I've noticed certain topics...

…quickly turn into shouting matches and/or long, annotated debates: religious beliefs, gun control, political issues in general, racism, etc. (The trolls know this.)

I’m not really surprised, but I’m curious about the cause of this. I have some ideas of my own but I’m having trouble articulating them. Would anyone like to share their thoughts?

Please note that I don’t want to start any arguments on the topics listed above. (Otherwise I would have posted in the Pit or Great Debates.) I just want to know why we do what we do.

As food for thought, notice that other topics get a lot of responses but they aren’t (generally) argumentative: spelling, punctuation, word usage, etc. People just like to vent. Still other topics (recollections from childhood, teacher abuse, S-E-X-!, practical jokes) get a lot of personal sharing and a lot of interaction. Finally, scientific questions tend to get long or short responses, depending on how difficult and/or how concrete the answer is.

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

Pluto, I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that I’ve become much more tolerant of other people’s opinions. I used to be much more narrow-minded with the “My way or the highway” attitude. I guess I’ve found or learned (through my experience in customer service, of all things) that not everyone looks at things the way I do and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Plus, my opinion is usually just that: my opinion, my feelings, my background. Rarely do we deal with facts (as incontrovertable things) on such highly emotional issues such as sex, abortion, etc.

Some things I don’t discuss/argue about: religion, politics, abortion, sexual preference/pleasures etc. They are too based on what each individual perceives what is right for them at the time; too much personal history, too much the way you were raised to really come down to things that could be considered black-n-white on these issues. I’ll give my opinion and maybe a fact that I know, but that’s it. What bothers me is when people feel they can change someones mind when the opposing side offers no more solid “facts” or “evidence” of truth than the other side does. I really dislike debate about things that cannot be logically debated. I think this is one of those instances where the truth is truly relative.

I received this in email, and thought this would be a good thread in which to include.

“Where there is clarity, there is no choice. And where there is choice, there is misery. But then, why should I speak, since I know nothing?”

Many of these subjects–especially the philosophical ones–are topics on which most of us have never been forced to articulate opinions, or support them with any evidence.

The calmer debaters seem to be those who have taken the time to clarify their position in their own minds and gather evidence before trying to explain it to others. It’s frustrating to feel that you’re not expressing yourself clearly; I think that frustration accounts for a lot of the hostility that surfaces.

Mariachi: where on earth did that excerpt come from? I think some grad students have too much time on their hands!


This is an absolutely unsupported allegation, and trolling at its worst! And you can’t shout on the SDMB, you moron, THIS IS A WRITTEN MEDIUM!!!

Who you callin’ troll, planet-boy?

It’s a firmly established fact that an idea does not exist until its articulation. Now perhaps it’s possible that you have no ideas of your own, or perhaps you have them and can articulate them, just not well enough to reach the high standards of the SDMB. Well say that! Sheesh!

What’s the matter, now-that-I-think-about-it-you’re-not-even-a-real-planet boy, are ya scared?

There is an easy solution to avoiding arguments about the topics you mentioned at the beginning of the OP. Realize that I have the facts, I am right, and that the issue thus ought to be closed. Any alleged “facts,” viewpoints, theologies, or anything that contradicts what I have already established as the truth flies in the face of Science, offends God and establishes you as a troll. So there.
I’m sorry. I have no idea what overcame me. But I couldn’t resist.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

EL MARIACHI – I laughed my ass off at your Springer script; thanks for posting it. :slight_smile:

PLUTO, I’m not sure what you expect of philosophical questions, if not that they turn into either shouting matches (counter-productive) or annotated debates (productive). Where else might they go? We give our opinions, ask others for theirs, and when we are challenged, we provide backup – annotations or citations. I, for one, like the annotations – to me, it’s what separates a supportable opinion from a WAG. I’m irritated by people who affirmatively state an answer as if they really know or have absolute proof, but then it turns out it’s just their opinion being presented as fact. Philosophical questions lend themselves to long debates precisely because they don’t have a fixed “correct” answer, and they also can get heated because people tend to feel strongly about philosophical beliefs (including religion and politics). That’s what I think, anyway.

Those topics that beome argumentative here become argumentative in a face-to-face discussion, too. They are hot-button issues, and here people feel freer to express their views because no one is in your face. I have, oh, 3-4 friends maybe, with whom I can talk about these issues without them becoming arguments, mainly because I already know their views. But discuss them with people you don’t know well, and you’re in danger of getting into a shouting match, being called a religious fanatic, a racist, whatever. Of course, we get name-calling here too, but reading someone’s diatribe is not as intimidating as having that someone right there in your face shouting it at you.

For myself, I am happy to post personal stories of interest. However, I found out early that when you express your philosophical beliefs on here, you’de better be ready for some rude comments/flaming. I don’t have the time to argue with some nit picker, so I stick to lighter subjects. I have enough stress not choking the shit out of my students (adults), so I like to just come here and discuss lighter subjects and not have some yahoo telling me my beliefs are wrong (because they don’t match theirs).
Just my 2Cents :slight_smile:

An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; A pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.

I have no idea what you are talking about. You must be looking in one of those other forums. Here we keep the topics sufficiently trivial.

Good one, El.

All you damn Christians piss me off! God doesn’t exist! Blaming guns for violence is like blaming forks for making Rosie O’Donell fat! Next you’ll wanna talk about how we need to have a diverse communtiy… ugh… Long Live Apartheid! Ok now… don’t anyone yell at me… I’m right and you’re wrong so nyah nyah nyah. BLPTH!

“I’m not dumb. I just have a command of thoroughly useless information.”-- Calvin and Hobbes
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As Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes) once said

To answer your original question, pluto: With the ignorant and immature, you can’t share food for thought without it degenerating into a food fight now and then, especially if they were not hungry to begin with.