil perpetrated in "God's name."  My version is the universe ultimately turns all toward advantage, and we're all just doing the best we can, as we understand it.
The concepts of dark energy and dark matter are fascinating, aren't they.  
The common misconception about health care is that the lawyers in Congress and insurance companies can do a better job to promote it than individuals.  If you look at our sickly country, with life expectancy going down, not up, you have to consider nutrition, lifestyle, constant stress, and other factors that are not directly related to the "health care industry."  Most of these problems have been caused, by a consumerist attitude promoted by government and industry.  What makes anyone think that the cause of the problems will be their cure?
I wonder if the drive for economic status has gone too far, to the exclusion of more fundamental values.  You yourself have extolled the benefits of a simpler life.  In fact, I believe if people cultivated more relaxation and laziness, turned off the televisions, computers, cell phones and other demands on attention, they may find their own company quite rewarding, at no financial cost.  They would probably stay healthier longer, live longer, and enjoy it more.
If people have to be taught to grow up, who do you trust to teach them?  Where are the truly mature people on the planet?
mark henry smith Added Mar 2, 2018 - 12:26pm
Katherine, I will answer backward.
The truly mature people are here, on writerbeat, adults discussing their ideas back and forth to come to better understandings. It is why I come here to be with all of you. You offer me hope. I take what I learn here into all of my other platforms. I'm trying to convince Facebookers to read. I'm trying to set up reading sites on Facebook and I'm having moderate success. Of course what I really want is to find an agent, a publisher, and economic success. I find committed, mature people everywhere, but so many feel overwhelmed. Here, I get rejuvenated constantly. 
We are responsible. Everyone of us for how we get our message out. I talk to everybody I meet. As you say, we are responsible for our own health, our own habits. This idea that it's somebody else's fault is limited, because if someone is poisoning us, dammit, it is their fault, not ours, unless we continue to let ourselves be poisoned once we know, but some people don't have options to stop drinking poisoned water, or breathing poisoned air. Argument is the same. How you create an antidote for the poison is what matters in the end, not how punishment is meted out.
I absolutely believe in free will and free willy. Sorry. I believe God is not at all what we've been taught to believe God is and I hope I get a chance to explain all of that as I did to Lee, the guy who picked me up hitchhiking in California when I was eighteen. He was a born again preacher with the verses at his fingertips, and I was me, an eclectic. It was a great ride. Not an awkward silence in the four hours.
It's important for all of us, in my opinion to have a sense of duty to something beyond ourselves so we don't become blind consumers of pleasure. Pleasure is a dangerous bargain. It's sharpness, that leads us to crave more, can easily become corrosive.
I am so happy to have met you. My heart soars like a hawk as I watch this amazing blizzard white out my world and create havoc on the roads. I decided to walk the mile to the library today, to take it slow.     
George N Romey Added Mar 3, 2018 - 9:25am
Many people don’t come here because they’ve been fooled into believing communication is now a 100 character rant on Twitter.
mark henry smith Added Mar 3, 2018 - 1:24pm
George, then it's their loss, in my opinion. I just got a dose of Pink Floyd lyrics that I'd never listened to closely, and the songs were playing in my head as I read. If we want to expand people, we have to find ways to get them to talk and listen with more depth. That's what I'm trying to do.
Katharine Otto Added Mar 3, 2018 - 2:12pm
In theory, I agree with everything you say, and probably most of what other people say, too.  We only differ in how we approach it.  As far as pollution goes, whose fault doesn't seem as important to me as recognizing a problem exists and stopping its continuation.  
The CO2 question is more abstract than the simple notions of waste reduction.  You've mentioned your rather  minimalist life, and I think that's noble, in today's world.  For instance, I read about world deforestation and wonder why more people don't speak up about junk mail and single use packaging.
I don't hold assumptions that other people take for granted.  For instance, I think it's right and proper to take care of yourself first, so other people don't have to do it.  By taking care of yourself, you naturally take care of others, in that you are creating a pleasant environment that attracts and comforts them.  It is not greedy or selfish, as long as you have good boundaries.
I'm not saying it well, and it is just a start.  It's nice to hear your praise about WriterBeat.  I like the forum, too, and find it refreshing and broad-based, most of the time.
WriterBeat is not for everybody.  People seem to come and go.  It takes an intellectual commitment to read and comment, as well as to write, for this audience.  

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