It can be good to talk…

by Richard on April 29, 2008

…but it can get wearing, too.

PamBG is bothered by some of the debatable debating practices that seem to have become acceptable. Son of the Prophet wrote along similar lines yesterday.

Worth listening to.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Beth 04.29.08 at 5:50 pm

While I agree to some extent with what Pam has to say, we should also be wary of dismissing any personal references in an argument. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online says,

“Other approaches to informal logic are characterized by a more sympathetic attitude to ad hominem arguments which accepts that criticisms of an arguer (as opposed to their position) can be appropriate. One may, for example, reasonably cast doubt on an arguer’s reasoning by pointing out that the arguer lacks the requisite knowledge to make appropriate judgments in the area in question, or by pointing out that the arguer has a vested interest. Such appeals play an important role in ordinary language reasoning, which typically occurs in contexts in which time constraints make it impossible to analyse carefully all the arguments presented, forcing us to decide which ones we pay attention to, often by relying on an assessment of the arguer.”

It is one thing to attack a mathematician’s theorems about prime numbers because you know him to be a neo-Nazi. It is quite another to attack a scientist who presents proof that black people are intellectually inferior because you know him to be a neo-Nazi. In the former case, the individual’s personal characteristics and beliefs are irrelevant to their argument; in the second, their characteristics and beliefs could legitimately be seen as causing a strong bias.

2

PamBG 04.29.08 at 6:40 pm

I agree with your nuances, Beth, although rereading my post just to be certain that I didn’t say something as silly as ‘not making personal remarks’, I did speak about ‘ridiculing’ people and ‘attacking their character’.

In terms of your scenarios, being an amateur physicist who ridicules Stephen Hawkins and attacks his character for his views on physics is really just ludicrous.

3

PamBG 04.29.08 at 6:41 pm

Argh. ‘Hawking’

4

James 04.29.08 at 6:59 pm

I don’t think Philosophy or Theology, which are very emotive, are comparable with maths, which is grounded in fact.

I agree with Pam - if someone hasn’t done theology we can’t trust them to interpret the Bible - let alone someone from Hackney!

5

PamBG 04.29.08 at 7:09 pm

I agree with Pam - if someone hasn’t done theology we can’t trust them to interpret the Bible

I don’t know whether this is getting fun or boring.

Please show where I said: ‘If someone hasn’t done theology we can’t trust them to interpret the Bible’.

Didn’t say it.

Bzzzzzzzzzz.

6

Oloryn 04.29.08 at 9:42 pm

Having been harping on Bulverism for a long time (see here), I have to agree with Pam on this. And it’s been going on longer than 50 years. C. S. Lewis coined the term in the 1940s, and characterized it as being typical of the 20th century. You could also argue that the serpent’s argument to Eve in Gen 3 is Bulverism - he merely asserts that God has an ulterior motive and dismisses God’s command on the basis of it.

7

Oloryn 04.29.08 at 9:48 pm

Pam - I think that James’ statement comes from conflating Hawking with Dawkins and invoking one of the typical arguments against Richard Dawkins - that he doesn’t have sufficient background in theology for his arguments.

8

Beth 04.29.08 at 9:50 pm

Yes, sorry Pam - I recognise that wasn’t what you said, and didn’t make it clear that my post was warning against an extreme extension of your argument rather than your argument as it is. There’s a fine line between attacking someone’s character (”you’re an arrogant jerk, so I’m not listening to you”) and addressing a trait in someone’s comments that seems to be affecting their communication with you and others (”why are you so arrogant in your replies? It stops people wanting to listen to you”.) I don’t have a problem with either saying that second example, or having it said to me. I’d rather hear that someone has a problem with me personally so that I can address it and either show them if they’re wrong or change my behaviour if they’re right.

9

PamBG 04.29.08 at 11:27 pm

I think that James’ statement comes from conflating Hawking with Dawkins and invoking one of the typical arguments against Richard Dawkins - that he doesn’t have sufficient background in theology for his arguments.

Possibly that’s what James meant.

I have some sympathy for that argument about Dawkins but, in a way, that’s a whole different issue. Dawkins attacking Christianity is a phenomenon - I don’t even know how to express it - that is trying to cross a number of different thought paradigms.

Sorry, struggling to express myself and hoping this makes sense.

If I put myself in an atheist stance and I try to understand Dawkins, what he says - I assume- makes sense from his set of presuppositions of ‘how we know’ (epistemology) and ‘how the world is’ (ontology).

From a Christian point of view, he clearly does not understand us from inside our own paradigm nor is he sufficiently educated in Christianity theology to shake the faith of a Christian believer. There are people who are as ‘dangerous’ to us as Dawkins would like to be, but they have usually studied Christianity deeply as believers and come to reject Christianity.

All of this is entirely separate from the argument that a Christian has to study academic theology in order to be able to interpret the bible. A position I’d heartily disagree with.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>