A Challenge: Imagine You Are Wrong

One recent poster took issue with my literary and informational talents. Apparently not a fan. No matter because blogs are inherently like an unattended white wall too inviting for a tagger to ignore. As my sites moniker suggests, I prefer gracious discourse to rabid feces slinging and I appreciate the restraint and respectful responses I get from the few who regularly visit this Internet backwater, but I have a thought.

A Challenge

Long ago when I was a member of a debating team, we often faced a significant challenge - arguing a position contrary to our own. It was a good exercise.

So my idea is this - why not stretch ourselves a bit and agree to be assigned a topic far outside our comfort zone and be required to argue, as convincingly as possible, the merits of a contrary position?

If there is enough interest, my plan would be to have you few decide my topic, and I would help decide yours.

Sound like fun? Any takers?


Asylum Seeker said...

Sounds like fun. Though frankly I am not sure if I could do it in good faith, since it would just amount to me bringing forward arguments for that position that I had already heard from others who have held that position, and if it was one contrary to my own I most likely would not have heard a good argument. After all, if I had, it wouldn't be contrary to my position anymore, I would hope ;)

But I am sure I could make an effort...

Stacy S. said...

Hmmm... I would pick -
"Defend Alternative Medicine" - for you.

Now, I suck at debate so don't go giving me a topic!

Pliny-the-in-Between said...


DoH! I had a sinking feeling when I posted that alternative medicine or Biblical inerrancy would be my assignment. However as I threw the guantlet I will abide by the consensus of posters.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Stacy - I'm sure you'd do great - no excuses!

GearHedEd said...

I took an English class in college about 20 years ago in Florida. The prof sprung the "reverse position" trick on us after we had already chosen, researched and written our "normal position" paper. I had chosen the topic "On the Existence of Soul", a point of view anyone who has read my ramblings in the blogs knows I feel strongly about. After all was said and done, I had to resort to writing three lines in support of the reverse position because, to my way of thinking, there WAS no "reverse" to argue, and she agreed. So I got credit for the paper without a grade.

In accord with my handle, I am a fan of 1960's musclecars, and even own a couple of them. A worthy topic for me to address could be "The Merits of Fuel Cell Technology for Personal Transportation", or something similar...

I thought to myself, "Self, the Biblical inerrancy thing is waaaaay to obvious...", so I won't suggest it.

P.S. Uncle Sam looks a little...hostile?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Ed - nope - if you agree to the challenge we get to assign the topic - only promise is that it cannot be something impossible.

GearHedEd said...

OK, How about "Why we should vote Republican"?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Sorry Ed - that's pboys...

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Oh - were you suggesting republican voting for me? or yourself?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

"that position that I had already heard from others who have held that position, and if it was one contrary to my own I most likely would not have heard a good argument. After all, if I had, it wouldn't be contrary to my position anymore, I would hope ;)"

Seeker has hit the nail on the head as to why I'd like to do this. There are many topics that I have made my mind up about and I find myself skinning through or glazing over any time I think I've heard it before. maybe I'm missing something - if not a convincing answer at least a better understanding of why some feel as they do.

GearHedEd said...

does pboy know that yet?

Stacy S. said...

I'd feel more comfortable just helping someone with their topic. :-)

mac said...

No !
I dodn't mean no as in."No, I don't like the idea"

I mean No as in, "Stacy get's a tough one." I believe her more than capable :-)

As for you, I like Stacy's idea. You should argue the benefits of alternative medicine.

I'm not much of a debator either, I tend to get ad-hominem or just nasty.
Perhaps I could argue the merits of Japenese motorcycles....nah, like Ed, that would be a short arguement.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

OK 2 votes for alternative medicine-any other ideas for Pliny? Plus all of CAM or just some part?

What are we going to give to Seeker?


Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Stacy - that's the point of this challenge - doing something uncomfortable

I have a GREAT one for you. I think you'd have a blast - are you game?

Harvey said...

For what it may be worth, I'm in.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Harvey that's great! Do you have a blog or do you need to email something to one of us when we decide your torment?

Harvey said...

For Pliny, I suggest "Traditional values are best, as they have stood the test of time. Chnage, on the other hand, always leaves us worse off." or something to that effect.

Harvey said...

I will check in every day to see what I may be assigned. In any event, I have activated the E-mail message when anyone responds to my messages here.

mac said...

I think a good one for pboy might be to argue for the existence of god, even just one.

BUT, I think he might implode ;-)

Stacy S. said...

Is there a word minimum?

Asylum Seeker said...

Give me anything.
Incest, polygamy, gay marriage, abortion, equal rights, arguments for tolerance, arguments for intolerance, anti-immigration measures, health care, intelligent design, the idea that America is a Christian nation, or force me to defend the idea of a soul, ghosts, alien visitation, or that Christianity is the one true religion. I could argue for or against bestiality, though that's kind of unfair because I could do either without actually arguing from a different perspective.

The fact that it doesn't matter to me in the least whether I make honest arguments or frame it convincingly at very least will be quite a relief!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, great suggestion Pliny but I'm kind of stumped. My best guesses are...

Pliny: The healing power of prayer

Pboy: Why unfailing politeness in the face of unmitigated ignorance is a virtue

Mac: Hell's justness

Harvey: Rush Limbaugh's objectivity

Asylum: Homosexuality as pathology only

Stacy: Scientific merits of Creationism

Gear: We've posted on the same sites often enough but I don't know your quirks. Perhaps intuition's superiority to logic?

Me: How religion is completely deleterious

Pliny, is it just me or is someone supposed to feel dirty after this?

My suggestion for mac fits your criteria, but it makes me nauseous.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...


No this isn't supposed to be a punishment or make anyone crazy.

It's a little experiment in cognitive empathy. I don't expect any conversions but hopefully we'll all learn a bit more in the process. Plus when we take the posts to task we should be able to not get ticked off at the authors and really read the positions since they will be coming from people we generally don't savage in our comments.

Stacy - no word minimums other than what you think is a compelling end point.

Oneblood since you voted me to do the healing power of prayer that makes 3 votes for Pliny to defend CAM ;) WOOHOO - who's dumb idea was this anyway...

We should try to post or assignments within a week of getting them. Each post can include a disclaimer at the end and "the challenge"in its title if you like.

No satire, try to be sincere and open to the topic. We should try to be honest in our position.

Seeker - how about "English should be the official language of the United States"?

Harvey - why not defend single payer.

OneBlood - Since you mentioned Limbaugh to Harvey, Gozer the Gozerian has allowed you to determine your own fate - please describe the critical role and importance of the ACLU?

Michael Lockridge said...

Sounds interesting. I would imagine participants should subscribe to or follow all of the other participants blogs so that we can all be sure to follow along.

I am not sure if I am a club member or just the stranger living at the edge of the village whose presence is just tollerated, but I am willing to give it a go.


Anonymous said...


Allow me to play the male ingenue here because I can't tell whether you're being dry or not.

I'll just face value it.

I support the ACLU mostly. My centricity is only determined by mean not by actual position.

Maybe something in support of hard atheism?

Also, what is CAM?

Harvey said...


I will accept the challenge to defend single payer health care, but I must be honest: I think I actually support that concept to some extent already. Perhaps I should have a challenge with which I actually do not agree.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

As I suspected you are all honest people and don't want to get an assignment that doesn't stretch your ideas.

OneBlood - half the time I can't tell if I'm being dry. Just tweaking you a bit. - strict atheism? Well if you want to take a stab at that have at it. For this first foray I was trying to stay away from too much depth. How about this one - the Epic of Gilgamesh as it relates to the three Abramhamic religions?

Michael, of course you are a tribal member ;) For you I was thinking your professional background is an untapped resource for us - something for or against sentence guidelines perhaps?

Harvey - I guessed as much. maybe one side of the assisted suicide debate?

Basically trying to shy away from our deepest beliefs on this first try.

CAM = complementary and alternative medicine

Harvey said...

According to the "rules" of the game, I would have to take the side that opposes assisted suicide.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Harvey - I suspected as much but did not wish to presume - your mission - should you decide to accept it - is to argue against it.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Now we need something for Mac and Stacy

Harvey said...

Assisted Suicide: Against

Challenge accepted 7/23/09

pboyfloyd said...

Oooo, you bastard! Making me think!

Do we post the result here or on our own blog?

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

pboy - either way on the posting.

now we have to come up with a delicious topic for you!

GearHedEd said...

I'm in, if anyone comes up with a decemnt topic to throw at me.

For oneblood:

A little background on Gear.

Aside from being a musclecar fanatic, my actual occupation is professional surveyor (licem=nsed in 2 states, and hold a BS degree in Surveying. Which makes me a math geek as well (I can derive a general solution to a non-linear least squares matrix, for example, and even tell you why it works). I was once upon a time a Physics Major at Michigan State on a full ride from the Air Force ROTC program, but partied too much and lost the scholarship. I've been married and divorced three times, and have sole custody of my two kids from the last marriage. I spent ten years on active duty in the army, etc.
I'm a hardcore atheist (have been so since I was about 9 years old). I don't believe in anything spiritual, nor do I believe in soul, heaven, hell, god, satan, angels, or any similar manifestations of any other religious belief system(s).

I hate country music.

And like you, oneblood, I don't know a great deal about you. Heck, I don't even know your gender.

GearHedEd said...

Oh, yeah.

Politically, I'm a moderate Republican.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Ed - How about defending the bailout?

Sounds like something a moderate Republican would support ;)

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

For Pliny, I suggest "Traditional values are best, as they have stood the test of time. Chnage, on the other hand, always leaves us worse off." or something to that effect.
Harvey has the impression I'm not a traditionalist? Where did that idea come from? Certainly not from this blog.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

OOOO OOOO I have pboy's!!!!!
Support - the big brain concept!

If Ste B joins we'll make him do the opposite.

If I have to do CAM it's the least you can do.

GearHedEd said...

Defend the bailout....... Hmmmm... OK, I accept, however I don't think all of the bailout was bad, just most of it.


When is my assignment due?

Anonymous said...

"OOOO OOOO I have pboy's!!!!!
Support - the big brain concept"


It's alive! FrankenPliny has done it!

On another note, we'll see what we can do about Gilgamesh.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Yeah - pboy's a good sport - I think he'll enjoy that one

Ed - 7-10 days

Oneblood same

GearHedEd said...

Okey-dokey. I'll post it in this thread, since I don't have my own blog page. Gotta go tho.

I'll be back...

mac said...

I'll stand up.

I'll take oneblood's suggestion.

Hell's justness.

Unless, of course, you have another in mind.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Mac that's fine if you want. In honor of your post logo, My thought for you was why the government should not have raised tariffs to protect Harley Davidson from Japanese competition

mac said...

Yeah, good one.

But, I might agree with that one anyway ;-)

I'm not really sure HD needed the protection from the Japanese. I think they may have needed a little protection from AMF...but I am biased .

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Ok Mac - you get "hell is fair"

Pliny-the-in-Between said...


Pliny will be out of pocket for several days. If you could get Seeker, pboy Stacy and Micheal good topics leave a trail and I'll add them in when I return.

Asylum Seeker said...

I like oneblood's suggestion of arguing for homosexuality as a pathology. It's right up my alley, despite being exactly contrary to my point of view. It is perfect.

Anonymous said...

Well Pliny,

I think Gilgamesh is a bit too oblique to use as a root for the Abrahamic faiths.

I'll try to use another palette.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Gear I never returned the favor.

I'm a theist/deist (loosely used). I wasted a great deal of my life on delusions of grandeur [not religion related :-)] and didn't head to college until my late twenties.

I will graduate with a degree in Spanish sometime in 2010 and hope to teach from there.

I'm divorced and have one child.

Harvey said...

Assisted Suicide: Against

Challenge accepted 7/23/09


All of us who know that there is a God (regardless of our particular religion) understand that taking one's own life, under any circumstances, cannot be God's will. He gave us this wonderful gift (life) and it is, at the very least, ungrateful of us to purposely cut it short. Depending upon one's particular religious understanding, suicide must be seen as the gravest of sins.
If we can see the obvious truth that it is God's will that we do not commit suicide, how much graver is the sin of anyone who knowingly abets a person bent on self destruction? And even more, how can any person who has sworn to "do no harm" (as all physicians do) and who has been given the gift and the responsibility to preserve life and heal those who are suffering, possibly take part in "assisting" the taking of someone's life? Clearly, such a health care professional who takes advantage of his/her prescriptive abilities to obtain the drugs that are usually employed in these circumstances is not only defying God, but also the public trust given with his/her licensure. Even in those (thankfully) few jurisdictions that have seen fit to permit such activities, it seems to me that no believing physician could possibly agree to take part in purposely ending a patient's life. One would hope that even those professionals who are not themselves believers would have a sufficiently developed ethical sense to refrain from abetting a patient from commiting such sin, the results of which are so clearly irrevocable.
Much data exists that suggests that most suicide attempts are just that, and that the individuals involved most often are simply crying out for help and understanding, rather than truly wishing to end their own lives. Simce successful suicide, whether abetted or not, is irrevocable and final, it cannot be in the patient's best interest to help them succeed, when many of them would regret their rash act if they had the later opportunity.
Finally, what is the price for "assisting" suicide for any professional who willingly takes part? If one is a believer, such an act must represent an eternal blot on his/ser sould. If not, the psycholgical price must weigh very heavily on his/her ethical sense for the rest of his/her professional life.

Stacy S. said...

Very good Harvey! Was that painful??

Harvey said...

No, not painful, but reminiscent of English Lit assignments and some debates many years ago.

Saint Brian the Godless said...

If I wish to merely be the best arguer that I can be then this challenge makes sense of a sort. Practice the other side's position.

But I argue from the heart. I feel what I am saying. It has emotional importance to me.
So to practice the opposite makes no sense. Unless I want to be like Eric or Renzo or Ray "Two Truths."

For me the ONLY issue is christianity and how it is utterly wrong and also how it induces stupidity. Since it truly is and does, then even to practice it as an argument might lower my IQ.

I absolutely refuse to argue that it doesn't. Because it does.

I already had that argument with myself years ago anyhow. I lost it then. I was arguing back then that it couldn't induce stupidity like a mental virus, since it's supposed to be a force for good in the world, it's supposed to be 'godly' and a force for love and understanding. I was wrong. It does. Imagine my surprise.

And I always ask myself if I might be wrong, in everything that I do. So I ask myself if I could be wrong in this too.

Nope, I'm right. It really does make you stupid. The proof is everywhere.

So I won't be taking the pliny challenge, sorry.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Harvey - nicely and succinctly done. and interesting too. The ethical impact on physicians is particularly interesting as a consideration.

Ste B.

No need to abandon central tenants of your existence here in this exercise - there are plenty of life's positions other than theism from which to choose, but again it was only an exercise not intended to suck beyond imagination ;)

Harvey said...

Brian: (and Pliny)

"If I wish to merely be the best arguer that I can be then this challenge makes sense of a sort. Practice the other side's position."

Learning to debate is not necessarily the only reason to "practice" the other guy's position. It is probably much more valuable as a learning tool, both because it forces you to really "hear" what the other guy has been saying and, perhaps more important, forces you to "hear" how what you may have been trying to say sounds to him. Although I am generally in favor of assisted suicide under carefully regulated circumstances, this little exercise made me realize that the "price" for a physician participating, even if he/she is convinced that it is in the patient's best interest, might be very "expensive".
I recently read on another blog about a nurse who is Catholic, but who was "required" to take part in an abortion at an institution that does them legally, even though she had informed the administration of her beliefs before she was hired. It seems ot me that in the absence of a life threatening emergency and under circumstances in which another nurse could have been substituted her employer's insistance upon her participation could be seen as "cruel and unusual" punishment.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Harvey - great insight and a true example of what I hoped might happen from this exercise. Like you I am generally in favor of patient autonomy in these matters but your position paper does give me pause to be more open to the collateral effects of these decisions on medical professionals. I can also see how this type of argument translates to discussions about pharmacists and morning after pills for example.

We of course as a profession would not favor deciding to treat or not treat a patient on the basis of 'moral value judgments about the patient' but is that the same thing as deciding to provide or not provide a service which is morally objectionable to the provider? Doesn't seem like the same thing when I say it that way.

Throughout history we have condemned clinicians who collaborated with others in performing 'services' that are or become morally objectionable. As adherents to the notion of evolving ethics and morals over time it is especially important to us.

food for thought so thanks. This turned out better than I'd hoped.

Hope it was useful to you as well.

mac said...

I'll throw my humble attempt up over at Ignorance and Apathy.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Thanks Mac! I'll check it out.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

OneBlood - Gilgamesh too oblique ;)
Maybe but if you haven't studied the text and its historical context (you probably have) I'd recommend it for light vacation reading...

Harvey said...


"We of course as a profession would not favor deciding to treat or not treat a patient on the basis of 'moral value judgments about the patient' but is that the same thing as deciding to provide or not provide a service which is morally objectionable to the provider? Doesn't seem like the same thing when I say it that way."

I certainly agree that this "exercise" has proven thought provoking. It seems to me that professionals (like us) who are charged with helping others to deal with disease, injury, and aging must always make our judgements based upon what we perceive is in the best interests of the patient. That said, we must also do this in the framework of our own perceptions and biases. I have not been involved in "assisted" suicide in the current, legal sense, but, as a Head and Neck Surgeon treating advanced cancer patients, I have occasionally been called upon to decide just how much sedative and/or narcotic management is necessary to achieve "ultimate pain control" for these unfortunate and often extremely suffering individuals. Many of them and their families have become close acquaintances (and even friends) over the months to years I have been trying to manage their cases. I have discovered that it is not only the families who have to deal with the outcomes of these difficult decisions; I have to live with them as well, long after the patient has achieved "ultimate pain relief" as a result of my interventions or decisions. As a result, although I favor freedom of choice for women whose pregnancy has created physical and/or psychological distress, I can understand that being forced or coerced into taking part in such activities can have an even greater price for someone whose beliefs tell them that this is unethical behavior.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...


Well said.

One of the things that gets ignored n the blogospehere as well as life in general is how many layers there are to that onion called 'doing the right thing'. As OneBlood said on Brian's blog most things are not absolutes despite our desire to so simplify them.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pliny-the-in-Between said...

OneBlood - my link isn't working

Anonymous said...


Actually haven't read Gilgamesh (un poquito shame-o on me-o). Aside from my conversion to Christianity I was only fluent in Greek mythology.

The post is done, albeit only kind of.

Myth and Genesis.

Anonymous said...

The re-post link works.

Anonymous said...

Pliny, I'm going to do a make up post on abortion. There's not much ambiguity there for me so it should meet the criteria.

Anonymous said...

Um, that sounds odd. Critiquing Gilgamesh but also saying I haven't read it. Specifically I only looked at the chapter overviews in wikipedia (forgive me) to find adequate themes, key names within a comfortable morphological range etc.

This is the longest run of mind flatulence I've had since thinking William Hays could be reasoned with ;-)!

I miss that guy. He was like Oscar the Grouch on 'roids.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I highly recommend "the Buried Book" by David Damrosch (2007).

It's a pretty fun read about the discovery of the epic of Gilgamesh and touches on its history and possible influence in the region's later beliefs. It's a good introduction to that aspect of comparative theology and a darned fine detective story as well!