Hot-button topics

It seems every topic these days that has implications beyond my meager, individual existence has become warped by the political machine, and any stand one takes in the debate gets them hero status with some, Public Enemy Number One with others. To say that all semblance of civil discourse left the building quite some time ago would an understatement; I don’t think it was ever there, at least for as long as I’ve been around.

Whoever shouts the loudest wins.

A lot of these are issues I care about; it’s hard not to care about them, since they usually involve people I know, or affect my life, or touch on my philosophical,
religious, or scientific beliefs on the workings of the universe we inhabit.

Or–yes, I’m human as well–I simply like to prove others wrong. But lately this reason has taken a back seat to my growing perception that logic and reason are not welcome in the current debate environment. And if logic and reason aren’t welcome, then frankly I don’t give a damn.

There are already numerous studies out there that posit a biological difference between those who purport themselves as liberal or conservative. While the authors do a decent job of stressing that these findings are NOT to be taken as canon, it also isn’t surprising, and it explains why discourse on topics that invoke passionate responses is in a logjam: we bring different assumptions and motivations to these discussions.

A favorite quote of mine (source unknown) :

You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

While its specific application is true–if someone accepts a platform on emotion from a heavily-biased radio talk show, they won’t be convinced otherwise by a calm and reasonable fact-based discussion–more generally speaking it can imply that unless two people are on the very same page, they probably won’t agree perfectly on an issue.

Back during Lent, I voluntarily chose to start avoiding chiming in on hot-button topics for multiple reasons. First, I’m a scientist, so I approach these discussions from as disconnected and objective a position as possible; as per the previous quote, unless the other person is doing the same, the discussion will degrade very quickly. Second, I’m a hypocrite, so #1 sometimes won’t last for long before it devolves into a shouting match, which isn’t fun. Third, these debates are exhausting, and that’s also not fun.

Lately, I’ve been gravitating somewhat reflexively toward the same thing once more: avoiding hot-button debates, particularly over Facebook. They’re dirty, they’re complicated, and the internet is a crappy crappy place to have a reasonable debate of ideas, so I’ve been pulling back once more. Of course I have strong opinions:

Global warming? It’s happening. Deal with it.

Evolution? Not a myth, or the opposite of creation, but scientific fact.

Gay marriage? About damn time.

George W. Bush? Good human being, terrible leader and president.

Barack Obama? Good human being, theoretically good president, practically C+ president.

Net neutrality? If you’re against this, you literally have no idea how the internet works.

Taxes and budget cuts? Of course I don’t like higher taxes, of course I don’t like national debt. But cutting things that do genuinely good work–throwing out the baby with the bath water–is a terrible, terrible idea, and I’m willing to pay higher taxes to keep this from happening.

Vaccines? They work, and they don’t cause autism. GTFO.

GOP candidates? The only one who stands a reasonable chance of winning (and, through no coincidence, isn’t a few fries short of a Happy Meal) is Mitt Romney. But of course he’s flip-flopping now to pander to the Tea Party.

American Exceptionalism? Great. Except when it isn’t. Which is quite often.

USA and religion? We’re not a Christian nation. Our Founders were not Christians. Christianity does not have exclusive access to the truth in this country.

Education? The one and only silver bullet there is, and ever will be.

Immigration? It’s what made this country great, from its inception up to the present day, as we’ve harbored the brightest minds of every generation. Cutting off that spigot is among the worst things we as a recovering nation could possibly do.

Disagree? You have every right to. As I have every right to debate you on it. This does not make either of us anti-American or terrorists. If you believe otherwise, you are anti-American.


But I think I’m finished. It’s fun in a sort of cathartic way to whine and rage and moan on the internets, because it gets you attention. That can be fun, but as I mentioned, it’s also exhausting, which–at least for me–makes it not fun. I don’t enjoy dealing with the inevitable emotional rage quit of those who have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about but compensate by maxing out the decibels.

For those two of you who frequent this site, you may be thinking “I’ve heard this before”, and you would be absolutely correct. So you would also be completely justified in asking “What’s different this time?”

I don’t have a good answer. It’s entirely possible (with some nonzero likelihood) that I will get riled up enough sometime to post here about Today’s Hot-Button Topic complete with frothing mouth and shaking hands.

But my point–if I have a point–is that the utility of making such posts is, effectively, zero. Those who agree with me don’t need convincing (even if the occasional “RAH RAH RAH” is fun), and those who don’t agree with me most likely aren’t open to being convinced otherwise (back to my very first point). The remaining possible benefits, therefore, are the cathartic effects of venting and getting subsequent attention. Neither of which particularly interests me.

What does interest me, however:


About Shannon Quinn

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2 Responses to Hot-button topics

  1. eksith says:

    – Global warming? It’s happening. Deal with it.
    – Vaccines? They work, and they don’t cause autism. GTFO.

    By and large, I think these two are the ones that are directly responsible for destroyed lives.

    Global warming is causing more and more erratic weather patterns causing massive storms that annihilate whole cities and destroying crops (potentially leading to famine around the world). And young, innocent, lives are put in grave danger by their own parents due to this baseless aversion to vaccines. Not to mention other children around them as well.

    Also, American Exceptionalism is only a viable notion if we’re doing something to make it exceptional. You are what you eat… your country is what you make of it. It’s pretty silly when people expect blood from stone when no blood was spent infusing said stone in the first place.

    And speaking of Politic:

    Obama is now apparently a Communist, Facist, Liberal, Conservative, Muslim, Atheist, born in Kenya, who will force Sharia law upon all of us. I must find out who is lacing the seats on the right in Congress with PCP.

    But I’m not entirely sure why Obama has become a C+ president because I can’t see conservative obstructionism as the only reason. And as for the reason why the government is so broken: I think everyone is too busy listening to half what the other side is yelling (and imagining the other half) yet no one it seems is willing to actually listen to themselves. The art of reflection is lost on all sides and I fear we’ll have broken the few remaining mirrors in congress through reactionary voting (courtesy of John-KneeJerk Q. Public) and end up with stone walls of igorance and ineptitude instead.

    Community garage sale this weekend! Special discounts on Forethought and Common Sense.

    • magsol says:

      On the point of global warming, the Bad Astronomer does a fantastic job of posting studies and summarizing their important points. In that specific link, the fact that every single one of those indicators of climate change is moving significantly in the direction of climate change would seem to be irrefutable evidence that something weird is happening that shouldn’t be.

      My biggest problem with American Exceptionalism is that we spend inordinate amounts of time talking about it and zero time deserving it. I always like to mention my football experience here, in that it wasn’t the guys with the biggest mouths who intimidated me most, but rather it was those who said absolutely nothing during a game. Talk is cheap; kicking ass is rare. American Exceptionalism should be something that only the rest of the world talks about.

      I give Obama a C+ because I had been hoping (perhaps naively so) that he’d have enough political clout and prowess to navigate the system similarly to Bill Clinton (or Josiah Bartlet, if you’ve seen The West Wing) and get things done while also being able to explain them in layman’s terms that kept most everybody happy. Obama is brilliant, no question, but his approach to the office of the Presidency is very academic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but the idealistic academic approach needs to be tempered with political savvy, something I thought he had but am not sure he has enough of.

      Until we get a President with that combination, and until we can elect representatives who aren’t in corporate pockets, government will be broken. I didn’t put it on the list but I feel one of the biggest impediments to a functional government is corporate donations. Reform the political donations process and we just might find ourselves with a government that works, rather than politicians who spin public good out of corporate selfishness.

      Also: great to have you back on the intertubes! 🙂

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