Friday, November 25, 2011

When I ignore Arguments

The following is not intended to be prescriptive for all people, but descriptive of how I operate. There are some times where I simply do not take an argument or a person making an argument very seriously. It is at these times I simply decline to discuss the argument. Some people think this means I either do not have a response or I am incapable of such a response. This is not so (think about it: I will take time to contend with arguments given by Ph.D.’s in academia, but I won’t discuss yours—how likely is it I think your argument/objection is better than theirs?). The following is generic criteria for my ignoring of an argument.

When an argument is sufficiently silly, vulgar, blasphemous, etc.

Arguments that say something like, “you believe in zombies from sky daddies saving the day with impregnated virgins through non-consensual sex,” you can pretty much count on me not responding to your argument/comment. With all of the good and thoughtful questions/objections/arguments, I don’t have time to get to them all. I may as well eliminate the non-serious ones right away.

When a person evidences their non-seriousness

On at least one occasion, I had a commenter on this blog insist she was a qualified professor of philosophy at an unnamed school. Her comment was essentially used to boost confidence in a blanket statement made that the article’s argument was incorrect, and to drive traffic to her site. At that site, it became painfully obvious there was no way she had obtained a PhD in philosophy, much less taught at a university or college. Deceiving is a sure sign that one is not really serious in their discussion. Does it mean their arguments are false, or even more likely to be? No, not really. Does it mean my discussion with them will be pointless? Probably.

One more note along these lines. Fairly often, in the comments section, I will allow someone to have the final word in a debate. I do it when the debate doesn’t seem to be progressing and one or both of us is simply repeating what has already been said. This is not a bad thing. I do it knowing that some people may use it to score one final point, introduce new arguments, and whatnot. It doesn’t matter. I stick to my word. In my current place of employment customers must fill out a variety of complex forms. It is common to see a form sent in that is incorrectly filled out. I will contact them and inform them of the error, only to see it sent back in with the relevant error corrected—but two or three new ones they had not made on the original to take its place! The same is sometimes true for the “last word” people.[1] They will reason with an argument correctly in one place only to go back and make other errors already corrected several posts earlier. However, the vast majority of my commenters are thoughtful and polite. So when will I violate these rules?

When a number of Christians or serious unbelievers ask

If there are several who are interested in hearing an answer to a particular objection or argument I will address it. At this point, I feel the argument takes on a seriousness to the people involved. Even if the author is not serious, I will rather respond to the questioners so that they may have an answer.

If I believe it will influence them not to make such statements publicly

Sometimes there’s nothing like knocking an underhanded softball pitch out of the 175-foot park. If I honestly think the person involved could be shamed into not making non-serious arguments I may try it. If I honestly think the person could be convinced it was a bad argument I may try it.

In the end, if you are worried this applies to you, then it probably does not. On the other hand, if you wonder why I will not respond to your criticisms, or will not post your comments (see the comments policy, please), there is a decent chance your post (or you) conforms to one of the ideas above. This policy is not for everyone, and I would appreciate your thoughts below!

                [1] Please note if you are one of my last word people I am not necessarily talking about you.

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  1. Good principles, Randy.
    And it does save a lot of time.

  2. Thanks Brian. And I have to stress, the vast majority of my commenters (atheist or otherwise) are great! :)


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