Nerdy advice on how to live a better life: argue, disagree, and think

Q Good to be a nerd, Politics, Science, Society Leave a Comment

King of the nerds debate

OK, so not all debates are scientific in nature . . .

I know, this isn’t a Ghostbusters review.  I really need to write that thing.  For now, please believe Nerdist when they say that it won’t ruin your childhood (though I think I liked it more than they did).

Anyway, I’ve been contemplative lately (which means this will likely be a long post).  Specifically, I’ve been pondering the fact that the information age has done at least one thing terribly wrong, despite the fact that it’s ultimately a good time to be alive.

Right now, I can go online and find all sorts of information on just about anything that does or does not exist.  If I want to learn more about economic policy, or fan-theories regarding Star Wars: Rogue One, no problem.  However, I can also exclusively read content that agrees with my own preconceived notions complete with mountains of “proof” that reinforce my belief that we’re going to see ninja Jedi in the next Star Wars movie.

This is a problem.

Well, not ninja Jedi, that would just be awesome.

TMNTJ! Brilliantly done, Jacq-Siir!

TMNTJ! Brilliantly done, Jacq-Siir!

You can even read a whole paper on it, if you want.  It’s called the “echo chamber” effect, and it’s especially prevalent in social media.

Here’s my point

As rational human beings, we need to disagree with one another.  We need to be exposed to opposing viewpoints, and we need to think logically about how to solve problems.  If all you ever do is talk to people that agree with you, it destroys your ability to reason and problem-solve because you simply don’t need to.  You’re always right, so there’s no need to think more deeply about what it is you think you’re right about.

It’s also pretty easy to run and hide from arguments and valid debate–in fact, it’s convenient.  You don’t like someone’s Facebook post?  Just scroll down.  Disagreements can be hard, because they require you to flex your brain muscle.  I understand that it can be frustrating when you’re not getting through to someone, but we really need to do a better job of trying.

Head in the sand

Keep your head out of all sand and orifices.

A big part of this whole “argue and think” idea is that you have to be willing to change your conclusions when confronted with compelling evidence that shows you are, in fact, wrong.  Imagine where we would be today if our scientists treated every hypothesis as fact.  Nothing would ever get accomplished because, a lot of the time, hypotheses contradict one another.  Sometimes you’re going to be wrong, and that’s okay.  I’m wrong all the time, and I’ve learned to live with it.  So can you.

Here’s a real-world example (sorry, it’s a wee bit political)

The 2016 US election seems to be demonstrating an unprecedented (in my lifetime) rise of extremists on both sides.  On the one hand, you’ve got Trump supporters, absolutely steadfast in their belief that the orange wonder can make America great again (whatever the hell that means).  On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got #BernieOrBust folks that believe so strongly in their nominee that they refuse to accept anyone else.

I’m labeling both groups as “extremists,” because both sides are, generally, unwilling to engage in the art of compromise.  Please note that I said “generally,” this doesn’t apply to ALL of the people from either camp.

The Bernie-faithful will not accept Hilary as the nominee because they feel that Hilary is a part of the establishment (more of the same), and a criminal.  They also have some good points, but even Bernie is begging them to support Hillary to defeat Trump.

On the other hand, Trump supporters will continue to support him no matter what they find out about their nominee.  It is, frankly, scary.  Trump has even said that he could shoot someone dead, in public, and wouldn’t lose supporters and I’m not sure he’s wrong.


Angry, or constipated?

Policy and personality wise, Trump and Sanders are, essentially, diametrically opposed.

So, back to the point of this post: what the hell is going on?  Rather than vote for Hillary, people that stand for civil rights, equal pay for women, universal health care, increased minimum wage, and no-expense college educations are going to turn to Donald Trump?  Trump, who is not just with the party that opposes all of those things, but is getting publicly endorsed by former leaders of the KKK?  That makes zero sense.  People do realize that the President isn’t the czar of the United States, right?  Presidents aren’t dictators.  Congress, where our real problems lie, is still largely up for grabs, and it wouldn’t hurt to turn one’s focus to that quagmire.


Bernie doesn’t get it either.

And Trump supporters, when presented with things that Trump has said he would do, will perform all sorts of verbal gymnastics to try to make ridiculous statements seem logical and plausible. They talk about making America great again, but don’t specify what that actually means (except for some vagaries about the good old days), and ignore everything about Trump’s candidacy that they might not like.

Both sides need to be willing to have rational, well thought-out debate with one another.  Bernie supporters need to focus on what they can realistically do to enact change rather than throwing tantrums and threatening to vote for Trump.  Trump supporters need to start asking real questions about policy, and what Trump actually plans to do.  (Seriously, the man is ranked in the top 10 worst things that could happen to our global economy.  You should really take the time to learn why.)  Oh, and if we could stop with the bigotry and hate, that’d be great too.

So you don’t like Hillary?  She’s probably not as bad as you’ve been led to believe.  If you’re a true Bernie supporter, you should fight to see him become Senate Majority Leader instead of casting a vote for his antithesis (Donald Trump).  Also, it should be noted, that Hillary is adopting some Bernie policy, which is a win.


There’s a big “screw you” behind those eyes.

Don’t like Trump?  Speak up!  Even if he is the nominee, your voice can still have an effect on policy.  Too many rational conservatives are letting the bombastic minority trample all over the fundamental values in which they claim to believe.  You always stick up to a bully.

To sum up . . .

As a nerd, science, and therefore, verifiable data, are very important to me.  In fact, a core belief that I choose to live by is that, whenever asked to make a decision, one must learn to look at all available facts.  Those facts should be analyzed as objectively as possible, verified, then used to make a judgement.  Example: there’s consensus among climate scientists that humans are adversely affecting global climate change, accelerating it beyond Earth’s normal cycles.  Judgement: we should do something about it.  Political rhetoric should never enter into that equation.

As a species, we can’t advance if we don’t keep our minds open to new ideas.  Sometimes those ideas aren’t going to jive with beliefs you currently have.  We’ve seen this happen repeatedly throughout history (Earth is not the center of the universe, for example).  It’s hard to admit you’re wrong; I get it.  However, on behalf of rational beings everywhere, I ask this of you: grow the hell up, and quit screwing things up for the rest of us.


Gravity is real, just look at this demonstration. Facts backed by proof!

Let me (and others) know what you think

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