Wednesday, May 7, 2014

There are Two Sides in the God Debate

There are two kinds of people in this debate. Not Theists and Atheists, but Thinkers and Culture Warriors.

Thinkers interpret arguments charitably, and in fact strive for DH7 argumentation. Thinkers do not make assumptions, and they do not care which side "wins." They only seek to be the best critical thinker they can. Many professional philosophers are like this. As an example, in Howard Sobel's book Logic and Theism, Howard criticizes one version of Aquinas's Second Way, but then explains how a different interpretation is stronger. He then says something like, "What I'd like to do now is try to take the strongest points from the first interpretation, and the strongest points from the second interpretation, and make a better argument." He ultimately concludes it still doesn't work, but he assumes the best about an argument he disagrees with, not the worst. He doesn't prejudge it, or seem either relieved or joyful when an argument works or fails.

Culture Warriors, on the other hand, only care about making sure their team wins. There is Us, and Them, and Them is responsible for most ills in the world. If only Us could win, the world would be a much better place. I don't care much for Elizer Yudkowsky's Less Wrong, but I think his article here sums up the Culture Warrior quite well:  

Politics is an extension of war by other means. Arguments are soldiers. Once you know which side you're on, you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side; otherwise it's like stabbing your soldiers in the back—providing aid and comfort to the enemy. People who would be level-headed about evenhandedly weighing all sides of an issue in their professional life as scientists, can suddenly turn into slogan-chanting zombies when there's a Blue or Green position on an issue.

Examples of this type of person would be Bill O'Reilly and creationists. They do not interpret other arguments charitably, and in fact they begin with the assumption that they are wrong, and try to find ways to escape the argument (such as, for example, evolution) presented to them. Another example would be most residents of /r/atheism. Presenting something like the First Way to these people will get a guaranteed army of "slogan chanting zombies," trying to find the flaw in the argument they already know is flawed before I've even said a word. And when they think they've found a flaw, they act relieved ("Whew! Our Side wins!")

1 comment:

  1. 1) What made you leave reddit?

    2) Would you agree that once one assents to a position and adopts a basic framework, this position must necessarily bias further investigation? I don't see this is a mark of irrationality, but rather a reasonable way to proceed toward truth.

    One indication you might be dealing with a Thinker is that it is difficult or impossible to tell whether they are theist or atheist.

    There's nothing wrong with being unambiguous about one's position on the God debate or any other issue. This holds especially true for issues of moral import. Abolitionists felt no need to be ambiguous about their beliefs, and often didn't countenance the Biblical and scientific arguments in support of slavery. And yet, many abolitionists were Thinkers.