Discussion

September 5, 2013

It’s been a bit since I pontificated on discourse. (I know PhysioProffe really misses these types of blather.) I do recommend you read those prior comments.

For today though, a more conciliatory note.

While we might ferociously stick to our position, talking points and arguments in certain scenarios, if we really genuinely want to advance a discussion this can be unwise.

It is essential to drop your position and pugnacity for a second or two and really, genuinely consider where the other person is coming from.

To walk the proverbial mile in their shoes.

And above all else, to think hard about how your stance and opinions appear to other people. This requires including how they perceive you instead of how you perceive yourself.

It can also help to credit the other person’s concerns as if they were as important to them as your concerns are to you. Because chances are this is indeed the case.

I find myself in yet another knock down argument with a guy who, I am pretty sure, I share a lot of fundamental concerns with. On the face of it.

Yet I am convinced this guy is almost pathologically unable to genuinely recognize and consider the viewpoint and circumstances of other people.

There are generally two reasons for this.

First, a sort of overweening personal arrogance that, I am sad to report, is endemic to academics. This is the sort of arrogance born of a lifetime of being smarter than most other people, burnished by happening into a position of (modest, this is academics, mind) power in which many people do not challenge you. Underscored by a profession in which, despite the credit being supposed to come from the work you have done, obsessively views accomplishments as the subsidiary outcome of personal worth.

I don’t think, after a few go-rounds with this fine chap, that this is the problem.

This leaves me with the second problem. Wherein the inability to budge off talking points, the refusal to see complexity of human trajectories and the blindness to others’ lived experience comes from a theological adherence to a higher calling.

Religion, in essence.

It does funny things to people.

I do my fair share of preaching around this blog. And I do my fair share of sticking to my talking points.

But anyone who has been around long knows that what I’m really addicted to is the differential lived experiences of those of you more or less in the broader envelopes of academics, academic science and particularly the subfields that fall under the broad scope of Biology.

I am addicted to walking the mile in your smelly-arsed shoes folks.

They sure do get huffy when they themselves are the ones being subjected to open peer review.

Open Thread

February 14, 2013

If you just can’t wait for us to get our Scientopia domain back in action…..

The phones are open. (As they used to say, kids. GOML)

Is it just me or does the average “free thought”, skeptical / atheist blog comment thread resemble 20 Jack Russell sized dogs simultaneously attempting to ineffectually hump the same person’s leg?

Open Thred

October 7, 2011

Yeah….

I’m getting bored with current conversations around and about. And I’m not feeling the blog muse.

What do YOU want to talk about?

Innocence

September 26, 2011

As you are probably aware there was a lot of hoopla from the lefty libby dirty hippies in the US and kibitzing OldEuro types on social media because the State of Georgia killed this guy. The reasons are pretty well captured in the accompanying article

Davis has repeatedly said he did not kill MacPhail, and seven out of nine witnesses who gave evidence at his trial in 1991 have recanted or changed their testimony.

No murder weapon was ever found, no DNA evidence or fingerprints tie him to the crime, and other witnesses have since said the murder was committed by another man — a state’s witness who testified against him.

This is not hard to grasp.

I have donated to the Innocence Project because I believe in this part of their mission statement.

The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Now an independent nonprofit organization closely affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.

I did not do so because I oppose capital punishment. As it happens, another unhappy soul was also executed recently, this time in the State of Texas.

Texas executed Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist who was unquestionably guilty of the gruesome dragging death slaying of a black man in 1998.

I intentionally linked to the leftie-libby DFH argument that these are morally and ethically the same events because I disagree. here’s his crux:

The death of James Byrd Jr. — the black man who was tied to the back of a pickup truck in Jasper, Texas and dragged to his death — is shocking to recall, almost 15 years later. His murder is almost unimaginably cruel; it is impossible to read the details without being overcome with anger and revulsion. Yet this is what James Byrd’s sister had to say on the eve of Lawrence Brewer’s execution: “If I saw him face to face, I’d tell him I forgive him for what he did. Otherwise I’d be like him.”

I pay exactly as much attention to victims’ pleas for mercy as I do to their pleas for vengeance. The reason we have a rule of law in the first place is that justice and punishment have to come from a reasonably detached (blind lady justice?), societal point of view. Remember Dukakis and his famous flail on the question of what he would do if his wife were raped? I think Kerry managed to ass that one up too. The real answer Dems should espouse is my answer.

“I’d want to go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. Are you fucking kidding? Anyone would. And given half a chance I damn well would. But there is no place for that sort of gutter, BronzeAge revenge-of-the-powerful jurisprudence in a just society. And THAT is why I support the rule of law.”

But in a democratic society we also meander towards approximations via what is, at root, barely managed democracy. The will of the people, so to speak. And the will of this person is that we, as a society and after due process, execute a guy like Lawrence Brewer. And this asshole too. People like this. maybe this gang of assholes.

But I also think our crime solving and crime convicting systems suck and are tremendously error prone. And have incredibly naked and thoroughly established racial and socio-economic biases.

So I donate to a project that wants to improve that. Even if they do, at root, have goals that are at odds with my support of capital punishment as a valid societal option.