Are Your Arguments Falsifiable?
Editorial note: I’d like to clarify something here upon re-reading this post. When I refer to not engaging comments, I’m talking about in other venues (other blogs than mine, social media, and sites like reddit). On this blog, I do my best to engage with everyone that takes the time to leave a comment, regardless of its contents. Please don’t read this as any sort of deterrent to commenting — keep ’em coming!
These days, I’m writing for 6 blogs besides my own. All of the posts get announced on social media and some of them wind up on commentary sites like Hacker News or Reddit, which means that there’s a lot of surface area, so to speak, for comments. I make a good faith effort to respond, but I must confess that my response/comment ratio is declining amidst lots of writing and my consulting practice.
My failure to respond to a comment tends to fall into one of three categories.
- Never saw it.
- Saw it, made a mental note to come back and respond later, but “later” never came.
It’s this last, and admittedly enigmatic category, about which I’d like to talk today.
The Ones that Make Me Sigh
You’re probably thinking here that I’m talking about the occasional piece of random insult or profanity. Perhaps someone leaves a comment on the site saying, “you’re a #&%$ing idiot.” But no, it’s not that. A comment like that (which is actually refreshingly rare) doesn’t induce much reaction in me one way or the other. Just a half amused, half bemused, “well, okie dokie.”
The ones that make me sigh are comments that I think of as “specious definers.” They are thoughts offered as correction and conversation advancement, but that wind up falling flat in a subtle way. Make no mistake — these are thoughts offered in earnest, and I’m not complaining about tone or being corrected or anything like that. Rather, I’m lamenting that I read, re-read, and re-read again, and realize that what I’m looking at is a near tautology. It’s a non-falsifiable closed loop, to borrow slightly from Karl Popper.
Let’s get out of generalities and deal with a couple of examples. Please note at this point that I’m operating off of admittedly imperfect memory, and thus paraphrasing. I don’t know where either of these examples is nor even in what medium it was offered. But please believe that I have no real interest in distortion here — the critiques are not objectionable.