Why should this be so? Omer Preminger sent me this piece in discussing the Dunning-Kruger Effect (DKE), something that I had never heard of before. It is described as follows:
….those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer from a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.
If the DKE is real, then it is not particularly surprising that some debates are interminable. The only constraint on their longevity will be the energy that the parties bring to the "debate." In other words, holding a silly uninformed position is not something that will become evident to the holder no matter how clearly this is pointed out. Thus, the idea that gentle debate will generally result in consensus, though a nobel ideal, cannot be assumed to be a standard outcome.
The piece goes on to describe a second apparent fact. It seems that when there is "disagreement" people tend to split the difference.
people have an “equality bias” when it comes to competence or expertise, such that even when it’s very clear that one person in a group is more skilled, expert, or competent (and the other less), they are nonetheless inclined to seek out a middle ground in determining how correct different viewpoints are.
I've seen this in action, especially as regards non-experts. I call it the three remark rule. You go to a talk and someone says something that you believe might be controversial. Nobody in the audience objects. The third time there is no objection, you assume that the point made was true. After all, you surmise, were it false someone would have said so. Of course, there are many other reasons not to say anything. Politeness being the highest motive on the list. However, in such cases reticence, even when motivated by the best social motives, have intellectual consequences. Saying nothing, being "nice" can spread false belief. That's why, IMO, it is incumbent on linguists to be very vociferous.
Let me put this another way: reasonable debate among reasonable positions is, well, reasonable. However, there are many views, especially robust in the popular intellectual press, that we know to be garbage. The Everett and Evans stuff on universals is bunk. It is without any intellectual interest once the puns are clarified. Much of the stuff one finds from empiricist minded colleagues (read, psychologists) is similarly bereft of insight or relevance. These positions should not be treated graciously. So, nest time you are at a talk and hear these views expounded, make it clear that you think that they are wrong, or better still miss the point or beg the relevant questions. If you can do this with a little humor, so much the better. Whatever you do, do not rest the views with respect. Do this and we have every reason to believe that this will help the silliness spread.