RE: Question about PETA....

From: Harvey Newstrom (
Date: Sun Feb 18 2001 - 09:52:41 MST

At 7:49am +0000 2/18/01, zeb haradon wrote:
>I think you're assuming that these people think about their beliefs
>in a logical way and try to resolve the inconsitencies they find.
>That would be an incorrect assumption. A lot of animal rights people
>speak favorably of having "animal companions".

Actually, you are right. I find that almost all belief systems are
totally consistent within themselves. While they may be based on
unfounded assumptions or erroneous facts, most people really think
consistently. I know this is a minority view, especially on this

In my experience, it is too easy to simply dismiss someone's
viewpoints as being illogical or inconsistent. I find that if I dig
deeper, I usually can find a consistent position that guides all of
their views. This becomes extremely helpful when dealing with such
people, or when trying to predict their future behavior.

For example, it is easy to say that churches really don't believe in
God, but are really shams to gain money and power. This is not
really the motivating factor in most churches. Although this would
seem to explain many of their actions and policies, it fails
miserably to predict charity projects that use church funds, or
refusal to take certain actions to protect themselves because it
would violate some specific belief of theirs. From their position
that there is a God who overrides scientific law, it makes logical
sense to follow the Bible even against the odds, because from their
viewpoint they really have a secret Ace in the hole.

Most people project their own beliefs and factual understandings onto
other people, and then try to retrofit motivations that would explain
the others' behaviors. This doesn't work, because the others aren't
working with the same beliefs or facts. Another example of this
would be Fox Mulder, the charcter in The X-Files. I have seen him
bashed on this list many times for blindly ignoring science and
insisting on irrational beliefs. This is a misguided criticism.
Mulder is a fictional character in a fictional world. In that
fictional world, UFOs really exist. He and his partner have
personally seen little green men, shape-shifting monsters, and
psychic phenomenon. I watch the show for entertainment, and have
rarely seen Mulder act irrationally. In his world, the facts really
do support his beliefs. People on this list are inappropriately
projecting their world-view, that UFOs and monsters are unproven in
our world, onto Mulder's motives. If such things don't really exist,
then Mulder must be deliberately distorting the facts to try to
believe in them. Such a projection does not produce a true picture
of Mulder's motivations, and will fail miserably to predict future
actions of the character.

When I see people doing this in real life, it bothers me. I know
they are projecting their own beliefs onto others. I know they will
then start arguing against facts that are really red herrings,
because their opponents don't espouse the facts being refuted. Such
people end up arguing against a perceived position that never really
existed and never really was presented. They end up not refuting the
opposing side, but totally missing the points and appearing
nonresponsive. Such people make their belief system appear
faith-based and irrational because they are not really logically
addressing facts presented by the opposing side.

The flaw in trying to point out this behavior is that most people
will assume one is defending the other side. For some reason, most
people can only visualize two sides to any issue. If one points out
a flaw in one side's argument, it must mean that one is a proponent
of the other side. I fully expect someone to read this long rambling
and conclude that I am defending PETA against the criticisms leveled
here. My real intent was to answer the above point. Yes, it is true
that I am assuming that these people think about their beliefs in a
logical way and try to resolve the inconsistencies they find. It is
erroneous to assumed that all logical thought leads to the same
conclusion. Different people have different "facts" and give
different weights to different sets of evidence. Even when using the
same rules of logic, it is a wonder that we ever reach agreement at

Harvey Newstrom <>

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