Pure signal.

An Idiot’s “fair”

Fair does not mean giving equal time to both people in a two person argument.

Of all of the obnoxious ideas dominating pseudo-intellectual discourse in America I think this one is the worst.

The implication being, of course, that the field of discussion in any controversy is fixed, and that the poles of disagreement are clear and one only needs to choose (often along pre-existing lines: science vs. the environment, liberal vs. conservative) and EVEN WORSE that opposing one side means that you are aligning yourself with the other side.

In general any partition of a field of discourse into opposing poles is at least as problematic as the assertion of one of the poles within the partition. If a lot of time is not given in determining the grounds of acceptable evidence in advance of an argument, then the argument is likely wasted time.

Equal time, in honest discourse, means giving equal consideration to all of the facts. That is NOT giving equal consideration to all of the positions. For instance, in an honest discussion of evolutionary theory, you have to consider the instances of error in carbon dating. It is not unscientific to consider those, and it does not mean that you are siding with the creationists. Are there instances of error? What are they? How might they have occurred?

If there are errors, it is not evidence of creationism. It is not a sporting event where you count up points and the side with the most points wins.

Equal time means being honest about what you do not know. But the fact that you do not know a specific thing does not mean that the claim being made by the person who is arguing against you is bolstered — they still have to make their positive claim.

Being “fair” is not being fair to individual claims, it is being fair to the field of discourse, to all of the facts, and all of the uncertainties about those facts, and then being honest about the range (and it is always a range) of possible answers to whatever question is being discussed. Most discussion about creationism breaks down into opposing camps who argue subadequately and dishonestly. Making a bad argument for the truth is still making a bad argument. In fact it is even worse since if it is an argument for the truth, then a good argument existed.

Being fair and open minded does not necessarily mean that I owe you so much as the time of day.


August 25, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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