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Sam Harris v Russell Brand – Why Knowledge Beats Verbosity
It’s Human Nature To Want To Be Right
Most people enjoy a good debate. And most of us have been guilty of arguing for positions that we are not fully clued-up on. The desire to be ‘right’ is a basic human instinct. Being correct makes us feel competent. And so, debates can often have a competitive edge. Being shown to be wrong in our opinions can feel threatening. Our place in the hierarchy feels under threat if we are shown to be wrong.
This combative, competitive form of discoursing is unproductive. If you are more interested in defending your point than in getting to truth, truth will tend to remain obscured. Verbose language and overpowering charisma are weapons some people use in their quest to win a debate. An incorrect position argued effectively using eloquent language can be unfortunately compelling!
Often our emotions push us to believe a thing that raw data shows to be untrue. And if we are very effective arguers then we can use our skills to propagate our flawed narratives. Many people can be infected with our inaccurate ideas if we argue them well. This, of course, is bad. Widely believed mistruths muddy the waters and lead to confusion and ineffective actions.
Russell Brand Is Opinionated And Loves To Feel Right
Russell Brand is a highly verbose, charismatic personality. He is used to debating people much less articulate than himself. He is used to winning debates by verbally dominating his opponents. Whether his position is correct or incorrect, he often appears to win the day due to his skill at communicating verbally.
But Russell Brand’s opinions on many things are often a bit naive. In his recent debate with Sam Harris, he argued passionately that Islam was a religion of peace. And that Islamic terrorism was essentially an understandable reaction to Western oppression. And that women are not treated less well in Afghanistan than they are in Western countries, but merely differently. “But Sam Harris, it’s all relative!” he shouted verbosely and condescendingly. But in the next breath, he admitted that “of course…” he had never actually read the Koran. “I hardly even had time to read the notes for this interview!” he chuckled.
This was essentially a full admittance that he was arguing purely based on his hunches and feelings. He was arguing about a school of thought (Islam) that he had not done even the most basic research on. He was essentially saying “I know nothing about Islam apart from what I feel based on…… my intuition. I do not need to know any data or facts!”
And because of his aforementioned verbosity and charisma, this approach often is enough for him to win a debate. But, in Sam Harris, he was up against a highly formidable opponent. Sam Harris is ridiculously eloquent (if quite a bit less verbose). But he has also read the Koran back to front, as well as mountains more Islamic literature. Sam Harris knows Islam considerably more thoroughly than the vast majority of Islamic people do.
Watching Russell Brand debate Sam Harris. Watching verbosity and a lack of hard knowledge crash up against a brick wall of fact, data, knowledge, and cool eloquence. Was like watching an impetuous young attention-seeking boy debate a wise old schoolmaster. It was Dennis the Menace debating Charles Darwin on the theory of Natural Selection.
Knowledge Beats Verbosity
Russell Brand’s verbosity is very entertaining. And it shows impressive intelligence. It has also been enough for him to carry the day in most debates he has been involved in. But when even this prodigious level of verbosity comes up against deep and profound knowledge it ultimately flounders. Knowledge beats verbosity (provided the knowledge is accompanied by a reasonable modicum of eloquence).
If you like a good debate, be sure that your love for debating is not stopping you from getting to the truth. Many of us (just like Russell Brand) love the sound of your own voices. But if we are in the wrong, the sound of our own bleating can drown out the sounds of truth. It is easy to be so in love with our own verbose ravings that we miss objective truths that would improve our life.
Loving the sound of our own voice, and wanting to be right at all costs, can leave us ignorant and deluded.
By all means, work on improving your eloquence. Enjoy being charismatic and verbose when the time’s right. But remember that, ultimately, knowledge beats verbosity. So listen more than you speak, be willing to be wrong. It is only through being wrong that you can finally learn and become right.
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