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Poll

Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion/debate?

Yes
- 21 (27.3%)
No
- 45 (58.4%)
Not decided entirely, maybe
- 11 (14.3%)

Total Members Voted: 77


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Author Topic: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?  (Read 6362 times)

Icefire2314

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Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« on: December 14, 2015, 08:27:55 pm »

It seems to me that any time I am online and get into an argument (or am reading one) in which the people arguing are severely polarized into two sides of an argument, then many times it eventually falls into insults and finally offrails into people personally attacking each other and their views or beliefs.

Do you have an opinion? Does the Internet discourage people having intellectual debate and actually coming to conclusive answers? Do you have any experiences or evidence to back up your claim?
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smjjames

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2015, 08:40:10 pm »

*points at various threads on this very forum*

Given the right environment and careful moderation, it's very possible.
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Icefire2314

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2015, 08:50:17 pm »

Well my first thought was Facebook. I went on a pro-life advocacy page earlier and the comments were filled with pro-choice advocates going on about how the stats were wrong, videos were faked, etc. The pro-life advocates were similarly going on about how the stats were right, videos were raw, etc. Shortly after the comments diminished into ranting, hating, cursing, insulting and ultimately died off.
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Strife26

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2015, 08:53:51 pm »

*points at various threads on this very forum*

Given the right environment and careful moderation, it's very possible.

You think that this herd of cats regularly comes up with conclusive answers?
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Flying Dice

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2015, 09:04:06 pm »

Well my first thought was Facebook. I went on a pro-life advocacy page earlier and the comments were filled with pro-choice advocates going on about how the stats were wrong, videos were faked, etc. The pro-life advocates were similarly going on about how the stats were right, videos were raw, etc. Shortly after the comments diminished into ranting, hating, cursing, insulting and ultimately died off.
You seem to be laboring under a misapprehension here, namely that that sort of behavior and the thought processes behind it are somehow caused by the internet. They're not. The people you meet and interact with every day of your life offline are the same people that say stupid, ignorant things and refuse to engage in good-faith arguments online.

As far as detrimental effects on argumentation are concerned, the internet only does one thing: it strips away the pressure to maintain civility in discourse. It doesn't make people less reasonable, more hateful, more radical, or anything else, it merely allows them to feel more comfortable in expressing the full depth of their opinions because of the lack of immediate, visceral response to saying things which are not socially acceptable to say to another human being in a face-to-face confrontation.

If you pay careful attention to arguments in-the-flesh, you'll notice the exact same stubborn inflexibility and hatefulness that is proudly displayed in electronic arguments, hidden beneath a veneer of politeness. It's exceptionally rare to find groups of people willing to argue honestly and openly, especially about topics which they are emotionally invested in. This holds even in the highest halls of the greatest ivory towers; there are few people even among academics nominally devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and truth who are actually able to detach their emotions and personal beliefs and focus solely on the factual and rhetorical merits of various arguments.
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smjjames

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2015, 09:16:43 pm »

*points at various threads on this very forum*

Given the right environment and careful moderation, it's very possible.

You think that this herd of cats regularly comes up with conclusive answers?

Not regularily no, but there are intellectual discussions.
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UrbanGiraffe

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2015, 09:24:14 pm »

It seems to me that any time I am online and get into an argument (or am reading one) in which the people arguing are severely polarized into two sides of an argument, then many times it eventually falls into insults and finally offrails into people personally attacking each other and their views or beliefs.

Do you have an opinion? Does the Internet discourage people having intellectual debate and actually coming to conclusive answers? Do you have any experiences or evidence to back up your claim?

I'm not sure what kind of discussions you've had in real life about serious topics, but I'm jealous if they've led you to think the internet is worse. In my experience people are often miles away more coherent, articulate, and thoughtful in an online environment than in person (I certainly am), if only by being given an opportunity to gather their thoughts and concentrate. Discussions in person also tend to be influenced by personality forces outside of words alone, like charisma, social position, group pressure, or even intimidation. I'd definitely agree that it's unlikely for anyone to change their mind in an online discussion (though it may be at least superficially more likely in personal discussions), but I think there are plenty of other reasons to enjoy forums like this anyway.

Especially around the holidays like now, you've likely got ample opportunity to observe bad discussions in person at a family gathering, if someone makes the mistake of engaging in a discussion on politics or religion. Granted, if you're comparing that to something like facebook or youtube comments, you may have a point.
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Baffler

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2015, 09:39:39 pm »

Yeah, I think the ability to spend ~45 minutes on a reply, gathering sources and such, makes arguing on the internet a lot more constructive than in person. I've often engaged people IRL and had them say the most ridiculous shit, tell them "that's the most ridiculous shit" and have them say "prove it!" and I can't because there aren't any sources at hand to show that no, the Quran doesn't say that, or yes it is possible to triangulate a cell phone's position. Or my favorite: no really, open carry is perfectly legal (in this state)!

For philosophical discussions, there aren't nearly as many facts to cite, but the opportunity to slow the pace of discussion down is still valuable in places where people actually take the time. Facebook and other such places are another matter, but nobody really goes there for intellectual discussions anyway.
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birdy51

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2015, 10:13:29 pm »

I voted yes.

The communal nature of the internet inspires debate, but I would argue that a lot of this debate ends with neither side giving up their entrenched beliefs and eventually ending in stand-off. While there is always the possibility of more information working to build a common understanding, I don't often see enough tangible results.

This is my own opinion, backed up more by my own experiences into personal forays as opposed to empirical evidence. I must confess that when it comes to flat evidence, I am shit.

---

That said... It's also hard to find any medium these days that encourages debate. I feel it's rare to have a conversation where two parties are able to say to one another, "I respectfully disagree" and actually mean it. I may be a bit cynical, but I believe that political polarism is steadily creeping in no matter where you look. At least, the idea of 'I'm right, which makes you wrong' is exceedingly prevalent stateside. I'm not sure if it's the same way elsewhere.

If I had to provide a definite theory for this? I suspect a lack of empathy. If you cannot feel and understand where the other person is coming from at both a logical and emotional level when they disagree with you, then further constructive communication is a challenge. Likewise, you have to hope then that they will extend the empathy hand to use as well and that they also take the time to understand your own brand of unique reasoning. From there, it's just a matter of finding an end result that you can both agree with. Not that said end result is always going to be the prettiest thing in the world, but at least both parties would be in the know about just what they are getting into.
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penguinofhonor

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2015, 10:29:52 pm »

The internet encourages thoughtful, intelligent discussion and if you disagree I hate you.
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birdy51

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2015, 10:40:45 pm »

The internet encourages thoughtful, intelligent discussion and if you disagree I hate you.

Aw... Ok...
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wobbly

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2015, 10:48:16 pm »

The internet encourages thoughtful, intelligent discussion and if you disagree I hate you.

I disagree
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My Name is Immaterial

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2015, 10:54:20 pm »

It certainly encourages disruptive behavior, but whether or not it discourages debate is debatable.

Frumple

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2015, 11:18:40 pm »

Do you have an opinion? Does the Internet discourage people having intellectual debate and actually coming to conclusive answers? Do you have any experiences or evidence to back up your claim?
It's probably somewhat sideways to the intent of the question you're asking, but I would probably argue that the internet has done more to encourage intellectual debate and coming to (the next best thing to) conclusive answers than any human invention since relatively effective courier mail.

Evidence: Internet enabled academic/experimental/economic/etc. cooperation and communication and the freakishly improved capabilities we've had in that field since the internet started to propagate. There has not existed a point in human history where we were as physically capable of holding robust intellectual debate as we are now, and there's frankly any number of fields (academic or otherwise) where that's incredibly visible -- basically any that's seeing any meaningful degree of international cooperation would be a dead-on example thereof. Even if there has been some sort of reduction of the average level of discourse, the sheer expansion of the amount is what I'd call a gigantic net positive, even if that leads to its own problems.
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Criptfeind

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Re: Does the Internet discourage intellectual discussion and debate?
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2015, 12:21:59 am »

I think the internet is too big to generalize an answer to this question. Some places and formats are worse for arguing, and some are better.
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