In defense of defense

There are two methods of debate, broadly speaking. The rational, cold, logical method, and the impassioned name calling method. I will not swear but love may transform me into an oyster, but until he make an oyster of me, I shall never employ the second. I have come to a simple conclusion, and I shall continue to employ it for however long I find myself on the opposite side of the issue from anyone. If you generalize about me, or if you generalize about other positions, from one position that I hold, you have immediately invalidated your opinions. You have reduced yourself to an ad-hominem attack, not a reasoned defense of a position.

I don’t know if I’m right about many of my opinions. I’m not convinced about Anthropogenic global warming. I believe (philosophically and eschatologically, at least) in Intelligent Design. I’m both anti-abortion and pro-capital punishment. I can be convinced, in theory and given sufficient evidence, that any of these positions is incorrect. I invite you to try. Please. I’m serious. I LIKE having my mind changed. But do NOT talk about how one of my positions invalidates any other. The ONLY coupled viewpoints in that list are abortion and capital punishment. Oh, and the moment name-calling enters the picture, the debate is over. Facts, logic, and reasoned conclusions are the way to change people’s minds, not passionate denunciation of their entire existence based on their disagreement with you.

One of my dearest friends is a socialist. I am (realistically) in favor of controlled capitalism, or more idealistically a market anarchist. I call her a pinko, and she calls me a reactionary bastard. That is okay; we’ve come to the conclusion that we enjoy a little name calling, but never take it too seriously. That is just friendly banter. When we’re actually discussing politics, though, we shelve the names and talk politics like reasonable people, despite the fact that we disagree on virtually everything. We use examples of history, arguments from great philosophers and political thinkers, and draw conclusions that actually follow one after the other.

If you can’t do that, then you need to sit down, shut up, and let the grownups talk.

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