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Why I Do Not Want Everyone To Agree With Me
I do not want everyone to have the same opinion I have on, basically, anything: from gay marriage to drugs.
One benefit of writing on subjects most – including myself – find distasteful is the amount of opposition you regularly and consistently acquire. I want to argue about why I find this essential for reasoning, in keeping with a previous post on why we must not silence (almost any) other viewpoint. I also want to encourage a meaningful interaction with opposition and the type of opposition worth wanting.
When writing, there is little use, aside from diary entries, to just have your beliefs, views and opinions merely set out. It is uninteresting to most what your view on gay marriage or god is, unless you have something reasonable and/or interesting to say. Even if it simply reinforcement of views expressed by smarter people, which is often what happens on this blog, this must be set out reasonably so that one can follow the argument. It should get people to reach the same conclusion, though we know this doesn’t happen always, no matter how reasonable or justified a view is. We all have different reasons for writing or arguing and trying to persuade others, but whatever it is, our goal is to sway opinion.
But, for me, this is only half-true. I do not want everyone to have the same opinion I have on, basically, anything: from gay marriage to drugs. In almost every instance, however, I do want these topics legislated or enacted in public policy according to what I think is the most reasonable option (at the moment, given the current evidence). But just because it is law or policy does not and should not mean everyone agrees with it: people will, for example, oppose gay marriage regardless of whether it is legal or not.
Furthermore, even if you have all the best arguments on your side – as we do with gay marriage – this does not mean, as I’ve argued, there is no point discussing the topic: even if you, individually, think the argument is over, there will be others who think not. And if we get complacent because we think we are right, those most active who think it is wrong will be the ones who make the changes we don’t see coming. It is, as Goya said, the sleep of reason that produces monsters.
My justification then for wanting opposition is based on the idea that my opponents are the ones keeping me awake; they are the fingers jabbing me in the side that I hope never turn to swords. We may not see eye to eye, but at least it means my eyes have to be open.
Secondly, by making sure I am not becoming passive in general, they also ensure I’m clarifying myself and reassessing my individual arguments. As Mill pointed out, this is perhaps the main reason censorship is destructive to (1) the censor, (2) the person censored and (3) the world at large: all are denied access to potential information which could indicate the best viewpoint. Similarly, by not engaging or having opponents, I am effectively censoring myself from opposing views. This would therefore have the same disastrous effect that Mill warns about.
Of course some viewpoints are not worth engaging in. For example, those who think gays should be killed are not the type of opponents we need but they are worth opposing. However, they do fall under the general rubric of opponents in this debate and the reasonable ones worth wanting can help keep us abreast of such fanatical (and highly idiotic) factions. (At least this lady is being consistent with her beliefs concerning the Bible and killing gays. I can respect her consistency, if highly disrespect her argument.)
But this does indicate that we shouldn’t throw out all opposition with fanatical idiots: this is an inherent danger that can create groupthink, through an “us versus them” mindset; something we, as social mammals, are all too quick to do. By painting them with the brush of “not us” too strongly, it also means we’ll have no one call us out when or if we’re wrong.
We should therefore welcome opposition. If we can explain ourselves reasonably and with justification, we can demand the same of our opponents. Thus, we want an opposition that is reasonable, clear and uses justified arguments to defend themselves. Our purpose is to show why they’re wrong – or to accede and say their arguments are indeed better.
This is why I do not want to live in a world where everyone agrees with me. How would I know if I’m wrong, if I am not challenged in a coherent, logical way? Something does not become true or right just because everyone believes it: that’s an appeal to majority, not a justification. After all, in order to argue, you need some kind of overarching liberty to do so: in reality, a lack of dissent is a sign of conformity and subjugation, not universal agreement.
Friction creates light, here, dispelling this darkness of certainty. It’s not that I want to be perfectly right, but it’s that I do not want to be horribly wrong nor live with others that don't challenge themselves. I want to think defensively, as well as offensively. Debates must not end, opposition must not fade. We require our opponents to make sure that our views are as strong as possible, that what we believe isn’t so merely because of family, tradition or majority opinion. This is why dissent, on every issue, is important. We can’t face and counter every opponent, but we should at least be glad that they exist. Even if I don’t respond to every one, I read all of them and many have helped change or help justify my own views.
So to my opponents: thank you. You’re still wrong. But thank you.
Image Credit: From Francis Goya, The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.
- The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
- The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
- The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>Completing the race in 25 minutes means the cars will need to average about 110 miles per hour. So, while the race may end up being a bit slower than a typical Indy 500 competition, in which winners average speeds of over 160 mph, it's still set to be the fastest autonomous race featuring full-size cars.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is no human redundancy there," Matt Peak, managing director for Energy Systems Network, a nonprofit that develops technology for the automation and energy sectors, told the <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2020/06/01/Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-Indy-500-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway-Ansys-Aptiv-self-driving-cars/stories/202005280137" target="_blank">Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</a>. "Either your car makes this happen or smash into the wall you go."</p>
Illustration of the Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>The Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://www.indyautonomouschallenge.com/rules" target="_blank">describes</a> itself as a "past-the-post" competition, which "refers to a binary, objective, measurable performance rather than a subjective evaluation, judgement, or recognition."</p><p>This competition design was inspired by the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, which tasked teams with developing driverless cars and sending them along a 150-mile route in Southern California for a chance to win $1 million. But that prize went unclaimed, because within a few hours after starting, all the vehicles had suffered some kind of critical failure.</p>
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>One factor that could prevent a similar outcome in the upcoming race is the ability to test-run cars on a virtual racetrack. The simulation software company Ansys Inc. has already developed a model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on which teams will test their algorithms as part of a series of qualifying rounds.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We can create, with physics, multiple real-life scenarios that are reflective of the real world," Ansys President Ajei Gopal told <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/autonomous-vehicles-to-race-at-indianapolis-motor-speedway-11595237401?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a>. "We can use that to train the AI, so it starts to come up to speed."</p><p>Still, the race could reveal that self-driving cars aren't quite ready to race at speeds of over 110 mph. After all, regular self-driving cars already face enough logistical and technical roadblocks, including <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53349313#:~:text=Tesla%20will%20be%20able%20to,no%20driver%20input%2C%20he%20said." target="_blank">crumbling infrastructure, communication issues</a> and the <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/would-you-ride-in-a-car-thats-programmed-to-kill-you" target="_self">fateful moral decisions driverless cars will have to make in split seconds</a>.</p>But the Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5da73021d0636f4ec706fa0a/t/5dc0680c41954d4ef41ec2b2/1572890638793/Indy+Autonomous+Challenge+Ruleset+-+v5NOV2019+%282%29.pdf" target="_blank">says</a> its main goal is to advance the industry, by challenging "students around the world to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle (AV) software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.
- A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
- Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
- Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Challenging the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Mental Disorders: Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="41699c8c2cb2aee9271a36646e0bee7d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-8BDC7i8Yyw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This is a far cry from Howard Rusk's 1947 NY Times editorial calling for mental healt</p><p>h disorders to be treated similarly to physical disease (such as diabetes and cancer). This mindset—not attributable to Rusk alone; he was merely relaying the psychiatric currency of the time—has dominated the field for decades: mental anguish is a genetic and/or chemical-deficiency disorder that must be treated pharmacologically.</p><p>Even as psychiatry untethered from DSM categories, the field still used chemistry to validate its existence. Psychotherapy, arguably the most efficient means for managing much of our anxiety and depression, is time- and labor-intensive. Counseling requires an empathetic and wizened ear to guide the patient to do the work. Ingesting a pill to do that work for you is more seductive, and easier. As Davis writes, even though the industry abandoned the DSM, it continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system." </p><p>That language has infiltrated public consciousness. The team at McLean surveyed 279 patients seeking acute treatment for depression. As they note, the causes of psychological distress have constantly shifted over the millennia: humoral imbalance in the ancient world; spiritual possession in medieval times; early childhood experiences around the time of Freud; maladaptive thought patterns dominant in the latter half of last century. While the team found that psychosocial explanations remain popular, biogenetic explanations (such as the chemical imbalance theory) are becoming more prominent. </p><p>Interestingly, the 80 people Davis interviewed for his book predominantly relied on biogenetic explanations. Instead of doctors diagnosing patients, as you might expect, they increasingly serve to confirm what patients come in suspecting. Patients arrive at medical offices confident in their self-diagnoses. They believe a pill is the best course of treatment, largely because they saw an advertisement or listened to a friend. Doctors too often oblige without further curiosity as to the reasons for their distress. </p>
Image: Illustration Forest / Shutterstock<p>While medicalizing mental health softens the stigma of depression—if a disorder is inheritable, it was never really your fault—it also disempowers the patient. The team at McLean writes,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"More recent studies indicate that participants who are told that their depression is caused by a chemical imbalance or genetic abnormality expect to have depression for a longer period, report more depressive symptoms, and feel they have less control over their negative emotions."</p><p>Davis points out the language used by direct-to-consumer advertising prevalent in America. Doctors, media, and advertising agencies converge around common messages, such as everyday blues is a "real medical condition," everyone is susceptible to clinical depression, and drugs correct underlying somatic conditions that you never consciously control. He continues,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Your inner life and evaluative stance are of marginal, if any, relevance; counseling or psychotherapy aimed at self-insight would serve little purpose." </p><p>The McLean team discovered a similar phenomenon: patients expect little from psychotherapy and a lot from pills. When depression is treated as the result of an internal and immutable essence instead of environmental conditions, behavioral changes are not expected to make much difference. Chemistry rules the popular imagination.</p>