The Dishonesty of Drive-By Assertions

What’s a “drive-by assertion”?  It’s my name for an assertion that one makes and thereafter dodges rational debate on the matter.

Here are a few varied scenarios that I believe to be typical of what’s going on in our cavalier hearsay society:

  • Billy hears someone say that the Civil War was about states’ rights, so he immediately chimes in, “The Civil was about slavery.”  But when Billy is asked to prove that assertion, he fails to make a reasonable case that is based on actual evidence.
  • Sally hears a fellow church member criticize the church’s habit of calling the priest “Father”.  The critic is concerned that this is in direct disobedience to Jesus’ command to his apostles.  Sally urges the friend to be “patient”, saying that “change takes time.”  When Sally’s friend asks why change takes time, Sally has no answer.  When the friend asks why Jesus couldn’t be obeyed immediately from here forward, Sally has nothing to say.
  • Ted wants his friends to join him in starting a new company to produce and sell a new gadget he has invented.  He assures them, “People will buy these gadgets by the millions!”  When his friends ask how he knows that people will buy the product, he has no answer and takes their questions as a personal attack.  They suggest that Ted should commission a marketing research study, but Ted never does it.  Instead, he sticks to his initial insistence that he can sell millions of units.

What I’d like to know is why anyone would want to make an assertion that he cannot prove.  Shouldn’t it bother someone to make a statement when he actually has no idea whether that statement is true or not?

Where’s the sense in that?  Where’s the honor in it?  And just how did we become a society filled with people who are quite willing to make unsupported assertions?

Isn’t it generally assumed that the very purpose in making  any statement at all is to convey the truth of a matter?  Why declare it, then, if the truth of it isn’t settled and if you’re not even willing to examine the matter yourself?



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