When polite conversation turns to politics, the demand for proof is more often than not a tactic to derail the conversation than a genuine desire for the facts.
Can you provide a reference to prove that Palestinians have rejected the offer of statehood at least three or four times? In which journal did you read the claim that the world hasn’t warmed for 17 years? Can you please provide a link to support your argument that the Howard government ran Australia’s economy well? I won’t accept anything that isn’t an article published by the World Bank…
Well, obviously, you can. You’ve read plenty of articles. You’ve shared some on your Facebook feed. You have read so much about the topic, you’ve forgotten more than you can remember. But you’re out with friends, when one of them mentions the angry summer, and how it’s due to climate change. You ask yourself, “Is it worth it? That blonde sitting next to him is pretty cute. To hell with it, I’m going in.”
“But the world hasn’t warmed for 17 years.”
“What research is there to prove that?”
Of course, there is plenty. You’ve read the report summaries. You’ve seen the graphs. You remember being told that by now there should be no ice-caps, and then there was that idiot who predicted it would never rain again. But you haven’t read the full scientific report. You did history, not science, for goodness sake. Your friend didn’t read it either. He works in retail. But that’s not the point. When he asks you what research there is to prove that, he doesn’t mean it.
He doesn’t care.
The social rule is, when you state an opinion in line with the “consensus,” you can be as assertive as you like. But to challenge any part of this, you must carry an encyclopaedic knowledge in your head. It is a corollary of the idea that the standard of proof is higher on anyone who challenges scientific or intellectual orthodoxy, mixed in with a good bit of social stigma. If like me, you are of average intelligence, you may be able to recall a couple of facts from a couple of articles, but it will never be enough. The best you can do is say you’ll pm your friend a few articles, but in truth, he’ll never read them and you’ll never send them.
It is at least slightly easier on the internet, given you have all the resources you need at your fingertips. But you really really really wanted to watch that video about how to land on an aircraft carrier, and you have to make dinner, and you know if you simply want to express your outrage at the slaughter ISIS are carrying out, you will be held to a higher standard of credibility.
The point is that when a progressive asks you for sources to back up your argument, they are trying to shut you up. If they really cared, they would look it up themselves. You can present a concise logical argument, but they will straw-man you, then demand to see a peer-reviewed paper. In this context, the demand for evidence is not an expression of a genuine desire to study information which contradicts one’s beliefs. It is simply an underhanded accusation that what you are saying is unsubstantiated by fact, and that until you provide thesis quality material showing that you at least may have a point, your opinion will be considered that of a redneck. The goal of this tactic is to waste your time, and ultimately to immobilise you.
To counter this, I propose a simple counter-measure. State your opinion proudly and crudely. When when a progressive asks you to substantiate it, tell them to google it, and make a bee-line for that blonde.