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On Rational Discussion

The following meme is making the Facebook/Twitter rounds that shows how to have rational discourse:

rational-discussion

As usual, I think that this is incredibly simplistic.  When you unpack some of these, red flags start to go up.  The person who created this, I think, has an agenda and is so focused on that agenda that he is no longer concerned with truth.

Can you envision anything that will change your mind on the topic?  The key word here is “envision.”  I can’t envision anything that would change my mind on the existence God.  That, however, doesn’t mean I will be irrational in a discussion.  Perhaps during the conversation we can find something I had not thought of that would change my mind on God.

Just because I can’t envision it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  I have an open enough mind to accept that I may be wrong about the existence of God, while being confident that I’m not.  Aristotle observed, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  I can entertain thoughts I don’t accept — my goal is truth, not comfort.

As a further point, I think that it is easy to use this as a crutch to end an inconvenient discussion by equivocating irrationality and passion.  I passionately believe in God, which is why I can’t envision anything changing my mind on that.  But that is not the same as irrationality.

Are you prepared to abide by the basic principles of reason in discussing this topic?  Two rules are given as an example:

  1. The position that is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence should be accepted as true.
  2. The person who asserts a position bears the onus of demonstrating its truth.

With regard to (1), “evidence” is (as it always is with atheists) left undefined.  Empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence aren’t the only forms of evidence.  Only accepting empirical or peer-reviewed scientific evidence is a form of logical positivism called either empircism or scientism (depending on which form you accept).  Neither position is consistent with itself, since there is no empirical or scientific evidence that would support a belief in those position.

Both positions, in fact, rule out the knowledge we gain from history, mathematics, and philosophy.  They also exclude eyewitness testimony from discussion.

Meaning that we accept things as true without “evidence” all the time — if that’s what is meant by “evidence.”  Remember that when we get to the farcical rules of discussion below.

I agree wholeheartedly with (2) provided you understand atheists share a burden of proof.

Once entered, four additional rules are given to govern the discussion:

Do not introduce a new argument while another argument has yet to be resolved.  I don’t, but every atheist I’ve had a discussion with has done this to me.  So, I won’t start doing this but please, atheists, don’t do this to me, either.

Do not move on to another argument if it is shown that a fact you have relied upon is inaccurate.  I’ll just admit my mistake, but this doesn’t happen to me often.

Provide evidence for your position or arguments.  Again, atheists should be doing this, too.  Atheists seldom back their own unbelief in God up with evidence or arguments.  This is both lazy and a direct violation of one of the basic principles of rational discussion (that the true position is more reasonable and has more supporting evidence).  Argue it’s reasonable.  Give me the evidence.

Do not argue that you do not need evidence.  Again, the obsessive requirement for evidence is logically inconsistent, because there is no evidence for accepting it as a true premise — and atheists say they only believe that which we have evidence for.

While I accept the spirit of this meme, I still find it the product of a simple mind concerned with winning online debates rather than seeking truth.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on February 20, 2013, in Apologetics, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. This is honestly a horrible discussion chart. It should have been changed to “debate” chart. What is the atheist side doing here? They are trying to get the theist to change their mind. That said, this diagram does have good points on it.
    Will you stop using that argument, will you use reasonableness? These are two good points on this chart. When theists and atheists discuss, it is important BOTH sides show this.
    I do sincerely think you also parroted the chart. I think that it applies to atheists as well. Many atheists do play by the rules of the debates and discussion they share together. It is generally the theists that have a tendency to mock the atheists.
    Stop mocking us and then we can have a more formalized discussion on the issue. Until then, we will procede to mock you.

  2. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time on the atheism section of reddit I can tell you the atheist community possesses no reasonability high ground.

    I agree with most of your objections. Particularly where is all the evidence I should accept all these debate rules?

    I find the arrogance of author of this meme to be comical. Everything is up for discussion except his/her presuppositions.

    • The author probably spends his free time listening to Satanic black/death metal bands and performing their Satanic rituals. He’s probably just doing this blog to give Christians a bad name.

      • Strangely enough, when I write fiction, I DO find heavy metal music brings out my creativity. When my friend Caleb used to live close by and had a band, I would sit in on their practice sessions because it helped ideas for writing flow more easily.

        so I guess you caught me….

    • I’m with you, Jake… atheists claim they value reason and evidence above everything else, but they keep finding ways to argue without using either. Nearly every “anti-testimony” I’ve read from atheists opens by saying they deny God’s existence because reason led them to that conclusion, but when you read the actual text it is pure emotion (usually immature, primitive emotion, like “God didn’t grant me a prayer for money/health of a family member/etc so I don’t believe in that Meanie Head anymore!”).

      Not that our side is any better. Certain pure creationists that look for answers in a specific book use the same emotional and bully tactics (“If you don’t believe the earth is 6,000 years old, you deny the word of God and thus aren’t a Christian!”).

      But, as I repeatedly claim, I’m not trying to suggest I’m BETTER than atheists (I’m not). I’m only stating that they’ve concluded incorrectly that God is a fairy tale (he’s not). I wish they’d take a second look, but more consistently to how they live their lives.

      • Really? I did catch you red-handed? What subgenre of heavy metal?
        Traditional heavy metal – Dio, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest
        Thrash metal – Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Testament
        First wave black metal – Mercyful Fate, Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost, Kreator
        Second wave Norwegian black metal – Mayhem, Enslaved, Gorgoroth, Emperor, Darkthrone
        Second wave wolrdwide black metal – Marduk, Dark Funeral, Rotting Christ, Behemoth
        Death metal – Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide
        Technical death metal – Opeth, Death, Meshuggah
        Melodic death metal – Amon Amarth, In Flames, Dark Tranquility
        Brutal death metal – Devourment, Abominable Putridity, Flesh Consumed
        Power/Speed metal – Blind Guardian, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Hammerfall
        Folk Metal – Ensiferum, Eluveitie, Elvenking
        Symphonic/Neo-Classical Metal – Rhapsody of Fire, Symphony X, Nightwish
        Blackened death metal – Angelcorpse, Belphegor, Zyklon
        Progressive metal – Dream Theater, Tool, Mastodon
        Doom metal – My Dying Bride, Candlemass, Pentagram
        Or are you a fake, poser metalhead who listens to only metalcore and deathcore and nu metal music?

        “I’m only stating that they’ve concluded incorrectly that God is a fairy tale (he’s not).”
        Which god is not a fairy tale?
        Brahma
        Vishnu
        Shiva
        Zeus
        Appollo
        Jupiter
        Poseidon
        Hades
        Yahweh
        Pluto
        Neptune
        Anubis
        Ra
        Thor
        Odin
        Have we also concluded incorrectly that the tooth fairy is a fairy tale? I wouldn’t want to have her send me to Hell for an eternity for not believing in her.

  3. Thrash, if you must know. Occasionally traditional.

    And I thought you were a Christian? You certainly argue like an atheist.

    • >>>>>And I thought you were a Christian? You certainly argue like an atheist.
      Keyword: “were”. It is past tense. And I know that some will say that it is impossible to be a Christian and then cease to be a Christian however, this is what is called “once saved, always saved” teaching and it cannot be found in the Bible if you want to cite it.
      Note: What I am saying with my question as to what we have concluded incorrectly is that the other gods on this list who are not Yahweh might be perfectly legitimate gods for all we know. Heck, Narfeas, the goddess of Narfites, might be the true god. She does not view homosexuals as being on the left hand path like the Christian god Yahweh does. She will battle against the Christian god Yahweh at Armageddon and win. She has the power to pollute Yahweh’s prophecies.
      I really do not like arguing things which cannot be proven or disproven which is all I am saying and while you deem yourself to be against militant atheists, you come out as a militant Christian.
      Oh, and I like power metal, black metal, death metal, folk metal, and traditional metal so my musical taste also appears to be better and more advanced compared to yours. Going to go get Rotting Christ’s newest album now.

  4. “Provide evidence for your position or arguments.”

    I don’t think atheists can provide evidence for the lack of evidence argument. We can give examples of were there is a lack of evidence like the human brain and how it has evolved through natural selection no God required. They used to say lighting was caused by God. They don’t say that anymore.

  1. Pingback: Argument « Logic, Reasoning, Argumentation

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