Friday, October 8, 2010

Honesty and Intellectual Integrity

One of the very few blogs I follow is NPR 13.7.
Recently a new "master blogger" has been added to the site, to introduce a "softer" side of the science debate.
Suddenly I find myself uncomfortable and confronted by some of the blogs this person writes. Really uncomfortable, and really confronted.
So much so that for the first time I can remember, today I actually challenged this person to be intellectually honest.
Now he may well be within his rights to proffer a point of view that is different to mine, but I challenge his right to use his position, academic learning and achievement, and his access to design an argument that is fundamentally dishonest, by disguising the content in such a manner that the core of the issue remains hidden.
Many will argue that the core is only hidden if no one challenges it. I would argue that the level the core is hidden at is only in the purvey of a handful of people in the world, most of whom will never read this blog.
The basis of a good honest argument or discussion is that the elements that we differ on are "apples to apples" - or Like to Like - you know from experience you cannot argue your case if the other side slips off onto a tangent, or does not pay you the resect of recognising your argument and countering it specifically and directly.
And I guess this is what upsets me most about the new blogger. He does not seem to respect his audience. It is almost as if he is talking down to the masses to demonstrate what a brilliant thinker he is.
In my experience, really brilliant people never have to demonstrate how clever they are, because simply by their actions and their thinking processes they provide leadership to others allowing them to learn from the experience, in their own time, and in their own way, and form their own mental maps from the encounter.
This whole process today reminds me of all that I dislike about political correctness, and rewriting history.
It's as if the older we get, and the more mature we get, the less we are trusted to work it out for for ourselves.
Noddy can no longer sleep with the policeman, and we can no longer believe in the tooth fairy.
Why can't a child's story be just that, a child's story?
Why do we suddenly feel the need to protect everyone from everything?
What happened to free choice, and personal responsibility?
A friend of mine said just yesterday after yet another bad experience with the airlines that "the terrorists have won, in a manner we still can't conceive of, and Big Brother is here to stay".
Sadly, I think he is correct. But we did it to ourselves, and we have to take responsibility for that.
That is being intellectually honest.
Now, incase some one will think I am taking a shot at the new blogger and not giving him the opportunity to respond, I am pasting this entire blog into an email to him, with an invitation to discuss my feelings.
I'll let you know the outcome.


Mike Gottschalk said...

Hey PJ, I got my post which links to this one up finally. It's a different angle than your's, but I think they dove tail....

P J Anthony said...

Mike, like the connection very much.
Sadly the blogger in question I referenced in my blog has not answered me. He did followup with a trite piece on 3D cinema, again not managing to really get to the core of what he was trying to say.
I don't know if we should help him or just let him fade away.
You are correct about intellect - I have always maintained intelligence is being able to swim in whatever water you find yourself in.
Keep thinking, and keep exploring.

Mike Gottschalk said...

Alex linked us to a great you tube piece. It only takes about 10 mins to watch and is well worth it. It tracks by x.1 styled numbers, and when you get to 10.0, I think it connects with some of the point you're making here PJ. Here's the link:

cpaul_hidden said...

I couldn't agree more with your sentiment about the new 13.7 blogger. His swiss cheese approach does make for good sport :) Hey, thanks for visiting my weblog recently. I've got you bookmarked and will visit for more from you. Best, CP