Thursday, December 18, 2008

The grate debate.

You could blog on Huffington Post about hurricane relief, and somebody will comment, 'What could I possibly learn about hurricane relief from you, you abusive sonofabitch...' "
Alec Baldwin to guest host Joy Behar on Larry King, December 17, 2008, talking about how with some people, everything he says these days is seen through the prism of the infamous voicemail he left for his daughter.

THIS IS AN AMAZING COUNTRY. What we've accomplished in 500-something years! We tend to take it for granted, but if you think about how far we've come
—the things we've invented (in every sense: scientific, political, social, artistic), and the overall quality of life (despite the day-to-day carping of which we're all guilty)it truly is remarkable. As anyone who's watched the NatGeo channel knows, there are regions of Africa, South America and Australia where life today is lived much as it was lived in 1492, and for hundreds or thousands of years before that. (Of course, there are regions of Brooklyn where that applies equally.)

And yet for all of our sophistication and knowledge, our success and savvy...we don't know how to argue.

Let me amend that. We're masterful at arguing. Virtuosos. We just don't know how to discuss anythinghow to debate. The examples I could cite from SHAMblog alone are legion, but I thought it might be more useful (and less likely to kick off another round of he said/she said) if I cited a recent example involving the GM bailout and labor unions.

I was watching TV the other day when a GOP congressman took unions to task for some of what's going on in Detroit. I thought the points he made were eminently reasonable, and not just because I've made similar points on SHAMblog. (Again, the fact that someone makes points similar to those made on SHAMblog doesn't mean that either of us is right. I just felt that there was evidence for the position he took. Just as there was evidence against it.) Understand, he wasn't blaming unions specifically and wholly for the American auto industry's present circumstances. He was merely pointing out that, while unions tend to portray themselves as victims, they do indeed bear some culpability. In particular, he cited CBAs and work rules that prevent cost-cutting and tie management's hands to inefficient practices. In sum, he said, Detroit has become a comedy of errors, a colossal glass house in which no one can afford to throw stones. There's plenty enough blame to go around.

The congressman's remarks didn't go unnoticed. Within hours a UAW spokesman called a press conference and grabbed a mic. There were many legitimate points he could've made in response. He could've talked about forecasting errors, gross miscalculations in planning and design, none of which could be blamed on unionism. He could've talked about excessive executive compensation and outrageous management boondoggles. He could've talked about the general climate of sloppy corporate oversight that afflicted not just the auto industry but much of American manufacturing until quite recently.* He could've even taken the high road, contending that in the end, what happened in Detroit was really no one's fault. He could've said, "Look, America just got caught with its pants down." After all, it wasn't so long ago that Detroit couldn't pump out the SUVs fast enough. The most profitable assembly lines were running 24/7, and corporate strategists were taking the less profitable lines down every nine hours or so to retool for another hot new type of SUV in hopes of sustaining buyer interest: They gave us mega-SUVs, mini-SUVs, crossover SUVs, "green" SUVs**, etc.

Who knew that gas was going to shoot up to $9000-a-gallon and American consumers would have trouble keeping their houses, let alone their cars?

The union spokesman said none of that. He had a half-dozen intelligent, potentially winning rebuttals at his disposal, which he could've used singly or in combination. Instead he demonized the congressman. Made the guy out to be a Fascist union-busting goon-hiring Beltway elitist who didn't have the ball-joints to piss off the GM lobbyists who funded his secret junkets to Majorca.

That's how we "debate" nowadays. We saw this phenomenon achingly on display during the past election season, which left such an acrid taste in my mouth that I hesitate to dredge up the memory for anyone else by mentioning specifics. We simply don't engage on the ideas. We just try to destroy the people who speak them. What's that you say? Barack Obama lacks the qualifications we like to see in our presidents? You racist pig! Thank God you're not running for president; you don't deserve to have an opinion or an asshole! Excuse me, did I hear you correctly? The stats that show women earning less than men for the same work are flawed and misleading? Why, you're a no-good woman-hating misogynist...and you're probably impotent too!

Or
to the excellent point Alec Baldwin makes in the quote at the topdo or say something people don't like in one arena of life, and suddenly they have no use for what you say or do in every other arena of life. You lose all credibility. Baldwin may not win Father of the Year honors. What the hell does that have to do with anything he says about disaster relief or the war in Iraq?

And so it goes.

*
Prior to the mid-90s, manufacturing in the U.S. was anything but "lean."
** Another excellent candidate for the late George Carlin's famous riff on oxymorons.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

This reminds of the "Jane, you ignorant slut" routine from the old SNL. Remember?

Steve Salerno said...

Yes, I remember it well. Doesn't really seem like parody anymore, does it.

RevRon's Rants said...

But Steve, if I don't immediately attribute someone's disagreement with my perspective to a mental/moral/ethical/intellectual defect on their part (or their membership in some malevolent movement), I'm acknowledging that my own ideas might not represent the pinnacle of truth and integrity. Rather than consider such an unacceptable explanation (or - shudder - allow another to consider it), it is essential that I destroy the other person's image as efficiently as possible. That way, the fallibility of my own perspective is overshadowed by the other person's need to defend their own credibility. The quaint idea that dialog is a path to actually expanding one's knowledge and awareness is woefully outmoded. Winning is everything, even if one must win by distraction.

Of course, once the game is on, it inevitably rises to the level of a schoolyard fight, with neener-neeners flying in all directions. Fun, ain't it? :-)

roger o'keefe said...

This is one of your better posts and definitely food for thought. I have to say, the posts lately have been commendable. One of us is getting smarter.

And how can I pass up the opportunity to note that my verif word this morning is "allissa."

Stever Robbins said...

I think it's a shame we've lost the ability to debate. Your example shows something really interesting: each side was great at identifying genuine, real shortcomings of the other side.

Instead of taking a you're right OR I'm right approach, we could decide that we're both right. Then we could investigate our own part in what happened and fix it.

I wrote in my blog a while back about how the finance industry could be held culpable for the subprime meltdown. People complained that I wasn't recognizing the horrible action of the subprime borrowers.

My point, which clearly got missed by the readers, is that you don't need to look at the borrowers. You can look at the lenders and build a very strong case that their failing were both necessary and sufficient to cause the crisis.

Then you can look just at the subprime borrowers. You can see that their failings were necessary (though not sufficient) to cause the problems as well.

Then we can seek to reform both sides.

What we do is take complex situations where everyone contributes to the problem and attempt to think of them as simplistic, black-and-white, us vs. them scenarios. In practice, that doesn't get us the kind of real analysis and change we need.

So instead, it's easier just to do character assassination.

... So let me make sure to go after myself before anyone else does it: ...

I'm such a total jerk for writing this. How could I be so stupid? After all, I mispeled two wurds in this very sentence! Don't listen to me. I suck.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, Stever. I have to concede, though, that you suck in a very insightful way.

The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that Baldwin's point is often the operative one. We are so quick to categorize people--for reasons that may have nothing to do with the issue at hand--and then that categorization determines whether we'll listen to what they have to say on the issue at hand. I think another good example of this is Mike Tyson. The man is clearly unsuccessful at life, having made a mess of just about everything that didn't have to do with boxing (and then punctuating those extracurricular debacles by self-destructing even in the ring, chewing on Holyfield's ear). His relationships with women in particular are troubling. And yet he says some very interesting things, things that border on profound--or would be recognized as such if they were coming out of anyone else's mouth, sans lisp.

Anonymous said...

'And yet he says some very interesting things, things that border on profound'

I grew up in a very abusive environment, it took me many years to sort out the resulting damage and confusion.
A key breakthrough was when I stopped listening to the glib excuses, rationalisations and minimising of the abuser and began to watch the pattern of behaviour. All confusion melted away then.
Abusive behaviour, of all kinds, comes from seriously skewed core values and beliefs.
Once you know what to look for, these core values and beliefs become glaringly obvious in even the most innocuous verbal exchange.

I wouldn't give any credibility to anything that Mike Tyson said. I don't know much about Alec Baldwin but the verbal abuse he dumped on his young daughter tells me far more than I want to know about his core values.

There are plenty of humane, decent non-abusive people on this planet, I'll spend my limited time on this planet listening to those people.

And on the off chance that Mike Tyson might have some profound nugget of wisdom to offer--I'll pass.

My verif word 'hadrat'-- I kid you not.

Steve Salerno said...

But see, Anon (4:42), you're illustrating my point. So you hate or distrust the guy. So what? He can't simply say something that's worth hearing? Let me give you another example. Suppose we have a serial killer who's terrific at math. Just a whiz. Maybe you'd be a bit skeptical of his fondness for murdering people--in fact, let's even have him behead them while they're still alive--but you'd distrust his ability to figure a tip?

I think we inject morality into too many settings where it has no proper business.

RevRon's Rants said...

"He can't simply say something that's worth hearing?"

I might listen to Tyson, but I'd probably want him at gunpoint or chained up. And even if someone that twisted did have some pearls of wisdom, I'd be prone to taking those pearls with a few pounds of salt. Not morality. Just common sense.

For example, what is your initial reaction to any supposed insight that the Proctors and Vitales of the world might offer? Completely open mind? Or both eyebrows raised in suspicion?

Anonymous said...

'But see, Anon (4:42), you're illustrating my point.'

And you are illustrating mine.

You are attempting to divert attention from the serial killer's deplorable core values by lauding his ability with numbers. You are attempting to confuse the issue that I raised.

The serial killer could be the next Einstein, I still would not want him teaching my children. There is a lot more to communication and influence than the bald facts of the teaching curriculum.
That is not about morality, that is about choice. I choose not to expose myself or my children to that type of disingenuous thinking.
If I choose to ignore the possibility that Mike Tyson, Alec Baldwin or your serial killer might have something of value to say, that is also my choice.

This isn't complicated, we can all think for ourselves if we are not too brutalised by the kind of verbal abuse that Alec Baldwin visits on his poor child.

We all have access to what wisdom is available in the world without having to fall back on the dubious thoughts of Mike Tyson.

And just as I wouldn't want a serial killer teaching my child, I wouldn't want a writing teacher pimping out my daughter in the interests of getting a story. This is not about morals, it's about having respect for other human beings.
The serial killer, Mike Tyson and Alec Baldwin have already displayed their total lack of respect for others, you seem to be suggesting that we ignore that and feed these seriously flawed individuals more people to victimise.

Steve Salerno said...

But I think that's wrong, Ron. We should evaluate the remark on its own merits--as if we were reading it in transcript, from an anonymous author, instead of hearing it in its "context" of Mike Tyson or Bob Proctor or whatever.

I don't think the advice offered by the self-help gurus is ridiculous because I think they're ridiculous; I think they're ridiculous because the advice is consistently ridiculous. That said, I will listen to each new utterance with an open mind. Vitale, for example, says a number of things on his blog that really sound almost, well, wise. But he always ends up perverting that wisdom to his larger aims, and in the overall, the good stuff is more than outweighed by the silliness, to my mind.

RevRon's Rants said...

"as if we were reading it in transcript, from an anonymous author, instead of hearing it in its "context..."

Well, given our prior discussions arising from situations right here on your blog, you know that we disagree. I tend to look to the integrity - and indeed, sanity - of an individual in making my decision whether or not to heed their words. Granted, I might miss out on a few educational opportunities along the way, but I'd also miss out on the "opportunity" to be confronted with the less savory side of the individual. Even if by so doing I slightly impede my growth process, it's a choice I consciously make, and (thus far) without regrets. I think it would be too easy to abandon our own common sense for the sake of "inclusiveness" if we discount the importance of the individual's character - and especially their actions - in judging the value of their words.

Steve Salerno said...

Ok, Ron & Anon, I hear what you're saying. But this is what gets me. Think about this very medium; this setting. We are having this discussion in cyberspace, online. Any one of us could BE a serial killer, or have some entirely hidden side that no one is aware of. We could be pedophiles, wife-beaters; if we're female, we could be slowly poisoning our loved ones with trace amounts of arsenic or succinylcholine. The people we know as women could be men, and the men, women. And yet we try to draw intellectual inspiration from the words of our fellow bloggers. If somebody makes a good point--as often happens here on SHAMblog, I'm happy to say--the point stands on its own, regardless of what we know (or more precisely, don't know) about the individual who made the point.

Am I right about this? Or wrong?

Chad Hogg said...

Re: Stever Robbins 10:15

If the failures of lenders is both necessary and sufficient to cause the credit crisis, then the failures of borrowers cannot possibly be necessary. If they were necessary, then the other condition is not actually sufficient.

Sorry to go off-topic, I can't let obvious logical errors go uncorrected.

RevRon's Rants said...

We still base our judgment of the person's words upon the persona they present. Sure, that persona might be false, especially in the case of contributors who insist upon anonymity, but it is what we have to work with. To claim that to be free of any bias toward an individual whose displayed character is despicable constitutes denial, at least in my opinion. Perhaps self-denial, but denial nonetheless.

Steve Salerno said...

But Ron, where are we getting our judgment of that person's persona, except for their words? (We have nothing else to go on here, do we?) I guess we're left with something of a chicken-or-the-egg thing. (This is starting to feel very Chomsky/McLuhanishesque.)

RevRon's Rants said...

"We have nothing else to go on here, do we?"

Isn't the core principle of critical thinking that decisions are made based upon available facts, rather than conjecture? Or, in southern speak, you dance with the one that brung ya'... not with the one you hope to meet.

Steve Salerno said...

All I'm saying, Ron, is that we've had some very good discussions on SHAMblog. We've taken each other's arguments seriously, and responded intelligently and at length. Yet we have no idea who we're really talking to. We're judging the words on their own merits, stripped of the human context (in fact, it's when we get too much into the human context that we run into trouble). Why not do that as a general rule?

RevRon's Rants said...

"Why not do that as a general rule?"

Because I would think that another basic principle of intelligence (not to mention critical thinking) is that we do not selectively ignore facts when making our determinations. Granted, we don't really know the person behind the other keyboard, and are relying upon the persona they offer in their writings. But if we *do* know that someone is a sociopath, user, or worse, I just can't justify overlooking their known character flaws. After all, their perspective is based in - and an expression of - their character.

RevRon's Rants said...

After giving this thread more thought, it occurred to me that my position needs to be qualified/modified somewhat. While I do believe that we need to take a person's character into consideration when considering their words, we also have to be cognizant of the extent to which we tend to demonize those who disagree with us (the original premise, if I recall!).

As you well know, we have both been the target of such demonization on previous discussions. Disagreement as to the aesthetic appeal of a specific genre of popular music was all it took for a contributor to see me as evil incarnate. Any opinion I subsequently offered only served to provide the attacker with more "evidence" that I was part of some widespread cult, bent upon the destruction of everything worthwhile in the world.

I'll admit that it didn't take too much of that kind of response for me to determine that the individual wasn't even looking at me, but at his own issues. And it didn't take too long to figure out that those issues permeated pretty much everything the person offered. So I quit listening, as did quite a few others. It wasn't about placing limits upon our willingness to learn from someone else with whom we disagreed, but rather about choosing not to open ourselves to an obviously virulent pathology whose primary obsession was its own validation and dissemination.

One could posit that by discounting the value of the other person's ideas, we were acting upon our own biases, just as was the person we had rejected. The big difference, as I see it, is that we were reacting to clearly presented data, rather than projections of our own dysfunction. And therein lies the point that I feel needed qualification - If we are to learn from others, yet not be damaged by others' pathology, it would seem imperative that we use our good judgment in deciding not only what ideas to consider embracing, but the presented source of those ideas, as well.

We'll never be completely objective, but we do need to at least make an attempt at objectivity, while balancing that objectivity with our best judgment.

Anonymous said...

Back to the union spokesman and our apparent preference for the Frank Burns school of debate (where "Sez You" is considered a rebuttal): Is it possible the union rep went into ad hominem attack mode, not for want of reasoned responses, but rather because he felt obligated to 'project toughness' on behalf of his constituents?

To me, this is yet further proof that public discourse has increasingly little to do with pursuit of the truth, and a lot to do with the management of impressions. These days, 'the point' is almost beside the point: It is all about posture, and what that connotes.

Steve Salerno said...

What I still don't get here--and I guess I'm coming to the conclusion that it must be me, so I'll give up after this--is: What does the source of an argument have to do with the inherent value or logical integrity of that argument? I go back to my example about math. If we're faced with a complex problem that requires considerable expertise in calculus, does it matter if a useful solution is supplied by, say, Charlie Manson? So he slaughtered (or ordered the slaughter of) more than a half-dozen people. So what? Isn't 5 + 5 still 10?

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 9:55: I think you make an excellent point about the "wider message" for which many spokespeople strive--in this case, projecting a certain toughness. While I agree that sometimes the medium is the message, that's counterproductive in our efforts to encourage meaningful public engagement. It strikes me as unfortunate that we think we can accomplish with surface bravado what we couldn't accomplish with actual ideas. And that, in fact, is the George Bush style of international dialog, where U.S. diplomacy is reduced to "Bring it on!"

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I guess we shops where we figure we're most likely to find the products we want. I wouldn't go to a sex toy shop looking for a book on building more meaningful human relationships. By the same token, I wouldn't go to a church book store looking for a book on the most effective pick-up lines.

If I need tutoring in calculus, I'll be more receptive to information from an individual whose intellectual focus is upon the nuances of the equation, rather than the guy who masterminds wholesale slaughter. But that's just me... :-)

Steve Salerno said...

So if you come upon an idea--inert and stripped of context, just sitting there--before you even read the idea or think about it, you're going to ask yourself, "Where did this idea come from?" I don't get it.

Also, your philosophy on the matter strikes me as an endorsement, of sorts, for the "I only watch FOX News" or "I only read the New York Times" style of media consumerism, where people "shop" for the information they want, couched solely in the terms they want it couched. But that's just me. ;)

And now--indeed--having lied about this earlier--I'll let others have the last word(s). Really. I will.

RevRon's Rants said...

"before you even read the idea or think about it, you're going to ask yourself, "Where did this idea come from?" I don't get it."

You present a different scenario here than what we've been discussing, Steve. You describe stumbling upon information in a vacuum, where the "argument" has (to my way of seeing it) been about the amount of credibility we give to ideas expressed by people we know to be sociopaths. While I would certainly at least consider a viewpoint offered by someone about whom I have no other information, if I know that person to be deranged or even seriously deluded, my opinion of their offerings would certainly be affected by that knowledge. Again, it's about considering *all* available information.

I realize that we disagree here, and that's all right. I'll just write it off to your membership in an evil, politically correct cult that probably rapes goats as part of its initiation ceremony. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

It's always consensual, Ron.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

As far as I can tell, the source of the argument has nothing whatsoever to do with the inherent value or logical integrity of an argument.

That said, a basic tenet of critical thinking is, "consider the source" - something other respondents have clearly done, and they have found the source lacking.

Perhaps this precept should be amended to read, "consider the source, but judge on the merits."

Which reminds me of something the late Richard Feynman once said:

"It doesn't make any difference how beautiful your guess is, how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong."

Conversely, if it agrees with experiment, it's right - regardless of the source.

This same general principle applies, I think, to arguments: They either have inherent value and logical integrity, or they don't, and we should not let our judgment of the person become our judgment of the point.

Easier said than done.

Your observation of Mike Tyson's occasional near-profundity (and my observation of my frequent near-stupidity) should serve to remind us that, "even a broken watch is right twice a day."

Or at least it can be . . .

Steve Salerno said...

"Consider the source...but judge on the merits"?

RevRon's Rants said...

Anon 11:09 - "even a broken watch is right twice a day."

Good points, anon. Obviously, I do choose to consider the source, and weigh the validity of the points offered by the source itself. By the same token, I prefer to wear a watch that is *reasonably* accurate all the time, rather than one that is absolutely accurate at two minute points, and grossly inaccurate the rest of the time.

Perhaps with the benefit of something akin to a Vulcan mind-meld, I'd manage more complete objectivity in discerning the value of information. But then again, I don't think even Mr. Spock would ignore any data that was available. It would just seem... illogical. :-)

Elizabeth said...

if we're female, we could be slowly poisoning our loved ones with trace amounts of arsenic or succinylcholine

What kind of an offensive, anti-women, and antiquated thinking is that? It's time to step out of the Victorian era already, please. Women do not have to resort to slow and inefficient ways to rid themselves of pesky relatives, nowadays they can just find a gullible man to do the job for them, quickly and efficiently. Sheesh...

Anyway, just for the record, I'm a 70-year-old hirsute man who has worked on his social awareness during long years spent in prison for just the kind of a crime I've mentioned above. Hope that helps put my words on this blog in the proper context.

Anonymous said...

Since we're talking about debating and discussing and how much stock to put in people's ideas, here's something I don't understand. I don't always agree with Steve either but I get the impression some people come here for the express purpose of picking apart everything he says. It's like "it's a new day, let's see what Steve wrote so I can tell him why he's wrong about everything and a horrible person besides". I don't understand that mentality. Why bother? Is that fun for you? Is that your mission in life, to find places you can barge in and flame the person up and down for everything they say? Go find a blog where you agree with what they say, especially in light of how some of you say you only trust people you already agree with anyway. Someone explain this to me, I really would like to know. If Steve is so mistaken about everything in life then like the old saying goes, don't let the door hit you in the ass.

Steve Salerno said...

Re the comment at 11:30:

Thanks Mom.

Elizabeth said...

It's like "it's a new day, let's see what Steve wrote so I can tell him why he's wrong about everything and a horrible person besides".

Aw, nah, Mrs. Salerno, he is not a horrible person (though he is wrong just about everything -- but we still like him. Most of the time.)

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Pardon the ambiguity of, "consider the source, but judge on the merits."

I was speaking to the fact that individuals are sources of information as well as arguments, information that has varying degrees of reliability.

For instance, that the source of a medical study is a lobby for Big Pharma, is worth considering. It should prompt questions about the methodologies involved, and impel us to seek independent sources to corroborate or refute the claims of the publisher.

This is the sense in which I mean, "consider the source" - which, in retrospect, is a different matter than the subject of your initial post. This is not the oxymoron it appears to be, as I am not suggesting that claims should be accepted or rejected, based on their source.

Sorry for wandering afield . . .

Anonymous said...

"I'm a 70-year-old hirsute man"

Elizabeth, I've always suspected that. But where did you get the picture?

Elizabeth said...

My 2 (probably redundant now) cents:

Anon (from the merit and source post) says,

This is the sense in which I mean, "consider the source" - which, in retrospect, is a different matter than the subject of your initial post.

I would say it's not that much different, really. And this (consider the source, but judge on the merits -- as well as the other way around) is a good point, I think.

I am not suggesting that claims should be accepted or rejected, based on their source.

In my opinion, it depends on the claims and the source. It may not be wise to heed parenting advice from, say, Dave Koresh. Such advice should be rejected, based on our knowledge of the source. Though if one looks for tips on how to start a cult, he just may be the right person to ask.

Source does matter, though how much and in what ways, that depends on the nature of the information it provides and its context.

Anonymous said...

'Someone explain this to me, I really would like to know. If Steve is so mistaken about everything in life then like the old saying goes, don't let the door hit you in the ass.'

I'll take a crack at an explanation.

Steve poses subjects for debate on his blog. One hopes that he is not so dripping with arrogance that he expects every respondent to sycophantically agree with his POV.
Besides, it is quite boring for a person with a functioning brain to have every idea greeted as a pearl of wisdom.
Good debate involves the picking apart of given ideas to test them and to see if they hold up under scrutiny. It is always helpful to get the different perspective of different points of view on one's own ideas.

Debate rarely changes deeply held beliefs but it can add information, points to consider, uncover logical inconsistencies.

In a good debate all participants benefit. The history of mankind as a thinking animal is a history of debate. Ideas change, smart people accept this.

Elizabeth said...

But where did you get the picture?

Oh, that? That's the woman who hired me to do her wet job. She may look gentle and innocent, but don't be fooled -- she is one cas.... you know.
;)

P.S. The verif word is light. Hope that suffices (for the info, source and context here)? :)

Elizabeth said...

Debate rarely changes deeply held beliefs but it can add information, points to consider, uncover logical inconsistencies.

Amen, Anon.

Elizabeth said...

Completely off-topic, so my apologies to all for the detour; but this news story is worth sharing (and talking about, too, imo). The infamous Milgram experiment, where average people were asked to deliver painful and eventually deadly electric shocks to unseen strangers, has been repeated -- with even worse results. Here is the story:

Shocking study finds most will torture if ordered

By Maggie Fox
Fri Dec 19, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some things never change. Scientists said on Friday they had replicated an experiment in which people obediently delivered painful shocks to others if encouraged to do so by authority figures.

Seventy percent of volunteers continued to administer electrical shocks -- or at least they believed they were doing so -- even after an actor claimed they were painful, Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University in California found.

"What we found is validation of the same argument -- if you put people into certain situations, they will act in surprising, and maybe often even disturbing, ways," Burger said in a telephone interview. "This research is still relevant."


Full text:
http://tinyurl.com/4meddt

RevRon's Rants said...

"people obediently delivered painful shocks to others if encouraged to do so by authority figures..."

Hell, Elizabeth. They'd do it just for fun. I seem to remember an episode of Cheers where Cliffy was fitted with a shock collar (for behavior mod), and Carla got hold of the remote. Now *that* was entertainment! :-)

literary lioness said...

"if we're female, we could be slowly poisoning our loved ones with trace amounts of arsenic or succinylcholine."

Steve, don't give me away!

I agree with you about this subject. It always cracks me up when people get upset, because someone will not "reveal" their true identitiy online! I know in my case, I would probably be fired and do not have the luxury of being "me."

Like I always say, "I can take wisdom from Satan." If a person states something that I find truth in, I do not care too much about the source. That is different than being best friends with them or getting romantically involved with them.

Of course when it comes to my children, I will try to make educated decisions about their schooling; yet I know that a lot of good teachers are ethicallly challenged. One of my favorite teachers in high school married his student! He "swore" he did not remember her from class, but I found that hard to believe. He is still teaching to this day.

Actually, one of the members of my city's board of supervisors made passes at me when I was a senior in high school! He pontificates about the lack of morality, etc on pretty daily basis too. He will go back to teaching when he gets off the board next year. I have a feeling a few of his female students in the future will be getting invitations to his "lecture series."

Anonymous said...

To me, a lot of it comes down to moral conviction. Some people believe that ideas are ideas, the "all ideas are created equal" school of thought. And some people, and I'm one of them, believe that certain things are simply right and other things are simply wrong. If your argument is anchored in a strong sense of what is ethical, it is very hard not to judge people whose ideas, if implemented, would have a serious corrupting effect on the moral truths you hold dear.