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Monday, October 8, 2012

8 Types of Disagreement That Can Fuel Controversy

Map of the Square and Stationary Earth, by Orl...
Map of the Square and Stationary Earth, by Orlando Ferguson (1893) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
           Before I delve into any individual controversies as outlined in my previous post, I want to spend a few posts setting the parameters that define disagreement and controversy as I see them.   Since I am not an expert in this study anyone is welcomed to correct me, dispute what I say, or express any opinion that differs from mine.  After all, that's part of my objective in presenting the topics I will be offering in upcoming posts--for me to toss out my ideas to you and for you to provide some feedback, whether it be agreeing or disagreeing.  Hopefully we can learn something and have some fun doing  it.

Types of Disagreement

         This is something that could be looked at in many ways and perhaps you'll have your own breakdown in the comment section.   Here are some primary approaches to disagreement as I would describe them and examples to illustrate them (For each disagreement type I will use the generally debunked theory that the Earth is flat):

Fact based --- Sometimes scientific or historic in nature, but strictly based on proven observations and irrefutable statistics.  On my next post I will discuss this type of disagreement in greater depth.

Example:  The preponderance of evidence would tell most reasonable people that the Earth is round, but there are some who might argue otherwise, using actual facts to defend their side of the argument.

Fantasy based -- Nonfactual "proofs" may be intentionally fabricated in order to defend an argument; they could be the result of misinterpretation of existing data; or any other offering of evidence that often can sound completely credible but is untrue.   If unchallenged, an argument based on fantasy can win against facts that sound questionable or undesirable.  The arguer resorting to this tactic may not even realize the proof is fantasy, but when they are aware that their proof is not true then they are lying

Example:  If a Flat Earther presents anecdotal evidence of an explorer who actually has seen the edge of the flat Earth and offers authentic looking documentation that seems to be true, the non-discerning believer could be fooled into believing the story, and, in fact, the presenter might actually believe the evidence being presented.

Pick and choose blend --This is commonly used in political arguments or in other cases where so-called life stories might be presented.  The convenient truths will provide a foundation to make the contrived additions of evidence fit the structure of the argument.  This approach might also be used when the arguer has hard factual data, but made-up facts are added into the mix because that arguer is relying on memory, hearsay, or commonly accepted fallacies.

Example:    The Flat Earther might use actual mathematical calculations and scientific observations to give their argument the heft of credibility and substance and then add false evidence that would be difficult to use as proof when presented on its own.

Outside influenced --This can be what a friend or someone else who is trusted has said.  It can be the perception within a community, group, or organization.  Many outside sources including media, books, and internet can present things as fact thereby leading many to believe them to be true whether or not they are actually true.

Example:   "My best friend, who is an honor student and a science major working on his PhD, told me the Earth is flat and because it came from him, I believe him."  Or, "I read it on the internet."

Tradition based --A belief that is part of the culture or social group that has always been accepted as true and continued to be presented as true by generations that follow.

Example:   If a tribal community living on an island in the Pacific had always held the belief that the Earth is flat and it was a part of their legends, art, songs, and everything that had been passed generationally, then they would be subscribing to a tradition based belief system if this is what was used to argue the point with one who suggested the Earth is round.

Faith based-- This would primarily relate to scriptural references and their interpretations.  A religious institution or group might even use a proof as part of their doctrine and credo. This type of argument is rarely effective among non-believers or those of a different belief system.

Example:  Both sides of the Flat Earth argument can offer Bible scripture that appears to support either argument.  Some will argue that a number of verses state that there are "four corners of the Earth" or "ends of the Earth".  There are also verses that describe the Earth as a circle or an orb.   Similar references can be found in the scriptures of other religions.

Educated manipulation -- Many accusations have been directed toward educational institutions for disseminating bias, untruth, or convenient fact-bending.  This can be the result of faulty textbooks, poorly designed curricula, or teachers on a mission to shape the minds of their students.  Certain college professors have particularly been singled out as having some special agenda that they are trying to promote.

Example:   The science teacher or professor who is teaching that the Earth is flat (let's hope this isn't happening anywhere!) and shaping the belief systems of their students.

Politically affiliated-- This is especially relevant at this time of year.  Adherents of a party line are often persuaded about what to believe because this is the party platform.   Committees and others probably have devised this platform using one or more of the previous methods, but in many cases a party follower believes what the party believes and does not question anything beyond that.

Example:  Let's say that a government party takes hold in a less sophisticated part of the world and after taking power effectively convinces that populace that the Earth is flat.  All travel is banned due to the danger involved.  Those who dispute the new policy are killed or imprisoned.  After a while there is general acceptance that the Earth is flat and the population is under that absolute control of the government.  After all, some governments strive for complete control.  Isolating the people can work.   The Flat Earth is now true because the government says it is.

Some Final Words

            As you might have noticed, there are a number of ways these points can cross over and interconnect. This breakdown I hope provides a starting point which you can use to examine your own personal views about various issues and those of other people.  Once you have determined where your belief is coming from it will give you a better opportunity to clean up the weak points of your argument and look for ways to discredit your opponent's views.  Or it might make you realize your beliefs are incorrect.

           At this time of the year especially many facts and fallacies will be bantered about from many quarters.  It's a good idea to be informed in order to have a better idea of what the real truth is--especially for those who are planning to vote in the upcoming U.S. elections or elections in other parts of the world.  Also, big issues loom on many horizons throughout the world.   To be informed helps put all of these things in better perspective.

            And what I'm discussing in these introductory posts doesn't only apply to big issues of nations and the world.  Clear rational thinking is important in solving interpersonal conflict, making good choices in ones own life, and even making wise decisions in personal business such as finding employment, deciding on a educational path, or buying a product you've seen advertised.  Controversy involves deciding and decision making is something we all do on a daily basis.

            I hope this hasn't been overly dry or obvious.   If we are going to debate--if we can call it that--we want to establish ground rules to make the experience more fruitful and enjoyable for all of us.  Please give me your feedback in the comments and come back on Wednesday for "The Truth".

           Does the above outline seem right to you?     Would you add anything else to this list?    Do you have a different approach as to what constitutes the roots of disagreement?    Which of these approaches do you find yourself using most often?    Which approach do you dislike the most?

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  1. I'm not going to lie Lee, this is probably the most intelligent post I've ever read in my time on Blogger, so much I had to bookmark this. It makes perfect sense and while I've pickled my brain to see if I could work out other ways disagreements can be controversial I've struggled.

    In my mind Faith based disagreements are the worst but they're for personal reasons probably, great article man, I'm loving this new side to your blog.

  2. I see the disagreement has already begun.
    Faith based comes first for me, then fact.
    Think you covered them all very well.

  3. Very thought provoking. I'm faithful to my beliefs that often don't line up with science, but I believe science lines up with faith more than we allow ourselves to see.



  4. Lee,

    I'm totally open-minded about everything - to each his own. Sometimes it's interesting to hear what others have to say about things, however I've found rarely is anyone's mind changed over whatever subject you happen to be discussing.

    Personally, I generally stay clear of politics and religion. People never see eye to eye on those things and that's okay. We never have and never will.

    I get so inundated by politics at my house that the whole subject makes me sick. I know that's a bad thing, but when you have to listen to it 24/7 you get your fill - I'm talking about the talking heads on TV who hash the same stuff over and over again daily. It's on all the time at my house, and if not the TV, then the radio. Of course that's usually all my husband talks about 90% of the time (to me and on the phone to friends and relatives). Enough said on that.

    None of my beliefs are based on any one type of religion, thus I think I can be pretty open-minded about that no matter what the subject, not that I agree. We wouldn't have all these wars if it wasn't for religion, usually when you boil it all down that is at the bottom of it somewhere - that and greed. I am extremely happy I was not brainwashed as a kid into a certain way of thinking, therefore leaving me to think that others who don't think the same way are completely crazy.

    Anyway, this new direction of your blog is all very interesting. I think you're trght in that it may be too deep a subject to delve into in blogging. Most people would probably want to be entertained without thinking too much - but that's just my opinion and feedback. I always like learning something new I didn't know - no matter what it is.


  5. Matthew (Yeamie) --Thank you for your as usual encouraging and delightful comment. And you are right--the argument based on issues of faith will in most cases only work among those of the same belief system. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to use Bible scripture to convince an atheist in the existence of God and this goes for many other arguments that one tries to defend using their faith-based beliefs.

    Alex -- Thanks. Different approaches make each personal belief more solid, but when they clash we need to be aware about the other ways of providing evidence so we can adequately defend our own beliefs if they are worth defending.

    Teresa -- No dispute between you and I on this matter. Sounds like a good topic for me to consider in the future.

    Sunni -- Love your comment and I really appreciate your support. I agree that people are not often swayed because each side is so busy defending their own system of disagreement that they are not educating the other side. And people hear what best supports their own beliefs and that becomes the problem in educating. We need more truth and facts that work toward finding solutions. Sure, it may be near impossible to get sides to agree, but my goal is to better understand what the disagreement is and figure out the logic behind the points of disagreement. I mostly want to talk about something different than what most blogs talk about and turn it into a learning process of becoming enlightened. Am I asking too much? Probably, but I hope I find a core of folks like I used to have in my old "Debate Day" forums who want to have a similar experience as I do.


  6. I disagree. You are an expert. There, take that. Actually, there are visible links between the categories you describe here and the techniques of propaganda, one of my favorite subjects. I'll be back to study this further. Thanks.

  7. Jack's opening statement was cute.

    Okay, there's a lot to digest here but let me just say this.

    'Nonfactual "proofs" may be intentionally fabricated in order to defend an argument'

    I have never understood this. What satisfaction can there be in winning -- a game, a debate, an argument -- if you know your sources, evidence and supports are fallacious!?

  8. How about the BS-er...there are some people who disagree just to disagree for no other reason than they want to prove you're wrong. You could tell them the earth is round and they'd find 'something' to prove you don't what you're talking about.

  9. Love this post, Lee.

    There's a book I recently bought, based on a recommendation from a friend :-) plus the sample chapter, which intrigued me, that I probably need to move closer to the front of my TBR list.

    Jonathan Haidt - The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. From the book description: "His starting point is moral intuition—the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong."

    The premise is, we make up our minds, FIRST - and then later, may decide decide our viewpoint is fact-based, or faith-based, or whatever. We may cherry-pick either facets of faith (a hilarious example is the meme of guy who got that verse from Leviticus 18 tattooed on his arm - about how it's an abomination for a man to lie with a man - while ignoring the verse from Leviticus 19 about how it's an abomination to get tattoos) or facts that support the decision we've already made, or are leaning towards.

    IMO, anything we do that opens the mind and challenges preconceived notions is a GOOD thing.

  10. Great rundown, Lee. I think educated manipulation is the worst, because that is someone in a position of power using his/her influence to affect people (usually children) in a subordinate position. I've heard people argue that this is basically what goes on in religion (authority figure shaping beliefs of children) but I tend to think that's a different situation in that at least it isn't government-sponsored, like in public schools.

  11. An interesting thing to consider:
    Several psychology studies have shown that people pretty much just believe the first thing they learn about a subject even if it's wrong. You tell someone something and, as long as they don't already have something in their head to dispute it, they will believe it. Later, if someone else comes along with actual facts on that subject, facts that show that what they have bought into believing is wrong, they will cling to that initial belief. This is true for almost all people. Only people who are pre-disposed, so to speak, to not believing what they're told and are willing to fact check everything will be swayed by actual evidence.

    Along with that:
    People can almost never be talked out of a position they hold unless they only have a very weak opinion about it. So, if belief is on a -5 to +5 scale, only people who are around -1 to +1 can be swayed by proofs. For other people, some sort of traumatic event is required to get them to look at their beliefs.

  12. Jack -- Thanks! I too am a fan of propaganda which is closely related to and uses the the same tactics of advertising and debate. They all fit under the umbrella of persuasion.

    Suze -- During the political season we hear a lot of made up facts used to deceive voters. It's cheating, but the use of intentional lies can work very well in persuading an ill-informed audience. If they can get away with something, politicians will often do anything.

    Em -- I think a lot of people just like to argue. I know people who will do like you're saying. I may even come across that way in some of my upcoming topics when I defend the side that's patently absurd.

    Beverly -- I've never heard that Leviticus story, but it's a great one and it illustrates something that we often see in many religions. Taking things out of context can be an absurd and even dangerous practice. Great comment! I hope to see many more like this one.

    Callie -- Educational manipulation of the mind is very dangerous in shaping those that will run the future. When the government controls history and the way we think then freedom is endangered.

    Andrew -- Your point illustrates the biggest problem in bringing people to a common truth that has evidence to support it. A great many people just believe what they believe because of some other reason then researching it for themselves. So many of us are skeptical about change and feel comfortable with whatever we are accustomed to believing even when there is strong proof that it is wrong. It can be difficult to make that admission of being wrong.


  13. Reading through the comments, Em-Musing brought up a good point - the person who just cants to disagree no matter what. I call them fighters because they enjoy getting into a battle of wills and always win.

    Be prepared. Depending on your posts, you could get some heated arguments here.

  14. Flatearther...hee hee. I once had a two day argument with a good friend over the moon landing "lie"...we're still friends, but he and I still don't agree. :)

  15. BOIDMAN ~
    I'm still not sure what all this has to do with the fake birth certificate that Barack Obama presented to the Americonned People as 'proof' he was born in Hawaii, but I'm sure you'll make that clear in due time.

    There's also the Postmodern view which essentially takes the position that there are no ultimate truths, and that everything is true or false depending upon one's life experiences, cultural influences, and place in the historical timeline. (It could probably also be called "The Cop-out View". All the facts in the world mean doo-doo to those who have embraced Postmodernism.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  16. I'd like to add that some people like to disagree just for the sake of disagreeing. If it was a clear and sunny day, and I said, "The sky is blue," there might be someone out there who'd insist, "No, you're wrong. It's periwinkle."

  17. L. Diane -- I sometimes am that sort of person who will argue to the contrary, not to be malicious, but to see the other side and be an advocate whether or not I believe it. Just the debater in me I guess.

    Raquel - Ah yes, the old lunar landing hoax debate. I actually considered using that one, but the Flat Earth seems more obviously preposterous.

    StMc -- Yes, the Postmodern View probably uses some of all of the methods to build a defense. That's a good one though that I've heard used often.

    Cynthia -- This was also mentioned earlier. Some people just like to have an argument, which is fine if it's all kept civil and everybody wants to play.


  18. Great post Lee...I think you hit all the nails on the head. I have bookmarked this to reread again later.

  19. Looks like you touched on way more ways to go about this than I actually considered lol!!

  20. Things are going to be mighty interesting on your blog, Lee (not that they weren't before, but blogs thrive on controversy!!)

    I try to stay away from tradition and faith-based controversies, but that's just me.

  21. I often have kids in my class who are surprised people can disagree and still get along - that disagreements don't have to be bad things. I like your breakdown of the styles of disagreements!

  22. Hi Lee, I finally sat down and reread this in it's entirety. Wow, well remind me to never argue with you. The issues in my family is the several 'know it all' you know the ones with the insecure personalities. I have learned not to get in a discussion with them for fear of wanting to vomit. As my father used to say, "see's all, hear's all, know's nothing" I loved that about him, he was so right on! Thanks for the post Lee! We'll talk soon!

  23. Chuck -- It's all I could think of for now.

    Angela -- And there may be more!

    Damyanti - Tradition and faith based arguments aren't very effective when used when arguing with those who don't believe in the system you are using so it's best to stay away from those in most cases.

    Jemi -- Disagreements shouldn't be considered bad things, but learning opportunities.

    Lisa -- I can argue better when I can take time to reason out the argument. I often don't do well in spontaneous one on one situations. The encounter with the know-it-all personality can be annoying, frustrating, and ultimately fruitless.


  24. i look forward to your posts---i don't think i could or would add anything tho your post today--it seems you have covered the issue very well---happy arguing ;)

  25. I'm definitely a fact based person, and dislike fantasy based arguments.


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