Friday, April 6, 2012

Ever get stuck in an argument?

I think I have a problem.

One of the things that I'm coming to terms with is that I have a serious argument addiction.

Not in my daily life over little things.  In my daily life, the little things are easy to let go.  People often compliment me on how polite and friendly I am.

But when it comes to intellectual debate, it's like heroine.

I think it's in part that I spend so much time constructing elaborate arguments in my head.  I imagine what the other guy is going to say in the same way that great martial artists in kung fu movies visualize a fight.

On the internet, it can be a problem.  I can get stuck in a loop.  This isn't irritating when the person is bringing up good issues, but there are really trolls out there and I have to learn not to feed them.

How it feels in my head when I get into an argument.
How I look to the rest of the world.
I became a scientist specifically because I love to argue and wanted to construct strong, sound arguments for a living.

In the immortal words of Kevin Spacey in Se7en, "It... didn't work out."  The #1 thing you should never, ever do in science is do is question anything.  Ever.

I know one colleague who put something in his paper along the lines of "Maybe people who research trace fossils should look at the animal behavior literature as well."  The reviewers ripped him a new one for suggesting that trace fossil experts were "ignorant."  (Which he did not do, it really was that innocuous.  Just massive, delicate egos at work.)

But, of course, I built myself over many years to construct elaborate arguments.  It's why I've always loved math, particularly proofs: it's all about constructing a sound argument.

I know I'm a little aggressive.  I've had fantasies of arguing the Devil Himself.  No joke, serious fantasies of arguing against the devil.

But I also love to argue friends.  Just... anyone who can construct a strong argument.

"Bring it on, b*tch."
The problem is, of course, that I spend too much time thinking of arguments.  Which is okay if I focus on one thing, such as the death penalty (which I oppose), but gets pretty overwhelming because I'll argue about ANY intellectual topic.

So, something to work on.



(Is one vice really so bad?...  Is it even really a vice?)


  1. Well, you do spend a lot of time debating some guy on the TU who I don't think is worth debating. But that's me, and I TEND to avoid conflict (and get it anyway...)

  2. Yeah... You mean A?

    My problem is that I keep thinking "Wow, she cannot be that stupid. She has to be playing stupid." I'm starting to come to the conclusion that no, she really is that stupid.

    It's good you told me that you generally avoid conflict. To me, that is a mysterious thing. I do like to talk politely, too.

  3. You enjoy debate? I hadn't noticed. [walks away, whistling]