Good rules for people who hate rules

b!x at Furious Nads! had been covering the teacher in Sisters, Oregon who was fired for teaching Creationism in public school science class. He mentioned that one EMALman was questioning b!x about his coverage.

I took a look, and decided to jump in to answer at least one of EMALman’s questions. After two tries, it seemed obvious that the discussion was going nowhere so I politely declined to continue the discussion. I didn’t want to get angry over the massive amounts of miscommunication going on (on both sides, admittedly) and figured I’d call it off. I didn’t want to troll his site, I only wanted to present my own point of view. But EMALman’s follow-up questions showed that I would have to literally start from the beginning of my philosophy, which would take waaaay longer than just a comment or two. Not worth my time, and though he may find it interesting to discuss, I’d rather put those posts on my own site, actually.

At any rate, keeping all that in the back of my mind, I read in this week’s Ask Marilyn column some tips on keeping political discussions friendly:

Rule No. 1: Don’t expose weaknesses and flaws in the political beliefs of others. It provokes defensiveness, because everyone believes they are right; it makes people mad, because everyone hates to be called wrong; and people who are both defensive and mad are going to be ready to quarrel. Plus, showing people the error of their ways doesn’t make your ways right.

Rule No. 2: Explain the positive basis and evidence for your own political beliefs. People are more likely to adopt new beliefs than to drop old ones; also, people are more receptive to other ideas when not annoyed, and they will listen longer to pleasant, well-grounded comments and points. Plus, your beliefs needn’t be “right”; they need only to be a better choice.

Marilyn vos Savant is apparently the smartest person in the world – based on her scores on several I.Q. tests. I like her take on things, and in this instance I think she’s hit on a brilliant way for people to talk about so-called “touchy” subjects and still keep things civil. In spite of her disclaimer I think this would work for religious discussions, too – except for really aggressive evangelical-types, who would tend to not see a difference between talking about the benefits for themselves and their ideas of the benefits for others… though perhaps Rule No. 1 would mitigate that somewhat.