Click on the read more link for a deeper (long-winded) explanation.
Some people are extremely pro-choice, believing that the mother’s rights supersede those of the baby, the father, or society in any and all circumstances. Others are extremely pro-life, believing that it is the rights of the baby that are supreme. Many people are moderates and see value in both arguments, finding ways to split the difference, for example, by prohibiting late-term abortions. It happens that when moderates observe pro-choice extremists, they react by pleading for the interests of the child, and when they see pro-life extremists, they react by pleading for the interests of the mother. Consider the following interchange between two fictional characters with identical moderate positions after watching news about partial-birth abortion:
“That’s awful! I can’t believe people could be so heartless to kill babies,” Alice says.
Bob, not being able to read Alice’s mind, assumes from her statement that she is pro-life, rather than merely being against killing babies that are already (in a sense) born, and asks, “But don’t you care about the mother? It isn’t fair to her to force her to carry another; it’s not her obligation. What if she was raped?”
Alice, not being able to read Bob’s mind, but knowing that she was talking only about extreme cases and assuming that he is responding to that by agreeing with the extreme pro-choice position, responds, “Of course I care about the mother, but the baby matters.”
By this she only means that both matter, but Bob takes it to mean that her care about the baby trumps all her care for the mother, and on it goes. The conversation quickly turns into a fight that lasts for an hour before they both give up, never realizing for years that they have identical positions.
Global-warming-believers know that carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas, meaning that it better traps heat on Earth than other gases, preventing it from radiating into space. In small amounts, carbon dioxide is necessary for life and is in fact a waste product of metabolism. But this is a complex, subtle argument, and makes it difficult to convince people to regulate it. By classing carbon dioxide as a poison (as any compound becomes in large amounts), it makes convincing simple people easier. At the same time, it alerts educated global-warming-skeptics who see it as nothing more than lying to push an agenda.
The skeptics, of course, fire back by educating the masses that carbon dioxide is not generally poisonous and that the believers are trying to trick them. However, not all believers were in on the initial re-classing (or even aware of it). From this, they assume the skeptics are either misinformed about how greenhouse gases are supposed to work, or are deliberately trying to discredit them. The believers deride the skeptics as fools making straw-man arguments.
Alice: There are three types of heating: radiative, convective, and conductive…blah, blah, blah
Timmy: I don’t understand.
Alice (frustrated): It’s poisonous, okay. Carbon dioxide is poisonous.
Bob: Hey, everybody! Those pushing global warming are a liars! Carbon dioxide isn’t poison!
Sally (not hearing initial exchange and assuming Bob is confused): Hey everybody! The skeptics are confused. It’s not that carbon dioxide is poisonous, it’s that it’s a greenhouse gas.
Frank (not hearing what Bob said): What the hell are these believers talking about, trying to make us skeptics look uneducated? We understand about greenhouse gases, but we also understand enough to know the evidence for warming is at best inconclusive. Hey everybody! All believers are corrupt, underhanded, con-artists trying to control the debate by lying about their opponents!
Betty (not aware of anything said by Sally): Who’s doing that? We’re trying to find out the truth. Hey everybody! The skeptics are lying about the believers by saying that they lie. Accusing them of what they are actually doing!
Inkdoodler: And on and on and on it goes….
Timmy: Why is everybody fighting? Where’s my free health care?
Inkdoodler: Shut up, Timmy.
Defensive And Offensive:
Sometimes people come across as offensive, judgmental, or as asking especially probing questions. Sometimes this is because they are offensive in reality. Other times, it is a mere slip of the tongue, or else the listener has misunderstood their intents. Nevertheless, appearing offensive can cause others to behave defensively, or at least slightly timid. Normally, this is no problem, but there are those so sensitive to others acting defensive that it causes them to become very angry and then offensive in reality, giving those naturally defensive something to be truly defensive about.
Alice (sounding slightly angry, but unaware of it): What did you do with the remote?
Bob (unsure just how to respond if Alice is going to yell at him again like last week for something not his fault): Uh, it’s…Why can’t you look for it?
Alice (yelling and throwing things): Why are you so defensive? You always act like I’m getting after you when I’m not! It’s a simple question! Do you know where it is or not?
Bob never tells her where the remote is, instead opting to list off all the times Alice has given him a reason to be defensive, which does nothing to stop the yelling. If Alice had simply asked nicer from the beginning, she would have her answer and none of this would have happened.
Sometimes when making smalltalk with no particular point, people make generalized statements. In response, others may point out interesting exceptions. They may do it to make a joke or maybe to merely have something to say. Strangely, there are those that take this as arguing. This, in turn, can lead to further misunderstanding and further arguments – even when the two people agree!
Bob: You know what I like about birds? Birds fly.
Alice (just making smalltalk about cute animals): Yeah. Except ostriches and penguins.
Bob (angry that Alice would miss his larger point and attempt to undermine his argument by pointing out tiny, unimportant exceptions): Why do you always have to argue with me? Birds fly!
Alice (perfectly aware that birds fly and understanding Bob’s previous point, but assuming that for Bob to think she is arguing, he must mean that ALL birds fly): That’s not true. There are many birds that don’t fly.
The argument goes on like this for several minutes, neither of them understanding how it started (if they even remember), only understanding that the other is a jerk. They change the subject to mammals.
Timmy: I like mammals because they don’t lay eggs.
Inkdoodler: Shut up, Timmy.