The Futility of Debate….

Jane Galt writes…..

My favourite, though, are the posts where everyone speculates on the motives of the other side. You see, pro-lifers don’t care about babies at all, because that would make their points something you might have to listen to and we can’t have that, can we? So what they obviously really care about is screwing up women’s lives so that they’ll have to spend the rest of them barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen making lemonade for Pa and his friends when they come in from a hard day of plowing and oppressing colored people. And pro-choicers don’t actually care about women; all they’re really interested is enforcing a radical feminist agenda on the rest of us so girls won’t be able to wear dresses and lipstick any more and boys will have to have their genitalia surgically removed at puberty and replaced with a copy of The Feminine Mystique. Also, while we can’t be totally sure, it’s reasonable to assume that many of them enjoy baby-killing, and would sacrifice live infants if not restrained by the hard work of good, Christian folk.

I understand what Ms. Galt is getting at here all too well. But I think she is ignoring an ugly truth. Many pro-lifers would walk past a host of starving children to get to an anti-abortion rally. And many pro-choice people show nothing but disdain for those women who do not hold to the proper beliefs. The more you know about people, the uglier they seem.

The ugliness of humans makes it easier to demonize the other side of any debate.

But even if we can overcome the disgust that a close study of the human race evokes, it still can be hard to look at the other side of a debate with respect. Nothing makes people madder than coming across other humans who have truly different a priori beliefs than their own. We all believe that only our a priori beliefs are legitimate. Only our a priori beliefs are supported by the one true revelation. Only our a priori beliefs are supported by reason.

An a priori belief that differs from our own seems to us to be a product of someone who is blind and irrational. We hold that they must be insane for if they were normal, they would see things as we do. Thus, we will hold nothing but scorn for those who hold beliefs that differ from ours even if we are forced to admit that they are not hypocrites.

Take this woman for example. Because of her beliefs, she put her own life on the line. Because of her beliefs she endured much reproach from people who knew her. And though she does not talk about it much, her decision forced her to bear a large amount of physical pain.

Would someone who is pro-choice respect her because she is not a hypocrite? Would they respect her because she was willing to put her own life on the line because of her pro-life beliefs? Not likely.

Instead, they would tell her all the things that she has already heard. They will tell her what a fool she is. How irrational she is. How her religious beliefs should be discarded in the name of reason.

The things that divide people can run deep. They can be so deep that the divides cannot be bridged by mere humans. These divisions have real consequences that cannot be wished away and cannot be resolved by reason.

I think on some level Ms. Galt understands this. But she gives the impression that coming to a better understanding of each other would help take the heat out of the disagreement.

I wish that this were true. But I think that if a clear understanding of the things that separated us provided any kind of relief, more of us would seek that understanding out. In reality, the only possible responses to those gulfs that divided us are anger or grief. That is why we generally prefer to be blind.

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