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HUMOUR-RESEARCH  December 2008

HUMOUR-RESEARCH December 2008

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Subject:

Re: Re; Humor and not humor

From:

Jim Lyttle <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Humour-Research <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 4 Dec 2008 13:03:51 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (76 lines)

Quoting "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>:

>  ... I don't see anything  wrong with taking sides in an
> argument, or else how are we going to reach the truth?


I cannot explain this better than the Blind Men story, but I will try  
anyway because it is absolutely essential.

It is literally impossible (well, almost) to arrive at truth, if we  
begin with a "position" (in other words, we already think XYZ is the  
truth). We have seen many cases of police trying to pin a crime on  
someone who they feel is likely guilty. We have seen religious cults  
and UFO groups find evidence that supports what they already believe  
... it is nonsense.

Debate is a good way to tackle political issues, because there is no  
scientific way to "settle" opinions (or, at least, rarely). Should we  
have more freedom, so citizens can express themselves and grow and  
feel diginity ... or should we have more control so that conventions  
are not challenged and we have security for our citizens? What is the  
right balance between these? There is no right answer to such a  
question, so we can invite a speaker on each side of the issue. They  
can yell "Hooray for our side" in a variety of ways. People can decide  
for themselves who "won" the debate, and that may even be useful. At  
the very least, it should raise food for thought from people who care  
about the issue. But this depends on whether the best spokesperson was  
selected for each side, whether the moderator enforced fairness,  
whether all sides of the issue were represented, whether there really  
is a more-or-less equal debate, and so forth.

Any attempt to do science like that is out of order. Imagine the  
following "fair and balanced" debate. One scientist from a local  
college is invited to argue in favor of gravity and one Transendental  
Meditator is invited to argue for "yogic flying." What possible use is  
this debate? What possible truth can be found by seeing who can argue  
best? What possible benefit is there in discovering which debator  
forgot a comma in their argument? This is assinine and leads to  
utterly ridiculous conclusions (to put it harshly).

Where we are actually seeking truth, instead of just excitement and  
frolic, we have to adopt a scientific method of inquiry (science, of  
course, means knowledge). First, we cannot take up sides. Only a fool  
is committed to the outcome of a process that has not even begun  
(unless it is a soccer game ...).

Second, we must represent each others' positions as charitably as  
possible, so they can potentially be combined into a comprehensive  
result. In religion, for example, it is common for people to compare  
the values and ideals of their religion against the practice of  
someone else's religion. A child can see that this is ridiculous.  
Compare the ideals, or compare the practices. When there is fair  
dialogue among views, there is the possibility of synthesizing them in  
some way and moving closer to truth. This could easily take several  
decades. But, when there is "Hooray for our side," we can expect fun  
and acrimony and competition and several good things - but absolutely  
no science (knowledge) whatsoever.

In short, taking up sides is the diametric opposite of searching for truth.

Some old saying, perhaps Irish, goes something like this:

Please God, surround me those who seek the Truth.
And deliver me from those who have found it.

------------------
JIM LYTTLE, Ph.D.
139 E HIGH ST APT 9
POTTSTOWN, PA 19464
BB: (610) 850-5050
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.
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