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This is taken from an ongoing discussion among Futurists from all over the world that are members of the World Future Studies Federation dated March 08, 2002.



Is There a Gene for Argumentation?


Can it be that the human race in general and certain persons in particular, have a strong need to put out their ideas in the hope that people will understand them? We put forth our ideas as if we believed that all who encounter them integrate them so thoroughly that their behavior and attitudes change. We are sure we have "the answer" if only people would listen to us. The futurist part of us dreams that those who integrate our ideas then begin to expose other people to them and therefore spread them until everyone believes as we do.

Who are we? We write, teach, we are company leaders, politicians, futurists, journalists, advertisers, playwrights, poets, and publicists. We sit at the bar spitting out our opinions for all who will listen. We stand on soapboxes in the park and stages in theaters and engage in long discussions with friends at cozy cafés. We are the mothers and fathers who tell their children how to behave through bedtime stories and sometimes a swat on the behind. Do we really want to train children to think for themselves? Yes, if we think we can implant our ideas before our children hear too many others!

Some try to get their ideas out by being a good example, the priest, the missionary, the social worker and the volunteer.

Some are prophets for democracy, for market economy, for world trade, for belief in a specific religion, belief in a lifestyle.

When no one listens to us - we try violence. We strike, hunger strike, suicide bomb, bomb from the sky, bomb without looking, rape, pillage, try real war and undeclared war. We say we are fighting for our rights. We are just trying to convince one another of our truth. We are the truth and lead the way. We are only followers when others say what we recognize to be true. In our attempt to convince others sometimes, it is easier to let others do it for us. Often we let their words speak for us, testing the acceptance of the message.




What is it that drives us to try to change the opinions of others -to get others on our side? To convince them for their own good - to raise their consciousness, so that they can better decide for themselves. Is it based on some genetic detail we have missed up to now? Are we such needy beings that we must get others to agree with us all the time? Is it just practical or is it a part of some natural law?

Here I am writing this to an audience in my mind. I want you, dear reader to be convinced of the words I am saying, "We have a need to convince others of our truth". The need to convince others is also a personal affirmation. It means recognition and acceptance. It is proof of existence and value, simultaneously. It is not that "I think therefore I am", but "you agree therefore I think (and I think "correctly")." I don't want you to state all the reasons why you disagree. I want to hear how right I am. In Swedish there is a phrase "det ligger något it det" - literally, "there lies something in that". There is something in what you say. You do not have to agree, just acknowledge that there might be some truth in my words. Your truth and my truth coincide, if only partially. I can accept partially. It gives me room to work on the other part that you do not see as true! That gives me enough acceptance to keep on with my struggle. Thank you.

 Natalie Dian 02/03 (revised 0309)



Comments by: Wendell Bell, Department of Sociology, Yale University

By all means, please keep on with your struggle. Perhaps quotes from some things I have recently written will explain why I encourage you:

From "New futures and the eternal struggle between good and evil," Journal of Futures Studies 5 (2) 2000:

Also, consider that each of us is the world-even if only some small slice of it-for those people with whom we share our lives, from family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to others with whom we have but fleeting contact. Although we cannot control the actions of nations and multinational corporations or the momentous events of history, we can control ourselves. Sometimes, it takes courage to do so, because we may have to stand against the views of our own groups. But it can be done. Thus, it is within our power to create a new future of self-restraint, empathy, understanding, and generosity for each person with whom we are interacting. Within the narrow band of the lives of others that we constitute, each of us can create the good society that we hope will become the future. Such behavior on our part is not mere selfless altruism, because what goes around comes around. As we act, we create the world, not only for others but also for ourselves.

* * * * * * *

From "The clash of civilizations and universal human values," Journal of Futures Studies 6 (3) 2002:

The Principle of Skepticism
   Deadly conflicts continue to occur partly because some people everywhere share the delusion of certainty. And "certainty," as Anthony Lewis (2001) recently said, "is the enemy of decency." Some people willfully see no point of view but their own. Being sure that they are right, such people can justify doing the most horrendous things to other people.
   What all of us need is a healthy dose of skepticism, especially about our own views. Such medicine can lead beneficially to having doubts and avoiding wrongful acts. The doubts, in turn, can lead to asking more questions, searching for more answers, and considering alternative views.
   Elsewhere, I propose critical realism as a theory of knowledge for futurists and futures studies (Bell 1997, vol. 1). In fact, I recommend it for everyone, because it teaches us that knowledge is corrigible, contingent, and conjectural. It invites the use of evidence and reason to test beliefs-especially to try to falsify them, so that we will learn that our beliefs are false, if, indeed, they are false. It seems rational that, if people were going to treat other people badly, even kill them, for reasons, they would want to know whether or not those reasons were true. If your cognitive maps of reality are wrong, then, using them to navigate through life, you are not going to end up where you want to go.
   Critical realism also invites civility in the face of disagreement. It encourages the peaceful resolution of controversies by investigation and discussion of the facts. It teaches temperance and tolerance, because it includes the belief that the discovery of hitherto unsuspected facts may overturn our most cherished and strongly held beliefs. Tomorrow, we may have reason to believe something different from what we believe today.
   Thus, skepticism invites independent thinking, because it endorses questioning. Today, as I write in the wake of 9/11 and the bombing in Afghanistan, there are Americans who have questioned some actions of the Bush Administration, such as the proposals for military tribunals to try accused terrorists, for the sacrifice of some personal liberties purportedly to ensure greater security, and for profiling some groups of Americans for mass detention or investigation without any evidence of an individual's wrongdoing. Some officials of the Bush Administration have accused such questioners of being traitors or unpatriotic helpers of terrorists.
   Critical realists would respond by pointing out that truth and justice, and personal safety and security too, are served not by suppressing such questioning, but by encouraging and paying attention to it. We cannot find the truth by suppressing disagreeing-or even disagreeable-views.

* * * * * * *

Yes, there are people whose opinions I would like to change, especially those who are so certain that their beliefs are correct that they are willing to kill and maim others in their name. But I recognize that my own beliefs may be wrong, so I encourage others to try to point out my errors. I'll promise to listen. Natalie, please keep talking.

Comments from: Graham May, Thanks for that Natalie. It seems to me that we all tend to fall into a trap in which:

I am right
You, if you do not agree with me, are misguided, and They are wrong, corrupt, on the make, up to no good, or, in today's terms, terrorists.

My car
Your traffic
Their congestion

which shows as we all know that it is not my car that causes the problem but theirs. Just to proove it I can drive into Leeds on a Sunday morning, when no one else is about without any problem!!!!!

If we are ever going to work through this we have to see the world from your and their perspectives. For me the debate that comes from that is what Futures is about.



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