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I HAVE A TUMBLR NOW! ( I’ll be posting random things on it occasionally INCLUDING THIS ONE: and you should check it out because I can update a Tumblr much more frequently than this monster.

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,”

–G.K. Chesterton

What’s UP, internet.  I’ve talked about a LOT OF THINGS recently, and many of them have been VERY SERIOUS THINGS.  Well, today might end up being no different—I’m going to start typing and WE’LL SEE WHERE WE END UP.

FIRST OFF, here’s another quote by CHESTERTON, because I like him, and his attitude:

“How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.”

I’ve only read one book of his; Heretics, (IT’S PUBLIC DOMAIN READ IT FREE BOOKS ARE AWESOME []) but I fully intend to explore more of his works, because I think he’s inexpressibly badass.  He also makes good points on how to oppose something correctly, which, in my opinion, not many people do.

Let me ‘splain.  No, is too much.  Let me sum up.

Chesterton talks quite a bit about personal beliefs.  Mostly, about the importance of personal beliefs.  He condemns what seems to have been a growing movement even in the 1800s—a system of “many vague objections to having an abstract belief.”  Excuse me while I just quote the hell out of this passage.

“A common hesitation in our day touching the use of extreme convictions is a sort of notion that extreme convictions, specially upon cosmic matters, have been responsible in the past for the thing which is called bigotry. But a very small amount of direct experience will dissipate this view.  In real life the people who are most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all. The economists of the Manchester school who disagree with Socialism take Socialism seriously.  It is the young man in Bond Street, who does not know what socialism means much less whether he agrees with it, who is quite certain that these socialist fellows are making a fuss about nothing.  The man who understands the Calvinist philosophy enough to agree with it must understand the Catholic philosophy in order to disagree with it.  It is the vague modern who is not at all certain what is right who is most certain that Dante was wrong.”

Later on, we have one of my new favorite definitions.

“Bigotry may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions.  It is the resistance offered to definite ideas by that vague bulk of people whose ideas are indefinite to excess.  Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent….Bigotry in the main has always been the pervading omnipotence of those who do not care crushing out those who care in darkness and blood.”

The point emerging from this: know something.  If you disagree with a thing, research it and figure out why.  Learn from it, so that you can refute it, if it’s not your cup of tea.

And don’t research it on the internet.  Get a book. Several books.  Ask a scholar.  Hit the street.  The unfortunate truth of this morass of tachyphrasic information that is the internet is this:  For any position at all—no matter HOW RIDICULOUS, you can always find AT LEAST THREE ARTICLES TO SUPPORT IT, one of which will be a scientific study.

The internet is like the Mirror of Galadriel*—if you look with a thought or desire in your mind, you will see precisely what you expect to see.   If you run a Google Search for ‘The Shire’ and fear in your heart that it will be destroyed, you will see nothing but the Shire falling into ruin and flame.  Okay, moving off this tack now.

It’s in part a way the search engine works, combined with the framing effect and a whole bunch of other things that I could support with studies, but I won’t, because this is my blog, so there.   But seriously: you can find anything.  Want to champion the motivational  and emotional power of video games?  Well.

Want to shout the detrimental effects of video games from the rooftop?

Follow up both these sources.  They’re backed by science and careful research.  They can also be used to promote absolutely contradictory points.

The problem, then, is how do we resolve this conflict?  What is true? What is real?

Well, let’s start: I’m wearing socks.  That’s real. I  know that’s real.  Solid objects have a certain power.

Some philosophers might say that these facts represent “aspects of truth;” facets of a larger reality that make sense only when the whole picture is revealed.  This literally begs the question: “what is truth?”

Oh, well, we don’t know.  We cannot see this ultimate cosmic truth. Perhaps it is incomprehensible to us.  It might not even exist! Wouldn’t that be silly?

“I should not like to be an artist who brought an architectural sketch to a builder, saying ‘This is the south aspect of Sea-View Cottage.  Sea-View Cottage, of course, does not exist.’ I should not even like very much to have to explain, under such circumstances, that Sea-View Cottage might exist, but was unthinkable by the human mind.”

(you guessed it: Chesterton)

How to resolve this quandary? Here’s the issue, in short terms.  You can find anything on the internet that will support your position.   You can also find anything on the internet that will refute your position and support an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ONE.

GIVEN THIS, how do we justify our beliefs?

First of all—if you need to do a bunch of Google searches to justify the founding tenets of your existence, you’re doing it wrong.

Next: If you’re going to make a claim, BACK IT UP.  Evidence.

Third: Give us ALL OF THE EQUATION, not just the conclusion.  If you’re clever, your position will be logically coherent, and we should be able to work to that point given all of the information we are given.  For example, if your point of view is in agreement with the ‘video games are good in small amounts’ category, you should be able to take these seemingly contradictory studies and point out that the most harmful effects come when playing video games more than an hour a day.  Doing anything that isn’t going to get you money or muscle mass or a hormone boost for more than an hour a day is just generally a bad idea, if you ask me.  This point is logically coherent, and I think people can agree with it.

FOURTH, and FINALLY: if your point is valid and sound, it should be possessed of integrity beyond any effort on your part.  You shouldn’t have to slant anything.  If your belief is…well, coherent, then you should be able to support it with evidence that aims to disprove it.  You don’t need to leap to the defense of the truth—it can support itself well enough.

(sample counterargument to this post: “Oh, well, you don’t need to make sense in order to be right! That’s ridiculous! Whatever I think is true must be true because I think it is!)

Now, admittedly, these are only methods that will convince rational, logically coherent people.  And if you can only convince rational, logically coherent people of rational points, you are then what we call “preaching to the choir.”   Empires have crumbled while rational, logically coherent people have waited for other groups to realize the most beneficial course of action.

But I’ll leave that problem for another day (Protip: I like to frighten and confuse irrational Bible-thumpers by shouting “MATTHEW 7:5” as I drive by their protest lines. Ideally, you can find a friend with long golden hair and a beard who can wrap himself in a towel, poke the upper half of his body out the sunroof and yell the entire line at them as you go bombing past).    This will not be the last time I revisit this subject.


*Yes, I just compared the information superhighway to the starlit font of the Lady of  Lothlórien.  I did in fact just draw an analogy between the brain child of Al Gore, who walked the path of a presidential candidate, and the magical fountain of Galadriel of the Noldor, who crossed the Helcaraxë and walked the path of an exile.  I BELIEVE I HAVE EARNED A NERD MEDAL OF SOME KIND.




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