26 Jul 2008

Can't We All Get Along?

In the comments to this post, I said this:
I have little to add -- besides acknowledging that generalizations about enviros (as well as GW skeptics, Republicans, Christians, Americans, et al.) are too simple. I am sure that most of us have people on "our side" who make us cringe.

The good news (seriously) is that a dialogue among multiple perspectives is far more productive than a convention of "ditto-heads". Researchers have found that groups of like-minded people tend to quickly talk their way into a more radical, partisan position.)
Bottom Line: If you want fair and balanced, make sure that you hang out with people who disagree with you.


  1. David: Do you have the citation for your linked group-think article? And, "fair and balanced" doesn't really inspire me.

  2. (yikes, I hit the return before commenting upon your final sentiment about hanging out with people with whom one disagrees. Excellent. The diversity in point of view that I find here is one of the two things that brings me back to this blog. The second is the new (to me) information about human ecology of water.

  3. Of course, if you happen to belong to a group with the right ideas, then reinforcing each other and becoming more radical is a good thing. :)

    So the virtue of talking with others isn't to prevent you from becoming "extreme," but rather to prevent you from becoming extreme in something that is wrong. :)

  4. @FC -- the link goes to a page discussing a long line of research in this area.

    @Bob -- the virtue is that you will be less extreme. Right and wrong are not often clear on these issues (e.g., abortion, vegetarianism or environmentalism) so it's "better" to be less-extreme because you're more-likely to cooperate with neighbors on other matters -- instead of hating them.

    These issues, I just realized, are also present in the red state/blue state and polarization debates.

  5. David,

    I'm not going to press it after this post, but still, I think you're not making sense here. I can be "extreme" on something and that doesn't mean I end up hating people. Take a real example: I am a Christian and I think Jesus really meant that we should love our enemies. On this issue I am more "extreme" than a lot of other Christians (in my opinion), especially when it comes to prisoner treatment in Guantanamo etc.

    So certainly my extremism on this doesn't imply that I hate people; that would be nonsensical.

    It's true, most groups hold on to one sliver of the truth, and so everybody ends up being partly wrong. And in that sense, there is something to be gained by constant communication with other groups, to see their viewpoints.

    My only objection is that you are explicitly saying extremism even if correct is wrong. No, I think the reason this country is in such a much is that people don't have any principles on anything. Every government action is decided on a case-by-case basis, rather than (say), "Does the Constitution give them this power?"

  6. David, you are both tolerant and patient with a diversity of opinion, and your First Amendment-based view of truth is apparent: let the "marketplace of ideas" shake out the good from the bad, and the only precondition is that all ideas equally see the light of day. Continue to press! But as far as everybody "getting along" don't every forget the long experience of Western water - whiskey is for drinking, and all that!

  7. @Bob -- Sorry if it seemed that I was saying that "extreme is bad." That wasn't my point, and I agree with your example of extreme Christianity (or extreme runners, for that matter!).

    My point is that all sides should engage in discussion. When like-minded people talk among themselves, they tend to move away from the "center" and towards a more-extreme position.

    I did not explicitly say that extremism is wrong, but I imply that it can be troublesome if it is not in a dialogue with other POVs, i.e., a situation where both sides will learn from each other.

    Overall, I agree with your comment -- I'm just clarifying that your comment was to the "wrong guy" :)

    @CF -- I'm ready to drink whiskey while bringing water disputes to a close :)

  8. "ditto-heads", IPCC delegates, warmers, deniers.... you're right.

    Groups of like minded people, patting each others backs can tend to extreme positions. I'm just glad that neither group can be handed the keys to policy changes under our system of gov't w/o extensive dialog.

    I generally look to see which side is nost zealous in trying to shut down dialog as a clear and present warning sign that science may take a back seat for some "greater good".


Read this first!

Make sure you copy your comment before submitting because sometimes the system will malfunction and you will lose your comment.

Spam will be deleted.

Comments on older posts must be approved (do not submit twice).

If you're having problems posting, email your comment to me