Are There at Least Two Sides to Every Issue?

There is quite a bit of discussion on whether both sides of an issue should be presented, or should the people who control the discussion platform have the responsibility to publish only one side? This has been an argument going back as far as human history has been recorded. I am sure some people can recite Biblical or other early religious texts on the conflicts of two different sides. In the beginning, I will give examples in science and computer science.

One of the earliest discussions was on whether the earth was flat or round. The general belief was that the earth was flat, but some early Greeks, like Pythagoras, proposed that the earth was round. The majority of people said at that time that saying the world was round was nonsense. The earliest person to measure the circumference of the world was Eratosthenes of Cyrene, a Greek polymath, poet, astronomer, mathematician, librarian, and geographer. His measurement was very accurate. See “Who Was The First Person To Accurately Measure The Circumference Of The Earth?” for an excellent description of how Eratosthenes was able to calculate the circumference. Even after the circumference was calculated, the “experts” and “authorities” still insisted that the earth was flat. Anyone who disagreed was excommunicated or burned at the stake. a very effective way of eliminating any views that the people with authority did not like.

At the start of the 20th century there was quite an upheaval in physics. In 1900 most physicists believed that Newtonian Mechanics/Physics was the ultimate answer to answering all questions about motion. They likewise believed that the universe was filled with a substance called ether. that was needed for the transmission of light Since the people who believed in these theories were in charge of the Physics Journals of the time, they thought that any article that went against these theories should not be published. Think where we would be now if we did not know that the universe was a vast vacuum and without the Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein being published. Albert Einstein eventually modified his theory and there have been additional discoveries confirming and modifying aspects of the theory over time. There may eventually be an entirely new theory created that allows for “Warp speed” space ships. Currently Einstein’s Theories are the basis of all new developments. If we disallow alternate proposals or theories from even being considered, would that help or hinder the advancement of Physics (which will also affect the welfare of mankind)?

All fields, to progress, have to have competing ideas. Any field that does not have competing ideas will eventually die out. I have been working with Computer Science since I was in high school and seen many major changes. Computer languages have progressed from binary through assembler and then Formula Translation (FORTRAN) to Structured and Object Oriented Languages. Their progressive development has led to significant developments that have helped computers help mankind in many ways. A short history of Software Languages is available on this site. The biggest controversy I remember is deciding what is the best way to develop code. The biggest conflict was between Structured Design and Agile Programming. There were cultures built around each approach, but at least the Computer Journals were open to presenting all ideas. I believe the best solutions are created through discussions and the adaptation of the best ideas. One compromise, which leans more to the Agile side, is the Scrum Methodology.

Does anyone remember speech and debate classes in high school and college? The one thing I remember being assigned is to research both sides of any controversy, from abortion through nuclear power. Researching both sides helped me understand the pluses and minuses on each side. Understanding both sides helps me make a clearer choice on each subject. That choice usually resides at some point between the two extremes. This really helps me understand where and why friends have their positions. It does not mean I will always agree with my friends but it helps us have civil conversations and gives me a good opportunity to understand different points of view.

For the longest time journalism always presented both/multiple sides of any issue. Universities were based on the Socrates method of discussion and that method carried over to journalism. There are now articles about the evils of Bothsidesism and how if you present both sides of a discussion, it will never lead to anything good. The article is written in such a way as to make one side look virtuous and the other side being represented as to make it look ridiculous. Unbiased facts are not needed and not really wanted. Look at some recent events. J. K. Rolling made the observation that Women have Periods, but that was against the current concept that gender is fluid. Therefore it must be stopped. What about what recently happened at the New York Times. The New York Times used to make sure that both sides were covered in the editorial page. Controversial editorials were published with editorial comments, especially if the editor disagreed with the premise. As long as editorials were on the editorial page and not the news page, that was fine. The most recent article is Senator Tom Cotton: Send In the Troops. The editor disagreed with the content of the editorial, but decided to publish the article so that people would better understand what the other side thought. As a result, the New York Times senior editor resigns amid backlash over controversial op-ed. Leadership does change, it can be nice to make sure that all opinions published match our own thoughts, that they reinforce our own beliefs. What happens if the leadership changes and a different philosophy now rules a particular organization. Will we like shutting down opposing thought as much if the supported thought no longer matches what we “know is true?”

The latest battleground is the internet. No one should be allowed to yell fire in a crowded theater when there is not fire. But if there is a fire should someone be allowed to take control of the situation and make sure people exit the theater safely? Just because someone does not like the idea of someone else noticing a fire, that does not mean it should not be mentioned. Russia has a simple solution for the internet, ban internet access to the common citizen. China has another solution, they have worked with Google to filter what their citizens can see. They also have a “good citizen” score that gives or removes rights to each citizen. Do we really want something like that in the United States? The First Amendment of the Constitute deals with free expression. That God-given right is vital to the survival of our country. Having an open and honest conversation is key to keeping us well-informed and able to make decisions that are good for us and for those around us. Censorship did not work through book burning, it will not work now either.

Developing a good understanding of our own opinions and thoughts, what we truly believe is right, is like weightlifting. It takes resistance to develop. The other benefit is that we may learn something. One such article for me was Why You Should Stop Saying “I Don’t See Color”. This article helped me refine my thoughts so that I can be more sensitive relating to people different than I. We all need to be pushed some and not become too complacent. We all need to hear both sides of each story and develop our own philosophy. Paraphrasing something that was said at the West Point 2020 graduation: “to be understood we must first seek to understand.” We each are individuals with attributes that may affect who we are. It is our responsibility to learn and grow. Complacency and censorship leads to nothing good. It is odd that the people who strongly protested book burning and who are in favor of the right to choose in certain areas are the most restrictive to the expression of views that do not agree with their world view. Providing the platform for free and respectful discussions is the best way to grow. Listen to different views. Those who do not will condemn themselves to a stagnant life. Also be aware of the difference sides of any story, then choose wisely as to which one is the most correct. But do not condemn others for coming to a different conclusion. Ask questions to understand why they believe the way they do. In having them explain their thoughts, each of us may have much more influence on others.

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