Let Us Be a Nation of the Dialectic not the Debate

It is time to bury the debate and resuscitate the dialectic. Mankind’s greatest thinkers, Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, held the compass to truth. They understood that dialectic, not debate could enable educated and free-thinking people possessing opposing viewpoints to peacefully and congenially work together for the sole purpose of discovering truth. Winning was not the goal.  We have lost their vision. Instead we have become a nation of fighters.  We argue our viewpoints with tenacity and oftentimes utter disrespect for our opponents. The fight has become more valuable than the truth. Consequently we have trapped ourselves in an intellectual whirlpool wherein we desperately tread water, struggling to stay afloat but never making any headway toward the safety of the shore.

I see this in different aspects of our culture. In medicine the alternative practitioners condemn the traditional doctors often claiming money to be their only motivation. They effortlessly and unfoundedly dismiss well-structured clinical trials and large bodies of clinical evidence as “flawed”. In doing this they often dispose of the baby with the bathwater, and steer patients away from potentially life-saving therapies.  The traditional doctors are no better. They misrepresent evidence based medicine as though it were “truth based”.  In so doing they cite an evidentiary void as cause for dissuading patients with chronic and sometimes incurable ailments from seeking alternative and potentially beneficial strategies.  They dismiss anecdotes, clinical intuition, and even well-accepted human physiology as meaningless evidence for shaping health care strategies. In the end, we all suffer. The bilateral intransigence leads to cognitive and creative stagnation, precluding possibilities that might have led to better patient outcomes.

Politics is even worse. Both inter – and intra-party discord reigns king. While everyone would agree that our nation is experiencing desperate times, where do we see our leaders and the public engaging in discourses to find true answers?  How long has it been since we have witnessed a genuinely respectful discourse, its sole intent to discover a solution? Debates abound; gaffs draw more attention than brilliance; solutions to our problems are instantly met with blind criticism, and no one seems to be able to acknowledge a valuable perspective when it is voiced by a member of the “opposing” party. We preach about reaching across the aisle yet there is no evidence of any sincere attempts to do so. Yes, in politics politicians must get elected and then re-elected. But they are charged with expressing their true viewpoints, minus acerbity, and then we the people are supposed to select our representatives, those individuals who will best represent our beliefs and our ideals. We know that our politicians have become far too concerned with their own political well-being. This is why they fail us. This is where we are today.

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