It seems like lately I’ve found myself often in the position of arguing and debating with people who do not seem to actually want to have a debate. I think I often misunderstand the nature of people; many people do not seem to want to actually have a debate but rather express their opinion, shout it out into the aether, and remain unchallenged.
Of course I understand that there’s a time and a place for debate, but if you are going to express a strong, controversial opinion, what kind of person must you be to think that no one has the right or ability to disagree with your position?
I’ve had the strangest debates with people, and most recently it’s been of course about vaccination and other matters related to health. I often look into their claims, observe their sources, and try to understand the foundation of their beliefs. I’ve had arguments with people who have an understandable and reasonable skepticism of the vaccination as well as with people who state that the vaccination kidnaps your soul and will keep you from entering heaven. And regardless of how bizarre I may find their conclusions, I at least attempt to understand the reasons for which they believe what they do, so I can engage with them more adequately.
The problem that seems to appear though, is that they do not seem to do the same with mine at all. Because I agree with say, the mainstream opinion, they completely dismiss my beliefs because they can’t possibly fathom the idea that someone can do their own extensive research and still come to a conclusion that’s in line with mainstream consensus. This does not appear to be rooted in any level of logical consistency or thinking, but appears to be more for the sake of being contrarian. How much scrutiny have they also put under their own beliefs? Probably very little. To be skeptical is a beautiful thing, but you must be scrutinizing even your own beliefs as well to be a skeptic, not just those that you disagree with.
I’m in a constant cycle of viewing my beliefs, re-evaluating them, and taking in new information to see if anything completely upends my understanding of things. How can I believe strongly in something or advocate for something I don’t understand thoroughly? I’m happy to be proven wrong about a strong belief if it means that I’ve come closer to the truth, but that is difficult when the only argument that comes from the opposition is “It’s wrong because it comes from [the government, controversial individual, the system, etc.].”
Instead of evaluating ideas on their own merit, understanding them, and filtering the information that can be taken from them, it seems as though people just want to feel vindicated in their own beliefs. Maybe people don’t want their minds changed, and it’s foolish on my part to assume that they do. Maybe it’s foolish to assume that truth is something that they seek at all, or that they even consider for a moment that their beliefs may be wrong.
Is it really that radical of a concept for an individual to fully understand what it is that they strongly believe in before they start spouting their opinions off into an echo chamber?
Unfortunately, it seems so.