Can I have this fight productively?

Before you read the below: I’m writing about the difficulties of arguing online with people with whom you really disagree, so I want to mention a rule I’ve tried to adopt when I read an aggravating post. Try to read something else that person has written (preferably substantial) before you respond to the point that irked you, so you’ve got more accurate sense of their beliefs (the better to engage with productively) and your experience of them isn’t solely confined to them-as-antagonist (the better to act with a little human dignity). In that vein, here’s the link to the conversion story essay of the blogger who set me off below.

The other day, I got sent a link to a post on Accepting Abundance (the blog of a Catholic convert and former chemist) that had me in full on someone-is-WRONG-on-the-internet, bashing-my-head-into-walls mode. Stacy had written a post expressing frustration that she couldn’t take her kids to the park without running into same sex couples, to the point where she feels under assault when she leaves the house. Let me pull her first paragraph:

The same people who say I shouldn’t impose my morality on them, are imposing immorality on me and my children to the point that I literally have a hard time even leaving my home anymore to do something as simple as visit the park. And this is freedom?

I disagree with her on a couple of levels (morality of homosexuality, the extent to which a conservative minority can legitimately expect others to respect their strictures, etc), but I’ve been stuck trying to come up with a constructive way to respond and I’d be interested in the thoughts of readers on either side (advice from people who agree with me, cautions from those on Stacy’s side). What I suspect is that this is impossible to do at all over the internet, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise.

Here’s the problem: I think Stacy and I start way too far apart to be able to talk constructively without a decent amount of trust that the other person is engaging in good faith. To stick with a difficult argument with someone on the other side, it’s a big help if you know them personally and respect their judgment on enough other problems that it feels a little strange that you disagree here. These are the circumstances in which I’ve had the most productive conversations with people I deeply disagree with, and neither of them are present when I take issue with a blog post. (Not to mention that long, complex discussions are best done in person, where it’s easier to smooth over misunderstandings and ought to be held over pizza).

The gulf between us feels a bit like the kind of conceptual gap Eliezer Yudkowsky is trying to bridge in his Archimedes’s Chronophone thought experiment. In this hypothetical, you can talk to Archimedes and try and provide him with information that will improve his civilization, but you can’t say anything too anachronistic for him to understand. To wit:

You cannot suggest, for example, that women should have the vote. Maybe you could persuade Archimedes of Syracuse of the issue, and maybe not; but it is a moot point, the chronophone will not transmit the advice. Or rather, it will transmit the advice, but it will come out as: “Install a tyrant of great personal virtue, such as Hiero II, under whose rule Syracuse experienced fifty years of peace and prosperity.” That’s how the chronophone avoids transmitting overly anachronistic information – it transmits cognitive strategies rather than words. If you follow the policy of “Check my brain’s memory to see what my contemporary culture recommends as a wise form of political organization”, what comes out of the chronophone is the result of Archimedes following the same policy of looking up in his brain what his era lauds as a wise form of political organization.

In other words, my conversation breaks down if I abstract it out to “Parents have a duty to protect their children from baleful influences” or even “Everyone has a right/duty to inject themselves into the public conversation about morality.” We agree on the cognitive strategy, in Yudkowsky’s phrasing, but we differ enough about the facts on the ground that Stacy thinks her children should be shielded from me, an out bisexual, and I fear for the children raised in a culture that sees my existence as an existential threat.

If I don’t know how to resolve the situation, I think I can spot the least-good outcome. It’s the one where Stacy does retreat to her house and possibly withdraws from her blog because of the magnitude of the threat she perceives. There were a couple semi-serious posts by Catholic commenters who wished they could retreat to a Catholic ghetto. Ideological homogenous communities frighten me. They have a tendency to calcify, they cut the people in them off from outside critiques or questions, and, in the event that the group is in the right, they cut off the rest of the world from a hard but true teaching. Everyone is poorly served. These communities are not hypothetical. It’s essential to find a way of not cutting people (and their children!) off from the public square. Part of that requires that, although we may be repulsed and/or frightened by the opinions of others, we don’t question their right to try and persuade others.

Finally, I do think the whole thing is another good case study in why nastiness, scorn, and crudity is a terrible engagement strategy. The pro-gay commenters who cursed at Stacy and the ones who sent her messages telling her they hoped she’d die didn’t buy some strategic victory for the price of suppressing their compassion and regard for another human being. Stacy’s followup makes it clear that she, like many Christians, welcomes the opportunity to suffer for her faith.  What those commenters did do was to feed into the stereotype of atheists online and off as vulgar Furies. For people who are enmeshed in Christian culture and community, the internet may be the main place they come into contact with atheists, and this kind of response doesn’t create the impression that atheists are good without God (cf Gilbert’s comment about being reinforced in his Christianity by the tone of atheist fora).  If no one has a likely strategy for doing good, we might be best off passing over in silence or just leaving a polite comment noting our disagreement.

 

One last note: After a whole post about trying to have productive internet discussion, I didn’t want to leave Stacy without a right of response, so I’ve emailed her to invite comment. However, I can see she’s been inundated by responses, so don’t interpret silence as a refusal to engage.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • t e whalen

    I might try engaging with her starting with her own basic assumptions. What is her issue? Her issue is that she doesn't want to answer awkward questions from her children about homosexuals. you might suggest answers to those questions. "Q: Mommy, why does Petunia have two mommies? A: Oh my darling, some children, instead of being lucky enough to have both a mommy and a daddy, live with other people who love them very much. Sometimes children live with just a daddy, or with their grandparents, or with their two maiden aunts who never married, like in that book we read. Every child deserves a mommy and a daddy, but not every child gets to have both." See, no problem.Additionally, you could point out that if not for the sodomy, and any potential issues related to the conception of the child, to adopt and parent a child is a laudable and praiseworthy act. Every parent, gay or otherwise, models some behaviors to a child that aren't ideal.You could try to refocus her on what's best for the children of these homosexual couples. Surely, she doesn't think they should be forcibly taken away from the only parents they've ever known. Surely, she doesn't think they should never see a normal family. Surely, those small beautiful children deserve to have friends from considerate, generous, Catholic families.

  • http://deusdiapente.blogspot.com J. Quinton

    I read the same post a couple of days ago. To me it seems as though there are two issues here. One is having a conversation, and the second is actually trying to convince her of something.If you want to convince someone of something, the first thing you have to learn how to do is communicate with them; even better if they want to learn how to communicate with you. Similar to Yudkowsky's chronophone, you are going to have to find some way of having common terminology when talking to each other. If not, you're just going to be talking past each other. Trying to find out someone's fundamental premises/priors is a good way to start out learning their "cultural language".There might be too huge of a gulf between her worldview and its "cultural language" and your own to have a meaningful dialogue. It might wind up as a two way monologue, but I don't think it would be a constructive dialogue. It would probably take someone who shares a bit more of her worldview but slightly to the left of her own in order to get through to her.This is just for basic communication and understanding. To actually argue something effectively, you would have to find something that she values – in her own worldview – and show how it is being transgressed by her offense at open homosexuality. This tactic presupposes the ability to communicate effectively with her.So I think that, from this vantage point, it would probably be useless to try to convince her of something. It might be fruitful to try to understand her worldview better – even more useful if she attempted to understand yours – but that would probably be as far as it would go.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07986833157160434927 David Wagner

    While this is still a useful hypothetical, this particular case has progressed to a different point. In view of the amount of mostly-anonymous hate-mail she has received (and indeed you allude to this), the "Stacy question" is no longer "How can we convince Stacy to chill about same-sex PDAs," but, "Is this any longer a country in which it is safe to express views that the gay/atheist coalition disagrees with?"I suppose treating Stacy like a dim 7-year-old who still believes in Santa Claus, and therefore, "trying to understand" her when you assume she isn't capable of understand you, is better than treating her as a dangerous aggressor. But do you think she would welcome patronization, just because it's better than death threats? Why should she?Control of public spaces is not a minor issue, and it coils like an invisible serpent through discussion of gay-related issues. All discussants know it's there. That's why, when Barney Frank insists that his marrying his husband doesn't affect anyone else's marriage, you know he knows he's lying. Your community either backs up your family's beliefs, or it doesn't, and if it doesn't, it increasingly makes war on them. Neutrality is a myth, or did I learn all that Frankfurt School stuff for nothing? The Amish/Kiryas Joel option is problematic, but its availability is vital.It comes back to the old how-libertarian-are-you joke:"Do you believe in the right to fornicate in public parks?""Oh NO, sir — I don't believe in public parks!"Besides libertarian consistency, this joke also makes the serious point that private ordering cancels out a world of culture wars. No one seems to be standing down in the culture wars; instead, we're at the it'll-be-short, they'll-be-home-by-Christmas stage. If we want that to be the case, then maximizing private ordering would certainly be helpful. But it won't solve everything: public space exists, as the Greeks knew. Further casualties, then, could be limited by self-imposed rules that limit PDAs for everyone, and that rule out hate-mail in comment boxes, especially when anonymous. But I suppose that's as Utopian as private ordering.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    @David Wagner: That problem is a big part of why I doubt I can have the conversation productively. I am, after all, trying to do exactly what Stacy accuses me of: undermine the moral order she's teaching her children by being as visible and common in the public sphere as possible. (I threw in the fact that I'm bisexual in the post not because it was germane to the question, but because I wanted to be present as not-straight). When I say she might not be able to have a conversation with me, I don't mean to patronizing. I mean that she has little reason to trust me as someone who is engaged in a charm/awareness campaign.Now, I would argue the way we get past that is by recognizing that everyone is always maneuvering for their side/culture/etc to show well and win converts in the public sphere, so it's not exactly underhanded, but, generally, people still see this as quasi-espionage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08572976822786862149 Darwin

    If I don’t know how to resolve the situation, I think I can spot the least-good outcome. It’s the one where Stacy does retreat to her house and possibly withdraws from her blog because of the magnitude of the threat she perceives. There were a couple semi-serious posts by Catholic commenters who wished they could retreat to a Catholic ghetto. Ideological homogenous communities frighten me. They have a tendency to calcify, they cut the people in them off from outside critiques or questions, and, in the event that the group is in the right, they cut off the rest of the world from a hard but true teaching. Everyone is poorly served. In a sense, though, doesn't everyone want a homogeneous society on certain axis? Just wanting a tolerant society means, by definition, not wanting people in that society whose beliefs are intolerant. So, for example, the desire for a polite and tolerant public square pretty much means not wanting the Westboro Baptists around. We may make certain necessary compromises of principle in regards to liberty and say that the state needs to give all people certain latitude to express their beliefs, but I would imagine that no one here actually wants Fred Phelps around (unless he has a total change of heart) — certainly I don't. Humans are fairly tribal creatures. I think there's a great deal of good to be found in suppressing that to an extent. That involves a certain amount of putting up with seeing things that you consider wrong (or just that you don't like seeing) and a certain amount of being consciously private of parts of one's life that one knows other people are likely to be uncomfortable with. But both of those involve a fair amount of stress at times, and I think at root most of us are happiest when we aren't frequently exposed in unguarded moments to things that we find wrong or distasteful. This can lead to insularity, but even the most insular groups generally have to come up with some range of variation within a spectrum (though perhaps a much tighter spectrum than the wider society) or they will splinter and self destruct in a pretty short period of time.–DarwinCatholic

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08016230732925516069 Gilbert

    First, the elephant in the ballroom is that it is very clearly the liberal/gay side that is misbehaving here. It is also not OK to be part of a good cop/bad cop routine in the public square. So unless it starts out with a strong and unequivocal condemnation of the virtual liberal/gay mob we have seen here, no liberal comment on this situation is even worthy of consideration. And that condemnation should not be based exclusively or even primarily on strategy arguments like the ones Leah offered, but on such behavior being flat-out evil, period. That of course requires the realization that bigotry, hatred, and intolerance aren't a specialty of either side.Second, t e whalen spectacularly misses the point. It's not that answering childrens questions is awkward for the parents.It's that children have and should have a partial understanding of adult relationships. The awkward question is a sign that that partial understanding has failed them and they now need to be told things they might not be ready to deal with.For example t e whalen's sample dialog wouldn't necessarily end there. If I may offer a possible continuation:Q: But the other day you explained baby's grow in the mommy's belly!A: Yes.Q: So how can Petunia have two mommies?A: Actually only one is her real mommy. The other one she calls mommy too, because she does mommy things for her.Q: But she didn't come from her belly?A: No, she didn't.Q: So basically they're lying?Now here comes the zinger: The only honest answer left is "yes". So now you either make the child an accomplice by telling them to lie to Petunia. Or in the alternative the child will next ask Petunia which is the real and which the pretend mommy. Then they will have a kid fight over the definition of "mommy". Whereupon both the real and the pretend mommy will raise a ruckus about bigotry. Because what they meant by "explaining" it to the kids was actually lying to them.And that doesn't even cover the actual displays of affection. In which case it might be more like this:Q: Mommy, mommy, why are those guys making kissy-faces?A: Some men actually do mommy-daddy-things with other men. They shouldn't, but they do.Q: But you told me you need a mommy and a daddy to make a kid!A: Right, they can never make kids. That's part of why they shouldn't do it. Q: But how can that work? They have two penises and no vagina!Whereupon the parent can lie or refuse to answer (but the question will be back next time they visit the park) or tell the kid something the knowledge of which in a toddler would not so long ago have counted as evidence of child-abuse.It's not about the parents, it's about the kids being aggressively sexualized before they are ready for it. Third, other peoples kids are not part of the public sphere. Constant "maneuvering for their side/culture/etc to show well and win converts in the public sphere" is what adults do among one another. What they should do in relation to kids is support the parents authority. You might balance that support against other rights, and that's how you might justify homosexual displays of affection in public parks. But if undermining the moral order someone is teaching their children is the goal, well that seems underhanded because it is.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Adam Lee

    You're absolutely right, Leah, that it's almost impossible to communicate with someone whose assumptions are so different from yours. That said, one conversational strategy that I often find useful is to import that person's assumptions into a context where they themselves would find them problematic. For example, if I were talking to Stacy, I'd offer her the following thought experiment:"All I wanted to do was to peacefully take my child to the park to play on the swings, and what do I see? Catholics, fondling their rosaries and crucifixes and pawing at pictures of saints in public! They were actually on their knees, praying, just as if there weren't people all around to see them! I want to raise my child to be an atheist, and it offends me that these Catholics are trampling on my rights as a parent by displaying their superstitious rubbish in public and forcing me to answer awkward questions about what those weirdo strangers are doing. Well, this sort of aggressive provocation won't stand with me. I won't go to these public places any more if I can't do it without having to tolerate this mumbo-jumbo Catholic nonsense. It's sick and disgusting that these people want to be accepted and even praised for who and what they are."If she felt outraged by this sentiment, as she'd have every right to do, I'd ask her to articulate what about it she found objectionable. If she was able to do that, I'd point out that this is the same reason we feel outraged when we hear her applying the same reasoning to gay couples. It might not work, but it's a start.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Adam Lee

    @Gilbert – Based on your comment, I'd have to conclude that if my wife and I adopted a child, you'd say we weren't her "real" parents, and if we told her otherwise, you would declare that we were "lying". Well, if that's your standard, I reject it as wrong and inadequate. Many of us don't think that parenthood is solely defined by which vagina you entered the world through. A parent is someone who performs the duties of a parent: giving a child love and support, teaching them, caring for them, disciplining them, giving them what they need to thrive. That said, I think your comment offers an inadvertent insight into Stacy's mindset: she does consider parenthood completely defined by vaginas, and therefore the reason she feels uncomfortable around gay parents is because she has no conceptual framework to explain the nature of their relationship to herself or her children. Well, it's not those gay couples' fault that they don't conform to her rigid and archaic expectations. What Stacy's really afraid of, I think, is having to explain the existence of different worldviews to her children. (One commenter on her post wrote, "Children should never, ever have to deal with the fact that homosexuality even exists".) Well, that's the price of living in a free society: we can't control what other people do even when we disagree with it. I don't get to demand that Catholics leave their rosaries home when they go out or that they not pray in a public park; similarly, Catholics don't get to demand that gay families not act like families in public."It's not about the parents, it's about the kids being aggressively sexualized before they are ready for it."During the civil rights era, interracial couples kissing or holding hands in public was seen as an aggressive, outrageous, provocative act. (It still is seen that way in far too many places.) That's just because it's the privilege of the majority to see your own way of life as natural, normal and acceptable, while the behaviors of minorities are weird, provocative and outrageous. The only thing this outlook is truly revealing of is the bigotry that resides in the mind of the speaker, as both Stacy's post and your own demonstrate quite well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11111405959451703182 PhysicistDave

    Darwin wrote:>I would imagine that no one here actually wants Fred Phelps around (unless he has a total change of heart) — certainly I don't.Well, I do.I know that a lot of Christians, in private conversations, express views similar to Phelps’.Phelps and his moronic cronies just have the chutzpah to express these views in public.Good for them! Let the public see what a lot of hard-core Christians really do believe.Needless to say, I am not comparing Stacy (or Leah) to Phelps.Dave Miller in Sacramento

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08572976822786862149 Darwin

    Adam Lee,I can't speak for Stacy, but if some atheist went and wrote a fairly mild mannered complain on her blog about having seen a bunch of Catholic out on a liturgical procession or something, I for one would have no problem with that. I certainly wouldn't try to get a could hundred other Catholic to come cuss the atheist out and offer death threats. From my point of view, if someone sees something that I'm doing in public, doesn't like it, does nothing to annoy me, but instead goes and sounds off to theoretically like minded people on the internet, I really have no problem with it.I don't expect people who find my beliefs or lifestyle repulsive or ridiculous to like me — I just expect them to leave me alone to my face.Like I said, I think most people are much more comfortable living in a tribe of those who are at least compatible, if not likeminded, than really having to confront what everyone thinks of them.PhysicistDave,I mean literally "around" as in: in one's social set, on one's street. I suppose if you really enjoy conflict, you might enjoy having Phelps live down the street from you and constantly stage idiotic displays on your street. Personally, I'd rather he didn't exist at all, but if he does, I'd rather he stay far the heck away from me, because I think he spews hatred and falsehood and I don't like having hatred an falsehood spewed in my vicinity. Though, hey, I got to say, we're in total agreement that Phelps and his cronies are moronic. Common ground, eh?

  • t e whalen

    @Gilbert> t e whalen spectacularly misses the point.Well, I'm happy to have done something spectacular, at least. Perhaps I failed to clearly state the point that I was trying to get across. I think we agree that "children have and should have a partial understanding of adult relationships", and my point, more fully expressed, is that parents, even in the face of really awkward questions, don't need to lie, refuse to answer, or tell the kid something they don't need to know yet. Tell the kid what they need to know and move on. All children ask awkward questions. If it's not about two dudes holding hands, it's about what those two dogs are doing, why that woman's panties are showing, what Santa Claus does the rest of the year, why Landon's dad is in Iraq, why my fish died, why Billy's mommy and daddy don't live together, what happened to Landon's dad's legs, or why our Baptist neighbors said we're going to hell. There's some unpleasant stuff out in the world and unless she intends to fully shelter her kids from *everything*, she can just throw Heather and her two mommies on the enormous pile of adult stuff that her kids don't need to have fully explained to them right away. Geez.You move swiftly from "but what will we tell kids" to "uh oh, I just got accused of being a bigot by some homosexuals". Do you read the problem as one primarily of toleration? Are you willing to put up with gay PDA in a public park if the gays are willing to refrain from calling you a bigot when you tell your kids that those two men are morally disordered? I get that you'd rather they didn't display their lifestyles in front of kids (or at all). I guess back when gay people had to worry about getting beaten to death for holding hands in a public park, you didn't have this kind of problem. I assume, since you're a Christian, you're not advocating a return to those days. What social and/or legal mechanism do you propose to replace it? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, I'm trying to understand how this works for you.

  • - Blamer ..

    Yes you can (fight productivity) if you can compell the bistanders who pick a side, to pick your side.Debaters will dig their heals in. Let them. It's for others to work out which way their pendulum is tipping.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11111405959451703182 PhysicistDave

    Darwin wrote to me:>I mean literally "around" as in: in one's social set, on one's street. I suppose if you really enjoy conflict, you might enjoy having Phelps live down the street from you and constantly stage idiotic displays on your street.Oh, I am pretty sure that I would enjoy having Mad Fred live on my street, though I am also pretty sure Fred would not enjoy the experience.Three or four decades ago, when the Hare Krishnas and LaRouchies used to infest the nation’s airports, they were the guys trying to escape me. One LaRouchie even threatened to hit me when I hung around and told each of his prospective marks what he was up to. He didn’t actually hit me, of course: LaRouchies are weenies, and I made clear that if he did hit me, I’d break his neck.No, I enjoy using guys like Crazy Fred (and young Gilbert and little Brian around here) to publicly illustrate mental pathology. They, alas, often find the experience less than enjoyable.Dave

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08016230732925516069 Gilbert

    @Adam LeeDuring the civil rights era, interracial couples kissing or holding hands in public was seen as an aggressive, outrageous, provocative act. (It still is seen that way in far too many places.) That's just because it's the privilege of the majority to see your own way of life as natural, normal and acceptable, while the behaviors of minorities are weird, provocative and outrageous. The only thing this outlook is truly revealing of is the bigotry that resides in the mind of the speaker, as both Stacy's post and your own demonstrate quite well. As for me, well thanks for the compliment and I can assure you my present view of you is equally sympathetic.As for Stacy and given the context you are blaming the victim here and that is unacceptable.A response to your somewhat more substantive points and those of t e whalen will be forthcoming eventually but I need to cool down before writing it.

  • Anonymous

    @Gilbert – Many members of my family were adopted. Is our whole family a lie? Should my siblings have been left in an orphanage so as to avoid the possibility of any child ever asking how those white grownups could be the parents of those brown children?Your crudely biological understanding of parenthood is inconsistent with both my personal experience and the norms of our society. It seems that in an effort to stimgatize gays, you've had to adopt simplistic and unsupportable definitions.

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    Yeah, no Gilbert, there actually *are* options beyond:A.) CatholicB.) lying

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    *That's why, when Barney Frank insists that his marrying his husband doesn't affect anyone else's marriage, you know he knows he's lying.*No, you know he *doesn't actually know any such thing* because *he ISN'T lying.*What was that quote by Orwell? Something like "The Catholic and the communist are alike in this: Neither can believe that their adversaries are both honest AND intelligent."

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    @Gilbert: *Third, other peoples kids are not part of the public sphere. Constant "maneuvering for their side/culture/etc to show well and win converts in the public sphere" is what adults do among one another. What they should do in relation to kids is support the parents authority.You might balance that support against other rights, and that's how you might justify homosexual displays of affection in public parks. But if undermining the moral order someone is teaching their children is the goal, well that seems underhanded because it is."Okay, there's like 6 problems with this. But the biggest thrust is that *I don't really disagree with ANY of it* and yet, somehow, I am totally opposed to you.Here goes:1.) "Third, other peoples kids are not part of the public sphere."Great. Well, we've been trying to get conservatives and Christians to accept this idea for many a decade now. But the Texas textbook people and Kansas creationists and Pennsylvania "Intelligent Design" folks keep on a-pluggin' away . . .2.) "What they should do in relation to kids is support the parents authority."Okay, I agree that parents' authority should be upheld–mine especially. Except:-there are gay parents-there are gay children-"parents' authority" does not confer any particular right to control people *other* than the parents' children3.) "…how you might justify homosexual displays of affection in public parks."There's only one justification for displays of affection in public parks and that would be *affection* (or, possibly, a theatrical performance). You really just don't have a dog in this fight, Gilbert. 4.) *But if undermining the moral order someone is teaching their children is the goal, well that seems underhanded because it is.*Well goody: You may sleep better because that's NOT the goal. Being gay *doesn't* consist of being a little James Dean, rebelling against 'whatever you got'. May I assume that, thus reassured, you will drop the issue?Okay, so not 6 problems but only 4. But close! Keep on posting Gilbert and I'll keep on a-findin' more stuff wrong with what you say.

  • Anon123

    Whoa, Gilbert, way to completely dehumanize the woman who gave life to a child and who, out of her own sacrifice and suffering, made it possible for you to be a parent in spite of your and your wife's physical failings. She's just some random vagina to you. Nice. And I bet you call yourself prolife. Religious groups the world over do indeed limit themselves to restricted communities by choice. Those who feel as this woman does SHOULD do that, IMO. That's the beautiful thing about freedom — you really can live your life as you so choose. Of course, then she'd be whining about how it's not faiiirrrr that she doesn't have access to the things all us infidels do, or how it's not faiiiirrr that those who don't choose to live in her homogenous community won't support her business and make her wealthy, etc. Thing with whiners like that is they're very good at whining about how life is just so unfair, wahwahwah, but they're not terribly good at getting off their butts and doing something about it. No one is holding a gun to her head and forcing her to go to a park paid for by EVERYBODY'S tax dollars and created for EVERYBODY'S use (as long as they abide by rules and laws required by the park department). She CAN stay home. So why doesn't she? Oh, yeah, 'cause then she'd have nothing to whine about and make a big showy fuss over.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08572976822786862149 Darwin

    Physicist Dave,Oh, I am pretty sure that I would enjoy having Mad Fred live on my street, though I am also pretty sure Fred would not enjoy the experience.Three or four decades ago, when the Hare Krishnas and LaRouchies used to infest the nation’s airports, they were the guys trying to escape me. One LaRouchie even threatened to hit me when I hung around and told each of his prospective marks what he was up to. He didn’t actually hit me, of course: LaRouchies are weenies, and I made clear that if he did hit me, I’d break his neck.I guess I'm have a little bit of trouble understanding the sense in which you mean that you would like having Fred Phelps, Hare Krishnas, etc. around. You don't seem to mean that you value having them around, as in: you want there to be such people, or you want those people to believe those things and act in those ways, because you think that is an overall desirable thing. It seems more like you are saying that if someone is going to believe those things or act those ways, you would like them to do so near you so that you can confront them in a spectacular fashion and convince others they are wrong.However, I assume that you would not actually be unhappy about it if the reason you never saw Westboro Baptists or Hare Krishnas was that no one actually held those beliefs. Indeed, given your desire to provide counter-arguments, it seems like you implicitly desire a situation in which no one believes or acts in that fashion.So unless I'm seriously mistaken it seems to me that while you may enjoy person-to-person conflict and neighborhood disturbance more than I do towards a certain end you don't actually want there to be people like the Westboro Baptists and the Hare Krishnas.Or at least, if you do actually desire that those people believe what they do and act the way they do — it seems a very odd course to then harass them for doing what you want. In this sense, it would seem like both of us have a preference for a like-minded society, however I am fairly happy for that to be the result of cultural self-segregation while you lean more towards cultural conquest.Am I missing something here?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08016230732925516069 Gilbert

    In view of this I will not offer any further arguments in this thread. A lot of people however read me as believing something I don't believe and I wish to correct that.So for the record, I don't believe adoptive parenthood is necessarily fake. Rather I think there is a difference between assuming the natural role and creating a new one. Whether I'm right is another question but as a point of fact I believe this and not the other thing.Now personally I'm not so worried about loosing (I would be, but that's part of why I use a pseudonym) but rather about someone thinking I still owe them an explanation. Because it is a little impertinent to say something controversial and then walk away without engaging the answers.So in case anyone thinks I am defaulting on the duty to explain myself I'm offering to take it private. Clicking on the sign beside my pseudonym at the top of this comment will take you to a profile page. That page has a working if pseudonymous email link. If you don't trust me (and why should you?) you can use an equally pseudonymous email account. Within this thread however, this was my last comment.

  • t e whalen

    Thanks for your time, Gilbert. I'm sorry things got out of hand.

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    *Part of that requires that, although we may be repulsed and/or frightened by the opinions of others, we don’t question their right to try and persuade others.*Leah, this is completely NOT the issue. No one is questioning anyone's right to 'persuade' anyone of anything. Heck, few people in the all the wide world are even *trying* to persuade anyone of anything. This seems a real stumbling block for you: This assumption that all conflicts are just Yale debating society writ large.Only not. Stacy's preference would not be to debate anything but just to have a law passed to make being gay illegal. Or failing that, making being gay legally inconvenient. Or failing THAT, making being visibly gay in specific places (viz. the park) not alright. Or failing THAT, that all people are simply barred from doing certain behaviors that are found-offensive in gays (viz. PDAs) and so the world turns into those ridiculous lawsuit-shy high schools that ban human contact.We liberals, atheists and gays for a long, long time labored under the delusion that 'free speech' was the issue. And while we were in the campus auditorium debating one Christian conservative, 25 of his friends were over at the capital dome, wads of cash in hand, ensuring that the exercise, whatever it's outcome, was to be rendered entirely academic in the end.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07986833157160434927 David Wagner

    @Leah: "it's not exactly underhanded, but, generally, people still see this as quasi-espionage." No, it need not be underhanded at all, and agreeing with Stacy that it can be seen as a sort of open espionage would be a huge step forward. Spy v. Spy!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Stacy's preference would not be to debate anything but just to have a law passed to make being gay illegal. You know, this is an accusation that I've seen hurled at Stacy time and again, and I'm at a loss as to where it is coming from. Can you please quote any of her posts in which she states the above?

  • anon atheist

    People don't trust Stacy. I don't really trust her when she claims she does not want to make being gay illegal. I mean why would somebody not make something illegal if she thinks it is immoral?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11111405959451703182 PhysicistDave

    Darwin wrote to me:>You don't seem to mean that you value having them around, as in: you want there to be such people, or you want those people to believe those things and act in those ways, because you think that is an overall desirable thing. It seems more like you are saying that if someone is going to believe those things or act those ways, you would like them to do so near you so that you can confront them in a spectacular fashion and convince others they are wrong.Well, sort of, but not exactly.Darwin also wrote:>However, I assume that you would not actually be unhappy about it if the reason you never saw Westboro Baptists or Hare Krishnas was that no one actually held those beliefs.Well… I tend to agree with Mill’s point in On Liberty that it is often a good thing to have people spout bad ideas in public precisely because it helps us to discuss and better understand good ideas by contrast with the bad ideas.In all honesty, neither the Hare Krishnas nor Phelps’ morons offend me in the way they seem to offend most Americans. I think they are preposterous, but more amusing than annoying.In fact, I think the Hare Krishnas, as crazy as they are, do provide a service by casting a contrast with Christianity. I think they are no more crazy than Christians, and that this is an important point: if they did not exist, it would certainly be hard to make that point!Similarly, I think it is enlightening to see that Phelps’ group excites hatred mainly because they attack dead US soldiers. I think the dead US soldiers should be attacked, though not for the reasons Phelps suggests. The whole thing is, I think, enlightening in terms of revealing Americans’ worshipful attitude towards the military. So again, the whole strange incident has value beyond just confronting Phelps, who is, after all, really rather insignificant.Darwin also wrote:>Am I missing something here?Yeah, I think you are. Have I explained it more clearly?Let me make clear that I am not tolerant at all of people who blatantly and intentionally lie, especially when it is about me personally. Even in that case, however, I think the right approach is to loudly and publicly denounce them for their lying, and of course I am quite unrepentant about having done so.The solution to bad speech is more speech.Dave

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11111405959451703182 PhysicistDave

    anon atheist wrote:>I mean why would somebody not make something illegal if she thinks it is immoral?Perhaps because the law uses physical force (e.g., imprisonment) to impose its will, and that may be an over-reaction to certain forms of immorality?That, after all, is the idea of “freedom of speech”: people have the right to say many things that are in fact wrong. If “freedom of speech” meant only the right to say good things, it would be rather limited!One of the surreal experiences I often have in these sorts of online discussion is that, after I have bitterly (and, I think, justifiably) attacked some Christian, I end up pointing out that said Christian is probably not a totalitarian fascist when someone claims she is. Most American Christians are not closet totalitarians, and, in my experience, fundamentalists/evangelicals are actually much, much more accepting of people’s right to disagree than most liberal Christians or most atheists are.I’m not sure why this is so: perhaps it is because they see themselves as an embattled minority and are therefore more concerned to defend the traditional rights of minorities. Or, maybe, as traditionalists, they are keen to adhere to such American traditions as freedom of speech.In any case, it is just as wrong to assume a fundie is an opponent of liberty as to assume, as conservatives too often do, that atheists are almost all Communists.Dave

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    People don't trust Stacy. I don't really trust her when she claims she does not want to make being gay illegal. If this is the case, then you are being extremely disengeuous when you make a declarative statement such as, "Stacy's preference would not be to debate anything but just to have a law passed to make being gay illegal."This makes it sound like you are drawing a conclusion based on the facts presented, as opposed to stating an opinion based on your inherent mistrust of someone whom you dislike. It'd be like if I said, "anon atheist likes to steal candy from babies" and then, when asked to provide proof, I replied, "Well, I don't trust him to NOT steal candy from babies based on the fact that he's said some things I don't like."I mean why would somebody not make something illegal if she thinks it is immoral? Uh, plenty of reasons? For example, as a faithful Catholic, I think it's immoral for Catholics who are not in a state of grace to receive the Eucharist (e.g., politicians who claim to be Catholic but then advocate for abortion and other moral evils); however, I don't support making this practice illegal. For one thing, the enforcement would be a practical and logistical nightmare and a waste of the police's valuable time.Some things that are immoral should also be illegal, sure. But not all things. The government's function is not to enforce each person's individual morality. People can work together, in a democracy, to enshrine their particular moral code into civil law, which the government is then duty-bound to enforce, but it is still the will of the people setting those limits and not arbitrary government decision. Conversely, just because something is legal does not mean it is, by virtue of its legality, also moral.

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    Let's actually look at Stacy's post shall we:http://www.acceptingabundance.com/2011/08/cant-even-go-to-park.htmlAny number of gems in there. Among the richest, most buttery nuggets:"When there were two men relaxing at the side of the pool unnaturally close to each other, effeminately rubbing elbows and exchanging doe-eyes, I was again anxiously watching my children hoping they wouldn't ask questions. They don't see Daddy do that with anyone but Mommy. We haven't been back to the pool for a couple of weeks, except once but it rained. The truth is, now I don't really want to go back."…"I find myself unable to even leave the house anymore without worrying about what in tarnation we are going to encounter. We are responsible citizens. We live by the rules, we pay our taxes, we take care of our things. I'm supposed to be able to influence what goes on in my community, and as a voter I do exercise that right. But I'm outnumbered. I can't even go to normal places without having to sit silently and tolerate immorality. We all know what would happen if I asked two men or two women to stop displaying, right in front of me and my children, that they live in sodomy."So yeah, no, I can imagine many, many worse fates for American than that this woman take her colossal sense of entitlement and "go live in a Catholic ghetto".

  • http://www.fleshbot.com Kogo

    "Most American Christians are not closet totalitarians, and, in my experience, fundamentalists/evangelicals are actually much, much more accepting of people’s right to disagree than most liberal Christians or most atheists are."My own experience is highly orthogonal.

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    Oh and I also forgot to mention that Stacy drops a pretty disgusting little mouth-dollop regarding President Obama's aunt, Zeituni Onyango–an illegal immigrant since granted a stay of deportation and legal resident status. Yeah. Class act. Because we're responsible for the sins of all our distant relatives, right Stacy?What scum.

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    Sorry to keep on serial-posting but I can't let this go: Whatever the supposed dirtiness of Teh Gay, there's a edge to anti-gay rhetoric that I can only describe as "nasty". Like, *more* nasty than anything actually-sexual could be. Like there's a bubbling cauldron somewhere and they threw in 50 pages of Francis Schaeffer (Sr.) and 50 pages of "Penthouse Letters" and THIS is the result.Page back a few posts to that *delightful* tidbit from whoever about the corn under the foreskin. Classy. And these are our protectors from obscenity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Kogo, regarding the tidbit about Obama's aunt – all Stacy said was, "We fund a lot of illegal immigrants here (just ask the President about his auntie) and helping people who really need help is not something I'd ever oppose. But it's still haunting me that just this week I learned of an illegal immigrant who killed a young man innocently out for a ride on his motorcycle…" and goes on to explain the heartbreaking consequences of that accident.Stacy didn't claim that Obama's aunt still had illegal status, as you imply she [Stacy] did. Obama's aunt did, at one time, live in public US housing as an illegal immigrant. That is a proven fact. How is it "disgusting" to state that fact in reference to another story?

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    To me it just seems like a gratuitous jab and/or a bit of red meat thrown in. There is also the untruth of it–we *don't* actually "fund" "a lot" of illegal immigrants. Not unless they're breaking the law: By now everyone's long since forgotten about the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity act, which forbade illegal immigrants to receive most forms of public assistance. So unless someone's using a fake ID or a social worker is being irresponsible then no, there aren't hordes of illegals on welfare.And then of course if I wanted to get biblical I could start citing stuff about welcoming the outsider in your midst. But I won't do that. Suffice it to say that Stacy seems like lots of things OTHER than a poor godly put-upon woman. She seems like an angry, constipated, pompous crank.

  • http://www.io9.com Kogo

    Oh and just to snope a bit: I don't think I actually believe her about the illegal driver killing the kid. That has the whiff of exactly the type of just-so (but, upon investigation, just-isn't) story I grew up hearing from my more-racist extended family. (Viz. Chinese restaurants steal people's cats, don't drink Red Stripe beer because the Jamaicans put their feet in it, there's a black girl walking around named "Female" 'cause that's what the hospital tag said, etc.)So no, I'm betting no kid was actually killed by an illegal while innocently riding his motorcycle.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Well, Kogo, I live in Arizona, and here we have the highest rate of identity theft in the nation due to illegal immigrants who have stolen someone's Social Security info and is using it to work (and/or obtain public assistance). As to the Act you mentioned, it's often not enforced, or immigrants provide forged documentation that isn't thoroughly checked. Regarding supporting the stranger in our midst, the Catechism also says the immigrants are under the obligation to obey the civil laws of the country to which they have moved… which, in the case of illegal immigration, isn't really happening right off the bat. (I personally think that Mexicans need to be granted refugee status given the current tyranny of the drug cartels down there, and I'm also in favor of much more receptive immigration laws, but that's a whole 'nother debate…) Regarding the accident, it is indeed real. Took me about two minutes on Google to verify, using only the details provided by Stacy.

  • t e whalen

    Not related to apocryphal stories about immigrants, but semi-related to cute things kids say about adult things:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzJyHigCvDM

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15222328459836041333 Gillimer

    "I mean why would somebody not make something illegal if she thinks it is immoral?"Do we conclude, then, that you want to make religion illegal? And a fortiori we "religionists" SHOULD want atheists excluded from political power because you would use it to suppress us?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15222328459836041333 Gillimer

    Remember, the Secular Humanist Declaration (signed by Asimov, among others) said it is "immoral" to baptize children (but, apparently, not to circumcise them.)

  • Mike Dennis

    Like other posters, I'm not confident that a productive conversation with Stacy is a realistic goal, but I think it is at least a worthwhile thought experiment. But a realistic objective is an essential starting point. Can we convince Stacy that homosexuality is OK, or that she should not try to communicate her values on this subject to her children? That would plainly be a waste of bandwidth. But perhaps we can appeal to her concerns as a parent to prompt some reappraisal of how she frames those values both to her children and in a public forum."Stacy, while I strongly disagree with your view of homosexuality, I unconditionally respect your right to that view and the religious basis for your judgment, and I recognize your sincere concern for inculcating your moral beliefs in your children. Raising children in a modern, pluralistic culture is a challenge for anyone, but perhaps even more so for those who adhere to strict moral standards. Imagine the challenges faced by Mennonites, or Hassidic Jews, or devout Muslims who believe that God commands us to dress modestly, when all around them men and especially women dress in such egregiously immodest ways! How can they raise their children to follow the will of God in such circumstances?"Should such people respond to this pressure by insisting that the rest of us adhere to their standards? They would be ridiculed or worse. And that would be no help at all in modeling the real value of their convictions to their children. It seems to me that the only realistic alternative to the futile attempt to shield their children from ever seeing people who behave in this way is to explain that different people have different beliefs about the way to dress, but that we believe that God commands us to dress the way we do."I can't guarantee that some of those children won't grow away from their parents' values, just as no one can guarantee that none of your children will grow up to be gay. But I'm convinced that an honest expression of your own values coupled with an acknowledgment that other people believe differently will give you the best chance at raising young people who are open to your beliefs but able to cope in a pluralistic society where others have different beliefs."Because I, too, am a parent, I really do appreciate your concern about raising successful, morally sound children. But our efforts don't always turn out the way we hope or expect. My comment about the possibility that one of your children could turn out to be gay was not meant to be snarky. It could happen. I know this, because my son is gay. Fortunately, my comparative forbearance toward homosexuality makes this less of a problem for me than it might for you, but as a parent, I can't help worrying. And because of your obvious concern for the well-being of your own children, I hope you can empathize with the concern and, I admit, outrage, that I sometimes feel when well-meaning people seek to shame my son or to insist that his rights to live in dignity and liberty should be abrogated in favor of their own moral sensibilities. "Does Stacy have the moral imagination to at least listen so such an argument? I can't say, although her blog is not promising. But I think it is possible that the gap between us can be shortened, if not necessarily eliminated.Mike Dennis

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06169534197143405966 Myca

    I think the tricky bit here is that this argument is really about a larger issue than homosexuality, same sex couples, public displays of affection, or religion. This argument is really about how to exist in a multicultural society in which we cannot be assured that our fellow citizens share our basic beliefs.And no less a Catholic than C. S. Lewis offers an answer: "My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives."Additionally, when it comes to enshrining religious belief in law, "A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the [Muslims] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine."So really, it comes down to that question. How much public accommodation for members of religious minorities is to be expected? Is it acceptable to drink wine in public, though it might offend some Muslims? Is it acceptable to eat pork in public, though it might offend some Jews?Now, I suspect Stacy's answer would be something along the lines of, "but they're all wrong and I'm right!" And that's all well and good, but once we go down the road of restricting pubic behavior based on religious belief, she ought to understand that Catholics make up a religious minority in the United States, and that therefore her plan might not work out quite as well for her as she'd hoped.—Myca

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15222328459836041333 Gillimer

    "And no less a Catholic than C. S. Lewis" Who was not Catholic, and it put a strain on his relationship with Tolkien.Sorry, but one of my pet peeves is people who use "Christian", "Catholic" and "religion" (or "organizedreligion") as apparent surrogates for each other.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06169534197143405966 Myca

    Ah, my apologies. I wasn't lumping all religions (or all forms of Christinity) together … I actually thought he'd been Catholic. Looking him up now, I see he was Anglican.Nonetheless, my main argument stands … leaving out illegality for a moment, ought it to be considered 'improper' or somesuch to drink beer or eat bacon in public?I mean, at some point, don't we all have to accept that there are people in the world who disagree with us, and sometimes they'll do things we disagree with in public, and maybe we just have to cope with that?—Myca

  • Anonymous

    Leah, One of the strategies I've adopted when discussing a contentious issue with someone that I vehemently disagree with is to always assume the best intentions and motivations of the other party- even if you suspect otherwise- and act accordingly. Virtually no one feels that they are, in fact, "doing the wrong thing" however wrongheaded to you their view might seem. Try to imagine what Stacy's deep motivation is, or seems to be, and address your responses at that kernel of goodness. Perhaps you assume her motivation to be "protecting her children from a confusing world." You would then, perhaps, suggest that children understand and assimilate plain, simple concepts quite easily. In my experience, most children take in stride the idea of homosexuality presented in the "sometimes two men love each other just like mommy and daddy woman love each other" way. The response is usually something along the line of "Okay. Can we watch cartoons?"Brad Hoehne

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