09 May, 2015

The rules: Debating

We all know that simply saying, "You're an idiot! Shut up and go away!" is not the most ethical or effective argument but sometimes, it's the quickest and most accurate, so what it lacks in grace, it makes up for in efficiency.

Let's not pretend that the University of Western Australia's cancelling of its involvement with Bjorn Lomborg's so called "consensus centre" (sounds a bit like a "wellness clinic," doesn't it?) was any kind of blow to academic freedom or dissenting voices. On the same day as Minister Pyne's tweet, a loud and influential "dissenting voice" was published in The Australian, even though his premise was something you would more likely expect from David Icke or Alex Jones than from a serious government advisor, so it's not as though dissent is hard to find, or indeed underfunded.

Any university has its reputation and credibility to think of before associating itself with any kind of "contrarian." It would be like expecting a hospital to seriously research the possibility that every smoker it treats might have developed cancer anyway. It would be like NASA housing and funding the flat earth society. Anyone who would make such arguments are not mere dissenters - they are are cranks and do not deserve to have their opinions treated equally. With all the evidence already available, it would be a waste of time and effort to further debate the point with people who have already made it clear that are not swayed by science. They are idiots. They should shut up and go away.

Dissent is not a virtue in and of itself. It's a question of why you're dissenting and if you can back it up. Hell, if you want dissent for its own sake, I'll say that that Moon is a Russian spy satellite, fluoridation causes bunions and Grant Denyer is a Venusian lizard sent to suck out the intestines of all left handed people born on a Thursday. Give ME four million dollars!

It's perhaps also worth noting that as the Leader of the House, it's part of Christopher Pyne's job to silence debate in parliament by moving that the member no longer be heard or that the question be now put. It's well and good to support dissent and debate, but not only when it suits you.

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