No “Straw Man” Policy

One of the core approaches to Beanie Copter Philosophy is a “no straw man” policy. No, I’m not prejudiced against the character from the Wizard of Oz. I hate that whole damn annoying movie.

I’m referring to straw man arguments. That’s when you quote the weakest part of an opposing opinion, and attack it. You obviously win. Then you parade around like you just scored a touchdown as well as demolished the argument. It’s like a child pretending he hit the game-winning home run.

As adults this tactic is used to sell a point of view, because they assume you won’t think about it and will be impressed with the mental ass-whompin’ just put on that argument.

But if you’re genuinely interested in the truth, it’s more useful to do the opposite: Consider the strongest part of an opposing argument. Of course you can have bias, as long as you recognize it.

For example, I would be overjoyed if it were true that by following a vegan diet, you’re guaranteed to live healthier and longer. That’s just not the case. You may increase your odds, and a vegan diet is less impactful on the earth, but you’re not going to die right away if you eat meat. I can understand in urgency or zealousness to stop animal suffering you may claim that, but to me, there are far too many meat-eating human beings who have lived very long for that to ring true.

So if you’re trying to promote a point of view (and I am biased toward a vegan diet, because why not have a more compassionate world?) it’s best to stick to where your argument is a clear undisputed winner. Considering vegan vs. carnivore for longevity offers no guarantees either way as far as I know, but there’s no denying a plant-based diet uses less resources and is a softer impact on our precious planet.

The point is, if you’re only about selling stuff, straw men are your pals, but if you’re serious about finding answers, run your beliefs against the toughest arguments. That’s where you’ll learn more about yourself and your own biases and get closer to the truth.