A dialogue is by its nature not a debate, because there is no moderator, there are no points scored, and both parties are expected to be slightly civil and take one another at face value. Both sides are also expected to listen. There are generally no winners. Unless you can manage to turn the dialogue into a monologue.
With that in mind, well-deserved and slightly belated congratulations on winning the dialogue go to the aptly named Babble, when Dr. Janet D. Stemwedel (better known on the blogosphere as Dr. Free-Ride, attempted to host an honest dialogue between the pro-testers and the animal rights activists.
From my very first appearance in the comment thread, Babble attacked me as not actually being interested in hearing his side of the issue, accused everyone of dishonesty, said we were all actively engaged in trying to poke holes in his arguments (when in actuality most of us were actually just telling him what logically convinced them to support animal testing), and frequently and in every instance possible cried foul about everyone and every argument that disagreed with his position. I guess in certain circles, “dialogue” actually means “monologue”, or “tell your position and shout down anybody that tries to give their own”.
Interestingly, anyone in the pro-test camp posting on an animal rights blog in an effort to open a dialogue would (and did, as DuWayne can attest) have their position ridiculed, get called names, probably have their identity revealed to the world at large, and would eventually get banned when the hosts decide the conversation had become unproductive (or TOO productive at showing the flaws in their rationales). So, where rational dialogue rules, people have a platform, and where shrill and strident anti-negotiation sentiments run high, those same people have a platform to the exclusion of all others. In other words, everyone gets a say in one region of the interwebs, and only sycophants get a platform elsewhere.
So Babble turned on the firehose, and he was allowed to do so. 85 out of 138 comments belong to him. That’s 61%. That’s more than every other participant in the conversation. Counting me, him and Dr. Free-Ride, there were (by an eyeball count that I could be wrong about), 25 unique contributors to the thread. While he was the only representative of the animal rights brigade, and while we not only read his arguments but posited those places where they broke down, none of our own arguments were heard. Where they were, they (and we) were either denigrated, dismissed out of hand, or (and Babble is now famous for this in my mind) referred to as “gotcha questions”, even while Babble asked a number of such questions of his own.
In fact, even when I pointed out the areas he and I agree in an effort to convince Babble to try actually listening to us, he took it as some disingenuous attempt at scoring rhetorical points later. There was no listening, only refuting and allegations of wrong-doing. Any questions asked were not for clarification, but rather as an attempt at exposing some perceived hypocrisy or moral failing. It reminds me of this post at Bailey the Bookworm about arguing effectively:
-Be willing to listen. You cannot, cannot, cannot have a discussion with someone if you aren’t hearing what they say and understanding what they mean. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. I got into another (much friendlier) discussion with the author of an article about why evolution is bad and wrong (a whole other can of worms, that is) and I asked him to clarify what he meant by his claim of being a proponent of intelligent design. There are as many interpretations of intelligent design as there are interpretations of the Bible, if not more, and I didn’t want to argue about the wrong issue. Instead of just barging ahead with my points, I took the time to read and address what he had said before I gave my own reasoning. Not only did that prevent me from addressing the wrong ideas and being redundant, it also gave me a chance to really understand what this guy was saying -and it set an intellectual, friendly tone to the entire conversation.
I noted in one of my first comments that nobody had ever asked me what my position was. Lots of names like “coward” and “torturer” were thrown my way, but nobody ever asked about my position. I didn’t have to ask Babble what his was though — he was more than willing to provide it.
To prove I listened to him, here’s a synopsis of his argument: humans presently have more rights than non-human animals “because we say so”, and that’s our only good argument for using animals as food or performing testing on such animals — that we think our needs override those of the animals. It’s the “speciesist” argument without actually saying so, in other words. With one side corollary — one of the more common arguments against him saying that we as humans have a choice against eating animals, is that animals are not given that choice by other animals. Babble’s response to this is “how does you doing something immoral, allow me to do something immoral?” This implies that an animal eating another animal is somehow immoral. I’ve suggested that is not the case, with no reply (despite the high volume of Babble’s output).
But don’t read my words about his argument — read his argument yourself. I don’t want to poison the well. He makes some good arguments (despite the vast array of chaff he throws up), and some good points that we should consider if we plan on continuing to advance society for the benefit of everyone (including those species that can’t perform science themselves).
Pat Calahan absolutely owns this thread at the end, and argues at a much higher level than I can presently. I shall have to study him and learn his ways.