Environmentalists are squaring off over the use of nuclear generated electricity to fight global warming. I recently concluded a "debate" with a guy in the comment field that followed an anti-nuclear article at an environmental website.
In the course of the discussion he called me naive, childish, pathetic, petulant, stupid, weak-minded, a shill, a zealot, a fool, an ideologue, and an intellectually dishonest troll. There is a word for this kind of behavior. From Wikipedia:
A bigot is a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one exhibiting intolerance, and animosity toward those of differing beliefs.
Note that bigotry can be left wing or right wing, and granted, I did egg him on just a little. Does that make me ...evil? For many, an anti-nuclear stance has become a tribal marker and most were imprinted with it (like the music they prefer) in their youth by others who had in turn been imprinted in their youth.
For this person, nuclear energy is evil and no amount of evidence was going to dissuade him of that fact, which is common and predictable, like trying to persuade a devout Christian or Muslim that they have picked the wrong religion.
But that isn't what debate is about. Debate is about informing an audience. That's why I resist debate one on one, like in an email exchange. It's pointless. There is no audience to be informed and even if you could change your partner's perspective (which is very unlikely), would it be worth all of that time and energy for one person?
About a month ago I was banned from commenting on a Science blog website. I often read ScienceBlogs because they tend to be more accurate and better informed than the general lay press and environmental websites. A few weeks ago I was disappointed to find that one of the writers had turned his blog over to another person to use as a news feed about the damaged Fukushima reactors long after the crisis had been averted and clean up efforts had ensued. It was his opinion that the crisis wasn't over and that the lay press was dropping the ball (after grossly over-sensationalizing it).
That seemed to me to be an inappropriate use of this coveted blog space meant for science writing. I don't know about you, but an anthropologist's opinion on nuclear energy carries little weight with me.
I finally vented my frustration in the comment field (complete with a typo) by
In addition to the above link I also highly recommend part 2 as well. My comment (sans link) was then followed up with the following comment from the Science Blog writer:
Riiight. You can go here to see the aforementioned about page.
Compare the Brave New Climate articles above to the nuclear power articles written by Laden (an anthropologist) then go read about the Dunning-Kruger effect.