Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Some Suggestions

We’re confronted daily with competing demands and claims of people from opposite points of view. Conservatives rail against liberals and vice versa. Creationists fight Darwinists. Pro-life wrestle with pro-choice advocates. How do we decide? There isn’t a foolproof method that ensures everyone will come to the same conclusion. A lot of factors affect our ability to be objective. Since the theme of this blog is about thinking objectively I thought I’d share some ideas on how I try to practice what I preach. In essence I recommend taking the effort to check both sides. (In some cases there are more than two prominent positions.)

  • How do they argue? Do they confront the opposition’s positions head on or do they skirt the issues?
  • Do they fairly represent the arguments of the other side or do they “refute” these arguments by setting up easily-refuted straw men?
  • Do they try to build a cogent argument based on empirical data or do they simply state their final conclusions?

For example, if you’re considering whether global warming is caused by humans or by other causes (assuming there is warming), you could go to a site such as which provides links to global warming advocates and skeptics.

Let’s say you want sort out the creationism-evolution debate. This web page at Cal State Fullerton - - provides links to various sites on both sides of the issue.

On general political issues, check publications such as National Review for conservative viewpoints, The New Republic for the left and maybe Reason magazine for the libertarian perspective. For detailed analysis of policy issues you can go to The Cato Institute (libertarian), The Brookings Institution (liberal), the American Enterprise Institute (conservative), or The Atlas Society (Objectivist).

Another good source of information is The main articles usually refer to other sources on both sides of an issue and provide links to articles in the media and links to related web sites. Be sure to click on the “discussion” tab to see the dialog among the various contributors to the wiki entry.

As I said at the beginning, checking these sources won’t automatically provide you with answers. Nor will it make everyone agree with each other. What I have found, however, is that people who honestly and fairly look at more than one viewpoint before settling on their own tend to be more reasonable than those who only look at sources with which they already agree. If we are confident in our ability to think critically and objectively we won’t be threatened by exposing ourselves to opinions that might differ from ours. At the very least going through this exercise will better prepare you for counter-arguments to yours.

My main point, which is a theme running through this blog, is that maintaining objectivity isn’t easy! It involves hard work and resisting jumping to conclusions. If you come to conclusions about issues like health care, global warming, abortion, and intelligent design by carefully listening to and evaluating the different viewpoints out there, you should be able to defend yourself more effectively. Who knows? You might end up changing your mind? THAT, I believe, is the threat of checking your premises: the possibility of abandoning a position and even disagreeing with friends who share your overall beliefs. Objectivity doesn’t have the sexy appeal as being an ardent advocate of [insert the label of your favorite “ism” here]. To me that’s the exciting part of trying to be objective!


Anonymous said...

I would suggest that if you want to see the libertarian point of view, that you avoid Cato and Reason magazine and instead turn to and, and especially their hero, Murray Rothbard.

The word "liberty" led to "liberal". It became a popular word, so anti-liberty creeps began calling themselves "liberals". So the liberty-lovers invented the word "libertarian". It became popular so the anti-liberty, pseudo-intellectual, authoritarian creeps at Cato and Reason and elsewhere began calling themselves "libertarians".

As Lenin wrote: "First, confuse the vocabulary."

True liberty means that creeps with guns do not tax and rule you. If the creeps with guns are taxing and ruling you and some moron tells you that you are free, the moron is a liar. If the moron tells you that liberty requires "sacrifice", the moron is a liar.

Truth is that simple. Evil requires word games.

Henry Scuoteguazza said...

Anonymous, good suggestions. I was not aware of the Rockwell blog but am aware of the web site, which I check regularly. They probably are more to the right than Reason or Cato. I was trying to select one representative example from right and left of center.