Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Problem With This Vs. That

Something has been bothering me lately.  The recent debate with Bill Nye the Science Guy and creationist Ken Ham has little soundbite infographics erupting all over my Facebook feed.  

It’s convenient to believe the opposing team is less educated, less thoughtful, less engaged with the world than you are.  But, if creationist are really the blubbering idiots the media makes them out to be, then how is this a worthy debate.  Why are so many ‘team science’ people even engaging in a dialogue?  Is it to truly learn something from the opposing side or is it just to obliterate a perceived opponent.  If it’s the latter, I wonder...

What’s the REAL issue?  If the facts really are irrefutable, why not let the facts speak for themselves?  Why even engage in the debate?  I have to wonder, if the debate really has nothing to do with the age of the earth or the origin of our ancestors, but instead is rooted in questions like:

Does God exist?
Why are we here?
What is our purpose?

Because the truth is, those question do not have scientific, provable answers. Their answers exist beyond the bounds of what’s rational or reasonable.  So, instead, we seek answers to questions about the age of the earth, and our relationship to it.

What are your motives?  Is it to truly learn something or is it simply to make your point?

What is the point?
Before engaging in the debate, ask yourself, what you stand to gain from engaging in the debate?  Again, most often when I engage in a debate it’s because I want to be right.  But, I think the true point of discussion and debate is to learn from one another.

Do you have a worthy opponent?  If the answer to this is no, then I would ask you to consider WHY you believe your opponent is not worthy?  (Perhaps this question will lead you to consider your own bias and prejudice.) If you cannot arrive at a point where you think the person sitting across from you is worthy, I would argue you should not engage in the debate at all.  Believing that someone else is the problem and that you yourself are not, means you are suggesting you also cannot and are not part of the solution.  It’s a cop out.

Is your position in this argument more important to you than the person/people with whom you’re arguing?
I hate when an opponent is made to look like a fool.  This happens so often in our culture, that we don’t even think twice about the price of this kind of social bullying.  But, for instance, when it comes to something like the vaccine debate, I am so sad to see the way that both sides portray one another.  I want to believe that all parents involved are doing their best to make informed decisions about their children.  And, yes, the stakes are high for making the ‘wrong’ choice- but the people making those choices are doing so with the information and resources available to them-in order to do what they believe is best.  What if we started with that assumption when entering a debate.  How would the conversation look different? What would we learn?

Are you actually listening to the person with whom you’re debating, or simply looking for loopholes in their argument to disprove or discredit them? Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  It’s only from that place that you will learn anything, and it’s only from that place your ‘opponent’ will be able to hear anything you say.

Are you preaching to the choir?  After the evolution vs. science debate, I found my Facebook feed was blowing up with people posting memes and infographics blasting creationists.  In every case, the images posted racked up lots of support.  Tons of likes and lots of comments to support the idea that the creationists in the debate were idiots and fools.  I often find this is a case with a hot button issue.  We speak and write about issues that we’re passionate about only when we’re sure the audience we’re speaking with will receive the information and agree with us.  The problem is, you rarely learn anything from people who are exactly like you.  It’s our differences and our attempts to engage with and understand one another that help us to learn and grow.

Loved this piece on the issue.

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