This is a more structured version of my podcast of the same title which reflects on how we can discuss and even argue with people who hold opinions opposed to ours, irrespective of logic or empirical evidence, and so passionately, that we may be justified in calling them beliefs – and they may be justified in doing the same.
Although many of us moderns (especially White, slick urbanites) like to think of ourselves as all about science and having nothing to do with belief, there are some convictions on issues which are clearly not evidence-based and about which we are immune to rational persuasion.
Rather than identifying particular positions as irrational, I prefer to present examples of opposing beliefs, and some middle ground, without (too much) judgement. After doing so, I suggest 5 ways we can dialogue with each other, even when we disagree. The table below is not a nuanced account of any of these positions but serves to show their conflict. The middle position is not necessarily the one I consider most rational in all cases.
|Issue/ Belief||Established||Middle ground||Dissenting|
|Abortion||Amoral medical procedure, sometimes necessary/ human right. Cornerstone of female autonomy & modern feminism. Unborn baby is basically a bloodclot.||Tragic conflict of rights in a misogynist society which still does not support female socio-economic autonomy, pregnancy, childbirth or childcare.||Lucrative immoral practice of eugenics, often racist, sexist & ableist, by selfish women, authoritarian governments & doctors breaking Hippocratic Oath. Zygote is basically a baby.|
|AIDS||HIV is the necessary & sufficient cause of AIDS (Gallo) HIV is co-factor of AIDS but good nutrition/ clean water will flush it out (Montagnier)||HIV is at least a co-factor of AIDS, oxidation may be another, but epidemiological data is so flawed & positions over e.g. poppers (alkyl nitrate) & Kaposi’s Sarcoma so entrenched, it is difficult to say anything for certain.||HIV is a harmless passenger virus unconnected to AIDS – an incoherent set of diseases caused by malnutrition & drugs including HIV meds (Duesberg)
HIV has never been proved to exist
|Animal Farming||Natural: humans are omnivores and animals hunt eat other for food.||Factory farming & fishing bycatch/ plastic pollution unnecessary is cruel but animal welfare can be improved by a return to traditional farming/ fishing.||Immoral. We are not just wild animals and traditional ecological communities of hunters & fishers do not subject animals to a (short) lifetime of cruelty.|
|Black Lives Matter||Black people are causing racist division in our now totally equal societies.||The cause of BLM is good but it is funded/ infiltrated by corporate interests with a different agenda.*||It’s the 21st C. and Black people are still not safe anywhere. Defund the police!|
|Environment||There is no environmental problem. Big business as usual!||There may or may not be a relationship between emissions and global warming but plastic & air pollution is real. The Green movement is funded/ infiltrated by corporate interests with a different agenda.*||The Earth is in crisis and only an immediate halt to CO2 & other toxic emissions will save humanity.|
|5G/ Cashless Economy/ Cryptocurrency/ Blockchain||5G is useful, empowering, safe & efficient. It’s unconnected to the others which are just a more efficient & sanitory method of finance.||We should be cautious about possible harm from any new technology, especially one using microwaves. The industry promoting it is unlikely to be impartial. The others are useful but problematic in terms of money laundering/ the Dark Web.||All this is part of *The Great Reset: unelected oligarchic global governance based on citizen surveillance using biodata.|
|Transgender||Human right if born in the wrong body. Access all areas!||Confusing conflation of transsexual and transvestite people who have very different rights and present very different dangers to women and children.||Attack on female safe space and sovereignty. Unnatural & especially harmful to kids who end up irreversibly mutilated, scarred & sterile for life & unable to enjoy sex.|
|Vaccines||Totally safe.||Good in general but their proliferation is worrying as is lack of legal accountability for past & future harms by pharmaceutical industry.||Totally unsafe. Cause of autism etc.|
|Viruses: Covid-19/ H1N1 (Swine Flu)||Real threat to life. Masks, social distancing, citizen surveillance, vaccines are our only hope against certain destruction of the human race.||Bad (incommensurable) data; bad (incoherent) results. Censorship of dissenting experts not helping understanding of threat & solution.||Scam/ social engineering with real or fake virus. Key part of another agenda operating since the 9/11 scam.*|
Some of these issues line up with bipartisan politics – especially in the USA – and so some have described this as conflict of cultures. If we accept ideologies as similar to cultures, then one solution to continual argument is an approach similar to multiculturalism – which is a social strategy that has never been tried seriously in the UK (despite the political rhetoric) because, throughout our history, no culture apart from the dominant one has ever felt sufficiently safe.
In the USA it has never been tried at all, as the famous ‘Melting Pot’ is the antithesis of cultural respect. Expression of non-dominant cultural identity in the USA is only tolerated if it is folksy, touristy, commercially packaged, relegated to the past or heavily-constrained and bounded communities. When accessible, urban, vociferous and resistant to assimilation, it is severely repressed.
However convivencia was a key virtue of much of Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain) during the years when Christians and Jews lived securely under Muslim rule. Out of their dialogue came many literary, philosophical and scientific riches.
So what are my thoughts on a more convivial way of engaging with people of different persuasions? I suggest 5 ways to disagree:
- Acknowledge the benevolence of people on the other side – they may truly believe what they do in good faith, with the information, cultural identity, emotional investment and relationships they have at this time.
- Find shared values & goals: e.g. Pro-Life & Pro-Choice women can at least agree on supporting women who want to give birth and face social & economic obstacles, without giving up their opposition over the morality & legality of abortion.
- Agree on a basis of evidence. This may be a legal or religious text that one or both parties holds as authoritative, a set of scientific studies, a certain database, etc.
- Explore coherence – using logic, the value system each claims to uphold, and perhaps one of the above, this step may serve to demolish an opponent’s argument but may also enable it to be expressed more intelligibly, enabling better mutual understanding.
- Agree to disagree. If you agree on nothing else, at least acknowledge the legal right to freedom of expression/ freedom of speech and resist attempts by others to censor this fundamental value of democracy.
Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Argument Silhouette into the public domain.