15 November 2005

Thoughts on the Neurodiversity vs. Bio-med debate

Even though it was not about autism, when I first read the post below (with blanks filled in) I could not help thinking about how the debate between the Neurodiversity and Bio-med communities sometimes plays out.

There are incredibly intelligent discussions out there, most notably (at least in my aggregator) from Wade Rankin, Ginger, and Kevin Leitch. Just a quick glance at the comments to their more eloquent posts, however, will show that there are an incredible number of people who have no interest in learning anything from these posts (or, for that matter, anything that doesn’t support what they already believe).

How can you have a reasoned discourse if there is very little reason displayed?
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Fill in the blanks. (For those of you familiar with the Neurodiversity vs. Biomed debate, it should be easy.)

To me, the most fascinating aspect of the debate over ___________ versus ____________ is that neither side understands the other side’s argument. Better yet, no one seems to understand their own side’s argument. But that doesn’t stop anyone from having a passionate opinion.

I’ve been doing lots of reading on the subject. I fully expected to validate my preconceived notion that the _________ had a mountain of credible evidence and the ___________ folks were kooks disguising themselves as scientists. That’s the way the media paints it. I had no reason to believe otherwise. The truth is a lot more interesting. Allow me to set you straight.

First of all, you’d be hard pressed to find a useful debate about ____________ and ____________, of the sort that you could use to form your own opinion. I can’t find one, and I’ve looked. What you have instead is each side misrepresenting the other’s position and then making a good argument for why the misrepresentation is wrong. (If you don’t believe me, just watch the comments I get to this post.)

To make things more complicated, both sides have good and bad arguments lumped into them. If you make a good argument on your side, I respond by attacking your bad argument instead. If it were a debate contest, both sides would lose.

The other problem for people like me is that the “good” arguments on both sides are too complicated for me to understand. My fallback position in situations like this has always been to trust the experts – the scientists – of which more than 90%+ are sure that __________ got it right.

The ____________ people have a not-so-kooky argument against the idea of trusting 90%+ of scientists.

I’d be surprised if 90%+ of scientists are wrong about _________. But if you think it’s impossible, you’ve lived a sheltered life.
(For the original context (completely unrelated to autism) of the above “analysis,” check out The Dilbert Blog.)

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