Mailvox: the purpose

Smiley asks about the meaning of it all:

What is your goal when you discuss something with someone here? For them to admit that they are significantly less intelligent than yourself?

As some already answered, the fundamental reason this blog exists is to amuse myself. But my primary goals when discussing something with someone here are to a) force myself to articulate my thoughts in a manner that others can understand, b) unearth any flaws in my reasoning and expose any errors in my information and my assumptions, and c) reach the most logically sound conclusions on the basis of the most solid evidence available.

None of this has anything directly to do with making people admit that they are less intelligent. That is completely unnecessary, as it is already statistically inevitable in the overwhelming majority of cases. As always, it is wise to have a look at the numbers before leaping to groundless conclusions. Sitemeter reports 7,876 average daily visitors here this morning. Even if we allow for this blog’s particular appeal for those possessing above-average intelligence, let us say three times more, this means that there are most likely between 10 and 20 people here who are either at or above my level. And, so long as no spatial reasoning is involved, there are likely even fewer at or above my functional level.

I don’t walk people into traps and show them to be incorrect and/or relatively unintelligent in order to get my intellectual rocks off, I do it because they are annoying me by wasting my time and everyone else’s with their stupid and obviously fallacious arguments. I find such arguments to be petty and irritating, and the only reason I address them at all is because so many other people readily fall for such nonsense unless they are conclusively shown how intrinsically nonsensical it is. With a few masochistic exceptions, most people have the good sense to learn to shut up and think twice before mindlessly yapping away again once they have had their noses rubbed in their own intellectual excrement.

Serious questions are completely fine. Admissions that one doesn’t understand something and would like a detailed explanation are fine too. But if you are going to challenge me and claim that you are correct, you had damn well better be ready with a solid and defensible case. I’ve been writing columns for 10 years and blog posts for 8 years with the knowledge that hundreds, if not thousands, of people would be going over them with a fine-toothed comb in search of any error, however minor, that they can exploit in order to discredit me and my conclusions. So, in addition to the advantage of raw cognitive firepower, I also have considerable experience in structuring arguments as well as anticipating how people will attempt to disprove or otherwise discredit an argument.

Now, I love it when someone surprises me with something clever that I hadn’t previously considered. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest to be shown to be incorrect and I have openly changed my opinion on far too many things for anyone to credibly claim it does. I used to believe in the drug war, I used to believe that women should have the right to vote, I used to believe there was solid evidence for evolution by natural selection, I used to believe in monetarist economics, I used to believe in free trade, I used to believe Socrates was a great philosopher, I used to believe the USA was the freest nation on Earth, I used to believe the North was right, I used to believe that the Bible was a load of feel-good nonsense designed to serve as an intellectual crutch for those too psychologically weak to face up to the nihilistic reality of the universe.

Of course, I believed all those things for the same reason I believed the crust was the best part of the bread. Someone told me once and I never thought the matter through for myself. So, I recognize when someone is not expressing the fruit of their own intellectual labor, but is merely parroting what they have been told by someone else, because I have been there and I have done that.