Wednesday, February 17, 2010
You Must Agree . . .
Some of my conversations with certain friends have become annoying because at the point where I say, "Look, I disagree with you on the very premises you are asserting", they respond by saying, "But you have to research this thoroughly." And when I respond, "I have looked into it enough to satisfy myself that these premises are false," they then respond, "Well, you haven't researched it enough!" Often they then begin explaining very loudly what the premises are again, although I already know what they are, as if I am dense and if it can just be explained loudly enough and slowly enough, I will have to agree. This makes me very impatient because I have a life to live outside of entertaining ab endless supply of pet crackpot theories.
The current crackpot theory that has become a series of annoying stand-offs is the cherished myth among some patriots that a group of some private individuals incoporated the United States without the knowledge of the government of the people, and that this legal maneuver renders us subjects to Corp USA rather than citizens whose rights are protected by the Constitution. They tend to assert a great deal of case law that may or may not be related to what they are saying.
Now I have very little training in the subtleties of case law, but my education as a scientist has trained me to look for problems in the logic of an argument as well as in the evidence presented. And when someone makes the statement "But you have to research this topic, whatever it is, to my satisfaction before you can disagree with me on it," I recognize that we have moved from any well-constructed presentation of facts and/or theory to a desperate attempt at coercion. In other words, this is another way to to force the argument to continue beyond reason; to hammer away at it until the other party can be pushed to concede by sheer exhaustion.
In my work as a scientist, I did not consider it my obligation to research and refute every crackpot theory that someone with no background in the particular discipline can dream up. Such distractions from the work at hand would have been a waste of my time, because in order to actually convince such a person of the problems with the idea, I would have had to give them an education in the basic science of the discipline and any related ones as well. And most of the time, the person would have simply refused to listen, or would refuse to accept the basic laws and scientific principles, leaving us no place from which to build agreement based on knowledge.
For example, there are those people out there who are desperate to convince the world that they have discovered the secret to a perpetual motion machine. And they can and will argue ad infinitum that such machines have been invented, but have been supressed by "establishment science" because the advance would destroy their monopoloy on "big oil" or whatever. The point that if such a thing were possible it would not only overturn all of Newtonian physics, as well as the laws of thermodynamics, but would also be impossible to hide is impossible to get across to such a person. And he will run kicking and screaming from any demonstration of the validity of these rock-solid scientific principles or claim that he is being snowed by "book learning." And yet, those who advance such arguments have never been able to produce the machine itself or explain how it would work to bring something out of nothing. It is always out there "somewhere", hidden by some persecuted genius, an amorphous claim without any real physical or theoretical evidence.
Such a claim is based on faith rather than reason. There is no way to have a rational argument about an object of someone else's non-rational faith. It is as futile as entertaining an argument about whether the head of a pin will hold 10 or 20 dancing angels. And if the weary recipient of such an argument says, "I have examined the evidence to my satisfaction and I do not agree that there are angels dancing on the head of the pin," she will be treated to the loud assertion that if she would only research it properly, she would would change her mind and "believe" in angels. But belief is not predicated on evidence, and requires no research.
With respect to any such argument, I really don't have to do very much research at all to dismiss the claim. All I have to do is suss out the the premises upon which the claim is built. In the case of the perpetual motion machine, one premise is that the large-scale universe does not operate by Newtonian mechanics. And since Newton's three laws of motion are scientific laws--that is they have been not only demonstrated over and over by observation, but mathematically supported--the premise is false. If the arguer wants to continue to believe this false premise, he must do so without the help of science or reason. And if he desperately tries to force such an argument, that only indicates the non-rational nature of the claim.
So to with the argument about the claim that a private corporation has taken over the United States, although the argument here does not hearken back to scientific law, but rather legal principles. I do not have to be a lawyer to know that the Constitution of the United States is the Charter that any legislation, statute, or ordinance must not violate. Further, the Constitution itself is a guarantee of the natural rights of individuals declared to be unalienable in the Declaration of Independence.
The premise of the "Corp USA" claim is that it would be lawful to secretly enslave the entire population of the country, so that by filing a birth certificate or obtaining a driver's license, one is automatically subject to a corporate contract that he must then go to court to become free. The premise is false, because it would be a violation of the natural rights of the individual, as well as a violation of the Constitution of the United States to so enslave an individual or subject him to an unknowing contract. In a word, such action would be unlawful. Therefore, even if a group of people actually formed a conspiracy to turn the United States into a private corporation, and even if all the t's were crossed and the i's dotted, and the papers were filed, they would be null and void. And even if the courts were in on the conspiracy, the proper action of the people of the United States would be to impeach the courts, not to plead with them.
I do not need to waste any time reading pages and pages of arguments about case law or precendent in order to satisfy myself that the claim is false because I disagree with the basic premise. Thus the proper answer to the assertion that I need to do any research at all, is:
"I don't have to do anything. I am a free human being with a life to live. And if that is your only argument, you are wasting my time and yours."