Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why is the World So Polarized?

The modern world is a sharply polarized world. People and political parties demonize each other for holding different views on political and cultural matters, portraying their opponents as monsters.
To some extent, polarization between people who disagree on major issues has always existed. People have always hated those who have opposed them, and have launched vitriolic attacks on those they disagree with.  
Still, however, polarization has taken a different form in the modern era than it has in previous ages. Opponents on major issues have always loathed each other and insulted each other. But they used logical arguments to present their points and attack their opponents, usually in long diatribes and polemics.
Today, rational argument has largely retreated into the background, and debate has been reduced to the level of 5-year olds taunting each other on a playground. Modern debate is characterized by childish polarization, where rational argument is rendered impossible.
The obvious question must be raised: Why is the modern political world so polarized?
There are two major reasons for this polarization. One is technological, the other philosophical.
The first is that the age of technology has reduced the attention span of its users. Argument – at least, effective argument – has been reduced to 30 second sound-bites, more suitable for televisions and computers than for intellectual dialectic.
This phenomenon renders attempts at dialogue much more difficult. It is next to impossbile to debate rationally in an age where effective debate tactics pander to the cameras and not to intellects. And it is impossible to include all the points for to sustain a logical and coherent argument in a 30 second sound-bite.
So technology (or at least the modern use of technology) has reduced the capacity of people to argue rationally. Without rational debate to elucidate the arguments of two sides, polarization is inevitable.
The second reason is philosophical. Fundamental disconnects exist between people today that were nonexistent in earlier eras.
In previous times, most people could agree on basic certain shared first principles. God existed, good and evil and right and wrong were actual realities instead of social constructs, marriage was between a man and a woman and meant families and children, and so on: these shared principles were held by the general population.
Those who did not agree to these shared first principles were a tiny and powerless minority, and were generally ostracized.
Over the past 100 or so years, atheism, secularism, and moral relativism have rendered these shared principles nonexistent. Portions of their philosophies have been adopted by major political groups and voting blocs.

Opponents of these trends held to traditional understandings of these concepts. Very little remains to unite those who have adopted a secularist mindset and those who have retained a traditional mindset.
The result of the confluence of technological advancement and the rise of secularism is that debate in America has become a “dialogue of the deaf” between two or more sides that violently disagree with one another - and can barely comprehend the arguments of the other side.


  1. And you're wrong, you can't possibly claim that an atheist that went agaisn't and questioned its upbringing, and is now a free-thinker who does not hold faith-based belief and has a morality based on rationality is the "blindside", at least give us that.

    We are the ones who want debate, who respect laws of logic and reason, you guys make wild methaphysical assumptions, claim to have faith and then say you came out on top, its just ludicrous.

    Anyway, peace, from a brazilian non-believer.

    1. You'll notice that I didn't claim that atheists were wrong (at least here, I say so elsewhere) - my point was that the rise of secularism as opposed to traditionalism (for lack of a better term) inevitably lead to conflict, because they are diametrically opposed systems of thought.
      As for the rest, I and most of my fellow Catholics welcome debate, if you are willing to ask for it, and honor reason as the complement to faith. belief in a God is 1) not a metaphysical assumption, the existence of God is not self-evident and 2) an eminently logical and provable position.
      Peace to you, as well.


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