Arman's stuff
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A Matter of Opinion

(Fri Jun 26 10:46:22 2009)

I was going to write this blag about Star Trek vs. Star Wars, but I'm not really qualified.

I was going to write this blag about Star Trek vs. Star Wars, but I'm not really qualified. I just don't have the right information in my head. I may be able to tell you who would win in a battle of redshirts and storm troopers (the storm troopers), or a Federation Starship class ship against an Imperial Star Destroyer (the Federation, by a long shot), but I can't give you all those juicy little details, like how many watts a standard phaser puts out, or how many shots per minute a blast rifle could fire. I can't tell you the radius of the Death Star. I don't even have blueprints for anything in either universe.

There are those who have such knowledge, of course; there's this paper on why the destruction of the Death Star would wipe out life on Endor, for example. I don't have the time or patience required to do that much study, let alone document it for the rest of humanity.

Even putting that aside, there are countless documents comparing some fraction of Star Trek and Star Wars. So, I decided against blagging about it. Rather, I'm going to blag about why I'm not going to blag about it. No, I'm not metablagging, I'm actually using this as an example. You see, people all over try to write huge technical papers about things they know nothing about. There are ways to do that, of course; otherwise, there would be no way to advance scientifically. It's just that most people don't follow those rules.

Here's a good example. Say someone was speeding, trying to get their dying relative to the hospital. A police car pulls him over, realizes why he was speeding, and provides a police escort. Once at the hospital, he hands the man a ticket for speeding. Was that legal?

Depending on local laws, it was perfectly acceptable for the officer to give him a ticket. Now, a judge may throw it out, saying that extenuating circumstances allow you to break to rules, but that's a different issue. And therein lies the problem - many people would answer, no, it wasn't legal, citing the fact that it was unfair, even cruel, considering the circumstances.

Likewise, far too many people write long, ranting blogs, or participate in even longer flame wars, bashing Christianity all the while. Statements like "Christians are all a bunch of hypocrites," "the Bible is just full of holes and contradictions," and "religion is the case of [some huge number] of problems in the world" are the norm. the trouble is, these statements aren't well thought out. They aren't even verified, most of the time; it's just assumed that "this is what you believe, so you must be wrong."

I don't disagree that Christians are hypocrites; I can only think of one man who wasn't - Jesus Christ. And I've no doubt that rather a lot of violence is due to religion - Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and atheism are at complete odds, and often those differences erupt in violence. The trouble is that these "facts" are used a sledgehammers, not as logical statements. When I read "Christianity is terrible because religion causes most of the violence in the world," I don't just assume he's wrong - I think of the Christians persecuted for their faith. Not the ones long, long ago, but the ones that today are being stripped of their possessions, their families, even their lives. Of course, this isn't the violence the poster meant. He meant the "Holy wars," or the Spanish Inquisition.

Instead of throwing out dubious "facts" and intentionally inflammatory statements, I wish people would settle down and try to actually think about things.

When I write a blag about time travel or Star Wars or something else equally as silly, I'm not just writing to see my words on a page. I'm practicing exposition; I'm exercising my brain. When I read thought-provoking blogs, for or against anything I believe in, I take time to formulate a few responses, even to the point of looking up data to prove or disprove some of my initial conceptions and bias. When I have an argument, I may not convince the others of my point of view, nor them convince me of theirs, but when it's over, I will go and study my position, trying to mend any holes created, and study their position as well, trying to find a flaw in their logic. I may never even see those people again, but I still gained from the discussion.

The trouble starts when I read a blog or a post somewhere that really rips into Christianity (or, for that matter, Linux). I want to write a response, but I realize that there is no room for rational thought in that kind of setting. Flamewars might help me grow, except that they never bring new information to the table. The same old noise in the same old way. When I hear someone say, "The Bible is full of holes," I want them to point out the holes they've found. And likewise, if someone says, "The Bible says do this," I want them to at least be able to tell me what book to look in. I usually know what to say to the claims people toss into a discussion, but there is no use fighting generalities.

Like today, where I decided not to blag about Star Trek vs Star Wars, I will often decide to refrain from commenting because I simply do not have enough information. Even when I strongly believe that the poster is completely in the wrong, I don't begin a rant and pull well-worn factoids out of the Internet in my own defense. But why are there so many people who refuse to engage their mind? I rant, but I'm willing to have a logical discussion without resorting to personal attacks. There are atheists who rabidly go after Christians, Windows users who rant against Linux users, and even politicians who go up against journalists. And vice versa, of course; I am equally annoyed by Christians and atheists who refuse to follow the rules of debate, and use personal attacks and opinions instead of recognized avenues of argument.

There's a right way, and a wrong way. I could write an essay on why I like Star Wars over Star Trek, and offer many opinions on the subject, and no one could refute me; however, if those opinions are suddenly broadcast as facts, it is no longer an opinion piece, but a lie.

So, for future reference, if you have no facts and figures to back up your statements, saying, "Star Trek is better than Star Wars" is a lie. However, saying, "I think Star Wars is better than Star Trek" is perfectly acceptable.

Not that I'm biased, or anything.

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This blag is tagged: Thoughts, Worldview, All