This started out as an email to Jonathan, but I think morphed into something that is post worthy.
A few days ago Jonathan proposed Angie’s Law, and along with it the Jonathan Corollary. As a reminder, the Jonathan Corollary is put forth thusly:
People who argue a political point by telling me to read an article or book that they link to are generally not worth arguing with.
That is pretty wise. Today I see a related post at Althouse, where a 911 “truther” challenges Ms. Althouse to a debate and she says to get Bill Clinton to debate you instead. Pretty funny.
Even better is a comment in the thread from one Simon, and it could very well be considered the quote of the day:
Lookit, just because someone has a right to believe something unbelievably uneducated that flies in the face of physical laws doesn’t mean that they deserve the dignity of being treated like their loony idea is worth taking seriously enough to debate. That’s something these 9/11 “truth” folks – as, with unbearable arrogance, they term themselves – need to realize. They’re like flat earthers demanding that intelligent people meet them on the field of debate – or the High School football team from nowhere, KS, who demand that the New England Patriots are clearly an inferior football team since they won’t come out to Kansas to prove that they’re better. (bold mine – dfm).
4 thoughts on “The Jonathan Corollary”
You have to be careful though. Because we are a civilization of specialist we have diverse and seldom overlapping domains of knowledge. Matters of fact obvious in one domain may seem in dispute from the perspective from another domain.
For example: Evolutionary theory seems indisputable from my domain in biology but to many well educated people outside my domain it seems very mysterious and tenuous. Even the majority of people who claim to believe in evolution don’t understand it and cannot accurately argue for it. Most people believe or don’t believe in evolution based purely on their level of trust in the authorities who advocate it.
I think 9/11 conspiracy advocates believe in the conspiracy not because they have any technical understanding of the arguments but rather because they so systematically distrust the authorities provide the mainstream version. Most conspiracies seem to fall into this knowledge void. The less a person knows about a particular subject or field, the more likely they are to believe that conspiracies control events in that area.
It seems to me that ignorance and extreme cynicism are the traits that define most conspiracy enthusiasts. Cynicism is an easy defense against being taken advantage of, but if you are both cynical and ignorant it may be difficult for you to learn your way out of the ignorance, since you may reject information from authorities who really do know what they are talking about. You see this cynical/ignorant combo not only in uneducated people, but also in people who are formally educated in soft fields. Many of these people are intelligent, yet they do not know enough about science or history to understand that their pet theories either don’t make sense or are easy to test and have already been discredited.
I think the sine qua non for conspiracy theorists is the ability to misconstrue absolutely anything. North American Union, anyone?
In my experience, most of the conspiracy theorists like to think that they are insightful, intelligent, and perceptive enough to have found out something that the rest of us simply cannot perceive.
You know how most academics are convinced that they know almost everything about everything, just because they know almost everything about a carefully defined and finite subject? It is similar to what conspiracy theorists feel.
The big difference is that the academics actually spent the time, effort and expense to gain mastery over their own limited area of expertise. The conspiracy theorists want the respect that comes from a PhD without spending a minimum of 8 years studying at a university.
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