Thursday, August 10, 2006

I've been converted!!!!!!!!!!!!

So there's this guy at work. Good enough guy I guess, but looooooooves to argue. Doesn't really matter what it is, he's gonna try and convince you of his viewpoint. Even if he doesn't care about it. He's just that type of person. He also doesn't realize that this sort of behavior can be seen as abrasive and invasive, and that 90% of the time people will just placate you if you have such a personality trait.

"Sure dude, whatever you say."

So he's in my office yesterday, and we're shooting the bull. We were talking about religion and relationships and stuff, and I said something to the effect of, "I don't think I could be in a relationship with a woman with strong religious convictions."

I know he's a Christian, but I also know he's a dirty bastard and a misogynist, which is apparently A-OK in Christianity, because half my team in Okinawa were dirty misogynistic Christians. I also know that he's not the type to force his religion on people, and can discuss it without taking it personally or having a conniption, which is the only reason I brought it up.

Anyway, he wants to know why, so I tell him that it would become an issue -- she'd want to talk about it, and she wouldn't be able to argue with me, because it's impossible to argue religion with me due to my, erm, qualifications, on the debate. NOT because I have some insight into the metaphysical, but because of rules I insist on putting on the debate.

(I know Eric's gonna love this one, and probably be obtuse in the comments.)

"What qualifications? I'm sure I could argue it," said he.

"I don't argue religion," said I.

"C'mon, try me," quoth he.

Here's an important Paulosophy:
I don't get in fights unless I'm 100% sure I can win.

Debating is no different, unless I'm playing devil's advocate....which means I'm just being a pain. So 90% of the time.

If I'm not playing devil's advocate, it's probably something I believe [strongly] to be true, and have thought about it a lot, which is the only way I will debate something that I care about. It should be noted that I am open to discuss most anything, but I don't really like debating because I usually simply don't give a shit, and I don't like sitting there while someone tries to convince me of something using evidence that I am not sure is true/again, that I don't care about. Discussions often turn into debates, which is usually when I flip the off switch.

I digress.

"OK," sayeth I. "Here are the rules:

  • You can't use the Bible as evidence
  • You can't use faith as evidence"

  • "Why not?" plead he with a perplexed gaze.

    "Check it out," I sagely began, "You can't use the bible in support of your argument as a 'truth' because the 'truth' of it is based on (a Christian) God existing, which we have not established. Nyam Sayin, G?" (I think this is an example of begging the question. Help me out here, nedricologists...)

    "...", he shrieked in muted rage.

    "And faith," I continued, "Well, you're eventually going to just look at me and say, in some form or another, 'Well, I just know personally beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists,' which is inarguable, and effectively ends any debate."

    "No I won't," he assured me, and agreed to begin our little verbal sparring session.

    Long story short, it ended up with him telling me that he knew, personally, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was right, and there was a God. Ay, que sopreso.

    It should also be mentioned that a common answer is also, 'God works in mysterious ways' or 'We cannot begin to fathom the reasons/way of thinking of a higher power'. I think I'm going to start adding that to my rules. You can't say that either from now on.

    The only reason I really agree to these debates is because I'm interested to see what the other person will say, and what kind of debating tactics (or lack there of) they will use. With my two handy dandy qualifiers, it's pretty much impossible for them to prove anything, keeping in mind that the burden of proof lies on them. They have to prove to me that there is a God. And when I say prove, I mean using the scientific method with evidence. Not lack of evidence otherwise. Not speculation. Because to them, it's not a theory, it's a fact, and by gum they're gonna convince me!!

    What usually ends up happening is they start debating the possibility of there existing a higher power, not necessarily a God, citing Stephen Hawking and his crew's ideas and whatnot. This is a different debate, so it's easily sidestepped. It's a stupid debate to begin with, and I don't know why I bother.

    I'm often amazed at the confidence people have in convincing someone of something just because they believe in it really hard, especially when someone like me comes along and starts putting restrictions on the debate. Do they not wonder why I'm putting these rules on it? Do they not see that I'm stacking the deck on purpose?

    I see it like this: Let's say I'm at a park playing chess. I'm OK, but not that great, and I don't really care if I win or lose. A guy comes up to me and says, "Hey wanna play?" I know he's pretty good at chess, not significantly better than me, and that if he loses his rating will go down.

    I respond by saying, "Sure dude, but I have a couple of rules that you have to follow."

    "No problem," he'd say, "I know I fucking rock, and I can defeat you."

    "OK, for this game you're not allowed to use your queen, knights, or bishops, or rooks.. Is that OK? Do you agree to that?"

    "Yes. I know I can defeat you."

    It just doesn't make sense to me. Doesn't it seem odd that I already have these rules planned out? Is his opinion of me that low, and does he think he's that much smarter than me, that even when I say "Can we not do this? I've had this debate a million times", he still wants to carry on with it?

    Whatever. I guess it's harmless fun anyway, and the stakes are really low. Fortunately I don't care enough about the subject matter to worry about it, but it makes me wonder how many people live their lives like this. Sometimes I envy people with the confidence to cruise around and think that just because they believe something, they're right, they know it better than you, and they're smarter than you. Even after being made a fool of or being proven wrong (not that this happened in the above example), they can carry on and just be like, "Psh... It doesn't matter. He might think that he proved me wrong, but fuck him, I know I'm right," and carry on like you're not only the cat's meow, but that a higher power is looking out for you and justifying your behavior. I guess I could never be a politician.

    Anyway, that's just me rambling. Me debating anyone is never really going to solve anything or convince anyone of anything because I put stupid rules on them to ensure my victory. I am swayed by discussion and exchanges of ideas, not by debates, because I don't like being verbally alpha-male'd. Debates typically put people on the defensive, because from the get-go someone is saying, "You're wrong, I'm right, here's why." It's not a real healthy forum for solving problems or swapping ideas. Let the idea swapping begin!@#@!$@


    Anonymous Tony said...

    Well Paul, I'm encouraged to see that you understand the intricacies of my debate style.

    I agree with you 100% on the debate vs. discussion issue. Can you imagine how efficient a government could be if politicians could understand this concept?

    I also love your rules of the religious debate. It what other context can you win an arguement by saying that you know it's true in your heart. I should try to publish a paper on quatum physics "the photos are coupled because I know it to be true in my heart". As long as you can't disprove it my arguement is rock solid. Consequently so are my abs.

    4:05 PM  
    Blogger nedric said...

    I'm not homosexual, but I'm in love with you. (Did you ever check out my post on the waste of saying "You're wrong!"?)

    4:36 PM  
    Blogger nedric said...

    Here are my favorite lines:

    It just doesn't make sense to me. Doesn't it seem odd that I already have these rules planned out? Is his opinion of me that low, and does he think he's that much smarter than me, that even when I say "Can we not do this? I've had this debate a million times", he still wants to carry on with it?

    4:37 PM  
    Blogger nedric said...

    Your distinction between "discussion" and "debate" is great! That's what I attempt to bore into my students brains! A genuine debate* is always win/win because "truth" is public. In "competitive debates" where someone wins and another loses, the winners get the winnings all to themselves.

    My issues to raise for discussion:

    First, "proof" is a technical logical term that only applies to deductions (which pretty much means it's only in geometry and conceptual inferences). Induction, or "scientific" reasoning, is only showing things to likely be the case. I realize this is not ordinary use... But the distinction is what's important.

    Which brings me to my next point: Since deductions take place within a logical calculus, if you establish a calculus (e.g. the Biblical text) you can make valid arguments within contexts that play along with the calculus. Thus, "Christians" can debate* with one another. You can have an argument if you agree ahead of time (at least tacitly) that "believing in your heart" is a legitimate and even logical move in your language-game or calculus. However, religious discourse is rarely translatable into scientific discourse (although both the non-religious and the religious conflate them). Will Ferrell movies aren't easily translated into scientific discourse either. I really wouldn't enjoy a quantum mechanic analysis of the movie in the same way I enjoy the movie.

    So what matters, in the end it seems, is not whether or not we are cognitively convinced of the supposed facts of the matter, but rather whether or not we want to learn different languages. Do I want to learn the language where the word "G-d" gets used in certain ways? Or the language calculi surrounding the various interpretations of the Buddha? I like that shit.

    Our problem seems to be more with people who don't know how to speak (they conflate expressive discourse with descriptive discourse), rather than with "Christianity" per se (if there even is such a general and abstract group).

    Sorry for writing so much, but it's a sweet topic - and your presentation is so engaging.

    p.s. You were correct about the "begging the question" fallacy.

    5:06 PM  
    Blogger nedric said...

    Okay, I have to ask a question now.

    When you said, "I don't debate religion." did you mean:

    a) I don't participate as a relgious person, as someone who is religious/spiritual whatevah

    b) I argue only about religion

    This distinction is very important to me, for I may be hanging my career on its possibility. Are you saying: You don't want to debate about the truth of any religion, but you are more than comfortable talking about them?

    I'm not sure if my question is coming across very well... I think you get it...

    5:16 PM  
    Blogger Paul said...

    Tony: The funny thing is, I think most people would rather hear that than a bunch of mumbojumbo, especially when people with huge amounts of credibility (Stephen Hawking) make claims about higher beings. The best part is that "higher being" doesn't equal "omnipotent guy with flowing beard," nor does it mean that said named hirsute overlord control us some strange Sid Meyer game. Quantum Physics Schmontum Schmysics!!! Nice abs btw.

    Eric: When I said, "I don't debate religion," I meant "I don't talk to Christians about whether or not their God is real or their religion valid." It's about as pointless as someone debating me about whether or not George Washington was the first President. I don't really know that to be fact, just like I don't know that physics works. All I have to go on is that both have stood up to the scrutiny of a lot of people trying to disprove these theories. Contrast this to religion, where historically people who have tried to disprove it are killed.

    As for the "Truth of Religion," that seems a little broad. I recognize "truths" in religion for the functions that their rituals and taboos have within a society, not the spirits and myths associated with said rituals and taboos... Dunno if that makes sense or not...

    6:39 PM  
    Blogger Paul said...

    I was also kinda reminded of Cory and Tony's Hockey Theory for some reason, i,e. guys think the can fight when they're mad, which is akin to someone who doesn't know how to play hockey strapping on some skates and issuing a challenge. If his opponent took ice-skating lessons as a youngster, he's gonna win. We run into it in jiujitsu a lot too. People will say, "Yeah, I have a lot of grappling experience," which means wrestling with their friends in their backyards, and they end up talking themselves up to an unassuming looking purple belt. Bad juju, and they gain nothing. They either win, ok, they should, they talked a big game, or they look like a fucking idiot. Debating is no different. I wouldn't argue a number of issues with Cory or Nedric or Brando or any of my friends, because no matter how much I believe I'm right, and how much I think I know, I know I'm fucking outgunned big and bad.

    Respect your opponent, whether it be debate, grappling, or hockey. That's where discussion comes in. I don't give a shit who you are and what you know, I guarantee you have something to learn from every person you encounter about something. If you don't acknowledge that, you set yourself up for failure.

    9:07 PM  
    Anonymous Tony said...

    Paul, I love your jiu jitsu comparison. That stuff happens to me a lot. My favorite it when some dude has taken 2 months of hapkido and he comes in watching us roll and he's like,"you know I could end this fight with one well placed strike", I always like to invite them to see how well that would work. It's funny. I'm going to tell you my favorite example just because I think it's hilarious and you'll like it.

    There were 4 of us grappling in the wrestling room here at the university when the whole wrestling team came in to do an off-season workout. One of the guys with us was on the wrestling team so his teammates thought it would be ok to give us a little shit about how none of that stuff would work on them. (To be fair it was clear that they were mostly joking and were actually fascinated by submissions). Anyway, we offered to roll with them. I don't know if you've ever grappled a really good pure wrestler with no submission experience before but it's really fun. They have great mat presence and balance and they can really control from the side position but they fucking LOVE to give up their backs and get caught in triangles. It was hilarious. Even the newest guy was tapping everybody on the team. For a little extra emphasis I told one of them to put boxing gloves on and try to knock me out. He had no idea how to box so it was totally unfair but I kept taking him down and then letting him back up. It's kind of demoralizing for a wrestler to be repeatedly taken down in front of his teammates... especially by a non-wrestler. The whole thing was really hilarious because it was just like your arguement I had totally stacked the deck in my favor. Since then I taught one of those wrestlers a couple of submissions and now he pretty much makes me his bitch despite the fact that I outweigh him by 30lbs. But the story is still funny.

    The guy that taught me most of the limited stuff I know used to train special forces in hand to hand combat. He had a really efficient teaching style and he told stories all the time about how they'd be on some base and he'd be teaching his guys and someone 5th degree black belt in this or 2nd degree polka dot belt in that would come in and talk shit. He would always say,"well maybe you'd like to teach us something" and then he'd put his least experienced guy up against him. He said his guys always tooled the newcomer. It was about being well-rounded and about the attitude that his guys had going into any kind of fight or sparring match. You could tell that he loved that it happened but he said they usually always learned something from each other too.

    My big point here (besides telling stories that I like) is that you're right, you can learn something from everyone. It best to learn by sparring with someone rather than going in swinging big and getting your teeth knocked in, or worse. Discussion=sparring match
    Arguement=street fight.

    I like that comparison.

    1:24 AM  
    Blogger nedric said...


    Great stories! I like the sparring/fighting distinction.



    I like this quote:
    Respect your opponent... I guarantee you have something to learn from every person you encounter about something. If you don't acknowledge that, you set yourself up for failure.

    I think it's cool that you have generated a discussion about being able to learn something from everyone. My biggest problem with respecting conversation partners is: when I give that respect to people, they take it as a sign that "He doesn't know as much as me." When I try to respect them, and try to learn something from them, they take it as I'm ignorant (when I'm actually Socratic). And, then the respect is not reciprocated by them. What I would like is just more reciprocation from those people...

    The worst is when students do it! I've actually had them talk to my supervisors, claiming "He doesn't know the answers to our questions." No, when you ask good questions I encourage you to try to answer it for yourself - you are just too worried about the 'correct' answers on the exam.


    I noticed there may be a contradiction on your part though, not that I think you should do anything about it: "I don't talk with 'Christians' about the reality of thier god or the 'validity' of their religion." So is it that they should be learning from you in this case, or that we can learn something from everyone (them included)? And when you say "learn something from everyone," do you mean directly from what they say, or indirectly from figuring something out about crazy people?


    I wanted to point out that I never said anything about "Truths of Religion." A particular relgious claim can be logically consistent with the set, but rarely true outside that domain of discourse in which it belongs. It's not broad, it's very specific.

    To illustrate:
    We can make a claim that in The Matrix "Neo destroyed Agent Smith." Is that true "in reality"? It depends on what you mean and your qualifiers:
    1. In the first film, yes, he did.
    2.Keanu did not hurt that other guy, so no he didn't.
    3.In the whole 'Matrix' series, Neo didn't destroy Smith in the first film.

    All of these claims can be 'true' depending on the language-game we're playing. Truth and falsity are just values (like negative or positive in magnetics), not a mystical identity with or separation from 'absolute reality.'

    Changing gears:
    On the topic of "higher power" vs. "bearded omni-being," it seems that even outsiders like yourself can analyze the two concepts, and give grounds for why one concept might more easily translate into other domains of discourse. You didn't claim either are "absolutely real," but you evaluated each of them as concepts that either fit or do not fit in other contexts. At least, that seems to be what you did above with the Hawking illustration.

    It seems to me that this is your moral to the story: a) if you set up the right rules, there's no way you can lose (even if someone tries to argue with you); and b) listening to others without setting them up with your rules (but does that mean playing by their rules, then?) is the best way to learn something.

    2:25 AM  
    Blogger nedric said...

    I think you may be conflating "religion" with "Christianity of the 15th and 16th Century" or "Contemporary Islam" when you say that people who disagreed were killed. And it wasn't just "atheists" that were killed, in either case. In fact, very few athiests were killed in the 15th and 16th century - there weren't many of them to begin with!

    It's just important to note that not all "religious" people are loud-mouthed Christians and violent Muslims. (Maybe the Quakers or Brethren aren't so bad...)

    4:24 AM  
    Blogger brando said...

    I think this should be called "Put your money where your mouth is", which of course I think is a splendid idea.

    4:25 AM  
    Anonymous Tony said...

    Don't put money in your mouth it's very unsanitary.

    4:54 AM  
    Blogger nedric said...

    Tony, that's good advice.

    Paul, is this story moreso an allegory about somebody else? Are you just talking about Christians (who aren't interested in discussion) and yourself (who isn't interested in debate)? Or are these just illustrations of types of people?

    6:46 AM  
    Blogger Paul said...

    nedric-- it's dangerous to assume that religious folks in the US of A aren't capable of at least tolerating [looking the other way] if things were to get "medeival on our asses". as for whether or not this was meant as an allagory, well, it wasn't intentionally, but it kinda turned out that way. i think i just wanted to write about a debate i had, then it turned into something else. and now tony's talking about his abs and beating people up and brando's talking about the splendors of putting male genitalia where his mouth is. i dunno how this all happened.

    tony: jiujitsu sucks at first cuz u dont know what's going on, so people submit you a lot of course. when i first started, i thought "wow these guys are good". now i think, "wow those guys are assholes." when im against someone who's brand new, i dont sit there and blast them with simple and/or painful moves that i can do in my sleep. do i really need to destroy some dude who's been training for 2 weeks? i remember when i first started there was a purple belt who used to put me through a lot of pain. at first i was like, "wow, that guys good, i hope im learning a lot." as i got a little better, i started thinking, "wow, that guys a fucking dick, he does the same thing all the time, and he does a lot of asshole moves that really hurt." when im with someone who's brand new, i try new moves that i cant get away with on higher belts, or i let them try stuff/show them how to do something right. everyone's a winner. higher belts shouldnt need to do the dickhead moves, because their technique ought to be sound enough that if something doesnt work, they can try something else. does a purple belt really need to put his knee in my mouth to convince me that it's time to let go of his collar? i wouldnt think so, but he disagrees.

    anyway, im a bit off topic. i encourage you to be the same.

    3:21 PM  
    Blogger nedric said...

    Wow! I share the sentiment about people like that too. It happens sometimes in grad classes where the older folks whip you in a debate to demonstrate "you don't know what you're talking about." My fisrt inclination is to always ask nwer people, "Well, what do you mean?" It turns out they much more competent than what can be measured in one statement.

    4:15 PM  
    Blogger Jinxy said...

    I am open to discuss most anything, but I don't really like debating because I usually simply don't give a shit.

    That's why I put that in my blog disclaimer.

    But you're still such a "Beta Male".

    5:23 PM  
    Anonymous Tony said...

    Paul, I definitely agree with you about not beating up on new guys. I think one of the most important things about training well is finding the right training partners who can strike the delicate balance between training hard and training smart.

    I know what you mean about trying something different with the new people too. It's kind of embarassing because when someone new shows up I'll try to do stuff I would never try on anyone else because I think it's a great way to discover new transitions. Anyway, a lot of times I'll end up trying something completely stupid and I'll get caught in a submission by a guy who's only been training with us for a month. It's only kind of embarassing though, I don't give a shit about tapping out as long as I feel like I'm learning something from it. But when some guys come in spouting off about how "this shit would never work in a "real" fight" I don't miss the opportunity to show them how it actually works... and then laugh a little. Those guys are usually the ones that end up coming in to train with us though.

    I think a little bit of that ass kicking mentality is good. The guy that trained me was 150lbs at most and he used to submit the hell out of me and my two buddies when we first started. He took one of my friends who's a solid 250lbs of shoulders and biceps and hip tossed him so that his feet went over his head. He hit the ground and you could hear all of the air leaving his lungs. There was a little bit of a "what the fuck?" pause and then he got back up with this look on his face like he just could believe how great that was and he said,"show me that again". Having that guy kick our asses so effortlessly was just more motivation for us. Although that's a lot different then the knee in the mouth bullshit that you're talking about. Don't worry, me doing that sort of cheap shit while I'm grappling is about as likely to happen as Brando stealing money from an open cash register at a supermarket.

    11:16 PM  
    Blogger Dr. Idio said...

    Devils advocate:

    Defining the rules of discusion with the christian before a debate on god and it's nature as such with respect to the bible is nothing more then pre-loading the converstaion with your own ready made assumptions on the nature of raelity. That's like saying, "lets have a debate on the nature of hurricanes, but you can't mention the wind. it's only "cool", because it favors your opinion out of the gate however neglects humanity. You guys seem to have to much "faith" in objectivity.

    6:42 AM  
    Blogger Dr. Idio said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    7:02 AM  
    Blogger Dr. Idio said...

    Further more,
    God exists in some sense, from your point anyway, in peoples minds as faith. So Prove to "ME", that you exist. If your more real than God, you can do it outside my mind....

    7:06 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "So Prove to "ME", that you exist. If your more real than God, you can do it outside my mind...."

    I have seen, with all seriousness (and no threat implied), comments almost identical to this result in someone getting punched in the nose.

    I believe the point was that, on any given day, another human being can do a lot more to you than God can.


    7:24 AM  
    Blogger Dr. Idio said...

    Such is the nature of brushing off the burden of proof.
    Trap a bear in a corner and he'll punch you too.

    There too, what can you do to me and (you said: do a lot more to you than God can) What do you know of what God can do to you? If you know that man can do more, then surely you know what God can do, so tell me? What can God do to a man? And if he can't do anything because he doesn't exist, than what of your statement? And furthermore what is it that people believe in when they believe in God? And if it's nothing, than proove your not nothing? Since you can't puch me in the nose through the computor, perhaps you can proove I'm not simply talking to myself.

    Not trying to be an #sshole here, just playing devils advocate.

    8:37 AM  
    Blogger Paul said...

    dr idio:
    well, that's kindve the idea. this guy i work with..yeah, he's an OK guy, but do i really think that he's gonna be able to prove the existence of god when millinos of people historically havent? furthermore, do i really give a shit? theyre the ones that always wanna have the debate, not me. by setting up a ridiculous debate that he cant possibly win, not only do i save myself the frustatino of having him cite faith and the bible (and explaining why he cant do that, because trust me, if you dont set the parameters at teh beginning you're going to spend the entire debate explaining what "begging the question" is), but he can leave the debate thinking, "well, if he didnt outlaw the bible and faith, ida showed him it was real!"

    everyones a winner.

    2:17 AM  
    Blogger Dr. Idio said...

    I'd rather not waste my time arguing with these people either. I'm with you there.

    2:42 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Just wanted to make it an even 25.

    Umm, maybe this comment is more from the pea-sized brain kinda folks, but I think the humor was missed here.
    I thought that your blog post was a blow to those individuals that like to passionately exchange ideas on religion with alot of because and uh-huh answers. Like maybe a community college philosophy teacher that likes to argue himself into a logic loop cause he has too much time on his hands. I dunno.
    My crude and undeveloped mind (I still laugh when people fart) thought that your post was hilarious because if you know Paul, than you know that he attracts these people like white on rice. I have personally witnessed this argument(oh yes he did use that word) and it is quite a treat. Hands on hips, dour/pained expression on face, it's not to be missed folks. The only thing better is watching Paul verbally "People's Elbow" some young cute girl when he's been drinking turpentine all night.

    Much love Mista Paul,

    11:08 AM  
    Blogger ato said...

    You've just summed up why I never discuss religion...

    6:38 PM  

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