Re: Question about PETA (& others)

From: Neal Blaikie (
Date: Mon Feb 19 2001 - 02:53:11 MST

Harvey Newstrom wrote:

> Zeb seems to believe that these people do not think about their
> beliefs in a logical way and do not try to resolve the
> inconsistencies they find. I believe that these people, and most
> people, do think about their beliefs, and they do try to resolve
> inconsistencies. I think it is too convenient to dismiss people as
> irrational as an excuse not to debate their objections on their terms
> using their facts.

I have to agree with you on this. Labeling others as crackpots or as
irrational in order to write them off is a convenient (and lazy) tactic
that resolves nothing.

> Again, I know this is a minority view on this list. However, I have
> had a lot of personal experience with Christians, occultists,
> creationists, animal-rights advocates, environmentalists, and various
> political groups. They all sincerely believe in their goals. They
> spend a lot of time researching and supporting their goals. Where
> there is counter evidence, they spend a lot of time refuting the
> counter evidence. It is too simplistic to assume that they have not
> really looked into the issue or thought about it rationally.

This is a fairly inarguable position (there will, of course, always be
one or two exceptions). My own experience is similar to yours, and the
conclusions I have had to draw are not necessarily what I would want
them to be. It would be so easy to call Christians (for example) fools
for believing in what to me is an irrational and delusional belief
system, but it does no good and changes nothing. It took me many years
to arrive at this conclusion, and I wasted a lot of energy lashing out
at people when I could have been trying to work with them. One thing I
have learned is this: no one changes what they believe because someone
else tells them they are stupid, idiotic, delusional, irrational, or
wrong, and the more you do this, the stronger they will hold to their
beliefs (which are often a source of strength or comfort).

> [snipped a lot here]
> I'll say it again, most people on this list try to project their own
> beliefs onto opponents. This leads to poor debating techniques,
> misrepresentation of the issues, and total failure to accurately
> predict opinions and actions of the opponents. If you think your
> opponents are acting irrationally, it actually is an indication that
> you don't understand their actions. Even hallucinating or insane
> people act in predictable ways deriving out of their own set of
> erroneous beliefs. When someone dismisses an opponent as being
> irrational, what they really mean is that they don't understand and
> are not interested in investigating.

In my brief time on the list I have noticed this tendency, although I
must say it seems to be endemic to other lists I have been on,
particularly ones that are an outgrowth of some sort of ideology (and
extropianism, despite its open-endedness, functions in many ways as an
ideology). It's a shame, really, because it does lead to inappropriate
behavior and weak debating, which are a waste of everyone's time and
energy (I know this, having recently been there). Despite the fact that
there are many beliefs and practices I consider [insert negative
adjective here] and useless for my own life, dismissing or ridiculing
people who embrace them is also [insert negative adjective here], and
just plain lazy. We humans have evolved in a vast and complex world, and
our actions and beliefs over millions of years have led to even further
complexity. There is little chance we will all ever think the same way,
and life would be boring if we did (and a bit frightening). I say
embrace our differences and find a way to work together to have a world,
and a future, we can all find meaning in. There is room enough and,
given the goals of many of us here, we could have more than enough time.

As always, Harvey, your analysis was reasonable and thought-provoking.

just my 2 cents,

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