Saturday, September 13, 2014

There's Too Much Noise

I recently posted this on Facebook:
I gotta seems like it's become a favourite past time of people to take something Dawkins says, present it in the worst light possible, then have a bitch fest about his sorry, privileged, European white ignorance.It's kind of scary.
There were a variety of  interesting responses and then this from my brother in law:
Sounds like what you guys do with christians and the bible. So whats the problem? to respond to that? Hoisted on my on petard? How did I get here?

Of course, it's not the same thing at all. Criticism of someone's ideas, and attacking him personally when you disagree, is not the same as saying that a 2000 year old belief system that has been demonstrably dangerous and destructive should be reconsidered with a jaundiced eye.

But it was an insightful comment from another point of view. This argument...that a group is being personally attacked because their ideas are being just one of many examples of what I refer to as "noise". It's reached a point for me that when someone invokes certain arguments in a discussion, I will just walk away. In fact, a few months back I introduced:
Phelps Law: "At some point during an online debate, someone will say something along the lines of "everyone is entitled to their own beliefs". When this happens, it will signal the end of the debate and that the person who makes the comment has lost."
To me, when an issue is raised and someone raises a challenge to that issue, the discussion is about the issue. Period. It is not about those advocating for or against the position, it's not about hurting feelings, it's not about muddying the water with irrelevant comments. Bertrand Russell says that when you consider a matter you should look only, and solely, at the facts and draw your conclusions from that. it is incumbent on all of us to look closely at our replies, especially online, and ask the question...does this comment focus on the argument, or does it create noise. If' it's noise, don't post it.

And there is a lot of noise out there. An easy 80% of all the comments on that thread included noise. We need to become masters of noise reduction. We need to become more disciplined in our debate and discussion etiquette. Myself included.

If you find yourself resorting to noise, maybe it's time for you to back away and reconsider your position. There is no shame in discovering you hold an untenable position. There is great shame in refusing to change your mind in the face of overwhelming evidence. There is no shame in embracing the grayness of life. Black and white...absolutes...rarely represent reality.

Concede those points you lose. Agree to look into matters you don't understand and revisit the discussion another time.

Stop attacking people personally when you don't like their argument. You look like a bully and it doesn't advance your position at all.

Stop labeling people or groups in an effort to gain the upper hand in an argument. It weakens your position and leaves you vulnerable to the same tactics from others.

Stop labeling arguments. Using inflammatory or catch phrases just muddies things up and makes it impossible to keep the focus on the argument.

Stop telling people you have a right to your beliefs. No one is threatening that right, no one could take it from you if they wanted to.

And...please...stop believing stuff just because someone told you to!!